Monday, March 17, 2014

MMGM- The Blood Guard

18706036Roy, Carter. The Blood Guard
March 4th 2014 by Two Lions
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Evelyn Ronan Truelove (don't call him Evelyn) has a quirky mother who has insisted he learn all sorts of useless skills like fencing and gymnastics,but he's still surprised when she picks him up from school and takes off in their van at breakneck speeding, telling him that his father has been kidnapped and she has to get Ronan to safety. She is also, by the way, a member of something called the Blood Guard, who are trying to protect 36 "pure souls" from an organization called the Bend Sinister that is trying to suck their souls out and cause the world as we know it to end. Alrighty, then! She drops him off at the train station with a backpack and instructions, but strange people start chasing him. When he finally gets away, he's in the company of Dawkins, who is also a member of the Guard, but also Greta, a girl who used to go to his school and whose father is in the FBI. The three take off to Roanoke, but the strange people keep after them. Dawkins gets killed, and Greta and Ronan end up hitching a ride with a boy their age, Sammy, and his pleasant guardians. Who turn out, of course, to be in thrall to the Bend Sinister. More chasing occurs, and the group eventually makes it to Greta's father, who is ALSO a member of the Guard. From there, lots of secrets are revealed, setting up a lot of issues to be confronted in book two of this trilogy.
Strengths: This book is a perfect example of how important engaging characters and well-paced action are. I was sucked in after the first two pages, because Ronan made me chuckle, and I wanted to know what would happen next. Mr. Roy has clearly been paying attention when he has "edited hundreds of books for major publishers". The intricacies of the Blood Guard are explained in between all of the action scenes, I liked all of the good characters tremendously, to the point where I actually looked at the back of the book to see if Dawkins came back from the dead because I was crushed that he was, well, crushed. Very funny writing, too. My new phrase is "super corn nuts crazypants".
Weaknesses: This deserves a MUCH better cover. I was expecting to see more character development for Ronan, because he deserves it. We know who his mother has made him, but who is he really? There is a problem with his mother and father, and I'm curious to see which side he ends up on in this instance. I'm not one to ask for character development OR more plot, but this also seemed to sacrifice plot development to car chases as well. I'm hoping that the next two books will address both of these issues, and students will read avidly after this book has sucked them right in!

Sheinkin, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights 
January 21st 2014 by Roaring Brook Press 

Sheinkin has a good eye for picking interesting topics for nonfiction, and his research is tireless. The primary source documents and photos bring this story of segregation and prejudice during World War II a startling immediacy. Background information about the role of black soldiers in conflicts before and after WWII puts this in perspective, as do the late life updates about some of the individuals involved. That said, this struck me (as much of Sheinkin's work does) as almost too complete for middle schools. There is so much information about the intricacies of the trial and the back and forth of details that I got a bit weary of it. I love to get my students interested in nonfiction, and I have one boy in particular who loves to read about Civil Rights issues, but I don't see him getting through this entire book. I will buy it anyway, because it is a good addition to my collection, but I am afraid it will be used more for research than for pleasure reading. High school students probably would understand this better and be able to read the entire book.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.


  1. I have become such a huge Steve Sheinkin fan. I loved his book about Benedict Arnold and everything else of his that I have read. I going to have to find a copy to read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for your review on Port Chicago. I've heard a lot about the book and a lot of buzz, but haven't seen any reviews yet. I agree, Sheinkin does an amazing job with his writing and research, but sometimes there is almost too much for younger readers to shift through.
    Have a great reading week!

  3. Anonymous3:09 PM EDT

    I, too, agree about his work. Love it, but it's a little too much for most middle schoolers.

  4. Thanks for the thorough review of The Blood Guard, and I will look for the Sheinkin book, always good. He's covering a variety of topics, too, which is nice for anyone who enjoys history, but not every era.

  5. I have the Sheinkin book checked out from the library right now and have been looking forward to reading it. I have really enjoyed his earlier books. I like to dig into the details, but not all students go for that.

  6. There are so many books about war! The Steve Sheinkin title looks like one I'd most likely enjoy. Will be on the lookout for this one, especially when we have our War and Poetry reading theme.