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.
I've made no secret of the fact that one of my very favorite middle grade authors is Gordon Korman. The man is brilliant. Brilliant. His works get a whole unit of shelving in my library, and his books regularly fall apart and need to be replaced. He makes me laugh, which given the continued sad state of middle grade literature, would be enough to make him fantastic. Aspiring middle grade authors: go read this article at Booklist Reader RIGHT now. This is how it should be done.
But please, don't tell Anthony Horowitz. He's my favorite. Really. We can do lunch when I'm in London in July. Stormbreaker is THE most popular book in my library over the last ten years.
But I love you, too, Gordon.
Korman, Gordon. Slacker.
April 26th 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss
Cameron lives to play video games, but when he is so concentrated on one that he doesn't take a casserole out of the oven and the local firemen respond and ax through the front door, his parents are NOT pleased. His parents are concerned because he does nothing else, and while they don't take his video console out into the backyard and set fire to it (like I would!), they demand that he participate in other activities at school to get him out of the basement. With friends Chuck and Pavel, he creates a Positive Action Group, and posts a blurb about it on the school web site. Thinking he can show that to his parents and be done, he contentedly goes back to trying to best Evil McKillPeople on his game... until the ultra-motivated Daphne shows up at his front door, demanding to join. Her purpose is to get help in saving a local beaver, Elvis, whose home has been destroyed by a new highway off ramp project. It gets worse when she brings the group to the attention of Mr. Fanshaw, who hopes to use the group to sell raffle tickets for a fundraiser. Soon, a class president wannabe, a football players on academic probation, and a huge number of other students want to join the group. Cameron is forced to do something. After trying to sneak off to play video games while raking leaves for senior citizens, Cameron accidentally saves an elderly lady who has fallen and makes the news. This encourages more students to join, but also brings the group to the attention of the high school groups, the Friends of Fuzzy. Their leader, Jen, wants all of the attention for herself, so gets her group to sabotage the P.A.G. Things culminate when both groups decide to work against the old highway off ramp being taken down. Will Cameron be able to go back to his old ways once he is no longer in danger of losing his video gaming privileges?
Cameron starts off as a fairly nondescript character, but that is a perfect foil for the outspoken Daphne, self-involved String, and deliciously and deceptively evil younger sister Melody. The parents are supportive and helpful but rather clueless, which is a brilliant way to depict parents in a middle grade book. Mr. Fanshaw (whose name Cameron can't remember, leading to a host of amusing attempts like "Mr. Fanny-pack") and the other teachers are humorous, but also sympathetic and realistic.
Video gaming is one of the topics that shows up with alarming regularity on my student interest surveys, but there have been relatively few books that portray tweens with this interest. Of course, this has a subtle message that there are more things kids could be doing in the world, but it is delivered with a large dose of humor.
As with any Korman book, the biggest draw for me is the writing. It is fast-paced (all middle grade books should start with an explosion, or with immolating ziti!) and packed with laugh out loud phrases. My favorite passage (from the ARC): "How many members does the Positive Action Group have?" Members? Exactly the same number as the Stick-Your-Head-in-the-Furnace Club and the Leap-the -Grand-Canyon Society."
The only downside to this book is having to decide how MANY copies of it to buy! Slacker is the perfect middle grade novel about pursuing one's passions, however misguided!
Freedman, Russell. We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler
May 3rd 2016 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Whenever our 8th graders do a Holocaust project, one of the topics assigned is the White Rose Movement, so I am glad to finally have a great book on the topic! In this well-illustrated and cleanly formatted book, Freedman tells the story of Sophie and Hans Scholl's family, and the teens involvement in resisting the Nazis. Not only are there lots of family photos, but there are pictures of buildings and other people who are tangential to the story. Unfortunately, the Scholls story is one that was repeated many times during the Holocaust-- people who were doing the right thing got caught and were killed by the Nazis. I'm glad that we are finally starting to see some of these stories, such as Hoose's The Boys The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.
This book is an essential purchase for any middle school or high school library. While it has enough information for research, it is also short and interesting enough to be read through. I was glad to see that my only objection-- shoes and pants that looked like modern jeans and sneakers on the cover-- was changed for this final version.