24 September 2013, Random House Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Far enough in the future that I will be dead, Hope is living in a world partially destroyed by World War III and "green bombs". Scientists thought that they could avert some damage of the bombs in previous wars, but they succeeded only in creating a world that could be lived in... if people survive. Hope's community of white rock is surrounded by the "bomb's breath"; air that is chemically changed so that it kills people. It also has knocked out the abilities of magnets, so it's hard to use electricity in the way it is used now. Since so much technology disappeared, the town puts a heavy emphasis on people inventing things, and Hope always fails miserably at the yearly contests, which she feels disappoints her adoptive parents, especially since she is always taking reckless chances, like jumping through the bomb's breath area for fun. When the town is attacked by bandits who want White Rocks antibiotics and injure Hope's father, she knows that she has to use her daredevil skills to save him. She and her friend Aaren set off to a neighboring town to get the guards but have to contend with a blizzard as well as Aaren's young sister Brenna, who runs away to join them. It's hard going, but Hope perseveres and ends up realizing that even though she can't invent things, she can contribute to her community.
Strengths: The world building of this is interesting and within the realm of possibility. I liked that Hope, though orphaned, had a support network. Lots of good action and survival scenes. I didn't think that I would like this one when I picked it up since it had a generic fantasy cover and dystopia has been done to death, but I found myself enjoying this more than I thought. I liked Hope, too, which helped.
Weaknesses: Book two is scheduled for next September, but I wish this were a stand alone since there are SO few of them in middle grade literature! I thought the story was complete, although I'm not averse to reading more about Hope.
Macaulay, David. Toilet: How it Works
10 September 2013, David Macaulay Studio
This very brief and easy-to-read book would have been one that my son adored when he was in first grade. We had a copy of The Way Things Worked that he pored over all the time, but was about half as big as he was. This is a smaller volume that younger children would be able to read and enjoy.
The explanation and pictures are so good that I am contemplating this for my middle school, since titles such as Poop Happened are rather long.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday, with the Round Up this week at Sally's Bookshelf.
If you deal with mainly middle grade literature, you should hop over to Charlotte's Library and read her post on "Middle Grade Bloggers as Fans, Gatekeepers, Partners of the Industry, & Members of a Gender-Imbalanced Community, Part I ". This very nearly lead to a Blather post from me, but I'm still thinking about it. I just read a realistic fiction book by an author who is very active in the Kidlitosphere and seems like a nice person, but I can't see any of my students being interested in the book. At all. This has happened before, and I'm never sure what to do. In my reviews, I try to be very clear that I am considering MY students and what THEY will read, but honestly, this often means "What on earth was this author thinking?" The book was perfectly fine, very well written, and the occasional student might find it interesting, but I need
books that are immediately interesting to students, so I won't be buying this.
If you can't see students being interested in books you read, do you review them? Or just quietly skip mentioning them on your blog?