This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh (2013)

ratA light middle-grade novel told in journal-style about a homeschooled girl seeking friendship, acceptance, and an understanding with her unconventional father.

Recommended grade level: 3-6

Pages: 320 (for ISBN 9781402281068)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, diary

Tone/Style: humorous, personal

Pace: moderate

Topics: homeschooling, absent mothers, car mechanics, eco-friendliness, activism, family secrets

Themes: father-daughter relationships, making friends, embarrassment about a parent, feelings of abandonment, family, loneliness, trying to fit in, self-discovery

Summary: It’s the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood. But not for Ratchet; she’s homeschooled. That means nothing new. No new book bag, no new clothes, and no friends, old or new.

The best she’s got is her notebook. She’s supposed to use it for her writing assignments, but her dad never checks.

Here’s what she’s really going to use it for: a top-secret plan to turn her old, recycled, freakish, friendless, motherless life into something shiny and new. (from Source)

Who will like this book?: Readers looking for a light but solid story about the challenges of pre-teen relationships with family and friends will enjoy this book. A bit of mystery about Ratchet’s past adds intrigue that keeps the pages turning. Handwriting-style font and doodles in the margins give the pages a fun, inviting vibe. This may be a good choice for younger readers looking to graduate up from titles like The Dork Diaries and The Popularity Papers.

Who won’t like this book?: This will not appeal to many boys, mostly because of its visuals but also because Ratchet’s constant analysis of her feelings gives the book more of a feminine feel. Though it has pictures and ample white space, the book is still quite long and may be too much for reluctant readers.

Other comments: The growth of Ratchet’s relationship with her dad really shines in this story. It’s a nice example of a skilled and determined girl who fights for what she wants.


Readalikes: Always, Abigail is another middle school friendship title in epistolary style by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. Alice, I Think by Susan Juby (recommended for grades 7 and up) is another diary about a homeschooled girl finding herself. (In this one, she in entering her first year as a non-homeschooler.)


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