Monday, August 20, 2012

Middle Grade Monday

Kimmel, Eric A. Hiss-s-s-s
1 August 2012, Holiday House (ARC)
Reviewed at Young Adults Books Central.

Omar would very much like a snake. He has read all sorts of information about them and knows just how to take care of one, from feeding to the habitat the snake will need. The only problem-- his mother is very afraid of snakes and she doesn't want one in the house. Omar's father is okay with the idea, as long as Omar will be responsible for the snake. Omar is. He finds a friend of a friend who parts with all the equipment that he needs for $5. He finds a reputable snake breeder and educates himself on what to look for in a healthy snake. He has a little trouble with food sources, and that becomes a moment of contention when he first brings Arrow home. If his mom freaks out about him thawing out a frozen baby mouse in a drinking glass, how will she react when she finds out that Arrow has gotten out of his habitat and is loose in the house. As it happens, not well, but after a family emergency precipitated by Arrow's wanderings, Omar's mother realizes that Arrow is safe and it is her own fears that she needs to conquer.
Strengths: Excellent way to incorporate a multicultural character without having the book be about the multiculturalism. Omar's father is from Pakistan and his mother is from Lebanaon. Details from their cultures add interesting dimension to a simple story about a boy wanting a pet.
Weaknesses: I have a paper ARC, and the print is very tiny and the cover is not especially appealing. I am hoping, since I can't find an image of the cover online anywhere, that perhaps a better cover is in the works. I am not sure how appealing this title will be to middle schoolers, who have usually moved beyond the desperate need for pets, but certainly a lot of third graders would use this to try to convince their parents to let them get a snake!

The Second SpyWest, Jacqueline. The Books of Elsewhere: The Second Spy
5 July 2012, Dial
Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central

Olive is still VERY wary of her house, and concerned that the evil Annabel will return. She has a system of keeping the house safe from the McMartin influence with the help of her cats, and Morton helps from inside the pictures, but she is still stressed, especially since she also is starting junior high and finds out that her one friend, Rutherford, may be moving to Europe. When a huge hole appears in the back year, and the secret recipes for the paint that allows the pictures to come to life surface, Olive springs in to action to find out who is plotting to get into the house. Rutherford's grandmother has a protective spell on the house, but someone has gotten inside. The only person invited into her house was... her new art teacher. Is she working with Annabel? Will Morton ever be happy in Elsewhere? Are the cats turning against her? Can Olive survive middle school?
Strengths: This is a fantastic magical realism book, and I checked out both copies of The Shadows on the first day of school to 6th graders who seem to be enjoying it. The cover and interior art are good, and the story moves along at a nice clip. Great stuff.
Weaknesses: Think this is not the last book. I don't have as much patience with series of more than three books, so I was kind of hoping that Olive's story would wrap up and we'd see something new from Ms. West. I was kind of hoping that Rutherford would go to a fancy school in Europe and have adventures there!

It's Monday, so visit Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading at Teach Mentor Texts.

And.... hop over to the Cybils web site, where you will see that the 2012 Middle Grade Fiction organizer is Karen, who is.... ME!

Stressing out a little right now, but once I get all of the paperwork done, I'm sure it will be a fabulous experience! You have got to adore an organization that has an Overlord instead of an organizer or something else.


  1. You are the MG fiction organizer this year? That is so cool. I was on the MG fiction team last year:)

  2. Congratulations on your promortion to Organizer! Good for you!

  3. I love the MG fiction group. I agree about how bad some of the covers on new books are. Publishers should have focus groups filled with kids.

  4. I wonder if Hiss-s-s- would make a nice pairing with Candace Fleming's Lowji Discovers America, about a boy who moves to the US from India and wants to get a pet. I'll have to check this one out.

    Congratulations on your promotion. Hooray!

  5. The Cybils work sounds like fun, but fills your life too, right? Thanks for the update on the MG novels. I'm trying to learn more as I mostly know YA & picture books/poetry. Best for the 'organizer'!

  6. Hisss sounds interesting and I like that it has a multicultural aspect to it.

    I have only read the first book in the Books of Elsewhere series. I look forward to reading the rest! Luckily, I don't mind if there are many books in a series- as long as they are each well written and interesting. :)


  7. Congrats on being named Overlord... I mean organizer.

  8. I haven't read any of the Elsewhere books and neither has my daughter, but when she enjoys something...she loves a series, so we'll be checking into those.

    And Hooray! for you and Cybils! Thanks for taking that on.

  9. Great news about Cybils, thanks for taking on that big task! MG will be in great hands. Both your picks this week sound interesting!

    Lorna (@notforlunch)

  10. You are awesome! You are perfect for the MG organizer. Congratulations. I still need to post my reviews of the books. I need an extra hour in my day. So happy for you.

  11. Congrats on being an organizer. That's very cool! I am not familiar with either of the books that you talked about but they look interesting! Thanks!