Barnett, Mac and John, Jory. The Terrible Two
Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
13 January 2014, Amulet Books
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Miles is not thrilled about moving to Yawnee Valley; it's so boring there that the most interesting thing to talk about appears to be COWS. Miles was a great prankster at his old school and has a notebook of his pranks, so he doesn't quite know what to think when the first day of school is marked by Principal Barkin's hatchback being placed at the top of the school's stairs, blocking the entry way! Barkin immediately accuses Miles, who is annoyed that he has to be in the company of Niles, the "school helper" who dogs his every step. Miles plans a huge prank-- he invites everyone to a birthday party of a cool kid who goes to another school... and doesn't exist. Sure enough, everyone talks about it, brings food and presents, and claims to have talked to Cody Burr-Tyler. Just when Miles is about to announce the prank and run off with the presents, Cody appears on stage and drives off with the presents in a limousine! The other prankster turns out to be none other than Niles, who claims that Miles is not a good prankster and offers to work with him. Miles refuses, and instead tries to outprank Niles, which fails miserably. Eventually, the two decide to work together against a common foe: Principal Barkin and his bullying son, who is running unopposed for class president.
Strengths: Anything with pictures, and blurbed by Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney, is bound to be successful with middle grade readers, and this had enough humor to recommend it. Niles is an appealingly devious character who understands the necessity of stealth when pranking, and Miles is haplessly clueless but well meaning. The names are a bit goofy but not over the top, as are the situations. A must purchase title for middle school libraries.
Weaknesses: I don't understand why school principals are so often portrayed as complete and utter buffoons, ALWAYS overweight and ineffectual, and often mean spirited. Why is it okay to make fun of an entire profession like this? Seems wrong. Also, destroying a hatchback-- never right.
Keyser, Amber J. Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes
January 1st 2015 by Twenty-First Century Books (CT)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
I am always looking for interesting nonfiction for my students, and my own favorite topic to read about is anything having to do with popular culture. What better than a 64 page overview of athletic shoes? This is really the best treatment I have seen, starting with ancient shoes found by archaeologists and going from there! There is just enough detail about topics such as Chuck Taylor being a basketball players and shoe salesman, the genesis of most of the modern shoe companies, and the evolution of running shoes from Adi Dassler's shoes used by Olympic hopefuls to the proliferation of shoes today. Even "sneakerheads", people who collect limited edition shoes, are covered. It makes me feel tremendously old to know that the modern running shoe evolved during my lifetime-- I remember being told in elementary school that any athletic shoes used for gym class needed to be able to be bent in half so the heel touched the toe. That's when Keds were the shoe of choice, and fancy kicks were only worn by elite athletes. I do wish a little more information about the Keds and Saucony companies had been given, since they have been around for so long. Still, a must purchase for middle school libraries.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. Nonfiction Monday also takes place today.