Monday, July 24, 2017

Spirit Hunters

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

25117605Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters
July 25th 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Harper's family moves from New York City to Washington, D.C. and end up in a decrepit old house. Harper has had problems at school-- she was accused of setting fire to the art room, and was hospitalized for some time, but she doesn't remember any of it. She notices that her four-year-old brother Michael's room feels oddly clammy, and he claims to have a "new friend" named Billy who tells him things that cause him to have headaches. Harper does manage to meet a neighbor girl, Dayo, so she has someone to help her investigate when things get odd. Harper has two bad accidents in one week; she is pushed down the stairs, and also cuts herself on an old metal fire truck. Dayo does some online investigating and finds out some very creepy things about the house, and Harper reconnects with her own "imaginary" friend Rose who inhabits an antique mirror. Things escalate with Michael, and Harper's estranged grandmother finally visits the family and not only helps Harper but gives her the surprising news that she is a spirit hunter who can communicate with ghosts. Grandma Lee is a mudang, a shaman who has worked with the spirit world for a long time, which is the source of the rift between her and Harper's mother. Can Harper save her brother, make the house safe, and come to terms with her inherited skills?
Strengths: No wonder middle school students don't want to move! All of the houses people move into are haunted! Bonus points to Oh for managing to add some new twists to this trope with a benevolent ghost friend, an unexplained hospitalization, and a Korean grandmother with interesting skills. Add to this standard family dynamics (busy older sister, young brother who requires babysitting), supportive and involved parents and a new best friend whose mother is a chef, and this was a fantastic story about ghosts, family, and figuring out personal identity. Really enjoyed this one.
Weaknesses: It was a little hard to believe that Harper's mother was so averse to the idea of ghosts, since Harper's and Michael's behaviors were so erratic, but I suppose if you grew up with a mother who was a shaman, it might warp you a little.
What I really think: Clearly, I need to stock up on salt. Just in case!

  Head over to School Library Journal's BeTween feature to read an interview with Ellen Oh!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Almost Paradise.

25453065Shofner, Corabel. Almost Paradise.
July 25th 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ruby Clyde's mother hasn't been quite right since Ruby's father was killed in a robbery, which sent her mother into premature labor. Because of this, Ruby never really celebrates her birthday, but this year she has bought her own cake. Unfortunately, her mother's boyfriend Catfish decides to take the two from their home and travel to California, stopping along the way to rob a convenience store. Catfish and Ruby's mother are arrested, and Ruby, along with a pet pig she stole, is on her own. Luckily, a woman she met at the campground where they were staying helps her locate an unknown aunt, Eleanor. Eleanor is an Episcopalian nun who has a farm where she cares for animals. She is also dying of cancer, but helps Ruby out. Eleanor lets Ruby live with her and helps get her mother a lighter sentence for the robbery, allowing Ruby some measure of security that she has lacked. In turn, Ruby tries to help Eleanor out by attempting to locate a child that Eleanor had to give up for adoption.
Strengths: It's nice that Ruby finds supportive people to help her out, and the book is clearly on trend-- it's the fifth book in a row with a dead parent that I've read recently. Bonus points for the pet pig.
Weaknesses: A dead father and then a dying aunt? Too sad for me. I did have a little trouble with the fact that Eleanor would have had to give her baby up for adoption in about 2003-- was there that much of a stigma at that point? And do Episcopalian nuns really wear habits? Didn't know that. Perhaps this was historical fiction and I missed it?
What I really think: Just not my cup of tea. Certainly had funny moments, and was well written enough.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lucky in Love

30285562West, Kasie. Lucky in Love
July 25th 2017 by Scholastic
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Maddie works hard so that she can improve her lot in life. She studies constantly, has a 4.25 GPA, and is ready to leave her bickering parents and college drop out brother in order to attend college and become a veterinarian. She has a job at the zoo to further help her resume. On her 18th birthday, which has been rather a bust, she impulsively purchases a lottery ticket. When she 33 million dollars, life because bother easier and harder. She gives her parents and brother each a million dollars, and this eases tensions around the house. She makes some impulse purchases, such as an expensive car and clothes, a yacht party, and an investment in a long-lost uncle's real estate venture, but realizes that she can't spend money recklessly forever. Her best friends start to treat her differently, and an article in the newspaper paints her in a bad light. The one constant seems to be Seth, with whom she has worked in the zoo. The two start to become closer about the time her ticket wins, but she doesn't tell him about her windfall, so he doesn't treat her any differently. When her college plans are in jeopardy for several reasons to do with her winnings, and even her relationship with Seth is jeopardized, Maddie realizes that while money can solve some problems, others have underlying causes that can't be changed with a blank check.
Strengths: This was a perfect, light romance book for middle school readers. I'm always looking for stories similar to the If Only romances: high school characters with school and boyfriend issues that don't involve any alcohol consumption of more than kissing. This had the added benefit of including a lottery win, making it a perfect middle grade fantasy as well. Great cover, and as an added bonus, a love interest who is a Korean-American.
Weaknesses: The brother's gambling problems and possible depression weren't resolved very well.
What I really think: I can't keep enough of this kind of book on the shelf, so I will definitely purchase!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, July 21, 2017

Guy Friday- The Trail

33605557Hashimoto, Meika. The Trail
July 25th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Toby has not had an easy life. His parents had him when they were very young, and when their marriage was failing, they dumped him at his grandmother's. Luckily, she is loving and supportive, and Toby has a good friend in Lucas, whose family does a lot of things with him. Lucas and Toby have big plans for the summer, and want to hike the Appalachian Trail together, but when Lucas is no longer able to accompany him, Toby runs away from home to make the attempt by himself. He isn't adequately provisioned, even though he knows better, and runs into many problems on the trail. Luckily, he also runs into supportive people who help him out along the way. He also ends up with Moose, a dog who follows him after he shares his meager supplies. The trail is difficult, but Toby perseveres, learning a lot about the wilderness as well as his life.
Strengths:The details about how to hike the Appalachian Trail, the camping shelters, and the other hikers were fantastic, and will appeal to readers who like survival stories and the outdoors. Hiking the trail always sounded sort of appealing to me until I read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. Now I think I'll just shoot for Britain's Coast to Coast walk-- it's not necessary to mail oneself supplies in order to do that one! Moose is a nice touch, the plot moves along nicely, and the character development is realistic and doesn't bog down the story. Love the cover.
Weaknesses: This would have been even better without the sad parts. It takes us a while to learn what happened to Lucas, even though I could see it coming. I also could have done without a subplot with two other hikers as well as difficulties involving Moose. These things didn't ruin the book, but I would have preferred other complications.
What I really think: Will buy a copy for readers who like Will Hobbs, Gary Paulsen's survival books, and Paul Greci's Surviving Bear Island.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan

29742894Bailey, Patricia. The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan
April 25th 2017 by Albert Whitman
E ARC from

In 1905, Kit's mother has passed away from the flu. Her father is still working in the mines in Goldfield, Nevada, and is badly injured by a falling beam. When he confronts the owner about the working conditions, he is fatally shot. Luckily for Kit, a kindly older woman, Clara, takes her in and helps her out. Kit feels a lot of guilt for both parents' deaths, and also has to deal with children at school who think her father was an agitator. After she decides not to go back east with her Aunt Minerva, she and her friend Arnie decide to investigate and try to clear her father's name. To this end, Kit disguises herself as a boy and goes to work at the local newspaper office. Can she find the documentation she needs to take down the mine owner? Help comes from an unlikely source.
Strengths: As much as I am against tween parents dying, it was a much more likely occurence in 1905. There are not as many books set in this time period out west as one would think. This had a lot of interesting things in it, included the important role of newspapers in town life at the time.
Weaknesses: A bit on the long side, and not blessed with a great cover.
What I really think: I love the Caroline Lawrence P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries series set out west, but it just does not circulate. I will have to pass on this one.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

25692020Florence, Debbi Michiko. Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen
July 11th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Jasmine is looking forward to her family's New Year celebration. Her grandmother is coming from Japan to spend a month, and her cousins and aunts and uncles will be spending two days making mochi, a Japanese treat made by pounding sticky rice and molding it into shapes. They will then have their New Year's celebration. Jasmine is angry that her older sister, Sophie, is allowed to help in the kitchen because she is over ten. Jasmine is not, so she gets stuck babysitting younger cousins. She decides that she wants to help anyway, and wants to break with tradition even further to help pound the rice instead of mold the balls. Her cousin Eddie makes fun of her, her grandmother is shocked and dismayed, but Jasmine's parents give Jasmine a chance to prove herself.

31145072Strengths: The strong family support network was good to see, and I liked that Jasmine also had an older neighbor lady who let her climb the trees in her year and hang out when being at home got to be too much. Sophie is a realistic older sister who does everything first. It was also interesting that even though the family clearly had a very strong Japanese cultural background, they had pizza for their mochi making day dinner. The spot illustrations and engaging story make this a great choice for elementary school libraries.
Weaknesses: Jasmine is a bit bratty, and a little unrealistic about her competencies. The target demographic will be more sympathetic to this. I also could have used more description of mochi earlier in the story, although there is a nice explanation of it in the end.
What I really think: This seemed too young for middle school, but I love the books that are coming out that are aimed at third graders (the best year ever for reading, in my opinion!) like Cilla Lee Jenkins, that are fairly simple to read and have some pictures. This makes them great choices for first graders who are strong readers but who still enjoy some pictures. I would have loved this when I was about six!

Also out is book two, Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Moon Princess

33605562Laban, Barbara. Moon Princess
July 25th 2017 by Chicken House
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sienna and her father move from England to Shanghai for his banking job, and also because Sienna's mother, who was working in Shanghai, has disappeared. Her father has given her up for dead, since the police have stopped looking, but Sienna and her invisible dog friend, Rufus, feel she is still alive. Since he is so busy, Sienna's father hires a housekeeper, Ling, to take care of her, but the woman is mean and keeps Sienna locked in the apartment. On the few occasions she has made it outside, she has caught the eye of a boy who works in a restaurant.When her father is working out of town and she catches Ling making copies of her mother's jewelry in order to steal the originals, Sienna runs away. She pairs up with the boy, Feng, who knew her mother. Feng's brother Gege is also missing. The two decide to travel to a temple for Guanyin where the two were working, and they meet not only a helpful doctor, but also Sienna's mother's invisible friend, Minka the cat, and Feng's invisible dragon. Will the children be able to find their missing relatives and unravel the mystery of the temple.
Strengths: It's good to see mystery adventures set in China, and elementary readers may be interested in the imaginary animal friends. Sienna and Feng have an interesting friendship, and do try to save the day.
Weaknesses: This is a German/UK title, and the handling of tales from other lands seems a bit different from the way it would be handled in the US. I was hoping for more of a #ownvoices treatment. The author did major in Far Eastern studies, but something about this felt half a bubble off. Ling's depiction seemed a bit like a stereotypical villain, which lessened her impact for me.
What I really think: I prefered Kat Zhang's The Emperor's Riddle or O'Brien's In the Shadow of the Sun for middle school.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, July 17, 2017

MMGM- One for Sorrow

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

26959786Hahn, Mary Downing. One for Sorrow
July 18th 2017 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Annie moves to a new town and starts school. One girl, Elsie, comes and befriends immediately. Of course, Elsie is the sort of girl that the other students don't like, but she is very possessive. She even invites herself to Annie's home, averring the entire time that they will be best friends. Elsie has a difficult home life-- her father is a German butcher, and in 1918, this leads him to be considered suspect by many people. Elsie's stepmother is cruel to her, and Elsie is in turn cruel to Annie. Eventually, Annie makes friends with the popular Rosie and tells Elsie to leave her alone. When the flu epidemic starts to effect the girls' neighborhood, some of them decide that going to calling hours in people's homes is a good way to get cake and candy. Annie isn't very comfortable with this, but continues to go with her friends. Eventually, the hostility between the girls increases. Elsie dies, and Annie is accused of trying to make Rosie ill with a flu mask that Elsie had. It's not Annie's fault, however; even in death, Elsie is an overbearing presence who has undue influence over Annie's actions. After a serious accident, can Annie manage to extricate herself from Elsie's cold and evil clutches?
Strengths: The beginning of this is more of a historical novel, and the details of life in 1918 are really very brilliant. Hahn's grandmother's stories were the inspiration for this tale, and the deep connection to this time is really clear. The promise of a ghost story will keep readers engaged, as will Elsie's character. Hasn't everyone had one of those "friends" that we wish would just leave us alone? Rosie and Elsie are great opposites, and Annie is a marvelous Everygirl, stuck in the middle. The ghost story is up to Hahn's wonderful standard of creepy. Combined with this ghostly cover, it will see a lot of circulation. A must purchase for all middle grade collections.
Weaknesses: Elsie is just one of those characters who begs people to be mean to her, and that's not a politically correct thought these days. She is also called "fat". It's all accurate, given the historical time period, but some people will complain.
What I really think: There is a huge need for creepy books, and combining creepy with history is quite brilliant!

Ms. Yingling

Meet the Chapter Books Tour!

Growing up, there weren't a lot of books in my house, which was weird, since both of my parents were elementary educators! They didn't care much for reading, and always seemed a bit... confused at how much I liked to read. We did go to the public library, but never often enough for the enormous amount of books I consumed. When I was in second grade, we were awarded a slip of paper for every book we read aloud to an adult during one month-- I read 109. My poor mother. (At left, me in 6th grade, showing pure joy at getting an Anne of Green Gables book for Christmas!)

We did have Little Golden Books (they could be purchased at the grocery) and for a couple of glorious years were members of the I Can Read Club, so two books came in the mail every month. That was the best. Books were rarely a present, until I started to ask for them in middle school.

Oddly, I don't ever remember going into a book store until I was in about 4th grade. There was a Walden Books right by the Sears in the local mall, but it wasn't until I started babysitting and earning my own money that I started buying my own books.

It makes a HUGE difference to own books. My own daughters had a ton of books, usually from the thrift stores. I feel a little bad about that, and at least we donated a ton of books to their elementary classrooms. At the time, buying new books wasn't an option in my world.

If you have small children in your life, here are some great books to get them reading and avoiding the Summer Slump!

32078144Zemke, Deborah. The Curse of Einstein's Pencil (Bea Garcia #2)
June 6th 2017 by Puffin Books
Copy provided by the publisher.

Bea is "almost friends" with the smartest girl in her class, Judith Einstein. When the two are paired to compete in the Geography Stars competition in their class, Judith wants to do as well as her older sister did. Bea wants to do well, but keeps getting distracted by missing her best friend Yvonne, by her drawings, her younger brother, new neighbor Bert, and even small things like what pencil she will use. Judith is a tough task master, and says that she needs Bea to memorize a lot of the trivia so that their score is good, but Bea has a lot of trouble concentrating!

35305755Kelley, Jane and von Innerebner, Jessika (illus.) Octo-Man and the Headless Monster (The Escapades of Clint McCool #1)
May 9th 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap
Copy provided by the publisher.

Clint (whose real name is Walter), is constantly in trouble at school, where his impulsive behavior is ill-received. When walking home with his mother and two best friends, Marco and M.L., he sees a monster, and manages to get into a kerfluffle with it, taking off its arm. Unfortunately, the monster isn't real, but is part of a film. Clint is ordered off the set, but thinks he could definitely improve the film if he were to be involved. Luckily, the director was a similar child, and lets Clint become involved, although in an unusual way!

Krulik, Nancy, and Thomas, Louis (illus.) Crash! (The Kid From Planet Z #1)
May 9th 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap
Copy provided by the publisher.

When his family's space craft crash lands on earth, the family plans to fix it, but spends the night in a house that is for rent. When they wake up, someone has taken their craft! While they are trying to get it back, Zeke enrolls in school and tries to be as much like theEarth children as he can, so as to not arouse suspicion. He does fairly well, although his cat, Zeus finds it harder to fit in, although he ultimately is the one who is able to get a job and earn enough money for the family to get their ship back from the junk dealer who has hauled it away.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wait for Me

30037877Leech, Caroline. Wait for Me
January 31st 2017 by HarperTeen
Public Library Copy

During World War II, Lorna's life is fairly ordinary. She does chores with the help of Nellie, a Land Girl assigned to her family, socializes with her friend Iris, and knits care packages for the troops. Her two brothers, John Jo and Sandy, are off fighting, so a POW is sent to help them out. At first, everyone is leery of Paul, a young German whose has been badly scarred in the fighting. Paul speaks good English, since he had a British aunt living near his family in Dresden, and he does not believe in the Nazi ideals. The more she talks to Paul, the more she gets to like him, especially since he is much nicer than the American soldiers hanging out in town. When their relationship is found out, Lorna's brother isn't happy, and many in the community turn against her, especially when John Jo is missing in action. War changes people, and Lorna tries to figure out what the best path in life is for her. When the war ends, and Paul's home town is badly bombed, will this path include Paul?
Strengths: There were lots of good historical details about every day life-- what people wore, the difficulty of cooking with rationing, how the people in a small village get along. The idea of Land Girls and POWs used to work on farms are things that not many students will know.
Weaknesses: There are a few scenes that are a bit more mature-- Lorna is attacked by a soldier but does get the better of him; Nellie falls pregnant; and there is some kissing between Lorna and Paul. Nothing instructional, and nothing that would traumatize a 6th grader.
What I really think: I always need a lot of WWII books, and think I will buy this one for some of my more sophisticated readers who normally read romance books.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Suit Your Selfie

Pastis, Stephan T. Suit Your Selfie: A Pearls Before Swine Collection
July 18th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

When I put this author's Skip School, Fly to Space in my library, it was checked out by one of my library helpers who thought it looked funny. He took it to class with him, but got caught reading it, and his teacher took it away from him! While she did so with good humor all around, this had the unintended effect of making every child in the class want the book. It came and went daily for about a month! When I told the first student that, in fact, the newspaper had a brand new cartoon by this author every day, he started heading right for the newspaper when he came in to work in the library.

Isn't that why YOU read the newspaper when you were 12? Of course, I was taught that the comics are the "dessert" and one should read the newspaper in order so as to become an informed member of society. I still feel a little naughty if I read the comics first on Sunday.

Pastis writes the middle grade Timmy Failure series, and children like that. I don't find comic strip collections all that enthralling, since I get my daily dose of them from the newspaper. My recent experiences with Andrews McMeel publications lead me to believe that school libraries need to include more of these AMP! Comics for Kids books because children today are being deprived of a basic reading opportunity. Sure, I suppose you can get the comic strips on line, but it's just not the same!

As for the content of this particular strip, I always find them funny. Who doesn't have a character like Rat or Pig in their world? It's nice that the AMP! line takes a few of the more political or edgy strips out when putting together their compilations, so these would even be great for emerging readers in elementary school. I'm pretty sure that Nancy and Sluggo helped me learn to read!

Ketchum, Liza. The Life Fantastic
January 1st 2017 by Merit Press
Public Library Copy

In 1913, Resa LeClair had a brief moment of fame singing on a Vaudeville stage when she was young, but after her parents retired to a small town in Vermont, she thought that her singing career is over. Because she has perfect pitch, her father wants her to go to work in the tuning room of the Estey Organ Company, leaving school so that she can earn some money and reduce the family's reliance on borders. This sounds like prison to Resa, and when she wins a local talent contest and makes some contacts with people in show business, she knows she has to leave her town. With the help of a young African-American song and dance man, Pietro, she and her brother Pascal (who wants to jungle) earn a spot in a company and travel with them. Maeve, who has a marching dog act, helps ready Resa for the stage and includes Pascal in her schtick with the dogs. Pietro and Resa become good friends, but when the act leaves New England, people are less understanding about a white girl talking to a "colored boy". Resa's father attempts to bring the children home, but Resa knows that her life doesn't lie in a small town, and she continues to work on the Vaudeville circuit.
Strengths: Perhaps because I was in the pit orchestra for my high school's production of Gypsy, I've always found Vaudeville fascinating. There is only one other middle grade book about it that I can think of, Tubb's Selling Hope, on this topic. Working racial issues into the story adds even more dimension and interest. This is based on events in the author's grandparents' lives, making this a great historical novel. I even love the cover. Having recently visited the American Sign Museum, I can say that the type of bulbs used are historically accurate!
Weaknesses: A bit slow and long for middle school.
What I really think: I don't think I'll buy a copy for middle school, but I enjoyed this book tremendously and think it would be a great addition to a high school library.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, July 14, 2017

GUY FRIDAY- Lights, Cameras, Cook!

33413923Harper, Cherise Mericle. Lights, Cameras, Cook!
July 18th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Caroline, Rae, Oliver and Tate are contestants on the high stakes Next Best Junior Chef television program. They are competing on a television show judeged by world class chefs, so they are all very nervous. Tate is only nine, so he has a lot of energy and sometimes less than ideal behavior, Oliver is the self-proclaimed "King of Calm", and Caroline and Rae are both rather nervous. All of the children work together on the various challenges and are good sports, which is great to see, and there's lots of details about both television filming and cooking. Winners of challenges get to choose kitchen gadgets, and there is a lot of inventive food described. Unfortunately, I read a digital ARC of this, and since there are a fair number of illustrations, it loaded slowly, making it difficult to go back and get details.
Strengths: Lots of good details about so many things! Readers who enjoyed Ganeshram's Stir It Up will love this one. There are a lot of cooking themed books for upper middle grade readers, so this one was nice to see. Elementary schools will definitely want this, and it's great for avid cooks in middle school as well.
Weaknesses: Nine year old master chefs? Not in my world. Of course, I hate to cook. Why spend all that time when you could just have an apple and a can of tuna? That said, when I was younger I loved to read cookbooks, so I can see the appeal.
What I really think: I wish I could post interior illustrations, but they aren't photographing well from my Nook. There are interviews with the children that definitely made me think about the old Betty Crocker kids' cookbooks. I really wonder if those were the inspiration for the Aurélie Blard-Quintard illustrations!

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bean Stalker

28822458White, Kiersten. Bean Stalker and other Hilarious Scary Tales.
July 25th 2017 by Scholastic
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In this collection of fractured fairy tales, we follow the inept Jack through several adventures, and other characters show up along the way. The stories covered are all fairly standard, European tales via the Grimm brothers, such as Rapunzel, Snow White, LIttle Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and the princess and the pea. The twists on these stories include pyromaniacs, zombies, vampires, and other monster like beings that are all on the gross side.

This had its moments. I liked that Jack was a main focus, because so many of the fairy tale retellings have girls as the main characters (which is why I liked Shurtliff's Jack so much). Five years ago, the addition of vampires and zombies would have made this wildly popular among my Twilight fans. The general tone makes it great for readers who like somewhat gruesome twists ala Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm, but isn't quite so dark, making it appropriate for both elementary and middle school readers. I can see fifth graders finding Jack's confusion between pea and pee hilarious.

This didn't appeal to me personally. I didn't care for the Lemony Snicket-esque asides, or for the odd twists on the stories. If this had covered some less well known fairy tales, or been somehow differently arranged, I might have bought it. I just don't have enough readers who ask for this sort of tale, and if they do ask, I have the works of E.D. Baker, Surtliff, Jessica Day George or Diane Zahler to hand to my students.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WNDB Wednesday- Dysfunctional Families

31420696Helget, Nicole. The End of the Wild
April 11th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Fern's family is struggling more than most. Her mother was killed in an auto accident a year ago, and her step father is out of work. Their town is an impoverished one, so when a fracking company sets up operations in the woods near Fern's house, many people look at it as a great opportunity, including Alkomso, Fern's friend, and some of her other classmates. To Fern, it means that the woods on which she depends for food for her family is in jeopardy, and she will be unable to help feed her younger siblings. Her teacher, Mr. Flores, is concerned about the environmental impact of the fracking. Fern's friend and neighbor, Mark-Richard, is put into foster care after he accidentally sets his house on fire, and Fern must also try to make peace with the neighbor who cause her mother's accident, but whose dogs help save her from a bear. With the school science fair approaching and many students doing projects on the fracking operation, Fern, as well as her town, must decide on how to achieve the delicate balance which will allow both the citizens and their environment to survive.
Strengths: I appreciated the fact that the author was able to portray fracking as something harmful but which could help out people in many ways. This is a hard thing to do. There are not a lot of books that include the difficulties of modern rural poverty, and this provided a sympathetic and informative portrayal of such a situation. Alkomso's family is Muslim, and some of their difficulties are realistically portrayed as well.
Weaknesses: Another dead mother? It would have been nicer if Fern's mother had been alive to share the recipes with her. The family still could have struggled just as much financially. I know that in areas of rural poverty in Ohio, it's hard for everyone to find jobs.,
What I really think: I will probably buy this one because it addressed the important modern issue of fracking, but the cover is NOT appealing. I'm also a little irritated personally that people who are opposed to fracking don't address the larger, contributing issues-- people keeping their houses too warm and driving to work when they could find other transportation, but that doesn't have anything to do with the book!

Ellis, Ann Dee. You May Already Be a Winner
July 11th 2017 by Dial Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Olivia's family lives in a trailer park and has been struggling ever since her father walked out. Her younger sister, Berkeley, is unable to go to child care because she's had a cough, and since their mother needs to go to work, Olivia has been staying home from school. She is very conscientious about making sure her sister does school work, plays outside, and has her meals, but it's not an ideal situation. Eventually, the school demands that Olivia goes back. She's not thrilled with the idea, especially since she has met a boy, Bart, who has been hanging around the park. Olivia writes letters to her father, whom she believes is working at a national park, but doesn't hear back from him. It's tough to go back to school, but even tougher when her mother wants her to take Berkeley to school with her. She does this successfully for a few days, hiding her in a broom closet with activities and food, but eventually the girls are found out. Social Services finds their father and sends their mother away, and things slowly return to a new normal.
Strengths: This was an intriguing book, and my readers enjoy stories of young people on their own, trying to make up for dysfunction parenting. The stories of Jacqueline Wilson, especially Lily Alone,
Castelman's Sara, Lost and FoundConnor's Waiting For Normal, and even Tanaka's disturbing Nobody Knows are all popular in my library. The family problems were realistic, and Olivia tried her best to handle her circumstances. I enjoyed the neighborhood, especially since it seemed very much like any other neighborhood where residents know each other. My grandparents lived in Countryside Estates near Ravenna, Ohio for several years.
Weaknesses: At almost 350 pages, this is a bit on the long side. Since Olivia's rich imaginary life is somewhat confusing (especially at the beginning of the book), I think the story would have been stronger without her daydreams.
What I really think: No one dies! The cover and title of this one are both strong, and I think this one will see steady circulation.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gabby Duran Blog Tour

30214783Allen, Elise and Conners, Daryle. Gabby Duran: Troll Control (#2).
May 17th 2016 by Disney Hyperion
Copy provided by Spark Point Media

Gabby, just employed as a sitter for alien Unsittables, is given a new charge-- a troll child named Trymmy. Yes, trolls are aliens, and they are not wild haired and unpantsed-- they are smarter than most humans, although Trymmy is prone to stealing things. Gabby has some other issues to deal with as well; her school orchestra is trying to raise money to travel, and Gabby is supposed to be helping the smarmy Madison with the fund raiser. However, problems with A.L.I.E.N. and it's nemesis, G.E.T.O.U.T. complicate not only her babysitting, but the rest of her life. Her good friend Zee is aware of the full details of Gabby's babysitting, but Satchel remains detached from that reality. Will Gabby be able to keep Trymmy, and the rest of her life, under control?
Strengths: There aren't enough books about middle school students babysitting, and this one adds the extra interest with babysitting aliens. This is a great way to introduce science fiction to readers who claim they don't like it. The fact that these are also humorous and have bright and appealing covers is a plus.
Weaknesses: I had trouble getting my mind around trolls being aliens. And once the image of the wild haired plastic ones was mentioned, I had an odd picture of Trymmy in my mind!
What I really think: Fun addition to the series.

Allen, Elise and Conners, Daryle. Gabby Duran: Multiple Mayhem (#3).
July 11th 2017 by Disney Hyperion
Copy provided by Spark Point Media

Gabby gets embroiled in a weird alien situation when pop star Russell Tyler shows up at her school with a box and instructs her to give it to Edwina. It's an essential piece of dangerous equipment; a mirror made of Narcissite. The Hautties, aliens who most often show up on earth as very attractive entertainers, want to use it to destroy the earth. While guarding this object, Gabby also gets a job sitting a Tridecalleon baby named One. His parents want Gabby to take him to the mall to his Buckeroo class, and Gabby is more than happy to get a chance to hang out at the mall. However, One keeps...multiplying. Of course, Gabby runs into the evil Madison when One is only three babies, but more keep coming. Luckily, Zee and Satchel are able to help her get the babies home and implement a system to get all of the diapers changed and babies fed while trying to contact the parents. The odd "Silver Fox" that her mother is now dating, Arlington Brindlethorpe, seems suspiciously interested in the babies, and Gabby has to manage to handle thirteen babies, keep the mirror safe, and deal with Madison's insensitive postings on social media.
Strengths: This was the most interesting book of the series. The multiplying baby was the best alien, and bringing in Zee and Satchel to help was fun. The real life drama of Gabby's mother beginning to date is made even more amusing by the suspicion that he might be an alien! Once again, it's fun to see a book with a main character who babysits, and introducing multiples is inspired. Bonus points for the best memory eraser ever-- who doesn't want to pet a baby bunny?
Weaknesses: I had trouble believing that even alien parents would be okay dropping their babysitter at the mall with their child.
What I really think: Aside from The Babysitting Chronicles (2016), Hurwitz's Tough-Luck Karen (1982) and Robertson's Henry Reed's Baby-Sitting Service (1966), there are precious few books that have children babysitting. Let's call a moratorium on bullying and class election books and put some energy into babysitting tales and wrestling books, authors!
Ms. Yingling

Monday, July 10, 2017

MMGM- The Wild Bunch

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

32333263Gansei, Jan. The Wild Bunch
July 11th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Paul is not happy that his father is dragging him into the woods on a camping trip right after summer vacation starts, especially since his father's two friends from college and their sons are coming. Hector and Jack aren't horrible, but they just aren't the sort of people Paul usually hangs out with. Jack's father is detained, but the guys head out into the woods. There are mini disasters right and left-- they hit a deer, set a tent on fire, and have more Spam to eat than Paul would like. Not only that, but there is a wild Beast on the loose, and the major attraction of the trip, Bear Falls, is off limits. Eventually, the boys get tired of listening to the dads sing and talk about fishing, and head off to find the falls on their own. Luckily, Hector is very prepared and has studied up on the wilderness, because Jack is a bit of a blusterer and frequently gets into trouble along the trail by not thinking. Good things to know-- stinging nettle leaves make horrible toilet paper, and you shouldn't put anything in your mouth unless you know what it is!

The characters in this were especially great. The fathers were a tiny bit annoying and a little goofy, there was a mother who ironed everything (do those even exist still, though?), and the park ranger was informative but a bit scary. While Jack and Hector were a bit stereotypical (bully and nerd), Jack was a great tween Everyboy. He's a little concerned about some things, but ready for an adventure. He's afraid of snakes, but resourceful. He's a great canvas for tween boys to project their own personalities onto.

This was a funny book. There were some situations that were inherently funny, but the thing that I liked best was the random humor. There are laugh-out-loud lines, and sunny things that happen, like Paul using the page on snakes in the guidebook when, um, nature calls, folding it up and stowing it in his back pack because he doesn't want to litter, and then getting bitten by a snake and having to use that page for reference! Perfectly gross! One of the dad's makes a "protein shake" with raw eggs, wheat grass, dandelion puree and the secret ingredients of ground anchovies! Jack talks in his sleep about asparagus and fluffy bunnies. I bookmarked a dozen pages because they made me guffaw. That's the sort of writing that keeps readers interested.

I am so happy that Aladdin is putting out a MAX series similar to its M!X series for girls. I am looking forward to these humorous, STAND ALONE titles!

32671970Comics Squad #3: Detention! (Comics Squad #3) by Jennifer L. Holm Matthew Holm, Jarrett J Krosoczka, Victoria Jamieson, Ben Hatke, et al.
July 4th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher.

Like Comics Squad- Lunchand Comics Squad- Recess!, this book showcases the illustrative talents of some of today's favorite graphic artists for children. We do have some old favorites, like Squish and the Lunch Ladies, but there are some fun new entries from George O'Connor, who does a fun take on Sisyphus in detention, in keeping with his books about the Olympian gods, and a story by Jorge and Raf that makes me wonder why they haven't done an older middle grade graphic novel similar to Drama or Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson has a story that showcases the complicated emotionals and behavioral issues of middle school, and Lark Pien and Matt Phelan have interesting fantasy excursions; after all, how does one survive serving a detention with some imagination?

This is a great book to hand to students about to enter middle school about two weeks before school is to start. Have to get them warmed up and prepared, right?

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018 by National Geographic Kids
May 9th 2017 by National Geographic Children's Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Want the best bang for your buck when it comes to children's book. Purchase a copy of the newest almanac for $14.99, and it will keep your children reading all summer. Great for car trips, as long as you don't have children prone to motion sickness, because it has lots of conversational springboards. Good for bedtime reading, sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade, and for sharing with friends on a rainy day.

Do not confuse this with an almanac for adults, which used to be a quickly dated print book filled with statistics, maps, and charts that now are much more current on the internet. This is 337 densely packed pages of random facts, games, and interesting tidbits accompanied by full color pictures and bright illustrations. This is a much better investment than a Guinness Book of World Records (they retail new for ridiculous sums, considering how quickly the binding separates from the pages), since it is easier to carry around and doesn't fall apart.

Not my favorite thing, but my brother (who was a complete nonreader) loved this sort of thing, and my own personal children spent endless hours with these even though they did love to read!