Ms. Ila’s Middle Grade Reading Club: Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylisa Larsen

Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylisa Larsen falls into the genre Musical Fiction.

Lily, Nick, Cassie, Mac, and Jake love Mr. Lewis' Jazz Lab.

Fourth period class provides different things to each kid:  a way to express oneself, a class that is not a struggle, a class that is a place to belong.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lewis has a secret that he wants to hide.  Disappearing from class one day, the kids believe that Mr. Lewis has been fired due to budget cuts.

Fired up by what they see as injustice, the kids try to make themselves heard.  The principal and school board, however, ignore their petition and do not listen to what the kids have to say about their extracurriculars.

With the help of a classmate who is a computer whiz, Lily, Mac, Nick, Jake, and Cassie finally make a resounding statement that cannot be ignored.

How to Communicate so that Others Will Listen

Here are Mac's Rules (page 175) that include respectful communication:

  • Don't talk back
  • Cooperate
  • Help people get along.  Smooth out problems.
  • Do the right thing
  • Be someone people can count on

In addition to these rules, we learn some other rules from other characters:

  • Mr. Saavedra says that trust is important.  "I have to be able to trust you."
  • Lily and Cassie learn that it is okay to speak up for oneself.  Lily tells her Dad how important Jazz Lab is to her and Cassie tells her Dad that she wants to stay rather than move again.
  • Nick learns that he can use past experience to communicate respectfully in the present.  Because he has had experience with a dying grandfather, he knows what to do at Mr. Lewis' bedside, as his friends stand by awkwardly.
  • Quagmire learns from Ms. Harken that the schools have a power structure: it starts with the school superintendent, to the principal, then to the teachers and staff.  But, other powerful members of the school community include the school board and parents.
  • Quagmire shares Ms. Harken's words with the others and he and Jake start to build relationships with people who want to be on the school board and with other parents.

Building relationships is one of the most important aspects to communicating effectively.

Learn More About Music

If you use our Online Resources, select the Arts and Entertainment category and you will find the following resources that will help you learn about music:

If you are interested in listening to jazz music, you can download the Hoopla Digital app, which will allow you to access jazz music with your library card and PIN!  Just go to "genre" and choose "jazz."

Questions to Consider

  • What are ways that you can show that you care when you are listening?
  • Turnarounds in jazz happen at the end of a section and lead to the next section.  What do you think the the title in this book means?
  • Do you think Lily and Nick have changed by the end of the book?  In what ways?
  • What do you think about Cassie's father?  Do you think he is a good father?  Why or why not?
  • What do you think "fiscal responsibility" means?  Do you agree with Jake's Aunt Terri about "fiscal responsibility?"
  • Do you think Quagmire's behavior is related to his mother?  What do you think is going on with Quagmire's homelife?
  • Do you have other suggestions for communicating effectively?

Next month, lets read a book that is all about family, Lasagna Means I Love You by Kate O'Shaughnessy.