Allen, Crystal. The Laura Line.
23 April 2013, Balzer and Bray
Laura's parents have to go off for two weeks for military training, and she is supposed to stay with an aunt. When that falls through, she ends up having to stay with her grandmother out in the country. Things are bad enough for Laura-- she's overweight and made fun of at school even though she is convinced she could be a model, and her best friend Sage is starting to hang out with the Pink Chips, a group of popular girls. She doesn't need to be with her grandmother, whose best friend is her history teacher! When the two women decide that Laura's class should visit the slave shack on the grandmother's property, Laura is beyond appalled. Why would her family glorify this? She doesn't even want to understand, even though Troy, a boy on whom she has an enormous crush, finds the history interesting. Laura is just starting to understand and appreciate the history of the shack when she is responsible for damage that occurs to it. Will she be able to fix it and come to terms with sharing her family history with her classmates?
Strengths: Interesting perspective on the continuing impact of slavery, and an intriguing look at generations of women (all named Laura) and how their lives change. Laura has very strong self esteem, and is greatly interested in baseball as well, which is a nice addition.
Weaknesses: I could have done without some of Laura's regional language, like "Oh, heck to the triple no!" Also, while it's great that she has good self esteem, her size combined with her eating habits made me feel worried for her health. As someone who can't eat chocolate because of high blood pressure and triglycerides even though I run two miles a day, it alarmed me that she was so fat other students called her "Larda" and she still didn't think anything of eating Almond Joy bars in secret. She starts off as a very spoiled and selfish character, but does improve.
I enjoyed How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy much more.
Stout, Shawn K. Penelope Crumb Never Forgets
24 January 2013, Philomel
There are some lower middle grade titles that work for grades 6-8, but it's a fine line. This series looks great for elementary school, but I don't see it working for my readers. I do like to take a look at the lower middle grade books, because some of them work really well for my incoming 6th graders.
From Goodreads. com: "Penelope Crumb's best
friend Patsy Cline Roberta Watson is becoming best friends with another
girl in class, so Penelope decides she needs to win her back.
Compliments and presents fail—and Penelope is afraid she'll lose Patsy
Cline forever, so she decides to swipe Patsy's necklace and start a
secret museum to remember all the people she cares about, in case they
leave her too. But stealing turns out not to be the best
plan, when Grandpa Felix calls the police about his missing camera,
forcing Penelope to confess. Now she's lost both Patsy Cline AND her
museum. But in the end she makes a huge personal sacrifice to repair
her friendship with Patsy and finds out that drawing pictures—what she
likes to do best!—is a way to make a personal museum that doesn't
involve any sort of stealing."