Monday, September 19, 2016

MMGM- Insert Coin to Continue

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.

I really cannot state strongly enough how much I adored this book! Great, great stuff!

28954110Anderson, John David. Insert Coin to Continue
September 20th 2016 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Bryan and his friend Oz have a boringly normal life are a little obsessed with the Sovereign of Darkness video game. When Bryan apparently uncovers a secret level of the game, however, his life seems to BECOME a video game. Flashing blue lights in the air ask him to "insert coin to continue" and award or take away points based on his actions. He's followed to school by a pack of ninja bicyclists who try to get him, the white board in his math class becomes a game he must defeat, and dodge ball in gym becomes the most hysterically painful game in the history of poor phys ed curriculum choices! Even his teachers seem in on it, especially when Mr. Tennebaum assigns a detention and sends Bryan to retrieve the cake of gold from the glass case in the "sanctuary where the elders gather in repose" and dieting teachers attack Bryan for a Twinkie! Even though Bryan feels compelled to keep playing, he has to contend with his real life as well. School muscle head Tank things that Bryan has made disparaging remarks about his mother and challenges him to meet after school, and his long-time crush Jess seems oddly interested in him. Oz, as well as friend Myra, are there to help him out, but how Bryan needs to figure out how to get to "Game Over" by himself. 

Master of Middle Grade Anderson returns to his action and adventure roots with a superlative fantasy novel that includes everything my students love best-- laugh-out-loud scenes with evil teachers and improbably circumstances, fascinating characters you wish would sit at your lunch table, a little light romance, and VIDEO GAMES. The current trend toward incorporating games into novels definitely has my approval, since it's a surefire way to get even the most reluctant reader to give a book a try. 

I loved the fact that most of the book took place during one school day. While some of Bryan's classes were more interesting than others (the jam session in band being more exciting than reading Romeo and Juliet in language arts), the spin put on every day activities showed a deep understanding of how a middle school day works as well as how students feel about what goes on around them. 

The characters were also well-developed and multi-faceted. I was particularly fond of Myra, who was snarky but very astute. Oz was an excellent foil, and embodied the well-meaning squirreliness of middle school boys. Jess was a bit of a mystery to us and to Bryan, and the back story of the two's relationship made the ending of the book completely satisfying. 

Middle grade readers will enjoy Anderson's other titles, and there are so many other video game books out this fall that readers who enjoy playing games will be glad to add this title to the growing list, which includes Korman's Slacker, Brown's Josh Baxter Levels Up, Markell's Click Here to Start, and Schreiber's Game Over, Pete Watson. Anyone else who wonders what really goes on in the custodian's lair or the principal's office will find Insert Coin to Continue a brilliantly amusing tale of how to survive the game of middle school. 

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild WestFleming, Candace. Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West
September 20th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

The best thing about this book is that Ms. Fleming acknowledges right from the beginning that Buffalo Bill's treatment of Native Americans, as well the language used for and treatment of Native Americans during his life, is problematic. She also mentions that while the entire concept of the Wild West is also problematic, it was very important to many US citizens and persists in our culture. 

As all of Fleming's books are, this is very well researched and written. Since Cody published autobiographical information about himself, Fleming is able to look at primary source documents and compare them with others to try to figure out what is truth and what is lies. From the perspective of someone who loves history, this was fascinating. She doesn't gloss over the bad things that Cody did, either, and there is a lot of very good information about Native Americans who were involved in the show.

However, this is a LONG nonfiction book. At 288 pages or so, it will be a stretch to get students to read this, especially since there is zero interest in the Wild West these days. I'll probably buy it, since it will be good for History Day projects, and may be I can get readers who enjoy Gemeinhart's Some Kind of Courage to read this. 

This was very interesting to me, since over the summer I decided that my official fandom as a tween was Little House on the Prairie, but I'm no longer really allowed to claim it (even though I thought about traveling to Rocky Ridge Farm in the future) because of the political incorrectness of the books. 

Baby Boomers and older generations had movies, television programs, books and all manner of entertainment,  that involved cowboys and Indians. There were also a lot of games that young children played in the yard (back when children were allowed to play in the yard) that involved this theme. Yes, this is problematic, but we can't just ignore it. 

I hope that we are able to see more books that cover Western Expansion but in a way that we can share with impressionable youth. This book is a good start. 


  1. Candace's books are always well-written because she is so thorough and pasionate. I love her books. So glad to hear about her new one. Thanks.

  2. INSERT COIN TO CONTINUE should be a big hit with the MG audience. I like the premise and the characters are ones worth getting to know.

  3. Oh they both sound good. As always I am amazed by your ability to read and properly review!

  4. We are reading Some kind of Courage right now, so the Buffalo Bill book looks enticing...even though it is long!

  5. While reading your remarks about Presenting Buffalo Bill I was reminded of my Grandmother who was Native American. She was born shortly after the civil war. My siblings and I took turns staying overnight with her when she got older. One evening (some time in the 1960's) we were watching a biography of Annie Oakley. Gramma then proceeded to tell me stories about going to see her in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Thanks for the memory Karen. I might look this book up for me.

  6. Two very different books this time but both sound good. Thanks for the information.

  7. I don't play video games, but for some reason I'm rather fascinated by books that use them in stories; maybe because they're often kind of an inverse portal fantasy—the fantasy world enters our world instead of the other way around. This one sounds like a lot of fun.

  8. Insert Coin looks like a whole lot of fun.