Cavanaugh, Nancy J. Just Like Me
April 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from Edelweiss ABove the Treeline
Julia is not happy with the fact that she is being forced to go to summer camp with her "Chinese sisters" Avery and Becca so that they can bond, and also so that they can report back to a woman writing an article on them. Avery is a know-it-all geek, and Becca is a very loud, athletic type, but the two live close together and are fast friends. They also embrace their Chinese background. Julia likes her adoptive parents and doesn't want to think too much about the fact that she started life in an orphanage. After being assigned a "family history" project, Julia has taken to sleeping with the blanket that she was wrapped in at the orphanage, pretending it came from her mother. She got in trouble for claiming to be half Irish, half Italian and half Chinese for this project; it's one of the reasons her mother decides to send her to camp. The rest of Julia's cabin is full of girls who are not the nicest, although she does make friends with Gina, who has been in foster care for two years and understands Julia's difficulties in thinking about the past. Amidst all of the high jinks and mosquitoes of camp, Julia makes peace with her past and is able to face the future with confidence.
Strengths: In an end note, Cavanaugh mentions that her own daughter was adopted from China, and this is evident in the details about Julia's feelings. The important message is that even though many adoptees will look similar, they each have very different experiences and reactions. Set against a summer camp, the message is less preachy, and the story works as a whole and is instructive as well as fun.
Weaknesses: While it makes sense that this was set in a Christian summer camp (try finding another type that isn't a scout camp or outrageously expensive!), it didn't make sense that all of the music played at meal times was from the 1970s!
What I really think: I've seen an increase in the number of students at my school who do have been adopted from other countries, so I think this will be a good purchase.
McCarthy, Meghan. The Wildest Race Ever
March 1st 2016 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Copy from public library
I've been looking for more nonfiction picture books for middle school students, and this one was great fun! After introducing a handful of the individual men who ran the race, McCarthy (drawing from newspaper articles of the time) describes the race that took place during the 1904 World's Fair. There are a lot of unbelievable details, like some of the runners being chased off course by dogs, one stopping and eating peaches and apples, and one being dosed with strychnine by his trainers! It's amazing that in just over 100 years, the sport has changed so much, and people are able to run the entire 26 miles-- in the first race, many stopped and many walked along the way, probably because there were only two water stations and no energy gels or chews!
The clothing, of course, is very different as well. Check out this article on one of the runners, Felix Carvajal:
Definitely getting this one, and predict that my cross country team will find it vastly amusing!