When Maggie receives a beautiful leather-bound journal for her twelfth birthday she knows what she wants to write about: the story of her life since she turned eleven. That’s because a lot of things happened during the past year, and with her dad in the hospital she has a lot of time to think about it as she waits for him to get better.
The youngest of three daughters, Maggie considers herself the responsible one. She’s super smart in school, she plans to be president one day, and her older sisters spend all their time working on their looks rather than helping out at home. But something’s going on with Maggie’s dad, and her parents think she’s too young to hear the truth. She realizes she needs to “pull herself up by her bootstraps,” as the family likes to say, and face what’s happening even if it is hard.
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern is a coming of age story with a plucky heroine. Maggie walks the line between wanting to stay a little kid who loves chocolate and tattles on her sisters and being grown up enough to know about her dad’s health problems and why her mom had to go to work full time. She talks about his “sleepy legs” and “sleepy arms” as the reason he had to quit his job and be home in a wheel chair.
She’s frustrated because every time she ask her dad about something important, he says he’ll “tell her in ten years.” And her mom is too busy working and taking care of everyone else to have time for Maggie. When her dad takes a turn for the worse, she finally learns about his illness while gaining insight into the lives of everyone else in her family.
The story is a good one for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 8 to 12. Book club discussion can cover the good and the bad of parents keeping big issues from their children and when it may be appropriate to share that information. Other discussion topics include the ways siblings may or may not have accurate pictures of each other, having disapproving grandparents, and family illnesses.
The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read the Mother Daughter Book Club interview with author Megan Jean Sovern.