So, I mentioned that I would explain about Meanie Bea’ who is the title character of my book Meanie Bea‘ (I know that’s repetitive but I do want you to read my book someday). I have taught and directed students of every age, but primarily my experience is with middle graders.
After thirty plus years of teaching them, they still fascinate me. Even though times have changed since I was thirteen years old (and boy, have they changed…) I can see myself in them when I was their age.
Primarily, a middle grade student has absolutely no idea what they are thinking, feeling or doing! That doesn’t mean they are just stumbling around in the world (although that happens, too when they are growing taller very quickly during this time). They are sort of floating around like a balloon that gets loose from the rest and bobs around in the air. Have you ever watched other people as they observe a wayward balloon? Everyone looks up at the escaped orb to see if it will pop. Usually, it doesn’t but fades away from us into the skies. Middle graders are like that–they are full of ideas and thoughts, but if they don’t stay tethered to something or someone (like a sport, a hobby or their parents), they drift away from us, too. And if you think about it, we watch them too, thinking “Man, that kid is going to do something stupid some day. Look what they are doing now…” And we’re right.
Why do we know that? We have all been thirteen years old at some point in our life. You can’t escape it, you know? I remember the summer of my seventh grade year when I grew taller and I was elated. One day, I woke up skinnier! No, really. Considering I am of German/Scottish ancestry and kinda stocky (and always on some sort of diet), to have grown “skinnier” by growing an inch is nothing short of a miracle! I thought that someone would surely notice the skinnier version of me and say something nice to me. I pranced around, throwing my hair and trying to look very model-on the-runway-ish. Looking back at it now, I’m pretty sure no one said anything or even noticed.
Beatrice’s alter ego, Meanie Bea’, controls her thoughts at many points in the book. She’s that voice that says things to you like, “What is So-and-So wearing?” or “Oh my gosh, that is so embarassing!” and for certain says, “I feel so dumb.” I think that probably we all have that voice in our heads that talks to us like the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Toon Cartoons. I love Tas’. In the cartoons, he appears out of nowhere spinning dust and debris everywhere. Then he speaks to Bugs Bunny in his gravelly voice and whirls away again. Remember?
Except the difference between Tas’ and Meanie Bea’ is that MB isn’t a cartoon character that you can turn off on the television. Meanie Bea’ speaks in all of us except by a different name–maybe you hear your mother’s voice or your own a little softer in volume. Whatever. As you age and experience things in life, (and I pray it’s true for you as it is for me) you have learned to keep that voice quiet–most of the time.
But middle school students are so busy bobbing around in the air, they don’t even realize their own Meanie Bea’ blurted something really stupid, sarcastic, hateful, manipulative or totally off the subject–way out in the solar system. For instance, you are having a really bad hair day (in my case, that was a lot of days) and your mom asks you to empty the dish washer for her. You look at her and cry,”You just hate my hair this way, don’t you?” and stomp out of the kitchen. In your world, you think she has been staring at your hair all through dinner and that makes her pick on you to empty the dish washer for her.Huh?
Well, that’s what Meanie Bea’ is about–an eighth grade girl just trying to make sense of her world and those around her. Her greatest challenge is a girl named Michiko who is a visiting student from Japan. Michiko is just as obsessed with herself as Beatrice. The difference between the two girls? Michiko is a fanatic about Kabuki Theater and wants desperately to perform Kabuki, some day taking the place of her ailing uncle who is a celebrated Kabuki actor. Beatrice just wants to play the leading role of Pocahontas in the school play because she thinks it will give her popularity which she craves.
So, who wins the role of Pocahontas? You’ll just have to check out my blog soon and find out.
Please comment if you’d like. That is what makes this blogging thing worthwhile. Thanks!