Monday, November 07, 2016

MMGM- The Jerrie Mock Story

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.

Pimm, Nancy Roe. The Jerrie Mock Story:The First Woman to Fly Solo around the World
March 8th 2016 by Ohio University Press

Even almost 80 years after her disappearance, students are still fascinated by Amelia Earhart. You would think that there would be much more attention paid to Jerrie Mock, the woman who managed to fly solo around the world in 1964. (Although I didn't know that Wiley Post was the first man to do so, in 1933.) This slim book covers all of the basics of Mock's historic flight, plus background about her life and the times in which she lived. I found it rather appalling that even though Mock was quite an accomplished aviator, and later went on to break several speed records, she was often referred to as a "housewife". Even an autograph from Lyndon Johnson read "To Jerrie Mock- Whose hand has rocked the cradle and girdled the globe." The bulk of the book is comprised of descriptions of her journey. It's too bad that she was racing against another woman, Joan Merriam Smith, who was trying to get around the world at the same time, because Mock had quite a good time visiting dignitaries in other countries, and being able to go to all of the exotic locations was an adventure in itself. Plentifully illustrated with photographs and copies of her passport and flight documents, this is an interesting snap shot of an accomplishment about which not enough people know!
Strengths: Ohio University Press has a couple of very interesting biographies of Ohio citizens, including Kammie on First: Baseball's Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts. Both of these titles have been Battle of the Books choices for our 6th and 7th graders. This was well written and included the most interesting parts of Mock's story, but also included just enough information about her formative years and the social mores of the times. 
Weaknesses: There was some additional information in a "Did You Know" comment at the end of chapters that sometimes was more lengthy than needed. 
What I really think: Readers who are fascinated by Earhart or women trail blazers should definitely be encouraged to pick this up. 

28502766Grabenstein, Chris.Home Sweet Motel (Welcome to Wonderland, #1) 
October 4th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher

P.T. lives with his grandfather and mother at a hotel in Florida that his grandfather opened the year before Disney came to Orlando. Despite their collection of giant statues from outdated roadside attractions, the motel has fallen on hard times financially, and unless they can pay off a balloon mortgage of $100,000, they will lose the motel. Enter Gloria, who is living in the hotel with her father while he decides if his new sportscasting job is a good fit. She is interested in business and helps P.T. put together a marketing plan to bring in more money. The hotel starts to increase its business, but when two former criminals show up looking for their 40 year old loot, P.T. sees another way that he may be able to save the motel. 
Strengths: I'm a sucker for hotel stories ever since reading No Children, No Pets (1957). This was a great, pleasant story with lots of fun anecdotes, a great grandfather character, and a super fun setting. Enjoyed tremendously. 
Weaknesses: Paper over board. Really, whom did Grabenstein irritate? Give the man a dust jacket, already! Also, the father is not in the picture, but I imagine he will resurface at some point. Interestingly, a 5th grade friend to whom I loaned this was disappointed in the lack of character development!
What I really think: Great fun. Should probably buy two copies, since they will wear out quickly. 

I'm also always looking for picture books that would be good for middle school; all too frequently, these end up being biographies. Some are more successful than others.

28411941Ford, Gilbert. The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
September 13th 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This one was cute for younger kids, and would (of course) make a great gift when packaged with an actual slinky, but for middle school, I found it lacking. I just wanted to know more of the dirt about why Richard James gave up a good company, left his wife, and went to live in Bolivia to do missionary work. The rest of the story is much link other midcentury toy invention tales. I was oddly bothered that the illustrations used a random spring instead of an actual Slinky. 

Levy, Debbie. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark.
September 20th 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Definitely purchasing this one, since it was everything I am looking for in a picture book. Nice introduction to a fascinating character that students need to know about. Lots of facts about her life AND the times in which she has lived, and there is a more informative section at the back covering additional information. This might take some hand selling, though, because of the somewhat forbidding picture on the cover, but I'm excited to get this one to older students who equate picture books with If You Give a Moose a Muffin, but who will learn a lot from reading this. 


  1. The Home Sweet Motel story is great! I got an advanced copy of it from Baker & Taylor. The Slinky story sounds really interesting too. I am going to add that one to our collection at the library hopefully soon. I did order the Ruth Bader Ginsberg book and am curious to see if checks out when we get it cataloged.

  2. Great selections to add to my growing pile of books to read. Grabenstein's newest looks especially intriguing. Thanks for you time putting this together.

  3. I love that you have 5th graders with whom you can critique character development!

  4. Good point about Jerrie Mock, guess I'd better pick this one up. And thanks so much for your review of Home Sweet Motel! (What IS it about kitschy motels?) When you find time, read the unsung Evangeline Brown and the Cadillac Motel. Thanks

  5. I already put Home Sweet Motel on hold because of your comments on the Billbrarian post. Now I want to read I Dissent. I'm going to have to wait for it though since it isn't available at any library near me.

  6. I love your throughs on I Dissent - I would love to give this one to those adults (especially teachers and caregivers) who dismiss picture books as being inappropriate for readers past a certain age, regardless of their needs or interests, or the subject matter of the book. The genre still doesn't receive the respect it deserves!

  7. Thanks for your ideas about each one, Karen. I have I Dissent on my list, will look for it for sure.

  8. I didn't know much about Home Sweet Motel, but I think I should put it on my list. A hotel story does sound fun.