May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Anna and Sadie have been friends for a long time and do everything together, but Sadie becomes very nasty at Anna's 10th birthday. She highjacks Anna's wish, telling her to ask for a pony, and when Anna gets a pony necklace from her grandparents, Sadie appropriates it for herself. SHe says other mean things, claiming that Anna's dog Banana would rather live with her in her fancy house when she grows up, and the meanness continues at school. Anna doesn't know what to do; she eventually confides in her mother, who says that perhaps Sadie, whose parents are divorced but wealthy, is jealous of Anna's family. Anna tries very hard not to be mean back, but eventually stands up for herself. Will she ever be able to be friends with Anna again?
Strengths: This was a good story about friendship and friend drama. Sadie's actions are never entirely explained, but that is often the case in circumstances like this, and it might be helpful for readers to see that friend drama is not always their fault! I liked the illustrations, although in the E ARC Anna's family didn't seem noticeably darker complected. Not sure of the ethnicity.
Weaknesses: The dog didn't play a very large role, and Sadie was a tiny bit over the top, especially since her mother had a housekeeper. Is that a thing? Does anyone really have a housekeeper who is around to feed children snacks?
What I really think: Excellent choice for an elementary library, because there are plenty of mean girl moments. This is on the young side for middle school, though.
Five outspoken campers try to complete their scouting badges in various fields while trying to keep themselves safe from supernatural forces at their camp. While the head of the camp seems to know about these things, their counselor is just concerned for their well-being as they are out all night fighting bands of foxes, get sucked below earth to fight ancient Greek like rock statues, and have a run in with a troop of male zombie scouts. Of course, there is poison ivy, too.
This was a book that I just didn't understand. I didn't understand it as a reader-- there is not much explanation as to why all of these things happen. I was hoping for a fun, girl power camp story, but this is... more. We may get explanations eventually, as this is a series, and some readers might not care, but the world building felt weak. I also didn't have a good feel for the characters, whom I could tell apart from their pictures, but who didn't seem to have much in the way of distinct personalities. Hard to express in graphic novel format, I understand.
I also didn't understand this as a librarian. What really confused me was the demographic for this one. I picked it up because Leila Roy of Bookshelves of Doom was so pleased with it, but I can't think of a single student to whom I would hand this. I think it is meant to appeal to a type of student that I see very rarely... manga fans, perhaps (I'll run it by my daughter); alternative, creative types who express their creativity through tattoos and tongue piercings; readers who like fantasy books and graphic novels. And that's where my biggest problem is. The fantasy readers at my school turn up their noses at graphic novels; my graphic novel readers are often struggling, and would find this confusing.
It's great to be ground-breaking, genre-busting, and all of those things, but I'm not paying $15 for a book that will fall apart after ten uses if I don't think it will appeal to any of my readers. I'm glad my public library had the funding for it, but I think I will pass.