Review: Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix‐Up

Sydney A. Frankel's Summer Mix-Up

by Danielle Joseph

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick

Rising sixth-grader Sydney A. Frankel plans to spend the summer chilling with her BFF Maggie Stein, enjoying the downtime before middle school starts and before her pregnant mom gives birth. But her mom insists she take a class at the local community center to help her overcome her shyness and stage fright. Sydney can take any class she wants, except for her first choice: reading class. Meanwhile, Maggie’s mom has signed her up for her last choice: yup, reading class. The friends decide to switch places, so they can each take a class they’ll enjoy. Hijinks ensue as the girls struggle and scheme to keep their cover. In the end, Sydney comes clean to her family, teacher and classmates. Along the way, she makes new friends, overcomes her stage fright, and learns the value of embracing one’s true self. 
Filled with humor, sensitivity, and authentic tween dialogue, this novel is a heartfelt homage to friendship (old and new), first crushes, family, and the magic of childhood summers. Supporting characters represent both physical differences and neurodiversity, helping to round out the age-old challenge of trying to fit in. I recommend it for all middle-grade readers, no matter the season.

The story’s Jewish content is incidental, so it’s not “Jewish enough” for the Sydney Taylor Awards. Still, it’s a pleasure to see Jewish children living their best lives against a backdrop of references to kugel, Bubbes, Shabbat candles, Yiddish pet names, and Hebrew middle names. 

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Reviewer Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle grade and young adult novelist. Shirley’s debut novel, The Blood Lie, is a Sydney Taylor honor book and the winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon A World Book Award. Her Jewish-themed MG novel, RIPPED AWAY, will be published by Regal House Publishing in February 2022.