Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

33783414Burt, Marissa. The 12 Dares of Christa
September 26th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Christa loves Christmas, and has extensive plans covering everything from decorating to socializing. Even though her family is going to Europe for the holiday because her mother is touring in a play, she knows they can still have an awesome holiday. Right before they are to leave, however, Christa's parents sit her down and break some bad news to her-- they are getting a divorce, and her father will not be traveling with them. Christa is furious with both of them AND devastated that her Christmas plans are never going to be the same! She puts on her best mopey tween mood and takes off for Rome, Paris and London, where she is forced to hang out with the children of other performers and go around in a sightseeing tour with a guide. Her father has arranged for her to have 12 presents and attached dares sent to her, and she enlists the help of some of the other travelers to help her. She has to go outside of her comfort zone a bit (which is tough, especially since she is phobic about new food), and it doesn't help that her mother is apparently dating one of the actors! Even with all of the changes, can Christa manage to have a good holiday?
Strengths: This is a fairly light-hearted tale involving travel to Europe, and it deals with the aftermath of divorce, so this should be appealing to many readers. A light touch of romance for Christa doesn't hurt, and the cover is very pretty. We could use more covers like this one, in fact!
Weaknesses: The way the parents handled the divorce seemed odd, and I could have used a little more explanation about Christa's rather serious food issues.
What I really think: I like my books about traveling to Europe to include a lot less whining, but I think my students will like this one. I do get occasional requests for books about Christmas.

34228320Lundquist, Jenny. The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby
September 19th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Violet's mother died of cancer a year and a half ago, and her father has just married one of the teachers in her school, Melanie aka The Hammer. Over Thanksgiving, Violet has to move out of her house and into another one with Melanie and her two children, Olivia and Joey. Melanie seems like the typical evil stepmother-- she won't let Violet paint her room, she has put all of the Barnaby's possessions in the garage, and she keeps "forgetting" that Violet is a vegetarian. Violet is having trouble getting along with her friends Izzy, Sophia and Daisy, who frequently complain about how unpleasant their mothers are. When she is assigned to work on a history project with her crush, Austin, she takes a lot of comfort in commiserating with him, since his mother may move to New York for a year to attend a cooking school. Violet continues to struggle with Melanie's rules and feels that her own interests are not taken as seriously as Olivia's, although she is glad that her father is no longer crying in his bedroom and not paying attention to her. There are some good times, and Violet is surrounded by people who want to support her. She has a counselor at school to talk to, and in the end, Melanie and her children really do want to make a new family that included Violet as well as her father.
Strengths: There need to be more books like Love You Like a Sister that cover the extremely complicated process of merging families in a realistic but hopeful way. I loved the small town community and the close knit relationship between the girls and their families. Violet's processing of her mother's death is realistic, as is her budding relationship with Austin. I thought the use of text messages in this was done particularly well.
Weaknesses: This comes right up to the line of "overly sad".
What I really think: This could be read independently of The Charming World of Izzy Malone, but since I didn't purchase that title, I may pass on this one.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Handbook

Benton, Jim. The Handbook
September 26th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Jack loves to scavenge things from the trash, so when his elderly neighbors, the Wallaces, relocate to Florida, he hides quite a haul in the garage. Before he knows it, Mr. Wallace is back in his neighborhood, looking disheveled, and talking in hushed tones with Jack's parents about something he can't find. Jack and his friend Mike go through the boxes and find a suspicious book, Favorite Turnip Recipes of the World. This turns out to be a fake cover for the official parenting handbook that has led their parents to spout platitudes about their faces freezing that way and about eating all of their meals because there are starving children in Africa. Mike and Jack, along with Jack's crush, Maggie, read the book and start to manipulate their parents into doing what they want. They convince their parents that ice cream is dairy, and dairy is good, so ice cream for breakfast is fine, which all seems fairly innocuous until The Parents Agency kidnaps the children and the Resistance comes to their rescue. Who knew that parents were so organized in their attempts to control children, or that the children were so tired of doing things that were in their best interest? There is a lot at stake, at Jack, Mike and Maggie need to weigh the social and political importance of The Handbook before deciding their course of action.
Strengths: This was a lot of goofy fun, and the chapters all started with an illustration, although this does not appear to be (from the E ARC) a notebook novel. Jack and Mike are amusing characters, and Jack's crush on Maggie is on point. Children who are tired of their parents telling them to play outside, wash behind their ears, eat their vegetables, and clean their rooms will find some vindication in the actions of the Resistance. In some ways, this is a topsy turvy Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the new Millennium.
Weaknesses: The start of this was a bit slow, and a lot of time was spent setting the stage for The Handbook with the parents spouting platitudes. The plot took a while to emerge.
What I really think: While this has more white space on the page than Benton's Dear Dumb Diary series (which is more text dense than the covers would indicate, leading to some unhappy students), I'm just not sure whether I will purchase this one. None of the sides come out looking very charitable.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, September 22, 2017

Guy Friday- Stars Beneath Our Feet

Moore, David Barclay. The Stars Beneath Our Feet
September 19th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Wallace (Lolly) Rauchpaul lives with his mother and her girlfriend Yvonne in the St. Nick projects in Harlem; his father visits infrequently but does occasionally stop by. The family is struggling with the fairly recent shooting death of Lolly's older brother Jermaine as Christmas approaches. Lolly is especially affected, since he is approached by gangs in the neighborhood for various reasons, but wants nothing to do with them. His best friend, Vega, is also struggling with his relationship to the gangs, especially after his cousin is shot. Lolly is fortunate that he has a community center to attend, and he finds a mentor in Mr. Ali. Lolly loves to build things with Legos, and always follows the blueprints like a good architect should, but he finally decides to put all of the Legos together and build one enormous building. He is aided in this endeavor by bags of Lego bricks that would have been thrown away if Yvonne, who works at Tuttle's toy shop, didn't bring them home. The sculpture eventually starts to take over the apartment, and he gets permission to build in the community center. At the center, he starts to talk more to Rose, who is "different" but enjoys architecture as much as Lolly does. The two work together, and Lolly learns to appreciate her differences. When the sculpture comes to the attention of the news media, there are both good and bad consequences, and Lolly continues his journey of healing and of making his own way in his Harlem neighborhood.
Strengths: This was an #ownvoices story that doesn't shy away from the harsher realities of living in the projects in Harlem, but doesn't resort to stereotypical characters. There should be a lot more books that involve children who are interested in building with Legos! The book includes a wide but not unrealistic range of diversity, with Lolly's mother, Rose, and Vega. The book is descriptive without being slow paced, and the plot and character development are entertaining.
Weaknesses: There is a significant amount of negative language in the book. People make fun of Rose because she is large and does not relate well to people (at the end of the book she is diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum); there is a discussion of whether a girl has a "fat booty" and other instances of commenting on people's bodies; references to gay friends as "limp wrist", and several conversational uses of the term "nigga".
What I really think: As a white, middle class, suburban female, I do not feel qualified to tell whether or not the language in this book is appropriate. There is a lot of controversy even among the African-American community about the use of any form of the word "nigger". ( Looking at the book from my point of privilege, many of the interactions seem mean, but I will await the thoughts of others who have more of a right to opine. However, based on conversations with African American parents about books during several Black History Month assignments, I think that this book could offend children and their parents at my school, so I am reluctant to buy it. If I see positive reviews by #ownvoices writers that offer explanations for this language, I may change my mind.
   Ms. Yingling

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lone Stars Blog Tour

Lupica, Mike. Lone Stars.
September 12th 2017 by Philomel Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Clay loves playing football with his good friends, and football is a family activity in Texas. His mother is a staunch supporter, even though she worries, and she invites his coach, Monty Cooper, over for dinner. When Clay takes a big hit that knocks the wind out of him, he starts to shy away from some of the contact on the field, which he knows is in direct violation to Coach's dictum "don't play scared". When his friend David sustains a concussion on the field, this doesn't help Clay's fear, especially when he researches the long term effects of concussions and starts to suspect that Coach is suffering from some of them. David's sister Maddie is the team manager for the Pop Warner Lone Stars team, and Clay shares his concerns with her. The two also bond over their love for the Alamo, and start texting each other and hanging out together. When Coach seems to have more and more problems with memory, and is involved in a minor auto accident, David and Maddie put some supports in place to help him get through the season. If the Lone Stars can make the championship, Coach can return to the stadium where he played some of his games with the Cowboys, and he also hopes to go to a Cowboys reunion during Thanksgiving weekend. There are a few more injuries on the field, and Clay has to learn to balance his concerns with his need to play football.

Korman's Pop (2009) was one of the first books that addressed the long term effects of "the cost of business" or "bell ringing", eight years later, this has become a cause of great concern that has been well represented in some nonfiction literature, such as McClafferty's Fourth Down and Inches:Concussions and Football's Make-Or-Break Moment and even Steve Almond's adult title, Against Football. What makes Lone Stars successful for me is the clever combination of Clay's fear on the field and his coach's vivid example of what can happen if a player is not cautious.

As always, Lupica really shines when it comes to the female characters in the books. Clay's mom wants him to be concerned, but she doesn't want to scare him. Maddis knows and loves football, and she and Clay are able to hang out comfortably together. Are they dating? They joke about it, but since they are so young, they are okay with being friends for the moment. Maddie also has some great tech skills to help coach out, and she and Clay make a great team.

I was concerned for a while that the Coach's problems would not be brought to the attention of adults who could help him, but Clay and Maddie are responsible kids and know that eventually the matter will become too big for them to handle.

Of course, middle school readers will want the football details more than the emotional ones, and there's plenty of pulse-pounding, on the field action. With David out of commission, the Lone Stars have to learn to work together as a slightly different team, and their process of understanding what they need to do was interesting, even though I didn't understand most of the football plays!

Readers who enjoy Tim Green, Lupica's other books, Rich Wallace, or David Klass will definitely want to pick up Lone Stars. My only complaint is that I thought the ending was rushed-- I was prepared to read another 100 pages to find out how things went after the championship game!

Join the Blog Tour!
Week One:
September 20 – Teachers Who Read – Review
September 21 – Ms. Yingling Reads – Review
September 22 – YABooksCentral – Excerpt with Giveaway
Week Two:
September 25 – Margie’s Must Reads – Excerpt
September 26 – Mom Spot – Review
September 28 – Teachers Who Read – Reviews
Week Three:
October 3 – Welcome to Wonderland – Review

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Way too much fun...

Image result for snowball microphoneI don't do a lot of media production in the library; the teachers always have the video camera out for the Resident Educator program, and I don't have a fancy iStudio because, honestly, my students are more interested in books.

I DO have a Snowball microphone, Audacity software ( and a tambourine of my very own! If you want to make podcasts or even really cool announcements, You might also want to check out the Free Music Archive. (

We collect Boxtops for Education for the library, and this is my attempt to get children to bring them in. Oh! Those Boxtops! 

How have you used recording technology to further your own plans for world domination?
Ms. Yingling

#WNDB Wednesday- Halfway Normal

32179034Dee, Barbara. Halfway Normal.
September 5th 2017 by Aladdin Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After spending fifth and sixth grade in and out of the hospital while ill with cancer, Norah finally gets to start middle school. It's awkward-- all of her friends are familiar with how everything works, and Norah just feels like she is The Girl Who Had Cancer and that no one really knows how to talk to her. That's why it's a little bit of a relief to be put into 8th grade science and math, since her tutor pushed her further than she would have gotten in school. When she meets Griffin, a new 8th grader, they bond over their love of drawing and mythology. The only problem is that Griffin doesn't know she's in 7th grade, and she doesn't want to tell him that she isn't able to attend after school clubs because her parents are limiting her activities while her immune system is still compromised. This leads to some bad decisions on Norah's part-- she skips health class and stays after school to talk to Griffin, and her divorced parents aren't happy. Her mother eventually has to go home to California, where she is a college professor, and it's tough for Norah to have her go away. A variety of run-of-the-mill middle school things happen to Norah, but they hit her harder since she is still in "re entry mode". She has a lot of people supporting her, but she still just needs To figure out how to make her own way in middle school.
Strengths: While Norah is dealing with the unusual circumstance of having had cancer, most of the problematic situations that bedevil her are completely usual to middle school. Her parents are overprotective. Her friends have grown away from her. She likes a boy. She feels misunderstood, and she occasionally does embarrassing things. These are the sort of realistic problems my students ask for. Bonus points for supportive parents who are still alive, and for making Norah a well rounded character with her own particular interests. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Weaknesses: I know what the cover is trying to accomplish (to look like the adult coloring books that are so popular now), but I'm not sure it works. I'll be curious to see a print copy. The only other thing I would change would be to exclude the student mythology presentations. Somehow didn't work for me.
What I really think: While Ms. Dee certainly brings a deeper level of understanding to Norah's character (and her parents) because her own son had cancer, she does such a well researched, modern problem novel that this would have been excellent anyway. A must purchase for middle school libraries, especially since there aren't a whole lot of books (with the notable exception of Sonnenblick's 2010 After Ever After) about students living with the after effects of cancer.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rise of the Jumbies. (Book #2)

33590220Baptiste, Tracey. Rise of the Jumbies. (Book #2)
September 19th 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When there is an earthquake in Corine's small town, several children go missing, and because Corine is part jumbie, her neighbors suspect that she might be involved. To find the children, Corinne risks her own fate to meet with Mama D'Leau, who agrees to help if Corinne can retrieve an opal for her. The problem? The opal is located in Ghana, and Corinne and her friends Dru, Malik and Bouki must travel there with four mermaids, Sisi, Addie, Ellie and Noyi. On their way, they come across a wrecked slave trading ship, and realize that there mermaids were girls who were stolen from Ghana. Once in Ghana, Corinee meets Kahiri, who helps the children get something to eat, and is instrumental in helping them locate Mama Wata's opal which Ma Dessaly has. It's not an easy task, but once the group has the stone, they make their way back home, where there has been a terrible fire. The missing children are found, although some have been turned in to douens. Corinne decides to accept Mama D'Leau's offer of turning her into her jumbie self so that she can take Severine far away where she will no longer be a problem. Mama D'Leau says that this will be a permanent change, but Corinne feels that her neighbors will never accept her, so she agrees. Will Corinne and her father be separated forever?
Strengths: Nicely adventurous and dangerous romp in the sea with evil creatures. Corinne's struggles with her identity are well done; she says at one point that she is part human and part jumbie and that she shouldn't have to choose. The details about life on her Caribbean island, as well as the glimpses of life in Ghana, are well drawn and will interest young readers. I have had a number of students from Ghana over the years, and am glad to finally find a book where they might see themselves!
Weaknesses: There were a lot of characters to keep straight, and I never was able to differentiate the mermaids.
What I really think: This would actually be paired quite well with Shackles from the Deep-- there's the wreck of a slave ship AND a mention of a building that sounded a lot like Elmina Castle! I think I liked this sequel even better than the original, which rarely happens. Traveling with mermaids-- how could you go wrong?

Ms. Yingling

Monday, September 18, 2017

MMGM- Survival against the odds

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger's Blog and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

29774947Johnson, Terry Lynn. Falcon Wild
September 19th 2017 by Charlesbridge
E ARC from

Karma works with her family's nature education business, and is hoping that she can become an apprentice falconer. She has a gyr falcon, Stark, but learns that the bird must be returned to its original owners. Her father and brother set out on a trip to Montana to hand off Stark, and briefly pick up a hitchhiker Karma's age along the way. Cooper is uncommunicative, and Karma's father is not pleased. After dropping Cooper off, the family turns down a road and finds that Cooper has taken the family cell phone. This is problematic when a tire on the van blows, crashing it on its side and wounding Karma's father. Stark escapes, and Karma takes off for help after consulting her father. The road doesn't take her where she is expecting, and she falls into a pit. Luckily, Stark has followed her and circles above where she is, and draws Cooper to find her! They both feel bad for how they treated each other, and form an uneasy alliance to get help. Everything that could go wrong does. Karma's arm, which was injured in the crash, starts to get infected; they run into a bear; there's an unexpected dip in the river; it storms; and they are very low on food and supplies. Along with the physical trauma of surviving in the wilderness, Cooper has personal issues to work through, and Karma is greatly concerned for the safety of her brother and father. Can the two find assistance before it's too late?
Strengths: Like Johnson' excellent Ice Dogs, Falcon Wild is rich in details about back country travel and all of the challenges one might face in that environment. Cooper and Karma are not foolish about how they proceed, but they do lack some survival know-how, which gets them into all sorts of trouble. The explanations of how to work with falcons is something I haven't seen often in middle grade- other than Jean Craighead George's classic My Side of the Mountain books, I can't think of any. Readers who may have never been anywhere more dangerous than the devil strip of their own front yard adore gripping descriptions of survival, and Cooper and Karma's tentative friendship as they work together adds some more depth to the story.
Weaknesses: I found it a bit odd that Karma's father would have been so unprepared for a trip. I think I take more supplies on my bike when I go two miles to the library!
What I really think: Survival books are always in demand, and I'll be glad to add this to my library collection.

Yes, yes, we all know how much I love Thatcher Heldring's The Football Girl.
If you want to hear the sound of my voice expounding on just HOW MUCH I love it, head over to Jody Lee Mott's Dream Gardens Podcast (Talking Up The Kids' Books We Love.)

Bound By Ice Blog Tour

34593610Wallace, Sandra Neil and Rich. Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story
September 19th, 2017, Calkins Creek Books
ARC received from the publisher

In 1879, George W. DeLong attempted to travel to the North Pole, spurred on and funded by Gordon Bennett Hr., the own of the New York Herald newspaper. After the Civil War, there was quite a mania for discovering new places, and at the time there was a belief that there was a tropical ocean at the top of the world. Bennett, who liked any news that would sell papers, even if it were false, thought to capitalize on this fervoe with DeLong's trip. DeLong was a seasoned sailor and a detailed planner who went into the journey well prepared, with an excellent crew aboard his ship, the U.S.S. Jeannette.Not surprisingly, the trip did not go well. The ship was trapped in the ice several times, supplies ran low, men got sick, and finally, when the ship had to be abandoned, men and dogs perished trying to make it to civilization across the forbidding, frigid land. Amazingly, a handful of the men survived. What I found interesting was that the newspaper really didn't get any reports back from DeLong, so it seems like they didn't really get their money worth!
Strengths: The Wallaces do a fantastic nonfiction book. Babe Conquers the World is one of my favorites! The research is impeccable (the bibliography and end notes are especially impressive), but the engaging way the story is told is what will sell the book to readers. It doesn't hurt that the book is nicely formatted. Plenty of white space, period line illustrations from newspapers, and journal entries from crew members all add to this story of survival against the odds. The journals, as well as the information about DeLong, give a personal touch to the book and invites readers to have an emotional investment in the voyage. There are a number of seafaring fiction books with which this can easily be paired; hand it to fans of Flanagan's Brotherband Chronicles while they are waiting for the next book in the series!
Weaknesses: I am not an adventurer at heart, so it is beyond me why anyone would undertake such a voyage! Even though the writing moves the story along, there is a lot of sitting on ships waiting for things to happen. And scurvy, which is never pleasant.
What I really think: Excellent narrative nonfiction on a topic that is not much covered, but would go nicely with Seiple's Igloo and Byrd.

Catch the Blog Tour for Bound By Ice! I'm very pleased to help get the word out about this exciting book, and looking forward to having both authors participate in my Kidlitcon Sports Panel!

Sunday, 9/17     Nerdy Book Club
Monday, 9/18   Mrs. Yingling Reads
Tuesday, 9/19   The Booklist Reader
Wednesday, 9/20 KidLit Frenzy
Friday, 9/22       The Nonfiction Detectives

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Sadness

Blejwas, Emily. Once You Know This
September 19th 2017 by Delacorte Press
E ARC from

Brittney's fifth grade teacher, Mr. McGinnis, likes to teach his students cultural things as well as the regular school topics, and he encourages them to keep notebooks of their dreams. It's hard for Brittney, because her family is struggling. Her father was a Polish student who disappeared when her mother became pregnant, and now she, her mother, and her younger brother Tommy live with her mother's grandmother. Jack, her mother's boyfriend, is frequently abusive to her mother, and the grandmother is sinking deeper and deeper into dementia and illness. There is rarely enough food to go around, and trips to the food pantry and WIC become more and more frequent. When a birthday card arrives for the grandmother from Alabama, signed "Fuzzy", Brittney manages to hunt down a great uncle who still lives near her grandmother's house. As Jack's behavior becomes more erratic and money becomes tighter, Brittney tries hard to come up with a "plan B" that will help her family survive.
Strengths: I liked that this gave some details about the social services that people who are struggling can access. Students who may need them may learn something useful, and students who don't need them might come to understand a bit more how difficult life can be for others. I liked that the mother had friends that stepped in when they could, and especially liked that Brittney knew to try to get help for her mother because of Jack's behavior. Mr. McGinnis was a sympathetic teacher who didn't pry too much.
Weaknesses: I wished that Brittney had been portrayed as older; she seemed too self aware for a fifth grader.
What I really think: I'm debating this one. It seems a bit slow as well as sad, so it will probably go on my list of books that I will buy if there is money left over. I wish I could buy everything, but where would I put that many books?

Yeh, Kat. The Way to Bea
September 19th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Bea is experiencing lots of changes as she goes into 7th grade. She and her best friend, S. aren't speaking after a summer of being apart, and Bea's mother is expecting. Bea feels alone and anxious, and writes haiku in invisible ink, hiding them in a wall, in order to try to cope with her feelings. When someone writes back to her, she is hopeful that her friend is willing to reconcile, but after a while, suspects that the writer may be someone else. There is an understanding librarian, Ms. Rodriguez, who gives Bea a space to decompress; the school literary magazine office. Another student, Will, seems to need to space to be dim and quiet even more than Bea does, and Bea is befriended by the quirky Briggs and Jaime as well. Will (who is not labeled as being on the Autism spectrum, although a note at the back of the book mentions Asperger Syndrome) is slightly obsessed with a labyrinth on a local estate, and Bea tries to get him access to it. Everything comes to a crisis when Bea's mother goes into labor and Bea must abandon Will just as he is set to go through the labyrinth. Luckily, her new friends help her, and she manages to reconnect with her older friends, as well.
Strengths: Definitely on trend with the current fascination middle grade authors have with students with anxiety issues. Bea's parents aren't dead, and while they are supportive, have their own interests that keep them from paying too much attention to Bea. It's good to see middle school students being allowed to work through their own problems. Briggs is a fantastic character (even if he wouldn't be allowed to wear the fedora at my school), and Will is accurately portrayed. The drama of friends distancing themselves is one that will speak to many tweens.
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that Bea wouldn't have returned Briggs' interest. The frequent discussions of poetry will not be intrigue my students.
What I really think: This is certainly more upbeat than this author's The Truth About Twinkie Pie, but ultimately a bit long, slow and quirky. I can see this getting a lot of attention from teachers and librarians, and can see it being used as a whole class novel on challenges.

34050819Fusco, Kimberly Newton. Chasing Augustus.
September 19th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young
E ARC from Netgalley

Rosita (Rosie!) has had some challenges. Her mother moved to California when Rosie was a year old because she just couldn't be a mother. Rosie's father ran the local doughnut shop, but when he has a serious stroke, Rosie has to move in with her grandfather Harry. He's an irascible old coot who subsists on sardines and crackers, and doesn't want to be saddled with a grandchild. He and Rosie's mother have also given away Rosie's dog, Augustus. The dog, also known as Gloaty Gus, was smelly  and ill-behaved, but Rosie loves him and makes every effort to find her dog. With the help of a neighbor boy, Phillipe, she manages to track down her dog after a lot of searching, finding him with an unlikely new owner. Can she convince Harry to bring the dog back home, and will Gus' presence make her life any better.
Strengths: Dogs are very important, and Rosie's longing for her dog is completely understandable. Readers who like sad stories will enjoy the gritty, horrible town and the difficult, somewhat unpleasant characters. Rosie's mother, in particular, is not a nice person.
Weaknesses: This was quirky and sad, but also rather slow moving.
What I really think: As much as I love my dog and understand the need that Rosie has to find hers, there were too many unpleasant characters in the book for me to really connect with any of them. Readers who want sad dog stories may still want to take a look at this.

33877154Griffin, Paul. Saving Marty
September 19th 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Lorenzo Ventura lives on a peach farm, Maple Clutch, in southwest Pennsylvania with his mother and his grandfather, Double Pop. His father was killed while serving in the military, and the farm is not making a lot of money, so Lorenza mother is trying to cobble together loans, part time jobs, and business schemes to keep it afloat. After their pig has a litter, all of the animals are sold off, and when their dog, Bella, also has a litter, the plan is the same. However, one of the piglets got overlooked and gets adopted by Bella. Soon, Marty (named after Lorenzo's deceased father) thinks he is a dog. Lorenzo is fond of the animal and hopes he can keep him, even though his mother is constantly saying he has to go. Lorenzo's best friend, Paloma, gets involved in different schemes with Marty, such as entering him in a dog race to win money. As Marty gets bigger and bigger, he gets more and more destructive, but Lorenzo stills wants to keep him as a pet. When Paloma goes off to a music camp and secrets about his father's fate are revealed, Lorenzo is even more determined to keep Marty, since the pig is his only companion. Will he be able to save Marty?
Strengths: Marty does not die at the end of the book, which I was expecting. Griffin knows how to tug at the heart strings, and there are some clever and unusual elements in the setting and characters.
Weaknesses: This was very, very sad. The big secret (highlight for spoiler): Lorenzo's father committed suicide a week before Lorenzo was born. Why would you ever let a child find that out? Lorenzo was fine before finding that out.  It was a bit odd that Lorenzo thought about his father so much, since he never met him. The mother's exasperation and wishy-washiness over the pig annoyed me. If she was having money problems, she should have worked with her father, come up with a plan, and moved on. Instead, it takes the pig nearly killing the grandfather before they arrange to get rid of it? Lots and lots of bad choices made by everyone in the book. 
What I really think: Will pass on purchase.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons- No Place Like Home

34051360Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew. Swing It, Sunny
September 12th 2017 by Graphix
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sunny is back from her big Bicentennial summer grandfather's in Florida and trying to get back into the swing of life without her brother Dale. He is enrolled in a military school and very angry at their parents, so he won't even really talk to Sunny on the phone. Sunny hangs out with her friend watching t.v. after school, helps with her little brother, and wishes things were the way they had been before. She goes trick or treating as a nurse, and she and her friend later ambush neighborhood rowdies who have stolen someone's candy. Dale visits during Christmas but is very negative and isn't thrilled with her gift of a pet rock. As the year wears on, an older girl who is on the flag line moves in and teaches Sunny how to twirl flags. Dale starts to be more communicative, and Sunny's disposition improves a bit.
Strengths: The details in the pictures and the size and length of the text is exactly what my students prefer, and the story of Sunny's brother's problems is done with a deft touch-- not too many details, and focused on how Sunny feels. The color scheme and the details of Sunny's house are EXACTLY correct. Aside from the fact that my parents had a 1960s television console in a different corner of the room, the family room looked exactly like the one I grew up in! Children really did watch a lot of Gilligan's Island and Brady Bunch after school, although I was never allowed to watch t.v. if I had friends over. Loved the grandfather. Great introduction to a time period with a story that is accessible to current 12 year olds!
Weaknesses: I wished there had been a few more details about middle school and middle school culture in 1977. Maybe in the next book! In general, graphic novels leave me wanting a lot more information about what a character is doing and thinking. If this would have been a regular novel, I would have loved it more, but since the Holms do a perfectly formatted graphic novel for middle grade, my students won't feel this way. Could have used a little more information on the flags-- was it color guard? Flag line? My cousin was a majorette, but I didn't pay much attention other than watching the half time shows she was in.
What I really think: Buying these in PermaBound or FollettBound format so that they last a bit longer.

34228234Romito, Dee. No Place Like Home
September 19th 2017 by Aladdin
 E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ever since her mother's death, Kenzie has not had a permanent home. She travels from hotel to hotel with her father, an environmental consultant who home schools her and who has a roster of nannies in every town who can watch her when he is at work. When He gets a posting to Las Vegas for six weeks, he enrolls Kenzie in middle school. She's apprehensive, but thrilled for the opportunity to be a "real" student once again. Even though she knows she will soon be leaving, she tries out for the lead in the play (Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz), irritating Shelby, who wants the role. She also runs for class president against the cute Tate, with her new friend Ashia as her vice president. Of course, she gets the part and a vice presidency, and also joins the book club. She still spends her weekends traveling with her dad, and makes a new friend in D.C., Mayleen. Eventually, she has to tell everyone that she is leaving, and no one is at all happy. The principal even tells her that she should do the open skate anymore, to give her classmates time to get over their trauma. Of course, after she tells everyone she's leaving, her dad lets her know more about his plans. Kenzie has to really think about what she really wants out of life-- more adventure, or a more stable home and school life.
Strengths: Kenzie is an interesting character with a fascinating life, and it's intriguing that she is able to go so easily to the forefront of middle school society. My students love the Aladdin M!X books and would pick this up just for the cover. The writing is great, and the story has realistic middle grade emotions. The way that Kenzie deals with the absence of her mother is very well balanced, which is hard to find in middle grade books.
Weaknesses: This had two very overdone topics-- school elections and school plays. Books with those elements just do not circulate with my students, and I am personally very weary of reading about them. (Oddly, many books cover both topics. Or add bullying into the mix, which is also overdone.)
What I really think: I will buy this one if I have money left over at the end of the year.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Guy Friday- Showdown and Game Change

Coleman, K.R. Showdown
September 1st 2017 by Darby Creek Publishing
E ARC from Netgalley

Toby is glad to be on the football team with his ever-hungry friend, Walter, and is glad to be getting some attention from the upper classmen, including Neko. When rivals Winfield High plants a bunch of forks in their field, Neko retaliates by smearing chocolate frosting on their school and the car of their star player. This leads to Winfield putting a skunk in the Eddies' locker room. Toby's coach tells the team not to retaliate, but Neko is irritated not only by the sports rivalry but by the fact that Winfield is a wealthier community with better facilities. Toby doesn't think the pranks are right, since he knows his grandmother, a retired school cook, and his mother, who is deployed, would not look favorably on them. When Neko has a plan to spread manure on the Winfield field, Walter and Toby help as far as obtaining the manure, but then are abandoned by Neko when they try to dissuade them. When Neko and other team members are arrested, Toby and Walter are the only ones who go to their coach to admit their involvement. The team will struggle with fielding enough players for the championship, but Toby steps up and, with the help of his grandmother's cooking, tries to bring his team back together.
Strengths: This is a great example of what many of my sports readers like-- a short book with enough football to make them happy, and enough friend and family conflict that they can use the book for a language arts class project if they need to. The writing is simple but effective, Toby and Walter show their human frailties but step up to be better people when needed. There's even a little bit of a romance between Toby and Walter's cousin. Perfect.
Weaknesses: These books are occasionally very small and the white space isn't great-- I couldn't tell from the ARC, but I'd much prefer it if high/low books looked like regular trade fiction. I'll be very pleased if this one does. Darby Creek has been better about that lately.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and it will see lots of circulation. Middle school students love to read about high schoolers!

33413886Monniger, Joseph. Game Change
September 12th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zeb's life is pretty simple-- he works with his uncle in his auto body shop and goes hunting with him, he tries to help out his hard-working, single mother, and he plays on the football team. When the star quarterback, T.T., breaks his leg in a game, Zeb finds that he might have a chance at opportunities outside of his narrow life in a small New Hampshire town. In the week leading up to the big game, he is given interesting offers from T.T.'s former girlfriend, a popular cheerleader named Stella, his coach, scouts, and a former classmate, Ferron, who has moved back to town. His friend Hawny is there to encourage him to do his best, but also keeps him grounded. Doing a good job in the championship game might change his life, but what if a knee injury gets in the way? What if he just can't play well enough?
Strengths: The cover on this is fantastic-- the text could be about a boy who knits, and my readers would still pick it up! Good use of stock photo, HMH! I really liked Zeb, Stella has a realistic if shallow presence in the book, and Ferron is fantastic. I loved how she brought Zeb to Thanksgiving dinner and her family made him feel welcome. The hardscrabble background is interesting, and I liked the athletic trainer and coach a lot.
Weaknesses: Several f-bombs, and several...awkward moments. There's a scene in a history class where Native Americans are discussed in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, and there are some turns of phrase that were just odd. I liked this better than this author's Crash or Whipporwill.
What I really think: So torn. I really do try to buy all of the football books, but this one might just come down too far on the Young Adult side for my readers. Would I have bought a copy if the f-bombs hadn't been there. Absolutely.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Deadzone (Horizon #2)

34077605Nielsen, Jennifer A. Deadzone (Horizon #2)
September 12th 2017 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After surviving the plane crash and the events of Horizon, Team Killbot, Yoshi,  Kira and Akiko are still stuck in the weird Rift, trying to figure out what has happened and how to survive in the hostile environment. Food and water are scarce, although the manage to find some water and are good about boiling it, and occasionally cook up a scorpion or two. The biggest issue is that they need to cross the "blood sand"; red sand that will swallow them if any moisture drops on it. They make their weary way across, and fight off occasional predators. Yoshi struggles with finding out that his mother is sending him to Japan to be with his father because she doesn't want him, Molly struggles with her leadership roll, Kira and Akiko teach the group some Japanese and learn some English, and a few more facts about the fate of the plane emerge. When one of the children goes missing, he later show up talking in a very robotic way, but nothing is resolved because there are going to be five more books.
Strengths: I'm always intrigued by series written by different authors, and certainly love Westerfeld (who did book one) and Nielsen. This had an interesting Warriors meets video game vibe to it-- the children are very concerned about naming everything, there are alliances and factions, and lots o.f fighting and survival.The presence of an online game will be appealing to some readers.
Weaknesses: This read like a video game, and I had trouble discerning a plot. By the end of two books, I want more answers.
What I really think: This could have made one very interesting longer book, but I don't know that I can bring myself to buy the whole series. I know some of my students watch YouTube videos of people playing video games, but I just couldn't get into the book. Will have to debate and discuss with my students.
  Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- You Bring the Distant Near and Caleb and Kit

33155334 Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near
September 12th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sunny (Sonia) and her sister Star (Tara) have moved a lot because of their father's job. From Ghana to London, they have always felt somewhat outside of the mainstream culture due to their Bengali origins. When their mother finally convinces her father to move to America, the family ends up in Flushing, New York. Sunny is glad to be near a library and hopes that she will be able to wear jeans to school (quite daring for 1973!), and Tara tries to channel Marcia Brady and hopes to get by academically. The family manages to save up enough money to move to the suburbs, and Tara is glad to finally be involved in a drama group. Their parents' relationship seems to improve once the stress of relocating has abated, but other problems occur. The book jumps ahead in history a bit, and we hear from several generations of the family. Both sisters eventually marry (Tara a "nice Bengali boy", and Sonia an African American classmate), and their daughters Anna and Chantal get a chance to describe what their lives are like dealing with a variety of grandmothers!
Strengths: This was a fantastic immigrant family story that reminded me of the movie Avalon or some of the sweeping family epics written for adults. (Or a happier version of Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, which I think is one of the great unsung novels of the 20th century.) The details of both Bengali culture and also about how difficult it can be to read a new culture and fit into it are very interesting. I think my favorite character might be the mother; when her granddaughters are teenagers, she decides to "Americanize" herself in ways that are both touching and comical. This is a very timely book, given the recent issues with immigration.
Weaknesses: This is definitely more of a Young Adult book, more like this author's The Secret Keeper. Not that anything is objectionable, it just has more mature concerns.
What I really think: I enjoyed this tremendously, and would definitely purchase for any high school collection.

Vrabel, Beth. Caleb and Kit
September 12th 2017 by Running Press
E ARC from Netgalley

Caleb is not thrilled that he's going to have to spend the summer at a Parks and Rec camp, but he understands why his mother wants to send him. Still, when he is out in the woods near his house, he meets Kit, a strange girl whose mother seems to let her do whatever they want. Kit wants to be his friend desperately, and since his best friend, Brad, seems to be growing away from him, he's glad of the friendship. Even more importantly, Kit doesn't know about his medical problems and doesn't care. Caleb has cystic fibrosis, and even though he has been luckier than some, her still requires lots of medication and a complicated regimen to keep him from picking up infections. He knows that his lifespan is going to be shorter, and the appeal of doing whatever he wants while hanging out with Kit sounds much more appealing than spending time in camp. Since he is a "drop in" in the parks program, he managed to keep his absences hidden from both his mother and his older brother Patrick, who is interning for a cystic fibrosis foundation, which somehow annoys Caleb. In fact, just about everything but Kit annoys Caleb, and he manages to show his surly side not only to his mother, but to his noncustodial father and his new wife. While being with Kit is an escape for Caleb, he starts to realize that something is very wrong with the way that Kit is being cared for. As the summer wears on, both Caleb's and Kit's situations become untenable, and it's just a matter of time before the truth will come to light.
Strengths: The treatment of and prognosis for cystic fibrosis has changed so much over the last fifty years that books on this topic written earlier do not adequately represent children who live with this condition today. Caleb is a realistically drawn character who knows his limitations but chafes at them in a characteristically middle grade way. The best part is that the story is not ALL about his disorder; it's mainly concerned with how he wants to live his life within the constructs that provides. Kit's story was sad, and many readers will be drawn to it as well.
Weaknesses: I was glad that Patrick got to speak his piece at the end of the book. Caleb's opinions of him were very negative, but I liked him more than Caleb at many points in the book. The father was very unpleasant, but is redeemed a bit at the end as well.
What I really think: I have liked each of Ms. Vrabel's books a little better than the last. I think she has shown a huge amount of growth in her writing. It's great that she has researched health challenges of different types so that readers can see these challenges addressed in the literature. Check out Pack of Dorks, Blind Guide to Stinkville, Blind Guide to Normal (in that order!) and see if you agree. I do think that she writes an excellent middle grade boy voice!
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Code Name Flood: Edge of Extinction #2

Martin, Laura. Code Name Flood: Edge of Extinction #2
May 30th 2017 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Armed with a map and note from her father that she obtained in The Ark Plan, Sky sets off to find Lake Michigan with her friends Todd and Shawn. Unfortunately, they run into scientists from a secret compound in the middle of the lake and are taken captive. Thanks to a young intern, Chaz, Schwartz and Boznic, scientists at the Lincoln Lab, listen to their story, and it turns out that they worked with Sky's father. The lab is trying to recreate some of the dinosaurs that were not previously recreated before the pandemic in order to balance out the population and try to restore some semblance of order to the outside world so that humans might be able to live topside again. Unfortunately, the flash drive of her father's that Sky has found outlines the Noah's ideas to wipe out ALL of the dinosaurs! Not long after finding this out, the lab is attacked by the Noah's marines, and Sky and Todd barely escape with Chaz. Shawn, however, does not make it out. Ivan meets the children outside of the lab, and they all manage to hide away on the Noah's helicopter and make it, undiscovered, to the East Complex in New York City. There, they have to find a way to upset the Noah's plans before all of the work at the Lincoln Lab is negated and the world as they know it crumbles.

There are not enough middle grade books involving dinosaurs, so this is a great addition to the list of dystopian adventure novels. Since Sky was raised in an underground compound and Todd was raised topside, we get to see a range of reactions to the conditions that they see in the East Complex. I love all the details about the computers, electricity, and even the uniforms that the inhabitants wear. The details of the Lincoln Lab, with its setting in the middle of the lake and it's security detail of plesiosaurs was fascinating as well.

Sky's continued attempts to find her father or people who knew him are endearing and wistful, and the help she receives from her grandfather is nice to see. Chaz is a fun addition to the group, and sensitive fans of Shawn should not be overly worried about his disappearance.

Any aficionados of dystopia will want to add this series to their to-read list, and readers who enjoy rich, futuristic world building found inbooks like Perry's The Scavengers, DiTerlizzi's The Search for Wondla or Blakemore's The Firefly Code will enjoy their brief but exciting sojourn in the Lincoln Lab, East Complex and the new East Settlement.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, September 11, 2017

MMGM-Running Full Tilt

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

31189293 Currinder, Michael. Running Full Tilt
September 5th 2017 by Charlesbridge Teen
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Leo's family moves to another neighborhood because his brother, Caleb, who is on the autism spectrum but has a host of other issues as well, has irritated the neighbors. Leo doesn't mind, and is a little relieved to be further from neighbors. When he starts at his new high school, he decides to put his summer of running away from Caleb's unexplained tantrums to good use and joins the cross country team. The best runner on the team. Curtis, is impressed that Caleb can keep up, and the two become fast friends. Curtis is instrumental in helping Leo connect with Mary, an artistic girl who seems to understand Leo. Cross country and running is a good way for Leo to escape the difficulties of Caleb's outbursts as well as a way to avoid his irritating parents who may or may not be having affairs. Curtis and Mary are good distractions, and Leo is able to do well in cross country and continue into track in the spring. Caleb's outbursts, and his parents ability to deal with him, don't improve. When a tragedy occurs, will it sideline Leo, or make his life sadder but less complicated?
Strengths: Not only are the details about running in this really, really good (best detail of the strategy of winning a cross country race I've read!), but it's a great teen boy book. Even though it's marketed as Young Adult, I am so grateful that Currinder was circumspect in his descriptions: I especially love this line (from the E ARC, page 149: For the most part Mary and I were acting like old people, the kind who never get off their porches and do anything. That was, until Mary's mother started dating some new guy. Then we started getting to know each other in new ways." Well. A 6th grader is going to read that in a completely different way than a 9th grader!) I adored Curtis-- the way he answered Caleb's questions without flinching, the vintage leisure suit Halloween costumes, his plan on winning the state championship, and his insistence that Leo run 8 miles in the winter. Mary was also a good character who was a bit less understanding of Leo's silence. I was a bit blind sided by the end of the book. I usually see these things coming, but totally did not!

I decided that what sets this book apart from books that have teens facing sad issues is that Leo doesn't go in for drama. Yeah, stuff happens, but he moves on. This may be why I prefer books with male main characters these days. The sports descriptions keep things moving along, and Leo is a stalwart example of how to hold one's head up when things are difficult.
Weaknesses: Is this too slow moving for middle school readers? No. Caleb's eccentricities are portrayed in a way that makes them oddly intriguing and not as scary as they could be. Leo jumps right into cross country and his friendships. There are a few moments that are not as delicate as most middle school books are, but come on-- the boys cross country team stealing the girls' swim team suits and running across town in them? That I would like to see!
What I really think: There are so many of my runners to whom I want to hand this. Not all of them, but there are a number that would appreciate the nuances of Leo's difficulties while taking a lot of lessons from his dedication to running.

Probably my Cybils' nomination for YA Realistic Fiction!

Rappaport, Doreen. 42 is Not Just a Number
September 12th 2017 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley

My favorite books to read in 4th grade were biographies. My elementary school library didn't have many, but there was a section of Childhood of Famous Americans books, and I would take out one a day (I worked in the library during recess-- there's a shocker!) and read it on the back porch at home when the weather was nice. While those books aren't tremendously well researched, they were fun to read. The best biographies hit a balance between those two important things.

This biography of Jackie Robinson balanced things well. There was information about Robinson's life as a child, which made the historical context of his inclusion on a major league baseball team make more sense. There were enough details to make the story interesting, but not so many that the book got bogged down. The pages were well formatted-- there was enough white space, and the print was not tiny. I always appreciate a good index, and there are even footnotes (which one needs, but which students never consult!). There  could have been more pictures--Tam O'Shaughnessy. Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space really spoiled me, and I want ALL the biographies I read to have this many pictures!

I learned a lot of interesting facts, and my readers who want sports books will read ANY sports books, even nonfiction ones. There are a lot of books covering Jackie Robinson's life, however-- I would be even more interested in a book about his brother, Mac, who came in second to Jesse Owens in the Olympics, or about the other African American men who came right after Robinson-- Larry Doby, Willard Brown, Henry Thompson and Dan Bankhead. Until those books come out, I'll definitely have a need for Ms. Rappaport's fine book.

Ms. Yingling

Sunday, September 10, 2017


33785212Stone, Tamara Ireland. Click'd
September 7th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Allie has an amazing time in the CodeGirls Summer camp and is really excited about the app she has created, Click'd. It is designed to help kids make friends by having them answer a questionnaire and matches them accordingly. Then, when their phone is near the other person's phone, there are a series of prompts that connect the two. Allie decides to launch it during the first week of school, right before her dedicated coding teacher, Ms. Slade, has entered her in the Games for Good competition. She gets a lot of people to download the app, and everyone suddenly knows who she is. Unfortunately, there is a glitch in the app that sends a screen capture of a text conversation her friend Emma has to the wrong people. Emma is rightfully angry, and wants Allie to fix the app, but it's complicated. The code is intertwined with other features, and Allie eventually reaches out to fellow coder, her nemesis Nathan. He is also entering the competition and has a glitch of his own. Allie is able to help him, and Nathan tries his best, but nothing fixes the code the way it needs to be fixed. Right before the competition, Allie has to pull out because she causes further trouble in the code. Eventually, she figures out her mistake, but can she repair the code and her relationships with Nathan and Emma?

It's great to see the current push to get children, especially girls, into coding, although it is about 40 years too late! I coded enough in high school and college that I was able to make sense of Allie's process; it's a fine line between giving enough details to make coding seem interesting, and giving so many that it seems boring, but Stone strikes a good balance.

The important part of the story, of course, is the middle school drama. This is done very realistically; I especially like the teacher who is collecting cell phones in a bucket because children are not supposed to have the devices out during the day. Allie misses her friends from coding camp and feels a little awkward with her other friends because they have been apart. She has a lot in common with Nathan, but she also resents his success. Ms. Slade is a positive and fun role model.

We're just starting to see books that include more discussion of programming in them, but there aren't a lot. While Click'd will appeal to a wide range of readers who like books with lots of friend drama, it will also appeal to readers who want more details about coding and have enjoyed books like Saujani's nonfiction guide, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World and Deutsch's fictional companion series, The Friendship Code (Girls Who Code#1)

Why do I feel a little lukewarm about this? See below. How well have these titles held up?

3989551 13792860
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Laugh Out Loud

Patterson and Grabenstein. Laugh Out Loud.
August 28th 2017 by jimmy patterson
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Jimmy loves to read, and loves recommending books to his friends, especially his friend Maxine. He loves books SO MUCH that he has decided to make books himself. Of course, he will need an awesome factory in order to do this, which will take a lot of money, and this is hard to gather when you are in middle school. This doesn't stop Jimmy, though! He quickly writes stories, prints them out, and gets a copy made so that he can share it. His friend Rafe even does some illustrations. He tries several different ways to obtain funding for his venture, but gets laughed out of the bank even though the people there find his story amusing. Eventually, his friend Hailey introduces him to the wealthy Yingerlingers who finally realize what a brilliant idea Jimmy has, and help him make his dream come true. Jimmy's insistence on following his dreams also helps his parents to reduce their work hours and embrace their own passions and also provides books for kids that they will actually want to read!

Jimmy mentions a huge range of books that he enjoys reading, and it would be great if readers who follow his story with amusement were to hunt down titles such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or A Wrinkle in Time. These are great books that don't have a huge current fan base, so it would be fantastic if this book created a new fan base for them.

Jeff Ebbeler's illustrations are a nice change from other illustrators Patterson has used, and hit the sweet spot between goofy and sophisticated for middle school. There are a lot of fun details in the pictures, and he does a great job of capturing the personalities of a wide range of characters. I especially like the way that he visually translates that changes that Jimmy's parents undergo.

Fans of Patterson's other middle grade novels will be vastly amused at the parade of characters from other titles that appear in Jimmy's world. Everyone from Jamie Grimm from the I Funny Books to Hailey from Word of Mouse shows up, although sometimes it's hard to tell which characters are from other titles or appear in real life. Are the Yingerlingers real, and if so, will they give my library money?

This book blurs the line between fiction and reality, and offers a humorous explanation for the new "jimmy" imprint being introduced by prolific author James Patterson. Jimmy's love for books is as intense as it is endearing, and his message to work hard to make one's dreams come true cannot be contested. Laugh Out Loud is a must read for fans of this author's many humorous and engaging middle grade novels.

This was a bit too self referential for my taste, but my students will enjoy it.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, September 08, 2017

Guy Friday- Enginerds

Lerner, Jarrett. Enginerds
September 12th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ken and Dan like hanging out with their other geeky friends, and often construct things out of rubber bands and chopsticks. When Ken finds a box on his porch, he figures it is something fun to construct that his grandfather must have left. He calls Dan, and the two follow the directions until they have a rough idea that the project is a robot. Unfortunately, the two have to go out and hunt down Ken's dog... and when they get back, the robot has finished putting itself together! Greeeeg is also demanding "all the comestibles" and stows these in his stomach section, which he mysteriously empties quickly and wants to refill again. John Henry and Jerry also gets a robots, and they, too demand food. Before long, the robots are on the warpath to find things to eat, working their collective way to a grocery store and wreaking havoc. Ken is still confused about where the robots came from, but he knows they are dangerous-- they process the food, turning it into highly compacted squares that they can fire out of their hindquarters with great intensity! Eventually, the boys work together to find a way to disable the robots and manage to avert disaster, and even figure out the origin and use of the machines.
Strengths:  I loved that the robots were a project gone awry and was something that had the remote possibility of actually happening. The fact that the book had ballistic farts didn't hurt. There are lots of funny lines ("He shrieked like a terrified ferret.") and slightly goofy if terrifying robot antics. The cover is great and will cause a lot of reluctant readers to pick up the book and hopefully get caught up in the story. I know I enjoyed it.
Weaknesses: This looks like it should have interior illustrations but only has them at the beginning of chapters. There's not a lot of character development, and I wish that the grandfather had somehow gotten more involved with the project. I'm a little surprised this isn't included in the MAX line up.
What I really think: There just aren't enough robot books out there, and this was a really good one. It was somewhat realistic, didn't have the quirky names of Robots Rule or the flippancy of House of Robots or Frank Einstein.

29601444Bell, Eric. Alan Cole is Not a Coward
September 5th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Alan's brother, Nathan, is extraordinarily cruel and bullies Alan relentlessly. It doesn't help that their father is demanding and dismissive, and their mother is so beaten down by years of his treatment that she distances herself from the boys. At school, Alan has two good friends, Madison and Zach, who are supportive and help Alan survive all of the mean students and teachers. When Nathan challenges Alan to a contest that involves things like getting a first kiss and learning to swim, Madison steps up to help with the swimming portion, which makes Madison's somewhat over-involved parents happy. To complicate matters, Alan gets involved in an awkward snafu at a work event for his father that isn't his fault, but that makes his father look bad, angering him further. Alan's mother does share a little bit about why the father is so volatile, and this helps a little. It doesn't help that Alan has a crush on Connor, but hasn't told anyone in his life that he is gay; Nathan's threat is that he will tell everyone about this if Alan loses his challenge. As the deadline nears, Alan finds himself getting in more trouble, but also figuring out some things about himself, his friends, and his family.
Strengths: This was a very good story involving a LGBTQ character in middle school. His coming to terms with his own identity was part of the story, but not the entire story. Connor's reaction to finding out about the crush is perfect; he's initially embarrassed by his friends, but later talks to Alan and says that it's cool for Alan to feel however he likes, but that he himself likes girls, so he's not a good object for Alan's crush. This is a very tricky topic of conversation for tween boys, and that reaction is about as good as it gets.
Weaknesses: Everyone in the entire book is mean and dysfunctional. Alan lives in a grim, grim world. I would have liked it if there could have been one positive and supportive person, perhaps if his mother had been able to overcome her own dysfunction a bit more, or there had been a supportive teacher.
What I really think: This is a compelling and important title that I think I need to buy even though it was not enjoyable to read because of all of the horrible things in Alan's life. It will circulate well enough, and just needs to be in most middle grade collections. For some reason, it brings to mind Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't, in that it is uncomfortable but informational.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The Cat Stole My Pants: Timmy Failure #6

31868837Pastis, Stephan. The Cat Stole My Pants: Timmy Failure #6
April 25th 2017 by Candlewick Press
Copy Provided by Young Adult Books Central

Timmy finds himself in Key West, Florida, ostensibly on his mother's honeymoon. He doesn't believe she really married Doorman Dave, but nonetheless he is there with Dave's nephew Emilio, who is supposed to be his intern in his detective agency. Since Total, his polar bear, has decided to swim to Cuba, Timmy does need staff, but he doesn't feel that Emilio is competent. There is a mystery wherever Timmy goes, from the titular missing pants to the appearance of odd and somehow threatening notes. Timmy's mother never understands the demands of his career and has signed him up for summer school with Corinna Corinna, and even has her Skype with him. The class assignment is reading three very long books and reporting on them, which Total offers to do as long as Timmy provides cash for him to buy food in Cuba. Timmy is surprised to meet a shadowy figure from his past who sheds some light on issues that had been bothering him, and who also solves one of he mysteries.

For people who do not read Pastis' comic strip Pearls Before Swine in the daily newspaper, my students are inordinately fond of Timmy Failure. Notebook Novels such as Tashjian's Einstein: Class Hamster, Pichon's Tom Gates and Patterson's Middle School books are never on the shelves. The short chapters, goofy characters and plentiful illustrations make these books a welcome respite from the more series, text-heavy books that language arts teachers like to assign.

In some ways, Timmy is a modern day Encyclopedia Brown, if we can imagine Encyclopedia hallucinating about having a polar bear around instead of Sally Kimball. The mysteries concern some neighborhood occurrence and are easily solved by looking at the obvious clues. The main difference between the two is that Encyclopedia looked at actual clues, whereas Timmy has a tendency to decide on random perpetrators because he thinks they look shifty.

There are very few books set in Key West, even though it is a fascinating place. Holm's Turtle in Paradise and the sequel, Full of Beans, are the only two that I can think of. If this summer is so busy that a real holiday isn't going to happen, adventuresome readers can take a virtual trip to the sunny land of Hemingway and his mitten pawed cats-- and not even have to worry that someone will steal their pants.

32333194Keene, Carolyn. The Professor and the Puzzle (Nancy Drew Diaries #15)
August 8th 2017 by Aladdin

Nancy reconnects with her old friend Iris when Oracle College, an exclusive university near River Heights, has its annual Greek Festival, hosted by its oddly active Classics department. When one of the students addresses the crowd from a balcony, he falls. Luckily, he is only injured, but Nancy discovers that Professor Stone was supposed to be the one to give the speech. Someone also steals her African Gray Parrot who speaks Greek and lives in her office. Nancy manages to uncover some suspicious academic practices and solve the murder.
Strengths: Nancy is a high school student dealing with college students, so even though the target demographic is clearly tweens, it has the allusion of being for older readers.The print is a good size, the books are a quick read, and the mysteries are just scary and exciting enough. Wildly popular with my Phoebe Rivers' Sara Normal fans, this book was checked out twice in the first two weeks of school!
Weaknesses: Nancy is still very white bread, upper middle class, and privileged to the gills. Also, I could NOT believe that there was a Classics department this active. It should be illegal to let anyone major in Latin. There have not been jobs in the field for 30 years!
What I really think: I may have to buy The Haunting on Heliotrope Lane. Since the books don't have to be read in order, they are not a bad investment in mysteries.
Ms. Yingling