Fry, Michael and Jackson, Bradley. The Naughty List
September 22nd 2015 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Bobbie usually loves Christmas, but this year it is not making her happy. Her father is living away from the family for his job, and no one has taken down the annoying, creepy Santa from the roof from last year. When Bobbie attempts to remove it, she manages to break her arm, so she decides to boycott Christmas. It's not easy with her younger brother, though, who wants an expensive video game. When she tries to win one in a contest in a store, she ends up accidentally leaving the store with the game... without paying for it. She doesn't feel right about it, but is soon caught up in bigger problems. Some of Santa's elves show up in a closet, and she realizes that her Uncle Dale, who likes to wear a metal strainer on his head for protection, is not as crazy as he seems. There is a problem with children being put on the naughty list when they ought not to be, and soon Bobbie and Dale are traveling to the North Pole to help out. There are all sorts of wacky adventures to be had, with evil snow angels, aggressive reindeer, and a Santa Claus who is nothing like the one that Bobbie has seen in classic Christmas movies like Ninja Claus 5: Electric Bugaloo (which is, of course, about "trying to save this elf resort in Barbados with a huge fundraiser/fireworks show", page 92 of E ARC). Christmas is in danger because of out-of-whack technology, but can Bobbie and her uncle work together with Santa's team to save it?
This was a notebook novel, and was fun because aside from Potterwookie, Dragonbreath, and Stan and the Toilet Monster, not many notebook novels are speculative fiction stories. The illustrations by Michael Fry (The Odd Squad series) will appeal to readers, although are oddly reminiscent of Berke Breathed's Bloom County comic strip to a distracting degree. Younger readers will not have this association.
Bobbie starts off very angry at everyone around her and unwilling to help out her brother very much, but she does start to see that her moods affect her entire family. Character development, however, takes a back seat to the sheer silliness of the inhabitants of the North Pole and the wacky ways that Christmas must be saved. Instead of Rudolph, there is Larry, with light up antlers, and Santa is a bitter, curmudgeonly sort.
There are very few middle grade Christmas stories, and there are a few readers who ask for them. Any Wimpy Kid reader will be delighted to find this book in a Christmas stocking, but be warned-- I wouldn't give it to a child who still believed in Santa Claus, so be careful that it is kept away from younger brothers and sisters who might not find the humor in Santa being kidnapped and trussed up by the worst kid on the naughty list!
Kinney, Jeff. Comentarii de Puero Inepto
Translation by Monsignor Daniel Gallagher
August 11th 2015 by Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
I haven't taught Latin since June of 1993, before my older daughter was born. I studied and taught it for only 14 years, yet Latin at one point was a huge part of my identity. I can look at Latin phrases in books (which occur more often than one would think!) and know that they aren't quite right. In the same manner, with this book, I could tell that the sentences were especially elegant and translated not only grammatically, but with some style.
I have to admit that I didn't look up the vocabulary, but rather just let the Latin wash over me.
Sadly, there is probably not a middle school anywhere in the world that needs to buy this. That said, I would have loved to go over this with my 6th through 8th grade Latin students. If there ARE any Latin teachers out there, they will all get ten copies of this for Christmas.
Attention middle grade writers: If you have to include something in Latin in your novel, please contact Monsignor Gallagher. Failing that, at least run your copy by me. I know people whose Latin is better than mine!