Graff, Lisa. Double Dog Dare.
April 12th 2012
Kansas moves to town because his parents are divorced, and he's not thrilled to be there. He's even less thrilled with Media Club, which puts on the video morning announcements, but when there is a tie for the next host between him and Francine, he manages to get the students interested in a "double dog dare" competition to decide the winner. The two embark on a series of dares that include running underwear up the flagpole, Kansas wearing his sister Ginny's tutu to school, Francine dying her hair green, and a number of other stunts. The two get in a little bit of trouble, but since their families are both dealing with divorces, things are disorganized enough that they aren't in big trouble. That is, until they both get a chance to host the announcements and complete dares on air-- Francine picks her nose and eats it, and Kansas delivers all of the announcements while spinning in his chair... until he throws up. The announcer's position seems less important after a while than understanding friends and staying on the straight and narrow in school!
Strengths: I thought that this would be just a silly, episodic book, but I rather enjoyed it. There was a lot going on in both Kansas' and Francine's families regarding the recent divorces, and I did like how the two children start off hating each other and start to be friends. Supporting characters are strong as well. I got a copy of this at a book look and will put it in the library.
Weaknesses: The children are in fourth grade, which may dissuade some middle school students from picking up the book, as might the cartoonish cover. This is too bad, because I think that they will like the book.
Jennings, Patrick. My Homework Ate My Homework.
April 23rd 2013, EgmontUSA
Nominated for the Cybils by Publisher/Author
Zaritza has agreed to take care of the class ferret, Bandito, even though she hates the animal and thinks he smells. He also eats her math homework, which causes her to get a failing grade in math. Because of this, she can't try out for the play, so she has classmate Eden tutor her and spends a lot of time making up her math assignment... which is then eaten by Wormy, the family dog that she dislikes. Zaritza eventually gets credit for her math assignment, so gets to try out for the play. She hopes to get the part of Calamity Jane, but that part goes to Eden. Zaritza decides that she'll try to steal the show as in her bit part, but keeps running afoul of everyone from her mother (who is cranky because she is at home with Zaritza's small sister) to her classmates. Eventually, she makes some peace with her situation and helps Eden with the part, and comes to like Bandito as well.
Strengths: Well-paced and fairly funny, this would be a good, short, humorous book for elementary students.
Weaknesses: I found Zaritza to be one of the whiniest characters I think I've seen in middle grade literature. Every chapter is another horrible thing that someone has done to her. While this is somewhat amusing, it got to be rather irritating after a while.