Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
This is a realistic fiction chapter book about 11-year-old Elise. It explores the difficulty of the pre-teen years, when children can struggle with their identity as they begin the change from a child to a young adult, and the hardships of middle school, where kids can be so cruel to one another. Elise’s best friend has always been Franklin, but now that they are in middle school, Elise questions her friendship with him when he seems too much like a little kid, which causes teasing at school. She is not a good friend to Franklin and damages their friendship. While struggling with this situation, she discovers that her father, who died of cancer when she was three years old after losing her mother at birth, has left her a series of messages in the rooms of the barn at her aunt and uncle’s house, who have raised her. As she explores each room of the barn, she learns more about herself and who and where she came from. This experience helps her to grow and mature, so she can mend her relationship with Franklin, stand up to bullying, and also make a new friend. Elise has a wonderful, loving family who support her – her aunt and uncle, as well as her aunt’s sister and her baby who have recently come to live with them. These secondary characters really added to the story for me as they helped Elise find her way and realize the importance of family and friends and being proud of who you are instead of changing yourself to try to fit in with the so-called cool kids.