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.
Lambert, Mary E. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes
Published February 28th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Annabelle's mother is a hoarder, and the house has gotten so bad that her father leaves early on an academic study trip early. Annabelle thinks that she and her siblings can handle things, but are very glad when Grandma Nora arrives. Nora is everything there mother is not-- energetic, organized, and stable. Nora tries to get the house cleaned up, but there are constant fights. Annabelle tries to get her younger sister, Leslie, to clean up her own room, since Nora is sleeping in Annabelle's room, which is an uncluttered haven of respite for her. To complicate matters, Annabelle is trying to stay connected to her school friends over the summer, including a boy on whom she has a crush, but it is difficult. Not even her best friend is allowed to see the catastrophic condition of the home. Eventually, both Annabelle and her mother realize that the family needs a lot more help if they are able to recover and function again as a family.
Strengths: The best part of this book was that it focused primarily on Annabelle's life and how her mother's problems affected her. This will make the book very relatable to middle grade readers, who are embarrassed by their parents even when they are NOT hoarding things! The friend and boy drama were all very real to life, and Annabelle's emotions were perfectly depicted. I ended up being completely absorbed with this book and enjoyed it a lot.
Weaknesses: The mother was a very static character, and it was hard to get a good read on her or her motivations. I'm conflicted about this-- for tween readers, this is perfect, but as an adult, I wanted to know more!
What I really think: I'm not sure which cover is being issued, but I do like the blue one better. This is a book that will be around for a while, and the photo illustrations tend to age badly.
Higgins, Carter. A Rambler Steals Home
February 28th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher at ALA
Derby travels around with her father, Garland, and younger brother, Triple, in their run-down camper van. They work different seasonal jobs, selling cocoa at Christmas tree farms, selling cider and donuts in the fall, and running a concessions stand near the local baseball stadium all summer in Ridge Creek, Virginia. Derby's mother could no longer stand the traveling life, and has left the family. While her father loves Christmas best, Derby lives for the three months that the family stays put in Virginia, where she has befriended an older couple, June and Franklin, who run the stadium and also has a friend her age, Marcus. This year, however, she finds out that things have changed in Ridge Creek, although Mandy and her friends are as mean as ever. Over the course of the summer, Derby is able to come to terms with the changes in town, her own family situation, and the hidden secrets of those she loves.
Strengths: This was more upbeat than a lot of books I've read lately. Derby has family issues, but they are being addressed in fairly positive ways. It's nice to see that she has put together her own extended family, and the depiction of a close knit small town and its devotion to its baseball team. It's also interesting to see a family with a nontraditional lifestyle.
Weaknesses: I thought that this was going to be about Derby playing baseball, so I was a little disappointed. This also had a somewhat quirky, Southern air, and I personally don't do well with that.
What I really think: This had a lot to recommend it. It's a slower than I would have liked, but is well written and has engaging characters.
Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends?
February 28th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy received from the publisher.
In this comic book, Nate is up to his usual shenanigans. His friends are all going to the movies with dates, so he laments his single state to his father, who is less than sympathetic. When he gets to the crowded theater, he has to sit next to Gina, and his friends think they are together! Nate also is still begging for a dog, since Spitzy is not the best example of the species. His grandparents visit-- I love his snarky grandmother who can remove splinters in the blink of an eye. Artur and Jenny are still dating even though Nate is sure that Jenny will eventually be with him-- until she moves away. There are tests, card games, and general hilarity as Nate is his irrepressible 6th grade self.
I do adore Nate, and I always enjoy reading the comic version of his life, even though I would prefer it if Peirce were chained to his desk (we'd provide dinner, of course) and forced to write his brilliant notebook novels all the time. I'm enough of a geek that I really want to know what dates the comics in this book appeared in the newspaper.
Nate definitely is one of the books that my students and I both love-- it's like organic, whole grain, sweetened with fruit juice toaster pastries. Good and good for you!