Saturday, March 17, 2018

King, Zach: My Magical Life

Schulz, Charles. I'm Not Your Sweet Babboo! (Peanuts Collection #10)
March 13th 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

This collection of strips, which seems to date from about 1977 if I have placed the character of Molly Volley correctly with the help of the Peanuts Wiki (who knew there was such a thing?), concentrate on the adventures of the Peanuts characters, mainly at school. Peppermint Patty and Marcie seem to appear more than usual, with Patty attending a dog training school hoping to get out of going to regular school, and Patty and Marcie investigating a country club. Linus has an interesting interaction with a girl he meets at a farm, which angers Sally. This explains the cover. It is rather amazing how well the vast majority of the strips hold up; the only reference I completely did not get was to Bruce Cabot, an actor who appeared in King Kong. There is a baseball team of younger children (Milo, Ruby and Leland) who ask Charlie Brown to help coach them, which was something I didn't remember at all!

Schulz is a cultural icon, and I would love to have this collection in a prebind so that I could include it in my school library. Paper backs only last about three years, no matter how much tape and glue we use! If children insist on reading comics, they might as well be the wholesome and funny panels that still appear in the newspaper today! I really wish that the original dates of publication would be listed on both the newspaper strips as well as collections like these.

I also think that buildings should all be required by law to list the date of construction and any major renovation at the same location by a main entrance, but I don't think that is likely to happen!

King, Zach. My Magical Life (#1)
September 26th 2017 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Zach comes from a magical family, and his relatives all have objects they use to channel their magic. Zach's father has a pocket watch, but Zach can't seem to find an object of his own. His parents are worried that the magic has "skipped" him, so they decide to enroll him in public school instead of homeschooling him, so that he can learn to deal with regular people. He's lucky to make a friend in Aaron right away, but he also makes an enemy of popular girl and bully Tricia. When Zach finds himself behind the glass in a vending machine (without his clothes on!), he's embarrassed, but also hopeful that he has some magic in him. Aaron loves to make videos, so he and Zach try to figure out what Zach's magic item is, finally settling on two baseball caps (snapbacks). Zach can use these to transport himself and objects, which is very helpful. After Tricia is mean to him again, he fills her locker with chocolate pudding, which explodes all over her. When Zach and Aaron accidentally transport an alligator, with disastrous results, they realize that Zach needs to learn to harness his magic more effectively. Perhaps he will in the next book in this series, Zach King: The Magical Mix-Up, which is due to be published on May 1, 2018.

This book has a lot of colorful interior illustrations on nice, heavy paper, but since it is a jacketed hardback, I think it will hold up better than some similar books in paperback. There are full color descriptions of all of the characters at the beginning of the book, and occasional comic strip style panels throughout the story.

It's easy to believe that Zach's family is magic, and the story doesn't belabor his lack of magic, but rather gives him lots of opportunities to discover what his talents and his objects are. He runs into some predictable trouble, but it's nice to see him work through the process with the help of a good friend.

Zach King is apparently an internet phenomenon, and there is a free app that accompanies this book available at I have to admit that I didn't look at any of the videos or investigate the app, but young readers might find both of these things of interest.

Magic is always an appealing subject to young readers. Fans of King's internet exploits or books like Callaghan's Just Add Magic, Osborne's Magic Treehouse books, Geronimo Stiltoon's illustrated exploits, or older titles like Edward Eager's books will find My Magical Life to be a pleasant diversion.

This is an optional purchase for school libraries unless there is a huge fan base for Zach King: it's an attractive book, but not very well written.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Science of Breakable Things

29414515Keller, Tae. The Science of Breakable Things
March 6th 2018 by Random House
ARC provided by publisher through Follett's First Look Program

Natalie is dealing with a lot-- her best friend, Mikayla, no longer talks to her; she likes her teacher Mr. Neely but is occasionally overwhelmed by his enthusiasm; and her mother is so depressed that she doesn't get out of bed most days. Natalie knows this is because her mother was fired from her job at the university botany department by Mikayla's mother, but she wishes that she had her "old" mother back. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter the Egg Drop competition for her science inquiry project, Natalie doesn't really want to, but thinks that she could use the prize money to cheer her mother up by taking her to Mexico to see the rare Cobalt Blue orchid that she was studying. Natalie works with her best friend, Twig, whose mother was a super model and doesn't always see eye to eye with her daughter, and eventually the two work with Dari, a fairly new student as well. Dari is very smart, but is having trouble making friends. The group tries many different ways to cushion their eggs for the drop (my favorite is using marshmallows and chocolate for the S'megg! If only they had incorporated a graham cracker box!). They sneak into the school to practice dropping the egg from a height, and their stealth tactics come in handy later in the book. Natalie's father is a therapist who makes Natalie see Dr. Doris to talk, and eventually things come to a head and her mother also must be brought into the conversation.
Strengths: The situation with Mikayla is SO true to life. Very strange things happen with middle school friendships, and the reasons aren't always clear. There is a good mix of home and school life that I wish I would see in more books. Natalie's ethnic heritage is interesting-- her father is half Italian and half Korean (but not being interested in anything Korean), and her mother is described as having blonde hair. There's a lot of support for Natalie all around, even though it isn't always effective. There are enough other things going on in the story to make the book interesting. Love the cover.
Weaknesses: I have come to the conclusion that I am the only person involved in #MGLit who is tired of all of the depressing stories. Everyone else (including Kate DiCamillo and Matt de la Pena) and is coming out with articles about why Sad Is Good. Fine. It must some horrible, Trump-induced Zeitgeist. I don't get it, but I have given up complaining. All I know is that sad books make me sad, and I don't need any help in that direction. I think a much better plan, when bad things happen, is to ignore them and move on. NO ONE agrees.
What I really think: I will probably purchase. The cover is appealing, the length is right, and it's less depressing than a lot of books.

TWO-WEEK BLOG TOUR (March 5th – 16th)
Week One:
·         3/5/18: Mommy Ramblings
·         3/6/18: The OWL
·         3/7/18: Bumbles and Fairy Tales
·         3/8/18: Cracking the Cover
·         3/9/18: The Book Reaper
Week Two:
·         3/12/18: Fiktshun
·         3/13/18: Word Spelunking
·         3/14/18: The Lovely Books Blog
·         3/15/18: Oh, For the Hook of a Book
·         3/16/18: Ms. Yingling Reads

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stick Dog Crashes a Party

34848489Watson, Tom. Stick Dog Crashed a Party
March 6th 2018 by HarperCollins
Purchased Copy

Stick Dog and his friends are hungry. After a hilarious episode with a ketchup packet, they decide to go and get pizza at Pizza Palace. When they arrive there, they see a car with two humans and two cats who look vaguely family. It's Stick Cat, Stripes' soul mate! The humans are picking up a pizza and are in town for their wedding. The dogs make plans for getting themselves invited, but since it is at a park, that's easy. Karen still chases her tail a lot, but in between there are a lot of plans the dogs need to make. Stick Cat watches from afar, and aids the dogs in any way he can. When the humans are distracted from the food by fireworks, the dogs dig in, gorging themselves on mashed potatoes and ribs. The other dogs manage to get cake, but Stick Dog is busy arranging things and doesn't get any. Luckily, Stick Cat sees his plight and rolls the top layer of the cake down the hill for the hungry dogs.
Strengths: Stick Dog is the consummate professional.  Watson's career as a political speech writer is definitely evident in this installment-- the verbal machinations through which Stick Cat goes to not insult his friends are hysterical. He is the only one with any strategic acumen, and the dogs would all clearly starve without him. I had forgotten the intersection with Stick Cat; I'm not as big a fan of those, as Edith the cat is not very pleasant. These are so clever and make me laugh so much! Investing in a PermaBound set in the fall, since the paper over board covers wear horribly.
Weaknesses: Edith is not a pleasant character. So spoiled and nasty. Why would stick cat be friends with her? Of course, their humans are together, so it's unavoidable. I sort of hoped that Stick Cat would run away and join Stick Dog's pack.
What I really think: Every middle school librarian should go out and read one of these books RIGHT NOW. You will not be disappointed. Sylvie approves of these books!