Middle School Monday | Shells, Smells and the Horrible Flip-Flop of Doom by Rachel Vail

Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom (Justin Case, #2)

Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Published: May 8th 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Humour
ISBN: 9781250000811
Age Range: 8+
Rating: 4/5

Justin is going to start fourth grade—but first, he has to survive the summer. He “gets” to go to camp every day on a bus. He “gets” to experience all sorts of new things: Bugs. Mess hall food. Flip-flops (they hurt the space between his toes and they’re hard to walk in). And (gulp!) swimming.Justin’s little sister, Elizabeth, seems to deal with camp just fine. So do his friends. Justin is trying very hard not to be a worried kid anymore, especially when it comes to making friends at camp, including a new kid who is kind of . . . rough. After all, Justin is going to be in fourth grade. It’s time to be brave. Right?

Justin is what I would call a worry-wort. He is nervous about everything and scared of most things. He loves his safe zone of nerdy type things and people (don’t we all!). This summer, Justin forced to go to a REAL camp though, a camp with bugs, and swimming and physical activity.
All of these new, active, busy, rough kids intimidate Justin but it is time for Justin to grow up and be brave, he is going into the 4th grade after all! Justin Krzeszewski was named Justin Case by his classmates because of his cautious, nervous nature but he has decided that this summer is the time to get over all of his fears. Justin is afraid of things that most kids enjoy, running around, swimming and even wearing flip-flops (I do agree though, the first couple days of summer flip-flops CAN hurt between your toes).
In a way, I am proud of Justin for taking on these tasks head on, and although I found his efforts humorous, I was also a little scared of the reactions of readers his own age. Would they relate to someone this awkward? Would they mock someone because of their reactions or nervousness in these situations that can be seen as regular everyday or exciting things to some kids? What I realized while trying to decide what to write for this review is that most kids ARE awkward, and although they may not be afraid of swimming, they will relate to being nervous about a new place, new people, or a new activity. I think this book has many great discussion points about tolerance, inclusion and understanding. Plus, I DID find Justin funny. Despite all of my knowledge of disabilities, I did not find any situation in this novel to be mocking any disability in particular.
I would recommend this series of novels to anyone who enjoys Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I am however, finding it difficult to find the first book in stores. This is book #2 in the series, but I didn’t have any difficulty catching up without having read the first book, Vail did a great job summarizing the characters.

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