Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Jumbies/ Izzy Barr, Running Star.

Baptiste, Tracey. The Jumbies.
April 28th 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers 
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Corinne is happy living with her father in a house very close to the woods on an island near Haiti. She misses her mother, but sells oranges in the market and has some good friends. When the evil Severine shows up, things start getting very strange. Not only does Severine put Corinne's father under a spell, she tells Corinne that her mother was Severine's sister, which makes Corinne half Jumbie. Some Jumbie's are nice, but Severine and many of the other magical creatures claim that the isaland was theirs first, and they want it back. There is a white witch who befriends Corinne and her friends, Dru, Malik and Bouki, but if she helps them, she will also have to help the creatures on the other side of the battle. Corinne has a necklace from her mother that holds the answer to this problem, but can the people of the island accept living alongside the Jumbies and their kind?
Strengths: It's nice to see fantasy books that aren't based on British/Celtic mythology. There are so many of those already, and yet almost every fantasy book that comes out gives a nod to some sort of medieval British story line. This was decently spooky, and had lots of adventure. 
Weaknesses: It helped to read the notes on Haitian mythology in the back of the book first. Still, there was a lot of background information that I didn't have, so parts of the book were hard to understand. I think the same will be true of my students. Perhaps that is why the old fantasy tropes are used so much-- less back story to have to describe.
What I really think: I'd like to also find a book on Haitian folk tales to support this!

Personally, I get icked out when reading about swamps, mud, and humidity. Had the same problem with Wilson's Boys of Blur!

21469069Mills, Claudia. Izzy Barr, Running Star.
April 28th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

This third book in the Franklin School Friends series focuses on Izzy, who is in training for a 10K race. She really wants to beat Skipper Tipton, whose father is the coach of the fitness club. Skipper has brand new, expensive shoes, and Izzy is afraid that her shoes won't give her the edge that she needs. She is struggling with getting along with her half brother, Dustin, who is also an athlete and lives with her family on the weekends. She doesn't like to share her father with Dustin, and is rather angry. At one point, she tells her father that she doesn't want him to come to see her race because it makes her nervous, but that's just her way to not expect him. At one point, she evens donates her new shoes, but then regrets it. With a supportive teacher, parents, and even a school principal who tries to run as a good example for the students, Izzy has lots of help to figure out what she should do.
Strengths: Mills has really hit her stride with this series. I love how the books take the seemingly minor concerns of younger middle grade students and give them appropriate coverage. There are lots of good solutions and supportive friends and adults. I am considering buying the series for my lower readers. I love the variety of well-developed characters in the books.
Weaknesses: Concerned that these are, in fact, too young for my students. I know Mills has done middle grade books, but they haven't been as successful for me (e.g. Zero Tolerance).
What I really think: Great series. Just have to think about whether 6th graders would check it out.

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