Disclaimer: Both of these books were sent to me by the editor, Timothy Travaglini of Penguin Putnam, for my perusal. As with all ARCs, I do not keep these, but pass them on to students who are without books.
Being published today is the short story collection, This Family is Driving Me Crazy: Ten Stories About Surviving Your Family, edited by M. Jerry and Helen S. Weiss. Authors included are Joan Bauer, Mel Glenn, Jack Gantos, Gordon Korman, Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Dian Curtis Regan, John H. Ritter, Nancy Springer, and David Lubar. The three stand out stories were Korman's Wimp of Sparta, about a boy in a family of daredevils who does not want to risk his own health and life, but ends up using his family's adventurous tendencies in a pinch. Really, this was so intriguing that it could be a book. David Lubar's Orway Otnay Otay Ebay (bad pig Latin aside-- I'm fluent in the 'language') was also great-- I loved the story of the boy trying to make money off his father's junk by describing it vividly on Ebay, and how this practice in writing serves him so well. Dian Curtis Regan's Happily (Sorta) Ever After (Maybe) was an affecting tale of a girl trying to fit in with her brother's family while her parents are away, and trying to introduce her niece or nephew to be to books that weren't of the ridiculous baby variety. As with any collection, I tended to like the stories by authors I normally enjoy. All in all, a very good collection. Now if I can just get students to read short stories-- they are not popular in my library.
Tim Byrd's Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom was clearly written with young boys in mind, a refreshing change. Brian and Wren Wilde are used to accompanying their father, the adventurer Doc Wilde, on adventures, but when their grandfather goes missing, they must travel to the jungles of South America and battle evil, mutant frog creatures who are out to take over the world. Not a page goes by without someone falling, running, or something exploding, so this is a major attention grabber. Remember our lesson yesterday on how boys like plot-driven rather than character driven books? This is an excellent example. There is also a lot of goofy frog goop, some over-the-top baddies, and, of course, the Frogs of Doom.
Thought about this one a lot last night (had to go to a Cross Country banquet), and I decided that this might be best for an elementary audience. There is very little character development, and my boys really do want some of this (that's the major complaint about Horowitz's Snakehead ). There is also a sliding Goofy Scale in middle school that is very tricky to navigate. Realistic fiction can be exceedingly goofy, even for 8th grade boys. For action and adventure, however, the goofier it is, the harder it is for the boys to believe it could actually happen. In this, the gremlitoads and gremlipoles, mentioned in larger, contrasting print, pushed this over the line and combined with the slightly cheesy cover, elicited some nose wrinkles from the older boys. Some 6th graders would pick this up, but the biggest fans will be 3rd through 5th grade boys. I'm sure another book is in the works, and those readers will be waiting for it.