Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kat Wolfe Takes the Case (Kat Wolfe #2)

St John, Lauren. Kat Wolfe Takes the Case (Kat Wolfe #2)
December 10th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edleweiss Plus

Kat and her friend Harper Lamb are out for a walk when they see an injured dog in a treacherous position on a cliff. Of course, Kat goes to the rescue, and manages to get the dog just before the cliff falls into the sea. The collapse also reveals a dinosaur skeleton that Harper's father investigates. A lot of people come to down to gawk, including a famous couple who ask Kat to watch their fractious Pomeranian. The dog Kat rescues is Pax, and her veterinarian mother patches the dog up and is trying to locate its owner through the information on its microchip. Bones are also found, and they belong to a man who disappeared a few years previously. Helped out by friend and former librarian Edith, they start to investigate the case. She and Harper also spend some time at her grandfather's estate, Hamilton Park,  where they enjoy the perks of living like the upper crust and also get some information about government officials. They meet the boy whose father is using fossils to cure a demanding patient, Kat babysits a snake, and there are a few other sub plots that all tie in with the illegal importing of animal products.
Strengths: There are a lot of things going on in this book, but they all tie together nicely. I think the author writes some adult books, but she does a good job at making a middle grade mystery that incorporates the more complex elements of mysteries for older readers. The setting is fun, especially Hamilton Park. I like that basic safety procedures are in place most of the time, but Kat and Harper still manage to get into some danger! This was just a very fun, enjoyable read.
Weaknesses: While I enjoyed the animal rights/environmental portion of this, the sub plot with the father and son who work with Chinese medicine didn't seem to fit into this very well.
What I really think: Love the British setting and the dark turns that these take, and the first one has proven to be very popular in my library.

This is not a Christmas sweater, although my brother bought it for my mother for Christmas in 1989. When I cleaned out my parents house six years ago, this surfaced, and I had to keep it. It has everything that was questionable about 1980s garb-- goose motif, oddly vibrant 100% acrylic yarn, shoulder pads, and a weird tunic length. The necklace may, in fact, be a Christmas tree ornament

But the sweater is not ugly. And it is not a Christmas sweater!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Jones, Kelly. Sauerkraut
September 10th 2019 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Hans Dieter Schenk has learned a lot about his mother's African American culture, but not as much about his father's German heritage. When his Uncle Gregor ends up with a lot of family heirlooms in his basement, he pays HD to clean out and organize things. This takes time away from building his computer and helping his friend Mr. Ziedrich with his goats, but HD and his friend Eli try to balance everything. When they are cleaning, HD sees the ghost of his great-great grandmother, Marietta Schenk, who wants to be called Oma. She is tied to a pickle crock, and Eli can't see her, but she is insistent that HD help her make sauerkraut to enter in the local competition so she can become the Pickle Queen. HD and Eli run a few experiments to see if Oma is legitimate, and then try their best to gather the ingredients to make sauerkraut. They tell Mr. Ziedrich, who lives in a nursing home but helps HD build computers, and he feels they must tell HD's parents. The boys introduce Oma to the parents, and they all set down the house rules about cooking and using kraut cutters. They also have a talk about mental health, letting the boys know if they see or hear anything else that no one else hears, they should report it! With the help of other supportive adults, such as the local librarian and women who run the junk yard, the boys manage to make the sauerkraut and also get a computer built. When Oma's sauerkraut is to be judged at the same time as HD's tech entry, there are some tense moments, but some creative thinking finds a work around. Oma's sauerkraut doesn't win a prize, but the family gives her her own pickle parade. She still hasn't decided to move on, which is okay with HD, since he has enjoyed learning about his father's side of the family.
Strengths: It was great that the author consulted with Sundee Frazier, who wrote Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It (2008); there are a lot more children with mixed racial backgrounds than there were eleven years ago, so it's good to see HD connect with some ancestors. He is also a Maker and a black geek. His friend Eli dances. There are goats and goat agility competitions. IT's always interesting to read books where children DO things, and HD has a lot of varied interests.          Weaknesses: It's great that Jones portrays HD as a responsible person who lets them know all about the ghost so he isn't in danger, but I sort of miss the days of Ruth Chew where parents go on vacation, leave the children with random older woman, and they sneak a homeless wizard into the attic to stay with them (The Trouble with Magic, 1976)! Just this summer I started to notice that #MGLit has gotten super politically correct. (All the characters seem to have gay uncles, for example.) Not surprised, just... feeling old. What fun is it to have a ghost if you tell your parents?
What I really think: This should be filed under humorous stories rather than scary ghost ones, but is a great choice for children who like magical realism and who enjoyed this author's Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

Happy Cardigan Day!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Haunting of Henry Davis

Siebel, Kathryn. The Haunting of Henry Davis
July 2nd 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Westerville Public Library Copy

Barbara Anne becomes friends with pale, sickly looking Henry Davis when he comes to her school, more by accident than by purpose. Her mother always has told her to be nice to new students, and Henry certainly needs someone to be kind to him! He keeps to himself, writes a lot in his notebook, and seems very edgy. Barbara Anne eventually finds out that he has seen a ghost in his new house repeatedly. The ghost is a young boy named Edgar, who asks Henry to play with him, and keeps making circles on the floor for marbles. The two start to investigate, and come across interesting information from local residents as well as the public library, and eventually find out the mystery surrounding Edgar's guest, and are able to bring him some peace.
Strengths: This brought in some interesting information about how the great influenza epidemic of 1918 affected the Seattle area. I liked the friendship between the two children, and the process they used to investigate. The history is fascinating, and I enjoyed reading this.
Weaknesses: I have a Mary Downing Hahn title that is very similar, One for Sorrow, and it doesn't circulate very well.
What I really think: I have a lot of ghost mysteries, but unless the ghosts are actively killing or harassing people (Think Mary: The Summoning) my students prefer murder mysteries. It's an ongoing battle because ghost mysteries are far more common for 11-14 year olds, but I don't think I will purchase this one.

We got snow in central Ohio! As someone said on Twitter, fall was my favorite day this year. We are moving on to the full wool wardrobe!

Ms. Yingling

Monday, November 11, 2019

MMGM- The Ghost in Apartment 2R and Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Markell, Denis. The Ghost in Apartment 2R
November 12th 2019 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Danny's family lives in a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. The family has struggled financially, with his filmmaker father doing contract work, and in order for Jake and Danny to have their own space, Danny ends up with a closet bedroom. When Jake heads off to Cornell on a scholarship, Danny hopes to get his own room, but the parents decide to rent it out as an Air Hotel room. Danny's not happy about this, but there isn't much he can do. Odd things start to happen as his mother works to set up their new business, though-- the web site won't take the listing, customers have to call support to book, and the bed keeps falling apart. Even stranger are the sightings of ghostly faces in pictures and in the window. Danny consults his friend Gus, whose family runs a butcher shop, and his friend Nat, whose family has had a deli for over a hundred years. They agree with Danny that the room seems haunted, but aren't quite sure what to do. Suggestions come from Danny's grandmother, who thinks there is a dybbuk who needs to be understood to be dispatched. The kids do some research and find that a tragedy occurred in the apartment. After some parental dissent, Nat is able to stay overnight and help talk to the ghost, find out what is tying her to the room, and figure out a way to help her move on. 
Strengths: This is more of a love letter to Brooklyn than a scary ghost story, but it is quite fun nonetheless. The details of Danny's every day life will seem super exotic to my students, most of whom can't walk to stores, schools, or anything else! For some reason, the various Air Hotel guests were funny and fascinating, and reading about Nat's family deli was also enjoyable. The family's financial struggles were realistic; there are a lot of odd expenses associated with college, and I can't think of a single middle grade novel to address families hosting hotel guests! (In their own home. There are books about actual hotels and motels.) The ghost story is well constructed, and i thought the reason for the dybbuk to hang around was very sweet. Like this author's The Game Masters of Garden Place or Click Here to Start, this is a fun novel with just a little bit of the supernatural.
Weaknesses: I wish the ghost mystery had been scarier. When she possesed the hotel guests, it was more humorous than frightening. I liked the book a lot despite this, but I do have a LOT of students who want scary books, and struggle to find enough.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing; fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright will like the slight ghost mystery, and readers who want humorous books or books set in New York City will enjoy this one. 

Drimmer, Stephanie Warren. Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff
September 10th 2019 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

I love finding out about the origins of things we use every day, and so do my students. The Food Dudes series from Abdo and the Brands We Know series from Pilot are frequently checked out. This book is even better. It not only has brand name items, but also the back story on things like chess, pens, tools, and nail polish. There are fantastic timelines with fads in toys, foods, and table manners. 

Each topic (and there are a lot crammed in this almost 7" square book) is well-illustrated with lots of colors, and has small sidebars with additional information. It's all done in a humorous way, but is very informative. I appreciate especially that there is an index in the back-- some books like this don't have them! 

I learned several things from this, including the fact that the iron and thimble are no longer Monopoly playing pieces! The only omission that I saw (and this book covers more than one would expect, so this is just a personal peeve) is that Cabbage Patch Kids weren't on the Toy Fads timeline. I have very vivid memories of that bit of consumer frenzy.

This would be a fantastic book for get for a child to keep in the car for long trips-- reading these tidbits of information aloud would be fun for the whole family. It's paperback, so I might look for a prebind for the library, but certainly there are hours of fun contained within these pages. 

We finally have cold weather here; I gave up posting outfits because I never ended up wearing what I had put out. This is what I wear all winter-- Turtleneck, blazer, pleated skirt. It's easy to throw pants on under a skirt on my walk to work.

Again, I feel like this is the modern equivalent of the Victorian old lady in her high collared black dress, in amongst the Flappers, but I don't care. It's comfortable, professional, and gives me joy. Also, it's a timeless look, right? The pattern at the right is from the 1930s. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Other Side of the Wall

Ephron, Amy. The Other Side of the Wall (The Castle in the Mist #3)
October 15th 2019 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Tess and Max have come to London from their Swiss boarding school for Christmas. Their Aunt Evie is there at the Sanborn Hotel with them, but their parents are stuck in Berlin because of the uncustomary amount of snow. They are able to get out a bit and see the sights, and Evie gives them a lot of leeway. They even meet a boy who lives in the hotel, Colin, and visit his apartment while his parents are giving a 1920s theme party and meet a psychic named Adele who tells them there is something "on the other side of the wall". As the days drag on and their parents still can't make it, they start to realize that Colin is not what he seems, and that there is a layer of the hotel that is not inhabiting the present day. When Colin takes over Max's body, Tess realizes that she must find a way to help "the person who used to be Max" and save Colin as well.
Strengths: I loved the London during the holidays setting, and the delay with the parents was believable. Not many books now with children in Swiss boarding schools, but that was a big thing in the 1950s, giving this an air of an older title. Tess and Max get along quite well, and the anxiety about their parents is realistic. Colin, Adele, and the other 1920s characters are great fun-- love Colin's cuff links! I want to spend MY holiday at the Sanborn now!
Weaknesses: This was a very slow moving fantasy book; Colin doesn't become a threat until 3/4 of the way into the book. Also, the phrase "the person who used to be Max" was repeated way too many times.
What I really think: I liked this more than Carnival Magic, but not as much as The Castle in the Mist. I keep hoping that I can get children to read this series; it would be great for fans of Edward Eager, Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, or Laurel Snyder's Any Which Wall.

Saturday, November 09, 2019


Grabenstein, J.J. and Chris. Shine!
November 5th 2019 by Random House Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Piper Milly and her father live on the east coast, where her father teaches music at a local middle school in order to give her more stability than his dream job of writing Broadway musicals, since her mother died when she was three. Piper is interested in space and is a big fan of the scientist and personality Nellie Dumont Frisse, and she's trying to decide who she wants to be as a person. When her father takes a better paying job at Chumley Prep, where her cello prodigy mother excelled back in the day, Piper feels even more pressure to make something of herself. She is glad to walk a dog for a neighbor, but when the school announces the Excelsior competition, her new friends Tim, Siraj, Emily and Kwame (who dub themselves the Hibbleflitts) help her try to ace the science fair, talent show, and other showcases of awesomeness so that she can live up to her mother's legacy. Her nemesis is Ainsley, who is bound and determined to win the award, even if it means disqualifying Piper's entries on technicalities. When the award is announced, Piper finds that the criteria depended more on being kind than on any academic or extracurricular activity.
Strengths: This has engaging characters, a simple plot, and a nice message. I can see this being used in a classroom, as a follow up to Palacio's Wonder. I especially appreciated that while Piper wasn't thrilled about starting a new school in the middle of the year, she realized it was a good opportunity that would make her father happy, and she didn't complain.
Weaknesses: It seems unlikely that a private school would offer a better salary than a public one, but East Coast private schools are something I just don't understand.
What I really think: This would be a fantastic choice for elementary students who want to read about middle school and is a great treatise on kindness. I'm just not sure how well it would go over with my middle school students.

Shulz, Charles M. Charlie Brown: All Tied Up (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 13): A PEANUTS Collection
October 15th 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

With fifty years of daily strips in existence, there could be hundreds of these collections of Peanuts comics, and there would be students who would read them all. I'm going to guess that these date from the late '70s or early '80s; there's a Valentine Disco dance, and Snoopy runs an airline. I don't know if these collections are edited and more topical strips removed, but it is surprising how well these hold up today. Shulz had a real eye for ordinary amusing things--Peppermint Patty briefly dates Pig Pen, who loves that she doesn't want to change him, except, of course she does; Linus sets out flares around a crabby Lucy, and Charlie contemplates whether he is boring. There's usually a bit or two that seem oddly modern in each of these books, and in this case, Harriet the bird scout out hikes the boy bird scouts, although she also brings along a cake with Seven Minute Frosting.

Our local newspaper only runs Peanuts on Sunday, so this was a welcome reminder of the years of comics Shulz penned. With the holidays approaching, keep this in mind for young comics lovers on your book list. To me, the Peanuts gang is an essential part of Christmas because of the holiday special AND the holiday ornaments and cards that were so wide spread in the late 1970s.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Guy Friday- Basketball!

Wetzel, Dan. Epic Athletes: LeBron James
November 12th 2019 by Henry Holt & Company
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

My collection development policy is usually to buy biographies only after the person is deceased. I am making an exception for this excellent series because the books remind me of both Matt Christopher and The Childhood of Famous Americans, both of which I love. (N.B. I loved TCOFA in 1974. I am a little alarmed at the amount of home schoolers who seem to like these. They have almost no educational value now, and since they are all at least 50 years old, the diversity and accuracy of the series is suspect.)

I had no idea what Mr. James' story was, but it is quite an inspiring one that makes Akron, Ohio look like an excellent place to grow up. Since my father's formative years were spent there, I had an automatic interest.

This started with the big championship game in 2016 that was such a big event in Cleveland, then traveled back to follow James' complicated and difficult childhood and his entry into professional ball. The story wasn't told in a maudlin or overly emotional way, but made it very clear that childhood events shaped James' personality.

The best past of this book, and the main reason I'm buying it, was the description of all of the philanthropic projects with which James' is involved. It is heartening to see someone who struggled and became successful go back and try to give others a boost as well. Because this concentrates on James' childhood and beginning career, I feel okay with the fact that he will go on and accomplish other things that won't be reflected in this particular book.

Maraniss, Andrew. Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany
November 5th 2019 by Philomel Books

E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

I loved, loved, loved this author's Strong Inside and was so looking forward to this book, but it kept crashing my Nook! It took me three weeks of reading a couple of pages, having to restart, and giving up to get through this. Technology is fantastic when it works, isn't it?

I am definitely buying this one and will have to read it again. Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

"On a scorching hot day in July 1936, thousands of people cheered as the U.S. Olympic teams boarded the S.S. Manhattan, bound for Berlin. Among the athletes were the 14 players representing the first-ever U.S. Olympic basketball team. As thousands of supporters waved American flags on the docks, it was easy to miss the one courageous man holding a BOYCOTT NAZI GERMANY sign. But it was too late for a boycott now; the ship had already left the harbor.

1936 was a turbulent time in world history. Adolf Hitler had gained power in Germany three years earlier. Jewish people and political opponents of the Nazis were the targets of vicious mistreatment, yet were unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the coming years. But the Olympians on board the S.S. Manhattan and other international visitors wouldn't see any signs of trouble in Berlin. Streets were swept, storefronts were painted, and every German citizen greeted them with a smile. Like a movie set, it was all just a facade, meant to distract from the terrible things happening behind the scenes.

This is the incredible true story of basketball, from its invention by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, to the sport's Olympic debut in Berlin and the eclectic mix of people, events and propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic that made it all possible. Includes photos throughout, a Who's-Who of the 1936 Olympics, bibliography, and index."

How Old People Take Selfies: With extreme difficulty.

This is my nice, cozy Flannel Friday outfit, with a denim jumper I might have bought new in about 2002, a Lands End flannel shirt from the thrift store, a Talbots wool sweater a dear friend got me (also from the thrift store!), and the exact pair of Eastland penny loafers I had been looking at online for about $70. This justified the whopping $8 I spent at... well, you know the answer.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

How to Rob a Bank

Mitchell, Tom. How to Rob a Bank
November 7th 2019 by HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
ARC provided by the publisher

Fifteen year old Dylan has a girlfriend, Beth, who looks like Emma Stone. He wants to impress her for her birthday, and since her pal Henry has given her a necklace, he decides to give her the Nepalese scented candle he's ordered for his mother. The two burn it in her room, but hastily extinguish it when her mother smells it ("Why does it smell like yoga in here?") and put it in the trash basket. Bad idea. The resultant fire burns down the expensive house, and since the family has no insurance, they end up living in a flat in a council block. (In the US, we would probably say "the projects".) Feeling guilty, Dylan is inspired by the bank heist movies he watches with his unmotivated father, and plans several schemes to rob a bank himself. One is thwarted by his former teacher, and when he downloads a computer hack to control an ATM, he isn't able to insert the USB drive into a local ATM. His sister is with him, and manages to tell the bank manager a sob story about their parents being dead in order to secure her brother an internship at the bank. Since his parents have been bothering him about getting a job, this is perfect. He is given plenty of time to scope out the machine, but also has to do his job-- getting coffee for the manager, and removing pigeons and their aftermath from the bank bathroom. He feels too guilty to see much of Beth, and is determined to get the money for her before she has to move to a different school because she is living with an aunt. Will Dylan be able to pull off a successful heist and save his girlfriend?
Strengths: This nailed the teenage tendency to have what seem like great ideas at the time. Dylan's motivations are clear but so misguided! I also enjoyed that his parents were both around (but again, I worry about British parenting!), and his sister was instrumental in helping him. It's great to have a character old enough to have a job, and Dylan's problems at work are fun to read about. This was a great way to spend a cool fall Saturday morning!
Weaknesses: Very British, so there will be some US readers who are confused, especially about the "football" references.
What I really think: This was delightful, and since it is available as a prebind from Follett, I'm definitely purchasing it. We need more books about teen boys doing silly things, and this is perfect.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Forgotten Girl

Brown, India Hill. The Forgotten Girl
November 5th 2019 by Scholastic
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Iris and her best friend and neighbor, Daniel,  live in a North Carolina neighborhood that abuts a woods. One night, they sneak out to play in the snow, something that Daniel's grandmother, Suga, doesn't like. They make snow angels, and venture further into the woods where they find an abandoned grace for Avery Moore, who died back in the 1950s at about their age. Iris starts to have a creepy feeling that Avery is haunting her, and there are inklings that she has perhaps gotten to Iris's young sister, Vashti, as well. Daniel and Iris have a school project on local history, and start investigating abandoned graves in the area only to realize that at the time, cemeteries were segregated, and many of the African American ones were plowed over or abandoned. Daniel has an especial interest because his father has passed away, and Iris has had several instances in the past where the school "inadvertently" left her out of things because she is one of the few African Americans in the school. She's busy with step team, but throws herself into the investigation, even interviewing Suga and finding out some secrets about both her and Avery's past. Avery becomes increasingly insistent with her hauntings, and Iris soon realizes that she must help put her spirit to rest by assuring that she is not forgotten.
Strengths: You would think that most middle grade books would have well developed characters with have easily discernible plots that are fairly easy to understand and remember; you might be wrong. I've read a lot this summer (writing this review 8/14/19) that are so crammed with characters and cover so many subplots that even I get confused! Many of my students struggle with reading and prefer graphic novels, but maybe part of it is that middle grade books are trying to deliver too many political/social-emotional messages! The Forgotten Girl was sort of brilliant in that respect-- it was a solid ghost mystery that drew in local history and civil rights issues in an easy to understand, relatable way. I didn't feel bludgeoned when I finished it, and I enjoyed the friendship, the strong family ties, and the picture of integration in one town.
Weaknesses: This was a good, well constructed story; I just didn't find it very scary.
What I really think: I will purchase for the creepy, Mary Downing Hahn style cover and the discussion of segregation during the 1950s.

This reminded me of Tracy Barrett's Cold in Summer (2003) a bit, so I think I'll try to get that title checked out!
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Dragon Warrior

Zhao, Katie. The Dragon Warrior
October 15th 2019 by Bloomsbury USA Kids
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Falun (Faryn) Liun and her brother Alex are being raised by their grandfather, Ye Ye, after their father, Ba, a dragon warrior, went missing several years ago. They live in San Francisco's Chinatown, but are not appreciated by the more wealthy members of the Jade Society. The leader, Mao, is openly hostile, as are others, like Wang and Yuhao, who are Faryn's age. Moli. Faryn's former best friend, also ignores her. During Lunar new year, Faryn goes out to get medicine for her grandfather, and on the way home, is attacked by a demon. She defeats it with the help of a god, and is secretly pleased that a god showed up at the festival for a change. She keeps this a secret, however, and goes to the festival with her family. There, the young dragon warriors try to lift a sword that can only be lifted by the Heaven Breaker, but none can. That is, none but Faryn. She is able to lift Fenghuang, and the goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, who helps her keep her father's maps, which she hopes will help her find him. Unfortunately, Ye Ye passes away in the midst of all of the activity, but gives Faryn notes that she can send to him for help. Faryn, Alex, and Moli take off on a quest to find Ba in accordance to the prophecy. This takes them first to Phoenix, where they meet Ren, who can shape shift into a dragon. They then go to Chicago, where they meet Chuangmu, a goddess who runs a hotel. She fools them into staying and then won't let them go. They eventually escape and head to D.C. , where they find that the demons have been wreaking havoc all over the US. They also run into the Red Prince, another formidable adversary who keeps them prisoner until Ren can harness the power of the dragons. Finally, they set off for Peng Lai island to find the Jade Emperor and hopefully their father. Things are still difficult, and when they finally meet the emperor, it turns out that he wants the Heaven Breaker to help overthrow the human world! There has been some discussion that Alex and Faryn are not related by blood, but Alex, suffering from a feeling of inferiority and egged on by the gods, takes Fenghuang and claims that HE is the Heaven Breaker. Guanyin appears to Faryn and offers to help her try to save the human world from the Jade Emperor... and from Alex.
Strengths: This was action packed, and had very likable characters. It followed the Rick Riordanesque quest protocol, where characters have to travel to different locations and are bothered by various characters from mythology/religion along the way. The friend drama with Moli is a nice touch, and Alex's betrayal sets up the next book nicely.
Weaknesses: I should have taken notes; I had a lot of bookmarks on my Nook, but it's not as easy to retrieve information that way. This is not overly complicated, but it was a bit of a challenge for me, so will be perfect for my readers who get really into fantasy stories.
What I really think: I'm definitely purchasing, but would like a little more information in the next book in the series. This has a glossary at the end, but it wasn't part of the E ARC. That would probably help, and I would like more information about the role of the gods and goddesses mentioned in modern Chinese culture. Western readers might not realize when or if the gods and goddesses in the book are actually worshipped; to me, all religion is mythological, but I don't know that we will ever see an adventure book with Jesus as a character.

Ford, Michael. Lost Horizon (#2)
October 8th 2019 by HarperCollins
Public library copy

The Forgotten City has done well in my library, and there aren't a lot of new dystopian books coming out. Definitely purchasing.

From Goodreads:
"Everything Kobi once believed was a lie. Not only are there other survivors of the Waste that devastated the world thirteen years ago, but beyond the wasteland of Old Seattle lies a gleaming new city where thousands are desperate for a cure.

To put an end to the Waste—and bring justice to those responsible–Kobi and his new friends will have to return to the heart of Old Seattle, where the outbreak began. It’s a dangerous journey. But Kobi knows what lies ahead. And he’s ready to fight."

Monday, November 04, 2019

MMGM- Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Heiligman, Deborah. Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"
October 8th 2019 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

World War II was very hard on many London families, and the opportunity provided by the Children's Overseas Reception Board was a blessing to families like the Grimmonds. There were ten children in the family, and after several nights of bombing, the family home was destroyed. Five of the younger children had been accepted into the program, and were sent off to Liverpool to board the ship even though all of their luggage had been destroyed. They ended up on the City of Benares with other children like themselves, but also with a number of paying passengers as well as a crew of English and Indian Lascar sailors. There were also a number of educators, religious workers and other adults acting as chaperones. At first, it was a grand adventure, leaving the city and heading to sea. The ship was fairly luxurious, and the war-starved children enjoyed good food for the first time in a while, especially the ice cream. However, when the convoy in which the boat was sailing disbanded, the City of Benares was targeted by a German U Boat whose captain did not realize there were children aboard. The ship took a direct hit on a cold and stormy night, and tragedy ensued. Many were killed on impact, and those who managed to get to life boats either had trouble boarding them, or were not properly dressed for the cold. Many perished right away, but many lingered before rescue ships arrived. While there were a number of rafts rescued, raft 12 was missed. Mary Cornish, a teacher, strove bravely to keep her young charges alive for eight days on the open sea before they were finally found. This nonfiction work follows many of the passengers, detailing their experiences as well as their deaths, telling a bit about those who managed to survive.
Strengths: The research on this is very complete, and I appreciated that Heiligman even tried to hunt down relatives of the Indian Lascar sailors, even though she wasn't able to find any information. It's hard for US students to understand how difficult WWII was for the British and other Europeans (as well as Pacific Islanders in that theater), and this certainly paints a grim picture. The accounts of individuals, though, makes this a very personal story. Heartbreakingly detailed, with moments of hope when some of the children survived, this is certainly a WWII story with which I was unfamiliar.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of characters, so this can be a bit hard to follow. Also, I'm not sure what the final pictures and photographs will be like, but I wish there were more photographs. They probably just don't exist.
What I really think: This was so intriguing that I will have to purchase a copy, and I will hand it to the students who are still oddly interested in the Titanic!

For more on the red life jacket that started the research on this book, check out this article!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee

Vrabel, Beth. The Humiliations of Pipi McGee
September 16th 2019 by Running Press Kids

E ARC Provided by Netgalley

Penelope got her name of Pipi after an unfortunate accident involving a stuck zipper. Something horrible seems to happen every year, and Pipi knows all of the incidents by heart. Her friend Tasha puts up with her recounting, but doesn't quite understand, because her life seems to go swimmingly. When 8th grade starts off with an assembly where kindergarten pictures of the 8th graders are shown, Pipi feels like she has already had her humiliation for the year-- her picture was one of her as a piece of bacon. Bound and determined to avenge all of her past, she volunteers with the kindergarten class and mentors Piper, who thinks that she is going to be a unicorn when she grows up and wants to include a horn growing out of her stomach in her class portrait. That's one horror down, but Pipi goes through her past, focusing on Sarah, the golden girl everyone loves, and her evil cousin Kara, who were both behind some of the upsets. There's also Jackson, on whom Pipi has a long time crush, and with whom Pipi thinks she still has a chance, especially since she manufactures chances to be near him, especially since he has started to write poetry and Pipi offers up a room at her mother's gym as a place for a poetry group to meet. At home, Pipi has to deal with her sister Eliza, who had a baby at age 16, Annie, and is struggling to raise her daughter and to make her career as a make up consultant work. After part of her revenge scheme goes really well (or really awfully), she teams up with her target, Kara, to get revenge on Frau Jacobs, who is concentrating on dress coding all the girls in the school because they are "distracting" the boys, who are only expected to be "neat and clean" in their appearance. When Piper finds out some information about Frau Jacobs' own past, she feels bad about exacting her revenge, but is it too late to stop?
Strengths: This had a lot of good friend drama in it, and lots of interesting characters. Tasha's obsession with a book series (Crow Reaper) is fun, and the relationships with Ricky and Jackson are all too true-to-life. Her supportive family adds an extra layer of interest without slowly down the plot. The scenes with Piper are amusing. Doesn't every middle school student think about plans for a new school year and worry about the things that went wrong in the past?
Weaknesses: I would have liked this better if it had ended before the Frau Jacobs scheme; that was uncomfortable, and I found it hard to believe that any school would continue to dress code girls after everything that has been on social media.
What I really think: Better than Pack of Dorks but not as good as Bringing Me Back or Caleb and Kit. I'll definitely purchase for my readers who want books with drama.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Shake it Off (Wish #8)

Nelson, Suzanne. Shake it Off (Wish #8)
July 30th 2019 by Scholastic Inc.
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Bria has made some poor choices concerning friends and social media back home in Chicago, so her parents have decided to pack her off to spend the summer helping out on her aunt's farm in Iowa with her cousins. Since Bria doesn't find farm life as interesting as fashion, and doesn't get along terribly well with Wren, she has a rough start. She doesn't want to muck out stalls or even help in the dairy's diner, and is so unhelpful that her aunt finally tells her to go back to the house and stay out of the way. This is great for a couple of days, but Bria eventually becomes bored and feels guilty that she is not helping out when the rest of the family is working so hard. She also wants to spend more time with Gabe, whose family owns a nearby farm. Bria does make an effort at the diner, and creates a spectacular milk shake similar to those available at her favorite shop in the city, but the locals want to stick to plain vanilla. Undeterred, Bria eventually brings her cousins and aunts around to the idea of the fancy shakes. Will they be enough to keep her aunt and uncle from selling off the farm?

Farm life is difficult; my mother's family had a dairy farm that did home deliveries and at its height sold ice cream, cottage cheese and oddly, juice jugs. It's good to see a book that portrays the love of farm life many people feel but balances it with the realities or modern economics.

The Wish books are hugely popular in my library, in part because of the great convergence of food and romance. There are recipes for some of Bria's shakes at the back, as well as tips on how to construct them. I've never seen these in a restaurant, but they are intriguing, even if the one of the cover probably contains enough calories for me for an entire week! Hand this titles to readers who enjoyed Atwood's Ice Cream Summer, Simon's Sprinkle Sundaes series, Lisa Schroeder's It's Raining Cupcakes or other books where the main characters have business interests that revolve around food!
Ms. Yingling

Friday, November 01, 2019

Saving Fable (Talespinners)

Reintgen, Scott. Saving Fable (Talespinners)
September 17th 2019 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Copy also provided by publisher

Indira Story is living in Origin, waiting for her chance to go to Protagonist Preparatory and learn all she needs to be chosen as a character in a book. She has waited a long time, and fears that she will meet the same fate as her brother David, who has given up and has been told to live in Quiver, working hard in the mines digging for story nuggets. When Indira is finally chosen, she is very excited. She makes a few friends on the way, Maxi and Phoenix, although Maxi treats her differently when Indira is given the blue jacket of a secondary character and Maxi has the gold jacket of a main character. Indira is given a schedule of classes that include things like Love by Page 12, I Thought You Were Dead, and How to Get Captured and Narrowly Escape, which is taught by Alice in Wonderland on a very odd schedule! She also goes through the Adoption Agency in order to find a family to stay with while at school, and ends up with the cozy Mrs. Pennington and her son Patch in a small but pleasant cottage. She starts to run into problems at school-- her assignments are blank, and things generally don't go well. She has trouble with her auditions, and her advisor, Brainstorm Ketty, eventually suggests that her best chance might be to take a cameo. Since she is bound and determined to bring her brother into the story with her, and holds on tight to the first line she heard when she came to Fable, "Every cage has a key", she reconciles with her friends and tries to investigate the worsening problems at the academy. Will she be able to defeat the villains and earn a place in a story?
Strengths: This is a good premise, and Indira is a solid character. The Protagonist Preparatory is a fun school, and I particularly like the different hearths in front of which one may sit for bolstering (comfort, rest, courage, etc.) The classes and professors were quirky and fun, although young readers might not recognize all of them. I loved Mrs. Pennington, and the time that Indira spent with her was my favorite part of the story. The villains are reasonable, and the story moves along smoothly.
Weaknesses: This was compared to The Phantom Tollbooth, so I my expectations were too high. I also was hoping it would be a little like Townley's The Great Good Thing. This was a good book; it just wasn't a great book like those two.
What I really think: This could be popular with readers who enjoy Colfer's The Land of Stories or Healey's A Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The 1,000 Year Old Boy

Welford, Ross. The 1,000 Year Old Boy
October 8th 2019 by Schwartz & Wade Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Alfie (or Alve) was born in the North... back when the VIkings were invading. He and his mother and cat were all made immortal by a substance is a glass ball (livperler) that his father had taken from someone in battle. They can still be killed, which is how he lost his father in battle, and his mother in a fire that burned down the house in England where they had lived for the better part of 200 years. It is always a problem to be perpetually eleven, and Alfie has found it hard to make friends. When he loses his mother, he is forced to rely on children his age, Aidan and Roxy, to help him. Aidan's family has fallen on some hard times, and he is being picked on by some of the boys with whom he used to be friends. Roxy has just moved into the neighborhood, and her mother is in a wheelchair following a bout with cancer. The two have seen Alfie in the woods, and have their suspicions about his true identity and past. They are glad to help him, and believe his story. Alfie has had a lot of interesting life experiences, such as meeting Charles Dickens, who signed a number of books for him. One of these books was stolen by a friend, Jack, who eventually abandoned Alfie, and whose son, John, bullied him. The only way for Alfie to reverse the immortality is to find the last livperler and rub the substance into his skin again, but the livperler were hidden by him and his mother on an island that is not easy to access. When Alfie eventually ends up in care and must attend school, he finds out that the island is going to be excavated by archaeologists, and he asks his new friends to help him. Will they be able to find the livperler before another Neverdead, Aidan's Uncle Jasper, is able to get to them?
Strengths: This is definitely a fresh premise; I can only think of two other books with immortal characters; Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life and Ferney. (I've owned several copies of this and keep lending it out and not getting it back. Sigh.) The circumstances under which Alfie meets and seeks help from Aidan and Roxy seem completely realistic, and it's nice to see them all work together. There is a German archaeologist who helps the children who is completely delightful! It was easy to follow the plot, and Alfie's glimpses into times past were amusing. Really enjoy Welford's work.
Weaknesses: Meeting up with Jack's descendants and with Jasper seemed a bit too coincidental, but perhaps people don't move around England the way they do around the US.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. These won't be constantly checked out, but will see steady use for a number of years. I am very impressed by the originality and readability of Welford's writing.

Ms. Yingling