Matthew Holm, Jennifer L. Holm, Cece Bell, Jeffrey Brown, et al. Comics Squad #2: Lunch!
January 26th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher
Like Comics Squad: Recess, this is a collection of short stories, comics style, all arranged on the theme of lunch. Of course, Krosoczka's lunch ladies are featured, but there is also a new Peanuts cartoon with Snoopy working in the lunch room, an interesting and informative Jeff Brown cartoon about food in prehistoric times, a Jason Shiga choose-your-own-adventure style cartoon, and a Nathan Hale WWII story set on a destroyer. All are short and funny, and rendered in two color illustrations. I very much enjoyed Cece Bell's story of a girl who is very regulated in her choice of eating the exact same lunch every day. The girl then purchases a candy bar from a boy on whom she has a crush, but the bar has peanuts, and she's allergic. The only thing that gave me pause was that most students whom I have known either throw up or go into anaphylactic shock. I'd not heard of people hallucinating, but perhaps this happens in some cases. Peanut allergies are a huge concern, and are an issue that is not much addressed in middle grade literature, but really should be.
This will be tremendously popular with middle grade readers, and should serve as a good introduction to some new authors for students. My library's copy of Comics Squad: Recess is always checked out.
Pilkey, Dav and Dantant, Dan. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot and the Naughty Nightcrawlers from Neptune. (#8)
January 26th 2016 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Ricky and his robot are trying to build a giant tree house, but soon find that it might crash down around their ears. It turns out that they have irritated their neighbor with the noise, and the neighbor has foolishly made a pact with alien night crawlers to just did under his land just a little. Of course, we all know that you never cede any land to space aliens, lest they take over, and this is just what has happened. Ricky and his friends have to gather all of their resources and find a way to send the evil alien night crawlers back to Neptune. Includes pivotal scenes in flip-o-rama, which don't work well in an e book!
Strengths: I hadn't read any of this series before, and what struck me most is that it is like a middle grade novel length "I Can Read Book". This in itself is pretty brilliant for my struggling readers. There are lots of pictures, but it's not confusing like graphic novels tend to be, and it has funny, slapstick sort of scenes with night crawlers receiving the brunt of violence. Easier to follow than Captain Underpants, and the Santant illustrations are appealing.
Weaknesses: Violence to night crawlers, nonsensical alien takeover plots, general goofiness that adults don't appreciate.
What I really think: I've been a bit disconcerted about the sexism in Pilkey's work, and wish that he would address it at some point. Do we need to edit early Captain Underpants books? I've always been okay with the slapstick violence, the underpants, and the bodily function jokes, but the sexism? Ricky has a cousin Lucy that wants to turn the treehouse into a princess castle. Really? Sigh. Disappointed.