Monday, December 30, 2013
MMGM- Dog 4491
November 1st 2013, Bucking Horse Books
Copy provided by publisher
Sam finds a dog wandering around his neighborhood, and notices that she has an odd collar-- it has her name, Sophie, and the phrase Garden 4491. With the help of his grandfather Horace, Sam tries to figure out where the dog belongs, and makes a trip with his grandfather (who is in a wheelchair) across the Expressway to the neighborhood where the number was used... before the 1960s. There, Sam and Horace meet the Cheesebro brothers who are interested in the house, and a reporter who is concerned that the city is going to expand the Expressway and lead to more urban decay. They don't meet anyone in the house, though, so can't return the dog. Eventually, Sam returns to the house and ends up traveling back in time to 1926 and meeting Sophie's owner, Rollie. The two boys hit it off and discover that the time travel is facilitated by Sophie as well as a closet that was hit by lightning. In Rollie's time, his father, a judge, is being threatened by ancestors of the Cheeseboro brothers, and in Sam's time, there is government corruption preventing the implementation of mass transit and urban regentrification. The boys work together, aided by Horace, and manage to put things to right in both time periods.
Strengths: Admittedly, the cover and the phrase "time traveling dog" put this at the bottom of my TBR pile for far too long. Once I started reading, I was intrigued by Sam, his feisty grandfather, and the circumstances surrounding their urban neighborhood. The interchange with Rollie was believable, something which is tricky in time travel books, and the political intrigue in both eras was also realistic. Mr. Collard apparently shares many of my political leanings; aside from the interest in mass transit and walkable neighborhoods, there is also a brief mention of testing in Sam's school-- the TIL (Testing Instead of Learning) Test! While the ending was somewhat too neat, it was also very satisfying. Given the time travel role that the old house plays in this, I will have to let Charlotte at Charlotte's Library know about this one!
Weaknesses: I could have done without the grandfather's folksy phrases, and perhaps without his run in with the Cheeseboro brothers. And the cover could be much better. Drawings, while they seem like a good idea, are so frequently passed over by students, who seem to prefer stock photos.
Norwich, Grace. I Am Walt Disney
7 January 2014, Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Confession: I used to check out two Childhood of Famous Americans books every day in fourth grade, when I was a library helper at recess, so I am predisposed to love breezy biographies. This I Am Scholastic series has books that are quick and fun to read, with a variety of subjects, although none of the people covered are especially unknown, which would be more fun. (Robert Fulton? Elias Howe? My favorite, Phil T. Farnsworth? My students have no idea.)
Disney makes a great read for several reasons-- he had an interesting life, with as many difficulties as successes. It's more interesting to read about people who fail and then triumph than about people who have everything go their way, especially when those people were born more than 100 years ago, when every day conditions were much different than they are today. Since students are familiar with Disney's work, they are more apt to pick books about him to read. This had a nice blend of information about his work and life, and was fun for me since I saw Saving Mr. Banks over break. (Which I recommend watching once it's out on video and available at the library, since it was fairly interesting, if sad to the point of being almost maudlin at points.)
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 at Anastasia Suen's blog. Instead of having to visit lots of different blogs, all of the nonfiction posts will be at Nonfiction Monday. I'm bound and determined to figure this out this year!