Lettrick, Robert. Frenzy.
8 April 2014, Disney-Hyperion
Heath is glad to be spending the summer at a camp in the Cascade Mountains. He has some good friends, and gets along as well as possible with the oddly calculating Will and even manages to elude the evil bullies Thumper and Floaties. He's concerned when one of the campers kills a porcupine with a squirt gun, and the camp staff thinks the porcupine has rabies, but doesn't think much of it. Then, one day, all the animals start turning on humans, and when the humans are bitten, they die agonizing deaths with purple lines running all over their bodies. Two dozen children from the camp manage to make it to the livery building where the canoes are kept. Will has a plan-- they will get into the river, since the fear of the water kills the animals, and make it to the next major town to get help. Will gives the children willing to leave noisemakers, telling them that the animals are afraid of the noise, but still, about half are killed. The rest work their way through the river, but along the way there are more deaths. Eventually, they take the wrong fork in the river and end up in a government lab where they find out secrets about the animal plague and try to formulate a plan to survive. Only four do, including Cricket, who is poisoned by a porcupine quill but responds well to the antidote.
Strengths: Wow. Not only does this have a FANTASTIC cover, but it is a multilayered book with lots of interesting stuff. On the surface, there is the blood and gore of people being killed by rabid animals, but then we have Will's conniving personality, and a struggle that Heath is having that I don't want to ruin by describing. Some good wilderness survival strategy as well (I love when they are in the middle of the river but then a bunch of BATS come out of the air at them!), decent science connections, and a tiny bit of romance. This certainly kept me turning the pages, and even with the lack of dystopia had a Hunger Games type feel.
Weaknesses: Very violent. Lots of death, since I think only four children survive. We're not just dealing with random, unnamed deaths, either, so I don't think I would buy this for an elementary library, since major characters end up with the Flash-- the "purple vines" of mutant rabies coursing up their arms and legs. I'm becoming less and less a fan of death in middle grade novels (can we please have ONE novel where the main character has BOTH parents?), but at least this is a disease contracted from animals, and not human-on-human violence.
McCreeley, Havelock. My Zombie Hamster
July 8th 2014
Looking for something for students who are too young for Frenzy? Take a look at this title. The description says that it's good for middle school, but when I was about halfway in and there was still no zombie gore or violence, I gave up. I'd love some more zombie books along the lines of Kloepfer's Zombie Chasers, and this wasn't it for me. Need an elementary zombie book? Pair this with My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.
"Matt Hunter and his
buddies are looking forward to Christmas--actually, they're looking
forward to receiving the latest sword-and-fantasy video game. But Matt's
parents have other thoughts--they give him a fluffy little mammal, a
hamster called Snuffles, for the holiday. And his grandmother makes it
worse by giving him a hamster cage and wheel. But the hamster isn't all
that cute--at least not after part of its cheek and belly fall right
off--without bothering it a bit! And why is it staring at Matt with
black beady eyes and a lean and hungry look?
Say hello to Anti-Snuffles, the zombie hamster! Or better yet, run!
This series combines middle-school readers' passions: humor, animals, and scary stories, into one unbeatable package."
Richardson, Gillian. 10 Plants that Shook the World
February 14th 2013
by Annick Press
This book has a lot of very interesting information on pivotal plants-- papyrus, pepper, tea, sugarcane, cotton, cacao, cinchona (from which quinine is made), rubber, potato and corn.Aside from origins and uses, there are bits of information about points in history when each plant was particularly influential. I can see this being very useful as a Common Core nonfiction piece to go along with a lot of different novels. I wish it had been a bit more streamlined, however: there are occasional somewhat fictional pages, and the illustrations are a bit odd. At times, I felt like similar information was presented twice. Still, this is much easier to get through than something like Aronson's
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science.
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.