Matson, Stacey. A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
November 3rd 2015 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Arthur has a few problems; he starts school late because his mother has passed away, and he has a "nemesis" in Robbie Zack and gets in trouble for writing borderline threats in his writing assignments. The assignments, as well as letters to his teacher, reading journal entries, and e mails to various classmates, tell most of the story. Arthur fancies himself a great writer, but when it comes to writing a story for a contest, he draws a blank. He is besotted with his classmate, Laurel, and if thrilled when he gets to be in a school production of Romeo and Juliet opposite her. He is less thrilled to be tutoring Robbie at the recommendation of his teacher, but finds that he has more in common with Robbie after all.
Strengths: There were some nice touches-- the romantic element is spot on for middle grade, Arthur knits, and the teachers are fairly supportive. The father's grief is not dwelt upon.
Weaknesses:This moves rather slowly, especially the parts about the play. I also think that the teacher would be more concerned about Zack's writings about Robbie. It definitely is on the mean and petty side.
What I really think: If this had been written in another format, I would buy it, but students at my school never e mail each other, so the format makes the book seem already dated.
Solomons, David. My Brother is a Superhero
July 21st 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Luke loves comics and super hero tales, so he is really irritated when a passing space alien endows his brother Zach with a variety of powers and gives him a mission to save the world. Zach spends a lot of the time trying to talk Luke out of giving him a cape, and deciding how to best use his powers. Neighbors Lara and Cara are interested in Star Boy after Zack (as his poorly disguised alter ego) saves a busload of people from harm, and Luke spends a lot of time throwing them off the scent. After Zack is kidnapped by the evil Christopher Talbot at the crucial time when he is supposed to be fighting off Nemesis, as decreed by Zorbon the Decider. Will he be able to save the world? And will the aliens ever grant Luke some powers?
Strengths: Decent cover and really nice formatting of the text. Super hero tales are popular with my students, and this had some touches of goofy, as well as some romance .
Weaknesses: Something about the world building failed for me, and I could never suspend disbelief enough to really buy into the story.
What I really think: Think I'll pass. Just not enough action at the beginning to intrigue my super hero readers.