Monday, June 21, 2021

MMGM-- The Double Life of Danny Day

It's
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
 at 
and #IMWAYR day 
at 
and 



Thayer, Mike. The Double Life of Danny Day
June 15th 2021 by Feiwel Friends
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

For his whole life, Danny has lived each day twice. When he was very young, his parents worried about his assertion of this fact and sent him to a psychologist, who helped him come up with a system-- the first time around is a "discard day", so he can experiment and often makes questionable choices, and the second is a "sticky day", so he has to do well on tests and be nice to people, since these are the events that will be remembered by other people. When his family moves from Texas to Pocatello, Idaho, Danny isn't thrilled to have to adjust to a new school. Keeping notes to help him decide what to do the next day, he claims to be a mind reader and asks classmates to write down a phrase on a piece of paper, and carefully scopes out the hierarchy of the cafeteria. Braxlynn and Jaxson are two really popular students, but it's Noah who catches his attention. Noah runs an illicit video game competition, where the $2 entry fees are collected in a brown paper bag, and the winner, usually Noah, gets to keep the proceeds. Freddie is welcoming to Danny and tells him about the ins and outs of the game, which she doesn't win, although she could use the money since her family is struggling. He also meets Zak, and gets along with him really well even though he is more into music and doing really well in school, and Zak's Ghanan born father is Danny's father's new boss! Danny is plenty busy, settling in to his new school and keeping up with his work, but he also has to keep track of his younger twin sisters who get into lots of trouble on discard days that he tries to remedy. He tells Zak about his situation, and with his help, figures out a plan to take down Noah's video game reign. 
Strengths: This was sort of like a football book, but with video game on-field action. Video games take up a lot of mental real estate for many of my students, are there aren't many books that include them in the plot, unless they are fantasy books where children get sucked into the games. This is also innovative with the realistic fantasy of Danny getting two chances on each day; the reason given is that he was born on February 2 at 2:22. Enough of a reason for me! It was interesting that his family had him in counseling, and I liked that he spent so much time with his younger sisters. The field notes on fellow students and their social constructs was fun and not inaccurate. All in all, a very solidly fun middle grade novel! Definitely purchasing.
Weaknesses: This was sort of like a football book, but with video game on-field action. This means that I didn't understand some of what was going on and may have skimmed those parts. Also, Noah was handling a LOT of money, and I'm surprised that he hadn't gotten caught. Middle school students tend to give away situations like this by congregating in suspicious ways, and there's always one student who will spill all of the beans to the administration! 
What I really think: This felt a little like Clements' Lost and Found, where twins only go to school every other day. I really like the idea of playing with a time loop or alternate reality in middle school, especially one where you get to test things out before doing them. It was also interesting that Zak and Danny's doctor encouraged him to do more with this opportunity than skip school to play video games. Thought provoking AND fun. Looking forward to seeing more from Mr. Thayer. 
 
Finklestein, Norman H. The Shelter and the Fence:When 982 Holocaust Refugees Found Safe Haven in America
June 8th 2021 by Chicago Review Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

While middle grade literature has many books portraying people who went to camps or hid from the Nazis, there are not quite as many about people who left their homes and fled to other countries. Going to another country in Europe is roughly equivalent, distance wise, to going to another state, and I'm not sure my students fully understand that. This book introduces us to many families and individuals who got out of their countries and were able to apply to come to the United States. Refugees from 18 different countries were brought to Oswego New York via a transport ship from Italy. They were settled in an old army base, which at first made many of the people nervous, since it seemed like the concentration camps many had experienced. The people of Oswego, however, had set up the living areas like apartments, and tried to furnish the newcomers with as many of the niceties of home as they could. The applicants were vetted so that there were a variety of occupations represented, so people worked in the camp. Children went to the local public schools. 

While the residents of the camp were glad to have food and safe shelter, they also felt penned in. The agreement between the refugees and the US was that this was a temporary arrangement, and after the war, they would return to their countries. Because of this, they weren't allowed out of the camp to visit relatives in New York City, although some did sneak out. A couple of students graduated from high school and were accepted into Harvard, but were unable to attend. It took a lot of legal work for the residents to be allowed to stay after the end of the war. 

This was an interesting tale of history that was unknown to me. I have to admit that I was hesitant to read yet another book about World War II, but I don't know that there will ever be an end to the very different stories that emerge from that era. The book had plenty of pictures, as well as large text, and moved very quickly. At just under 200 pages, this is a book that students who have studied the Holocaust will find refreshing, since it depicts people who were saved. Perhaps knowing about these 982 people will build empathy for the many immigrants who are coming to the US today from a variety of war torn countries. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Curse of the Phoenix and Dragon Ops

Carter, Aimee. The Curse of the Phoenix
June 8th 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Twins Lu and Zac are struggling since the death of their mother, especially since their father is so grief stricken that he can't take care of them properly, and throws himself into his work instead of educating himself about Zak's life threatening allergies to almost everything. When their great Aunt Merle offers to have the children spend their summer break with her and her wife, Rowena, the father packs up the children and flies with them to England. Their mother left the family estate to marry their father, and only came back rarely, but shared fantastical stories about Wildewood with the twins. Zac is working on a graphic novel of them but the twins are gobsmacked to find that the tales are actually true. Rowena, along with Conrad and his children Penelope and Oliver, cares for an array of magical creatures in a preserve, helped by a phoenix whom no one has seen for quite some time. The phoenix was very fond of the twins' mother, and even though Rowena doesn't want them to enter the sanctuary, they do, and are branded. This means that they won't be able to leave and go back to the US, lest they die! Was the phoenix also responsible for their mother's death? And will the two be able to help with the magical creatures but be free to embrace their own destiny?
Strengths: Traveling to a family estate in England is always a great way to start a book, and when the family has a preserve of magical creatures that they are tending, even better! Zac and Lu are interesting characters who are more than happy to investigate their family background, and I especially enjoyed that their mother shared information about the preserve as stories that Zac is using to write a graphic novel. Zac's allergies are a great inclusion. Merle is a great character who misses the twin's mother and wants to take care of them, and Rowena is her abrasive foil who doesn't want them near, but mostly for their own safety. Penelope is a cousin who enjoys the preserve, and Oliver's longing to go back to a life without it is a realistic twist. The variety of creatures, and the twins' interactions with them, are superb. I have soccer fields behind my house-- I think that these should be given over to the care of centaurs, fairies, and other creatures,and young readers will also be able to put themselves right into the story. 
Weaknesses: I am never a fan of books that depict a parent as so grief stricken that the care of children suffers. Given Zac's allergies, this is even more unforgivable.
What I really think: This is very similar to Mull's Fablehaven series or Sutherland's The Menagerie trilogy. I haven't had a lot of readers for those recently, so may pass on purchase. If your copies of those books have fallen apart, this would be a great replacement, updated for the 2020s with various social and personal concerns.

Mancusi, Mari. Dragon Ops: Dragons vs. Robots (#2) 
June 8th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After their adventures in Dragon Ops, Ian and Lilli have coped differently. Ian doesn't want to play ANY video games, and Lilli has thrown herself into playing sports, including soccer with Josh, whom Ian dislikes. Even their cousin Derek spends his time playing guitar instead of gaming. The dragon from the first book, Atreus, has escaped its video world and is on the loose, and Ian feels himself being followed by it. When the two find that Ikumi has possibily been kidnapped by a rival gaming company, they go back to gaming to try to get a position of beta testers for the updated game Mech Ops from Admiral Appleby, who worked with Ikumi's grandfather. Appleby's grandson is Josh, who is just as annoying to Ian in video gaming as he is in soccer. When it turns out that Ikumi's father is also missing, the stakes get even higher. Once in the game as testers, they meet up with Yano, who is a big help, but the real world intervenes. The closer they seem to come to rescuing Ikumi, the more people from the Mech Ops organization try to pull them out of the game. WIth help from arcade owner Maddy and a rivl gamer named Starr, will Ian and Lilli be able to figure out what is going on in Mech Ops, and how it involves Ikumi, before it is too late?
Strengths: I like Ian and Lilli as characters. They have complicated relationships with gaming, and even though they occasionally play all night and want to skip activities to sleep during the day (and have a video game playing mother who understands this!), they don't do this often, and have both stepped away from games when they felt the rest of their lives were suffering. They really do want to help Ikumi and her father, despite their complicated relationship. Josh ends up being an interesting character as well, and the history of both the Dragon Ops and Mech Ops games (and their intersection) was intriguing. There's lots of action, tons of video game detail, and some really cool creatures! 
Weaknesses: While not as step-by-step of a recreation of a video game as the Cube Kid Minecraft books, there was still a lot of video game details that I didn't quite get. This will not be a problem for younger readers, or anyone who has more knowledge of video games than I have, which is pretty much limited to computer solitaire!
What I really think: This is a great sequel to a popular title. There's room for another book, but a duology would be fine as well.  I have students eagerly waiting for this one!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Cartoon Saturday--The Legend of Auntie Po

Khor, Shing Yin. The Legend of Auntie Po
Published June 15th 2021 by Kokila
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1885, Mei Hao lives with her father, who is a cook for a logging camp in California run by Mr. Andersen. Because Mei and her father are Chinese, there is a lot of prejudice against them, even though Mr. Andersen thinks of them as "family". Sometimes, this is true. Mei is best friends with Bee, and the two often plan their futures together. Since Mei has a crush on Bee, she has conflicted feelings when Mei talks about getting married and prefers the scenario where the two move to the city and run a pie shop together. In other ways, the differences are clear. The Chinese loggers are fed separately from the white loggers, Mei is not paid, and the treatment of Chinese workers is not equal. There are also a few black workers, who hold a place somewhere in between. Mr. Andersen hires his brother to "help" in the kitchen, which Mr. Hao doesn't particularly like, although he keeps silent, and when the people who own the camp complain, Mr. Hao and his Chinese assistant are both fired. The food is awful, and the white men in the camp eventually approach Mei to help feed them, and go to Mr. Andersen with their complaints. Mei is known for telling stories to keep the children happy, and has told many stories about Auntie Po, a Paul Bunyan-like character who also has an ox, and who takes care of the miners. As the tensions in camp worsen, Mei begins to think that she actually sees Auntie Po. This happens more often when tragedy occurs in Bee's family, and the whole logging camp struggles to deal with this event. In the aftermath, Mr. Andersen starts to realize how badly he has treated the Chinese miners, and especially the Hao's, and tries to make amends. 
Strengths: This was a great historical story with a unique spin on the Paul Bunyan tales. Reimagining them with a Chinese Auntie makes perfect sense, since folklore is always adapted to fit different cultures. The information about logging camps is well researched and informative. Mei does not have a lot of hope for her future at the beginning of the story, but it is good to see that by the end, there are other options for her. The LGBTQIA+ representation is not a large part of the story, but it's nice to see it represented in a historical context. Certainly, there were "Boston marriages" (a term in use around this time) even on the west coast! Mr. Andersen's portrayal as someone who thought he was progressive for the time but who still didn't treat his employees equally in interestingly done. The story moves along quickly.
Weaknesses: This was such an intriguing piece of history that I wished it wasn't a graphic novel, so I could have gotten more information! I also spent a lot of time trying to understand the color palette and being confused by Auntie Po's bright pink shirt. On the bright side, this kept me from being obsessed with the noses, which is usually how I interact with graphic novels, which are just not my cup of tea.
What I really think: This was a really interesting story; I just wanted more information! A great addition to a slowly growing collection of graphic novels with cultural connections. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Marcus Makes a Movie

Hart, Kevin and Rodkey, Geoff. Cooper, David (illus.) Marcus Makes a Movie
June 1st 2021 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Marcus attends an afternoon program at school while his father works, and he is struggling to find an activity to join. He's a big fan of drawing comics, but doesn't want to go to the art option and do things like origami and collage work. He ends up in the movie making program, hoping to be able to sit quietly and draw, but the exuberant college students won't let him. Not only that, but a girl who annoys him, Sierra, is in the program. The group has to vote on the movie they want to make, and Sierra, who attended a summer program on writing screenplays, has written a script for Phone Zombies. Marcus counters with his own idea to spite her, but doesn't have an actual screenplay for his superhero action comic, Toothpick, just his comic book. He's angry when his idea loses, but Sierra makes an effort to reach out, mend fences, and offer to help him with his film if he helps with hers. Marcus has recently experienced a serious loss, and some of his comic deals with this, although we don't find out all of the details until late in the story. Marcus learns a lot about film making and cooperating with others, and continues to work on Toothpick. 
Strengths: I loved that this showed how much work it takes to make a film! There is one student who is in the program to improve her MeTube channel on makeup, and even that is seriously discussed. So many of my students want to be YouTube stars but have no real concept of what this would entail. Sierra is a fantastic character who is extremely understanding and works well with everyone, and it's great to see her take Marcus under her wing not only in regards to film making, but in interacting with others. I loved the portrayal of an after school program, and there are plenty of supportive people in Marcus' life to help him with his loss, including his father, who is supportive of Marcus' creative endeavors. The occasional illustrations will help this appeal to readers of notebook novels. The use of casual register is noticeable but done in a natural way; this is no small feat. 
Weaknesses: The frequent self-referential nods to "Tevin Bart", as well as mentions of MeTube seemed odd to me, but younger readers will likely not notice. Marcus also started out as an angry, unlikeable character with some behavior issues, but we find out the reasons for this, and he does improve. 
What I really think: This is an interesting and informative look at the ins and outs of making a film from people who have been through the process. Similar to Greenwald's Pete Milano's Guide to Being a Movie Star, but I liked that it was centered around an after school program instead of a film with celebrities. Definitely purchasing, although Rodkey's We're Not From Here was SO good that I wish he would write more books like that. I'm not sure how many of my students are familiar with Kevin Hart as an actor, but this book stands alone without that knowledge. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Crossing the Stream

Baitie, Elizabeth-Irene. Crossing the Stream
June 8th 2021 by Norton Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ato's Mum runs a small shop in Ghana, and the two make ends meet despite the fact that his father when he was young. He hasn't spent much time with his grandmother, but when Nana wants him to visit every weekend, Mum allows this, but forbids Ato from sitting on the sofa on the porch. Ato is a bit afraid at first, because Nana is whispered to be a witch, but the two end up getting along well. This is good, because Mum is increasingly in thrall to Prophet Yakayaka and his House of Fire ministry, and thinks that Ato might be misbehaving because of evil spiritual influences. Meanwhile, Ato and his friends are working on a project for school. They hope to win a competition that would allow them to visit Nnoma, a bird island that Ato's father helped with before his death. the island has been closed to outsiders for a number of years, so Ato and his friends, with the help of Papa Kojo, work on growing vegetables with organic pesticides. When visiting Nana, Ato hears the story of BB and his mother. BB lived in the nicer neighborhood of Tamarind Village, but made friends with several Zongo children from across a polluted stream that ran between the two locations. His mother didn't trust these children, and didn't want BB to hang out with them. As Ato and his friends work on their gardening project, they also find out more about Prophet Yakayaka and the benefits he is having to raise money for children in Agoro, and befriend a dog they call Choco. When Ato, Leslie, and Dzifa find out about the conditions in Agoro, they try to tell the adults around them about what the prophet is doing. Ato finds out more information about his father, and is instrumental in uncovering evidence about the Prophet's schemes. 
Strengths: Baitie is a Ghanaian writer who has written a number of Young Adult books, so it's great to see her turn her hand to middle grade. I have looked for years for books set in other countries and written by writers who live there, and since I've had a fair number of Ghanaian students over the years, I was so excited to hear about this one! It's interesting to see details about Ato's every day life (he and his mother have a woman who cleans for them) and his interactions with his friends. His grandmother's stories show a lot of social awareness and changing attitudes. The Prophet and his hold on Mum was fascinating, and the investigative journalism that reveals his true purpose was a good inclusion. 
Weaknesses: I was expecting the plot to be more about the bird island and the father's role in that, but enjoyed the turn this took to focus on the Prophet. There is a senseless death of a dog, if you are handing this to tender readers. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and will be a great addition to a small but growing number of titles set in African countries, such as Krone's Small Mercies, Okorafor's Ikenga, or Nwaubani's Under the Baobab Tree  or Warman's The World Beneath.

 Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Samira Surfs


Guidroz, Rukhsana. Samira Surfs
June 8th 2021 by Kokila (first published 2021)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2012, Samira and her family are members of the Rohingya people. Because of the oppressive government in Myanmar (or Burma, as her family prefers to call it) that denies citizenship to Rohingya, Samira's family undertook a treacherous journey at a great personal and emotional cost to come to Bangladesh. Her father now works on a shrimp boat, her brother at a hotel, and Samira sells hard boiled eggs on the beach. Samira misses her friends back home, as well as her grandparents, and would really like to go to school. Her father tells her that even if they did have the money, they would send her brother, because "only boys can change a family's fate". The family did not find a place in the local resettlement camp, so are considered unregistered, and experience a lot of discrimination from local people who feel that immigrants are taking jobs and opportunities away from native Bangladeshis. While on the beach, Samira meets other girls who become her friends. Aisha also is a refugee, sells jewelry on the beach. and lives with just her grandfather. She is very quiet about her own story. Nadia's brother Tariq is friends with Samira's brother Khaled. Rubi's mother is a seamstress, and Maya sells chips. Samira is enthralled when her brother and Tariq are surfing, but she is afraid of the water because of her family's journey. Khaled offers to teach her to swim, and also teaches her some English that he is picking up at the hotel. Eventually, Samira gets brave enough to try surfing, although it is a lot of work to become good at it. When a local contest with a cash prize is announced, Samira wants to enter, even though her family doesn't want her swimming because of their faith. Sure she is going to help her family in this way, Samira persists, but when she is not allowed to enter the contest, will her persistence pay off?
Strengths: Aside from Perkins' Tiger Boy, I can't think of any other middle grade books set in Bangladesh, and certainly haven't read any with Rohingya characters! It's great to see this representation, and Samira's interactions with her family and friends will resonate with middle grade readers. I liked the details about how the family lived, especially things like going to a local shop to watch television news or borrowing a cell phone in order to call relatives. There aren't many books about surfing, either, so this has all kids of new and interesting topics in it! The illustrations are helpful in showing where Samira lives, and what she and her friends wear. I love giving my students books that show what the lives of children their age are like in other countries, and this was an interesting and informative title. 
Weaknesses: Most of the novels in verse that I have read lately don't strike me as particularly poetic when I read the pages out loud. The same is true of this book. That's fine, but since my students shy away from novels in verse despite my efforts to promote them, I would have preferred a prose format with more context clues for some of the terms and situations with which my readers might be unfamiliar. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this, and would love to see more books with Rohingya characters, but wish that there were more details about Samira's every day life so that my students would have a better understanding of Samira's life. The notes at the end were very helpful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst has been a favorite of mine ever since my exchange student from Iceland ran off with my copy of Drink, Slay, Love (2011)and didn't want to give it back! Her newest book, the middle grade fantasy Odd and Even, is out today. 

Once you read her new book, make sure that you pick up a copy of Pierce's Alanna, so that you are fully prepared to join me and Ms. Durst when we go to live in Tortall. Such a great tale of female empowerment, and a book that is still popular with my fantasy readers!

It was such fun to interview her!



Who were you as a middle grade reader? What were some of your favorite books?


I love all the same kinds of books that I loved when I was a middle-grade reader.  Anything with a unicorn, dragon, talking animal, or magical whatever -- count me in! 


Some of my favorites then and now:


ALANNA by Tamora Pierce

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones

DEEP WIZARDRY by Diane Duane

INTO THE LAND OF THE UNICORNS by Bruce Coville

BEAUTY by Robin McKinley

THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle


I love books that make you feel as if the impossible is possible.


When I was ten years, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  Problem was: I'd never met anyone who was a writer.  As far as I knew, it wasn't a thing that one could aspire to become.  It seemed impossible.  During that time, I first read ALANNA by Tamora Pierce, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself as I closed that book, "If Alanna can become a knight, I can become a writer."


Years later, I met and became friends with Tamora Pierce, and she is every bit as fantastic, inspiring, and supportive as you'd imagine she is!


You’ve written many books for a variety of ages and have said that when you write from characters’ perspectives, it’s fairly easy to change levels, but what themes or interests do you think are particular to middle grade readers?


I love writing for a variety of ages.  They each have their particular joys.  When you write for adults, for example, you're writing for readers who bring a wealth of cultural, historical, and emotional baggage to the reading experience -- in other words, they come with expectations that you can choose to either fulfill or subvert.


But the joy of writing for middle grade readers is that they don't bring those expectations.  They're newer to the rhythms, tropes, and traditions of stories.  So you're often writing about first adventures -- the first taste of independence, freedom, and agency.


With my newest book, EVEN AND ODD, that's especially true.  Even, a twelve-year-old girl who shares magic with her sister Odd, wants to be a hero.  But she thinks she needs to wait to complete her training -- and finish growing up -- before she can do something important.  She learns that you don't have to wait to make a difference in the world.


I think that's always been a theme of particular interest to middle-grade readers: that kids can be heroes too.


Quasi-medieval settings have always been a favorite for fantasy writers, and you’ve set several of your books in a world of that sort. What is so appealing about this setting? Dragons? Capes? Absence of technology? Cooking things over open fires?


When I was a kid, I had these beautiful illustrated collections of fairy tales -- The World of Fairy Tales, The Big Book of Classic Fairy Tales, The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales -- that I'd pour over.  Still, when I look through their pages, I feel that same shiver of familiar magic.


As a reader, I love the quasi-medieval setting because it taps into my soul-deep memory of first reading Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tinder Box, Rapunzel, East of the Sun and West of the Moon...  I am convinced that the words "Once upon a time" are among the most magical in the English language.  Right up there with "I love you" and "Free pizza."


As a writer...  Setting is a tool.  Sometimes your story is best served with a brand-new setting.  (I love creating new worlds!)  But other times you want to use a familiar setting or a familiar set of tropes because you intend to either expand on them or twist them.


If everyone already knows what a unicorn is, then you can go ahead and name yours Jeremy.


Your newest book, Odd and Even, starts in the modern world and involves a similarly modern fantasy world. I loved that you treated the problems with magic as ecological problems. Why did you approach it that way? Would you like to see more books with environmental messages?


There is a strong environmental theme that pops up in a lot of my books (especially in EVEN AND ODD, SPARK, and in my epic fantasy series for adults, THE QUEENS OF RENTHIA, which is about out-of-control nature spirits).  The things you care about do have a way of appearing in your fiction.


It just feels logical and right to me that magic would of course have an impact not just on people's lives but on the world around them.


I suppose it's no coincidence that THE LORAX is my favorite Dr. Seuss book...


Stand alone fantasy novels are my favorite thing! Aside from Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, your middle grade novels have been stand alones. What motivates you to stick to this format? Has your publisher ever wanted you to continue a story you considered done?


I love standalones because you get a complete journey in one sitting.  Like a three-course meal where the server brings out the soup, the steak, and the ice cream all at once.  There's no waiting.  No cliffhangers.  No "Ahh, I need to know what happens, but the sequel doesn't exist yet!"  You hold the entire tale in your hands.


Happily, my publisher loves standalones too.  I'm currently writing a new standalone fantasy adventure called THE SHELTERLINGS, which will be out in 2022.  It has a lot of talking animals (so very, very many!), and I'm loving writing it!


Since 2014, it’s been great to see more multicultural fantasies, like the Rick Riordan Presents books. Are there other trends in fantasy writing that you’ve seen lately? (Or would like to start?)


Every time I look to see what's new, my to-read list increases by a ridiculous amount.  There are so many wonderful stories out there!  I don't really watch trends, but I can tell you that I'm finding more and more books that I adore.


In particular, I'm drawn to optimistic fantasy -- "hopepunk," I've heard it called.  I love books with hope, humor, and adventure.  Also doesn't hurt if they have a few talking animals...


A few favorite recent MG-fantasy reads:


THE RAVEN HEIR by Stephanie Burgis

KINGSTON AND THE MAGICIAN'S LOST AND FOUND by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

RIVER MAGIC by Ellen Booream

THE SHIP OF STOLEN WORDS by Fran Wilde


What magic power would you like to have? What literary fantasy world would be your choice to inhabit?


I think I'd choose telekinesis.  It's definitely my favorite magic power to write about.  One of the most fun scenes to write in EVEN AND ODD was the breakfast scene -- Even decides to make pancakes using magic.  She hasn't quite mastered cracking eggs with her mind, though.  At least this time there's no egg goo on the ceiling...


Re my choice of literary fantasy world, I'd want to live in Tortall.  Or Valdemar.  Maybe Narnia, but it would depend on the time period.  Really, I think the best magic power of all is a portal that allows one to visit every magic world (and then return safely home)...  in other words, a book!


Thanks so much for interviewing me!


Rea and the Blood of the Nectar

Doshi, Payal. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar 
June 15th 2021 by Mango and Marigold Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rea's family doesn't have an easy life in Darjeeling, India, but her mother and grandmother work hard to provide a comfortable life for Rea and her twin brother Rohan without their father. Sometimes Rea has to pick tea leaves with her mother, even though she is technically too young, in order to provide more income. It irks her that Rohan isn't expected to work as hard, and when he makes plans without her on their birthday, she finds a way to pay him back. Along with her neighbor, Leela, Rea sneaks out of the house and takes over her brother's cricket game, embarrassing him. The next day, Rohan hasn't come home, and her mother is angry and scared. She had told the children to stay inside and lock the doors. The reason is soon made clear by a fortune teller whom the mother has recently consulted, and Rea and Leela find themselves in the magical realm of Delphinus, in the flowery kingdom of Astranthia, trying to find him. They meet Xeranther, who tells them about the kingdom, and Rea finds out that she and her brother have royal blood that allows them to travel between worlds. It is this blood that has caused Queen Rayza to take Rohan for her evil purposes. She is practicing Shadow Magic and slowly destroying the kingdom. Through Xeranther, the girls also meet paries and other magical creatures, and set out on their quest to save Rohan by finding a magical flower petal. They must work with Oleandra, who is trying to overthrow the queen, deal with banshees and other creatures, and ask the Ceffyldwer  to help them get across the lake. Even if they manage to get the petal, will the queen release Rohan? And will everything in Astranthia be peaceful?
Strengths: Sibling rivalry happens even with twins, and Rea and Rohan's problems are a great way to start the story, especially when Rea must then save her annoying brother. The magical realm is well developed, and the descriptions of flowers were particularly appealing. The quest brings Rea into contact with a wide variety of creatures, and the interactions are engaging and interesting. Queen Rayza is certainly evil, but in a sort of White Witch way that almost makes me think she might not be too bad, which adds a nice tension. I especially liked that Leela was involved, even though she and Rea weren't particularly good friends back in the real world. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series, since the book ends on a bit of a teaser. According to the author, The Chronicles of Astranthia is going to be a trilogy and the second book is planned for a Fall 2022 release.
Weaknesses: It took me a while to warm to Rea, although she does become more engaging as the story continues. There also seems to be a bit of Welsh mythology (the Ceffyldwer) mixed in with the Indian characters and creatures, and it would have been nice to have a note about that. 
What I really think: This reminded me somehow of Lynne Reid Banks' 1976 The Farthest-Away Mountain, which was popular with my readers until it fell apart, and Kerr's 2004 Children of the Lamp series. There's also a bit of Mull's 2006 Fablehaven, with all of the descriptions of fairies (paries). Fantasy adventure quests where children get powers when they reach adolescence and must use them to save the world are always in demand. Rea's life in India added a fresh twist, although what I would really like would be a realistic novel about her everyday life. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

MMGM- Clique Here and Rolling Warrior

It's
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
 at 
and #IMWAYR day 
at 
and 
Staniszewski , Anna. Clique Here
June 1st 2021 by Nancy Paulsen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lily has decided she really needs to leave her private school after an embarrassing incident with mean girl Courtenay, so she plans to use her scientific bent to study how to be popular. Her older sister, Maisie, who is going to high school, is impressively upbeat and popular, and Lily would like to be more like her. Having sifter out five factors of popularity, Lily tries to implement them, and starts off at her new school reinventing herself as her middle name, Blake. Things get off to a rocky start when she shows up at school wearing her lab goggles like a headband, but she manages to talk to one of the soccer players, Ashleigh, and sit at lunch with her and the very cute Parker at lunch. The problem? At her new school, sports players are looked down upon, and the science club has the popular kids! Making an abrupt about face, Blake befriends Owen and Priya, and goes to science club, although she still goes to soccer practice. Priya's older brother is a science rock star, so Priya is very focused on a winning project that positively impacts the world. Owen, however, is secretly playing science related pranks on a variety of people, but also asks Blake out on a date! She is pleased to have the attention of the most popular boy in the school but isn't thrilled about the pranks until he offers to play a big one on Courtenay if she helps him with two pranks. When Blake's best friend, Kat, shows up at her new school, Blake panics. She's told Kat a bit about her popularity project, but can't get Kat to really understand that art is not a "popular" pursuit, and really can't get Kat behind the pranks. 
Strengths: The twist with the science kids being the popular ones was very fun, and I really enjoyed how they are just as troubled in their own way as some athletes are portrayed in middle grade literature. The idea of reinventing oneself has been around since the 1950s; I was a big fan of Conford's 1981 Seven Days to a Brand-New Me. I enjoyed the family dynamics, with Maisie having secrets of her own, and the parents being in the back ground but having a few interests of their own-- the father is training for a marathon to impress his brother-in-law, and understands Blake's reasons for wanting to change her approach to middle school. A fun, quick read. 
Weaknesses: I didn't care for how Blake found the pranks fun even though she says she didn't like them. I've never had any patience for pranks that involve physically messing with someone; most of these involved liquid, paint, or slime dropping on someone, which is just mean.
What I really think: This is somewhat similar to Kinard's 2012 The Boy Project with shades of Haddix's 2012 Game Changers and is a great addition to the WISH novels, which are super, super popular with my readers. I never understood the need to be popular, but it is apparently more of a concern than I thought, according to a random selection of 6th graders I polled.

Great example of the self-improvement genre is Wilson's 1957 Always Anne. I have a copy that was deaccessioned from my father's elementary school library in about 1974, but I've never seen the dust jacket. One of my favorite comfort reads.

Heumann, Judith and Joiner, Kristen. Rolling Warrior: My Story of Fighting to Belong 
June 15th 2021 by Beacon Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1947, Heumann had polio at a very young age, leaving her legs and arms very weak. She was used to being in a wheelchair, and went about her daily life as a child with modifications that she just took as normal for her, in the way that some children had curly hair while others had straight. This changed when she wasn't allowed to go to public school because the principal thought she would be a fire hazard. Her parents eventually got her into a class called Health Conservation 21, which included students from different ages with different levels of functioning. This was not ideal, but Heumann eventually got into a general education high school. Before instructional aides, she had to ask people to help her with the most basic functions like moving her wheelchair and getting to the rest room. Undaunted, she did well and got into college, hoping to become a teacher herself. Knowing that this might not be easy, since she could not think of any teachers in wheel chairs, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and asked for their advice. She was told to get her degree and contact them if she had trouble finding a job. Unsurprisingly, she did, but the ACLU concluded that being excluded from a license on the basis of a physical exam was not in violation of her rights. This lit a fire in Heumann, and she went on to work with the Center for Independent Living in California and was deeply involved with the protests  when Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Much of the book is given to the details of the lengthy sit ins and other tactics that were used to finally change the minds of legislators about the rights of the disabled. 
Strengths: This book moved so quickly that I didn't start putting bookmarks in it until Ms. Heumann was in college! The story was very compelling, and told in a very relatable voice. Incidents in her life are related in very matter-of-fact ways, and her philosophy that her situation isn't something that needs to be "fixed" is very clear. When it comes to the protest, I wonder if the many students who have 504 plans will be interested in knowing how those came about! An important, compelling story told in a way that middle schoolers will find interesting. 
Weaknesses: I'm not sure if the final print version will have an index, but it would have been nice to have a timeline of disability advocacy. There also could have been a few more pictures, but there may not be that many. I find that my students are surprised even by the fact that there aren't color pictures, so visuals of earlier decades are always helpful. 
What I really think: This reminded me very much of Karen, by Marie Killilea, which I loved when I was in middle school. It occurred to me when reading Rolling Warrior that reading Karen definitely formed how I think about people with disabilities. Karen struggled with some areas, but excelled in others, and her disability did not stop her from working towards her goals. Representation matters, and Heumann's is a great story that covers a period of time in my own life about which I was unaware. I knew that equal access legislation was put in place very late (1990), but hadn't realized how discriminatory education practices were until then. Definitely purchasing. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Luna Howls at the Moon

Tubb, Kristin O'Donnell. Luna Howls at the Moon
June 15th 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Luna is a therapy dog who works with Tessa, who counsels children in Austin, Texas. Beatrice, Amelia, Hector, and Caleb all are in therapy with Tessa for various reasons. When they all come together for a group session in order to work on interpersonal skills, things are a bit rocky. Amelia has been traumatized by a house fire and doesn't talk, Caleb is very particular about the way he does things and is dealing with his parents' divorce, and Beatrice has some emotional and behavioral issues after the death of her grandmother. Hector claims that he has made a hover board, but the others don't believe him, and when he doesn't show up for the next group session, the children are disappointed. When the parents are loudly voicing their displeasure with the group session and Tessa goes to quiet them, the children decide to run away from the church basement where they are meeting to find him at a place they think he will be, having checked his Instagram account. Luna (from whose point of view the book is told) is uncomfortable with them running away, since it is his responsibility to take care of them. The park where Hector is supposed to be is quite some distance, and as they make their way there, the children must work together and support each other in the very way that Tessa hopes they would in their group sessions. Along with an irascible cat called Sandpaper, they deal with Caleb missing his hand sanitizer, parents who are following them by GPS, a coyote attack, and a two teenagers who threaten them. Through it all, they get a good tour of an interesting city, bond with each other, and learn to trust others to help them. Luna is a comforting presence throughout and fulfills her duty of keeping the children safe. 
Strengths: I will probably never go to Austin, but Tubb makes it seem like an interesting city. I found the moon towers especially intriguing! The reasons for the children leaving and going on their adventure are solid, and they do well under Beatrice's leadership at getting across the city. The way the stories are revealed slowly is interesting, and Luna's voice, while very dog like (No one has a plastic bag for the poop? What are the humans thinking?), also captures the shades of emotion in an innovative way. The threats they face are scary but not impossible, although I did worry when Luna got her foot caught in a waterway! The parents are realistically concerned, and their fears about group counseling are assuaged by the adventure. The cover alone will sell this book to dog-obsessed readers, especially since nothing bad happens to Luna!
Weaknesses: After reading the author's forward, I thought there would be more information about the therapy with Tessa, like in Gerber's Focused. While therapy was the reason the children came together, and they did gain some skills during their traversing of the city, this is much more of an adventure book. Also, I don't believe that Beatrice found HeeHaw overalls on E Bay for $12. (I looked this up because I HAD a pair of these in 4th grade, which would have been 1974! The cheapest pair I saw today were $85!)
What I really think: Luna is a great addition to dog books like this author's Zeus: Dog of Chaos and A Dog Like Daisy, or Hoyle's Stella and Bauer's Raising Lumie

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- All the graphic novels!

Moyer, Rich. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter
June 1st 2021 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Ham comes from a long line of vampire hunters who make rash decisions that end in their deaths. After his brother Chad perishes in a wing suit accident, Ham is the only one left. He heads to a town where there is a vampire savaging the residents, and intends to take care of matters. The only problem? He's not sure what to do. With the help of two rats who hire him and Ronin, a wide eyed tree pig, and Lobos (a werewolf who by day is a young boy at a local camp), they take off for the spooky mansion at the edge of town where they meet Malcolm, a warthog(?) vampire who doesn't want to hurt people; he has social anxiety and just wants to keep to himself. Something is hurting the townspeople, so Ham and his band of merry marauders set out to find the villain. Through the twists and turns of their adventure, Ham learns the true meaning of both courage and friendship.
Strengths: Many adults struggle with an appropriate level of middle grade goofy, but Moyers nails it. First of all, a vampire hunting pig is just funny, and the other animals he encounters all work well with him. Sneaky but ultimately helpful rats? Check. Inexplicable but helpful werewolf? Check. Kick-ham Ronin, whose ability to save the day and also fend off Malcolm's slightly creepy interest? Check and double check! I also loved that the vampire wasn't really the villain, and that Ham and company have to determine who that really is before the forces of evil are dispatched. Perfect level of cartoon violence with a bit of philosophy thrown in to make discerning readers happy. Make sure you take a look at this one before dismissing it. I love when books surprise me. 
Weaknesses: While Ham had fairly standard pig eyes, Ronin had manga style wide ones that made me think of Penelope Pussycat, or another character I couldn't quite pin down. This is why I struggle with graphic novels-- I get stuck on one stylistic feature that distracts me.
What I really think: As a connoisseur of middle grade literature involving radioactive pocket pets and farting, wisecracking animals of all types, I can tell you: middle school libraries need Ham Helsing. Like Watson's fantastic Stick Dog, Ham can be enjoyed by elementary school students who like that they stomp spiders with wooden clogs, middle schoolers who take great glee in Ham's progenitors' ridiculous deaths, and teachers who appreciate Malcolm instructing Ham on what bravery really means. This could have gone so, so wrong, but went very right instead. 

Sharp, Tori. Just Pretend
May 18th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

In this graphic memoir, we see Tori as she is going into 7th grade. She and her friend spend a lot of time creating pretend worlds, both in written stories and in playing. This is an escape for Tori from her family. Her parents are divorced after bickering a lot, and while her dad's new girlfriend is nice, it's still not a great family dynamic. Her older brother is especially troubled, and Tori has to tag along to her older sister's ballet classes since her mother won't let her stay home alone. Even these lessons are a point on contention. As things worsen, Tori distances herself from her best friend, who has her own struggles and secrets.


Ostertag, Molly Knox. The Girl From the Sea
June 1st 2021 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Morgan wants to leave the small island where she has grown up, since she feels that no one really understands her, especially since she has a secret she won't share with anyone. When she meets Keltie, things become even more confusing. Keltie is a selkie who is allowed to be on land because Morgan has kissed her, but Morgan wants to keep Keltie a secret as well. Morgan's parents are divorced, her younger brother doesn't get along with her any more, and she can't quite connect with her friend group anymore because of all of the things she is keeping from them. When she lets them in on her secrets, will she lose everyone dear to her?

Both of these were fine graphic novels, but just not my cup of tea. Just Pretend had some odd jumps in time that made it hard to follow, but my students will like the illustration style. The Girl From the Sea was okay, but I kept waiting for Keltie to kill humans, for some reason. Something about her eyes, perhaps? It would be fine for middle school students; there's a lot of kissing, but nothing else. 

Marsden, Mariah and Luechtefeld, Hanna. The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel
June 15th 2021 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Like Edith's interpretation of Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden or Marsden's own retelling of Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, this version of Francis Hodgson Burnett's 1910 The Secret Garden is true to the original and will make fans of that work happy. The information about Mary's family's deep ties to troublesome British colonialism is left out of the text, but addressed in end notes, which is a good way to handle the topics. We don't get quite as much back story about Mary's evil parents, and still don't know quite why Collin is bed ridden, but the trajectory of the story remains positive. This always seemed like a depressing version of Alcott's 1874 Eight Cousins, which I adore. The difference is that Rose very quickly becomes a more upbeat character, since she is surrounded by an already positive environment. We're no longer allowed to find characters "unlikable", but I struggle with books where the setting is unpleasant and the characters are ones whom I might wish to avoid. I've never quite gotten the appeal of The Secret Garden, but this is certainly a worthy adaptation.

Sell, Chad. The Roar of the Beast (Cardboard Kingdom #2)
June 1st 2021 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This author's work seems more elementary to me, but my students check out the first book in the series without hesitation. Again, just not my personal cup of tea. 

From Goodreads.com
"A mystery is afoot in the Cardboard Kingdom.

Vijay, the Beast, renounces his title after being bullied by neighborhood teenagers. No one--not his big sister Shikha or his friends--can seem to draw him back out of his shell.

That very night is when it starts. At first, no one believes Nate, who breaks his leg trying to pursue what he saw from his bedroom window. But then there's another, and another. An unknown monster has been spotted roaming the Kingdom after dark. It's ghastly, it's quick, and it might even have giant tentacles. Or claws. Or wings. Okay, there might be some varied testimonies on what exactly this monster looks like.

Forget Halloween--the newly minted Monster Mashers will go to any lengths to protect the Kingdom and uncover this mystery. But how did the monster get here? What does it want? And mostly importantly, who is behind its creation?"

Friday, June 11, 2021

Almost Flying

Arlow, Jake Maia. Almost Flying
June 8th 2021 by Dial
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Dalia's parents have divorced recently, and she hasn't seen her mother much, but she and her father have a cozy existence. She's on the swim team, which helps pass the time, especially since she has had a falling out with her longtime best friend Abby, whom she felt left her for another friend. Through swim, she's met Rani, who has recently move to Long Island from Minnesota. Rani's family is better off than Dalia's, but the two have fun hanging out, watching videos of roller coasters (Dalia's obsession) and make up tutorials (Rani's). When Dalia's father tells her that has been dating Vanessa and wants her to meet his new girlfriend. The surprise and shock don't end there; Vanessa has a college aged daughter, and the relationship is more serious than Dalia is first led to believe. Alexa has been fighting a lot with her mother, and is planning a road trip to amusement parks with her friend Dhruv. Vanessa doesn't like this idea, but feels better about it if Dalia would go with Alexa, and bring a friend. Rani's mother is fine with it, and soon the group is hitting various amusement parks and staying overnight in motels, checking in with parents by video chat every night. Dalia has never been on an actual roller coaster; she's only watched videos. Luckily, she does enjoy riding them, so that part of the trip is a big success as she uses her previous knowledge of different types of roller coasters to educate her travel companions. Less success are the relationships. Alexa is angry but hiding the fact that she has a girlfriend, Sara, who soon joins the group. Dalia overhears Dhruv talk about his boyfriend and is surprised he is gay. To further complicate matters, Dalia has wondered for a long time if she likes Rani as more than a friend. How do you tell a friend that you have a crush on her? Sara is very helpful and understanding, and picks up on the clues that Dalia likes Rani, and gives her good advice. Alexa makes some unwanted comments, which increases the tension between the two potential step sisters. When Dalia kisses Rani and doesn't get quite the reaction she expects, she worries that she might have made a mistake. Will Dalia be able to survive her summer of actual and emotional roller coasters?
Strengths: I'm officially declaring a lack of amusement parks in middle grade literature! Not all middle school students are lucky enough to go, and I know it was a huge deal the first time I went with my church group. It's a rare instance when tweens are allowed to go about on their own, spend some money on food and souvenirs, and reading about different parks (including the nearby Cedar Point!) was very fun. So lets have more of that. I was completely oblivious to the existence of YouTube roller coaster videos. We are seeing more books about parents getting divorced, and blended families getting used to each other, so that was a good aspect of the book. I wish there had been more about swim team! This book also offers a unique story of emerging identity by having three older queer friends to advise Dalia about her crush and also dealing with her feelings. There's also some discussion about the difference in economic backgrounds that Dalia and Rani have, and the arc of the relationship with Abby was interesting and a bit surprising.
Weaknesses: While the trip and the roller coasters were interesting, a bit more of a plot would have been nice. Most of the plots concerned themselves with relationship issues, which is more young adult. I also found it hard to believe that Dalia and Rani were allowed to travel around to amusements parks with two college students!
What I really think: There is a fair amount of interesting in LGBTQIA+ stories in my library, so I will definitely buy this, and hope that readers who pick this up for the roller coaster inclusion will find this informative about the LGBTQIA+ as well. 

Conford, Ellen. Seven Days to a Brand-New Me
March 1st 1981 by Little Brown and Company
School library copy

Maddie Kemper is in high school, and besotted by the gorgeous Adam Holmquist, who has a locker next to hers. She's too shy to talk to him much, since she's convinced she is not only drab looking but uninteresting. While at the mall helping her best friend Sandy pick out running shoes, she stops at the books store and picks up two books that will change her life; the Harlequin type romance, Sweet Suffering Love, and the self-help book Seven Days to a Brand-New You. Between being inspired by the bodice ripper (which her mother borrows as well) and the advice of Dr. Dwayne Dudley, she's determined to become so enticing that Adam won't be able to ignore her anymore. She spends $50 at the mall on new clothes and makeup, and devotes herself to becoming irresistible in between exchanging sexually charged barbs with classmate Terence and imagining Adam shirtless while she should be concentrating on her Spanish class. Will she be successful in her attempts to get the boy of her dreams?
Strengths: It's not 1981 anymore. The quality of the paper is super good. I loved Conford's work when I was in middle school (I'm not sure I read this in high school), and she certainly is responsible for many, many of the things that are wrong about my own magnum opus, the politically incorrectly titled story of a summer camp testing out a computer dating program, I'm Going Crazy, Want to Come. People are described as fat or not fat, and Adam isn't someone with whome Maddie wants to develop a mutually beneficial relationship; he's someone she wants to "get". What she'll do with him then is a bit unclear. This made me want to apologize to my own long term crush in school. So sorry, Jon. I hope you've had a nice life. 
Weaknesses: Not much of a plot, not much character development, weak supporting characters, weird inclusions of passages from the two books (in a different font), and so many questionable interchanges. Terence LEERS at Maddie, and they discuss swingers and the sex life of insects. Cringe worthy.
What I really think: Should I keep this for the decades project? If I get rid of it, it has to come home with me. Conflicted. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Secret Starling and Little Kid, Big City!: London

Eagle, Judith. The Secret Starling
June 8th 2021 by Walker Books US
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's 1974, and Clara is being raised in a decrepit, remote country mansion by a stern and uncaring uncle because her mother died at her birth. There's a constantly changing rotation of governesses, but at least she has Cook, as well as the butler who mainly does repairs. When the latest governess is not replaced, Clara enjoys her freedom until she finds out that Cook has been sacked. Her uncle orders her to pack a bag and leave the house with him, then drops her off in the village, vaguely instructing her to seek out Cook. Instead, Clara decides to go back home to make her own way. Soon, Peter, who is about her age, and his cat Stockwell show up, saying that they have been sent by Stella, a neighbor of Peter's grandmother, to live with the uncle. His grandmother is ill, and Stella is a friend of the uncle. The two make a go of it for a while, but then Stella shows up, takes charge of tidying the uncle's study, and sets a string of mysteries in order. The house is to be sold, which irritates Clara despite the fact that pipes are always bursting. They do have some help from Cook's grandchildren, although the adults seem content to ignore or hinder them. Peter is worried about his grandmother, and since Stella isn't providing enough answers, the children take off to London to check on her. Will they be able to solve mysteries about both of their families, Peter's love of ballet, and Stella and the uncle's lies? 
Strengths: The most amusing part of the mystery for me was figuring out what year this was set! With talks about watching Nureyev dance, a fifty pence coin (after 1968) and other clues, I had this placed in the early '70s, then Clara offers a little bit of math concerning her age to cement it! There are a few other details, and the whole book had a decidedly vintage British feel to it. The inclusion of ballet was fun, and Cook's grandchildren diversify the all white cast of characters. There are deliciously evil villains, legal hassles, and secret parentage. Occasional illustrations add to the charm. 
Weaknesses: I continue to worry about British parenting and childcare. Edwards' Mandy came out in 1971 and there was a fairly effective orphanage. Would Clara have been better off there? For those concerned, there is a happy ending.
What I really think: This has some similarities to Chalfoun's The Treasure of Maria Mamoun, as well as Guterson's Winterhouse, and a definite ring of classic British literature like Streatfield's various Shoes
books. A great book for readers who want a murder mystery that is clue oriented rather than gruesome.

Beckman, Beth. Little Kid, Big City!: London
June 15th 2021 by Quirk Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Like New York, this is a fun picture book romp through one of the world's great cities. London is my very favorite place to be, and this covers all the best places: the London Transport Museum, The British Library, the Tower Bridge (which I have stayed near both times I went to London!), and even Hampton Court Palace, which I absolutely adored. It's a nice overview, and I am going to buy a copy for my younger daughter's birthday, since it is also her favorite place to visit! 

From the publisher:
Curious kids will find plenty of sights, smells, and tastes to explore in this illustrated, choose-your-own-adventure travel guide series. Next stop: London!

If a kid were given the opportunity to lead a tour through London, where would they go? Would they hop on the Tube to visit Buckingham Palace, watch a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theater, or pass the time with Big Ben? By following prompts at the end of each page in Little Kid, Big City, the options are endless!

In this series, an illustrated travel guide collides with an interactive format, allowing children to imagine, create, and explore their own routes through the greatest cities on the planet. With gorgeous illustrations, lovable characters, and dozens of different forks in the road, Little Kid, Big City is a new way for kids to take part in their travels and invent their own adventures.