Benedis-Grab, Daphne. Army Brats
March 28th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Tom, Charlotte and Rosie Bailey are excited to be moving onto an Army base where they will have a little more freedom to roam. Their mother is in Army intelligence, and their dad works from home. All of the children have a few problems of their own, which come out as they start their new school. Rosie, who was adopted from China, has little patience for other children and is considered mean because of how she treats them. Tom has a tendency to startle and make a squeaking sound, and he manages to run afoul of Chase, the school bully, who dubs him "Major Wimpy". Charlotte is very concerned that she finds a good group at school, and is very glad when popular girls like her nail polish designs and ask her to sit with them. Charlotte is very concerned that her brother's troubles will spill into her own life, so when the children notice that neighborhood dogs are going missing and find a suspicious house in a restricted area of the base, they think it's a good idea to make a video of Tom going in there so that Chase thinks he is brave. They think they have uncovered a dog stealing ring and are working on solving it without adult intervention, but it turns out to be perfectly benign. Rosie manages to make a friend and works on being kinder, Tom finally sticks up for himself, and Charlotte realizes that her popular new friends are not worth hiding her true feelings.
Strengths: The depiction of life on an Army base makes this worth purchasing. Shopping at the PX, worrying about parents who are on active duty in war torn countries, discussing moving frequently-- there are too few depictions of this in middle grade fiction.
Weaknesses: The mystery of pets being kidnapped is very trite, but Charlotte's reaction to this was even more disturbing-- let's investigate this bad thing happening on an Army base without letting parents know. Then it wasn't a problem at all... just seemed a bit odd.
What I really think: This author is hit or miss for me; enjoyed Clementine for Christmas, but couldn't get into The Angel Tree. Still, this is a good purchase for the depiction of military family life, and it's surprisingly upbeat. I think all of the children probably should have been in some sort of therapy for anxiety and socialization.