Monday, January 14, 2013

Middle Grade Monday-- 33 Minutes

33 MinutesHasak-Lowy, Todd. 33 Minutes Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt
1 January 2013, Aladdin

Sam is really smart and into video games, and was good friends with Morgan until a while ago. Now, for reasons Sam doesn't quite understand, Morgan is going to fight him at the end of recess. Thinking about their long relationship, Sam tries to figure out why things have gone wrong. Luckily for Sam, there is a huge food fight during lunch right before he's supposed to get his clock cleaned, and THEN someone sets off the fire alarm, which could save him from Morgan, but the teachers are not watching closely enough and the fight does occur. Sam also gets to talk to Morgan a little about why Morgan feels compelled to beat him up, and after his afternoon of thinking about the events leading up to his pummeling, Sam realizes that while he was partially in the wrong, he and Morgan will never be able to be friends again because they have become very different people.
Strengths: Any notebook novel is popular in my school, and I did like that this addressed the number one concern of middle school-- losing long time friends. Happens to 99.9% of my students, and is always utterly painful. Interesting how the book takes place during just one afternoon, although flashbacks go back further.
Weaknesses: I didn't like Sam. He was arrogant and not particularly nice to Morgan. This was also one of those books that seem unrealistic to me because things like the food fight and the fight during the fire drill would not happen at my school. I could create a whole list of books that I didn't quite connect with that my students adore, though, so it's just an occupational hazard of never actually having been a 12-year-old boy.

Mars Family: M&M Mars Candy MakersMattern, Joanne. The Mars Family: M&M Mars Candy Makers
1 January 2011, Capstone (Food Dudes series)

I rarely buy an entire series at one go, especially when the books are nonfiction ones that run $19 a pop. I bought the entire Food Dudes series by Abdo and Daughters, however. Every language arts teacher in my school is assigning nonfiction projects, and this series is fascinating. What student does not want to read about Gatorade, McDonald's, Kellogg's or Hershey's or Mars' chocolate? These are a bit short (32 pages), but full of interesting facts. I'm sure that once the Common Core is rolled out, these will be considered "too low" in regard to the Lexile level, but I still think that these books are an excellent way for a child who "doesn't like to read" to spend a study hall.

Money through History McManus, Lori. Money Through History
1 July 2011, Heinemann Educational Books

This short (45 pages) book is an overview of money through history and throughout the world. It starts with trade and bartering, goes through the introduction of coins and banknotes, and continues on with a discussion of different currencies and money systems used today.
Strengths: Interesting nonfiction, and it has an Accelerated Reader test.
Weaknesses:  Not what I needed. I was hoping that there would be more on certain areas, but there are barely two pages on all of ancient Rome and Greece. The inclusion of "Solve It!" sidebars was a bit odd.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader. It's also Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at 101 Scope Notes.

If you need more memes, remember that there will be a World Wednesday Mr. Linky and a Guy Friday one later this week, so check back and join the party!


  1. Thanks for sharing these. Sad that so many middle schoolers lose their best friends, but you're probably right.

    The Mars book looks like a great nonfiction book for kids. I bet it'll be popular.

  2. Anonymous7:26 AM EST

    Great Nonfiction books! I like the cover of 33 Minutes. It sounds cool that it takes place in one afternoon. I have a question - How do you subscribe to your blog to get emails?

  3. The coin picture of Money Through History looks great, too bad about the lack of info on Rome and Greece, which had lots of different cool money.

  4. Thanks for the nonfiction recommendations! It's difficult to find interesting nonfiction students want to read.

  5. Anonymous1:59 PM EST

    33 minutes sounds like a neat read. I like non-fiction, too. Thanks for the reviews.

  6. Too bad that you didn't like the main character in 33 Minutes because it sounds like a funny book. And yes, novels in notebook form are always popular.

    I don't read as much nonfiction as I should. But I agree that a book about candy or fast food will appeal to kids.

  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog and recommending Irish authors. I really need to look for more books for that challenge.
    I'm interested in the Mars Family book.

    Rivie @ Bookshelf

  8. The Food Dudes series sounds fabulous. I bet a lot of my 5th grade students would love these. Thanks for sharing!