Thursday, January 18, 2018

Touchdown Kid

33913882Green, Tim. Touchdown Kid
October 3rd 2017 by HarperCollins
Library copy

Cory is a decent football player; not as good as his friend Liam, who has been given a scholarship at a prestigious private school, but pretty good. When Liam is badly injured in front of the school scout, Cory is offerred his scholarship. He really wants to take it-- he lives in a rough Westside neighborhood with his single mother-- but there are some stipulations he doesn't like. In order to attend the school and play on the team, he has to live with a host family, the Muillers. The son seems nice, but the daughter is very pretty and rather dangerous, and the parents seem too sure of themselves and too aware of what a favor they are doing for Cory. He eventually gets his mom to let him take the scholarship, but things do not go smoothly at school. The evil Mike Chester keeps giving him a hard time, even pushing him in the locker room and injuring Cory's ankle badly enough that he can't play for a week. Cory does make some allies with his other teammates, but never feels entirely comfortable. When the Muillers' house is broken into and a lot of expensive jewelry is stolen, the police look at Cory with suspicion, especially after some of the comments he has made at school to get Mike off his case.
Strengths: There need to be more books with characters whose lives aren't solidly middle class. There are a lot of children for whom a new pair of shoes is a very big deal, so Cory's thrift store boat shoes and WalMart polos ring true. There are also children who have lives like the Muillers, so it was interesting to see the interplay between the two. Lots of football, and I have readers who will read anything that Green writes. Not as sad as it could have been, so this one was a touchdown for me!
Weaknesses: The minute the security code was mentioned, I knew that something would go down. Saw that one all too easily. Also, wished that the two socioeconomic classes had gotten along better.
What I really think: Bought without reading. That's how much I like Green!
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Betty Before X

28274835Betty Before X. Shabazz,  Ilyasah and Watons, RenĂ©e
January 2nd 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC from Netgalley

In the 1940s, young Betty Dean is being raised by a beloved aunt who feels that Betty's mother didn't take good care of her. The mother has remarried, moved to Detroit, and had other young daughters. When her aunt dies, Betty is forced to leave her comfortable life in the south to be raised in a crowded apartment with her step sisters. She spends a lot of time at church and hanging out with her girlfriends. The girls are especially interested in the work of the Housewives' League, a Civil Rights organization that is trying to convince the black community that they should not shop at stores that would not hire them. When she has some fights with her mother, Betty is taken in by the Malloys, who go to her church and are very active in the civil rights movement, and she enjoys living with them very much. There are a lot of things going on in Chicago at this time, and Betty learns to be aware of the position of people in her community and is interested in all of the activists who visit and show her more of what is going on in the world.
Strengths: This is a great slice-of-life title for this time period, and we finally have a book from the point of view of a young black person instead of a Civil Rights story told through a white lens! The details of every day life AND of the social mores of the time are absolutely fascinating, and it's even better since this is a fictionalized account of Shabazz's mother, who late married Malcolm X. Watson's input makes this highly readable and engaging, and historical notes at the end remind readers that this story is based on real events. I especially liked the information about the boycotting by the black community of businesses who didn't hire black people. I had never heard to this!
Weaknesses: The cover is a bit young for a book that really should be read by middle school and even high school students. There is a scene of a lynching that might need to be processed with younger readers, who might be attracted to the pretty, sunny cover.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, even though I find Malcom X to be a problematic historical figure. If you have Shabazz and Magoon's X, you should definitely read this!

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fairy Mom and Me

36343106Kinsella, Sophie. Fairy Mom and Me
January 2nd 2018 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Ella knows that she will be a fairy like her mother when she grows up, but she is impatient to try out her skills, especially since her mother is not very good at magic and frequently needs some help. Normally, Ella's mom works at an office and takes care of Ella and Ollie, but when the situation requires it, she breaks out her Computawand and magics up cupcakes, flying beds, or clean up spells. Things often go awry, but work out in the end. Ella has two good friends, Tom and Lenka, but also a girl, Zoe, who gives her trouble. It's hard for her to watch her mother experience problems with magic when she suspects she would do a better job, and Ella occasionally has to ask her Aunty Jo or her grandmother (who uses an old fashioned wand) to step in to fix things.
Strengths: As more and more of my readers enjoy short chapter books with illustrations, it's been hard to find fantasy books. This one is perfect for strong elementary readers, and still empowering enough that older readers who struggle will enjoy watching Ella's mom make mistakes with which she needs help. The pictures are particularly charming and work well with the story, the magical mishaps are amusing, and Ella is a fun character. This has a feel of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the new Millenium.
Weaknesses: A bit twee for me personally, with the magic word for the mother to become a fairy being "marshmallow" and spells having names like "Cupcakeridoo" and "Rewinderidoo", but the target demographic will probably enjoy those light moments.
What I really think: This will go over very well with my struggling 6th grade readers, although my 7th grade ones won't come anywhere near the aggressively pink cover! Ah, middle school.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, January 15, 2018

MMGM- Revolutionary War

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.

35068727Elliot, L.M. Hamilton and Peggy!
January 2nd 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Young Peggy Schulyer must watch her older sister Angelica elope with a dashing young man, and is instrumental in helping her sister Eliza's suitor, Alexander Hamilton, connect with his sweetheart. In the meantime, the Revolutionary War is grinding on, and her father, General Phillip Schuyler, is very involved with aspects of the planning and fighting, although he is not always successful in his military endeavors. Peggy meets many of the luminaries of the time, tries to help around the house (her mother is constantly having babies, which becomes more difficult as she gets older and the war continues), and chafes against the restrictions put upon women. She even travels in the bitter winter weather to prove that she is not to be held down! Set against many details of every day life as well as the political machinations of war, Hamilton and Peggy! is a solid historical novel from the wonderful L.M. Elliot.
Strengths: Elliot does a great job at weaving in very descriptive military occurrences with every day life in a way that is both instructive but fast paced. This is a very difficult thing to accomplish in historical fiction. This was reminiscent of works of Ann Rinaldi, which always have such great details about life and historical events. Elliot has clearly done her research, and I appreciated the notes at the back.
Weaknesses: There is not really very much about Alexander Hamilton in the book, and Peggy is described (in a VERY common historical novel fashion) as being perhaps a bit spunkier and daring than women at that time would have been in real life. It's not unrealistically done, but I always believe deep down that such behavior is probably anachronistic. Makes for a much better story, so it makes sense to portray Peggy this way.
What I really think: If Hamilton fever continues, I may purchase a copy. Actually, I will probably purchase it anyway, since there are surprisingly few newer historical novels set during the Revolutionary War. Forbes' Johnny Tremain (1943) has seen better days.

35342937Stokes, Jonathan W. The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution
Illustrated by David Sossella
January 30th 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publishers

In 2164, Time Corp published a series of guides for time travelers, since time travel devices are standard issue in homes, and there is a Time Patrol to fix any problems that wayward time travelers create. Luckily, copies of the books were found in New York City in 2018, and republished for modern readers. Time Corp is headed by the megalomaniac Finn Greenquill, who gets ample mention in footnotes throughout the book.

With such an introduction, we can expect The Thrifty Guides to be much more amusing than Lucent's Travel Guides or Lerner's Passports to History, which are much better at laying out information that actual time travelers might need. While there is good information about what to wear and eat, the main concern of this book is staying alive in the midst of different military actions or while spying. There are some nice overviews of historical figures with whom one might like to eat lunch, and enough information about daily life to keep a time traveler out of trouble, but the main concern is the military action. There are even maps.

This will be very helpful to students who have to study these battles in school-- I know that our 8th grade does some large units on Bunker Hill and Concord and have to actually make maps of battle strategies, so the maps included in this book, and the explanations for why the battles occurred, will be very helpful. The asides and additional humorous information make the history more accessible and interesting to readers who are new to the material.

My quibble is that I wish more social history was covered in school. How did people dress, what did they eat, where did they shop-- how did they go about their everyday life. What were the social mores? How did families work? What jobs did people have? This information is constantly neglected in the classroom, as well as in historical nonfiction. That said, this quibble is not so much with The Thrifty Guides as it is with the general approach to history, and I am clearly in the minority on this one. The Thrifty Guides are a nice supplement to topics covered in middle school social studies and could be put to good use in the classroom setting, as well as for pleasure reading.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say

34506934Dominguez, Angela. Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
January 16th 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Stella, her brother and their radio executive mother live in Chicago. Stella's father lives in Colorado and does not get in touch very often. Stella loves learning about marine animals and has a betta fish for whom she enjoys caring. It's a tough year at school, since Stella's best friend Jenny isn't in her class anymore, and Stella is still seeing a speech teacher to work on her language skills, which are fairly solid but which could use some improvement and make Stella self conscious about speaking in class. She has to deal with a new boy in her class who is from Texas, learning that she is not a US citizen but rather an "alien" with a green card, and missing her family, many of who still live in Mexico City. Stella does her best to get ready for her class presentation despite her challenges because she does in deed have "something to say".
Strengths: Stella is a fun character, and seems very typical for a third grader. Being without her best friend is hard, and she worries that Jenny will make other friends. She misses her father, but realizes that he just isn't going to be involved in her life. She has a warm and supported relationship with her mother, who is doing her best to support her family. The school scenes strike me as realistic, and Stella's struggles with language are delicately and constructively described.
Weaknesses: I worry that this will be too young for many of my readers, although my struggling ELL population will enjoy the story, the length of the text, and the inclusion of pictures. I just wish there were a similar story with an 8th grade character, because most of my students do not want to read about a third grader.
What I really think: I will purchase for my readers who need easier chapter books that appeal to their own experiences.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ellie, Engineer

35525589Pearce, Jackson. Ellie, Engineer
January 16th 2018 by Bloomsbury USA
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Ellie loves to build things, drawing up plans and using her impressive array of tools to create and build all manner of innovative projects. When her best friend Kit's birthday is approaching, and the friends overhear that Kit is getting Miss Penelope, a dog, Ellie sets out to build a dog house. She needs some help, and even though the neighborhood boys are annoying, she enlists the help of Toby for a lot of the project. She also asks some other girls to help with the wall paper, and as the project progresses, has to keep a lot of secrets from Kit. When Ellie is afraid that the house won't be done in time, she has a large group of people to help her, and invites them all to Kit's beauty pageant party. Luckily, everyone is understanding, and Ellie's project is a big hit.
Strengths: This is absolutely on trend for how young girls with progressive parents are being raised today. Pink and sparkles are okay, and so are wrenches and building things. Lots of STEM sorts of issues, and Ellie is insistent that she is an engineer. The friend drama is true to life, and it's nice that all of the children eventually learn to work together. There is even a bit of a twist at the end.
Weaknesses: This would be a hard sell for middle school, and the initial reaction to the boys alarmed me a little, although Ellie did manage to work things out with everyone and establish that while boys sometimes do stinky things, this doesn't make all of them stinky all the time.
What I really think: This just made me feel old. When my daughters were this age 20 years ago, the philosophy was just different, and I can't quite explain it. There was a feeling that we shouldn't really differentiate between "girl stuff" and "boy stuff", and everyone should wear primary colors and have dolls AND trucks. My older daughter went through a phase where she would answer "chemical engineer" when asked what she was going to be when she grew up. My younger daughter wanted to be a super hero princess, which is why I encouraged more gender neutral trappings for everyone because I'm still not a fan of pink and sparkles.

Now, the philosophy seems different. Too many women claim "I'm not a feminist", but still have a full time professional job that my mother could only have dreamt about. Little girls dress up as pink princesses but still think they can be CEOs. I find myself feeling vaguely annoyed not because of the amorphous change of philosophy, but by the fact that so much time has passed! To my credit, my older daughter is working in organic farming, and my younger one is in college to be either a forensic account or an actuary, so I think I did okay with math and science and girls!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 12, 2018

Guy Friday- History

   Rarely do I come across a book that leaves me vaguely baffled. This new title from Steve Sheinkin did.

3447529434475293Abraham Lincoln: Pro Wrestler
Abigail Adams: Pirate of the Caribbean
January 9th 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
Abigail Adams ARC received for free in exchange for an honest review.

First of all, Sheinkin is a brilliant writer and an even more brilliant researcher. His The Notorious Benedict Arnold just blew me away. He's been a National Book Award finalist three times for good reason. He takes interesting, somewhat unusual topics and writes about them with passion and intensity.

Do we need to put our foot down on ALL history time travel books? But then there are the Magic Treehouse books, which are okay because they introduce very young readers to history in a fun way. Scieszka' s Time Warp Trio is fun. I'm almost willing to give Dan Gutman a pass, since I enjoyed his Qwerty Stephens books and Baseball Card Adventures, and he had some fun twists with his Flashback Four. Meehl's Blowback books are for much older readers, and include sports in a much needed way.

But then there's the Rush Limbaugh Rush Revere books, Potter's Left Behinds, and Mansbach's Ben Franklin: A Huge Pain in My A** for which I didn't care on a number of levels. The Sheinkin books fall somewhere between these two groups.

On the plus side, there's a nice twist. Instead of fixing history, the main historical figures decide to do something different. But that's also why I didn't care for them as much.

Yes, it can be hard to get children to read historical fiction. I try daily and meet with little success. I love historical fiction. But Abigail Adams (which I got in an ARC box from Follett; I haven't seen the first book) even confused ME a bit. She's tired of hanging out in the new White House and hanging up laundry, so she jumps into the laundry basket and is transported to the Caribbean so she can hang out with famous women pirates? But then she wants to start a school on the ship? This was so goofy that it was hard to determine the accuracy of the details, especially since the language and situations were so unusual.

I understand why this was done, but it just wasn't successful for me. It might have been the illustrations by Neil Swaab; he wrote and illustrated The Secrets to Ruling School (Without Even Trying) which was more mean spirited than I had hoped, so perhaps the inllustrations got my back up.

I think I will pass on this series, and concentrate on finding what Michael Spradlin calls "historical thrillers" like Northrop's new Polaris. If notebook novels and "twisted history" books work for your students, definitely take a look.

Now I'm off to watch the DVD of Voyagers! while questioning my place in the universe.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Under the Bottle Bridge

34228343Lawson, Jessica. Under the Bottle Bridge
September 5th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Minna Treat lives in Gilbreth, New York, a small town that is very proud of its history and tradition of local artisans. She is being raised by her young uncle, because her mother passed away of a medical ailment and her grandparents were killed in a car accident. There is not information available about her father. Theo, her uncle, wants her to enter the local young artisans' competition, which has always been won by a Treat, but Minna doesn't have much interest in it. Her best friend, Christopher (or "Crash", so called because of his predilection for causing accidents) and new, quirky girl Grace, hang out together and decide to try to discover more information about her uncle. Minna keeps finding bottles with cryptic messages in them near one of the five local covered bridges, and starts to think the messages might be connected with her father. Grace's father, the mayor, wants to start a lot of real estate development in the area, which would cause the woods and some of the covered bridges to be raised, but the town is not very excited about that. Minna isn't, either, even though times are bad enough that her uncle is looking into alternate employment at a town about an hour away. Will Minna be able to find out more about her mysterious parentage, the person leaving her messages, and how to save the town?
Strengths: Lawson has done a fantastic job of world building-- Gilbreth is quite a town, with a rich tradition, a history quoted at the beginning of each chapter, and an interesting blend of people. Minna's reaction to her uncle and mother's situation is handled well; not too sad, a bit precocious, but fairly balanced. I can see this being enjoyed by fans of the Penderwick or Melendy family sagas. The cover is gorgeous.
Weaknesses: This is overly long, a bit too detailed, and very slow moving for the target audience.
What I really think: I will pass on purchase, since I can't get anyone to check out the Penderwicks. This seems like a title that adults will rave about, but most children will bypass.

15801400O'Ryan, Ellie. The Case of the Digital Deception
January 29th 2013 by Simon Spotlight

Library copy

Club CSI is back when pretty, popular girl Whitney asks the group-- especially Corey-- for help because she "feels" she is being threatened. There is no actual wrong doing until the next day, when a picture hung inside Whitney's locker is defaced. The group proceeds to dust for fingerprints, but Whitney is oddly unhelpful. It doesn't make matters any better when Whitney's best friend, Alyssa, brings the group an e mail from Whitney that the group is a bunch of dorks and that she should just ignore them. Eventually, though, Whitney's You Can Draw It account is hacked, and someone buys $100 worth of expansion packs on her parents' credit card. Her parents are not pleased, and ground her. Club CSI steps in with some excellent digital sleuthing, and when they are very close to solving the case, they get some help from experts, including their friend at the local police department who is on hand when they confront the criminal.
Strengths: The Case of the Mystery Meatloaf and the other three books in this series have ended up doing VERY well in my library, so I ordered the next two. This is written by a different author, and I liked it a bit better. The digital sleuthing was very interesting, and the inclusion of some middle school drama helped propel the story. Hoping that books 6 is in the next shipment.
Weaknesses: Have to decide where to shelve this; will probably put it with the other books by Lewis.
What I really think: Fun, quick mystery with a lot of good CSI information.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


35068631Korman, Gordon. Supergifted (Ungifted #2)
January 2nd 2018 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Noah is still enjoying being in the "regular" school with his friend Donovan, since he has trouble in classes like wood shop and gym. Why is that good? Noah is so brilliant that he often felt like he wasn't learning anything. Now, there are lots of areas in which he can improve. While Noah is embracing new opportunities, Donovan is stressed out. His sister, her military husband, and their infant daughter have all moved in with his parents, so the house is crowded and stressful. When Donovan runs into some of his enemies at the local park, his brother-in-law's dog has a run-in with one of the kids, whose parents get upset and forbid Donovan from ever being in their neighborhood. When Noah has a hair brained schemed that Donovan needs to stop, he ventures forth into the forbidden territory-- and manages to stop a truck from running right into Megan's house! He doesn't want to admit that he was "Superkid" and get into more trouble, so Noah starts taking credit for being the hero. This deflects attention for Donovan but also makes him jealous when he sees the attention that Noah is getting. Some people who know both boys suspect something is not right, as as plans for the governor to present Noah with a medal at a school assembly start to come together, so do the pieces of evidence that will blow the story apart. Can the boys manage to keep their act together long enough so that they can continue to enjoy their school days in peace?
Strengths: I adored Ungifted (2012) and even though I accidentally bought four copies, they are all in tatters, partly because I keep getting it added to Battle of the Books lists! Noah is an interesting character, and I love that he takes up cheerleading. We've had two male cheerleaders at my school, and I think there should be more both in real life and in fiction! Donovan is hysterically harried, and the supporting characters are all well developed and funny. Hard to go wrong with Korman, and this is a worthy, is belated, sequel.
Weaknesses: This starts out more slowly than the first book, which shouldn't be an issue for the fans who are eagerly awaiting this title.
What I really think: I didn't LURVE this one as much as the first, but I'm going to blame a bad cold and attendant strep throat for my inability to think for a week. (Back in December-- all better now!)
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


29540876Guterson, Ben. Winterhouse
January 2nd 2018 by Christy Ottaviano Books
E ARC from

Poor Elizabeth Somers. Her parents died when she was four, and she has been raised by her uncaring Aunt Purdy and Uncle Burlap. When they decide to take a vacation over Christmas, she is packed off to Winterhouse with $3 and a grocery bag of clothing. There's little explanation, but she is glad to have a few books with her, and the hotel is not as bad as she has feared. Aside from the creepy booksellers, the Hiems, who warn her that the proprietor, Norbridge Falls, is not what he seems, and is not to be trusted. Norbridge seems quite nice, and looks out for Elizabeth, and also shows her the tremendous library at Winterhouse. Elizabeth also meets Freddy, whose parents send him to the hotel while they travel, and the two discover that they both like anagrams, word ladders, and other puzzles.
Strengths: This definitely had a Lemony Snicket sort of vibe, and the parallels between this and Greenglass House are definitely very strong. Also had shades of Seible's Trouble with Twins. Well paced, with plenty of twists and intriguing characters, this certainly has a lot of fine qualities to recommend it. Bonus points for the Hiems' name-- it means "winter" in Latin! (hiems, hiemis, f.)
Weaknesses: With the addition of the puzzles, students who have trouble following the plot of mysteries may struggle with this one.
What I really think: I'm not sure if my students will be willing to invest in a trilogy of these, but I may have to buy this first book because I love the cover and the premise so much. This year, I have had to buy Ivy and Bean,  Junie B. Jones and Melvin Beederman books for my very reluctant sixth graders. I would love to have students who would enjoy this book, but right now, I'm struggling to get them to read more than 50 pages. At least this has some pictures, which they all seem to require!

All weakness in this novel I am going to blame on the fact that I read this during extreme attack of Middle Age Ennui, and was immediately annoyed by "Uncle Burlap". Really? Burlap? And the dead parents. I loved Winterhouse itself, and the idea of the library, and just about the time I was settling into those lovely thoughts, Elizabeth and Freddy started with decoding messages, of which I am not a fan. That, and Elizabeth's favorite book is Anne of Green Gables, she claims to have read Swallows and Amazons, and she ends the book reading The Wind in the Willows. Really? Isn't that a tad precocious? I'm done with Anne, even I hadn't read Swallows and Amazons until it appeared on a list of 100 Best Middle Grade Books, and in 15 years, I haven't been able to get a single student to read The Wind in the Willows. So, a bit "bah, humbug" here.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, January 08, 2018

MMGM- Streetcar to Justice, Cinnamon Bun Besties

Wow. This is my 4,000 post. I've been blogging for neigh on 12 years, which my 6th graders have helpfully pointed out is longer than they have been alive.

Doesn't hurt my feelings, kids. I am wearing a sweater that is older than half of our teachers, and I knit it myself (in 1986)! Age and wisdom will always triumph over youth and beauty!

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.

34848502Hearth, Amy Hill. Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York
January 2nd 2018 by Greenwillow Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

One hundred years before Rosa Parks' experiences with segregated transportation, Elizabeth Jennings fought her own battle with the segregated streetcars in New York City. While black men and women were free in many parts of the north at this time, there was still a lot of fear because of the practice of slavery in the south. Jennings was a "respectable woman" who attempted to ride a street car to her church with a friend. At the time, the practice was that blacks could ride the "white" streetcars at the discretion of the conductor. If other riders complained, the person would have to take a "Jim Crow" car, which might not have as direct a route. In Jennings' case, there were no riders who complained, but the conductor did not want to let her on. When Jennings voiced her complaints and demanded to be allowed to ride, the conductor drove her to a police station to have her arrested. Her case went to court, where she was defended by the future president Grover Cleveland, who was a new lawyer at the time. This very obscure bit of history was very thoroughly researched by the author, the many sources used are listed in a bibliography and have footnotes. Some of the newspaper articles are included alongside the text. The afterword on how Hearth came to investigate this case is interesting as well.
Strengths: This was just long enough to cover the pertinent information while still being interesting and compelling. Sometimes, middle grade nonfiction gets to be too involved to keep readers' interest. Hearth gives a good background of what life was like for different groups of people at the time. I really enjoyed this one, and think it is important for young readers to understand what life was like in the past. If I polled my students, I would guess that most of them are of the opinion that ALL black people in 1854 were slaves.
Weaknesses: The cover of this is not great, and I might want to take a look at a print copy to see how the pages are set up before purchasing.
What I really think: We need a lot more interesting, narrative nonfiction about topics like this!

34570464Deutsch, Stacia. Cinnamon Bun Besties
January 2nd 2018 by Sky Pony Press
ARC provided by publisher (So my students can read it!)

Suki is on the student council, and their yearly fund raiser to help with the cost of the year end dance is to sell Candy Cards. Anyone can buy a piece of candy and a card for $1, and the student council delivers them to the recipients. There's a lot of profit, and Suki's organization contributed to the  the previous years' sales record. This year, JJ, with whom she is on the outs, decides that HE wants to help, and he thinks they can sell even more. Suki is angry, but has little recourse to protest, and her best friend Marley tells her to just deal with it. In the meantime, Suki sees a very cute dog loose at the dog park. She goes to the local shelter to see if anyone has brought the dog in, and decides to volunteer there, since she is not allowed to have a dog at home. She and Marley keep trying to catch the dog, whom she calls "Cinnamon Bun" after its coloring and its predilection for a similarly named coffee drink, to no avail. The Candy Cards project is not going well, and we learn a little more about why Suki is at odds with JJ. When the animal shelter is having a hard time making ends meet, Suki asks the student council to donate some of the profits to help with the animals. The news picks this up, and local companies come to the aid of the shelter. The Candy Cards ends up going okay once JJ and Suki learn to work together, and Suki's ability to handle responsibility ends up being rewarded.
Strengths: The inclusion of a group of friends that broke up after a misunderstanding was perfect, and the student council fund raiser was great. In fact, I need to mention to our Builder's Club that they should totally do this for Valentine's Day. My high school sold carnations periodically, and that was always exciting and nerve wracking! The animal shelter subplot is good as well. These books are so popular that I asked the publicist to send a paper ARC instead of an e ARC, because I have about five girls who keep returning the books with their friend, who immediately wants to check the book out! That's a good use of the taxpayers' money!
Weaknesses: Could have used a bit more romance. My first CAR was called Suki, so I had trouble with the name! Also, I swear there was another book about an animal shelter that had cinnamon buns in it. And now I really want a cinnamon bun!
What I really think: I enjoy these books, and my students adore them. I hope there will be more on the way after the February release of Salted Caramel Dreams.

Blather- State of the Blog 2018

On the bright side, I have posted at least one book review since January 1, 2012. I try to keep my blog posts up at least a month ahead, so I should be able to keep up the streak in 2018.

I did not meet my 2017 goal of 825. On New Year's Eve, I had finished 822 books and had to go to a party. People who really like to read books can understand how hard that was to attend.

2017 was a difficult year all around. I had some super boring health issues that made it hard to focus. I watched a lot of movies, and checked social media more than I should have! This year, I am making sure the computer is OFF so all I have to do is READ. It will help when I can start running again in March. Believe me, after breaking the same foot three different times, I will be starting out slowly.

I really don't have any more blogging goals for 2018. Just hope to keep blogging and make 2019 an awesome year.

ALA Midwinter 2018I'm off to ALA Midwinter in Denver in February, which is stressing me out a bit. Because of travel, I'll be out of school for four days. I have the best sub in the entire world, but it's still hard to be away and among people for that long. Looking forward to visiting the history center at the Denver Public Library and learning more about Lenora Mattingly Weber! After that, I think I'm not going to anymore conferences until 2019, when I hope to hit Book Expo and maybe ALA Annual in D.C. Maybe Books by the Banks in October of 2018, since my daughter might still be in Cincinnati. (If she doesn't go to Cork for a semester abroad, which I hope she does.) Nerdy Camp is on my birthday this year, and I should go to that, since Michigan is not a far drive.

Want to get reviews before the books even come out? While I wait until close to the publication time here on my blog, if you follow me on Goodreads, you can find out if the E ARC is available at Netgalley or Edelweiss Plus.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

TBH, This is So Awkward

34848219Greenwald, Lisa. TBH, This is So Awkward
January 2nd 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Gabby, Priyanka and Cecily have been friends for a long time, but settling into middle school is taking some time. They aren't supposed to be texting during school hours, but they manage to use the small moments they can find to keep each other updated by text or e mail on everything that is going on. They all have their issues-- Gabby's parents are divorced and she may have to move, Priyanka has a crush on a boy, and Cecily gets caught in them middle of new girl Victoria's attempt to break into her social circle by getting involved in the dance committee the girls are on. Victoria is a bit pushy, as is her mother, who e mails the principal and the PTA when she feels her daughter is being ignored. The principal decides that if students can't be kind to each other while using social media, there will be no school dance, so the girls have to band together to make sure that the dance is a reality. This is told entirely through text with a LOT Of emojis.
Strengths: Today's readers will be very familiar with this format, and trying to read a story about people they don't know might be an interesting exercise in determining how much is NOT conveyed through text messages! It is kind of amazing hoe much of the characters' personalities is conveyed in very few words, and I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.
Weaknesses: The use of e mail by the students already seemed dated, and since I have a dumb phone, this was VERY difficult for me to read! I really enjoyed the characters and the storyline, so I wish this had been a traditional story so it could have been fleshed out more. I hope this doesn't become a series. One is quite enough.
What I really think: If I buy this, it will be because I love this author and because I think this book will be a historic artifact very soon, kind of like the books I have about computer dating or VCRs that enable children to travel through time.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Battle with the Britons: Julius Zebra #2

34928690Northfield, Gary. Battle with the Britons: Julius Zebra #2
January 2nd 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from

Julius and his companions are back after Rumble with the Romans, since Hadrian has not given them their freedom as promised after their last battle in the Colosseum. Julius and his friends the crocodile, warthog, lion, mouse and giraffe are sent to Britain to spread the news that Hadrian is a great guy. Not surprisingly, when they arrive, the reception is not great AND the animals they have to face in battle are much better than they are. Julius assesses the situation and comes up with a great idea to save the day, and possibly his friends as well. The book ends on a cliff hanger, but we will have to wait until Entangled with the Egyptians comes out in the US.
Strengths: This is a goofy notebook novel with pop eyed animals fighting with swords, and there are enough immature jokes to keep younger readers guffawing. For older readers, there is a bit of Roman history. This is akin to a historical Stick Dog book, although Julius is not quite bright enough to be as philosophical as Stick Dog.
Weaknesses: I'm never quite sure how accurate the history is, in the same way that I'm always a bit confused by Lucy and Andy Neanderthal. Oldfield apparently worked on some of the Horrible Histories, so I'll assume that the details are correct. Will 12 year olds care? Most likely not.
What I really think: Definitely have to purchase this one, as the first has been popular and at least gives students a small taste of Ancient Rome!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 05, 2018

A Variety of Stuff

Apparently, I have lost my magical power over the universe. Usually, if the weather looks suspect, if I walk to school and get completely ready for the day, school will be canceled. I think it's putting on the lipstick that is the magic moment. It was about as cold as it is possible to get without school being canceled (-13, while -15 is the number at which they don't want children out), but I was fine-- I had four layers on my legs. The newspaper deliverer was skidding a bit on the roads, but it was early.

With only three days, the week has been hugely busy. Half the 7th graders needed books set between 1950 and 1973, the other half needed nonfiction, and today all 230 8th graders need a Holocaust fiction AND nonfiction book. That will be a challenge!

New books arrived, but they still need a lot of processing, which my volunteers will tackle bit by bit. Last night, I read 8 Food Dude type nonfiction books (I only put half on Goodreads!), Santopolo's Glam Opening (Sparkel Spa #10), LaReau's The Infamous Ratso, Rissi's Anna, Banana, and the Little Lost Kitten (#5), Surovec's My Pet Human Takes Center Stage (#2), and Meyerhoff's Starry Skies ad Fireflies (The Friendship Garden #5).

This order has a LOT of early chapter books and easy readers, since I have a vast number of struggling 6th graders.

I finally got to the point with two of my 8th graders where they had read every fantasy book I had. Even Chetwin's Gom on Windy Mountain. I had to break done and get a few titles that weren't exactly innovative in my mind. They won't be huge circulators, but will do okay. Things like The Evil Wizard Smallbone-- still medievalish quests with some magic. Sigh. I want more like The Gauntlet with something other than Celtic or (in the case below) vaguely Germanic settings. That said, I'm going to have about four readers fighting for this series! And you know what I'm reading THIS weekend.

Stay warm!

15818254Blackwood, Sage. Jinx.     
Published January 8th 2013 by HarperCollins   
Library copy

Jinx is living with stepparents in a clearing near the treacherous forest of Urwald. To step off the path there is to invite death, so when his stepfather takes him into the woods and has him sit off the path and wait, Jinx knows this is not a good thing. Luckily, the wizard Simon happens upon them, and when trolls come out of the woods, he cloaks himself and Jinx so they are not carried off. His stepfather is not so lucky. Grudgingly, Simon takes the boy home and puts him to work cleaning and helping out. Dame Glammer, a witch with whom Simon deals, thinks the best course of action is just to EAT the boy. Jinx is not entirely sure if she is kidding or not. Simon's wife, Sophie, is not always around, since she teaches somewhere vague and unspecified, and never arrives at the house by the front door.  When Simon performs a spell on Jinx that robs him of the ability to see the color of people's thoughts, Jinx suspects that Simon is evil and takes off through the forest to visit Dame Glammer to ask her some questions. On his way, he meets Reven, who has an unspecified curse on him, and Elfwyn, who does as well. Dame Glammer is Elfwyn's grandmother, and the witch suggests that they travel to the Bonemaster to ask him about the curses and Simon. The Bonemaster seems nice, but he is highly suspect, and in the end Jinx is put into a terrible situation. How will the three children survive, and will their questions be answered?
Strengths: I appreciated that this had a Germanic/Grimm Fairy Tale feel to it rather than a Celtic?King Arthur one, and I think that fans of Delaney's The Last Apprentice might enjoy the interplay between good and evil in this one. Jinx is an appealing character, and even Simon has his moments, especially with his fun home and his love of cooking. I can see why fantasy fans like this series.
Weaknesses: This brought to mind a dozen other similar books (Prineas' The Magic Thief especially), so I would quibble with the dust jacket blurb that says this is "innovative".
What I really think: Don't regret purchasing. It will get steady use and last for a long time.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Flower Moon

32050239Linko, Gina. Flower Moon
January 2nd 2018 by Sky Pony Press
ARC provided by the publisher

Identical Twins Tempest and Tally Jo are approaching their 13th birthday, but are increasingly at odds with each other. Tempest is a bit socially awkward and loves showing off her science experiments at school, which embarrasses Tally, who also misses the fact that the two used to always hang out together. Their parents decide to send them off to their grandfather's carnival for the summer, so the two end up in Georgia with Pa Charlie. While there, Tally starts to realize that the twins in her family seem to be doomed to spend their lives apart from each other, the way that their grandmother and her twin would only mail craft projects back and forth, and their mother and Aunt Grania have not been together since they were 18. Tally can feel that things are different, and that forces are literally forcing her and her beloved sister apart. Can she work with the people in the carnival who know and love her and try to figure out a solution before the convergence of the Flower Moon and their 13th birthday splits the twins apart forever?
Strengths: This has a lot of good sister drama with a background of magical realism that will be appreciated by fans of Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinary, Law's Savvy, and Downing's Moon Shadow. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there is an undercurrent of time sensitive mystery that makes this hard to put down.
Weaknesses: I'm never a huge fan of quirky Southern characters, and when the carnival was added, this got too creepy for me. It's not a creepy book, but it made me feel creeped out.
What I really think: My readers don't care much for Lloyd and Law; I may purchase this if there's enough money at the end of the year. It was well written and an interesting debut, but I'm just not sure if it will find readers in my library.
Ms. Yingling