Monday, June 26, 2017

Nonfiction Monday- National Geographic Books

30012805Cottman, Michael. Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

Cottman, a reporter for the Washington Post and an avid SCUBA diver, was intrigued when he learned about the Henrietta Marie, whose artifacts identified it as a slave trading ship. Little was known about the ship, so Cottman set out to find out everything that he could. He started in London, at the National Maritime Museum, and started to collect clues to various aspects of the ship's history. He traveled to the site of the foundry where the cannons were made, which lead him to investigate the Barbados holdings of the owner of that land, "Mad Jack" Fuller. Traveling to Barbados put him in touch with other Fullers-- who were black, since slaves often took the family name of their masters. He learned a lot about the sugar industry there (which is beautifully covered in Aronson and Budhos's Sugar Changed the World: The Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science), and eventually made his way to Senegal and the House of Slaves where the ship's journey would have started.

Written in a very conversational style but filled with lots of interesting facts about a variety of details related to slave trading, sailing, and scuba diving, Shackles from the Deep offers an in depth look at a little discussed topic. This would be a great book to read with students to prepare them to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., since the exhibits start with an in depth examination of this topic.

All too often, the story of slavery seems to start with the Civil War or slaves' attempts at escape. I know that many of my students were very surprised by the exhibits on the slave ships. Cottman's book addresses the fact that people were taken from their communities in Africa and sent as slaves to a number of places in a way that is not overly graphic but that does delineate just how inhuman this action was. This strikes a good balance for a book that might well introduce this atrocious chapter in history to children.

There are some color photos in the center of the book. While these pictures are illustrative, it would have been nice to see them included with the appropriate text instead of gathered in one place. I was a bit surprised at this; National Geographic has produced some beautiful and enticing nonfiction books with many more pictures that are more graphically pleasing. I know that cost is an issue in these, but using more pictures does make books more appealing to young readers.

Shackles from the Deep is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries, since it covers a variety of topics that are often studied, and is an excellent choice for readers who like converstaional nonfiction and are interested in history, civil rights, or maritime matters.


30012807Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

James Meredith was a ground breaker in the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African-American to graduate from The University of Mississippi, in 1963. In 1966, he decided to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in order to highlight the ongoing racial problems in the south. Unfortunately, his march ended just one day in, after he was shot. While he survived, his wounds were painful, and he was not able to go back to his route immediately. Several other organizations seized the opportunity to continue his quest, and soon Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and others were poised to walk part of Meredith's path. Various organizations wanted the march to highlight different things-- from voter registration to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, the march was an opportunity to highlight any number of causes of note at the time. While Meredith hadn't wanted to include women and children, fearing for their safety, the march soon encompassed many types of people. There were many altercations between marchers, members of the communities through which it passed, and law enforcement. This led some of the marchers, like Stokely Carmichael, to draw attention to the continuing inequities in the south and to demand black power. This was a divisive move, since it alienated some of the white marchers who had come to support the march. The March Against Fear is now regarded as one of the more important marches of the era, and it's good to have such a definitive explanation of its events.

Bausum's research is complete, and the book covers a wide range of organizations, events, and people who were involved with it. She draws important parallels between the march and the current Black Lives Matter movement, making this a timely and essential book to read when investigating the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

The inclusion of many photographs along with the scenes describing them are welcome and essential. The world looked very different in 1966, from the way people dressed to the cars on the road, and children have a hard time visualizing how different things were. Pictures help tremendously with that.

I am always surprised at how much I don't know about this era, even though I have read a fair number of books on the topic. There were a number of things that I learned-- from the grouping of The Big Five organizations (SCLC, SNCC, NAACP, CORE and National Urban League) to the feelings of supporters of the movement.

Older middle school students and high school students who want to know more about Civil Rights History will be wise to add The March Against Fear to their reading lists along with Levinson's We've Got a Job, Osborne's Miles to Go for Freedom, Rubin's Freedom Summer, Lowery's Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, and Wallace's Blood Brother.
Ms. Yingling

Midwinter ALA is in DENVER


949252Honestly, once I found that out, I could only think of making a Lenora Mattingly Weber pilgrimage!

About 30 years ago, I collected a lot of teen romance books from the 1950s and 60s. Many libraries were weeding them at the time, so they showed up everywhere. My very favorites were Beany Malone and Katie Rose, along with anything by Anne Emery and Rosamund du Jardin. There was something soothingly nostalgic about them, and I was beyond thrilled when Image Cascade Publishing started to reissue them.

Wouldn't it be marvelous to have a Lenora Mattingly Weber party in Denver? Ideally, there would be a tour of sites, but I don't know how well that would work out. Maybe just a tiny reception with someone from the Denver Public Library to speak?

It would just be so much fun to hang out with others who loved this author. I know that fans include Mitali Perkins, and there have to be others out there.

Going to Midwinter in Denver? Any interest at all in this author?

Comment below. I'm off to investigate Denver area ice cream shops that might be able to supply peppermint stick ice cream!
Ms. Yingling

MMGM- This is Just a Test

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. 

Rosenberg, Madelyn and Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. This is Just a Test
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

David has a fairly ordinary life in Virginia in the early 1980s. He hangs out with his friend Hector, playing Atari and practicing for a trivia contest. It's through the contest that he starts to connect with Scott, who is more popular than David, but who has some issues of his own. Scott and David start digging a bomb shelter after the boys are traumatized by the made for TV movie The Day After. It's at home that David has his own stresses. His mother's mother, who is Chinese, lives with the family, and his father's father, who is Jewish, has rented a house nearby so that she can help plan David's bar mitzvah. The grandmothers like to try to outdo each other, especially when it comes to cooking, and the whole celebration starts to get a little out of hand. As the only Chinese-Jewish kid in his school, David isn't quite sure who he is supposed to be; he's just trying to keep his friendships with both Hector and Scott, talk to Kelli Ann, on whom he has a crush, and keep up with his schoolwork and his preparations for the bar mitzvah. Add to this growing concerns with Scott and increasing demands from his feuding grandmothers, and nuclear annihilation begins to sound less frightening!

David has a wonderful voice, and his concerns about life in middle school are universal. Students may not read 1984 anymore, but there's still homework; not everyone has grandparents from disparate cultures, but the idea of trying to please everyone remains the same. I especially liked David's crush on Kelli Ann and his inability to speak coherently around her. While some of Scott's issues were on the serious side, David remains upbeat throughout, making his tribulations something that readers will feel comfortable laughing about with him.

This is a great book for so many readers-- readers who want to read about friend issues, about Jewish or Chinese culture, or who just want a funny book with a great cover. In fact, it would make a great bar mitzvah gift, accompanied by cash in multiple of $18! This doesn't really read like history, but could certainly be used for school projects that require great details about another period in time (Betamax! Funny clothes! Four television channels!).

The details of both family life and the 1980s add interesting dimensions to this book. I had just started college when The Day After was on television, and since I had no access to television, it wasn't on my radar at all. While it's a little alarming that my adult life is now historical fiction, it's great to have it written about by people who lived through it and can get all of the references correct! Now, if someone would write a historical fiction book about the last M*A*S*H* episode in February of 1983, I'd appreciate it. It was a huge deal at the time!
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Difficult Home Situations

33159369Galante, Cecelia. Stealing Our Way Home
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After their mother's death from cancer, 4th grader Pippa refuses to speak, and her brother, 7th grader Jack, feels responsible. Their father is struggling as well. The family's water and electricity are turned off, their credit card is declined when the children go to buy new school clothes, and when Jack and Pippa visit their father's car dealership, they realizes that he has had to close it. Luckily, they have a neighbor, Nibs, who is there to help them. Nibs alerts Pippa's teachers to her problem, and watches out for the children. Jack is not getting along too well with his friend Ben, and he's glad to meet a new girl in their neighborhood, Shelby, who is also very kind to Pippa. Jack is very worried when his father tells him that he has a plan for making the family finances right again, and doesn't want to be involved. Still, he doesn't want to lose the family's house by the lake, so he goes along with his father. Eventually, Pippa finds out about the plan, and insists on going with her father and Jack the next time they go out. Will the family ever be right again?
Strengths: I didn't want to spoil the plot, which is why the description is a bit vague. This was tremendously readable, and a real page turner. I liked all of the characters, even though some of them weren't likable. However...
Weaknesses: Argh! So sad! The whole "unable to move on after a death" thing irks me SO MUCH!!!! It's just not realistic. And yet, I liked this book. So conflicted.
What I really think: Will probably buy a copy. Damn it.

Honestly, even my students are done with this sort of soggy, immobilizing grief. One of my student helpers was reading If Only during a quiet time in the library, and she said "I don't think this is realistic." Not wanting to offer my own opinion on the book, I asked her why. She replied "I had a friend at my old school whose mother died. She was out for a month, but when she came back, she didn't mope around like this character. She had sad moments, but she... moved on."

So it's not just me. I wouldn't find this comforting as a tween. My mother might die, and then my father might fail utterly to take care of me? Just confused as to why people write books like this.


28797074
Scott, Lisa Ann. Back on the Map. 
June 6th 2017 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Penny Porter's mother passed away, she left a letter telling Penny to watch out for her twin brother Parker, and to make the best of her situation. Currently, the twins are living with Grauntie in New Hope, which is a town on the skids. Ever since the local orphanage was shut down and bids to sell the building as "the Finest" fell through, the town has decreased in population as opportunities there have dried up. That was the early 1970s-- a dozen years later, New Hope is no longer on the map. As Grauntie's mental state diminishes and her ability to take care of the children is in jeopardy, Penny realizes that she needs some plans to assure that she doesn't have to leave New Hope. Her first plan of attack is to get the town back on the map. Not only does she write to a map company about this, but she asks the mayor of the town if she can start fixing up the Finest. With an assortment of children and adults, the building is slowly, if oddly, refurbished. Penny has long made her existence possible by trading things around town-- for example, she makes animals out of tin cans and trades them for food from the Carlson's diner. This skill helps when items are needed for the finest, and her willingness to talk to adults makes some progress in getting the building back into commission, and also helps her to locate her long lost father. There are a lot of problems along the way, but Penny has a positive attitude and makes up a family tree for herself that includes famous people with a "can do" attitude, and this serves her well.
Strengths: Fans of Polly Horvath who want a quirky story with a touch of magical realism (Penny can see what color auras people are projecting, and the orphanage was for children with similar abilities. This wouldn't have been fantasy until Penny has a couple of protracted conversations with the famous people she has put on her family tree.) will find this to be an endearing story.
Weaknesses: Had a quirky, Southern vibe that doesn't do well in my library.
What I really think: The cover of this doesn't help. I like it, but the illustration is a bit young for middle school. Maybe it is best suited for an elementary audience, and that's why I didn't like it as much. I had trouble suspending disbelief long enough to become invested in the characters.
  Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

28107111Sager, Ryan K. The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops
June 20th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zoey is such a fantastic cook that she has people buying food from her at her family home. Her parents, Valentine and Gershwin, are jazz musicians who give her a lot of space to do her own thing, and they are willing to cosign a $50,000 loan for her with Miss Lemon so she can open her own restaurant. She goes looking for locations, only to find one in Chinatown across from her idol, Chef Kung Pao. She meets the famous chef, but he tells her she can't open up across from her, and even threatens her. She also meets with a friend and mentor, Chef Cannoli, who tells her that opening a restaurant is more about bookkeeping than cooking. Undaunted by lack of support or appropriate venue, Kacey, along with her best friend, Dallin, find an abandoned cable car and pay her friend Knuckles to fix it up and drive it. Someone is out to sabotage her as she competes for the Golden Toque, awarded by Royston Basil Boarhead. Will her fascinating food juxtapositions be enough to surmount the odds facing her?
Strengths: This had great descriptions of San Francisco, and great descriptions of food. It's over the top, of course-- no one is going to give a $50,000 loan to a child, and that's probably barely enough to open a restaurant these days. This was a fun but unlikely romp.
Weaknesses: I'm debating this one. It was too much of a suspension of disbelief for me. I almost wanted there to be magic, so it would explain how Kacey was able to do all that she did without ever going to school or her parents caring at all.
What I really think: If you have readers who like The Candy Makers, Bliss or All Four Stars, I'd buy this. I'm not sure I'll buy this, but I DO sort of want to try the chocolate covered pork chop recipe!


Burnham, Molly B. Teddy Mars: Almost an Outlaw
March 21st 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this sequel to Teddy Mars: Almost a Record Breaker and Teddy Mars: Almost a Winner, big changes are coming to the Mars household. Ms. Mars has gotten a job as an animal control officer since Jake (the Destructor) will be heading to kindergarten. To help out with the transition over the summer, Great Aunt Ursula will be staying with the family. Teddy is not a fan of Ursula and her rules, but there is no denying that a family with seven children might need some help to adjust to this change. Teddy is concerned about having to take care of Jake, who is prone to doing things like living in the cat box or walking around in a shirt festooned with tin cans. It makes sense that his teacher assigns him to be a buddy with Jake the following year, but Teddy doesn't have to be happy about it. He does love his teacher, Ms. Raffeli, and is glad to be working on a mural project with her and his friends over the summer. Once Ursula moves in, things start to change. For one, she has a small dog named Peanut to whom Jake takes a shine. Jake also starts to weave potholders and to behave. Other siblings help out with housework and are persuaded by Ursula to give up their most annoying behaviors. It doesn't work as well with Teddy-- he and friends Lonnie and Viva are determined to break a world record even though Ursula would rather they mow the lawn or clean the basement. When Teddy's mother's job is at odds with the Grumpy Pigeon Man's pigeons, Teddy must try to look outside of himself for ways to help his friend and the pigeons for whom he cares.

Teddy is an exuberant characters with a lot of endearing qualities. He's not a bad kid, just a typical one who would rather be playing with his friends rather than doing chores. He is annoyed by his younger brother, but wants to try to help him. He's not pleased that his mother won't be at home, but is glad that she is proud of her new job, and really wants her to be happy. The other characters in the book are portrayed in a realistic fashion as well. It is  unusual to see a family with this many children in modern middle grade literature, but the realities of having a large family are sympathetically addressed.

Interspersed with Teddy's exploits are his attempts at breaking records as well as details about records that are already in the books. The Guinness Book of World Records is perennially popular with elementary and middle school students, and gives this series an additional selling point.

Like many humorous series with boys as the main character, Teddy Mars mixes the goofy with the sympathetic in a way that will appeal to readers who would be right at home at a cafeteria table with Byar's Bingo Brown, Danziger's Matthew Martin, Dowell's Phineas L. MacGuire, Harley's Charlie Bumpers or Weeks' Regular Guy.


Ms. Yingling

Friday, June 23, 2017

In the Shadow of the Sun

33198198O'Brien, Anne Sibley. In the Shadow of the Sun
June 27th 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Edlweiss Above the Treeline

Mia and Simon are traveling in North Korea with their father, who works with various entities in that country to provide humanitarian food relief. While Mia, who was adopted from South Korea, is enjoying being in a country where everyone looks like her and so doesn't look AT her, Seth is being difficult in the wake of a breakup and bad choices back home. When Mia sees her father sneak out of the room late at night, she's a little concerned, since security is so rigid in the country, and when she opens up a gift and finds a cell phone with incriminating pictures of conditions in South Korea, she is even more worried. When they are visiting one site, their father is taken away in handcuffs, and Mia and Seth make the snap decision that their only option is to run and try to make it to China on their own. Not surprisingly, this doesn't go smoothly, even with Mia's well stocked back pack. There are injuries, people chasing them, and a very difficult road to get to China. Once there, how will they begin to get their father released?
Strengths: Not only was this extremely information about North Korea, but it was a great adventure. The sibling relationship was also nicely done. It reminded me a bit of Senzei's A Ticket to India, with just as many perils to be faced. The notes from the author about the time she spent in the country with her family, and the research that she did to plot the escape were very interesting. This was a little on the long side, but kept me turning the pages. A great companion to Nine Days or Ryan Quinn.
Weaknesses: As much as I would like my students to want to know more about countries in the world, they don't. Still, I think the action and adventure will sell this.
What I really think: Still bothered by the children's decision to run instead of seeking help, still really want to stock up on pain reliever, protein bars, and thermal blankets and carry them everywhere with me. but really liked this one! Great cover and great adventure, with a nice multicultural aspect.

On a sad note, North Korea is a very dangerous place, as is evidenced in the recent death of Ohio resident Otto Warmbier. Perhaps this book is very timely.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Great Giveaway at From the Mixed-Up Files!

Giveaway at From the Mixed-Up Files!



If you haven't seen this blog, which is celebrating seven years of awesome, you should, lots of great middle grade authors, lists of upcoming books, author interviews... fun stuff.

There's also a fantastic giveaway. I've decided that doing all of the activities to earn multiple entries should be a final exam for a social media class. Whew!

The Rules for Thieves

27424750Ott, Alexandra. The Rules for Thieves
June 6th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Allie Roscoe is in an Azeland orphanage, but isn't excited about Adoption Day. She's been adopted before, and things didn't work out, so she is surly to prospective parents, and then decides to run away, not thinking about what she would do afterwards. Hungry, she tries to steal something and is almost caught. Luckily, she meets Beck, who helps her and tells her about the Thieves Guild, and offers to take her there to come under their protection. Unluckily, she has been cursed with Xeroth's Blood by one of the city's Protectors, and will die in nine days unless she can get to the far off Healing Springs and pay ten thousand majas to enter. She and Beck go to the king of the Thieves Guild, and he agrees to help them... after they complete the task of stealing Lady Atherton's necklace. This is a complicated matter, and takes a lot of preparation and cunning. The two manage to steal the necklace, but the theft does not go smoothly, and there is a death. Will Allie manage to get to the Healing Springs in time? Will she and Beck be accepted into the Guild?
Strengths: Hard core fantasy readers who like books like Nielsen's The False Prince and Turner's The Thief will enjoy this quasi-medieval tale of magic and suspense. It moves quickly and has all the facets of a standard fantasy adventure. A sequel is in the works.
Weaknesses: Allie was not a very pleasant character, the world building fell flat for me, and there were a lot of improbable moments.
What I really think: My library already has a TON of this type of fantasy (and few readers for it), so this type of book has to really have an unusual hook for me to buy it. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart had a similar premise, but intrigued me more.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- Superstar

22670994Davis, Mandy. Superstar
June 20th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lester's father was an astronaut who was killed during a mission, so he has been raised and home schooled by his mother. When his mother gets a job at the local public library, Lester is thrilled because he loves to spend time there, but she tells him that instead, he will have to go to school. Lester has a lot of trouble with this-- he gets hungry and is not allowed a snack, he can't study what he wants when he wants to, noises overwhelm him, and the other children, picking up on his odd behavior, are mean to him. There is one girl, Abby Chin, who is friendly to him and tries to help him navigate the difficult waters of fifth grade. Abby had won the science fair the year before, and Lester is very excited about the fair, especially when his mother finally gives him permission to do a flight themed project instead of one on plants. When a new girl arrives and Abby starts to hang out with her, Lester's behavior becomes more erratic. Luckily, the school tests him and finally delivers a diagnosis so that Lester can get the help and support that he needs.
Strengths: This had a very authentic voice, and Lester's behaviors are ones that I see all of the time at school from our children in the autism spectrum unit. The story moved along nicely, and the characters were all realistic and engaging. I particularly liked how the classroom teacher wasn't thrilled to have Lester, but made sure that he got the attention he needed. Actually, the reactions of the staff were all spot on. They were surprised at first, but once they realized what was going on with Lester, started the process of getting him help.
Weaknesses: It seemed unlikely that Lester's mother would not have figured out that he was on the autism spectrum before he started school. Fifteen years ago, I could see this being the case, but today children are usually diagnosed at much younger ages.
What I really think: This will be good to use with Baskin's Anything but Typical and other titles with characters who are on the autism spectrum.


32319718Bishop, Jenn. 14 Hollow Road
June 13th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
Public library copy

Maddie wants the sixth grade formal to be the beginning of the new-and-improved Maddie, but instead her crush, Avery, asks another girl to dance. Even worse, after the lights go out in the gym, the students find out that a tornado has hit their Massachusetts community. Both Maddie and Avery's houses are uninhabitable, and Maddie's dog, Hank, is missing. Luckily, very kind neighbors let Maddie's family stay with them, but Avery's family is there, too. It's awkward to be living so close to her crush, but Maddie gets to know Avery a little better. Even though her family is working hard to restore their former life, there's still middle school drama to be had. Maddie does realize she is lucky, especially when Avery's family may have to move to another town because their insurance didn't cover tornadoes. The summer before seventh grade ends up being transformative for Maddie, but not in the way that she would have imagined!
Strengths: This had a great middle grade voice and will be perfect for my young readers who want friend drama, family drama, and a little bit of romance. This is the kind of trauma my readers want-- something bad but not too bad. Something they could imagine happening to them so that they can be glad it DIDN'T happen to them. Tornadoes do wipe places out-- here in Ohio, we have the memory of Xenia in 1974, the May 1985 tornado that struck from Newton Falls, Ohio to Sharon, PA, and several towns in Iowa. This was quick, well paced, just loved it.
Weaknesses: A little too much friend drama for me; not enough for my 6th graders, probably!
What I really think: This was so much more appealing than The Distance To Home. I hope Bishop continues to write slightly more upbeat books like this one! Maybe if there is an author event in Cincinnati, I can visit with her! Ooh. And Andrew Speno. Have to keep my eyes open!

  Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior


So, here's the thing about being old. The first video game I ever played was Pong, which didn't interest me at all, although the TRS-80 my dad got for Christmas in about 1978 was kind of cool. I had to work the day that MTV first aired. I can code HTML, and gave up my home phone years ago, although I still have a slide out keyboard on my dumb phone because I can't afford a data plan. I can find, download and use apps on an iPad, sound mix with Audacity, and can also take apart a VCR, fix it, and put it back together.

I'm not a complete Luddite, but I will admit that digital solitaire is vastly superior to using cards. But I will never, never understand the allure of video games.

That said, I imagine that these books will be HUGELY popular in my library, if Minecraft is still popular in the fall.



28813486Cube Kid. From Seeds to Swords. (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #2)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Like the first book in this series, this is best read if one is familiar with the game Minecraft. I am not, so it was a bit difficult for me to follow. We follow the exploits of Runt, which include a lot of information about making a potion for an enderman so that he can go into the water and be a professional swimmer. Many of the children do this in order to earn emeralds. There are issues with school and friends there, zombies, mobs, and a lot of fighting and explosions.

On the bright side, this series is now available in paper-over-board hardcover, and book one and two have an Accelerated Reader test.

30648712Cube Kid. Crafting Alliances (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #3)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Runt is joined by Breeze and Emerald as groups form at school and give him a hard time, and there are lots of attacks by creepers. There are buildings to be designed and built, sword fighting to be done, and lots of school and chores. Runt does fairly well on his report card.

Readers who play Minecraft will love this, especially since the books are well illustrated and have a lot of color and motion on every page. They are rather reminiscent of Geronimo Stilton in the use of a variety of font styles.


29094004
Cube Kid. Path of the Diamond (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #4)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Runt is supposed to be finishing up his training, but there is a threat to the village. Nothing new, since it is frequently besieged by zombies and all sorts of creatures, but this threat is an unexpected one. Can Runt keep his mind on his work, especially since his nemesis Max is back and steals his diary?

These books were originally published as Diary of a Wimpy Villager, which explains the Notebook Novel format. There are eight books in that series, so I don't know if those will be available in hard cover as well.


Disclaimer: This is book is not official. It is not endorsed, authorized, sponsored, licensed or supported by Mojang AB, Microsoft Corp. or any other entity owning or controlling rights to the Minecraft name, trademarks or copyrights. (less) Ms. Yingling

Joplin, Wishing; Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

32075665Stanley, Diane. Joplin, Wishing
June 13th 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Joplin never knew her grandfather, the much celebrated author Martin Camrath, but when he passes away, there is a media frenzy around her New York apartment, which she and her mother share with her mother's best friend Jen. The death is hard for Joplin, but only because she must deal with her mother's sadness. She was allowed to take one keepsake, and grabbed a Christmas tin with a broken platter in it. She and Jen go to have it restored. The first person to whom they talk creeps them both out, but the platter is put back together by someone else, and Joplin hangs it in her bedroom. After the rumors that her grandfather had problems start to bother her at school, Joplin wishes that she had a friend... and the girl on the platter comes to life! Since the girl can't live in the garden, Joplin convinces her upstairs neighbor Chloe to pass Sofie off as her visiting cousin while she figures out what to do. Joplin also meets Barrett Browning, a boy who shares many of her interests, and the two work to figure out the connection between her grandfather, Sofie, and the mysterious man who is following them around.

My favorite part of this book was the fact that Joplin DID tell people about Sofie... and they reluctantly believed her! Granted, the best part of magical books is often keeping the secret from the adults who are around, but I appreciated the fact that Joplin's mother was sympathetic to her plight and was willing to help her out even though the circumstances were very odd indeed!

Joplin starts off as a rather underdeveloped character, so it is interesting to see her grow and start to stand up for herself. Her relationship with Barrett is charming, and Chloe is an intriguing secondary character. Sofie's past is filled with all sorts of people, including the creepy Lucius Doyle. I especially appreciated the fact that Stanley brings a 21st century sensibility to Joplin's dealings with this man-- she tries to make sure that Joplin doesn't go meeting the suspect character on her own!

While I wish we had more information about Sofie's world, the New York setting is very vivid, and the author's notes about her own childhood in a similar place imbue this with a charming nostalgic feeling that will resonate with readers.

Stanley has done more high fantasy novels in the past, but this is a book filled with magical realism and mystery that will resonate with fans of Ruth Chew, Liz Kessler, Laurel Snyder, Kimberly Griffiths Little and Kathryn Littlewood.


32320210Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth
June 20th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Prez is being raised by his grandfather, a former sailor, but when his grandfather's dementia worsens, he is sent to Children's Temporary and then out to a family on a farm for a summer placement. Once there, an odd boy shows up at the door and declares that his name is Sputnik and he's there because the Earth is in danger and he's going to save Prez. However, everyone else sees Sputnik as a dog. The two get involved in a number of adventures, including going back to Prez's apartment, trying to jailbreak the grandfather but getting the wrong "prison", and eventually visiting Prez's grandfather at the Shangri-La retirement home. Sputnik is problematic as a dog, and Prez's foster family debates sending him away, but even after Prez is returned to Children's Temporary, the two have a solid bond and Sputnik helps Prez through his difficult times.
Strengths: This was an interesting way to deal with the difficult topic of a grandparent dealing with dementia and a boy having to go into foster care because of it. I liked that the foster family was very supportive, and the details about farm work and family life were very nice.
Weaknesses: This had a very strong, British feel to it, with a large dose of Roald Dahl or David Walliams' type humor/difficulties.
What I really think: As much as I enjoyed this, I will probably pass on purchasing, since Boyce's work just is not picked up frequently by my readers.

  Ms. Yingling

Monday, June 19, 2017

MMGM- I Love You, Michael Collins

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. 


31145091Baratz-Logstead, Lauren. I Love You, Michael Collins
June 20th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Mamie enjoys spending the summer of 1969 hanging out with her best friend and next door neighbor, Buster. They play with her cat, Campbell, watch television when they can, read in the cool basement, or more often, run around outside until dinner time. Mamie is enthralled with the upcoming NASA project, and has decided that she likes astronaut Michael Collins more than Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and continues her class project of writing a letter to an astronaut even though it's summer vacation. She finds it a good way of dealing with the stresses in her life. Her father thinks the NASA mission is a waste of money, but her mother wants to have a Launch Party. When her father says that she can't, it's the last straw, and her mother packs a bag and goes to stay with his sister. After a couple of days of awkwardly tending to Mamie, her father also goes off to try to reconcile with her mother. Mamie is left in the care of her older sister Bess, who is either sleeping or hanging out with her boyfriend Vinny, and even older sister Eleanor, who has her own apartment and works as a secretary. Mamie isn't too worried about being on her own, and doesn't want Buster to tell his mother. Instead, the two research Apollo 11, and Mamie plans her own party. As exciting as the moon walk is, it also is an event that shows how much life is changing in Mamie's world, and all around her.
Strengths: The details of everyday life in 1969 are absolutely perfect. THIS is what we need in historical novels. The constant battle over Froot Loops (How are they better than Cap'n Crunch?), the insistence that children need to be outside all day, the phone numbers written on the side of the phone, the details of watching the NASA coverage (Buster's father works downtown, so will go to the appliance store to watch!), and the idea that a 16 year old who sleeps all day is perfectly fine for watching a ten year old while her parents are two states away-- wow. Tang. Erector sets. Hoop earrings. One fan in the house that moves from room to room. This book used more details to good effect than any I have read recently. On top of that, the story was pitch perfect as well. Mamie's mother is tired of being at home, tired of having to ask permission, and her father was just confused about this. It had always been that way! Why isn't it working now? Told through Mamie's eyes, and including lots of details about the moon launch and talk, this is a fantastic slice of red and blue frosted life at a particular moment in time.
Weaknesses: I'm not a fan of epistolographic novels involving famous people (Dear Hank Williams, and it just seems like there are others), but this had such great details about daily life that it won me over. Also, the pitcher for the Tang on the front cover is not quite right. There were about 400 million promotional Tang pitchers, and I'm betting Buster would have had one!
What I really think: ADORED this. Buying two copies because it is so perfect for the 1960s  unit one of my teachers does.


Bugs! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #4)Buckley, James. Bugs! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #3)
June 13th 2017 by Animal Planet
Copy received from Blue Slip Media

Bugs covers an impressive range of information about insects. Not only does it describe what constitutes an insect, but the book proceeds to lay out the life cycle, diet, methods of movement, and other facts about insects in general, and also includes chapters on particular types, such as beetles, mosquitoes, and butterflies. Well illustrated, with easy to read text, the 112 page length of these will not be daunting even to emerging readers, since the books are pocket sized and the information is presented in manageable chapters. This would be a fantastic accompaniment to the Scholastic series Jack Patton's Battle Bugs and a good introduction to insects for readers who are not quite old enough to appreciate the humor in Sneed Collard III's Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever. Package this with a bug collection net and container (like the set at the left, picture taken from Amazon.com), and you've got the perfect gift for just about any eight year old on the planet.


Earlier books in this series include Sharks #1 and Dinosaurs #2, and there is even a fiction series, Animal Planet Adventures, that looks intriguing. Who doesn't want to reading a book entitled Puppy Rescue Riddle? (September 2017).

 
Animal Planet Chapter Book: Snakes!Buckley, James. Snakes! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #4)
June 13th 2017 by Animal Planet
Copy received from Blue Slip Media

I definitely learned several things about snakes from reading this book. For example, different varieties of snakes move in different fashions, which makes sense when you think about snakes in the desert who have to travel over shifting sand! I also did not know that snakes had heat sensing receptors on their bodies called pits. Like the previous book in the series, Bugs, Snakes has a variety of chapters that cover different subdivisions of snakes as well as what snakes eat, how they protect themselves, and (the most useful chapter) Superdeadly snakes. Let's just say I am now afraid of both the cottonmouth and Black Mamba snakes!

Very clear photographs showing the differences in types of snakes makes this book a particularly useful one. At the back there is a list of zoos that have snakes, as well as a few further books to investigate and some organization web sites to check out.



Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ten

Ten: A Soccer Story by [Flint, Shamini]Flint, Shamini. Ten.
June 20th 2017 by Clarion Books (first published 2009)
ARC from publisher at ALA

Growing up in Malaysia in the 1980s, Maya desperately wants to play soccer, but it's not something that girls do. She must content herself with watching teams on television and fantasizing about meeting the great Zico. She and her brother, Rajiv, are worried because their parents fight a lot. Life in their household is very stressful; their father, who is English, has trouble keeping a business afloat. Their grandmother is very critical of her daughter, their mother, who does her best to keep things together. Maya is also one of the few children of Indian origin in her school. She manages to get a team together and enjoys playing with her friends, but when her parents decide to get divorced, and her father moves back to England, she feels like a grand gesture might make her family whole again.
Strengths: I love books set in other countries that talk about what daily life is like. Maya is an interesting character; since I don't watch sports, it was a little hard for me to understand how she could think she could be a soccer star when she didn't even play, but I loved how she was able to get a start on her dreams by working really hard at being allowed to play soccer, getting the equipment, rallying players, etc. Hopefully, it will make players in the US who read this feel grateful for the opportunities they have!
Weaknesses: I understand that this is set in the 1980s because it is largely autobiographical, but I wish it had been contemporary.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase this for the soccer content, as well as the great depiction of life in another country.

I used to love to read YA and MG romance books, but since I have become more and more like a 12-year-old boy in my reading habits, I find that unless they are like Heldring's The Footbal Girl, I don't have much interest in them. YA romance especially has so much drama, and I'm done with drama. Who cares? Move on. Go to college. Get a life. Save the world. Think about something other than boys.

So, I'm not the best person to opine about these two, but here we go.

Smith, Jennifer E. Windfall.
Published May 2nd 2017 by Delacorte Press
Public Library Copy

Will buy this one, since 8th grade girls still have souls that have not been shrunk in the dryer.

"Alice doesn't believe in luck--at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she's been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday--just when it seems they might be on the brink of something--she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune... But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy's newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall."--Provided by publisher.

cover_image
Dessen, Sarah. Once and For All
June 6th 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

I usually love Dessen's work, but this had the f-word early on, teen drinking, and a deceased former boyfriend. Add to that the wedding planning theme (which doesn't do well with my students), and I think I'll pass on this one. Pleasant enough, although I also had trouble envisioning a girl younger than my daughter having hippie vegan parents. Most people about my age were just trying to keep employment in 1999; alternative lifestyles were not really a big thing.

" Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna's summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged now that he's met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna's second chance is standing right in front of her." --Provided by publisher

  Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Great Granny Cake Contest, Guys Read #7

32284110Corderoy, Tracey and Berger, Joe. Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Cake Contest
June 13th 2017 by Nosy Crow
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Pandora's grandmother is a witch, and Pandora has powers that her parents do not want her to use. Of course, when she is in her grandmother's company, she still gets to ride on a broom, and the magic powers can be useful. This is especially true when her grandmother enters a cake baking contest with two of her witch friends. Her grandmother isn't going to cheat and use magic, but when Pandora finds out that her friends' grandchildren are helping, she decides to help as well. Pandora and her grandmother also get in trouble during the tour of a local mansion, and at the school gardening fair.
Strengths: The illustrations, and the way the text is set around them, are really brilliantly done. The story presupposes complete suspension of disbelief, and we are instantly sucked into Pandora's world. This is very reminiscent of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
Weaknesses: This is most suited for early readers, not for middle school. Drat.
What I really think: I am so tempted to buy this one for my 6th graders who love Ruth Chew. It's completely adorable, VERY British (fairy cakes), and reminded me of things I read when I was in elementary school. Maybe if there is an Accelerated Reader test for it!

30653886Scieszka, Jon et al. Heroes and Villains
April 4th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This seventh collection of short stories by different authors, edited by Guys Read founder and generally fabulous Guy, Jon Scieszka, offers a wide range of interpretations of both heroes and villains. While some are goofy and full of fantasy elements (Healy's The Villain's Guide to Being a Hero covers more information about villain Deeb Rauber; Anderson's General Poophead offers an odd look at Benedict Arnold conversing with a Valkyrie, and Law's The Warrior and the Knave involves the hero getting sucked into an alternative dimension where he must save the day through a black-hole vacuum-vortext thingy inside a locker), the stand out stories cover more real life incidents.

Munoz Ryan's First Crossing depicts a young boy and his father trying to make the journey from Mexico to the US using a coyote; Yelchin's Kalash shows the interaction between a young Russian boy and his brother who has just gotten out of the army, and Hopkinson's How I Became Stink Daley offers the fascinating account of an impoverished boy with a love of drawing who must take a job at a dairy and ends up exposing unhygienic practices there.

There is a graphic short story as well, Camper's The Wager with illustrations by Raul the Third, that shows two boys' struggles with the Bogeyman and el Cucuy during the night. The rest of the book is rounded out by continuations of similar stories authors must enjoy. Lemony Snicket discusses finding a royal baby and being accused of kidnapping him, Creech's Need That Dog covers another story of a boy who wants to have a dog, and Gantos' How My Mother Was Arrested for Murder revisits the Florida setting of The Trouble in Me.

These collections are a great way to introduce readers to a lot of authors they may not know, and encourage them to pick up other books if they like a particular author or story. Most of the stories do showcase the authors' particular styles and frequent themes, although sometimes authors use this opportunity to depart a bit from their norm.

The Jeff Stokely illustrations reminded me of Leonard Shortall's illustrations for Sobol's orignal Encyclopedia Brown (1963) books.

Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and San Souci's Dare to Be Scared books are great for scary short stories, but it's hard to find collections of short stories on other topics, so the Guys Read franchise is an excellent place to find quality examples of the genre.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, June 16, 2017

Soldier Boy: A Novel Based on a True Story of the Ugandan Civil War

31145113Hutton, Keely. Soldier Boy: A Novel Based on a True Story of the Ugandan Civil War
June 13th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In 1998, Ricky is living with his family in Uganda. His father is a teacher, and his family believes strongly in education. His older brother, Patrick, is bigger and smarter, but Ricky looks up to him. When soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army pass by their village, Ricky and his friends are out on the road to try to see what the commotion is. The LRA is brutal, and in one afternoon, Ricky's family is killed and he and Patrick are taken to become soldiers. All of the commanders are blood thirsty, and there is no place for weakness. Only the strong survive. Ricky and Patrick do what they need to do, although they both try not to kill anyone. In alternating chapters, we also see Samuel in 2006. He is recuperating from a bad leg wound at the Friends of Orphans compound, but is very wary of the people there. He, too, has been a child soldier, and is supposed to be sent home. He doesn't want to tell anyone his story, but a kind man plays checkers with him, and eventually gets him to open up. Ricky's story is bleaker, or we see more of it. After years of fighting, he manages to be abandoned by the LRA and goes back to his village, only to receive devastating news. Still, he realizes that in order to survive, he must get an education, and after making it out of Uganda, he manages to graduate from university and eventually returns to his home country to help other child soldiers by founding Friends of Orphans.
Strengths: Hutton takes on a difficult subject and brilliantly balances needed details with the delicacy needed for a middle grade audience. The descriptions of tortures, deaths and other atrocities are not glossed over, but neither are they sensationalized. I also liked how this started with every day life before things got bad, and the fact that the brothers tried hard to remember what that life was like when life in the LRA got bad. This is an important story, and one that children in the US should know about. Like Perkins' Bamboo People , Sullivan's The Bitter Side of Sweet or Park's A Long Walk to Water, this might make a good class novel so that students can be supported in their understanding of this difficult topic.
Weaknesses: This is a very brutal story, despite the author's best efforts. I would not recommend it to all of my students, and certainly this is more of an upper middle grade title.
What I really think: I will buy a copy and recommend it to students who can handle it.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Orphan Train Girl

34126019Kline, Christina Baker. Orphan Train Girl
May 2nd 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC from publisher at ALA

Molly is in foster care and runs into trouble when she steals The Secret Garden from the library. She has to perform 20 hours of community service, and her friend Jack's mother makes it possible for her to work with an elderly woman, Vivian, cleaning out her attic. There, she realizes that Vivian has a background similar to her own. In alternating stories, we hear the story of Vivian's life, going from Ireland, to a city apartment where a fire kills her parents, to a series of poor placements where she is neglected but eventually finds the care she needs. We also hear about Molly's struggles, and how the two form a bond.
Strengths: This was a well constructed story that moved along quickly. Both stories were realistic and believable, and I appreciated that while Vivian (Niamh/Dorothy) struggled in bad situations, they weren't too horrible. Molly's situation was understandable as well. The bond between the two was sweet.
Weaknesses: Perhaps because this is a young readers' edition, some of the writing felt stilted. I'm half tempted to pick up the original version.
What I really think: I may purchase. There are a lot of orphan train stories, but this one has the added interest of having a modern character in foster care, and that may encourage readers to pick this book up. The story was intriguing, even if the writing style was a bit odd.

Inexplicably, one of our high schools has the adult version of this book assigned for Honors English summer reading. Sigh.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- Felix Yz

28525367Bunker, Lisa. Felix Yz
June 6th 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher

Felix has some challenges in his life. When he was a toddler, his father was babysitting him in his lab when an experiment went terribly wrong. His father was killed, and Felix ended up fused with a fourth dimensional being named Zyx. Felix can hear Zyx in his brain, and Zyx can also type in order to communicate. Having Zyx inhabiting his body causes Felix to have verbal processing problems, as well as some mobility issues. These cause people at school to make fun of him, but Hector is very kind. Felix has a crush on Hector, but doesn't know if the feelings are returned. The lab where his father worked is very concerned about Felix remaining in contact with the alien, so a date has been decided upon to try to separate the two. Counting down to the procedure, Felix discusses his feelings about the separation, his fear of death, and all of the issues facing him, including Grandy, his gender fluid grandparent.
Strengths: This was certainly an interesting novel on a new topic, and I did like how it included characters who weren't mainstream, especially the grandparent and the use of alternate pronouns. This was similar in tone and style to See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan, and was definitely a fresh and innovative science fiction novel.
Weaknesses: It's great that the author wanted to include a trans character in a book where that was not the major issue, but there are so many characters with differences (gender fluid, gay, biracial, physically disabled) that it seems a bit unrealistic. Being fused with a fourth dimensional alien-- that, of course is realistic. It's a fine line, I know, but when there are too many characters with differences in a book, it often feels forced.
What I really think: Not sure I have the readers for this one. Most of my science fiction fans want something more exciting and adventurous.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers#1)



The Explorers Blog Tour!




25268434Kress, Adrienne. The Door in the Alley (The Explorers#1)
April 25th 2017 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com


Sebastian lives a well ordered existence with his staid, science loving family, and he is rather annoyed when his cousin Hubert takes him down an unexplored alleyway on their way home from school one day, making him five minutes late getting home. They see a sign in the alley for "The Explorers' Society", and this intrigues Sebastian, although he knows better than to act on just any stray impulse. When he intercepts a pig in a tiny hat and is ordered by a man in a rumpled suit to bring it into the Society, he is concerned, especially when the director tells him he is trespassing and must be punished! The punishment ends up being much to Sebastian's liking, and he cleans and set the Society to rights. It is the assignment to do something out of his comfort zone that perplexes him, until he uncovers a mysterious box and sneaks it home with him.

Evie is still mourning the death of her parents in a car accident, mainly because she is living in an orphanage and has to have boring dinners every week with the bland Andersons. She doesn't understand why until a mysterious man shows up one week and plunges everything into chaos. SHe manages to escape, and finds that her grandfather, Alistair Drake, is still alive.

Eventually, the two children meet up and try to locate the five members of the defunct and not-talked-about Filipendulous Society, since the most famous member of the group was Evie's gradnfather. This course of action is fraught with peril, and the children find themselves rappelling from clock towers, meeting up with boa constrictors, and being madly pursued by a man whose mouth is wired shut. Will Evie be able to locate her grandfather, and will Sebastian be able to come to grips with a wildly unorganized life? This ends in a cliffhanger, so perhaps we will find out in book two.

Perfect for more advanced, younger readers who enjoyed Beha's The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea, Milford's The Greenglass House, or Primavera's  Ms. Rapscott's GirlsThe Door in the Alley is a quirky, action packed mystery filled with puzzles, snarky footnotes, and pigs in hats.

This is very different from Kress' Young Adult titles such as The Friday Society or Hatter Mattigan. I'm not entirely sure that middle school students will go for it, but elementary students should love it.

Date
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24-Apr
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25-Apr
Imagination Soup
26-Apr
Mom and More
27-Apr
Pandora's Books
28-Apr
Mommy Ramblings
1-May
The Lovely Books
2-May
Batch of Books
3-May
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
4-May
To Read, or Not To Read
5-May
Grandma's Cookie Jar
8-May
Good Reads with Ronna
9-May
Geo Librarian
10-May
Life By Candlelight
11-May
Jumpin Beans
12-May
Always in the Middle
15-May
Librarians Quest
16-May
The Book Wars
17-May
Middle Grade Mafioso
18-May
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
19-May
Tween You & Me
22-May
Mrs. Knott's Book Nook
23-May
Mundie Moms 
24-May
The Write Path
25-May
foodiebibliophile.com
26-May
Beach Bound Books
http://www.beachboundbooks.com/
29-May
Middle Grade Ninja
30-May
Night Owl Reviews
31-May
Cracking the Cover
1-Jun
Jenni Enzor
2-Jun
Literary Hoots
5-Jun
From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors
6-Jun
The Winged Pen
7-Jun
Operation Awesome
8-Jun
Leeanna.me
9-Jun
Bloggin' 'bout Books
12-Jun
13-Jun
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14-Jun
MGMinded blog
15-Jun
Smack Dab in the Middle
16-Jun
Swoony Boys Podcast
19-Jun
Book Foolery
20-Jun
Unleashing Readers
21-Jun
Kit Lit Reviews
22-Jun
The O.W.L.



32333254Rue, Ginger. Aleca Zamm is a Wonder
June 6th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Aleca is not having a great tenth birthday, because she has to take a timed math test in class, and she's horrible at these tests. Her mother tries to reassure her, as does her friend, Molly, but when Mrs. Floberg steps out of the class and puts the snotty Madison in charge, Aleca ends up getting into trouble not only with the teacher, but with Mr. Vine, the principal. When Aleca has to tell him her name, something odd happens-- time seems to stop! Once she realizes that this is, in fact, what has happened, Aleca uses the opportunity to put glue in Madison's hair, a hamster in Mrs. Floberg's scarf and a bug in a boy's mouth! She also manages to get the answers to the test correct. The ability to stop time also comes in handy the next morning, when she gets to sleep in AND do her forgotten homework before school starts. Of course, this can't go on indefinitely, so when her Great Aunt Zephyr shows up, Aleca finds out that being a "Wonder" runs in families and skips a generation. Luckily, she has Aunt Zephyr to show her how to use her powers for good and not for evil.
Strengths: This was a fun, fast book with magical realism that will appeal to readers who have some imagination. It's silly, of course, but also a great idea. I really liked the backstory of Aunt Zephyr and her brothers discovering their powers. The sequel is very necessary, because this book is just the start of the adventures.
Weaknesses: Aleca Zamm-- the name is rather twee. Would I have cared? Probably not. I never had a problem with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!
What I really think: I would have loved this when I was ten. It reminds me a little of Ruth Chew, whose work is still very popular with my 6th graders.

32333250
The second book in the series was also released on June 6th. Great choice for summer reading, especially if you know a girl who is turning 10!

(Thanks, Dad, for those great pictures from MY tenth birthday!)