Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu.
In this excellent realistic fiction novel, Lucy is going to have the best year ever in the 6th grade, but things get off to a rocky start. A great-aunt is going to come from China and live in her room, she has to go to Chinese school, and she has to deal with the evil Sloane who is challenging her to be captain of the 6th grade basketball team. Luckily, she has a great friend, a crush that just might work out, and a good sense of humor to get her through it all.
Strengths: After I finished reading this, I didn't want to read anything else, because I wanted to stay with Lucy for a little while! There was something about this book that was just perfectly balanced. The family is present and important, but not overwhelming. Lucy's Chinese heritage is crucial but not belabored. Everything in the book is realistically described-- the somewhat overbearing older sister, the family dynamics, Lucy's reactions to everything. Cannot wait to see what else is written by this author!
Weaknesses: Sloane was somewhat stereotypical.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. The Beauty Queen. (1974)
Something about finishing all of the books made me want to go back and reread older titles. This one GREATLY amuses me, because of Pfeffer's recent success with the Life as We Knew It trilogy. Kit has graduated from high school but is not entirely sure if she is going to college; her family doesn't have a lot of money because her father does not keep up with his child support payments. She would like to become an actress, especially after winning a local beauty contest. Her mother wants her to continue in the contests so that she can get tuition, but Kit has to decide whether to follow her mother's dreams or her own.
Strengths: An interesting period piece, and a physical copy that has worn like iron-- a first edition from Doubleday that circulated well for 20 years but still looks like new!
Weaknesses: Dated. Kit advises her younger sister to lose ten pounds; her mother suggests 15. There is some talk about how just getting married is an option, although Kit and her sister are both intelligent and their mother is a nurse. There is an amusing interview where Kit is asked whether she is involved in women's liberation. My students might be completely confused.
Strauss, Elisa. Confetti Cakes for Kids
Still trying to locate interesting cupcake books for the library, but I have to file this one under "Put the book down and back slowly out of the kitchen." This is craziness. Rolling out fondant and putting it over cakes? Certainly, this has some awesomely cute stuff in it, but I can't see any students actually making anything in this.
Speaking of cupcakes, heads up on a new release by Lisa Schroeder coming out in September 2011. Love the cover! The new Joan Bauer, Close to Famous, is out as well. Whee!