I hesitate to compare new books to really popular titles ever since Barbara Brooks Wallace complained that everyone compared her (vastly superior) books to Lemony Snicket, so I will say this: Big Nate is vastly superior to the Wimpy Kid books, but will satisfy readers who don't want to pick up anything else.
Nate is not overly fond of school, but when he gets a fortune cookie one morning that claims he will "surpass all others", he launches into his day with vigor. Unfortunately, with too much vigor for many of his teachers, who don't appreciate his doodles, outbursts, or his green bean eating record setting attempt. He manages to accumulate more detentions in a single day than any other student has ever managed-- thereby "surpassing all others". This book is just the right shade of realistic goofy for middle school boys, and the sorts of things that Nate does, and the opinions of the people in his life that he holds, will ring very true. I liked Nate. He was a good kid who meant well, and there are so many of those. I'm sure there will be sequels. Instead of buying too many copies of The Ugly Truth, I think I'll put the money into extra copies of these!
Stevens, Chris. Thirty Days Has September: Cool Ways to Remember Stuff
During the library lesson on reference books last week, I tried to come up with a mnemonic for print reference books, but all I could come up with EDATA (encyclopedia, dictionary, almanac, thesaurus, atlas), which wasn't quite right. This little paperback from Scholastic has a lot of hints for how to remember spelling, grammar, and items from different curricular areas. It wasn't a fabulous read, but if you are ordering from Scholastic for your classroom, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have one on hand for children to browse.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis.
This graphic biography is the story of the author's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in the late 70s and early 80s. It was a tremendously fascinating look at a well-educated, middle class family caught in the tumult of changing values. While not middle school appropriate (both subject matter and interest level), it was a fascinating read. Marjan'es family protests the changes in the government until the personal toll becomes too much, and they send Marjane to Austria. There are sequels that I may have to pick up during the summer. Interestingly, my public library has this shelved in the graphic novel collection.
Instead of waiting to get the actual book in my hand from the public library, I read sample chapters of some titles I wasn't all that excited about. For example, John Cusick's Girl Parts didn't seem like it would be middle school appropriate (it wasn't), but I was intrigued nonetheless.
Milford's Boneshaker lost me with its 1913, Southern setting, but other people liked it:
Brody's The Karma Club was more of a high school book, and my older daughter would love it:
Hughes' A Crack in the Sky was a pretty decent futuristic/dystopian novel, but I just don't have students wanting very many of those. Can't even get the Susan Beth Pfeffer trilogy to circulate. I will keep it in mind if I have enough money, though.
My book buying is all predicated on what I have requests for. Since students are asking for medieval-ish/dystopian/ paranormal/fantasy-type books as much, I have a growing impatience with them and that's why nothing grabbed me about the following three. Other people really liked some of these titles, so check them out.
Bracken's Brightly Woven
Is it helpful for me to mention titles I DON'T intend to buy? Unless a book is wretchedly bad, I don't feel a need to write a disparaging review, but I pick up many books that don't suit my needs that may be just what someone else wants.