Taylor, Chloe. Knot Too Shabby! (#7)
June 3rd 2014
by Simon Spotlight
Zoey is having an awesome summer! She gets to go to New York and visit the design studio of her favorite designer, Daphne Shaw, and even gets a t shirt! Then, she and Priti are whisked off for six weeks of an arts summer camp. Zoey isn't happy that she isn't able to keep up with her blog AND that she doesn't have her own sewing machine so that she can keep making clothes. Priti hopes that her parents will reconcile while she is gone, since they have been fighting so much. Camp is a fun experience-- Zoey gets to help with costumes, Priti finds a boyfriend, and Zoey designs clothes for twins whose parents make them dress alike.
Strengths: Summer camp stories are hard to write, but this works. I like how Zoey is concerned for Priti and supportive of her.
Weaknesses: Still not buying the success of Zoey's blog! Might just be the bitter talking.
Taylor, Chloe. Swatch Out! (#8)
June 3rd 2014
by Simon Spotlight
Priti's parents are getting a divorce, and her father has moved out. Priti is devastated, and Zoey tries to make her feel better by helping her decorate her new bedroom with the help of her aunt. She also helps her brother enter a band competition, and he does really well. Zoey designs a t shirt from the band and gets some attention from one of her favorite young rock stars and his sister! She tries to figure out who the very generous Fashionista is. She runs into trouble when her fabrics swatches go missing and she offends people by asking if they picked them up by mistake. Zoey also gets to design a dress for her friend's very young sister, Sophie.
Strengths: Again, the support of Priti is very nice, as is Zoey's patience with Sophie.
Weaknesses: Meeting the rock start required a suspension of disbelief.
There are at least four more books coming out in this series: A Change of Lace, Bursting at the Seams, Clothes Minded, and Dressed to Frill ( June 16th 2015). I do like them very much, but after a while I start to wonder if buying such a long series is a good investment of funds! Much to my relief, I have had a handful of 6th and even 7th graders who are warming to the series! Hooray!
Harrington, Karen. Courage for Beginners
August 12th 2014
by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Mysti is having a hard time. Her mother is rather quirky-- likes to bake bread, repaint murals on the walls, and never leave the house. Mysti's father is supportive and takes care of Mysti and her younger sister Lauren, but when he sustains a major head injury in a fall, he is hospitalized and the girls are left with their mother, who won't go to the hospital or to the grocery store even when the family starts to run out of food. At school, Mysti's only friend, Anibal, has reinvented himself as a hipster in order to get a girl to like him, and raises his social standing to a point where he not only won't talk to Mysti at school, he makes fun of her. Luckily, Mysti befriends the studious Rama, who has little patience for other students, especially when they make fun of her headscarf. As the months drag on and Mysti's father recuperates very slowly, food becomes an issue, and Mysti starts to have even more problems at school.When will the situatoin become dire enough for her mother to seek help?
Strengths: Middle grade readers like problem novels, as well as books where the children are in charge of their own survival. I especially liked Rama, and the subplot with Anibal rang true.
Weaknesses: The biggest complaint about books? "Nothing happens." This book starts out with Mysti describing nothing happening. Had it started with the father's injury, and then we slowly because aware of the mother's agoraphobia, this would have been more effective for me. It was also rather alarming that the neighbors who drive the girls to the hospital don't step in to help-- no one really does. When the doctor treating their father never sees the mother, he doesn't alert social services? Seems unlikely.