Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School

Every once in awhile a really special book comes along. Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School by Melissa and Eva Shang is one of those books. Click here to read a fabulous interview about Melissa Shang, her viral American Girl campaign, and about her inspiration for this book.

Mia Lee is a sixth grader who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of muscular dystrophy. While she has difficulty with her motor skills, Mia does not let her disability define her. In many ways Mia Lee is a typical middle schooler. She has a best friend, Caroline, and together they experience the growing pains that can come as a result of growing up and growing apart. Mia is also a talented filmmaker, who enjoys making stop-motion videos in her free time.

Despite hesitation from her overprotective mother, Mia decides to run for Video Production Club President. She ends up running against Angela Vanover, the popular “mean girl”, who attempts to manipulate and humiliate Mia in the process. Through it all, Mia deals with real challenges middle schoolers face as well as her own personal challenges that come from living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

I think that upper elementary and middle school students will really enjoy this book. It is funny and silly, but also deals with more mature themes such as bullying. Middle school is such a time of transition and self-consciousness, and Mia just wants to be seen as a “normal kid.” I think that kids and adults alike can relate to those feelings, and I love how this book encourages the reader to feel empathy not just for Mia, but also for the other characters in the story, including the bully, Angela.

Most books that address bullying focus on how the hero of the story overcame the bullying, without exploring the inner life and struggles of the bully. In Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, we get a glimpse into Angela’s inner struggles. Angela’s mom seems to be only concerned with outside appearances and forces her daughter to take part in pageants and to run for VP Club President to boost her popularity. The reader is able to feel both angry at Angela for treating Mia so poorly and understanding of Angela’s behavior knowing how much pressure she’s under to please her mom.

Another aspect of this book that I think both teachers and students will enjoy is Mia’s ability to collect “brain files.” When presented with a new person or new information, Mia takes an assessment of a situation and stores the file away in her brain. This ability is presented as a benefit of Mia being confined to a wheelchair. Since she is still and sitting, she seems to be able to notice things that don’t register with other people.

I think these “brain files” are a great way to talk about making inferences with students. When Mia logs a “brain file,” she observes what’s going on on the surface, notes unspoken clues (such as Angela wanting to push her wheelchair only when other people were around and Angela talking to her really loudly and slowly in front of their teacher, Mr. Postin), and makes informed guesses about situations based on her observations and prior knowledge of the situation.

Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School by Melissa and Eva Shang is a sweet, thoughtful, and honest story that I think will appeal to students from all walks of life. I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading more books by these talented young authors.

GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment on this post and I will randomly choose a winner on 10/9/17 to receive a copy of this wonderful book. Good luck!