High, Linda Oatman. One Amazing Elephant
February 14th 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Lily lives with her father at a campground in West Virginia, where he is the superintendent. Her mother lives in Florida with Lily's grandparents, Bill and Violet, who run a small circus and have an elephant, Queenie Grace. Lily has always been afraid of the elephant, but makes an attempt to ride her in order to make her grandfather happy. Unfortunately, Bill dies suddenly, and Lily is sent to Florida for the funeral. There, she meets a boy her age who is one of the sideshow performers because of his alligator like skin condition, her mother's evil boyfriend, and the other members of the circus. She is still afraid of Queenie Grace, and still angry at her mother for abandoning her, but Lily is moved by the elephant's grief. When her grandmother decides to send Queenie Grace to an elephant sanctuary, Lily tries to help her escape, but this is unsuccessful. Luckily, the sanctuary is a good place for the elephant to be, and the family starts to move on.
Strengths: Everyone will be talking about this one, and it will be nominated for major awards. This is a description from Goodreads: "In this beautifully written, poignant middle grade novel, perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, Lily mourns the death of her grandfather with the help of his circus elephant, Queenie Grace."
Weaknesses: Not only oozing with sadness, longing, and regret, but blessed with a cover that looks like it has come straight out of the 1980s.
What I really think: I was hoping books would become happier in 2017. I don't know that this is going to happen. Will pass on purchasing.
English, Karen. Trouble Next Door (The Carver Chronicles #4)
December 6th 2016 by Clarion Books
Calvin isn't happy that the elderly couple next door are moving, but he's even unhappier when he finds out that Harper Hill, the bully at his school, is moving in. He tries to avoid Harper on his way to and from school, but can't keep it up forever, especially after his father talks to Harper's foster mother. Calvin finds out that Harper's mother is living in a gardening shed in the community garden, and Calvin was taken into foster care when the authorities found out that he was living there, too. Calvin is also very concerned about the school science fair, because he makes his father promise to buy him the new version of his favorite video game, Wuju Legend, if he wins. Calvin's project doesn't turn out the way he wants. His hypothesis is that boys are quicker at identifying optical illusions, but the boys turn out to be much slower! Harper has a much better project that his mother is helping him with, but Calvin begins to realize that Harper isn't all bad.
Strengths: This is a great series for elementary school students. It is not quite as popular with my readers as Charlie Bumper is, but Dog Days, Skateboard Party and Don't Feed the Geckos fill a need for some of my struggling readers. I like the fact that the characters are diverse, but also a lot like Caroline Hayward's Penny.
Weaknesses: The description of Harper's foster mother was half a bubble off for me-- she is shown as an older, chain-smoking woman in a housecoat. This was somewhat redeemed by Harper's mom being involved with Harper. Harper acts out because of his situation, but Calvin seems to have some trouble expressing all of this. Calvin is also pretty bratty.
What I really think: I'll probably purchase this one, since one of my 8th grade girls who really likes African-American characters in her reading told me that she was completely addicted to this author's Niki and Deja books in elementary school. Did seeing characters who looked like her make her into the reader she is today? Probably didn't hurt.