Keene, Carolyn. Pool Party Puzzler (Nancy Drew Clue Book #1)
July 7th 2015 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Nancy, George and Bess are helping out George's mother, who is catering a Sweet Half 16 party for the 8-year-old diva, Deidre. Not only is the event catered, but there is real white sand by the pool, topiary bushes sculpted by Taffy, and a lavender scooter as a present. Everyone has been invited to the party but Shelby. The party goes well until Marissa the mermaid shows up to do a swim show, but there is a snake at the bottom of the pool! The snake turns out to be a fake, and even Deidre tells Nancy not to worry about investigating who put it there, but the Clue Crew is not to be dissuaded. They investigate everyone from the waiters from a local restaurant who were serving, to Taffy, to Shelby, who had attended the party in a costume but was discovered by Nancy because of her pink nail polish. After visiting the joke shop where the snakes were purchased, Nancy figures out who put the snake in the pool... and why.
Strengths: This was a simple, fun mystery for beginning readers that had an Encyclopedia Brown type question at the end-- can you guess the mystery? (Yes, I could.)
Weaknesses: Deidre was over the top, and made the story a bit unbelievable.
What I really think: I am ridiculously enamored with these short series with pretty, bright covers (think Sew Zooey!, Hirandani's Cooking Club, The Year of the Book), but this one wasn't anything particularly fresh. The second book in this series, Last Lemonade Standing, sounds freakishly like the
1997 The Lemonade Raid (Nancy Drew: Notebooks, #19). For middle school, I prefer the Nancy Drew Diaries.
And now, I just want to do a masters thesis on the many incarnations of Nancy Drew!
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Ruby on the Outside
June 16th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Public library copy
Ruby lives in a condo complex with her aunt, whom she calls Matoo (ma, too). Her mother has been in jail since Ruby was five, and Ruby hasn't told any of her friends at school, fearing repercussions. It is the summer after fifth grade, and things are rather dull. Kristin, the only girl her age in the complex, leaves for camp, but luckily a new girl, Margalit, moves in, and the two quickly become friends. They write stories, play games, and get along very well... until Ruby discovers a secret that she thinks will tear the two apart. Ruby and her aunt visit her mother every weekend, but this secret interferes with these visits as well. Eventually, Ruby rediscovers the entire truth about why her mother is in prison, feels comfortable sharing this with her friends, and is ready to start middle school as a more understanding and developed person.
Strengths: There are very few books that address parents in prison, and it's certainly something that even middle class, suburban students deal with from time to time. The only book on the topic that I have is Calvert's Glennis, Before and After, from 1996. The circumstances seem realistic, and the details of prison and the workings of the judicial system seem well-researched. Baskin has an intriguing style. Her Anything But Typical is brilliant.
Weaknesses: Ruby does seem to think about her mother more than I would think she would after five years of living with her aunt, and the coincidence of names seemed a bit far fetched.
What I really think: I don't think this will do well with middle school students. The way the girls play in the summer, as well as the general social dynamic, seems much more elementary school. Certainly an excellent choice for elementary libraries.