Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Invasion of the Scorp-lions and The Fourth Ruby

Hale, Bruce. Invasion of the Scorp-lions (Monstertown Mysteries #3)
31 October 2017, Disney-Hyperion
Copy provided by the Publisher

After fighting monsters in The Curse of the Were-Hyena and Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies, Carlos and Benny know a thing or two about dispatching supernatural creatures. They're not quite sure what to do, however, when their classmates show up ranting and raving, then plunge into comas. Ghosts are suspected, so Ms. Tamanese tells them that the kindergarten teacher at their school is a medium who does seances. When they consult Ms. Freshley, she's more than happy to help, but when they try to contact the spirits, Ms. Freshley also rants and falls into a coma! The boys' principal, Mrs. Johnson, knows they didn't cause the coma, but decides to hire them to find out what IS causing the coma. She offers them a master key to the building and two free passes to get out of detention! When they are poking around in out of the way spaces, they find a terrifying scorp-lion, and Carlos is bit. Luckily, Benny manages to save him by pouring cola on the wound! Feeling like they need more back up, the boys visit the house of the new girl, Esme Ygorre, since she has mentioned that her mother "makes monsters". It turns out that the family is descended from Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's lab assistance, but the mother swears she didn't have anything to do with the new monsters. Eventually, the boys get a change to talk to Mr. Hanzomon, whose company is helping with the school's science fair, and find out some interesting and helpful secrets.
Strengths: Benny and Carlos are appealing protagonists who reluctantly step into their roles as the school's protectors. Carlos has some real life worries that add some depth to the story. The monsters and villains are goofy but threatening. There are lots of laugh out loud lines, and Hale has clearly been in an actual middle school and talked to students recently. The school situations are plausible, and most of the adults in the book are supportive and helpful.
Weaknesses: The book isn't formatted in an ideal way. In order to have a smaller lenticular cover, the book is small, and so is the print. I'd just as soon have a standard sized book with larger font and no lenticular cover. It would wear better.
What I really think: The lenticular covers on these make them an easy sell to readers of Gilman's. Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books, and there's a small but steady fan base for monster books.

Hannibal, James R. The Fourth Ruby (Section 13, #2)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
October 31st 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Jack Buckles, fresh from his adventures in The Lost Property Office, is still struggling under the stigma of being a Section 13, and trying to hold his own as a Tracker in a competition. Ash is still better than he is, although Jack is trying to learn more things from Professor Tanner to make himself better. Jack's father is still unconscious, and Jack visits every day, hoping to make a difference. When Jack help's Tanner out finding some crown jewels, he, Gwen, and even his young sister Sadie get pulled into a global search for four rubies with different powers that had been owned by Genghis Khan and had been the seat of his power. They travel to the Tower of London and the Kremlin, where they meet Raven and her brother Ghost, who are thieves who help them steal the second Ruby. Their allies aren't always their allies, and before long they are talking to a Russian automaton who is giving them the secret to finding the other two rubies. When Sadie is poisoned, however, it is imperative that Gwen and Jack find the antidote in time to save her. Even if Jack can fend off this latest threat, will it be enough to save his sister and his father, and to allow him to overcome his difficulties within the Ministry of Trackers?
Strengths: I am clearly a sucker for any book set in London! Aside from that, this series features a complex but reasonably organized fantasy world, lots of adventure, clear cut missions, identifiable villains, and plenty of things blowing up. There are a lot of fantasy books out there, but I don't have a huge readership for them in my library. The Section 13 series has just the right balance that I look for-- comple enough that my fantasy readers can really get into the details of the world, but fast paced enough with fun characters so that I can enjoy the books while trying to wrap my head around the details!
Weaknesses: I was a little confused by meeting the different versions of the same characters, but didn't stop to think hard enough about how this occurred. Also, the first book in this series had an odd trim size-- rather square. As a librarian, it bothers me when the books are put on the shelves. Both minor complaints that students will not have.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although I'm hoping this wraps up the story by book five.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, October 30, 2017

MMGM- Halloween



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.

32940894Brown, Monica. Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream (#6)
July 3rd 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Lola and her brother Ben are gearing up for Halloween. Their school, in the way of the 2000s, is studying apples and pumpkins and planning on having all costumes for the school parade be literature based, so the two are working with their father to design original costumes. Lola really wants to scare people, but learns an important message about listening to her friends when she scares one who gets very upset with her. Lola also goes trick or treating, but her parents make her turn in all of her candy to them. When Lola discovers that her mother has been eating the candy, the family throws all of it away so that they can all be healthy.
Strengths: These books are great for my struggling 6th graders. They are just the right length and level of text complexity, and address issues that even 6th graders must navigate. The parents are great examples, Lola is exuberant and often acts without thinking, but is gently redirected in positive ways and makes her amends. This series is a must purchase for all elementary schools and middle schools with a population of struggling readers.
Weaknesses: The parents throw away the candy. I just can't get past that. Yes, I understand that we no longer celebrate Halloween in schools. But I HATE Halloween, and I just want to be one of those grumpy old people who don't turn on their porch lights. If children are going to throw away the microwave popcorn I give them, I might as well. I'm not putting a teal pumpkin on my porch, but at least the popcorn is pretty much allergen free. Although full of chemicals. There's no winning.
What I really think: Fantastic book for the target demographic. Just makes old people who had completely politically incorrect childhoods a bit sad!

34068441Segel, Jason and Miller, Kirsten. Everything You Need to Know about Nightmares! and How to Defeat Them
September 12th 2017 by Delacorte Press
Copy provided by the publisher

In this companion to the Nightmares! trilogy, a hodgepodge of supplementary material is presented. There are pictures and descriptions of various nightmare entities, listing of their strengths and weaknesses, and Pro Tips on how to deal with them. There are also very short stories involving the characters from the books and how they had to deal with the beings. Additional accompaniments include recipes, fun facts, and room in the back for field notes. Beings are divided into broad categories including Chasers, Extraterrestrials, and Lurkers and Stalkers, and many others.

This was a well designed book, and I liked the layout of the pages. Fans of the series will take great glee in reading about how to deal with the creatures that they find most fearsome.

Just in time for Halloween, Everything You Need to Know about Nightmares! and How to Defeat Them is a great book for fans of Betty Ren Wright, Mary Downing Hahn, Peg Kehret and WIllo Davis Roberts, and might come in handy if readers have a particularly vicious chupacabra loose in their room when the lights are turned out!

Mini Rant:
You know what pisses me off? Not Accelerated Reader, but people who have their shorts completely in a bunch about Accelerated Reader. It is not the PROGRAM that effects a child's love of reading, but the way the program is implemented. Trust me, my children were the ones reading Harry Potter in the second grade and finding it hard to locate books "on their level" because they were at level 12.9+ when they were 8. In every case where we had any problem at all, the teachers were more than happy to modify the requirements as long as they knew that my children were reading.

HOWEVER, the VAST majority of my students have apparently never been required to finish a chapter book. This year has been very frustrating. The sixth graders only want to read Smile and Drama again and again and again, and the 8th graders spend more time starting at the soles of their shoes than reading. Nudging these children with a very modest AR goal to actually finish a book, and to learn time management in order to get the required points, is not an unreasonable request. In fact, once they are "forced" to read books (and the choice is still hugely vast-- maybe not the very newest books, but if a high school student could read, for example, Reynold's Long Way Down, he could still pick up Volponi's Black and White, which is similar and just as good.), they often find that reading isn't so bad.

Accelerated Reader is also very helpful with middle school students who are reading at 2nd and 3rd grade levels. I never force children to pick certain books on certain levels, but when a student can't understand a book and fails test after test, this tells me that the choices are too hard or too long. Reading for pleasure doesn't help academics if they students can't understand what they are reading! AR helps to scaffold successful books until students are able to read books that are an appropriate length and level.

So yeah, it's the politically correct thing to do to complain about AR. If you don't like it, don't use it. If it doesn't work for your child, talk to your child's teacher NICELY. It works for my students because the teachers with whom I work are reasonable people who use tools at their disposal wisely. I have never once had a student tell me that AR made them hate reading, although there have been a few parents who have drunk the Anti-AR Kool Aid who have complained. Honestly, their children were ones who were successful anyone, and generally just rolled their eyes at their parents' histrionics.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down

35504431Green, John. Turtles All the Way Down
October 10th 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Purchased copy

Aza lives with her mother, a high school math teacher, in the suburbs of Indianapolis. Her father passed away when she was eight. She has a quirky best friend, Daisy, who dies her hair with Kool Aid and works at Chuck E. Cheese's. There's a solid group of friends who have lunch together, but Aza frequently gets caught in "thought spirals" that make it hard for her to talk to others, but which Daisy can sort of understand. Aza obsesses about getting a c. diff infection even though she has zero contributing factors, and also frequently tears her finger pad with her thumbnail to deal with the stress... which makes her worry more about infection. She is seeing a therapist, but doesn't take her medication as recommended. When Daisy learns that Aza knew the son of a wanted fugitive, Davis Pickett, the two take off to say hello to him and perhaps find his father and get the reward money. Davis knows why they appear, but has fond memories of Aza, and soon the two are hanging out. Aza really likes him, but freaks out about kissing him because of germs. Not much happens with the missing father, but Aza sinks deeper into thought spirals and starts drinking hand sanitizer. After she gets into a minor car accident with her father's beloved car and lacerates her liver, her fragile mental state is brought to the attention of medical professionals, and she gets some of the help she desperately needs.
N.B. I am not a John Green fan, but would have been when I was an adolescent. As an adult, I want to slap most of his characters. In general, Young Adult characters irritate me.
Strengths: Green's core audience will be waiting avidly for this. It's a good length, has an attractive cover, and the characters are well developed. The romance with Davis is appealing, and Daisy is fun and supportive. Afterwards, I felt sort of like I had somehow watched a 1990s John Hughes movie remade as an ABC Monday Night Movie for the twenty teens. (Because of the addition of anxiety and the deceased father.)
Weaknesses: The mystery of the father was the most interesting part of the book but didn't get as much attention as it should have. Everyone agrees that anxiety is painful to experience; I would opine that it's also fairly dull to read about.
What I really think: While Aza didn't irritate me as much as I thought she would, this is clearly a Young Adult book. Liberal sprinkling of f-words, mature content (sexting and talk about virginity), and a slow paced, introspective slog through an Important but ultimately unenlightening account of one girl's struggle with anxiety.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Anne of Green Gables

34227894
Marsden, Mariah and Thummier, Brenna. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel
October 24th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Since Anne's fan base is largely older, I was a bit surprised to see this book! However, given the fact that there is a new Netflix series, there may be some interest among a new generation of readers, and this would be a good way to lure them in.

I was impressed at how true to the book the graphic novelis-- I didn't check the text against the 1908 novel, because I've given all of my books away. The scenes are as I remember, and the language very similar. Given the nature of a graphic novel, scenes are truncated, and smaller events are left out. Sometimes, it's a bit hard to follow what is going on (we don't get the full background of her relationship with Josie Pye, for example), but the overview is a good one, and provides a substantial overview of Anne's character.

The illustrations were clearly well researched, and the places in particular shine. The characters possess the traits given to them in the book, and the period details ring true. The colors are somewhat pastel, and the use of light and dark often signifies mood. My only objection is Anne's nose! While all of the noses seem to be pinker at the end, Anne's is much redder and turned up, so it looks like her nose was pasted onto her face as an afterthought. Don't think that middle grade readers will care about this, but I am very distracted by the noses on drawings of people!

All in all, this is an excellent adaptation of a beloved novel that many libraries will want to add to their collection and use to entice a new generation a kindred spirits to read Montgomery's work.

Personally, I'm just done with Anne. She was my very favorite when I was a teen, but I have recently developed a feeling of wanting to slap her for her histrionics that makes the books impossible to enjoy upon rereading.

35541459
Ziegler, Maddie. The Audition
(Suspect this was mainly written by Julia Devillers)
November 1st 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Harper's father takes a job in Florida, the family leaves Connecticut and Harper must audition for a new dance studio after having been at her old one her entire life. Luckily, she not only makes it into Dance Starz, and onto a small competition team. Another new girl, Lily, does as well, but the other three girls are the "Bunheads"; Trina, Megan, and Riley. They are angry to have new girls on the team, especially since they thought they would have Isabelle and Bella, who have jumped ship and gone to a rival studio, Energi. Megan is especially nasty, since she is always the star of every show, and she is threatened  by Harper's dance abilities. When Harper has trouble with a few of the new steps, she starts to doubt her own abilities, and when she falls off a float in a local parade, she is really worried. With the support of Lily (whose parents own a frozen yogurt shop!) and her younger sister Hailey, she is able to make peace with her new team and do well in a competition.
Strengths: Lots of details about classes, costumes, competitions, and the rivalry between dancers and their mothers. I do have a few girls every year who are very active in dance, and it's been difficult to find books on the subject.
Weaknesses: The girls have very stereotypical interests-- when they are talking about the jobs they might pursue when they grow up, it's all fashion design and dancing. Seems unrealistic and somehow not helpful. I do wonder what girls who devote this much time to dance do once they get to college.
What I really think: DeVillers writing combined with Ziegler's personal experience with dance (apparently, she's some sort of television personality? Never heard of her.) make this one that I will have to buy, considering how few middle grade ballet/dance books there are.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ryan Quinn and the Lion's Claw

33913975McGee, Ron. Ryan Quinn and the Lion's Claw
October 24th 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After his harrowing experiences in Andakar and his discovery that his parents are involved in the Emergency Rescue Committee in Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape, Ryan is back in New York City for Christmas break. His parents seem to have something on their mind, but aren't telling him. When they leave him at Danny's suddenly, the boys, along with Kasey, stop by Ryan's house to snoop through the John and Jacqueline's files, but are interrupted by an invader. They discover that it is a man named Lawrence, who had to leave the African country of Lovanda with his singing partner, Nadia, when they ran afoul of the government, and especially a powerful business woman named Madame Buku, with their revolutionary songs. Ryan leaves Lawrence there, and is dismayed when he is gone the next day. He tells Danny not to trust Tasha, who is upset about the role John Quinn may have played in her father's death. To get back at him, she sold the evil Braxton Crisp information about a lot of EMC personal or rescuees from all over the world, which is leading to the uprise in the disappearance of these people. While Danny and Ryan stowaway on the plance delivering Lawrence and Nadia back to Africa and Madame Buku, Jacqueline and Kasey work on bringing Tasha and Crisp to justice. Just when Ryan thinks he can help the singers escape, he is captured and sent to work in the gold mines. Danny and Lawrence think the best way to get Ryan out is for Lawrence to get into the mine. John Quinn joins them in Africa, and the group manages to hack into Madame Buku's computer and broadcast a concert by Lawrence and Nadia instead of executions that she has planned. In the meantime, Ryan learns some interesting facts about his background that are the basis for the next book in the series!
Strengths: Wow. This book had a lot of great things going for it. It's not a hugely long book, and it is a page turner! Sure, there's a little bit of Christmas celebration going on, but then Ryan's parents are gone and the investigation begins! Making the EMC a group that rescues political prisoners gives this a fresh spin on the spy genre. I love that Ryan's parents are involved in the missions and occasionally save the day! Having Ryan, Danny and Kasey all be pretty competent and adventurous makes it intriguing when they split up to solve problems. The interweaving of the different plots is done dexterously and in a way that makes the book easy to follow. This is a great choice to hand to big fans of Stormbreaker or Chris Bradford's new Bodyguard series. I even love the covers and hope they don't change them mid series!
Weaknesses: Like the character development in Stormbreaker, I fear that it will take nine books to really delve into Ryan's backstory. This is not necessarily bothering my students, but I'm really intrigued by this, especially since Ryan and his parents are really close!
What I really think: I bought two copies of the first book, and there will be lots of reserves for this second book. Hope that book three comes out at this time next year!
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Incredible Magic of Being

33224162Erskine, Kathryn. The Incredible Magic of Being
October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Nine year old Julian and his teenage sister Pookie move from the city to run and bed and breakfast by a lake in Maine with their mother and her wife, Joan. Julian, who is a quirky kid with unexplained health concerns that require regular use of antibiotics, is so afraid of drowning that he wears a life jacket everywhere. When a lawyer representing their neighbor, Mr. X, tells them that they will have to take down the addition they are building for the B&B because it is blocking Mr. X's view and decreasing his property values, the family is very concerned that they won't have the financial stability to remain. Julian befriends the crotchety man who can't get over the death of his wife, Julia, but who takes a grudging liking to Julian's impulsive but well meaning ways. The two even make a plot together to get a dog, but Mr. X puts the stipulation in place that Julian must learn to swim. Can Julian use his abilities to sense things about people and to appreciate "the incredible magic of being" to bring his family and Mr. X. around to his view of the world?
Strengths: This has a very supportive if somewhat dysfunctional family (the mother stopped being an ob/gyn because a baby in her care died; Pookie is obsessed by the idea of her sperm donor father) that tries to do the right things. There is diversity with the two mom figures, as well as Julian, who has Tetralogy of Fallot syndrome and seems suspiciously close to the autism spectrum, although he is never identified. The inclusion of an older adult assuming a reluctant grandparent role is interesting as well, and the Maine setting is a nice touch.
Weaknesses: This is one of those stories where nothing really happens. It's similar to books like Wonder or Because of Mr. Terupt, but I honestly can't think of any students to whom I would hand this. Julian is a bit young and naive, and there are inclusions of vast amounts of scientific facts that teachers will adore and students will not. The exception: if a teacher reads this aloud to a class and is passionate about the book, all of those students will adore it. There's a lot to be said about a teacher who gets really excited about a book and wants to share it. Unfortunately, I get very passionate about teenage spies, football fiction, and radioactive hamsters because those are a LOT easier to recommend.
What I really think: I will most likely not purchase, although the flaming marshmallow on the cover would lead children to pick up the book.




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday--Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life

33163371Tougas, Shelley. Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life
October 10th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Charlotte, her twin brother Freddy and half sister Rose are dragged from their home in Lexington, Kentucky to live in Walnut Grove, Minnesota because their mother is feeling called to write a book similar to the ones written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Charlotte's mother has always written but had other jobs, but has recently had a biography of Dr. Seuss published, and has enough money to write full time. The family rents out the basement of a house owned by Mia and Miguel, who live upstairs with their granddaughter, Julia. Charlotte has moved so many times that she is reluctant to learn the names of her fellow classmates or draw any attention to herself. After she is out sick at the very beginning of school, she starts to notice that her brother has made a lot of friends in her absence. Charlotte, however, is still uncomfortable and even fails a reading test so that she has to spend her lunch time doing remedial work. She hopes to win an essay contest about Wilder because the $500 would be helpful to her family, but Julia wins instead. The two girls start to volunteer at the Wilder museum, and start to become friends. Charlotte's mother is writing very little, and as the year progresses, starts to slip into a significant depression. Rose's father remarries, and Rose is devastated that he no longer schedules any of their visits together. When there is vandalism at the museum, Charlotte is blamed, but the real perpetrator is not any of the people who are suspected. Will Charlotte's family be able to stay in Walnut Grove, where they are beginning to feel at home, or will they have to move again?
Strengths: Aside from the thing that I found cool-- living in a town where Ingalls lived-- this had some factors that would appeal to middle grade readers. Being a new kid in a school is always a concern, and even students who have spent their whole lives in the same place worry about this a little bit. Charlotte's detachment is understandable and realistic, and her brothers success without her adds an interesting twist. I enjoyed the fact that Julia was at first painted as a "Nellie Olsen" character, but once Charlotte gets to know her, the two become friends. Rose's relationship with her absent father is well done. The mother's depression is not too dramatic. This was a quick read that kept up a good pace even though there was not a lot of action.
Weaknesses: There are a couple of times when the main objection to the original Wilder books (the treatment and discussion of Native Americans) could have been addressed, but was not given quite the attention that is needed. There is an interesting fact about language in the first edition where Wilder wrote "...there were no people. Only Indians lived there." but further printings, the word "people" was replaced with "settlers". Still, this is a large and ongoing objection to the books, and one that really should have been addressed more fully.
What I really think: My students won't read Wilder at all, and therefore would not be sold by the cover or title. While I was a huge fan of the books, I agree that they are problematic and do not recommend them, although I have not removed them from my library collection. At this point, I would be all for amending or removing the references to Native Americans in the narrative if the books could then be read as a first person exploration of the pioneer experience.


34014199Lauricella, Laura. Polly and Her Duck Costume
Illustrated by Jill Howarth
12 September 2017, Quarto Books

Polly is a young goat who has been born blind. She was adopted by Lauricella, who runs a rescue mission for disabled animals. While Polly responded well to her new environment, she was still anxious, and was calmed by being swaddled. This, of course, interfered with her playing with a new goat with damaged legs, Pippa, so Polly is fitted with a furry duck costume that mimicked the pressure of swaddling while allowing her to play. The sight of a goat in a duck costume is very amusing, and Polly becomes an internet sensation. Eventually, the costume starts to get in the way of whispering, laughing and snuggling with Pippa, so Polly is able to function without the costume.
Strengths: This certainly has several nice messages about caring, acceptance, and dealing with others. Lauricella must be a very nice person, and her dedication is admirable. The pictures are very delightful, and remind me of picture books from the 1960s for some reason.
Weaknesses: While this is a picture book, I wish that some of the good information about Goasts of Anarchy would have been included in the picture book portion.
What I really think:  I am not a nice person, and the goats I have met have not been particularly cute or personable, so my first thought that a blind goat with anxiety would be a pretty good candidate for stew.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reign of Outlaws and Ruby & Olivia


33590262Magoon, Kekla. Reign of Outlaws (Robyn Hoodlum #3)
October 24th 2017 by Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
Copy provided by the publisher

After her escapades in The Shadows of Sherwood and Rebellion of Thieves, Robyn Loxley knows that she has to save her parents, and Sherwood, from the clutches of the evil leaders of the government before it's too late. Along with her friends, some family magic, and a lot of cunning, Robyn manages to locate her parents, discover damning evidence about the leaders, and use her cunning to both ensure the safety of her parents and lead a successful rebellion. The sheriff and Ignomus Crown think that they can neutralize Robyn and her band, but they underestimate the power of the powerless when they band together in a just cause.
Strengths: Three books is just enough to develop the world, plot and characters, yet not too long that middle grade readers get tired of the books. Robyn is an appealing character, and her ability to take down the government will appeal to readers who enjoy the many books where Only Tweens Can Save the World. The twist on the Robin Hood legend is enjoyable, and my favorite part of the book was the very end where Robyn's mother is making everyone snacks in a cozy kitchen. After the world is saved, it's good to get back to some semblance of normalcy that involves cookies!
Weaknesses: I read this when I was tired, so had trouble remembering the details. I LOVE Magoon's realistic fiction, and had read that she was working on a nonfiction book about the Black Panthers, so have been waiting for that. I fear her writing has gone in another direction, and I'm just sad, because there are lots of fantasy books, but nothing good for middle grade on the Panthers.
What I really think: The series circulates well, and it is still hard to find fantasies that showcase #WNDB characters.

34128265
Hawkins, Rachel. Ruby & Olivia
October 24th 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ruby has to attend Camp Chrysalis because she got in trouble for spreading glitter around her school. Olivia has to go because she took the fall for her identical twin, Emma, who stole a lipstick and got caught. To make things even worse, Emma gets to go to a summer gap she's been eager to attend, Olivia and Ruby have always vaguely irritated each other, and the camp members have to wear bright pink shirts that identify them all over their small town of Chester's Gap as "bad kids". Olivia is very quiet and just wants to make it through the summer, but Ruby has nothing to lose-- since Emma stopped talking to her and her grandmother passed away, she has no friends and acts flamboyantly all the time. When the campers have to go to clean and catalog Live Oak House, a rundown house that has been donated to the city, Ruby and Olivia seem to be the only ones who hear the creepy music box or are concerned that the place is haunted. They do their research, investigate the house, and with a cryptic note left in Ruby's grandmother's belongings, figure out the century old mystery of why the house is haunted.
Strengths: The strongest part of this was the relationships. Middle grade is full of drama, and this encapsulated sister drama, friend drama, and a tiny bit of boy drama very nicely. Ruby was a fun character, while Olivia is more like most middle school students. The ghost story was fairly decent as well.
Weaknesses: The pacing on this was problematic for me. I wasn't sure that it was a ghost story for the first hundred pages, the next hundred pages the girls slowly unraveled the mystery, and it wasn't until the last fifty pages that all of the scary ghost things happened.
What I really think: Do I put creepy dolls in strengths or weaknesses? Just depends where you stand. Creepy dolls don't do as well in my library as I think they should, but this author's books usually do well. Love the cover, but Secrets of Goldenrod, which is somewhat similar, hasn't checked out much. Putting on that end of year, if I have money list.

33275675Tashjian, Janet. Sticker Girl Rules the School (Sticker Girl #2)
October 10th 2017 by Henry Holt & Company
Public library copy

Martina Rivera finds another sheet of stickers in her brother's things, and appropriate's them. She decides to activate the sticker of her friend, the cupcake, Craig, first. From there, she portions out the different stickers, from a cell phone (which ends up being lame) to the soccer playing Elaine who sticks around for quite a while. Various stickers help her with posters for the class election and the school dance. No major catastrophes occur, and the stickers don't have much lasting effect on Martina's existence, but she is slowly making new friends and finding her place at school.
Strengths: I do like Tashjian's work. This is fun and bright! Very enthusiastic! And sparkly! The story is easy to follow, and I see this being popular with young readers who like Shopkins. Which I don't understand. But, you know, cupcakes with faces...
Weaknesses: I like Tashjian's work so much that I wish she would do more books like The Gospel According to Larry or For What It's Worth, which was quite a tour de force.
What I really think: I will buy this series for my lower level readers if Accelerated Reader tests become available for them, but it strikes me as much more of an elementary level book.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, October 23, 2017

MMGM- The Explorer, Big Book of How

Rundell, Katherine. The Explorer
September 12th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young
E ARc from Netgalley.com

Four children flying back to England in a vague post WWII period crash in the Amazon when their pilot has a fatal medical issue. From there, Fred, Con, Lila, and her five year old brother Max have to try to make it to get help in Manaus, Brazil. Along the way, they find clues in small tins, try to survive on the water and food they find, and adopt a baby sloth. Eventually, they find another human, but he is an irritable man who is still grieving over his lostv wife and child, and barely helps them. When young Max becomes gravely ill, he finally decides to help the children by showing Fred how to fly a plane he has stored.
Strengths: This had a lot of good details about the flora and fauna in the Amazon, and the steps one might need to take in order to survive there. There's a decent amount of introspection about the life to which the children will return, and the visit with the Explorer has its moments of intrigue.
Weaknesses: By page 100, I was ready to cook Max for supper, and by page 200, I was ready for everyone to perish in the wilderness, including the Explorer. Rundell seems to write characters whom I personally dislike, for qualities other people seem to fine charming.
What I really think: Everyone else seems to think that this is So Much More Than an Ordinary Survival Story, but... meh. It was fine, but nothing spectacular.


34220821
The Editors of TIME for Kids
Big Book of HOW Revised and Updated: 1,001 Facts Kids Want to Know
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Well, I have to say that I'm impressed by the fact that the 2011 edition had 501 facts, and this has almost twice as many! I didn't know that there were also Big Books of Who, What, When, Where and Why.

There are a TON of different topics covered in this book, from animals and buildings to science and technology. The pages are laid out in an interesting way, and there is even a page in the front instructing readers on how they need to navigate the pages. I did especially appreciate the complete index as well as the glossary in the back.

This is a much better choice for readers who like interesting tidbits of facts than the Guinness Book of World Records, although the appeal of that compendium seems to be the very gross and disturbing things that I don't appreciate. The Big Book of How has information that could actually be useful and informative to young readers and help them to better understand the world around them.

Definitely a book that I would have kept in the car for long visits to relatives when my children were young, although I do wish the bindings held together better, considering the list price of these books. (Due, I am sure, to the cost of paper and color printing. So why not reinforce the bindings a tiny bit more?)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Embers of Destruction and Paper Chains

34525573
Savage, J. Scott. Embers of Destruction (Mysteries of Cove #3)
September 26th 2017 by Shadow Mountain
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After Fires of Invention and Gears of Revolution, Trenton and Kallista are back with their mechanical dragons that they are using to fight the real dragons that have infested the earth and are controlling and destroying humans. They've managed to soup up their machines with more fire power, which Angus thinks he can use to kill all of the dragons. When the group comes across the city of San Francisco emerging from the mist, they decide to land and explore, but it is another trap. They manage to escape and get a bit of a view of what's going on. Plucky thinks she sees a girl from Seattle working at one of the factories, and Kallista takes this to mean that her father Leo (who is missing again) is nearby. Sure enough, he has fashioned a ship that he can fly without being detected by the dragons, and the group makes more plans. Of course, Leo ends up in thrall to the monarch, a white dragon with violet eyes, and the group has to work to free him. When they come across a lab from before the time of the San Francisco earthquake in the early 1900s, they uncover interesting information about the genesis of the dragons. Will it be enough to deal with the present day ones and allow humans to once again rule earth?
Strengths: Tweens are saving the world, but it's nice to see parents around. There aren't a lot of books that include tinkering with machines, so that's a nice science/tech bonus. Lots of adventure, flying, shooting great big fire balls at dragons. The story is wrapped up nicely. Great covers.
Weaknesses: Personally, I got tired of killing dragons, and I wasn't entirely convinced things were calm at the end of the book. Also, if I were Kallista, I would have gotten tired of my father disappearing and would probably have given up on him!
What I really think: Very solid, Steampunkish fantasy adventure series. Three is a perfect number to develop the characters and wrap up the story line while still being interesting enough for students to read all of the books. It hurts my feelings a bit when I feel compelled to buy something like Diane Duane's book TEN of a series knowing that only two people will read it!

33913972Vickers, Elaine. Paper Chains
October 17th 2017 by HarperCollins

E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline


Katie was adopted from a Russian orphange at the age of two, and has struggled with health issues caused by a heart transplant at a young age. Her parents are overprotective and don't even want her to ice skate. Her next door neighbor and best friend, Ana, has been dealing with her own difficult issues. Her father, a hockey players, was traded to a team in another city and decided not to bring her family with him. Her younger brother Mikey also struggles with this, and her mother is so distraught that she doesn't get out of bed, has taken a leave of absence from work, and has called Ana's grandmother, Babushka, to stay and help out from before Christmas to the new year. While Ana doesn't like her grandmother at first, she slowly warms to her as her plans to bring her father back to the family fall through, and she struggles with her relationship with Katie. This is a realistic fiction book, even though I have it posted on a Tuesday!
Strengths: I liked the inclusion of the two families with Russian connections; there have been a few students over the years at my school who were adopted from Russia. The friend drama is true to life, the grandmother an interesting character, and Katie's family very supportive, even of Ana.
Weaknesses: Like Vickers' Like Magic, this is a sad, slow story. Also, it's bad enough when parents become catatonic after the death of the spouse; I'm surprised Babushka didn't slap Ana's mother.
What I really think: This has a beautifult cover, and I like the connection to Russian adoption, but it's a very slow book. Will pass on purchase unless I have money leftover at the end of the school year.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

35015966Henry, Will. Wallace the Brave
October 17th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Wallace is sort of a combination between Big Nate and Calvin and Hobbes, with its slice-of-life descriptions and quirky characters. I can see this being popular with readers who like collections of comic strips. I know that there was a time when I loved books of Garfield comics because the local paper didn't carry them.

From the publisher: "Welcome to Snug Harbor! Will Henry's Wallace the Brave is a whimsical comic strip that centers around a bold and curious little boy named Wallace, his best friend Spud and the new girl in town, Amelia. Wallace lives in the quaint and funky town of Snug Harbor with his fisherman father, plant loving mother and feral little brother, Sterling. "

21411877Than, Gavin Aung. Zen Pencils; Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks
November 11th 2014 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

This is a collection of shorter (1-6 pages) cartoon vignettes that illustrate quotations with explanatory stories. While there are some students who will pick up anything that is a graphic novel, the fact that there is a teacher guide for this backs up my thought that teachers will be the ones who really enjoy this. I can see the book being a springboard for all manner of discussions and activities, but wonder about the appeal of quotations for most middle school students.

From the publisher: "Zen Pencils is an exciting and unique new comic form that takes inspirational and famous quotations and adapts them into graphic stories. From icons like Confucius, Marie Curie, and Henry David Thoreau, to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, to contemporary notables like Ira Glass, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Neil Gaiman---their words are turned into sometimes heartwarming, sometimes sobering stories by cartoonist Gavin Aung Than. Be inspired, motivated, educated, and laugh as you read famous words as never before!"
  Ms. Yingling

Friday, October 20, 2017

I am Alfonso Jones

34099859Medina, Tony, Jennings, John and Robinson, Stacey(Illustrators), I Am Alfonso Jones 
15 October 2017, Tu Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Alfonso and his girlfriend Danetta are at a store buying a suit for Alfonso to wear when his father is released from being unfairly imprisoned. They are laughing and joking, and Alfonso is listening to music. When another person in the store thinks that a hanger Alfonso is holding is a gun, the police shoot and kill him. Alfonso was a trumpet player, bike messenger, and good kid. He wakes up in a version of the afterlife that is on a subway train, and he meets others who were murdered by the police. We learn about Alfonso's life and family before the shooting, and are introduced to many other similar incidents that have occurred over the last fifty years. The resultant protests and legal battles are described and discussed in detail in this timely graphic novel.
Strengths: The message of this book is timely and well-delivered, and the formatting of the book is brilliant. I admire the choice to render all of the illustrations in black and white, the text is not too small, nor is there too much of it, and the inclusion of real cases (especially the listing of them in the back of the book) is helpful.
Weaknesses: Some readers would prefer the illustrations to be in color.
What I really think: I will purchase this one, and can see it being used in a lot of different reading circles as well and read by individuals.

22552026Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down
October 17th 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

This novel in verse follows Will after his older brother Shawn is shot to death on the street while running an errand for his mother. The family is devastated, and the next morning Will takes his brother's gun from the bureau drawer and starts off to look for Riggs, whom he is sure is responsible. In the elevator, an old family friend, Buck, gets on. Will is surprised, because Buck (an older friend of Shawn's and the one who gave him a gun) was the victim of a shooting a few years earlier. When Will's friend Dani, who was killed in a shooting on a playground, gets on at the next floor, Will knows that something is wrong. As the elevator continues down, Will is joined by his father, Uncle Mark, a man named Frick, and eventually, his brother Shawn. They all discuss the culture of gun violence, since all were shot to death. Will has been taught that "the rule" is that revenge must be obtained, but will he still feel a need to continue this cycle after his elevator ride?
Strengths: This book is about the culture of gangs and gun violence, and does not glamorize any of it. The grief is palpable, although another rule is "Don't cry". Reynolds writing is incisive and lyrical as always, and the verse is effective in describing Will's experiences and emotions.
Weaknesses: The inconsistent use of street vernacular makes the nonstandard usage of "ain't" seem forced.
What I really think: I will not purchase, but it is an essential addition to a high school collection.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spy School Secret Service (Spy School #5)

34228282Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School Secret Service
October 10th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ben is activated for a mission-- Cyrus Hale feels that the president of the US is the target of an assassination attempt, and Ben is taken to the White House under the guise of being friends with the president's son, Jason Stern, with the assignment of locating the source. Things never go smoothly for Ben, and the Secret Service dogs go crazy over his coat, Jason is a jerk, and everyone in the entire complex looks like a possible SPYDER  agent. Eventually, Ben manages to thwart an attempt on the president's life, but makes himself Public Enemy #1 in the process. He manages to escape, and gets help from none other than Erica Hale as well as a surprise relation of hers, who is instrumental in helping Ben lay low while trying to figure things out. In order to uncover some of SPYDER's motivation and to clear himself, Ben must talk to Ashley Sparks, with whom he trained when undercover at the evil spy school. Ashley is being held in a secure government facility, and when Ben and Erica show up to talk to her, they find Zoe, Mike and Ben's other fellow students who have the same idea. When everyone is caught, how will Ben manage to convince Cyrus Hale that he is not aligned with SPYDER, and that the evil organization's plan was not to assassinate the president, but something more nefarious... and still a threat?

This series distinguishes itself from other spy stories by having a lot more humor. At first, this came across as a bit goofy, but as Ben's skills at deducing evil plots develop, the plots have become more serious. The double crossing and deviousness of operatives switching sides is wonderfully convoluted in ways that even Alex Rider would have trouble untangling. SPYDER emerges as a complex and difficult threat even when we only see a few of their agents, and even when those agents, like Murray Hill, seem mainly goofily incompetent. This is a clever and thought provoking way to portray the enemy.

The middle grade voice in this is excellent, and the characters engaging and fun. Ben knows that his own forte is deducing things: I adored the scene where he remains on the floor while Erica and Ashley take down other operatives because he is "pathetic at fighting" and they are definitely not. Even better is Mike's comment afterward that the girls are much cooler than the girls in regular middle school! The romantic triangle is amusing as well-- I love the idea that a teen boy thwarted in his affections would join an evil organization in order to get back at his rival! Erica and Ben have a decided connection, but since she's two years older, this is a huge complication which is realistically addressed.

Gibbs is brilliant at inserting necessary exposition of plot into chase scenes. Whether Ben is unraveling SPYDER's plans during a muddy obstacle course or while he is eluding bad guys crammed in a spare tire compartment in a mini van, this device works extremely well at allowing the reader to understand the plot while the story keeps moving briskly along.

While there is so much to love about Ben's adventures, my favorite part is the plethora of laugh-out-loud phrases and situations that jump out randomly at the reader like camouflaged operatives. When the words"pungent muskrat" or "zesty walrus" are thrown into a serious conversation, or we read about an operative using wood stain to blend in with paneling, it's an unexpected delight that encourages readers to keep devouring the pages in order to get to the next hidden bonbon of delectable humorous prose.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- My Brigadista Year

34427289Paterson, Katherine. My Brigadista Year
October 10th 2017 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

This is the #ownvoices reply I needed in regards to this book. Engle is very circumspect, but even I could tell that this story was much too complicated for a non native writer to even attempt. Not that Paterson didn't do her research-- it just isn't possible to really cover the complexity of this time we'll in a middle grade novel.
https://multiculturalism.rocks/2017/09/11/guest-post-cuba-for-beginners-by-2017-2019-national-young-peoples-poet-laureate-margarita-engle/

Lora's family is poor, but has a decent life in Havana in the late 1950s. Lora wants desperately to go to a better school, but her parents don't have money to send her. Her abuela, who is very forward thinking, offers Lora jewelry that she was saving for her and says she may sell it and use the money for school. Lora does. When she is 13, Lora decides to join the Literacy Brigadistas, which was an idea of Fidel Castro's to raise the literacy rate and help the poorer, less educated people understand concepts in his new government. The Brigadistas, who were often very young and female, were given brief training on how to teach reading and then sent out into remote areas of the country to live and work with families while teaching them to read. They were given hammocks, since the families wouldn't have extra beds, lanterns so that people could learn after their day of working on the farm, and instruction in basic agricultural practice so that they could help on the farms. Lora ends up living with Luis and Veronica, who have three small children, and is also in charge of educating the nearby family. While the women were pleased to learn to read, the men often did not want to learn from young girls. Lora enjoys being with the family and learning of their hardships, but the atmosphere in Cuba is very tense, and the brigadistas are fearful that the resistance will attack them. After making sure that her students all pass their exams, Lora returns to her family, and the experience has a profound effect on her life.
Strengths: I've had several students with Cuban backgrounds who are very interested in reading stories like The Red Umbrella or 90 Miles to Havana. I had never heard of this initiative, and found it interesting that even with a higher literacy rate than other countries, Cuba thought that this was important enough to pursue, and that the country's literacy rate went up from 60% to 96%. The book concentrated more on the positives of teaching people to read, and Lora learned things from the family as well. There are extensive notes in the back of the book about the research, as well as a helpful time line.
Weaknesses: My gut reaction is that some Cubans might not agree with this portrayal, but I just don't have the background in this area of the world to tell whether or not this is a reliable representative of the feelings of Cuban's at this time. I am going to read more reviews before I purchase, just to make sure. As I said, it seems that Paterson covered all of her bases, and Lora isn't at all condescending to her students, but I don't have the background to judge competently.
What I really think: I wish the cover incorporated some of the period photographs of brigadistas, so it would be very clear that this was a historical novel. Something about the illustration makes me think that this was published in the 1990s.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Magic Storm/Predator vs. Prey/ Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Race

Simpson, Dana. The Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6) 
October 17th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

 In the first graphic novel in this series (the other books are compilations of comic strips), Phoebe and Marigold are concerned about the approaching ice storm. While it's nice to be let out of school early, Marigold suspects that the storm is also effecting the magic in the area and must have its origin in some magical elements. With the help of Max, who loves weather, and the increasingly less evil Dakota and her gremlins, the two try to find out what is going on. Using Marigold's translation of goblin legends as a start, they hunt down the dragon Voltina and find a way to repair the magic in their area, and also find a magical side kick for Max.
Strengths: With it's simple, bright pictures, large font, and amusing story, The Magic Storm will be one of those graphic novels that is never on the shelf! I appreciate that this is a fantasy book that readers of Smile, Roller Girl and Sunny Side Up will enjoy. I don't have a problem with my students reading comics, but when it's the ONLY thing they will read, I do have some concerns, since many times the comics they pick are of the strip variety. Readers at this age do need to occasionally read something with plot, character development, and other facets of literature, so this is perfect. The "frenenemy" relationship between Phoebe and Dakota is a bit over the top, but middle school students will understand it.
Weaknesses: The paperback will last six months, tops. I put a Follett Bound copy on my order for January.
What I really think: This was delightful to read on a challenging day.  Like Voltina, I'm all for comfort reading in middle school (instead of eating!), and this will be a literary bowl of mac and cheese to some of my students!

McMann, Lisa. Predator vs. Prey (Going Wild #2) 
October 3rd 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

 After getting involved with Project Chimera in Going Wild, Charlie and her mother and brother Andy are struggling with the kidnapping of her father. Maria and Mac are both having problem controlling when they change into animals, and Maria frequently sprouts a tale. When Charlie finds in formation her father left ten years ago, she and her mother contact Dr. Quinn Sharma and get more information, especially about the evil Dr. Gray who wants the Mark bracelets that let the children turn into different animals. Kelly, who also had a bracelet, claims to have thrown hers away, but is later interviewed by the news for performing an amazing rescue. She blabs the secret of the bracelet, endangering everyone. Charlie and her friends try to find Dr. Gray and take care of him, but are up against the soldiers he is creating. Kelly goes missing, but when she returns decides to join Gray's side. The story definitely is wide open for a sequel.
Strengths: I did really appreciate that Charlie's mother remained with them and helped them through the whole process. That's unusual in middle grade literature, since preteen children must save the world without adult intervention, but this seems more realistic, and is a nice change. There's lots of action, an evil villain, and the ability to acquire super skills from animals. My students adore this author and will be thrilled to see this.
Weaknesses: Not my favorite, although not sure why. A lot of people get injured, but then use their starfish qualities to heal themselves, which made me realize I'm not a fan of reading about injuries. Just slows down the story (think The False Prince series.)
What I really think: I will purchase, just don't understand the appeal.

31226744Grabenstein, Chris. Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Race (#3)
October 10th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

This book was a perfect storm of things I have trouble remembering: puzzles, literary references, a fantasy feel (although not technically fantasy), and lots and lots of character names, some of which belong to real people, so I felt a need to look them all up, which made it harder to remember the plot.

This is a tremendously popular series with my students, and there is already a waiting list for this title. But it's also been cross country season, and I just am not going to write a competent review even though it is an essential purchase for all middle school and most elementary school libraries.

From Goodreads.com:

If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race--by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello's corporate banana jet!--to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising "facts" surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle's hero be a fraud? It's winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire!

Filled with brand-new puzzles and games (including a hidden bonus puzzle!), this fast-paced read will have gamers and readers alike racing to the finish line because, like Mr. Lemoncello's commercials say, IS IT FUN? . . . HELLO! IT'S A LEMONCELLO!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Never Say Die! Blog Tour


Horowitz, Anthony. Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) 
October 10th 2017 by Philomel Books
Copy graciously provided by publisher!

Yes, it's the eleventh book in the series. Yes, the first one was published in 2000, before my students were born. BUT, this is the best middle grade series of all time. If you haven't read Stormbreaker, run, don't walk, to the nearest book source to buy or borrow a copy. You won't regret it!

Alex is trying to recuperate from his final mission in Scorpia Rising. He lost his long term nanny/parent substitute/friend Jack Albright in an evil plot by Razim, so is living in California with his friend Sabine and her parents. When he gets a cryptic e mail, he is sure that Jack is alive, so he takes off to Egypt to return to the scene of her death to look for clues. Luckily, Colonel Manzour likes Alex and not only keeps him safe but gives him some helpful intel. A clue on the wall of the prison, as well as some IP address sleuthing sends to him St. Tropez, but it's okay because he has some cash, a credit card, can speak French, and has had his computer modified so it can connect him to Manzour's people for help... or act as a bomb. He finds the evil Grimaldi twins' yacht, and after some trouble there, realizes that the two have Operation Steel Claw underway. This explains a little bit about how a massive transport helicopter went missing, but time is of the essence when figuring out what the Grimaldi's plan to do with the helicopter. After a false start, Alex figures out their plan, and rushes off to the aid of those affected. Will this path somehow lead him to Jack? And what does his career with Mrs. Jones and MI6 look like now?

Like any Alex Rider book, the best part are the descriptions of his adventures. Who else but a 15 year old boy would want to be flung from the ejector seat of a vehicle up to a bus being flown away by a massive helicopter, hang on for dear life, and manage to not get squashed when the bus is deposited on a train? Despite his lack of training, Alex has managed to develop some very useful spy skills, and has a good feeling for what the evil doers might try to accomplish.

We do get a little more emotional development in this, since Alex is searching for Jack. We get a short glimpse of him trying to live a "normal" life, and it's obvious that such an existence is never going to work for our intrepid spy boy. Interestingly, we see a lot more of Mrs. Jones' emotional journey in this volume, which I appreciated. I'm not reading the series for the character development, but after 17 years, I have a vested interest in this character and definitely want to delve into his psyche a bit more!

Horowitz's Stormbreaker opened up middle grade literature to the genre of spy books, and we've seen Carter's Gallagher Girls, McGee's Ryan Quinn, and great series from McNab, Muchamore, Higson, and Gilman. When you think about it, a whole lot of adult like this genre, so it's not a surprise that my students want to escape from everyday reality and read about spy. Personally, I think I would make a great Mrs. Pollifax for the new Millenium. When you think about it, teenagers have a lot to lose. Middle aged librarians whose library jobs might be cut at any moment have nothing to lose. We would be terrifying and ruthless as spies!

NEVER SAY DIE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
Week One:
October 2 – YA Book Nerd – Review
October 4 – The Keepers of the Books - Review
October 5 – Bookstorm Reads – Creative: Favorite Alex Rider Gadgets
October 6 – Hello Jenny Reviews – Promo: Photo
Week Two:
October 9 – Through the Open Window - Review
October 10 – Buttermybooks – Creative: Outfit Inspiration from Cover
October 11 – The Loud Library Lady - Review
October 12 – YA Books Central – Excerpt with giveaway
October 13 – Never Too Many to Read – Creative: Spotlight on book series
Week Three:
October 16 – Ms. Yingling Reads - Review
October 17 – Doodle Mom’s Homeschooling Life - Review
October 18 – BigScreenBooks - Review
October 19 –  Mary Had a Little Book Blog – Spy Kit essentials (what every spy must keep in their bag)
October 20 – Avid Reader – Travel Guide to Egypt


Anthony Horowitz (anthonyhorowitz.com) is a world-renowned screenwriter for film and television, having received multiple awards. And he is, of course, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Alex Rider novels, which have spawned a major motion picture and a line of graphic novels. Anthony was also commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate to write two Sherlock Holmes novels, the critically-acclaimed The House of Silk and Moriarty. Most recently he was commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, incorporating never-before-published material from 007's creator. Anthony lives with his wife in London, England; they are parents to two grown boys. He will be touring the US for the publication of NEVER SAY DIE.

Ms. Yingling

MMGM- Molly in the Middle

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.


27508575Arno, Ronni. Molly in the Middle
October 10th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Molly's parents are very harried and busy, and one morning, Molly's father gets all the way to her younger sister Coco's school before realizing that she isn't in the car! Feeling very beige, Molly decides to dye her hair multiple colors and sneak an outfit out of her sister's closet. For the first time, people look at her in school, and the very cute Robert asks if she can help him dye his hair. Former friend Nina and new bestie, Christina, invite her to sit with them, seeing that she's gotten Robert's attention, saving her from having to hide in the library at lunch. This is the first year that her best friend, Kellan, hasn't been in school; his mother is home schooling him because she is overly protective of his muscular dystrophy. Molly sees Kellan a lot outside of school, and the two are planning on doing a fundraiser walk for MD, but her new friends make fun of him, and she is enjoying her new popularity too much to defend him strenuously. Robert isn't a great student, but he's nice enough, and he pays attention to Molly. As her parents' fighting gets worse, and her mother goes to stay with a sister, leaving Molly to supervise Coco and watch her older sister Eliza implode, that attention makes her feel better. When Christina plans a spectacular party at her country club on the same day of the MD walk, Molly tells Kellan she won't be able to go with him. Will Molly decide that her new friends are worth the sacrifice of her best friend?
Strengths: This was brilliant in that it plays to a deep psychological need middle schoolers have-- to be popular for who they are. Molly only changes her hair and clothes (with a little sass for Ms. Littman), and yet her old friend Nina comes back, she gets a cute boy writing his number on her hand, and she gets invited to THE most exclusive party of the year! She still gets to hang out with Kellan. The best part? When she ditches Kellan for the party, he actually understands why she did it and forgives her. Of course, it helps that she feels bad. The home environment is also unfortunately realistic; for as many middle grade novels as there are where Really Horrible Things Happen and the parents are prostrate with grief, there are really few books where the parents are just self absorbed and being serviceable but not good parents. The father comes out looking best in this one, and I liked how he listened to Tessa's very reasonable critique of her childhood experience. Kellan is also a stand out character, trying his best despite his overprotective mother, and growing when he doesn't have Tessa to help him out.
Weaknesses: Mrs. Littman's little talk with Tessa about her choice of friends, while circumspect, was unwise. I vividly remember Mr. Clingerman, my 8th grade science teacher, telling me that my best friend, Lori, was not a good influence on me. I was a good kid, and this just made me mad, and it made me dislike him a lot!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this will always be checked out!

Apparently, I need to find time for students to eat lunch in the library. Molly is just one of many fictional characters who uses this as an escape. Our grades each have lunch a different period of the day, so when 6th graders are eating lunch, I have 7th and 8th grade classes in for research and language arts. If I get lunch, I have to work around what grade is using the library most that day and eat then. Since I have no aide, there's about 25 minutes of one period a day that students can't stay in the library because it's being run by other students. (Who are on the other side of a wall of glass windows from the cafeteria monitors.) I just don't get how the schedules work for students to not only eat in the library, but to find it quiet!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City

33914003Kendall, Jodi. The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City
October 3rd 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Josie's large family lives in a small house in a city in central Ohio, and when her older brother Tom brings home a piglet at Thanksgiving, Josie is determined to keep Hamlet and save him from certain death. Her parents aren't thrilled, but are apparently worn down from dealing with five children, and tell her that she can keep the pig until the new year, but then has to find him a home. Josie thinks that if she can keep the pig that long, her parents will fall in love with him and let her keep him. She trains him to use a litter box, and he gets along quite well with the family dog. He's expensive, though, and needs lots of food and occasionally gets into trouble, such as ruining a neighbors plants and pots. Money is tight, and Josie also has a bill for her gymnastics club that is coming due. Not only that, but police visit the house and tell the family that it is illegal to keep livestock in the city. Her father's job is so tenuous that her parents return all of their Christmas gifts and decide that they'll have a handmade, Secret Santa style Christmas. When Josie finds out that the police have made arrangements for a pig farmer to take Hamlet away, Josie see this road ending in bacon, and launches a battle to save her beloved pet.
Strengths: This actually had more gymnastics in it than many books I've read, and I really need books about gymnastics! The family dynamics were interesting, and I know that my own personal daughter thinks pigs are adorable.
Weaknesses:This had to have been set in Columbus, but it seemed half a bubble off. This is probably because the author lives in New York City. I would think that anyone who lived in Columbus would understand that you couldn't have a regular pig in the city.
What I really think: Maddie's parents needed more back bone. I had a hard time believing they let Maddie keep the pig at all.

 I read this right after Mustaches for Maddie. If only the two books could be combined, and there was a gymnast who had a brain tumor, that would be perfect. Of course, that would leave us with a book about a 6th grade class doing Shakespeare and one of the cast members having a pig, which would be a REALLY hard sell!
Ms. Yingling

Books that Could be Nominated for Cybils MGF

So far, there are 70 books that have been nominated: in previous years, there have been up to 150. I'd love to give everything a fair chance, and would like to see lots more nominations! Here are some books that I hvaen't seen nominated yet; if you were passionate about a title, hope over to http://www.cybils.com/2017/10/4794.html  to read the category descriptions and nominate away!

This is just SOME of the books that I would like to be nominated!

Asher, Diana Harmon. Sidetracked
Behar, Ruth. Lucky Broken Girl
Benedis-Grab, Daphne. Army Brats
Bowen, Fred. Outside Shot
Buyea, Rob. The Perfect Score
Carter, Caela. Forever, or a Long, Long Time.
Dee, Barbara. Halfway Normal.
Freeman, Ruth. One Good Thing About America.
Galante, Cecelia. Stealing Our Way Home
Gangsei, Jan. The Wild Bunch
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Genevieve's War
Greenwald, Tommy. The Real Us
Hashimoto, Meika. The Trail
Hughes, Dean. Four-Four-Two
Johnson, Terry Lynn. Falcon Wild
Johnson, Terry Lynn. Sled Dog School
Key, Watt. Hideout
Krishnaswami, Uma. Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh
Lambert, Mary E. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes
Lupica, Mike. Lone Stars Mancusi, Mari. Princesses, Inc.
Margolis, Leslie. We Are Party People
Miller, Darcy. Roll
Palmer, Iva-Marie. Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook
Palmer, Robin. Love You Like a Sister
Paterson, Katherine. My Brigadista Year
Pla, Sally J. The Someday Birds
Ridge, Yolanda. Inside Hudson Pickle
Rosenberg and Shang. This is Just a Test
Sheinmel, Courtney. Chloe on the Bright Side (The Kindness Club #1)
Sonnenblick, Jordan. The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
Spradlin, Michael. Prisoner of War
Tarpley, Natasha. The Harlem Charade
Trueit, Trudy. My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts
Tubbs, Kristine O'Donnell. A Dog Like Daisy
Vaught, Susan. Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge
Van Draanen, Wendelin. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones
Vrabel, Beth. A Blind Guide to Normal.
Vrabel, Beth. Caleb and Kit
Walker, Melissa. Let's Pretend We Never Met
Zhang, Kat. The Emperor's Riddle

Saturday, October 14, 2017

This weekend- Living in the City!

33413919Glaser, Karina Yan. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
October 3rd 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

The Vanderbeekers family of five children, parents, dog and rabbit have lived on two floors in a brownstone in Harlem. The father grew up in the same neighborhood. Just before Christmas, however, their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, decides not to renew their lease, and they have to move right after Christmas. This is a problem, because the family has gotten a reduced rate because the father acts as the superintendent, and the rent on anything large enough for the family would be prohibitive. They may have to move out of the city! Hyacinth, twins Isa and Jessie, Laney and Oliver all have plans to persuade the reclusive landlord to change his mind, even circulating a petition in their neighborhood. They have lots of friends nearby-- the Castlemans, who run a bakery and have a son the age of the twins; Mr. Jeet and Miss Jessie, who live upstairs and are like grandparents; even the postman has been working in the neighborhood longer than the father has been alive and brings treats for the dog. Of course, other things are occurring while the family is trying to pack up for the move, and they plan to celebrate their last Christmas in style. Will a miracle occur so that they can stay?
Strengths: This had a Melendy Family vibe, but updated for the new millenium. I love the cover, and the idea of living in the city sounds much more appealing than living there actually would be. The close knit neighborhood is wonderful, and the industriousness of the children is charming.
Weaknesses: If the family had to be out of the apartment in a few days, wouldn't they have another one lined up? A mover consulted? Lots of plans made? This struck me as unrealistic; if Mr. Beiderman did rescind his nonrenewal at the last minute, it would still be problematic. This will not bother students, but it bothered me. Also, it is not helpful to portray someone who has lost family as a crazy recluse who can't move on with his life and, in fact, wants to punish others for his pain. That bothered me the most. People move on. There's really no other choice.
What I really think: Since stories set in New York City gather dust on my shelves, I will wait until the end of the year to see if I can purchase this.

34593617Rosinsky, Lisa. Inevitable and Only
October 10th 2017 by Boyds Mills Press
ARC from the publisher

Acadia has always gotten along better with her father than her mother, especially now that her mother is in administration at the Quaker school she attends while her father still runs a used bookstore and cooks vegan dinners for the family in their Baltimore home. When Cadie finds out that her father has another daughter a few months older than she is, and that Elizabeth's mother has passed away and Elizabeth is coming to live with them, she's afraid it will mean bad things for her family. The transition isn't horrible, but Elizabeth is very religious and preppy, and doesn't quite fit in to Cadie's hipster world. (Her parents lived in a cooperative house, and the children at Cadie's school are named things like Raven, Heron and Zephyr.) Will her parents be able to overcome the past and bring the family together?
Strengths: I'd probably buy this for high school, but it was more of a young adult book, but without enough sweet romance for my girls who want older books. Nothing objectionable, though, and I enjoyed it.
Weaknesses: Hippie parents? Cadie would have been born about 2000, and her parents were very young, so they were born about 1980? Communist grandparents? I got stuck on the generational math of this one. We'll just go with hipster parents and move along.
What I really think: I'd buy this for high school but will pass for middle school, mainly on account of the vast amount of the book concerned with putting on Much Ado About Nothing.