Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Boy from Tomorrow

36321141DeAngelis, Camille. The Boy from Tomorrow
May 8th 2018 by Amberjack Publishing
E ARC from Netgalley.com

When Alec moves into 444 Sparrow Street after his parents' divorce, his expectations are pretty low. He does manage to make some new friends quickly, and finds a cool Ouija type board stuck in a cupboard. When he and his friends get messages that make some sense, he realizes that he is communicating with a girl names Josie who lived in the house 100 years ago. In alternating passages, we see how this communication across time affects both children. Josie is able to gets information about the future, some of which she shares with her professional clairvoyant mother, who is more concerned with her clientele than her children. Josie and her young sister Cass have a governess, Emily, who is very kind, but their mother will lock Cass into a cupboard for an entire day for even small transgressions. On Alec's side, he finds out about the fate of the girls as they get older, and encourages them to seek help, especially once Emily is sent away. Can a friendship across time save both children from unfortunate occurrences in their lives?
Strengths: I find the spiritualist movements in the early 20th century very interesting, and Schlitz's A Drowned Maiden's Hair is one of my daughter's favorites. Saw this compared to Tom's Midnight Garden, and that's not a bad comparison. There's no time travel, but definitely a feel of that. The sisters' relationship is interesting, and I loved that Alec talked to his mom about everything and she believed him. Clipped along at a nice pace, and had some good creepy moments.
Weaknesses: I really wanted the characters to eventually meet, but the 100 year difference makes this impossible.
What I really think: I don't have a lot of call for this type of book, so I will only purchase it if I have funds left towards the end of next year.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, June 18, 2018

MMGM- Strays Like Us

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.

36127483 Galante, Cecilia. Strays Like Us
June 26th 2018 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

When Fred's (nee Winfred) mother is arrested at her job in a pharmacy for stealing medication, Fred finds herself an hour from her home in Philadelphia. She is in Lancaster, at the house of a no-nonsense woman named Margery. Margery seems nice, and she's a good cook, and Fred knows that this is very temporary. The neighbor, Mr. Carder, has a dog that is severely neglected, and when Fred feeds him, Mr. Carder is very upset. Margery has told Fred not to bother the dog, but is understanding. When Fred goes to her new school, she has a run in with mean girl Michelle in art class, tackling the girl when she bullies another girl called Lardvark and calls Fred "trash". Once again, Margery isn't happy, and tells Fred that she will spend two days sanding rust off of metal to get some control on her anger. The girl from school, whose name is Ardelia, stops by, and the two try to feed the dog next door. While they are doing this, they hear calls for help, and it turns out that Mr. Carder has fallen. They call 911, and Mr. Carder is taken to the hospital with a broken neck. Margery grudgingly agrees to take in the dog, Toby, and they clean him up and feed him, settling him down for the night in Margery's shed, which serves as her art studio. Fred is really happy, and when Delia stops by the next day, the girls practice riding Delia's unicycle, and Fred finds out some secrets about her life. When Toby trashes the studio, trying to get into a bag of food, the girls have to tell Margery yet another thing that they have done wrong. Always making the punishment fit the crime, Margery tells Fred that she will have to finish the sculpture that was damaged. While Fred loves her comfortable room, Margery's good cooking, and having a friend and a dog, she is very worried about her mother, and dealing with a lot of anger. She and Delia fall out, and Fred has to attend a custody hearing for her mother. If she can tell the judge that her mother doesn't have any problems, she can go back to live with her,  but will that be helpful in the long run?
Strengths: Fred's mother's problems with prescription drugs is a very timely topic, and Fred's foster care placement is a story we need to have represented more. Margery is a great foster parent-- not perfect, but firm and understanding. The friendship with Delia is a good one, and Toby's plight is a good parallel to Fred's own. This is the sort of sad book students like, especially since it involves a child their age making very poor decisions but being supported by caring adults. I enjoyed this a lot.
Weaknesses: There were a few levels of sad that could have been skipped- Delia had a brother who drowned, and her parents didn't really speak to Delia for a year. Also, dog lovers need to be warned that Toby gets hit by a car but lives. The coincidence of who hits him is a bit much. Will students mind? No. I also have Richard Peck's 1998 novel by the same name stuck in my mind now.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and the cover is great. This will sell itself.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Super Dorks (Pack of Dorks #3)

Cover image for Super Dorks
Vrabel, Beth. Super Dorks (Pack of Dorks #3)
1 May 2018, Skypony Press
Copy provided by the publisher

Lucy is no longer friends with Tom and Becky after Pack of Dorks and Camp Dorks, but they are still attending fifth grade with her. Lucy does have a small group of friends that includes Sheldon, who loves dinosaurs; April, who used to eat boogers; Amanda, who has anger management issues; and Sam, who is very invested in gymnastics. Lucy has Miss Parker, who is a bit quirky and into LARPing, but her friends are in other classes, which doesn't get the year off to a good start. It doesn't help when  Sam saves twins from being run over by a car and breaks his arm, perhaps ending his gymnastics career, April catches a bike thief, Sheldon saves endangered turtles on the school grounds. Everyone else is doing heroic things, so Lucy decides to run for student government. Since Sam is getting so much attention, especially from the popular Tom and Becky, Lucy nominates him, and signs herself up as his running mate. As the election plans start, and secrets about her friends are revealed, Lucy starts to doubt her plan. Will she be able to make an impact in her world and still keep her few but loyal friends?
Strengths: I love the message that you don't have to have a lot of friends; you just need really good ones. To me, five friends is a lot. Lucy is not afraid to step out of her comfort zone when she is in search of something that matters to her, and she is supportive of her friends (especially Amanda, whose mother has abandoned her) even though she isn't especially respectful of Sam's wishes. The inclusion of the efforts to save the turtles was interesting.
Weaknesses: Something about the way Lucy describes her friends and their dorkitude (dorkosity) seems a half bubble off to me. I suspect that Ms. Vrabel was actually a very cool kid in fifth grade!
What I really think: This has a lot of attitudes and occurrences that are more suited to elementary schools, where this would be an essential purchase, but I haven't bought these for middle school even though Vrabel's other work is very popular.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 16, 2018

All sorts of WISH titles!

I haven't bought a lot of romance books this year, since my students are all reading nothing but graphic novels. Very depressing. Usually, the some of the 8th grade girls want paranormal or high school romances, the 7th graders read the Students Across the Seven Seas and Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies, and the 6th graders read the Candy Apple and Darling's Crush books. This year, not so much. The Sky Pony Press Swirl novels have done pretty well, and I needed some fresh romance, so was pleased to happen upon the Scholastic WISH series in prebind. Perfect.

Read these in one night and was impressed at how different and well written each one was! Good use of taxpayer money! The covers are super cute!

17696143Nelson, Suzanne. Cake Pop Crush
April 2013 by Scholastic

Alicia's father runs the Say it with Flour bakery in a California town, and she, her young brother Roberto and Abuelita Rosa help out when they can. Her mother has passed away, but Ali has only vague memories of her. When new boy Dane moves to town from New Orleans, Ali is momentarily intrigued, until she finds out that his father owns the corporation behind Perk Up, the new coffee shop that seems to be aiming to put the bakery out of business. Sarah Chan, the spoiled daughter of the mayor, has her eyes on Dane who seems to like Ali despite their differences. Ali thinks she can save the troubled bakery by winning a bake off with Dane, but she loses and the bakery is going to go out of business. In the end, however, Dane uncovers some unfair dealings, and Ali secures several large cake pop orders from the mayor. The business is saved, and Dane and Ali's romance is secure.

24620907Nelson, Suzanne. Macarons at Midnight
January 1st 2015 by Scholastic

Elise moves to a small town from Boston when her mother gets remarried and moves to Switzerland. She's glad to be back with her Brazilian dad, but could do without her stepsister Destry and expectant step mom. After a disastrous costume part at Valentine's Day, Elise stops into A Swoonful of Sugar, a local patisserie that is having a tasting session. She has a very meet-cute with a boy who is drawing sketches, but she doesn't get his name and he doesn't know what she looks like. They meet up eventually at school, and find they have a lot in common-- Elise was the editor of the school newspaper at her old school, and Rajiv is the editor at the new school who grudgingly gives her a job, not knowing she is the girl for whom he is searching. There is a bit of drama and uncertaintly between sort-of-snotty part time model Viv, who is sort of Elise's friend and Kyan, who was very nice to Elise and is definitely her friend, as well as Raj, but eventually the couples sort themselves out.

27856404Nelson, Suzanne. Hot Cocoa Hearts
November 1st 2015 by Scholastic Inc.

Emily's family has a Photos With Santa booth at the mall, and work with a local cocoa shop to try to increase business. Emily is not pleased with having to work as an elf, but is intrigued by Alex, the grandson of the cocoa shop owner. Emily is part of the "Undergrounds" group at school with her best friend Jez, and has a huge crush on the arty and swoonworthy Sawyer. Since her grandmother's death, Emily doesn't really feel like celebrating Christmas, but when her homeroom at school does a Secret Santa gift exchange and Sawyer is her Secret Santa, she enjoys it a little more. After a somewhat disastrous first kiss with Sawyer, Emily starts to doubt that he is the right boy for her, but finds that she has lots in common with Alex.

20553852Nelson, Suzanne. You're Bacon Me Crazy
November 1st 2015 by Scholastic Inc.

Tessa lives in San Francisco and spends most of her time hanging out with her best friend Mei or working at her aunt Cleo's food truck, creating awesome sandwiches. When the spoiled Asher is forced to work at the truck after he breaks his mother's lamp, he messes up a lot until Tessa tries to work with him. Cleo is preparing for the local Flavor Fest, hoping this will imporve business so she doesn't have to give it up, but the evil Mr. Morgan plans a restaurant festival in the same location as the food truck one. Tessa struggles in school to get all of her work done, and her parents work long hours and are rarely home, but she tries to get the food festival reinstated. Of course, the more she gets to know Asher, the more she likes him, even if his friends are all the Beautiful People.

32332935Nelson, Suzanne. Donut Go Breaking My Heart
November 1st 2015 by Scholastic Inc.

Sheyda lives in Manhattan and loves to help out at her friend Kiri's family doughnut shop. When a rude boy comes in, Sheyda waits on him and accidentally spills a box of doughnuts on him. It turns out that he is Cabe Sadler, a movie start in town to film a movie at the doughnut shop. Kiri wants to be an actress, so auditions for a role, but Sheyda is offered one instead. Kiri insists that she doesn't care, but she also likes Cabe, who seems to have more romantic interest in Sheyda. Sheyda works on the film, continues to go to school, and makes a stage model for a scholarship competition. When Kiri ruins it, will the two be able to remain friends, especially when Sheyda and Cabe like each other?

Nelson, Suzanne. Sundae My Prince Will Come
March 27th 2018 by Scholastic Paperbacks

You know I have this on order for next year!

From Goodreads:
Malie's mom manages an ice cream parlor, but Malie's real love is ballet. She dreams of landing the lead in an upcoming production of Cinderella and dancing onstage while her boyfriend, Ethan, cheers from the audience. But Malie's mom is less than supportive.
Then cute new boy Alonzo arrives from Italy. His true love is ice cream -- gelato, to be exact. Alonzo offers a Malie a deal: If she lets him help out at the parlor, she can take dance lessons from his mom, a famed ballerina.

As Malie pirouettes between the parlor and the ballet studio, things start to spin out of control. Does she have feelings for Alonzo? What about Ethan? And if she doesn't get a role in Cinderella, can she find her happily ever after?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Time Tracers: The Stolen Summers

36099474Bondor-Stone, Annabeth and White, Connor. Time Tracers: The Stolen Summers
May 1st 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Taj and his friends are super excited for summer, and have a whole plan of "chills and thrills" worked out-- swimming, junk food fests, hanging out. Taj alsowants to be a good brother to his young sister Zoe and spend time with her. When Taj wakes up on the first day of summer, his mother informs him that it's time for school. Originally thinking she's fooling around, Taj is very confused, especially when he gets to school and none of his friends have very good memories of what happened during the summer. Before too long, Taj meets Eon, who informs him that the summer has actually been stolen, and only Taj can help get it returned. He meets Father Time, deals with time stealing bug-like creatures who hang out in all of the fun places and steal time, and gets to be a dancing mascot at a baseball game. It turns out that Taj has even more special powers, so when the Time Tracers uncover a diabolical plot launched by one of their own, it's up to Taj to save the day.
Strengths: This had a fantastic premise, was definitely action-packed, and had lots of gross and funny moments of time stealers barfing up time and other sorts of things. The world building is solid, and the places that time is stolen are believable. My students will really like this one. It has a Game Over, Pete Watson sort of vibe.
Weaknesses: This almost moved too quickly for me, and I wanted a little more character development, which rarely happens. The ending also seemed wrong to me.
What I really think: The Stolen Summers is an engaging, if frenetic, speculative fiction book that will be an easy sell for my students, even if it is not my favorite.

35604045Edith and Pearce, Phillipa. Tom's Midnight Garden.  (1958)
April 3rd 2018 by Greenwillow Books
Public Library Copy

You either know and love the Tom's Midnight Garden or you don't. I do. It was another one of the few books I managed to acquire as a child, and I kept it for many years. I keep the school library one around, too, although it's a prebind that's getting pretty nasty. I approached the graphic novel version with distrust.

It's not bad. The text seems very true to the original, at least what I remember. The language is a bit stilted at times. The illustrations made me see the outside of the house as it was in 1958 and as it was when Hatty was a girl in a way I hadn't envisioned them before. Not knowing how English houses, and English towns, were set up when I first read the book put me at a disadvantage. The illustrations help. They also somehow removed me a bit from Tom's thoughts, since it's hard to draw what people are thinking and feeling.

Part of me wants to buy this for my school collection. I have Dan Jolly's graphic novel of O.T. Nelson's 1975 The Girl Who Owned the City, and it has increased the circulation of the original (and also prebound) version. I'm just not sure. All too often, children pick up the graphic novels, flip through them for 20 minutes, and return them. This is a picture book sized volume, and there was something about the color palette that wasn't quite right. I think it was that the same one was employed for both time periods. It's sort of a drab greeny yellow that would be good for the modern day, but I then wanted something prettier for Hatty's era. Interesting to read if you're a fan, but I'm still debating.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The House That Lou Built

29752051Respicio, Mae. The House That Lou Built
June 12th 2018 by Random House Kids/Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Lou lives with her mother and grandmother in San Francisco. Her father died before she was born, and her grandfather passed away a few years ago, but she has a large, supportive extended family and many friends. Her mother is training to be a registered nurse and is struggling financially. She's looking for jobs, and favoring one she is offered in Washington state, because the cost of living is much cheaper. Lou does not want to leave the area, especially since her father's family left her a small plot of land, and she dreams of constructing her own tiny house on it, so that she and her mother can have their own space. She even enlists her friends and her shop teacher, Mr. Keller (who is also a family friend) to help her get materials and construct it. The problem is that she doesn't ask her mother's permission, and gets in trouble for traveling so far from home to work on it. There are lots of activities and get-togethers for her large Filipino family, and Lou is desperate to do anything to stay with them. She hopes that the house will be enough for her mother to reconsider, or at the very least, the award Mr. Keller nominates her for that she actually wins.
Strengths: Books where kids have skills or talents that they use to Do Something are always popular in my library, especially when they are upbeat and have some moments of humor. Lou's love of building is admirable, and a much more integral part of her personality than Ellie Engineer, which seemed a bit forced. Bonus points to the author for mentioning how rare shop programs are-- my district hasn't had any at the middle school level since 2003. I especially liked that she got her friends interested and involved. Fear of relocation is a huge thing for 7th graders, so this will make the book even more appealing. There were lots of good details about Filipino culture, but that was not the main focus of the book. Great cover, and overall fantastic debut novel.
Weaknesses: Lou engages in a fair amount of lying and deception. I hadn't noticed how many characters in middle grade novels lie and sneak around until someone mentioned that they needed books that didn't include these things!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and I see it being a popular title.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Can't I Be You, Full-Court Press

36260498Walker, Melissa. Why Can't I Be You 
June 19th 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Claire is very excited about summer, because she is being allowed to stay home by herself. Her friend and neighbor, Ronan, has plenty of plans for things they can do around the trailer park where they live. Things start to get derailed a bit when Claire's friend Brianna introduces them to her cousin, Eden, who is a year older than they are and acts like she's 16 rather than 12. It also doesn't help that Brianna has moved into a fancy new house with a pool, and Claire starts to feel a bit bad about her mother cleaning houses for other people, and about living in a small home. Ronan's father is back after having left the family for a while, but he is struggling with depression, and this is impacting Ronan's life. Claire's own father is very supportive, has frequent visitations, and gets along well enough with her mother. Summer's not bad, but it's more confusing than Claire expected, and Eden seems to be siphoning off Claire's friends, including Ronan. Will this affect their joint birthday party planned for the end of the summer?
Strengths: Like this author's Let's Pretend We Never Met, this book explores the difficulties of navigating friendships in middle school. I love that Walker takes very common facets of middle grade friendships that are rarely covered in literature and deftly explores them. It is really hard to have friends who are wealthier, even if your family is happy with what they have, and it's annoying to lose a friend to someone who is "cooler". Eden is an all too common type of 12 year old, and it's nice to see her contrasted against an ordinary 11 year old who doesn't really care that much about clothing or boys (other to have them as friends). Bonus points for having her be biracial-- my own daughters have biracial cousins who are younger than they are, but it is a common occurrence that I have only ever seen mentioned in Kate Hannigan's The Cupcake Cousins. I really liked Claire's network of support and how it manages to extend to help Ronan. With such an appealing cover, this will never be on the shelves.
Weaknesses: I saw another review that was a bit surprised at the cell phone and social media use-- unfortunately, it seemed very similar to what I notice my students having and using.
What I really think: Definitely looking forward to seeing what Ms. Walker writes next!

Delle Donne, Elena. Full-Court Press (Hoops #2)
June 12th 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

As the school year continues, Elle has a lot of activities planned, she's playing basketball, enjoying her new dog, Zobe, and trying to keep up with homework. At the suggestion of one of her teammates, she starts volunteering at a special needs program, and she would like to spend time with her friends and family. She finds that she is struggling with basketball-- she's not doing the good job she normally does, and she doesn't have an explanation for her slump. She is falling behind in her school work, since it's often past 10 p.m. when she even gets a chance to start it. It's even hard to squeeze in visits with her sister Beth and walks with Zobe, whom she would like to train as a therapy dog. With her older brother getting ready to go to college, she struggles with finding a balance, and also someone to whom she can confide her struggles. Luckily, her best friend Avery is understanding, and eventually comes to the rescue and helps Elle get her schedule figured out.
Strengths: This had an excellent mix of realistic middle school struggles and basketball. It also has a lot of good interactions between Elle and her family, from already missing her brother, to wanting to help Beth, to having to explain her bad grades to her parents. The fact that she's in a basketball slump is a great plot line, and struggling to keep up with her friends is something I don't see much in middle grade. Add in the volunteer work-- I really like this series, and the fact that Elle also has a little crush on Amanda doesn't hurt at all!
Weaknesses: The cover is a bit young. My girls who want to read about basketball don't want books about younger kids, and the style of drawing makes this look a bit elementary. I'll hand sell it, of course, but a "tougher" cover would have sold itself.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and can't wait for Out of Bounds in October.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Legend of Greg

36750064Rylander, Greg. The Legend of Greg
June 12th 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Thursdays are usually bad in Greg's world, and his health food owning father's world as well. But the Thursday when Greg goes to the zoo with his elite private school classmates is especially bad when a polar bear tries to attack. His teachers are angry, and no one seems to have noticed that his best friend Edwin seemed to mesmerize the bear into NOT attacking Greg. When his father, who has just come back from another quest for ingredients for his funky teas and soaps, is attacked at his shop and kidnapped, things are definitely not looking good. With the help of a family friend, Greg finds out a LOT of interesting things he did not know about his family situation. For example, he's really a dwarf. Yes, a Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Gimli sort of dwarf! Not only that, but Edwin is an elf, and they are the sworn enemy of the dwarfs. In fact, it's suspected that Edwin's parents might be behind the kidnapping, so Greg is having a hard time trusting his friend. When he travels into the dwarfs' realm under the city of Chicago, he meets other dwarfs his own age, and is amazed at the instant rapport he has with them. His first order of business is to find his father, but if a cute girl can make him a dagger and help him with his mission, why not? Things turn out to be more dire than his missing father, and when the adults don't seem to believe them, the dwarf children, along with their assigned tutor, take it upon themselves to try to save the day. Things don't go as well as expected, setting up the start of a war that will take at least two more books to settle!
Strengths: Rylander has proven himself as a master of the middle grade adventure trilogy with The Fourth Stall and Codename Zero, and he certainly cements this reputation with The Legend of Greg. Even the chapter titles are hysterical, but despite all of the humor, I really felt like Greg's problems were serious and real. The trust issues with Edwin-- wow. Serious stuff, and really well handled. Plenty for my fantasy fans as well-- talking swords, quests, underground encampments. I thought about this one for quite some time after I read it. It's quirky, but in a way that middle grade readers will enjoy. Bonus points for the breakdowns of which celebrities are which type of creature. May I be an elf? I just really want to run the library at Rivendell. And wear pretty robes.
Weaknesses: This will not have quite the wide appeal of Rylander's other two titles, but will be fantastic for fantasy readers.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing and can't wait for the next book!

Monday, June 11, 2018

MMGM- Essential Fandoms

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.

This is a hard post to write. When I was in middle school, I was completely and totally addicted to both the Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie series. I owned the books, and I did not own many books. I was able to do an oral book report for which I forgot to prepare on AoGG because I had practically memorized the book. I watched the first movie in college. I bought all the paperbacks. I had Montgomery's journals. I also had a prairie dress, skipped a 5th grade skating party to watch the LHotP television show, and coerced my parents into traveling 100 miles out of our way on summer vacation so I could visit DeSmet, SD. When I say that these books are the base of my essential fandoms, we are talking hard core.

And now...meh. For one thing, my students don't read the books. My own daughters didn't read the books. As quintessential a part of the reading life of women my age as these were, I just don't think they are as relevant as they once were. Wilder's work comes under constant scrutiny about the family's dealing and attitudes with Native Americans.  As far as Montgomery goes, I came away from this newest treatment of her life feeling that while she had challenges in her life, they were mild compared to what many women faced, and she comes across TO ME as spoiled, entitled, and very selfish. Since as an adult I have found Anne herself to be overly precious and annoying (She would be the sort of modern student who wears animal ears to class every day and then doesn't understand why classmates thinks she's weird and don't want to be her friend. Actions have consequences.), the Montgomery book, no matter how well done, was the final nail in the coffin for my love of this author and her work.

As for the Wilder book, it was also very well done. There's just no reason for me to have either of these books (especially the Wilder one, due to content) in my library. Your library may be different. Proceed accordingly, and remember that my opinions are my opinions, and you are just as entitled to your own. Please feel free to express them without being rude about it.

36369872Rosenberg, Liz. House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery
June 12th 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com

There is a lot of information available about Montgomery's life, and Rosenberg does a good job of putting together an in-depth overview of the writer's life and career. Since many of Montgomery's stories are largely autobiographical, readers who are very familiar with Montgomery's work will find this to be extremely informative. It is also an interesting look into the life of one women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Montgomery was far from the only women not raised by her own parents at this time, and the fact that she was able to get an education was rather remarkable. She was able to get a decent number of teaching positions, even if they weren't exactly to her liking. Her struggles with finding a life partner are interesting, because they seem so atypical of the time. She had many men interested in her, but they didn't suit for one reason or another, and the man she eventually married was not a particularly good fit. By the time she married, she was well on her way to a solid writing career, but she didn't particularly seem to enjoy her extremely good fortune in this regard. There is an informative time line at the end of the book, and this is as complete a biography as I have read on this particular author.

I read a digital ARC of this; perhaps the final copy has photographs? It seems odd that there wouldn't be any.

There are a few things that should be kept in mind-- there are a couple of passing mentions of sex, and frank discussion of the various mental illnesses that both Montgomery and her husband are said to have suffered from. While nothing is graphic or disturbing, some younger readers might be confused or disillusioned. Just something to keep in mind.

Miller, Sara. Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Published September 19th 2017 by William Morrow
E Book from Ohio E Book Project

I always sort of wondered about the long suffering Ma. Pa always seemed like a less than ideal partner, which made it seem hard for me to imagine that Ma would have been really swept off her feet enough to leave her family and travel into the wilderness. As the family leaves the Big Woods, Ma is pregnant, which adds a whole new layer of complication to sleeping in a wagon, crossing perilous rivers, and all manner of things. I loved the detailed descriptions of what was needed to have to make the journey in a covered wagon, and thought it was interesting that Ma thought a lot about Bible verses-- she would have, most likely, but I never really thought about it. Trips to the general stores, setting up housekeeping... all of these are details that I loved about the originals, and it was fun to revisit them through Ma's eyes. Then we get a little surprise with Ma and Pa that makes this not a book for young readers.  So, I enjoyed it, but I won't be buying it for my library. It's really more of a book for women my age who loved Wilder's books when they were young.

Anyone else remember the television series, when Ma went back east for a reunion and sort of rekindles a romance with a classmate? Now, Michael Landon was kind of cute, but I still remember sort of rooting for Ma to leave him! At least in this  book he is a bit kinder and sweeter to Ma than he was in Wilder's stories.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Everything Else in the Universe

36723023Holczer, Tracy. Everything Else in the Universe
June 12th 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter

Lucy's family has moved from Chicago to San Jose, California for her father's medical residency and to be near family. When doctors are drafted for Vietnam, he chooses not to be deferred so that he can do his part. He promises Lucy that he will return, and he does, but he has lost an arm in an explosion in the operating room. The family is just glad to have him back, and he has a prosthetic arm, but he's still having trouble transitioning. There are lots of other things going on in Lucy's life even though it is summer. Her mother has gotten a job, and has Lucy go over to her aunt and uncle's every day. There, she must deal with her cousin Gia, who is protesting the war, and her cousin Josh, who is eligible for the next draft. She also meets a new boy in the neighborhood, Milo, who is very interested in dragonflies and other insects. When the two find a helmet, a purple heart, and a family photo buried near their homes, they try to find out to whom they belong and run into problems at the local veteran's club. There are family activities and barbecues, but nothing is the same as it was before, and despite Lucy's best efforts, she cannot make life return to the way it was by herself.
Strengths: The story line with the father's acclimation to civilian life and life as an amputee after serving in Vietnam is one I have been waiting for, especially after reading Partridge's Boots on the Ground and O'Connor's Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth. The large Italian family is portrayed with fondness and good attention to detail. Because this is set in California, there is a lot of tension about the war, and including Gia's philosophical predicament is a nice touch. There are a decent amount of historical details-- Grandma Miller is delightful in the way she turns herself out! The family relationships and emotions are also well done. Everyone is supportive but unsure of how to properly proceed at some times.
Weaknesses: There is a lot going on in the book, and some of my readers would struggle keeping everything straight. I wish that there had been more description of Lucy's interactions with her father, but he plays a much smaller part in the story than I had expected. I would have rather heard more about him and less about the mystery of the helmet and Milo's insects.
What I really think: I will purchase this one for our 1960s unit, but am not sure it will have as wide of an appeal as it would have had if the story had concentrated more on the father's experiences.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Cardboard Kingdom

30623090Sell, Chad and various authors. Cardboard Kingdom
June 5th 2018 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher at ALA

In an ordinary suburban neighborhood, a group of multicultural children spend their free time creating characters that inhabit the titular "cardboard kingdom". There are battling sorceresses, monsters, and dragons. There are also some realistic problems that include babysitting an active younger brother, dealing with a grandmother who doesn't believe girls should be loud, and parents who are divorcing. There is also a neighborhood bully who bedevils the children, but only because his own life is dysfunctional. Through a series of short comic stories, we learn more about each of the children, their family situations, and the imaginary world that they create that helps bring them together.
Strengths: This was a brightly colored graphic novel with few words and a fun story. It will circulate all of the time. This was better than most graphic novels, and hits lots of social hot buttons. It was good to see children amusing themselves and being imaginative, and to see families that were doing well but weren't necessarily affluent. (The mere fact that children are able to play outside in a neighborhood with houses indicates a certain level of comfort to me.)
Weaknesses: The lack of words in some sections made parts of this a bit hard to follow. It was also rather heavy on moral messages.
What I really think: Honestly? In the end, I will pay $18 for a prebind of this that will last no more than two years. I know that many teachers get really excited about graphic novels because they think they help kids get into reading. If I were sure about this, I would love them too. I'm just not convinced.

36374386Owen, Erich. Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force
May 15th 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

This is based off of a video game, involves children with powers saving the world, and has a snarky tone. ("Man, this idyllic neighborhood is such a drag. I'm cursed to live my life in a peaceful town free of any serious conflict.") Children will love it, and I did appreciate the discussion at the back of the book about whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables (In 1893, the supreme court decided that for trade purposes, it was a vegetable because of the way it is used!), but this came down more on the Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy side of the graphic novel continuum rather than on the Phoebe and Her Unicorn side. Not as many jokes for adults as Phoebe has.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, June 08, 2018

The Button War/ Without Refuge

29225520Avi. The Button War.
June 12th 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Patryk lives in a small Polish town in 1914. The Russians have been in control for a number of years, but rumor has it that German soldiers are on their way. When a new fangled aeroplane blows up the school, everyone knows that war is on its way. Jurek, whose family is poor, becomes interested in buttons from soldiers' coats after finding one in an abandoned castle in the woods. He makes up a contest, with a cane as the prize, and says that whoever has the most interesting buttons will be the king. Patryk's friends, boys of the same age but sometimes different backgrounds, all go about getting buttons in a variety of dangerous ways. Some take the buttons off uniforms that a sister is laundering, others cut them off clothes that are hanging on the line. As the war closes in, buttons are even taken off of dead soldiers. There are seven boys at the beginning, but as both "wars" continue, some are killed in various altercations with the military, and it is even suspected that Jurek has killed one. Is he really unbalanced? Patryk's family eventually decides they must leave, but Jurek and the button war stay with Patryk in disturbing ways.
Strengths: There is not a lot of writing about the area that was and became Poland, especially during this time period. The details about life at the time, and the description of the village, are very interesting. I also liked the way the boys played together. It might seem silly to some, but I can remember going to weddings with my cousin and being obsessed with removing decorative bells and things from the wedding cake when we were about ten. There is something about small objects that appeal greatly to children, so I had no trouble believing that this fact, along with the aspect of daring ones' friends, would motivate the boys to put themselves in unreasonable danger to obtain the buttons. Intriguing story.
Weaknesses: There needed to be a lot more information about the history of Poland and about what the political situation was at the time. I required a half hour conversation with a history major friend to pin down important details.
What I really think: Debating purchase. It was an interesting book, but was lacking some important information, and I'm not sure how well it would do with my readers. At best, it would require hand selling, since the cover really doesn't indicate that it is a book about WWI.

35799966Mitchell, Jane. Without Refuge.
April 1st 2018 by Carolrhoda Books
Public Library Copy

Ghalib and his family are tired of the war in Syria and the negative effects it is having on every aspect of their lives. His father ran a local pharmacy, so the family is well off and has essentials, so when they decide to leave, they have more options than some, even if those options aren't great. The other benefit is that the family is able to leave all together with the exception of a cousin who was injured, and the adult staying with him. They make it to a town that is a little better off, but decide to press on. At one point, Ghalib is separated from the rest of the group, looking for his new friend Saafa, and eventually ends up in a refugee camp. His family eventually makes it, and even though they are all crammed into a tent with several other families, the children are glad to have stability and don't want to leave. The father has planned all along to try to get to Europe, however, so they press on, taking a perilous sea journey to Greece. Once they have arrived safely there, there is still no guarantee that they will be granted asylum.
Strengths: This had a lot of good descriptions of how war torn the country is, and also about the vast amount of planning that has to go into fleeing a country. Refugees need to have a lot of resources to successfully relocate, and it's not easy even with those resources. In the case of Ghalib's family, it did make items like transportation and food much easier. This moved quickly and has some nice details, like Ghalib's friendship with Saafa and his cousin's disabilities. The characters are all named after children who were killed due to the war, and descriptions of their real life counterparts are listed at the back.
Weaknesses: This didn't pack the emotional punch of Gratz's Refugee or Senzai's Escape from Aleppo, but offered the details of flight like Abawi's The Land of Permanent Goodbyes without the intense parts.
What I really think: I'll buy a copy not only for demand now, but for ten years down the road when I might start to see a lot of children of Syrian origin in my library!

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Frame-Up

36039615MacKnight, Wendy McLeod.The Frame-Up
June 5th 2018 by Greenwillow Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nora has been in a painting in the Beaverbrook Gallery for over 100 years. The characters in paintings can come alive, but they are careful not to let humans know about this. They have social events, visit, and generally have a good time. When paintings are due to be restored at the gallery, the residents are less than thrilled, because it means time spent in a dark workshop away from their friends. The manager of the gallery, Isaac Singer, is having his son visit for the summer. Sargent usually lives with his mother and stepfather, and doesn't get along terribly well with his father. He is, however, a talented painter, so not sad about spending the summer at the gallery and attending the camps there. On the plane, he meets Mr. Sneely, who is going to be restoring the paintings. Sneely is not the most pleasant man, and Sargent is glad he doesn't have to spend a lot of time with him. When Sargent sees Nora in another painting, he thinks at first that he is hallucinating, but when another incident occurs, Nora speaks to him and tells him the secrets of the paintings. He agrees to keep the secret, even though the gallery needs money badly. He gets to know the residents of the paintings, and even arranges for them to watch movies, which they love. One of the residents, Dusk, seems to be involved in something (ahem) shady, and Sneely is also suspicious. Nora and Sargent start to worry that copies are being made of the paintings, and that this will mean something bad for the originals. Sargent also finds out secrets about his father's past, and learns to get along with him, thanks in part to Janice, his father's fiance. Can Nora and Sargent prevent tragedy from befalling the Beaverbrook Collection?
Strengths: This was an innovative use of characters in paintings, and the addition of the actual art at the beginning of the book was very helpful. The backstories, the rules, the way that the characters are able to travel between paintings-- all innovative and fun. I was even more intrigued with Sargent's story and his interaction with his father. There are a lot of children who don't know their noncustodial parents well, but there are not that many stories about this. All in all, a fresh premise with an intriguing mystery that moved quickly.
Weaknesses: Art mysteries just do not move at my library. I love Runholdt's Kari and Lucas mysteries and Malone's The Sixty-Eight Rooms, but they just don't circulate. This was a lot like West's The Shadows which I also like; I think I've had two students read this series this year.
What I really think: I will probably not purchase, even though I enjoyed it.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 06, 2018


36373235Stokes, Maura Ellen. Fadeaway
June 5th 2018 by Yellow Jacket
ARC provided by author.

Sam is devastated when her very best friend and basketball teammate Reagan collapses and dies suddenly because of a heart issue during the summer before their freshman year. Her parents and brothers are supportive, but nothing can assuage the grief she feels at not having her constant companion by her side. She does manage to attend the second day of school, but it is hard to go through classes that Reagan had helped her schedule, and deal with well meaning friends who don't quite know what to say. It's a relief to talk to the new boy, Kevin, who doesn't seem to know about Reagan... at first. Sam thinks it might be too hard to play basketball, but her other teammates encourage her to try out. It doesn't help that Sam hears Reagan's voice, but Reagan encourages Sam to move on, and isn't always around every time that Sam would like her to be. Basketball goes okay, and getting back into running and schoolwork makes Sam's parents back off their insistence that Sam go to grief counseling. However, Sam's grades are still not good, and when she passes a basketball to Reagan (who is, of course, not there), her parents insist on counseling. Slowly but surely, Sam is able to assemble a new normal for herself.
Strengths: I always need books about girls' basketball, and this had a lot of good scenes with teammates, plays, and even academic eligibility. It's great that Sam started high school-- there has been some discussion lately of what age of characters makes a middle grade book, and I wish there were more 9th graders represented, since middle school students are curious about high school. The best part of this book was what I absolutely thought I would hate-- the portrayal of grief. Sam's difficulties are not sugar coated-- there are times when it's hard to get out of bed, when she collapses in tears, and when it's just really hard to talk to people. But she tries. Her parents try. They watch her and know what needs to be done. The staff at school keep an eye out for her and make her accountable for her grades, but not in an overly punitive way. Grief has a lot of back and forth, but it's essential to keep making tiny, tiny improvements, and that's what we see here. Reagan's voice (and I wouldn't really count this as magical realism-- I think Sam is just creating Reagan in her mind and thinking about what her friend WOULD say) doesn't play a huge role in the book, but is realistic and gives us an idea of what Reagan was like, and how the girls' friendship supported both of them. There's a fun incident with Kevin getting in trouble for wearing a black trench coat, and a fun protest that Sam masterminds that shows that Sam is on her way to being able to keep fond memories of her friend but engage in her own life. Very brilliantly written.
Weaknesses: I was a little surprised that we didn't see any of Reagan's family.
What I really think:  Definitely purchasing, and think this will be hugely popular with readers who like stories like VanDraanen's The Running Dream that combine serious issues with sports in a particularly clever and engaging way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Beast of Stone

35068443Park, Linda Sue.  Beast of Stone (Wing & Claw #3)
March 6th 2018 by HarperCollins
Public Library E Copy

So, the problem with e copies is that it's hard to flip back to pages to jog my memory. I even read this one on the iPad so I could take notes-- then I returned it by mistake before I wrote the review. Sigh.

Basically, this wraps up the series (Forest of Wonders, Cavern of Secrets) nicely by having the Chancellor want to relocate all of the Afters in a slum clearing exercise. Raffa gets out of jail, although he doesn't manage to get his father out, and is able to take part in the rebellion by helping to heal people and to figure out how to get the animals to not attack. Nice use of plants as medicine, good relationships, and a talking bat. Definitely purchasing for school.

I did realize that this is perfect for fans of Hunter's Warriors books because of all the battle prep and fighting. Read this excellent article, "10 Reasons We Loved the Warrior Series as Kids" on Bustle for a good explanation of why these books appeal to some children. And yes, I'm one of those evil adults who suggests to children that they MIGHT want to occasionally read something else besides Warriors. Not all the time, just every now and then, so that they might find something else they really like.