Must have been reading Young Adult reviews again, because my pile of weekend reading was strange, dark, depressing, and not middle school appropriate. Drat. Did enjoy the following two.
Janeczko, Paul. The Dark Game:True Spy Stories.
Since this author brings to my mind poetry collections, I had to see what this new book was! Starting with the Revolutionary War, this is a quick overview of famous spy, spy techniques, and improvements in technology in various historical periods including the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Cold War as well as recent moles. Includes bibliography and illustrations.
Strengths: Janeczko clearly has a love for spy stories, and has researched the topic thoroughly. He also has a good eye for presenting this information to younger readers in an engaging way.
Weaknesses: The illustrations could have been better. There were some that looked like they came from 1950s text books, and the credits weren't very clear.
Fuqua, Jonathon Scott. King of the Pygmies. (2005)
Penn enjoys hanging out with his brother Matty, but when he tries smoking cigarettes (so he can impress a girl), he starts to hear the voices of people around him even when they aren't talking. He hears Matty's frustration at being developmentally delayed, his parents' worries, even the depression of his neighbor. For a while, this comes and goes and he thinks he can handle it, but when his uncle professes the same symptoms and tells Penn that it is "Pygmy Syndrome", Penn tells his parents that he may be having mental problems. He talks to a psychiatrist who is not very helpful, but luckily has a good support network in his family and friends, especially Daisy, the girl he likes. This was recommended to me by a student-- I always love it when someone gets a chance to recommend a book to me!
Strengths: This is a good description of someone struggling with a more mild mental illness, and the notes in the back of the book explain schizophrenia a little better.
Weaknesses: Matty is referred to repeatedly as "retarded" and Penn has trouble understanding that Daisy is Filipino rather than Chinese, which just seemed odd given the lengths we go to to be politically correct.