Stoudemire, Amar'e. Schooled (Standing Tall and Talented #4)
27 August 2013, Scholastic
Even though Amar'e is in the 6th grade, his street game has brought him to the attention of his middle school coach, and with parental permission, he is able to play on the school team. This doesn't make the 7th and 8th graders happy, and they give him a hard time until they realize that not only is his game good, he is a helpful teammate who has been working with one of the boys who is struggling with his homework.
Strengths: This is a solid continuation of a very popular series. At 139 pages, it doesn't scare boys off, and there is enough description of basketball games that I was confused for a lot of the book-- a good sign, in this case! There is a good message about the importance of education, but it isn't overplayed.
Weaknesses: At some point in ten years, someone will lose book two, and I won't be able to replace it! I think that even when students don't know who Stoudemire is, these books will hold up! Not earthshaking literature, but exactly what my boys want to read.
Jinks, Catherine. How to Catch a Bogle
3 September 2013
by HRH Books for Young Readers
In Victorian London, Birdie feels fortunate to help Alfred, the bogler. She sings and attracts the bogles, he dispatches them, and she gets food, clothing and shelter in return. She doesn't feel that she is in danger, and is pleased that she is helping to save other children from the horrible monsters. When the upper class Miss Eames starts to pay Alfred to tag along to the bogle slayings, Birdie is rather annoyed. Miss Eames feels that Birdie is in peril, and offers to take her in, pay for music lessons, and raise her. Birdie feels that she would lose a lot of independence that way, and besides, Miss Eames is wrong about how bogles should be caught, so she is probably wrong about other things, too. There is a particularly vicious bogle that is eating children, and Alfred and Birdie come across a plot. Can they keep the bogles at bay, as well as discover what evil person is encouraging them?
Strengths: I enjoyed this very much. I like most of Jinks' titles-- the Pagan's Crusade series is especially interesting, as is Living Hell and, of course, the Evil Genius series. It would be a good companion to A Drowned Maiden's Hair and other orphan tales set during this time period. Fairly scary, but not enough to give me nightmares, and beautifully written. A real treat.
Weaknesses: It's very difficult to get students to read books set in Victorian London, and there are some details that they might not understand without having background knowledge. This is the first book in a trilogy. If I had the fantasy readers that I had a couple of years ago, I'd certainly buy this, but I don't just now. A shame, but I think it would gather dust.