Berk, Josh. Say it Ain't So.
March 11th 2014
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Lenny and the Mikes are back in this sequel to Strike Three, You're Dead. This time, Mike is focusing all of his attention on becoming a good catcher, since his pitching arm is toast. This worries Lenny a bit, since he has made peace with the fact that his baseball career was just never a good idea. He does some announcing for the school team, but he doesn't get to give the commentary that he likes-- just the facts. Mike is glad to replace the bullyish Davis as catcher when Davis is kicked off the team for stealing, and works well with the pitcher, but Lenny starts to realize that someone is stealing Mike's signals, and begins to investigate. He brings in both librarian Mr. Bonzer as well as his niece, Maria, and uncovers not only a signal stealing plot but also information about Davis.
Strengths: Berk is at his best with throwaway funny lines and fun family situations-- Lenny's mother has decided to have "Discardia" instead of either Christmas or Hannukah, so no presents for Lenny! There's enough baseball that I had trouble understanding it, and good interactions with Lenny and the team.
Weaknesses: I thought that Other Mike was marginalized a bit. You can't have two friends named Mike and not give them equal play time! I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first, but it may have been my difficulty in following the details of the baseball.
Miller, Jeff. The Nerdy Dozen
June 10th 2014
E ARC from Edelweiss.com
Neil is really fond of playing video games, especially a military/flying game called Chameleon. When he is supposed to go to his sister's martial arts competition, he instead gets dropped off at his archnemesis' house for the weekend, but when he can no longer stand the bullying, he starts for home, only to be intercepted by the Air Force! They take him and 11 other kids who all play this game and train them to fly the planes for real, because one has been stolen. Neil gets to meet several of the people he knows online, including the person he likes best, Sam... who turns out to be a girl. Soon, the kids find themselves on a remote island with Jones, an air force officer, in the middle of big trouble. A mad millionaire, Harris, has stolen the plane in an attempt to buy all of the video games in the world do that the ostrich based game he created, Feather Duster, will be the only one that people play. Helped out by quirky locals, Neil and his entourage try to use their video gaming skills to save the day.
Strengths: Video gaming AND military derring-do-- good stuff to start a book with. This is not very long, has a decent cover, and enough action and adventure to keep students reading.
Weaknesses: Not only is Neil bullied at home, there is also a bully in the Nerdy Dozen. That was a bit much. This also gets very, very quirky, which is too bad. The target demographic for this kind of book takes their gaming and military action very seriously, even in the 6th grade, so the quirkiness makes this seem like it is for younger students. I will still probably buy this for my library.