Magoon, Kekla. Camo Girl.
Ella's life is difficult enough-- her father has died of cancer, her mother is gone half the week for work, and she is in middle school. She has always been friends with Z, but as they have gotten older, Z's behavior is seen as stranger and stranger. Her other friend, Millie, has distanced herself from Ella because she doesn't want to hang around Z, but Ella feels responsible for Z's well-being, especially since his father left and he and his mother are living at WalMart, where his mother works. When another black student, Bailey, comes to school and takes an interest in Ella, she is thrilled that she might finally have some other friends, but her relationship with Bailey annoys Z. Ella tries to balance all of the facets of her life, but things become difficult when Z runs off to Las Vegas and she and Bailey go to find him.
Strengths: This was a very moving story of friendship and protrays accurately how difficult middle school is for anyone, especially for those who are different. I loved all of the characters, and the story had enough action that students will not think it is too slow.
Weaknesses: While I figured that Ella suffered from vitiligo (hence the title), and Z was probably on the autism spectrum, this was not clearly explained. I think it would have been helpful for my students to know the underlying cause of the challendes with which the two main characters are dealing.
Spradlin, Michael. Orphan of Destiny.
(Sequel to Keeper of the Grail and Trail of Fate.)
Tristan is back. He, along with Robard and Maryam, needs to get the grail to a safe place, but Sir Hugh is hot on his trail and killing as many of Tristan's cohorts as possible. To make matters worse, Tristan has angered Eleanor of Aquitaine, who tells him he will never take the throne, which gives him a pretty good idea of the secret that everyone has been hiding from him. Even when all of the obstacles are overcome, the grail is safe and things are quiet, I think that this may continue, because the body of Sir Hugh was never found...
Strengths: This series is hugely popular in my library! It is fast-paced, related to the curriculum, and has appealing characters. Even the books are beautifully formatted.
Weaknesses: Only mine-- I am having trouble keeping up with series! It was hard for me to remember what Tristan had been up to previously, which is why this sounds like anemic praise.
Ames, Ruth. This Totally Bites.
Emma-Rose has always felt different from her family. They are sunny and upbeat, she is pale and loves black. When her great-aunt Margo comes to town to help her mother with a museum exhibit about bats, Emma-Rose realizes why she is so different-- she takes after Margo, who is most likely a vampire! There are other problems to worry about, though. Emma-Rose is in charge of the school dance, and it falls on the same night of her mother's exhibit opening. With the help of Henry, a boy she has been crushing on, Emma-Rose manages to organize the dance, find out the secrets of her past, and realize that being who she is is just perfect.
Strengths: These books (Poison Apple series by Scholastic) are just perfect for my 6th grade girls who want to read Twilight but just can't.
Weaknesses: This would have been more successful for me if Margo hadn't turned out to be a real vampire, but my girls will still be pleased. At least Emma-Rose is not one. (It skips generations!)
Garza, Mario. Stuff on My Mutt.
This one is not my fault! One of our teachers is working on her MLS and needed this for a class, and once I requested it from Interlibrary Loan for her, I had to read it. To my dog, of course, who now wants me to knit her some legwarmers. This tiny, paperbound bit of fluff from Chronicle Books is not something that I will buy for my library, but it would certainly circulate it if I had it! The book consists mainly of pictures people have taken of their dogs, with stuff on them. Check out the web site.
Boynton, Sandra. Amazing Cows.
Well, again, not quality literature, but I did think that perhaps I could pass this off as a nonfiction book about cows. Can't really, but it was fun to read! Love the cow knock knock jokes, the story involving 80 cows named Tino, and, well... all of it. Can I justify purchasing it? No. Darn. I wish that there were some middle grade fiction ala Wimpy Kid done by Boynton. Ooh. Maybe I can justify buying Chocolate: The Consuming Passion (1982). But it's out of print!
Daly, Cathleen. Flirt Club.
From the publisher: "Through notes and journal entries, best friends and self-proclaimed "drama geeks" Cisco (Izzy) and the Bean (Annie) write of the trials of middle school, as well as their efforts to attract boys by forming a Flirt Club. "
Strengths: Girls who are big fans of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson will find the rambling notes and journal entries a treat!
Weaknesses: I couldn't finish this one because of the rambling journal entries. Also, I kept getting the feeling that it was set in the 1970s, even though there were no indications that this was the case. I'll fling this at some random readers today to get their take on it, but I'm just not sure.