Harper, Charise Mericle. Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel
February 7th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
June loves to play with her dog Sam, especially since she is the only one to whom the dog can talk. When her grandmother sends her a big chalkboard on a wheel, with detailed instructions on how to use it, June is thrilled, and she and Sam have a lot of fun completing the suggested tasks. It's even more fun when a new girl moves in next door and ends up in June's class. Mae seems really nice, but classmate April is bound and determined that Mae will be HER friend. The girls have to learn to get along, and eventually Mae and June become fast friends.
Strengths: This is a very positive, fun story for beginning readers. The illustrations are very helpful in showing what is going on in the story and add a lot to it. Other nice touches are June's sometimes cranky teenage sister, the fact that Mae is a character of color without this fact taking over the story, and the adventure of the wonder wheel.
Weaknesses: I didn't quite understand why June could talk to Sam. Was she imagining this, or could she really communicate with the dog?
What I really think: This is too young for my readers (the very intense class debate over whether cats or dogs are better is one that sets this firmly in the elementary school arena), but was rather enjoyable.
Tracy, Kristen. Project (Un)Popular
June 14th 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
I was disappointed in this. I usually enjoy Tracy's work, and love the cover, but there was a disconnect between the stated age of the main character (6th grade) and her interests and voice, as well as the formatting of the book. These all felt very much like a better fit for high school. The book has tiny print, and is over 300 pages long. I also had trouble believing that a middle school would have a yearbook with a staff, and that so much power would be given to an 8th grader. Then I started to wonder-- the search to be popular seems like a trope from the 30th century. I am not sure it was that much of a concern when I was in middle school. My students seem more concerned with "being their own person" (definitely a new millenium thing-- I was desperately trying to fit in in middle school, even if I didn't care about being popular) and having a few good friends.
What are your experiences with the new millennium and the concept of popularity?
Definitely purchase this if your school has a yearbook staff, there is a big interest in photography, or you have 6th graders who are willing to read an 11 point Accelerated Reader book. My sixth graders top out at about 8 points. I like Tracy's writing, but this just isn't a fit for my population.
"Popularity: who has it, who wants it, and who won’t get it is the topic of this story about two middle school friends who want to make the lives of their classmates more equitable, to disastrous results.
Middle school isn’t a popularity contest.
It’s a war.
Perry and her best friend, Venice, are excited to be yearbook photographers and tell the story of their school through their art. But that’s before they find out the truth: the spontaneous moments they’re supposed to capture are all faked. Bossy eighth grader Anya gives them a list of the popular kids—her own friends—who Perry and Venice have to take pictures of. And that makes Perry super mad.
Yearbooks should include everybody—even the dorks. But Perry feels totally stuck. Until she starts taking flattering shots of the people on Anya’s list, none of her candids will ever be chosen. Perry can’t sit by and let this happen. But fighting back isn’t going to win her any friends—she might even lose some. Perry has to decide what’s more important: fitting in . . . or standing out."