Larson, Kirby. Duke
27 August 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Hobie is "the man of the house" while his father is flying bombing missions during WWII. Emotions are running high, and fifth grade boys find any reason to give each other a hard time. New kid Max Klein is accosted for being German, and Hobie is goaded into being more patriotic and less wimpy by giving up his beloved dog, Duke, to Dogs for Defense. Duke is sent to California and trained with Marine Marv. Hobie thought that his dog would stay stateside and come back to him, but when the boys in his class intimate that Duke will probably see combat, Hobie tries to convince the Marines to send Duke back, especially when Hobie's young sister has trouble with the separation. When Hobie's father is captured by the Germans, things become even more difficult for the family, and Hobie regrets sending Duke. He and Max strike up an uneasy friendship when they find an abandoned dog, which becomes harder when Max sends the dog to Dogs for Defense as well. In the end, everything works out for the best.
Strengths: Larson is an excellent writer, and I do love her books, but my students have to be persuaded to read things likel The Friendship Doll or Hattie Big Sky. Duke, while about the home front, has many things to recommend it. Lots of details about what life was like, and the added interest of the dog. I'd still rather this be about Duke's experiences over seas-- readers will have to turn to the C. Alexander London Dog Tags series for that.
Weaknesses: Anybody else REALLY bothered by the main character's name? Jamie Gilson has a whole series of books that include Hobie Hanson, You're Weird. It distracted me unnecessarily! Also, it doesn't seem very realistic that everything works out so neatly at the end, but it was probably too sad to have Duke die or be left.
Brown, Jeffrey. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
27 August 2013, Scholastic
ARC from Netgalley.com
Boy, I thought this would be a slam dunk. Graphic novel AND Star Wars? However, my core Star Wars readers (including Surly Teen Boy) are VERY SERIOUS about Star Wars, and this was more of a comic romp. The fact that STB is older might have caused him to wrinkle his nose, but my core readers... they won't even read the Davids' books out of order, and if I am missing one in a series we have to get it from the public library. They tend to be a wee bit anal retentive. Perhaps for younger Star Wars fans, this would be a good match, but I don't see this working in my library, darn it.
original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and
frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics,
journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. The setting?
A galaxy far, far away...
Roan's one dream is to leave home and
attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather.
But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is
invited to attend Jedi Academy--a school that he didn't apply to and
only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is,
This inventive novel follows Roan's first year at
Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he
possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed.
Oh, and he learns other important things too--like how to make a baking
soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift
boulders with the Force."