Thursday, April 26, 2012

Girls of Various Kinds

Morgan, Melissa J. Camp Confidential. (2005)
Natalie is not happy that she has to go to Camp Lakeview while her mother is out of the country-- she'd rather stay in New York City than to have to sleep on a thin mattress in a draft cabin, eat burnt French toast and shower in cold water every morning. There are some cute boys, and some of the girls in her cabin are okay, but basically the activities are all so juvenile, quaint and ... gross. Despite this, she has a decent time, getting into lots of scrapes with her new bunkmates. Natalie has a big secret about her father than she is trying hard to keep, but that proves impossible when he and his friend Josie show up to take Natalie away from camp is she is really miserable.
Strengths: This has the same "beach read" appeal as The Clique series. Natalie is spoiled and very rich, and there is a fair amount of girl drama. One of my students who really likes Ellen Conford loaned this to me, and likes the whole series, so I will definitely look into buying the first couple and see how they do.
Weaknesses: Like The Clique, this was a bit unbelievable and mean, but I think it will be popular. Also have a problem with a modern book having an eleven year old named Karen. When I was born, it was at #3, but in 2001 came in at #246. That said, my daughter's name doesn't even make the list for the year she was born!

Rosenthal, Betsy. Looking For Me.
17 April 2012
In Depression era Baltimore, Edith is part of a hard working Jewish family with twelve children. She is the "little mother" and often has to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. Her favorite brother is Melvin, but when he passes away, her mother decides she will no longer work at the family diner with her father, so Edith is sent to work there instead. Edith really wants to make a success of herself in school, because her teacher tells her that she is smart, but things do not look good for a child from a large family at this point in history.
Strengths: I enjoyed this because I liked All-of-a-Kind Family and other books about large Jewish families, and I learned several things about finances in the Depression. This is the story of the author's mother's life.
Weaknesses: Novel in verse. Some actually rhyme, but like the vast majority of this type of book, it reads more like prose broken up in arbitrary lines. Finding a middle grade audience for this will be tough.

Bell, Juliet. Kepler's Dream.
Publication date 10 May 2012, Putnam Juvenile. ARC from Baker and Taylor

Ella's mother is ill with cancer, so she is sent to the home of her quirky grandmother (known as GM), where she at least has the company of Rosie, the daughter of a man who works for GM. After a disturbance on the grounds one night (and there's a map at the beginning of the book), GM discovers that a valuable book has been stolen from their library; Kepler's Dream. Ella's grandfather, who was an astronomer and knew Michael Collins, valued the book, so Ella (who has nothing better to do with her time) decides that she will discover who the thief is. Her investigation involves research into a variety of books, and keeps her mind off her mother's sickness as well as the relative dysfunction of her relatives.
Strengths: Have a feeling that this will get a lot of buzz and may even win an award. It has all of the elements that adults tend to like in middle grade books; quirky characters, a bit of history, clue-oriented mystery, and family angst.
Weaknesses: I find that these elements make for a hard sell in my library, especially when the plot is rather slow paced.


Mike Winchell said...

This is why I like you so. Your comments about KEPLER'S DREAM and how it has "all the elements that adults tend to like in middle grade books" is met with the realism that "I find that these elements make for a hard sell" is perfect. Somewhere along the way, publishers forgot that kids are the market and that we need to appeal to them. Editors need to remove themselves from the equation, and let the demographic determine what should be bought, and then pushed. If they don't start thinking about kids, they'll find themselves removed from the picture.

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