Krishnaswami, Uma. The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic
August 13th 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated for the Cybils by Liz Jones Books
In this sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Dini is back in D.C. to visit Maddie while her mother is still working in India. She is also back because Dolly Singh is having the premiere of her movie, Where is Sunny Villa, at the Smithsonian. In true Dolly fashion, however, everything is fraught with drama. Dolly loses her passport. An elephant escapes from the National Zoo, Dolly comes across it, and Chickoo Uncle is struck by the tranquilizer dart meant for the elephant. Maddie and Dini talk the kitchen staff at the hotel into making rose petal milkshakes for Dolly even though the head chef is traumatized by the mere thought of rose petals. The caterer planned can not make food for the event. The girls plan a dance for the premiere, but things go wrong there as well. In the end, things work out, and the event goes well.
Strengths: This was a fun and frenetic romp. Something funny was always happening, and the characters were all engaging. The illustrations by Abigail Halpin were perfect for this. Fun, middle grade stuff!
Weaknesses: I really enjoyed the first book because it was set in India, a place I've never been. While I find Bollywood films fascinating (a student loaned me some to watch a few years ago), I don't know that many of my students will.
There is a downloadable activity kit and other fun information at Ms. Krishnaswami's website.
Woodworth, Chris. Ivy in the Shadows
February 5th 2013
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Nominated for the Cybils by Bradford Lee
After Ivy's guitar playing, untrustworthy stepfather leaves, her mother finds it hard to make ends meet. She goes to church and asks for help, and is offered a job as a waitress and given the opportunity to take in a young boy, Caleb, as a boarder. Both things help, but Ivy isn't happy. Caleb is odd, and with her mother working until 7:00 p.m. or so, she has to babysit her younger brother JJ. Ivy has her own problems at school with friends, but spends a lot of time eavesdropping on her mother's phone conversations with her best friend, Aunt Maureen. Eventually, Maureen comes for a visit because she is bored with her own husband (who is frequently away driving trucks), and things change even more when Pastor Harold visits Ivy's mother a lot.
Strengths: Certainly a timely book for tweens who might be struggling with difficult family situations. The characters are all interesting, and the slight mystery about Caleb's background is not overdone.
Weaknesses: This book was very slow, and read oddly like middle grade fiction from the 1980s. Even the cover is a bit dated.