Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bittersweet-- Middle Grade Monday

Smith, Ann Warren. Bittersweet Summer.
Katie and her father and brother are still coming to terms with the fact that her mother is on the road as a country music star, but they hold out faint hopes that maybe she will return. Fourth grade has just ended for Katie, and she is going to miss her teacher, Ms. Morgan, very much. Her friend Claire has a plan-- to get Ms. Morgan to marry her widowed father. Katie thinks that if Ms. Morgan marries anyone, it should be her father! Both families hang out a bit with Ms. Morgan, and they all go to see Katie's mother's concert. Katie's father might have to move the family to Portland for his job, so everything is in chaos. Can Katie make her summer vacation turn out the way she wants it to?
Strengths: Like The Turkey Monster Thanksgiving, this is a sweet tale that I would have adored in the third or fourth grade. The cover art is great, and there is a second book in the series, Tails of Spring Break, that I missed. I would certainly get this series for an elementary school library.
Weaknesses: Still think this series is too young for middle school students. Sigh.

Ockler, Sarah. Bittersweet.
Hudson Avery was a fantastic skater, but when her father has an affair and leaves the family in New York to move to Las Vegas with a female Elvis impersonator, she decides to give it up. It takes all of her time and energy to help her mother run Hurley's Diner, babysit her brother, and keep up with her schoolwork. When she gets a letter about a possible skating scholarship, she thinks about taking up the sport again, especially when she meets hot hockey captain Josh and he wants her to help the hockey team with their techniques. It's hard to fit this in, since the diner is struggling even more and Hudson has to waitress in addition to making fantastic cupcakes for the finer. There are more and more complications as well-- another hockey player, Will, likes Hudson as well, there are issues with a former best friend, school continues to be demanding, and there are unresolved issues with her father leaving. Will Hudson manage to hold everything together, and maybe have a chance at the skating scholarship?
Strengths: This somehow reminded me of Mandelski's The Sweetest Thing-- cooking, involved but somewhat dysfunctional family, young adult but appropriate for voracious middle school romance readers. The cover is really pretty, and it is a satisfyingly complex and hefty read. Hudson is a strong character who stands up to the obnoxious hockey boys!
Weaknesses: Hudson doesn't always make the best choices, but that is realistic. I could have done without some of the details of the father's affair, but it's not that bad.

Middle Grade Monday is a feature on Shannon Whitney Messenger's Blog. For a list of great middle grade reviews, visit there today!


  1. Thanks for the recommendations. I hadn't heard of either of these.

  2. The cover of Sarah Ockler's book is really appealing to me, although the idea of the female Elvis impersonator makes me tired.

    I love that you grouped these two bittersweet books together!

  3. Both sound like books I'd love to read. Thanks for posting about them.

  4. Thanks for your reviews - I just signed up to get Bittersweet from the public library!

  5. Your reviews are always so to-the-point! I haven't seen either of these books in the bookstore but they both sound worth reading.

  6. Anonymous5:31 PM EDT

    Thanks for these! Bittersweet Summer sounds especially good for my elementary school library--I'll have to give that one a look.

  7. Anonymous11:58 AM EDT

    Bittersweet sounds like it might be a nice companion to Close to Famous which I'm reading now. Also to Lisa Schroeder's cupcakes series.