Friday, August 26, 2016

Guy Friday- Dog Man

28691896Pilkey, Dav. Dog Man
August 30th 2016 by GRAPHIX
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

George and Harold, having survived all of the adventures involving Captain Underpants, go through their old papers and find one of their first comics, Dog Man. They decide to reboot the series. Dog Man is created when a good but not very intelligent policeman and a smart dog are both badly injured, and the dog's head is sewn on to the policeman's body. Dog Man loves the Chief, who is less than thrilled with Dog Man's antics, which included licking the Chief's hand and pooping in his office. Petey the cat is the archnemesis in this book, and he has innovative ways to deal with Dog Man, such as creating a giant vacuum cleaner to chase down our hero, and using animation spray to create an army of sentient hot dogs. Oddly, Petey does not triumph. This book has plenty of flip-o-rama pages (which are SUCH a disappointment on an e reader), and was great fun. 
Strengths: This was just fun. I am glad to see a NEW series from Pilkey, and this hybrid hero is worth his kibble when it comes to laughs.
Weaknesses: As soon as get done giggling to myself over the sentient hotdogs, I'll try to make a list.
What I really think: I need to contact Mr. Pilkey and ask if I may use his name in my term "The Pilkey Line". This terms is useful when determining what books will be successful at the middle school level (like The Origami Yoda, which includes more awareness of social interaction, romance, and slightly more mature humor), and which will be more successful at the elementary level (Books like Spaceheadz, which are goofier, have more potty humor, and may not have as much of a coherent plot). The reason I use Pilkey's name in vain is that EVERYONE, regardless of age, likes his books, so he is the constant in the center; everything else falls on either a younger or older side of that line. 

I suppose I should be concerned about the "misogyny in Pilkey"-- in this, the evil mayor is a woman. I ran this question past both of my very feminist daughters, we discussed it, and decided that the benefits of Pilkey's work still outweigh the negatives. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry

28954176Vaught, Susan. Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry
September 6th 2016 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Dani Beans' grandmother was an influential writer and Civil Rights activist before Alzheimer's began taking its toll. Now, her grandmother lives with the family, and Dani tries her best to include her in family dinners and talk to her the way she used to. One of the most significant things about her grandmother's past was her "Magnolia Feud" with Avadelle Richardson, who wrote a book entitled Night on Fire about the desegregation riots at Ole Miss in the 1960s. In one of her last coherent conversations, her grandmother gives Dani instructions to find out about the history of the two. With her friend Indri, and her NOT friend, Avadelle's grandson Mac, she works through the clues her grandmother has left her, talks to others who were involved in Civil Rights work at the time, and finds out a lot about her African-American heritage that her parents didn't think she was ready to discover. 
Strengths: I thought that this had a nice balance of racial identities involved in telling a complicated story. Grandma Beans is (as identified in the book) Black, but Dani's mother is White. Avadelle is White, and one of the characters in her book is a White college girl who comes to help out in the 1960s, and stays with a Black family. All too often, Civil Rights stories are told from one side or the other, but by making Dani have a shared heritage, we see that different sides both contributed. 
Weaknesses: This was on the long side (at over 350 pages), which isn't a surprise given Vaught's primarily Young Adult body of work, but since historical fiction is a hard sell, a leaner book would be easier to get children to read. 
What I really think: I was all set to by this until there was an unexpectedly sad occurrence at the end of the book that just didn't need to be there. Now I'll pass. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Paragraphs Bookstore visit with James Ponti!

Here's the most exciting thing-- Framed! (T.O.A.S.T. #1) is going to be a series! Also, Mr. Ponti is working on a murder mystery. Young Adult, of course, but most likely okay for middle grades, too!

Loved hearing about Molly from Blue Moon and about Florian's back story!

#WNDB Wednesday- Talking Leaves

28008153Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves
August 23rd 2016 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Young teen Uwohali has been living with his mother even since his parents divorced and his father has been away from the village for various reasons, but he wants to try living with his father, Sequoyah, even though Sequoyah is remarried and has a young daughter. Sequoyah has spent a lot of time dealing with both the Cherokee people and also the US citizens who are trying to take land away from the indigenous people. Uwohali finds it hard to reconnect with his father at first, but then finds out about his latest project-- a syllabary for the Tsalagi language. He had made attempts at this before, but people thought it was witchcraft and his wife even burned his first attempts! With Uwohali's help, Sequoyah is able to persuade the Cherokee that an alphabet that is based on the sounds of their own language will enable them to record their history and make them competitive in a more modern world. 
Strengths: This was very well researched and had a lot of interesting details about life in the early 1800s. Uwohali's relationships with various members of his family are interesting-- he comes to love and admire his younger half sister, and comes to appreciate the many things that his father has done to further the cause of their people, even though such activities have taken Sequoyah away from Uwohali. Bruchac always does a good job at highlighting historical events that have been neglected. 
Weaknesses: This was very slow paced. Historical fiction is a hard sell in middle school, and students may not want to read about the development of a syllabary, no matter how important it is to Native Americans. 
What I really think: This falls within our 8th grade social studies curriculum, so I may buy a copy, but it will take some persuasion to get students to read it. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3)

Look! It's the fancy new 2016 logo and the 
2016 Call for Judges!!

Just to make sure you have it, here's the link: 

Also start to think about what books you will nominate in the various categories. Those nominations will open in October!

13612965Black, Holly and Clare, Cassandra. The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3)
August 30th 2016 by Scholastic
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Now that Call knows his big, dark secret and things are going okay at the school, he is spending a great summer with Aaron doing normal kid stuff. When there is an awards ceremony for the children right before school starts, his group all goes, and there's a little bit of drama there, with Jasper being a jerk and Call crushing on Celia. However, the biggest drama comes when something tries to kill Call and succeeds in killing another student. Back at the school, Call is still in danger, so Alex, Tamara, et al. try to guard him and also hatch a plan to break into one of the offices and get some answers. Of course, this doesn't go particularly well. One of the big issues facing everyone is that chaos ridden animal are supposed to be rounded up and imprisoned, something which Call thinks is a horrible idea. When the group tries to help a representative from the Order of Disorder hide the animals, tragedy occurs and a couple more secrets are revealed. Don't want to ruin the surprises!
Strengths: This has all of the elements that readers like in Harry Potter, but puts a distinctly different spin on everything. There's a whole different evil force that deals with death, which is kind of brilliant, there are teachers who interact with the students in amusing ways, the magic is all well developed. The idea of the chaos channeling and soul touching is all good. The appearance of a Devoured sister is interesting. I like that four of the five will have metals in the title, and then the last book is The Enemy of Death. Easy to remember which comes in what order. Very nice. 
Weaknesses: A lot of key characters die. Not sure if they are going to come back, but this could be disturbing to younger readers. I'm not sure if I would have this in an elementary library. Fifth graders could handle it, but second and third graders would definitely be upset. 
What I really think: The lichen and tuber eating has got to go (come on, at least Butterbeer sounds good, even if it is disgustingly sweet!), but other than that, this is a very solid middle grade fantasy series specifically designed for readers who liked Harry Potter.

27833800Brittenham, Skip. Between Worlds
August 30th 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In the book itself, the story is described by Marshall as "How My Girlfriend and I Found an Ancient Sentient Tree That Teleported Us to Another Dimension to Rescue a Boy Presumed Brain-Dead" (E ARC, page 254.), and indeed, that is what the book is about. 

Aaron is the boy who manages to kill his sister by pelting her with snow balls until she runs onto a lake that isn't frozen all the way and drowns despite his best efforts to save her. He goes into the local "Mystery Forest" to try to find the Wishing Tree, and when he does, he wishes that if his sister can't be brought back to life, then he should be sent far away. 

Switch to Goth-wannabe Mayberry, who is stuck in the wilds of Minnesota because her mother is studied quaking aspen groves. She's so deliberately weird that people make fun of her, with the exception of Marshall, who has his own problems. The two try to find the Wishing Tree, thinking it would help Mayberry's mother out, and when they find the tree they end up getting sucked into a magical world that's just...weird. Like, acid trip weird. Once they come back, they figure out that Aaron is trapped in the world, and unless they save him (since he's been in a coma for two years), his parents will take him off life support. 

I have to admit that this one kept me reading in order to find out what happened to Aaron, but it had a really odd feel to it. There is also an app that goes with it, and I'm not taking the time to investigate, since I hope to get my students AS FAR FROM TECHNOLOGY WHEN READING AS POSSIBLE THIS YEAR. (Yep. All caps. Necessary.)

Here's the Kirkus Review. I'm going to pass. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

MMGM- Call for Cybils Judges!!!

Hop on over to later today to apply to be a Round One or Round Two panelist or judge! It's a LOT of fun, and you will be extremely well-read in whatever division you choose by the end of the process. 

I am the evil overlord category chair for Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, and there are usually about 100-150 books to read for Round One. That group (5-7 people, usually including me!) recommends 5-7 books for the Round 2 people to read in January, and they decide the final winner. 

If you blog and you've never done this before, it's definitely something worth trying. The call for judges is open until mid-September, and nominations for books start around the 1st of October.

I'm super excited to be going to Mt. Vernon tomorrow for James Ponti's launch of Framed! It will be from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Paragraphs Bookstore. I've never actually been to a book launch before, so this should be fun. I had the review of the book planned for today months ago-- it was a title I thought was exceptionally good. 

Mt. Vernon isn't far from here, and with school starting, the idea of getting in the car and driving somewhere instead of dragging my boot around our first Cross Country meet of the year sounds positively restful!

MMGM- Framed!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Ponti, James. Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery
August 23rd 2016 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edleweiss Above the Treeline

Florian Bates's parents are both connected to the art world, and they have just moved back to the US from Italy, so that his father can work at a museum in Washington, D.C. Florian is exceptionally observant, using a theory he has concocted called Theory Of All Small Things, which is very Sherlockian in nature. When he and neighbor Margaret watch a young man in the museum copying paintings, and some of those same paintings later go missing, he is able to crack the case even though no one else can. He is made a "covert asset" by the F.B.I. and agent Mark Rivers makes sure he is trained and keeps him safe. This isn't easy to do when Romanian mob boss Nic the Knife shows up at one of Margaret's soccer games, and Florian later makes the bad choice of going to a gallery opening and being seen by the bad guy. Still, he's not too worried, and Margaret gives him a case as well-- find her parents, who abandoned her at a local fire station 12 years ago. Filled with great characters and lots of action and adventure, Framed is hopefully the first book in a nice, long series!

While Florian is clearly intelligent, he doesn't come off as precocious or smarmy. In fact, he teaches his system to Margaret, who is almost as good at it as he is! He's more than willing to help out the F.B.I. and isn't smarmy about it-- in fact, he realizes that he can be lead astray by planted clues as easily as anyone. This is just a great balance to find in a middle grade characters and shows a lot of understanding about tweens on the part of the author!

The D.C. setting, as well as the art museums, paintings and events, are all quite interesting. While some of the connections are a bit far fetched, none are completely beyond belief. It's too bad that the artwork couldn't have been shown in the book-- I am sure that readers will want to Google the paintings mentioned right away. 

I love that the adults in this book are present and supportive, but not hovering. Florian's parents are very busy with work, so having Agent Rivers take an interest in Florian's abilities is a nice touch. Of course, for teen readers, the best parts will be the kidnappings, car chases, and getting the better of both the criminals and the F.B.I.

Framed! Is a great read for fans of clue oriented mysteries like Blue Balliet's book, but also great for readers who enjoy comic crime novels like Schreiber's Con Academy or Carter's Heist Society. It's such a fun middle grade read, though, that I will be handing this to just about everyone!

Sunday, August 21, 2016


27414384O'Connor, Barbara. Wish
August 30th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from

Charlemagne's father, Scrappy, is in a correctional center for fighting, and her mother is incapable of getting out of bed to care for her, so "Charlie" is sent to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her aunt Bertha and uncle Gus. She's angry at everything and unhappy with being at school, especially when some girls are mean to her. Fortunately, she meets Howard, a boy with "an up and down walk" who is super nice, as is his entire family. The two spend a lot of time trying to capture a local stray dog, whom Charlie has named Wishbone, and they eventually get the dog to stay at Charlie's house. Charlie's sister Jackie has stayed back in Raleigh with a friend, graduates from high school, and seems to be getting on with her life, which irritates Charlie. Howard's entire family, as well as Bertha and Gus, make Charlie feel welcome, and she eventually realizes that she is not going to be able to go back to her mother. 
Strengths: Despite the sad state of Charlie's family, everyone else she comes in contact with is helpful and supportive, so this is a very warm, feel good story. I kept turning the pages, and even though not a lot happened, it kept my interest. I liked the inclusion of Charlie's experiences in Sunday school and vacation Bible school-- a lot of children go to church without thinking too much about it, but that is rarely reflected in middle grade literature. There were lots of nice descriptive touches, and the emotions were there but not overdone. 
Weaknesses: Quirky Southern. Urgh. All of the "He don't..." just about pushed me over the edge. Not a fan personally, and Southern stories don't do too well in my library, either.
What I really think: This was very easy to read because it was so well written, and rather enjoyable, but I don't think I will be able to get children to read it. Very much like Naylor's Faith, Hope and Ivy June that just sits on the shelf. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016


26072954Hooper,  Mary. Poppy. 
August 30th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens 
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Poppy is a housemaid for the DeVere family, and when World War I starts affecting England, the family decides to move to a smaller house and let the great manor house be used as a hospital. They let most of the staff go, although Poppy is invited to stay on. After talking to a former teacher, Miss Luttrell, she finds that she can apply to be part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and learn some nursing skills, and Miss Luttrell will even give her a bit of an allowance, having been saddened that such a bright pupil hadn't been able to go to college. Seeing that the world around her is changing, she applies and is accepted. As she starts training, her brother Billy joins up, and the son of the DeVere's, Frederick, does as well. She thinks that there is something more between her and Frederick, especially after she sees him at the memorial service for his older brother, who is killed in the war. Most of her time is spent on the wards, caring for the many wounded soldiers who lost limbs, eyesight, their faces and, in so many cases, their lives. I was thrilled to find out that there is a second book to this, called Poppy in the Field, which I hope is published soon in the US!

Strengths: Wow. Hooper does a fantastic job at taking the daily life of a fairly obscure person from history and bringing it to life. Her Fallen Grace and Velvet cover facets of life during the Victorian era, and I've long recommended At the Sign of the Sugared Plum (set during the plague and fire in London in 1665-66). I was surprised that we didn't see more books about WWI over the last few years, since it was, in my mind, even more pivotal and devastating than WWII, at least in Europe. Poppy also addressed the enormous social change in British society at the time. If you have any readers who have caught The Crimson Fields on PBS, this is an absolute must read. 

Weaknesses: It's hard to get my students to read historical fiction, but I think I can sell this one as a romance and trick them into reading it!
What I really think: Definitely buying a copy. Love the cover!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Guy Friday- Comic Crime Novels

24183675Taylor, Billy. Thieving Weasels.
August 23rd 2016 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Cam Smith finally gets into Princeton, where Claire, his girlfriend at his exclusive prep school is also going. Life is good... until his Uncle Wonderful shows up and whisks him away, saying that his mother has tried to commit suicide and Cam needs to be there for her. SIcne Cam's entire family are grifters who have multiple fake identities and have used him in their scams since he was young, Cam has little patience for this. Still, he is alarmed at his mother's state in the mental hospital, and touched that she has purchased a home and a car for him, and furnished the house with pieces of his transient childhood he assumed were long gone. He's less touched when his cousins and other relatives get him roped into a plot to kill an old organized crime figure. How can he escape his past when his relatives keep coming back to drag him into their schemes?
Strengths: Loved all of the schemes, the sketchy relatives, and Cam's attempts to break free of his past. I've always been a fan of Donald Westlake, and this read a bit like some of the Dortmunder books, although Cam is much classier than that character! 
Weaknesses: More of a YA novel. Drinking, drugs, sex (although cleverly and circumspectly done), and one f-word buried deep in the book. Just a bit much for the average 6th or 7th grader. 
What I really think: I have two copies of Schrieber's Con Academy and will just give that to my students instead. Would buy this for a high school library, though!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Hawaii

29563250Wheeler, Patti and Hemstreet, Keith. Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Hawaii (#6)
September 6th 2016 by Greenleaf Book Group Press
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Gannon and Wyatt are off to Hawaii with their father, an artist, and their mother, who is an airline steward. They are homeschooled, and their homework often involves reporting on their adventures and researching the curricular tie ins. While their parents are working, they are in the care of Alana, and on a mission for the Young Explorer's' Society. On one trip, they see a man struggling in the surf and rescue him. Barely able to speak, he gives them a map and indicates that they need to keep it hidden. The man turns out to be Professor Makaha, who is investigating reports that the grave site of King Kamehameha has been found. Mr. Sato shows up, claiming to be working with the professor and wanting information from the boys. Along with Alana, the boys decide to investigate and uncover a conspiracy. 

The descriptions of the flora and fauna in Hawaii were very detailed, and Gannon and Wyatt get to experience a lot of it! From getting caught in a blizzard to getting a little too close to an active volcano, the boys experience the outdoor wonders first hand so that readers who may never get there can understand them. 

This series describes lots of different countries and climates, and discusses the ramifications of human footprints on delicate ecosystems. I can see this being used in a STEM classroom to illustrate a number of science related points. There is also a wealth of information about the culture of Hawaii. 

Readers who like travel books with action and adventure, like Skurzynski's Mysteries in Our National Parks or Marsh's Real Kids, Real Places books will learn a lot from their adventures with Gannon and Wyatt. 

My favorite part was where they find the tiki statue in a building site and then bad things start to happen. Wait... that was a Brady Bunch episode. That's the first place my mind went when we found out about a hotel that developers want to build. While I can see these being popular with some children, this book was a little too pat for me, and my students would think the cover is cheesy. Think I'll pass on purchase, since I don't have the other five books in the series. 

The First Day of School

 The students arrive today, and there are a million things I should be doing, especially working on my first book order of the year, which has usually already been delivered by this point in the proceedings. 

Instead, I am obsessing about the Latin on my Hogwarts lapel pin. The red pin underneath says "Librarian". The motto reads (From the Harry Potter Wiki): The school's motto is Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus, which, translated from Latin, means "Never tickle a sleeping dragon".

The Latin is clearly wrong. Since it is an imperative, it should use the "noli me tangere" construction, and read something like Nunquam Titilla Draconem Dormiendum. Unless you want to warn ALL the students. Then it would be Titillate.

This is my 19th year teaching. My first four were spent teaching Latin. About once a year, I start wishing I were still doing that. Why is that day today?

I studied Latin at the University of Cincinnati. Today, Picky Reader is moving into Siddall Hall there. On the bright side, it will be very difficult for her to make life choices that are a fraction of the amount of horrible mine were! She is majoring in accounting and finance, and is in one of the business honors programs, which seems to have a lot of support. She is looking forward to studying, and loves the campus, which is improved to the point that not a single building where I lived still stands. 

All will be well. We do not raise our children to be always by our sides. We raise them to have their own lives. 

The library lies in readiness, as soon as I find the hidden USB port on my new Acer Chromething at the circ desk and can plug in the bar code scanner. 

Off to work. It's already 5:10, and as my grandmother would say, the day's not getting any younger.

Have a good one, whatever you're doing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Zoe in Wonderland

27876762Woods, Brenda. Zoe in Wonderland
August 16th 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zoe Reindeer lives with her family at their business, Doc Reindeer’s Exotic Plant Wonderland. Her older sister, Jade, is an obnoxious teenage cheerleader who does exercises to make her butt bigger, and her brother, Harper, is a math whiz whom her parents seem to favor. Zoe feels that she is "just Zoe", and some of the kids at school pick on her because she is quiet and wears "geek"glasses. She does have a very good friend, Quincy, and the two of them send away for baobab tree seeds so that they can grow one and sell it to a man who works nearby and is trying to find a taste of his native Madagascar in Pasadena. Soon, though, Quincy has to move to be with his father because his mother is being treated for cancer, and Wonderland is in financial trouble. Zoe makes another friend, Quincy's mother responds well to treatment and it seems like he may be moving back, but then tragedy strikes. How will the Reindeer family deal with this blow?

Strengths: I started off liking this, because it had a fairly supportive, intact family and a positive message. It was certainly well written, and kept my attention. 
Weaknesses: I wanted to slap Zoe because she had a bad attitude and was vaguely unpleasant. I could have put up with that, but when all the bad things started happening, I lost interest.
What I really think: I'm disappointed because I wanted this to be a happy book I could get my niece, Zoe, for her birthday! I have a lot of this author's work, and it's quite popular. Perhaps this was just too young for my demographic? Don't think I'll purchase, but it's the sort of book that might be successful in certain collections. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Trouble with Twins

23734476Siebel, Kathryn. The Trouble with Twins
August 9th 2016 by Knopf BFYR
Copy received from the publisher

A young girl's mother tells her the story of twins: Arabella Osgood, who was very pretty, and Henrietta, who was less attractive and also boring. Jealous of her sister because of the preferential treatment she recieves from their parents, Henrietta cuts Arabella's hair when she is sleeping and is send away to Great-Aunt Priscilla's as punishment. And punishment it is, since Priscilla feeds her fish head soul and there is nothing more exciting to do than to name the cats. Arabella misses her sister and has bad dreams about her, so sets off to find her. The Osgoods panic and call the police and the school, and a comedy of errors ensues. This includes the Osgoods traveling to Priscilla's and demanding that she sell a ring to offer reward money for Arabella, who is quietly making her way across the countryside. In the end, Henrietta manages to burn down Priscilla's old house, and we learn the connection between the narrator and the twins. 

I was so upset by the unequal treatment of the girls at both home and school that I had a lot of trouble with this. I was also alarmed by the way the aunt treated Henrietta and the way the aunt herself was treated. This made it hard for me to like the book, although it has gotten very favorable reviews both at Kirkus and at School Library Journal. 

Strengths: This definitely does have a Lemony Snicket/Wolves of Willoughby Chase vibe, and will be enjoyed by readers who are fond of their characters being thrust into unpleasant situations where they are abused and no one calls Children's Services. Twins are always fascinating to middle grade readers as well, and the connection between Henrietta and Arabella despite the adults in their lives is interesting. 
Weaknesses: Again, I was deeply disturbed by the treatment of Henrietta.
What I really think: This has a classic vibe to it, and is set in a vague time in the past-- the 1970s, perhaps? Combined with the illustrations, this tone may make this more popular with elementary students than with middle school ones. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

MMGM- Fuzzy

28818327Angleberger, Tom and Dellinger, Paul. Fuzzy
August 16th 2016 by Amulet Books
E ARC from

Maxine is having trouble in school with the robotic assistant principal Barbara making sure that everyone is Upgrading, but things get even more complicated with the advent of a robot prototype named Fuzzy. The government is trying to get a robot to create its own code based on its experiences instead of relying on programming, and feel that a middle school is good place to do that. Max is assigned to help Max, and ends up getting a lot of dTags (demerits) because she is frequently made late by Fuzzy or his handlers. Unbeknownst to her, Barbara is giving her poor scores on tests and trying to get her removed from the school. The assistant principal program has also been writing its own code, although that was not supposed to be one of its function, and is trying to get rid of students who are dragging the school down. There are also people trying to steal either Fuzzy or some of the school's codes. When Fuzzy uncovers more information about Barbara's plot, he works with Max and other students to try to overthrow her influence. 

N.B. The pages of my E ARC turned really slowly, so I wasn't able to go back and get details I had saved. There weren't pictures, so I don't know why it was so slow. 

Strengths: I liked this vaguely dystopian school system, where students are tested every week and scores MUST go up. Granted, it's a little over the top, but completely plausible! Max is a fun character who tries to do the right thing but becomes frustrated, and Fuzzy is an excellent robot to have as a friend. 
Weaknesses: I'm usually not a fan of evil principal characters, but making a computerized principal evil-- that's brilliant! 
What I really think: This is definitely one of Angleberger's stronger works, and I think it will be very popular. Robots seem to be a huge new trend, right up there with video games. 

30321455Time, Inc. Time for Kids Almanac 2017
May 31st 2016 by TIME for Kids
Copy received from the publisher

Remember back in the day when there was a class set of almanacs, and the social studies teachers would bring their students to the library to look up information about countries in them? No? This was, of course, before smart phones. Want to know the current population of Bolivia? Just Google it. Students are woefully unprepared to look up information in books these days, which is a skill they might occasionally need to have. 

Because almanacs don't serve the important function they once did, this Time For Kids publication focuses on a variety of fun facts. You can still find information about Bolivia, but instead of it being a solid block of 6 point text on flimsy paper, there's a colorful entry (alongside other countries of the world) with the flag and pertinent data. I especially liked the information about the different states. There is a wide range of information, from books for middle grade readers that have been published to fun holidays to information about sports teams. All of the information is presented with pictures, text boxes, and a generally appealing format that is fun to dip into. There are lots of maps and timelines as well. 

My students love the Guinness Book of World Records, mainly for the gross articles about people with multiple piercings or 20 foot long fingernails. This is a better alternative. Since the format is vibrant and engaging but the information is more useful and pertinent to daily life, spending time flipping through this will increase students' working knowledge of the world and provide them with useful data that they can apply to their school work. 

Plus, it doesn't have a plastic coated lenticular cover for readers to repeatedly run their fingernails over in order to make a squeaky noise and annoy everyone in study hall!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

First Day of School

In my district, we are starting with a Teacher Inservice Day. I usually give a presentation of 100 Great New Books on these days. If you aren't able to make it, here's the PowerPoint!

(And the cool font didn't transfer. Darn.)

Karen YinglingBlendon MiddleSchoolCherrySwashfont fromFontSquirrelCreatedOnPowerPoint

Miss Waiver Day in the past? I've uploaded many of my presentations.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Sea Pony (Piper Green and the Fairy Tree #3)

27876456Potter, Ellen. The Sea Pony
August 16th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

Piper finds a nautical whistle in her "fairy tree" and it gets her into more trouble than it gets her out of. She almost loses it while out with her father checking lobster traps, and befriends a seal pup (that she calls her "sea pony") briefly. While her father doesn't like the idea of her using his bait to attract a nuisance, he is a little more lenient when her antics help find a skiff that has blown away and was thought lost. Piper is very interested in an actual pony that is delivered to the island, and is happy when it has gone to a friend. There are lots of fun anecdotes delivered in short chapters. 
Strengths: Piper is a fairly appealing character, and the "exotic" setting, complete with maps, is quite fun.
Weaknesses: I'd love to see a similar series for older middle grade readers in a similar setting, but with more age appropriate problems. Maybe that's why I am enjoying these early chapter books so much-- both of Piper's parents and both of her siblings are still alive!

What I really think: I would have adored this when I was in first grade, but it is too young for middle school readers. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Guy Friday- I Am Drums

Not everyone understands why my blog tagline is "Books for middle school students, especially boys". When I started my blog, I realized that many of the "gatekeepers" in boys' lives were female, and that certainly the books I personally read in middle school (Anne of Green Gables, Beverly Cleary's teen novels) were not things that interested boys. In the last ten years, there has been a lot of discussion about "boys' books" and "girls' books", with some hurtful, unhelpful things going on, like Shannon Hale not being invited to talk to boys at school visits because she writes "girl books". 

8646223That's not my intention. I wrote an article for School Library Journal on my opinions, and still think that it's somewhat more difficult to get books that make boys excited about reading. 

I say this all because the following book is an excellent example of how publishers can make a more gender neutral book that I can hand to boys without them recoiling. I love Dionne's Notes from an Accidental Band Geek (at left), and have handed to lots of boys in band. But is has a girl in a skirt on the front. Middle school boys really have to be persuaded to read this because of the cover, no matter how good the inside of the book is. Compare this with the nice neutral cover below! My school has just as many girls in the drum section as boys, but I could definitely hand I Am Drums to a boy and he wouldn't blink. Success!

Grosso, Mike. I Am Drums
September 6th 2016 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sam loves to drum, but her family is having some financial difficulty, making private lessons and even a drum set hard to swing. She has put together her own kit on an old computer desk, with a variety of different books and newspapers that make different sounds. When she finds out that her school is going to cut the entire band program, she gets desperate and decides that she has to finally try to get lessons from the local expert, Pete. She needs to find a way to make money, so talks to a number of neighbors and borrows her family's lawn mower without permission in order to pay for lessons. Pete agrees to take her on as long as she pays $15 per lesson (half the going rate) and saves for a drum set. Sam is very passionate and talented, and works very hard, which is why Pete takes her on, but she also had a behavioral issue at school that she's keeping from her parents. On top of the lies she tells in order to keep taking lessons, she runs afoul of her parents in a major way, which eventually ends her lessons and gets her in a lot of trouble. Can Sam manage to make things right and continue with something she loves?
Strengths: Lot of good details about drumming, and Pete is a fun teacher. Sam is very impetuous, which is so true of many middle schoolers. I can't think of another book that is so centered on music. I see this making some drummers in my school very happy. 
Weaknesses: I never thought of drumming as being a "boy" thing, but then I was a huge Karen Carpenter fan! Sam is given a hard time about this by some boys in her class. I also was really, really uncomfortable about Pete being willing to drive her to an audition. I would only ever transport a student if I personally knew and was friends with the parents. The lying had consequences, but went on for a very long time. 
What I really think: Love the cover and will purchase. Won't be hugely popular, but will be the right book for the right child on many occasions. 
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