Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Crenshaw, Switch, and Heroes of the Dustbin

23310699Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw.
September 22nd 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Jackson and Robin's parents are struggling to make ends meet. They are both artistic, and have tried to take whatever jobs they can to earn money, but Jackson's father has multiple sclerosis, and this makes matters even more difficult. When the family is behind on rent and low on food, they decide to hold a yard sale to try to make up the difference. About this time, Jackson is revisited by Crenshaw, a giant yet invisible talking cat who last appeared when he was younger and the family spent an extended time living in their van. Jackson is confused as to why Crenshaw reappears, but takes some small comfort in him; if the family loses their apartment, he'll have to change schools and move away from his friend Marisol, with whom he runs a dog walking business. Things do get worse, but eventually, Jackson's parents ask for and receive enough help to keep the family fed and housed for the immediate future.
Strengths: This is an important and timely story, and the details of Jackson's family difficulties are very well done. The parents' situation is well explained, and they do try to take care of matters themselves, but just can't get a break. These are important details for students who may not understand how a family could become homeless. Jackson's irritation with his parents and his feelings of impotence are key for students who may have struggled with similar circumstances. This is probably one of the better books I have read about a family facing homelessness.
Weaknesses: The invisible talking cat friend did not work for me. I had had my doubts about Ivan as well, and Applegate certainly pulled that off successfully, but in this case, I think that Crenshaw detracted from the seriousness of the book in an odd way, and his inclusion will make it less likely that students who might be interested in a realistic story on this topic will pick the book up.
What I really think: Yes, this is brilliant and lovely. No contest there. However, if this is to be successful in my particular library, it will require a LOT of hand selling. That giant cat on the cover is going to turn a lot of readers away, and the readers who want to read about imaginary cat friends will probably not want such a sad story. I know a lot of people really like this, but it might be one of those "teacher" books rather than a "student" one.

17376583Law, Ingrid. Switch. (Savvy #3)
September 15th 2015, Dial Books
Copy received from the publisher

Gypsy is constantly getting in trouble for things like dancing, and for causing trouble in the grocery store. Her best friend won't have anything to do with her because she is embarrassing, but Gypsy has bigger problems. Her grandma Patrice is suffering from Alzheimers, and the Beaumonts are going to travel to Denver to bring her back to live with them. The family is in turmoil with their different talents, too. Gypsy is plagued more and more with visions of the future, including one of Grandma. Tucker can make himself a giant if he is angry enough, and older brother Samson can produce flames without getting burnt. The mother is no longer organized, and when she has an accident, the children are on their own to get Grandma back home, and this leads to quite the adventure in Denver with Nola, their grandmother's neighbor.
Strengths: The scenes in Denver were kind of fun, and there was a nice feeling of winter about this. There are all manner of quirky things that happen to the children, who are out in Nola's mother's SUV without adult supervision. They go to a tiki waffle place, stop time, meet a boy in Denver, Del, who shares some qualities with Gypsy, and generally get into trouble while trying to save Grandma Patrice from herself.
Weaknesses: Not sure how I felt about the portrayal of Patrice's Alzheimers. Seems literarily cliche, but not like the experience of anyone I've known with the disease. Patrice wanders off in her nightgown, mistakes Gypsy for an old friend, but is fairly adventurous and unstoppable.
What I really think: Felt pretty much the same way about this as I did about Savvy. Just not my thing. Ended up getting the first two because Savvy was a Battle of the Books title.

25205325Whitesides, Tyler. Heroes of the Dustbin.
September 8th 2015 by Shadow Mountain
E ARC from Edelweiss

Fifth and final book in fantasy series + First week of school= Zero comprehension!

I have students who are very eager to read this, but we'll go with the Goodreads description on this one. Very frenetic; students will love.

"Although their enemies are powerful, their allies few, Spencer and his team of Rebels are not giving up! But what chance do a handful of kids and one rescued janitor have against the combined evil of the Founding Witches and the Sweepers? Can the Rebels close the source of all Glop and stop the Toxites once and for all—or is the world doomed to fall under the control of the sinister Bureau of Educational Maintenance? This explosive series finale is a gripping ride through conflicted loyalties and daring escapes, unexpected alliances and betrayals, and an ending you'll never forget!"

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