Book Review: Pack of Dorks

book cover for Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel. It has origami wolves on it, which is clear evidence that Beth Vrabel can see directly into my daughter's brain. Pack of Wolves
By Beth Vrabel
Age Range: 8-12
Sky Pony Press, 2015

If I could change one thing about parenting, it would be to have it commonly accepted that parents & kids should keep reading books together well into middle school. My fifth grader and I both read Pack of Dorks this past weekend (she first, me second) and it opened up so many excellent conversations about friendship, bullying, and having the courage to be your own person.

By turns hilarious, painful, and wise, this book is above all real. It’s so easy to relate to Lucy, Sam, and April. We all know Beckys, and many of us have been Becky at one point in our lives.

I especially love how Beth Vrabel makes it clear that being a good friend is something you have to learn. You will make mistakes. Other people will hurt you by making mistakes of their own. The trick is to grow past it.

As my daughter told me when I asked her if she would have given Becky a second chance, “I think you have to give kids a second chance. And a third. And a fourth. You never know when they will actually start meaning it.”

I don’t know if I completely agree. But it’s making for excellent conversations, and I’m learning a lot about how my daughter thinks and where she’s at on her middle school journey. We will be talking about this book and the lessons we can learn from it for days.

And that’s one of the greatest things about reading books with your middle schoolers. You can break open some of these deeply personal issues from a not-so-personal angle. Not having to bring up the names of specific classmates is so helpful. Using book characters instead gives your child a chance to think about how he or she would respond before a similar friendship situation comes up in the real world.

Parenting would be much harder without books like this one.

(Parenting note: This book pairs especially well with Little Girls Can Be Mean by Michelle Anthony, M.A., Ph.D & Reyna Lindert, Ph.D.)

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Parenting Dilemmas, Reading, Reviews: Books, What the 10yo is reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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