Grabenstein, Chris. Riley Mack Stirs Up More Trouble
9 April 2013, HarperCollins
Riley and his friends get involved in an evil scheme by Sara Paxton to ruin Briana's chances for a scholarship at a talent show, but this leads them into an even deeper problem-- the fish in a pond near the country club and Sara's house are dying, and they need to find out why. The country club's golf course has recently been renovated, and they find bags of pancake mix that is tainted with nitrogen buried under the course. The mix is manufactured by Sara's father's company, which has been selling the mix to the US military. Could this be what is making the men in Riley's father's unit in Afghanistan sick? The group of "troublemakers" comes together to help Briana win the scholarship and also to solve the problem with the dying fish.
Strengths: This book does a good job of taking a realistic setting and involving the children in situations that are only slightly out of the ordinary. There's good use of stinking fish, some chases, and a nice "underdog-saving-the-day" feeling. Nice environmental tie in as well.
Weaknesses: In real life, Mr. Paxton would probably go to jail for a really long time-- this is serious stuff, and I would have liked the ending to have wrapped things up a bit more.
Yolen, Jane and Stemple, Adam. B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy)
23 March 2013, Dutton Juvenile
Love Yolen, but absolutely could not do yet ANOTHER book where bullies put a kid's head in the toilet. Fifteen years of teaching and I have NEVER seen it. Might be of interest in an area where there is a larger Jewish population, and the book is not without its charm, but the bullying details were so unrealistic that I just could not go on.
From Goodreads: "Sammy Greenberg would
rather talk back to The Boyz--a gang of bullies at his school--and get
his head stuck in the toilet than constantly be afraid. But when his
friend Skink gets beaten up so badly that he has to go to the hospital,
Sammy thinks he may be in over his head. He decides to build a golem--a
mythical protector from Jewish folklore, made of clay and animated by
the ineffable name of God. But this monster doesn't just protect him and
Skink from The Boyz, he is also a great drummer for their
rock-jazz-klezmer fusion band! But golems come with warnings. They will
protect you until they don't."
I'm sure this will get a lot of good reviews, but I just didn't see it working for my school.