Morgan, Alex. Hat Trick (The Kicks #4)
June 2nd 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Devin is unhappy that soccer season is over, but she and several of her teammates discover that there are try outs for winter soccer. Emma doesn't make the team, and Frida is off making a movie with teen hottie Brady McCoy. Jessi makes the Griffons with Devin, although Zoe is on the Gators. Also on the Griffons-- the mean Mirabelle, with whom Devin has made a sort of peace, but also the even more evil Jamie. To top it off, Coach Darby encourages aggressive play, which leads to bruises for Jessi and a first ever yellow card for Devin. It could be worse, though-- Devin's younger sister Maisie isn't playing soccer at all, because the school funding for her team has been cut. The girls from the Kicks, as well as some from the Griffons, band together to have a big fundraiser so that the elementary team can stay in place and have everything from an eco-friendly carwash to a bake sale to a skills camp for younger players. A surprise guest makes the day and raises enough money to save the team.
Strengths: It's great to see a book where characters have passions that drive them to do things. Devin's "hat trick" refers to the three things she wants to accomplish. It's a happy book with supportive parents but small problems that are dealt with in a constructive fashion. Plus, there's lots of soccer action!
Weaknesses: Frida being a movie actress seemed a bit far fetched, and I'm not sure that a fund raiser could really save a school soccer team.
What I really think: This is a great series that my soccer playing girls adore. They are quick, have bright, appealing covers, a celebrity author who really knows her sport, and are just fun!
Rissi, Anica Mrose. Anna Banana and the Monkey in the Middle (#2)
July 7th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Anna is back after Anna Banana and the Friendship Split. She has mended things with Sadie, and the two girls are now fast friends with Isabel. When their third grade class is taking a trip to the zoo, Anna feels pulled between the two. Only two girls can sit in one bus seat, so Anna has to agree to sit with one girl going to the zoo and the other coming back. Luckily, at the zoo, they are allowed to be in a group of three. They have to decide what animal to do a report on when they return to school-- Anna would like to do pandas, but the group decides to do crocodiles so there are no favorites. This stresses Anna out, and when she gets home, her father suggests she write each of her friends a letter saying why they are each her "favorite Sadie" or "favorite Isabel", and invite them both over for a sleepover. Anna's brother is a little stressed about his math test as well, but their parents (a stay-at-home romance novelist father and high powered corporate executive mother) are supportive and catch up with them during their family dinners.
Strengths: This was spot-on with third grade friend drama, and addressed it in a very productive way. I also liked that the class went to the zoo and was doing an animal report, since that is something that most third or fourth graders actually do. Banana is adorable, the family dynamics are good; I really enjoy these. Liked this one even better than the first, since Sadie was unaccountably evil in the first one!
Weaknesses: Love the diversity on the cover, but still wish I knew a little more about the ethnicity of the characters. In the E ARC, the pictures don't show it as clearly. Glad that the story isn't about the ethnicity, since it will appeal to all manner of elementary school readers.
What I really think: I want one just like this but set in middle school, with middle school problems!
Book three comes out in September, and book four, Anna Banana and the Puppy Parade, comes out in January.
Like Anne Warren Smith's Turkey Monster Thanksgiving series, these have adorable covers and are such fun, but I have to stop reading them! You can tell that when I was in third grade, this would have been exactly the sort of book that I would have read!