MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, Shadow Mountain, Oct. 3, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-11)
I don’t like reading books about sick kids. It makes me think about my own daughter and how I’d react if she were sick. But a well-written book about childhood illness definitely has its place. Growing up, my brother had diabetes, and reading books where the characters were going through the same things as him helped me relate. That’s why books like Mustaches for Maddie, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, are important.
Maddie is 12. She’s silly and bright and loves to make her classmates laugh by sporting fake mustaches at the most opportune times. Things are looking up because those mustaches have landed Maddie in Cassie’s good favor.
Cassie is the class queen and everyone wants to be her friend, Maddie included. But Maddie can’t help noticing the way Cassie excludes people, and she’s sort of bossy, too. Maddie learns that the hard way when she is cast as Juliet in the school play. It’s the part Cassie wants and she makes it clear she’s not happy.
The play is the least of Maddie’s problems, though. She’s started tripping when she walks, and her hand curls up at her side without her knowing it. A trip to the doctor confirms that Maddie has a brain tumor.
Maddie doesn’t want everyone at school to know what’s going on, but something this big is hard to hide. As her surgery approaches, Maddie learns that being funny isn’t the only thing she’s good at.
Mustaches for Maddie was based on the true story of the authors’ daughter, Maddie, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2013. People really did put on mustaches to help Maddie feel better. A friend created the #mustachesformaddie hashtag. While the real Maddie did face pressures and problems in school, the authors chose to fictionalize those elements in the book.
Because the authors lived through this experience, Mustaches for Maddie feels very real. But while the medical elements are spot-on, this book isn’t necessarily about a brain tumor. Rather, it’s a book about love, family and the resiliency of spirit.
Maddie starts out as a follower that uses humor to get noticed, but by the end of the book she’s become a leader who is not only funny but compassionate, too.
While I liked a number of components throughout Mustaches for Maddie, the one that resonated the most for me, was Maddie’s interaction with Cassie. Maddie realizes that just because she’s going through something big right now, doesn’t mean she’s the only one facing challenges. And everyone’s challenges are big for them, even if they don’t appear so on the surface.
Mustaches for Maddie is a strong middle-grade novel that many young readers will not only enjoy but relate to.
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