Monday, January 21, 2013

Middle Grade/Nonfiction Monday

Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War IBausum, Ann. Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War I
9 November 2010, National Geographic Society

Since my heritage is 80% German, and I lived for a long time in Cincinnati, Ohio, I knew a little bit about the treatment of Germans during WWI, but not nearly enough. This was an absolutely fascinating look into a little mentioned topic! At a time when a quarter of the population had German roots, the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U Boat had horrible ramifications. You may have heard how streets with German names were renamed, and dachshunds were called "liberty dogs" for a while, but I had no idea that right here in Columbus, dachshunds were killed!  Authorities looked the other way when German owned businesses were seized, and, most importantly, civil liberties were impinged upon in the same way that they were after the 9/11 bombings. The author does a good job at making WWI relevant to students today by comparing events to 9/11, and there are some nice after notes about war time presidents that are very helpful. Period photographs, drawings and propaganda add much to this book.

Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities Jung, Mike. Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities.
1 October 2012, Arthur A Levine

Vincent Wu is one of three members of the Captain Stupendous Fan Club-- not the "official" one, but the one he and his friends Max and George think is most important. Because of Captain Stupendous, Copperplate City has been a relatively safe place, but Professor Mayhem is on the loose with a giant robot. Captain Stupendous doesn't seem to be on his game in working against this threat of evil, and Vincent soon finds out why-- the first Captain has been replaced by a girl from his school and the object of his affection, Polly. Polly doesn't want to be a superhero, but doesn't have a choice, especially when Vincent's mom, the district superintendent is taken hostage by the evil professor and the entire town is in jeopardy. Can the Fan Club help Polly polish her powers, defeat the professor, and come to terms with her new skills?
Strengths: I am glad this made the Cybils short list-- it was awesome. Everything that my students are looking for in a book, AND here is a video clip of Mike Jung playing the ukelele over at The Book Nut! I love it when books show very clear attempts to figure out what kids WANT TO READ!!! Super heroes are a huge thing now, and this had so much more. A great romance, strong female protagonist, faithful sidekicks, compelling use for Vincent's encyclopedic geek trivia. There are even characters who are incidentally of Asian descent and appear on the cover. Bonus! If this were not enough, the writing was excellent. Even with no explanation for the existence of Captain Stupendous, I was sucked right into the book, and marvelous turns of phrase abound. Isn't Mock Apple Pie a GREAT rock band name?
Weaknesses: Professor Mayhem's motivation seemed weak to me, not that it really mattered. I want to go learn to play the ukelele. Or the banjo, whichever students would find most annoying!

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 LibrariYAN


  1. So glad you liked Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities! We thought it added lots to our Cybils shortlist.

  2. I am going to look for Unraveling Freedom. It sounds like a book i would like. I'm especially curious to see how the 911 comparison is handled.

  3. Thanks for your great reviews. Pinning it! I'm collecting non-fiction books now that there is more emphasis on them for Common Core.

  4. Yay for Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities! I agree with everything you said, too. :-) (Oh, and thanks for the link!)

  5. I want to read both of these now! Thanks for sharing. Great covers. :)

  6. Two great reviews. Thanks.

  7. Anonymous2:24 PM EST

    Have you not reviewed Moonbird for Nonfiction Monday? I searched it but nothing came up. I am halfway through and it is fantastic. Layout leaves a little to be desired, but it's fascinating stuff. Am worried about the outcome, though...Anyway, I think you'd enjoy it. I get to go to the awards ceremony next week and am thinking it will be announced. Everyone's loving on Bomb, but I couldn't get into that one. Perhaps it was that my husband had just had me sit through a documentary on the same topic the night before??

  8. Wonderful reviews. Thanks for posting!