Souders, Taryn. Dead Possums Are Fair Game
November 3rd 2015 by Sky Pony Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Ella doesn't like math because she struggles so much with it that she may have to have a tutor over the summer to help reinforce her skills. She doesn't want to spend her time doing that, so she hopes that she can bring her math grade up and avoid it. The problem? The teacher cancels the tests for the rest of the year and decides to have a math fair instead. Ella is assigned to a good group, but the topic, time conversions, is one with which she struggled. And it's worth two test grades! Her friends Jolina and Lucille, as well as Jonathan, offer to help as much as they can, and the group decides that they will picture a lot of animals, and convert their average life expectancies into hours, minutes and seconds. The idea comes from the fact that an opossum died on the school grounds, wasn't cleaned up, and ended up "catching" a soccer ball. (Hence the cover.) Ella has other problems as well; her free-wheeling photographer aunt is having renovations done on her condo and is bunking with Ella. So is her dog, Chewy. Ella is very particular about her room, so this stresses her out a lot. As the math fair approaches, things continue to go wrong in spectacular fashions. Will Ella end up having to spend her summer working on math, even after all of her hard work?
As focused as many students are on school, it is surprising that there are few fiction books that feature school work as a problem. There are a few math book, like Weissman's The Short Seller and Annika Riz, Math Whiz, but most books involving school involve journaling for language arts classes. I appreciated that Ella tried her best, and while she doesn't love math at the end of the book, she feels her skills are stronger.
It was nice that Ella's parents were supportive, even if her mother relied a bit toom uch on meatloaf for family dinners. There was a lot of gentle humor in this book, both at home and at school. The issues with friends were realistic as well.
This will be a popular choice for readers who enjoy realistic fiction. I wish the cover and title were a little more upbeat, since the issue with the dead possum, while informing the plot, takes up very little of the body of the book.
Moranville, Sharelle Byars. A Higher Geometry
May 2nd 2006 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Anna is a great math student, and in 1959, she is lucky that she was allowed to take a higher math class with the boys. Her father is very strict, not letting her date until she's 16, and he is reluctant to send her to a math competition because girls get married, not go to college. She meets Matt, and they start hanging out together and eventually develop very strong feelings for each other. Matt is planning on joining the Army so he can get money to go to college and leave their small town, but Anna has very little hope until a teacher convinces her parents to let her attend a math competition. She does, wins, and still has to convince her parents that there is more to her life than marrying. The family is also grieving the death of the father's mother in a car accident, and her absence casts a pall on family gatherings. When Anna gets an opportunity to study, her family must finally realize that times, they are a-changing.
Strengths: I'm always looking for books set during this time period, and the details of every day life are brilliant. I love that it addresses a girl who had atypical interests for the time. Students today don't understand what the feminist movement is about, because they've never been told they have to take typing or home ec because they are girls.
Weaknesses: The ending was rather weak, and I wasn't sure where Anna and Matt's relationship was going. There is some talk about sex, but nothing instructional, other than condoms being mentioned. (Matt has one; there is a lot of back and forth about what good girls do, but again, few details.)
What I really think: If I can order this from Follett, I'll be glad to get a copy. The catalog shows that it is still available.