March 17th 2015 by Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
In this sequel to Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor, Frank is back with his robot sidekicks Klink and Klank and his best friend Watson. The group is trying to find a way to have electricity that is free and wireless, and using some of Tesla's theories, they come up with the Electro-Finger. This is especially timely, because their arch nemesis, T. Edison and his simian sidekick have bought up all of the different energy plants in the area and are tearing them down. When only one is left, they can raise the prices as high as they would like and soak the public. The Electro-Finger gets off to a rocky start, but will it be enough to thwart Edison?
Strengths: Just go buy your child's science teacher a copy of this right now. It talks about all kinds of science, and even has diagrams. It's a notebook novel. It's by Jon Scieszka. It comes in an inexpensive paper-over-board format, so get a copy for your child's robotics coach and the able and talented coordinator as well.
Weaknesses: It talks about all kinds of science, and even has diagrams. It's by Jon Scieszka and isn't as funny as I hoped. It comes in an inexpensive paper-over-board format,
What I really think: Just not my favorite. Circulates well, people seem to like, but it's not something I need four copies of, like Knucklehead, which is quite possibly the funniest book ever written. I'd love to see realistic, funny fiction from Scieszka.
Patterson, James. Public School Superhero.
March 16th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Kenny lives with his grandmother is a bad area of Washington, D.C. His middle school, Anacostia, is a wreck, and the teachers sit at their desk watching sports center while students bully each other. Luckily, he is being raised by his grandmother, who taught elementary school for 62 years and keeps a close eye on him. Not close enough-- after getting in an altercation with classmate Ray-Ray, his punishment is to teach Ray-Ray chess. He does, and learns from his co-conspiritor how to steal food and generally behave in ways that a "grandma's boy" normally wouldn't. Kenny has a comic book collection as well as a rich fantasy life wherein he is the superhero Stainlezz Steel. The community is rallying around the school, and Kenny is chosen to speak at a rally, which worries him. Eventually, his grandmother finds out about his secret life of crime, but while she isn't happy, she works with Kenny to set him on the straight and narrow while looking out for Ray-Ray as well.
Strengths: Kenny's grandmother and Principal Yetty are great characters. There is a little bit of Civil Rights history shown. The community rallies around the school. Kenny makes mistakes but feels badly about them and mends his ways. This has lots of pictures and will be a book that students pick up avidly. I do like the original cover (bottom), that showcases a person of color on the cover, as opposed to the tiny version of Kenny's superhero on the final cover. Glad Patterson is thinking about books for middle grade readers and actually giving grants to schools and libraries. Can't complain about that!
Weaknesses: Bullying. SOOOOOO tired of this topic, and students are as well. Again, this is stereotypical, and nothing fresh and realistic. While I'm glad that the book isn't in dialect, the few "modern" slang phrases seem a bit out of place, enough so that it made me wonder if they were incorrect.
What I really think: Have to buy. Glad kids will read; wish it weren't so dang depressing! Would vastly prefer to give students Kinda Like Brothers. It seemed more hopeful.