Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Space!: The Moon Platoon and Lost in Outer Space

31371259Kraatz, Jeramey. Space Runners: The Moon Platoon
May 2nd 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

In 2085, Benny lives in the Drylands. His father didn't come back from a scouting mission, so he lives in a caravan with his grandmother and two younger brothers. When he is picked for the elite academy at the swank Lunar Taj, he knows that the way to better the circumstances for his family is to go. Once there, he meets the other students, including the obnoxious Drue, the daredevil Hot Dog, and the techie Jasmine. When Hot Dog goes out in a Space Runner and crashes, Benny and Drue go out looking for her. Theyfind her, but uncover a mystery as well. Could it be that Elijah West has brought the 100 children to the moon for other reasons?

Benny is a great character who is trying hard to fit into a new environment. Life in the Drylands is hard, so he appreciates all of the amenities of the Lunar Taj in a way that Drue does not. Drue is a spoiled brat, but not beyond redemption. Hot Dog throws caution to the wind, but can back up her actions with excellent skills-- and she's described as a pretty blond. I loved that Jasmine was the tech guru instead of some stereotypical geeky boy!

The Lunar Taj is a solidly described setting. Will technology progress that far by 2085? Children who read this book today could conceivably live long enough to find out! I'm not entirely sold that a Chevelle could be retrofitted and made space worthy, but it's a fun concept. This bore a small resemblance to Reilly's 2007 Crash Course, but has a lot more going for it.

Kraatz's The Cloak Society also offered tweens saving the world; as much as this concept gives me pause, middle school students love the idea. Pair this first book in the Space Runners series with Fry's Jupiter Pirates, McDougall's Mars Evacuees, and Kloepfer's Galaxy's Most Wanted for readers who like Star Wars, Star Trek, and traditional space adventure rather than dystopian worlds.

30652350Olson, Todd. Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13
January 31st 2017 by Scholastic Nonfiction
Public library copy

Somehow, I managed to miss all pertinent details about Apollo 13. I was only five when the mission started, and knew nothing about it. Missed the movie. This book, therefore, was AWESOME. Like Lost in the Pacific, this is nonfiction told in an engaging, exciting way reminiscent of the We Were There books of my childhood. But better! So much better! Olson's research is impeccable, and his author note at the end was fascinating. I also enjoyed how he framed the event through the eyes of one of the astronaut's teen daughters, Barbara Lovell. Lost in Outer Space lays out all of the details and background about what occurred, but does so in a page-turning way. My only problem with these books is that they are not available in a dust jacketed hardcover, so they won't wear well. ARGH! I am definitely looking forward to the next books in this series, even if I have to buy multiple copies. If more nonfiction were written like this, it wouldn't be so hard to get students to pick it up!

Castle, M.E. Fakespeare: Starcrossed in Romeo and Juliet
May 23rd 2017 by Imprint
Copy provided by the publisher

Becca has a hard day at school, and her step brother doesn't make it any better when she has to rush to her friend Kyle's house to retrieve her overdue library book (Oh, Becca. I love you!). Once there, she and Sam find a suspicious book that sucks them into it, and they are suddenly on the streets of Verona, stuck in the story of Romeo and Juliet. There's a pizza war going on; the mozzarella recipe has been stolen, people are trying to fob off Insta-Stix for pizza crust, and tomatoes are flying everywhere. Not only that, but Romeo is obsessed with a girl names Rosalina, Tybalt is making perfume, and Becca's dog Rufus is constantly getting her into trouble. Will she and Sam be able to make their way back home? (Spoiler: Book two, Fakespeare: Something Stinks in Hamlet is released today as well.)
Strengths: This reminded me a lot of Ford's Stick Man Odyssey in that it's loosely tied to a classic, has drawings, and is funny. It's formatted quite well-- the text is about 16 point font, and there's lots of white space, so even though the book is almost 300 pages long, it's a quick read. This is critically important to students, and not enough publishers pay attention to this. The minute I put the ARC of this on my giveaway cart, three sixth graders started fighting over it.
Weaknesses: I was surprised that Castle, with his background in Shakespearean acting, didn't align the story more to the play. I was particularly distressed by the idea that the fight between the Capulets and Montagues was tied to pizza, and by the prevalence of tomatoes, which did not come to Italy from Peru until at least  a hundred years after Romeo and Juliet's setting. I would have been that child who would have read this book in 6th grade and then have been very confused in ninth grade when the pizza war was never mentioned.
What I really think: Definitely purchase if you need more notebook style novels or if there is a lot of interest in Shakespeare at your school. I'm debating whether I can get over the presence of tomatoes! I prefer this author's Clone Chronicles. (I know, I know. I'm okay with cloning, but not tomatoes in Verona in the 1300s.)
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. All of these sound great! Hope we get them in our system.