Sunday, August 11, 2013

MMGM/Nonfiction Monday-- Make the Grade, Spy Camp

Make the Grade: Everything You Need to Study Better, Stress Less, and Succeed in SchoolMartin, Lesley Schwartz. Make the Grade: Everything You Need to Study Better, Stress Less and Succeed in School. 
9 July 2013, Zest Books
Copy provided by the publisher

We used to teach study skills in middle school, before standardized testing took such a stranglehold on our day. It is all too easy to forget that study skills are just that-- skills. They must be taught, practiced, and reinforced before students really have a grasp of them. When I had my 75 student study hall last year, I had to tell students that really, they had to read their text books chapters. And reread their notes. That they DID need to take in class! This book would be good to go over with children at home, since there is no time in the day for this kind of instruction in the class room, and handing it to a child in study hall probably wouldn't be that effective. Still, for parents, this would be a good resource to help teach these skills.

Spy Camp Gibbs, Stuart. Spy Camp.
2 April 2013, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Looking forward to a summer at home after his event filled year in Spy School, Ben is dismayed to find that he only gets a weekend at home, and must go to a wilderness survival camp for the summer, along with his classmates. Also dismaying is a note from SPYDER. The group eventually demands that he join them or die, and they send Murray Hill, who is supposed to be incarcerated, to encourage him. Ben's a good guy, though, and doesn't even consider it. Things quickly go south when he is at camp, but he has the help of the brilliant and talented (not to mention pretty) Erica Hale. Her father, Alex, is assigned to keep Ben safe; it's just too bad that Erica is more equipped to deal with the situation than the acclaimed spy! When the bus they are on gets highjacked by SPYDER, Ben, Erica and Alex escape into the wilderness and decide to figure out whether Murray is really in the juvenile detention center. That's just their first mistake-- SPYDER is four or five steps ahead of them at every turn, and it's clear that they are not really after Ben. The romp continues with lots of twists and turns, as well as a stint in a Civil War reenactment. The group manages to save the day... for now.
Strengths: The first book has been popular in my library-- the covers are spot on for middle school. This book had all of the action and adventure of the first, awesome twists, and was somehow more believable than the first. A touch of goofiness, a hint of romance, but really good spy details. Enjoyed this very much, especially Erica's character.
Weaknesses:  Found it slightly hard to believe that SPYDER had such a jump on Erica, and would have liked a tiny bit more of Ben's family, but this was good stuff.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. It's also Nonfiction Monday, with the Round Up this week at Prose and Kahn.


  1. Spies are always a big hit with my kids. I'll have to check this series out.

  2. Hmmm.. spy camp sounds really promising! Will have to check that out. My eleven year old daughter would begin middle school in two days. She is a bit apprehensive but more excited than anything else. I'd visit your site more often to discover more books that might be right up her alley.

  3. Anonymous6:34 AM EDT

    You're right about the cover, and the fact that it's a sequel to a popular book in our library means I'll definitely give this one a read.

    Nice to know about the light romance factor--lots of girls ask me specifically (in whispers and over-the-shoulder glances to make sure no one else is listening) for books with a romance thread, so I'll keep this one in mind for those kids, too.

    Natalie @Biblio Links

  4. I'll be keeping a look out for SPY CAMP!

  5. Nice to see some non-fiction on MMGM. The Spy Camp book looks great. Thanks for the post.

  6. My daughter loves spies. She was in a spy club at school (kid initiated) and has a sky set. I'm sure Spy Camp would be right up her alley. Thanks!

  7. I'll definitely look for spy camp & spy school-have not been aware of these. Thanks for the details!

  8. I need to read Spy Camp.

    There's a meme I saw on Pinterest. Sure it was elsewhere first. Anyway, it has this crazy little guy on it frantically screaming READ ALL THE BOOKS.

    I feel like him sometimes. Yes, I might get distracted by things like Pinterest. Or shopping for book related t-shirts online. But I always come back to the books. ;)