Monday, March 14, 2016

MMGM- Far From Fair

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.

25897886Arnold, Elana K. Far From Fair
March 8th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Odette is NOT happy with her parents. They have decided, without consulting her, to sell their house and most of their belongings, but a camper, and drive from their home in Southern California to her grandmother's house on Orcas Island because her grandmother is ailing. Odette is very sad to leave her best friend, Meiko, and is very annoyed at everything. Her parents' marriage is rocky, her father has lost his job, and her brother Rex is on the Autism spectrum and is prone to "furies". To put a cherry on top of her misery sundae, Odette's father has brought her a small, Terrier mix dog instead of a black lab, the family gets rid of all cell phones but one, and even though her parents can have a full size coffee maker in the camper, Odette can only bring one throw pillow. When they finally arrives in Washington state, they find that Grandma Sissy is not doing well at all, and the family must figure out a way forward. 

While this has many sad things in it, the book is overall a hopeful one, and Odette's reactions to her family's decisions will seem familiar and realistic to middle grade readers. Grandma Sissy especially understands the feeling of helplessness that is bothering Odette, and gives her good advice about many things. Readers should know that the grandmother, who is suffering from terminal cancer, does decide to take medicine to end her life, but this is handled in a sympathetic and nonjudgmental way. 

Like Applegate's Crenshaw, Far From Fair addresses economic instability in a fashion that will make middle grade readers see how a family could fall on hard times, and will hopefully make them more empathetic no matter what their own family situation is. The same is true of the treatment of Rex's behaviors. What makes this book work is that all of the situations are framed by how they affect Odette, and these situations do not stop her from having the same concerns, angers and every day experiences that all middle graders have. One particularly telling scene has her upset because her mother has dropped the family phone into the water; she doesn't think she has any right to be upset because of her grandmother's situation, but her mother acknowledges that it's still okay to be upset about small things. 

From the yard sale that starts the book, to the camping out across the Pacific coast, to the eventual stop on Orcas Island with all of its difficulties, Far From Fair is a page turning look at how one girl deals with a variety of challenges in her life and manages to find a way to meet them with good humor and hope. 

You know how much I detest sad books, especially ones with death. I was really surprised by how much I liked this one!

25716691Noyes, Deborah. Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly.
February 23rd 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

This book encompasses much more than just Bly's stint in a New York insane asylum, starting from her idyllic childhood, moving through her mother's troubled second marriage and its deleterious effect on her life, and covering her rocky reporting career up to the time of her death. This is certainly well-researched, and also has a pleasing format, with lots of period photographs, some decorative illustrations, and a nice use of blue pages for auxiliary information. Noyes writes well, and this moves quickly. 

The way the information was laid out was a bit confusing, however. Instead of following Bly's life linearly, we start with her attempts to get hired in New York, then get pulled back to her childhood on the blue pages. I wish that this had been laid out in a chronological fashion, and that the blue pages had been used solely to elaborate upon information tangential to Bly's life. 

Will still purchase, because it will be good for history day projects, and is fairly readable. I get a handful of students every year who are willing to read literary nonfiction, although no one has made it through The Family Romanov this year. 


  1. Sad is okay as long as it includes a dose of heavy optimism. Slog those characters through the mud but provide an upbeat future. I'll be reading both of these but it may be awhile with my TBR stack tipping over.

  2. Anonymous9:40 PM EDT

    Thanks for featuring Ten Days a Madwoman. My schools have a revamped curriculum which means more and more teachers are looking for literary nonfiction that will interest students.

  3. Ten Days a Madwoman looks so good! I'd love to read more about Bly. I am going to definitely nab this one from my library. Thank you!

  4. These both sound terrific. I will be checking them out. Thanks for the post.