Mann, Jennifer Ann. Sunny Sweet is SO not sorry.
1 October 2013, Bloomsbury USA
ARC from Baker and Taylor
When Masha wakes up with her head glued to her pillow, and flowers stuck in her hair, she knows that her annoyingly precocious sister, Sunny, is to blame. She decides to stay home from school, which her mother says is okay. It's a good thing she does, because she's there when her neighbor, Mrs. Song, falls off her bicycle. Masha is able to call 911 and is there when the ambulance comes, but things get complicated. Sunny has come home from school, and both girls go in the ambulance with Mrs. Song. They end up having a whole host of adventures in the hospital, including Masha's arm being put in a cast, and Sunny getting into all kinds of trouble. After meeting some of the children who are patients in the hospital, Masha has a new appreciation of how lucky she is, even if her younger sister is obnoxious.
Strengths: This was a very quick read, and I wouldn't mind seeing further adventures of these two if they were somewhat more realistic. While a little young for middle school students, I could see this being very popular with the elementary crowd.
Weaknesses: I had to suspend disbelief at the circumstances. Don't know that the ambulance crew would have taken the girls with Mrs. Song, and I also couldn't believe that the hospital would cast Masha's arm without a parent. Isn't that why I STILL send Emergency Medical Authorization cards with my minor children whenever they go anywhere for more than a day? Students won't be bothered by this, but it took some of the fun out of the story for me. I worry.
Cox, Judy. Ukulele Hayley.
5 September 2013, Holiday House
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Hayley wants to find something to do in the school talent show, so she's thrilled when she buys a vintage ukulele at a garage sale. She convinces her very busy music teacher to show her the basics, and ends up getting a large number of students to join her in forming a ukulele band, just like her great-aunt had. The economy is tight, though, and working against her-- not only is her father back in school after losing his job, but the school board is working on budget cuts-- which will include cutting music. Hayley and her band rally and manage to restore the program with some help from senior citizens at a nursing home the bad visited.
Strengths: This is a nice, realistic story. I especially enjoyed how Hayley's family was protrayed. In the picture of them heading off to garage sales, they are all on bikes, and ALL wearing helmets.
Weaknesses: Not that students would notice, but I thought the issue of the budget cuts was not done realistically. The school board member is shown as pompous and uncaring, and I doubt that even donated money would save the music program. (My district just went through this, and lots of cuts were made to music, despite the efforts of supporters.) My other slight beef is that Holiday House covers are routinely... meh. Not horrible, but not good, either. I had a whole box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor, and when I laid them all out of the table, I could tell which ones were from this publisher. I know it's expensive to do good covers, but it's more of a formatting issue, somehow. Can't quite put my finger on it.