Laso, Maria D. Otherwise Known as Possum
February 28th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
LizBetty Porter doesn't want to be called by her name-- she wants to be called Possum, which is what her deceased mother called her. Even after a number of years, both Possum and her father are struggling with the death of her mother and baby sibling. Now, the local busybodies in their Depression era Appalachian community think that Possum should go to school and occasionally wear dresses. Possum does not share this opinion, and tries everything she can to get out of going to school. When she thinks that her teacher has designs on her father, her resolved strengthens, even though she has made an uneasy peace with her classmates, and has begun to realize that her schoolmates may be dealing with their own problems, even though their lives seem more pleasant than hers.
Strengths: This was a sweet tale about a salty young woman who wasn't willing to give in to the mores of her time. Supportive community, bewildered father, and a good secondary story about a classmate make this a fine choice if you need Depression Era tales or are feeling nostalgic for The Waltons.
Weaknesses: I'm not a fan of obnoxious main characters, but know that they are often popular. (Characters like The Great Gillie Hopkins or Gertie's Leap to Greatness) This is similar in feel to Rosengren's What the Moon Said, Golden's Every Day After, and Kinsey-Warnock's True Colors.
What I really think: It's very sad that Ms. Laso passed away before she got to see this publishes, but I don't think it would get much use in my library.
Mlynowski, Sarah. Sugar and Spice (Whatever After #10)
November 29th 2016 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Abby is having a bad day-- she and her brother Jonah break a lamp playing duckball in the house, they have to eat asparagus at dinner, and there's no dessert because Abby has had a note sent home about her being disruptive in class. Going through the magic mirror sounds like a great way to get away from her problems, but when she and Jonah get through, they find that they are trapped in the story of Hansel and Gretel, in a land called Vegetopia. And evil witch owns all of the vegetable gardens, which are guarded closely by birds. Time is going more quickly in the fairy tale world than in their own world, and things are not working out. When they find a witch's gingerbread cottage with Hansel and Gretel, they know what might happen, and Hansel and Gretel go through the portal, leaving Abby and Jonah stranded. Abby convinces the witch that Jonah won't make a good stew because he's eaten too much junk food, and buys herself a little time. Eventually, the two manage to get back through the portal, only to discover that Hansel and Gretel have been impersonating them in order to take advantage of the much better way of life that Abby and Jonah have.
This is the most moralistic tale in this series-- Abby and Jonah quickly realize how good their lives are compared to Hansel and Gretel, who have (after all) been abandoned in the woods by their father and step mother. They gain a greater appreciation for their parents' rules and consequences, and even the kale smoothies their mother makes, after seeing how hard Hansel and Gretel's lives are.
The story of the witch also has a funny twist about vegetables-- the witch is selling them at a very high cost that most of the people in Vegetopia can't afford, which makes all of the children appreciate them a little more. Of course, the candy on the gingerbread house is still very tasty-- what child hasn't imagined being stuck in this particular fairy tale so that he could eat all of the candy AND outwit the witch?
While Prince the dog and Maryrose the fairy don't have as big a role in this volume, Abby and Jonah certainly develop a little more as characters, and it's interesting for them to be shown learning something new about themselves. Readers of fractured fairy tales like E.D.Baker's or Daisy Meadows' titles will gobble up this latest installment of Whatever After. The next volume in this series is to be Abby in Wonderland a super special due out in September of 2017.