27 June 2013, Razorbill
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Emma has high hopes for fourth grade until she realizes that Isla is in her class-- the same Isla who compared her to a "poopy brown M&M" in kindergarten. She also has to deal with the insufferable Daniel, who was moved up from third grade because he is so brilliant. Luckily, Emma fixed one of her friends up with a boyfriend at summer camp, and her classmates are clamoring for her to use her "superpower" on them. Emma manages to pair up Otto and Leah, who both like fantasy books, and manages to rope Kevin into a "playground wedding" with her best friend, Claire. When Isla demands to be paired up with lacrosse playing soccer, Emma is at a lost... because Parker is in the 6th grade and doesn't even go to their school! She does her best, and while frantically trying to pair up everyone before the fall festival, finds a crush of her own (aside from superstar Jake LaDrake!).
Strengths: I really like this author's other series, Take Two and Liberty Porter. DeVillers is sort of a Carolyn Heywood of the new millenium. She must have a grade school age daughter, since she hits all the minutiae of 4th grade right on the head. Square dancing in gym with a boy who was a good foot taller than I was... had a bad flashback while reading this, it was so vivid.
Weaknesses: I found this disturbing. Even if fourth graders ARE this interested in romance, should we be encouraging them? There are some vague attempts to redirect girls, but a playground wedding? A ten year old writing "Emma LaDrake" in her notebook? Just made my skin crawl on a very personal level. If it were 7th graders, it would still be a bit uncomfortable. That said, I do remember trying to maneuver on the school bus so I could sit next to Shawn Bunger every morning...I just don't know. Any thoughts from people who deal with actual fourth graders?
Ignatow, Amy. The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang ( The Popularity Papers #5)
5 March 2013, Amulet
After their cross country summer trip, Lydia and Julie are back home. For their birthdays, they want musical instruments so they can form a band—not because it’s a cool thing to do, but because they like music. Lydia gets a guitar, and Julie gets a drum set, and they both sign up for lessons and start to practice. When school starts, they reconnect with their friends, and reluctantly let Jane into their band so that she will stop talking about her break up with Chuck. Roland is in the bad as well, and the group gets a gig—at a six year old’s birthday party. It doesn’t go well, but they persevere. They go to one of Melody’s parties to figure out what “cool teenagers” would do, only to find that it’s one of Melody’s new project meetings, not a party. Eventually, the band decides to have their own party and have the Macrame Owls perform at that, where they are a success. Jane and Chuck get back together, and Julie and Roland start dating.
Strengths: Good family relationships, realistically drawn middle school incidents, and a nice mix of pictures and hand drawn text make these books really popular.
Weaknesses: Still can’t get over the fact that while most of the characters are drawn realistically, Julie’s nose takes up her entire face. Seriously. Whose nose goes all the way out to the outside corners of her eyes? That seems odd, but it’s bothered me through all the books!