It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
King, Bart. The Drake Equation
May 10th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Noah has a busy life-- he has interested, if odd, parents; good friends and neighbors in Jason and Jenny; and a huge interest in birding. When he tries to follow the path of a rare black swift through the local woods, things get complicated. The horrid Coby decides he really has it in for Noah, and Noah finds a weird, shiny round object ((like a hockey puck rolled in glitter!) that makes him able to freeze things, then set them on fire, with disastrous yet hysterical results. When Noah finds that the swifts' territory is going to be built up, he decides to use the "quincux" to help him save the area, but the alien (Zorcha T'Wirpo) who has sent the object and who is communicating with Noah doesn't make it easy. Nor does Coby, who finds out about the device, or Noah's crush, Anemona, who at one point steals the object and late ends up with one of her own. Will Noah be able to save the swifts and control Zorcha's science project gone wild?
Strengths: This debut novel from the prolific nonfiction writing King has a lot to recommend it. Great, well-developed characters, including quirky parents, give this novel a solid footing. Noah's interest in birding, and his habit of describing the people in his life in terms of birds, is fresh and fun. The battle to save the swifts from development adds a science element that teachers often want. Finally, the alien life form injects plenty of goofy moments, as well as some fairly advanced vocabulary, and spices things up like chipotle peanut butter. This book will appeal tremendously to readers who like humorour stories as well as readers who like speculative fiction that could take place in their own back yard.
Weaknesses: This was a bit long (320 pages) for the target demographic. Mr. King has clearly investigated middle grade fiction and dutifully included a dead parent and a bully; the story would have been shorter and fine without either of these, but neither drag the story down too much in between various explosions and other manifestations of early adolescent humor.
What I really think: I can forgive a lot (namely, the dead parent and the bully) in a book that includes parents who construct playgrounds for a living, an earthquake that takes down only the local school, a cute crush who turns out to be evil, and a space alien who is using Earth for a school project. A great purchase for middle schools and a solid choice for older elementary students who read above grade level.
Weintraub, Robert. No Better Friend: Young Readers Edition: A Man, a Dog, and Their Incredible True Story of Friendship and Survival in World War II
May 3rd 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
This was an excellent book for readers who enjoy reading about WWII and/or dogs. It was similar in some respects to Pure Grit and would make an excellent nonfiction companion for The Hunt for the Bamboo Rat. Unfortunately, I read this while recovering from surgery, and feel unable to write a coherent review. Definitely purchasing, though!
"No Better Friend tells the incredible true story of Frank Williams, a radarman in Britain's Royal Air Force, and Judy, a purebred pointer, who met as prisoners of war during World War II. Judy, who became the war's only official canine POW, was a fiercely loyal dog who sensed danger-warning her fellow prisoners of imminent attacks and, later, protecting them from brutal beatings. Frank and Judy's friendship, an unbreakable bond forged in the worst circumstances, is one of the great recently uncovered stories of World War II.
As they discover Frank and Judy's story in this specially adapted text, young readers will also learn about key World War II moments through informative and engaging sidebars, maps, photographs, and a timeline."