Don't you love it when book covers serendipitously match? Yum! I have to say that Absolutely Truly was #1 on my TBR list based almost solely on the beautiful cover. I kind of want to... decorate my office around it! The blue, the touches of red, the owl...
Frederick, Heather Vogel. Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery
November 4th 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Truly and her family (two brothers, two sister) move back to her father's hometown in New Hampshire after her pilot father loses an arm to an IED while serving. Truly's grandparents had run a bookstore but are joining the Peace Corps, and Truly's father and aunt True are to run the store. The small town is quite different from Austin, Texas, but the family tries hard to settle in and enjoy their new life, even if it is much colder! Things are a little rocky, but Truly ends up enjoying her school, even if middle school boys are obnoxious everywhere. She has to work with her dad on math because she struggles with it, but improves her grades enough to try out for the swim team. She also enjoys bird watching, and loves helping out in the store, where her aunt allows her to do display windows.
The big plot is the mystery-- Truly and her friends find a first edition of Charlotte's Web with an unmailed letter in it, and set off to follow the clues and figure out what's going on. Also, the copy of the book, which the family hopes to sell for enough money to pay off a loan, goes missing. As the town festival approaches, will Truly be able to solve the mystery and save the store?
Strengths: Really, really enjoyed this. I especially liked some of the touches like the older town "bag lady" constantly listening to 1960s music. Small town, bookstore with a dog... sigh. The Mother-Daughter Book Club series has been doing pretty well in my library, and this would appeal to the same readers. Mysteries are always popular, and Charlotte's Web is still fairly popular with middle school students, more so than, say To Kill a Mockingbird. Definitely buying a copy, and it will circulate well.
Weaknesses: A bit too book geeky, but has plenty of fun for readers who like that! Both mysteries were a fail for me, and this will not be hugely popular. It was a let down to find out where the first edition went, and I wasn't too interested in the clues in the letters, either. Still, there was enough in this one that the mystery seemed subordinate.
Byrne, Christopher. Toy Time!: From Hula Hoops to He-Man to Hungry Hungry Hippos: A Look Back at the Most- Beloved Toys of Decades Past
October 8th 2013 by Three Rivers Press
When my students tell me that they don't like nonfiction, I always tell them that they have been picking up the WRONG nonfiction. Cultural history is the sort of book that I love to pick up, and I enjoyed this one. Who wouldn't? Well, okay, most of the toys were from the 1960s-1980s, so they were either ones I had or knew about (Cabbage Patch dolls made NO sense to a teenager, let me tell you!) I particularly liked the way the entries were arranged-- why we loved the toy, and where is it now added that element of "impact" that Common Core so loves to embrace. Even though this is not available in a hardcover or prebind, I think I'll have to buy it; students can share it with parents, who will ooh and aah over the complete array of Care Bears (or, if they are old like me, Liddle Kiddles!(http://www.fashion-doll-guide.com/Vin...) I got a Lolli-Mint doll for my 5th birthday.)
Bix, Cynthia Overbeck. Fad Mania!: A History of American Crazes
October 1st 2014 by Twenty-First Century Books (CT)
This nicely illustrated book takes students on a tour through the strange fads that captured people's attention. Broken up into eras, it covers everything from the flag pole sitting and dance marathons of the 1920s through the flash mobs of the new millenium. There are a nice variety of fads, explanations for them, and good sidebars with additional information. This is the sort of nonfiction book that I love, and am I alone in thinking that all students need to know about the brief gold fish swallowing fad of the 1940s? This was a good length for students to read for pleasure, as well as a nice resource for decade research. I would love to have lunch with Ms. Bix-- we could have fascinating conversations, since we seem to share a love of social history!