Courage for Beginners
Courage for Beginners

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Annotation: Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fiction, she'd know how to take care of her family when her dad is in the hospital and deal with her family's secret: that her mother is agoraphobic.
Catalog Number: #106126
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition Date: 2015
Pages: 289 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-21046-3 Perma-Bound: 0-605-89109-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-21046-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-89109-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2013021596
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Twelve-year-old Mysti's mom is agoraphobic and her dad is in a coma. Her best friend (and former fellow outcast) Anibal Gomez's "social experiment" to try to be cool means being nasty to Mysti in public. Luckily, two new misfit friends help Mysti get through it all. Resilient Mysti is sympathetic and, yes, courageous.
Publishers Weekly
Mysti Murphy has to brave at least three major trials at the onset of seventh grade. The first is having an agoraphobic mother, who never leaves the house even to chauffeur her children to classmates- houses or extracurricular activities. The second is losing her only friend, Anibal, who has -decided to be a hipster this year- to pursue a girl and wants to avoid publicly associating with Mysti. The third obstacle is the most difficult of all, when her father falls from a tree and is hospitalized. Now Mysti must find a way to be strong and responsible while her mother becomes sadder and more withdrawn. Harrington-s (Sure Signs of Crazy) portrait of a resourceful girl weathering transitions and finding creative solutions offers an even balance of humor and painful topics relevant to middle-school readers. The way Mysti views her life, as though she-s a character in a novel (-Here we see a girl washing green beans, extracting melons, and contemplating the true meaning of friendship-), provides a fresh perspective on her thought process, environment, and yearnings. Ages 8-12. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Aug.)

School Library Journal
Gr 5&11;8&12; As Mysti begins seventh grade, her father is in the hospital, leaving her at home with her younger sister, her severely agoraphobic mother, and no strategy for replenishing the food supplies. To make matters worse, her only friend, Anibal Gomez, asks her to help with his social experiment to be cool, meaning that if she talks to him at school, he'll ruthlessly make fun of her. Mysti struggles with so much change, but as she befriends sassy and supportive Rama, she slowly finds her own voice and agency. Readers will empathize with Mysti, feeling her loneliness as keenly as her triumphs. Harrington's characters are strong and real with one disappointing exception: Rama's mother, identified solely by her extreme fear that Western culture will compromise her daughter's Islamic faith, is a one-dimensional stereotype amid a cast of tenderly nuanced characters. This otherwise strong realistic novel shows that change is coming for everyone, but they can find the courage within themselves to make the best of it. A solid addition for most middle-grade collections.&12; Amy Koester, St. Charles City-County Library District, Wentzville, MO
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* For Mysti Murphy, being in seventh grade takes enormous courage. Her agoraphobic mother never leaves the house; her father falls from a tree and is hospitalized in a comatose state; and her best and only friend is "conducting a social experiment," ignoring and even making fun of her at school. In this moving follow-up to Sure Signs of Crazy (2013), Harrington returns to similar themes and introduces another appealing protagonist, the red-haired, joke-telling Mysti. From her father, Mysti has learned to deflect difficulties with humor, but from her mother, she has learned fears r instance, it takes Mysti more than a month to think of solving the family's food problem by walking to a nearby store. Mysti often sees herself as a character in a book, and such thoughts are italicized to create a scene-setting narration: "Here is a girl who may have more hidden genius than she realized." The heat of the Texas setting and the inevitable bullying and jockeying for social position in her middle school add to the oppressive atmosphere. Scarf-wearing Rama Khan, a neighbor and new friend, provides welcome support, as does her teacher of Texas history. A wrenching and rewarding read.
Voice of Youth Advocates
Like Sarah Nelson in Harrington's Sure Signs of Crazy (Little, Brown, 2013/VOYA December 2013), Mysti Murphy must navigate a treacherous home situation. Mysti's mother did not try to drown her, but her mother's agoraphobia wields despotic control over the family's life. Then, Mysti's father tumbles headfirst from a tree and spends the next five months hospitalized, leaving Mysti to take care of her mother and younger sister, Laura. Mysti finds strength and comfort in her ability to make up stories for Laura and come up with daily jokes to connect with her homebound mother. Her seventh-grade school days are as troubling as her family situation, now that her longtime male friend, Anibal Gomez, spent his summer losing weight, bought a beret, and is working on becoming a hipster. He is determined to connect with cheerleader Sandy Showalter, earning his props by humiliating Mysti again and again in front of her peers. In addition to escaping through her stories and jokes, she finds consolation with two occupants of the cafeteria's "loser island"brainiac Wayne Kovok, who reminds everyone that his last name is an acronym and spouts "did you know" factoids; and Rama Khan, whose rainbow hijabs and loyalty gradually make her the one-word super-heroine Ramakhan to Mysti.At age twelve, Mysti may be too wise for her years, but her wickedly good schemes to get even with Anibal and her courageous solutions to family crises will make her a compelling protagonist for sophisticated young readers.Donna L Phillips.
Word Count: 51,040
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 169333 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.3 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q64942
Guided Reading Level: W
Fountas & Pinnell: W

Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she'd magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a "hipster." She'd be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she'd certainly be able to change her family's secret.

Seventh grade is not turning out the way Mysti had planned. With the help of a hot-hair balloon, her new friend Rama Khan--and maybe even the heroes of the Texas Revolution--can she find the courage to change?

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