Monday, October 01, 2018

MMGM- No Fixed Address and Everlasting Nora


It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Nielsen, Susin. No Fixed Address
September 11th 2018 by Tundra Books (NY)
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Felix Knuttsen and his single mother Astrid move around a bit in Vancouver because Astrid finds it hard to keep a job after her career teaching art founders. After the death of her mother, Felix's Mormor, it's been hard for the two to maintain homes as well. When her latest boyfriend, Abelard, decides to go to India, Felix is glad to see him go, but it means that the only place he has to live is the Westfalia van after briefly landing with a friend, Soleil. Since it's August, they take a little vacation, and then Astrid tells Felix he can go to any school he wants. Using a fair amount of subterfuge, she gets him into the French Immersion School. This is great, since Felix is half Swedish and one quarter Haitian and French, and since his former best friend Dylan goes to the school and the two still get along. Living in the van requires a lot of planning and sacrifices, from showering at a community center and eating meals out of cans to carefully crafted stories about his movements. Felix makes an unlikely friend in the driven Winnie, who is very good at languages but not so good at social interactions. The three work on articles for the school paper, and the fact that Felix excels at the t.v. game show Who, What, Where emerges. He tries out for a junior edition and makes it. Since the grand prize is $25,000, he hopes he can win so that he and Astrid can get their lives back on track. As the competition approaches, Felix's life starts to unravel very quickly. What will it take for things to turn around for the Knuttsons?
Strengths: This had a tremendous amount of appealing, well fleshed out characters. Mormor, although her appearance was very brief, was a fantastic grandmother. Felix's description of his mother and her problems is interesting because it shows how much understanding and smarts he needs to have just to get himself clothed and fed. It's also a balanced description-- she's not a great mother, but she's not the worst, either. I feel like many of my students have similar backgrounds. The details about living in a van will appeal to students who have nice, comfortable homes, and will perhaps resonate with those who don't as well. Dylan and Winnie are good friends, and the teachers and social workers are all concerned and helpful. Even Soleil, who is ill used by Astrid, is very supportive. I liked the inclusion of Vancouver as almost another character, and the game show appearance is worked in convincingly. It is a book that will make many readers grateful-- I know enough to NEVER take baths for granted!
Weaknesses: The game show scenes got a bit overwrought, and there were a few moments where this came close to having too many social hot button issues, lessening the impact of Felix's predicament. That's very on trend, though.
What I really think: This will be a great circulator. The cover is very appealing, and this has a Boxcar Children vibe with the addition of the suspense of Felix's precarious situation. Nicely done.

Cruz, Marie Miranda. Everlasting Nora
October 2nd 2018 by Starscape Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Nora and her mother have been living in her father's family mausoleum after they lost their home, and her father, in an apartment fire. They manage, like many others who live in the cemetery, to eke out an existence. There isn't enough money to buy the uniform and supplies needed for Nora to attend school, so she helps her mother do laundry for one family and also makes and sells garlands of flowers. She has good neighbors in Jo and his grandmother, Lola Mercy, and they are very supportive when her mother does not return one night and men associated with loan sharks break into Nora's home and steal the her father's watch and the money she has been collecting to travel to live with her uncle. Because she does not show up to do laundry, she loses that position, and she starts to panic when her mother is still missing. She goes to the mahjong game her mother regularly attends, and talks to some of her mother's friends. Most of the friends can only say that her mother owes them money, but Rosie has some more information. Eventually, Nora finds her mother, who is very sick. Lola and Jo help her tend to her mother's medical needs, and Nora reaches out to the women who employed them, who helps a little. Because circumstances are so dire, Nora attempts to break into the home of the man who stole her watch to get it back, and she finds that there are some issues that have stood in the way of her mother maintaining contact with her brother. Will Nora be able to get her mother the help she needs?
Strengths: It's so important that students read about what life is like for other children their age in other parts of the world, or children in the US whose lives are very different. If you liked Saaed's Amal Unbound or Yang's Front Desk, this is another great title to offer to students to expand their horizons. I love that Nora is bright and would really like to attend school, and even does some work with a man who has a mobile school that comes to her area. Even though Nora struggles to get food and water, she is upbeat and proactive about her own life and shows a lot of resiliency and skill in survival. For adults who loved Little House on the Prairie for the way Laura had to use her pluck to survive, I believe that books like this are the thing to hand to students now instead! The glossary of Filipino words and phrases is helpful, and the details of every day life are amazing!
Weaknesses: I'm assuming that this takes place in the modern day, but it might help readers who don't know about life in the Philippines to somehow indicate this.
What I really think: As a child, I loved books set in different historical periods that told me details of every day life. If there had been books about children in other parts of the world, I would have loved those as well. It's great to see more #ownvoices accounts of life in different countries!

5 comments:

  1. Everlasting Nora sounds wonderful. Truthfully, you had me at Amal Unbound and Front Desk. :) Also happy to hear of a glossary of Filipino words and phrases! Thanks for the share this week, Karen!

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  2. I've added both of these to my TBR list and have alerted the powers to be to add them to the school library. Thanks for your thorough and enticing reviews!

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  3. I'm looking forward to Everlasting Nora. It's on hold at the library - from your review it looks like I'll enjoy it!

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  4. Both sound good, Karen, but I will especially look for Everlasting Nora.

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  5. I enjoyed No Fixed Address too and think it will be especially popular in schools here in Vancouver. I agree that it is important for students to read about other kinds of lives. I've added Everlasting Nora to my list.

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