So here's the question of the day-- what do you do when a middle grade author brings out a book with a middle grade cover, one which all your cute little middle graders will be begging for--- and it's really more YA? I'd love to hear opinions on this one, because I am still just not sure about it.
Colfer, Eoin. The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1)
7 May 2013, Disney Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Riley is an orphan in London in 1898, and he is not happy working for Garrick, whose job it is to kill people. When they are on assignment, Riley suddenly gets sucked through time. Chevron Savano is also a teenage orphan, and she works for the feds-- after her last assignment ends badly in the US, she is sent to babysit an alt-tech capsule in the basement of a London town house, accompanied by another agent, Professor Smart. This is super boring until Riley is brought through. He's worried about Garrick following, but Chevie thinks it highly unlikely, even after she learns from Smart that the government has been using time travel to hide key witnesses in the past (FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). Things go horribly wrong, though, and Garrick and Smart are morphed into one person and brought to present day London, where they evil Garrick is obsessed with getting back at Riley, getting the master Timekey from Chevie, and killing as many people in as many gruesome ways as possible. Can Riley and Chevie stop him before he alters the fabric of the universe?
Strengths: Colfer's Artemis Fowl series (2001-2012) was one that was published at a good clip, kept students interested in the new books coming out, and still enthralls readers. This first book is action packed, has good time travel, and incorporates Steam Punk elements in a way that even students who aren't familiar with it can understand. I also liked that Chevie is Native American, and while this is addressed, is not the whole point of the story.
Weaknesses: This was incredibly bloody and gory, to the extent where I don't know if I can buy it for my school. The very first chapter starts with Garrick instructing Riley on how to kill someone with a knife, and gets very graphic about how muscle and bone make this difficult. There is a horrible murder of an entire hazmat team, and when Garrick and Smart fuse, there is gore everywhere. Sure, there are other gory books, but it's usually zombies or monsters or animals. It's the human perpetrators of grisly murders that give me pause. Oddly, I haven't seen any other reviews that even mention this. Any thoughts? Anyone else buying this? If I hadn't read it, I would have bought it without thinking about it, on the strength of the Artemis Fowl series.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader. It's also Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Stacking Books.
Troupe, Thomas Kingsley. Illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Magnet Power: Science Adventures with MAG-3000 the Origami Robot, Diggin' Dirt: Science Adventures with Kianai the Origami Dog
1 January 2013, Picture Window Books
Reading catalogs, or even doing searches on Titlewave, can help find all sorts of useful titles. Occasionally, however, I get distracted and end up checking out books on knitting dog sweaters or picture books from the public library! The nonfiction books above were not quite as frivolous a pursuit-- sometimes picture books on difficult science topics are good to have, and the origami tie in was irresistable. While these had a fun story and lots of information, they really were more appropriate for grades K-3, as the publisher suggests. If you work with younger students, definitely give them a try. I guess the thing I found a bit disturbing is that they seem to be playing off the popularity of The Origami Yoda which is really NOT appropriate for grades K-3. That's definitely a middle school book!