Standiford, Natalie. Switched at Birthday
February 25th 2014, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Lavender is schlumpy and frizzy haired but very good at playing the ukelele and singing. Scarlet is beautiful and runs with the mean girls. Neither girl is happy with her life for a variety of reasons. When the two inadvertently think about the other while blowing out the candles on their birthday cakes, they wake up the next morning in each others' bodies! Scarlet gets a chance to see how mean her friends are to Lavender, and Lavender finds out that Scarlet's perfect life isn't so perfect after all. To complicate matters, Lavender's body (as inhabited by Scarlet) gets the lead in the 8th grade production of The Music Man, and both girls have crushes on boys and want to ask them to the school dance. Can they figure out how to get back to their own bodies, or will they have to have another identity forever?
Strengths: Fabulous cover, and this is just the sort of "magical realism" that my girls love to read. There is some of the mean girl drama involved, which they like more than I do, but at least the exploration of this is productive and positive. Very fun. Adored this author's Boy on the Bridge even though it was very different.
Weaknesses: I did get a little confused about who was doing what, but that's understandable. This would be a good use of lavender and scarlet colored ink, to show whose mind was talking! The play and the dance are both realistically done, even though I don't see many boy/girl couples going to our dances.
Gill, J. Duddy. The Secret of Ferrell Savage.
February 4th 2014
by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Ferrell enters his small town's big sledding race with a lawn chair Super Glued to miss matched skis, and after what looks like a horrendous accident, not only survives but wins. This brings him some acclaim, but it also puts him in the sites of new kid Bruce Littledood, who was the entrant after Ferrell, and was completely ignored. He wants a rematch, and claims to know a deep, dark secret about Ferrell's family. Aided by friends Coby, Eilio and Mary Vittles (on whom he has a bit of a crush), Ferrell not only investigates his family's past, but makes a determined effort to race the annoying Bruce again.
Strengths: This was a quick read, incorporated some history (go ahead, Google "Alferd Packer"), had funny moments, some action, a good ensemble cast, concerned but not overly pushy parents, and a goofy premise. Not to spoil anything, but Ferrell's family are vegan's for a good reason, but the reasons are described within the bounds of acceptability.
Weaknesses: I've been reading a lot of really, really depressing books (was dreaming about stockpiling protein bars again last night, thanks to Eric Walters and The Rule of Three) so this really was just what I wanted. Why did I hesitate about it? The premise ("cannabilism bites"?), the weird names of the characters-- I don't know. I need to think of this like the book Canned; something which 12 year old boys will really, really like. And I did, too. I just somehow didn't want to!