Springer, Kristina. Cici Reno: Middle School Matchmaker
April 19th 2016 by Sterling Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Cici is excited to start a new school year, but is a little apprehensive when her best friend, Aggie, returns from vacation having undergone improvements in the chestal region. Aggie isn't thrilled with the way she is treated, either, but does think that Drew is nice to her and that she might want to "date" him. Cici, who is a fan of Twitter, finds his Twitter handle and direct messages him as Aggie, and sets the stage for the two to hang out together. When Aggie and Drew do get together in real life, it feels forced and wrong. Aggie plays volleyball, and talks about that a lot, while Cici and Drew have much more in common. Cici starts to realize that she really likes Drew, which is awkward not only because of Aggie, but also because Drew is her brother's friend. Will Cici be able to keep both of her friendships as well as navigate the difficult waters of middle school?
Strengths: This is basically a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac for young readers, quite like Shaw's Flavor of the Week (2003). Of course, that story never gets old, and smaller, less mature girls everywhere will adore this book, since Drew likes Cici for herself and not for any physical attributes she possesses. The attractive cover alone makes this worth purchasing! Loved the supportive family, and the realistic details of middle school.
Weaknesses: Aggie was a bit one dimensional, and I don't know of any middle school students who Tweet. It's all Instagram, and has been for a number of years.
What I really think: There are a lot of things that will date this book, but the girls will read to to shreds long before that happens.
Shovan, Laura. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
April 12th 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
Emerson Elementary's building is in very bad shape, so the school board decides to sell the land so a grocery store can be built in the underserved area. The fifth grade class has only 18 students in it, so it is easy to relocate the students. Even though the fifth graders will be going on to middle school, they get all bent out of shape about their building closing, and they mount an unsuccessful protest. The extremely diverse class (where the students have more than their fair share of family and health problems) writes a book of poetry to be included in a time capsule when the school closes.
Strengths: Everyone seems to love this. The poetry isn't bad, but it's not as good as Helen Frost's. There are notes on poetic forms at the end of the book. I liked the fact that they addressed the idea of "food deserts".
Weaknesses: Schools close. They get repurposed. My children's 1-5 magnet elementary school is now all day kindergarten for disadvantaged students. It seems irresponsible to me to encourage people to complain about a school district's considered plan to best utilize tax payer money by shutting down a building. Sometimes that has to happen. If owners have to tear down franchise restaurants after 30 years to keep up with codes, we shouldn't be surprised if school buildings from the 1920s are no longer useful. I don't like change very much, but when you are dealing with the public's money, you have to be practical and not sentimental.
What I really think: I am not the target demographic for this, and it just annoyed me.