Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Middle School Survival Manual

If you have children, relatives, neighbors or friends who are starting middle school, Katrina Cassel's book, The Middle School Survival Manual offers a timely dose of practical encouragement. It is filled with study tips, friendship pointers, personality quizzes, thought-provoking questions, and planning charts to help all types of students. Each lesson ends with two or three "Verses to Think About."

Cassel's goal is to let students know God is with them and has a good plan for them, and teach students how to organize their lives, live out their faith and make the most of the middle school years. Beginning chapters cover topics such as goal-setting, improving grades and test performance, and adjusting to a new school. Cassel continues by teaching students about friendship and faith, how to choose the best activities, and identifying academic and personal strengths.

Cassel uses current education theory (e.g. Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences; visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles) to coach students to be in charge of their own learning. She also guides readers in choosing friends and repairing suffering friendships, as well as being a gentle witness for Christ in various school situations.

A chapter-by-chapter discussion guide is included at the end of the book.

What I Like: This is an excellent guide for students transitioning from elementary school to middle school. Cassel's practical steps will calm apprehensive students, and her wise advice will inspire confident students to reach out to others and tell them about their faith.

I like the way each chapter begins with an engaging story, followed by personal questions. Readers are asked to think about their own response in a similar situation, in order to connect more easily with material in the chapter. I also really enjoyed taking the quizzes and finding out more about my personality. Many middle school students will find this information new, interesting and helpful.

Faith in Christ forms the foundation of each chapter, and Cassel assumes readers are growing and maturing in their walk with Jesus. However, you could use much of the information in a public school setting as well.

What I Dislike: I have only minor complaints. The font is quite small, as are the spaces to answer questions and complete the planning charts. Readers may want to use a journal to write out their answers instead. The cover pictures a photo of a curly-haired Caucasian boy. Although he is cute, the book may not appear as appealing to girls or students of color at first glance. And, the book ends abruptly, with the chapter on multiple types of intelligence. A summary or list of next steps would have been nice. However, none of these issues should overshadow the message of this helpful and encouraging book.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: Middle School (5th-8th grade)

Publisher Info: Concordia Publishing House, 2010; ISBN: 978-0-7586-1790-3; Paperback, $8.99

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Kathy Cassel said...

As the author, I didn't even see the cover before it went to print. It grew on me after a while. I think they were trying to reach boys, who normally don't read.

Re: a causcian boy--interestingly enough I have three caucasian children, one mixed, one african american and three haitian.

Kathy Cassel said...

PS Thank you for the nice review. I know it's been a while, but I just now ran across it.

Erin said...


I am glad you found our review. This book is great, and I wished I had it to use in an inner-city summer school program I taught in a couple of years ago. However, the students could be tough customers if they thought something was geared toward another group of people, hence my comments on the cover. However, this book is definitely one I am keeping in my library! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with readers! Erin