February 4th 2014 by Grosset & Dunlap
Jake is not happy to move from Florida to Maryland because of his father's job change, but he feels that his new school will go well because he is such an AWESOME kid and he had lots of friends at his old school. He does have an annoying older sister, Alexis, who doesn't help the settling in process when she yells at neighborhood kids who are commenting on the family's possessions as they are moved in to the new house. Things go even more poorly at school, where Jake goes to a 2nd grade classroom by mistake and can only manage to make friends with the "misfit toys". At least he has friends, though, and an interest in drawing that leads him to create a series of "Kid Cards" that take the school by storm.
Strengths: This is a notebook novel with good illustrations, and the clip art photos add an interesting touch that I have only seen in a few books. It has its humorous moments, and the author is to be applauded for attempting to make up for the dearth of funny books for boys. The cover alone will make it a book that students will readily pick up.
Weaknesses: This was written by an actual 12 year old, which I didn't know until I finished the book but which did explain the characteristically slim plot online. I should remember that Gordon Korman wrote his first book at an early age and went on to become one of the best middle grade authors around. Perhaps Mr. Marchionette's writing style will mature as well.
Our spring break starts today! We are going all out-- the girls and I are cranking the heat to 65 degrees, having a trial membership of both Amazon Prime AND Netflix, and we may even get take out one night if we can stand the absolute crazy. I'm just looking forward to a lot of extra sleep! To celebrate, here's the sixth Crush book by Angela Darling.
Darling, Angela. Isabella's Spring Break Crush
March 4th 2014 by Simon Spotlight
Isabella is distraught that all of her friends are doing cool things over spring break, but since her father is an accountant busy with taxes and her doctor mother is busy with people who have the flu, they never go anywhere, saving instead for a nice summer vacation. With her older brother David at college, her parents still don't want to go anywhere, but agree to send Isabella and her twin brother Jake to Florida to visit her grandma Miriam. Since grandma won't let the kids eat sugar, go out in the sun, or watch television during the day, this is bound to be boring... until cute boy Ryan shows up visiting his grandmother, and there is the added drama of twins Ashley and Andrew showing up as well. In the end, Isabella has a great time with her grandma and is excited about coming back during the summer... when Ryan will also be visiting again!
Strengths: I know that these are kind of cheesy, but really, Darling has excellent, fluid prose, great details about supportive families, and pitch perfect 11-year-old details of "romance". The fact that this series also has a wide range of ethnicities on the cover, and that the ethnicities are addressed but are not the center of the stories, is nothing short of brilliant. Definitely comfort reads for some of my struggling readers who don't come from supportive families. I like to think that these give them a model for appropriate, healthy relationships.
Weaknesses: Thought the romance was a little weak on this... no swoony first kiss on the beach, which is usually the highlight of these books. Nice to know that Ryan DOES like Isabella enough to want to see her over the summer, though!