Friday, June 30, 2017

Prisoner of War: A Novel of World War II

33198196Spradlin, Michael P. Prisoner of War: A Novel of World War II
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Henry has had a difficult life on the family farm in Minnesota. After the death of his mother, his father took up drinking and abusing him, so at the age of 15, he signs up for the Marines, with his grandfather vouching for his age. He survives basic training and is sent to the Philippines. Just as his commander is ready to send him home for being underage, the Japanese attack. Henry (nicknamed "Tree"),along with his friends and protectors, Gunny and Jamison, must try to stay alive during the bombings, and when the Japanese take them prisoners. Henry has some problems with anger management, and makes lots of bad choices, angering a guard he refers to as "Scarface" and getting beaten regularly. He does manage to save an Australian soldier, and the alliance with this group helps when Gunny is taken for "questioning". Japanese prison camps were brutal, and Tree ends up spending several years there. The prisoners show a lot of resourcefulness when it comes to outsmarting guards, obtaining medicine and food, and helping each other, but conditions are such that not everyone will survive.

There are a lot of World War II books, and yet I always need more for my readers who find it fascinating. A lot of books set during this time period take place in Europe, but there is a small number set in the Pacific theater. This is an excellent addition to books such as this author's Into the Killing Seas, Salisbury's The Hunt for the Bamboo Rat and Lynch's The Liberators, as well as excellent nonfiction titles like Farrell's Pure Grit, and Weintraub's No Better Friend. I've been reading  middle grade World War II fiction for twenty years, and those are the only Pacific theater titles I can muster, so there is a need to more!

Spradlin's book is especially effective because it takes into account what younger readers want, which is action, adventure, and violence, with what the adults handing them the books want, which is a certain depiction that war is not a great option. Henry's enlistment is done out of desperation over his situation at home, which was not unusual at the time. While the story doesn't glorify war, it does celebrate the men who banded together to help each other survive, and showed the triumph of human will under impossible circumstances. The other thing that young readers like is anyone undermining authority, and the prisoners certainly managed to get the better of their captors on many occasions. I imagine that Hogan's Heroes was wildly popular with 12 year old boys when it was on television, for just this reason.

The historical details are rich and interesting; it had never occurred to me that the guards at the prisons camp were the less successful soliders, but it makes sense. The heat and humidity of the jungle, the food rations or lack thereof, and the historical background are all effectively portrayed, and will hold up to the scrutiny of the most well informed war buff.

Books about war are not my favorite, and Tree certainly makes a lot of choices with which I wholeheartedly disagree, but Prisoner of War will get the most reluctant reader avidly turning the pages to see what fate holds for our underage protagonist.

Need more books for your tween war monger? Check out this World War II podcast.

32713131Ure, James. W. Seized by the Sun: The Life and Disappearance of World War II Pilot Gertrude Tompkins
July 1st 2017 by Chicago Review Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

While I am intrigued by this "Women of Action" series, this read more like a scholarly tome than a middle grade book. I'm glad to know about these, and will keep them in mind for my REALLY hard core war buffs, but will most likely not purchase and will rely on students getting this from the public library. If I had an unlimited budget, or if World War II was officially in our curriculum, I'd buy it.

From the Publisher
"Of the 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) confirmed or presumed dead in World War II, only one--Gertrude "Tommy" Tompkins--is still missing. On October 26, 1944, the 32-year-old fighter plane pilot lifted off from Mines Field in Los Angeles. She was never seen again.

Seized by the Sun is the story of a remarkable woman who overcame a troubled childhood and the societal constraints of her time to find her calling flying the fastest and most powerful airplane of World War II. It is also a compelling unsolved mystery.

Born in 1912 to a wealthy New Jersey family, Gertrude's childhood was marked by her mother's bouts with depression and her father's relentless search for a cure for the debilitating stutter that afflicted Gertrude throughout her life. Teased and struggling in school, young Gertrude retreated to a solitary existence. As a young woman she dabbled in raising goats and aimlessly crisscrossed the globe in an attempt to discover her purpose.

As war loomed in Europe, Gertrude met the love of her life, a Royal Air Force pilot who was killed flying over Holland. Telling her sister that she "couldn't stop crying, so she focused on learning to fly," Gertrude applied to join the newly formed Women's Air Force Service Pilots. She went on to become such a superior pilot that she was one of only 126 WASPs selected to fly fighter planes. After her first flight in the powerful P-51 Mustang, her stutter left her for good.

Gertrude's sudden disappearance remains a mystery to this day. Award-winning author Jim Ure leads readers through Gertrude's fascinating life; provides a detailed account of the WASPs' daily routines, training, and challenges; and describes the ongoing search for Gertrude's wreck and remains. The result of years of research and interviews with Gertrude's family, friends, and fellow WASPs, Seized by the Sun is an invaluable addition to any student's or history buff's bookshelf."

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Secret Grave

Ruby, Lois. The Secret Grave
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Hannah and her large, bustling family like living in an old mansion, Nightshade, that had been briefly inhabited by ancestors, even if it makes the summers away from town seem longer and more humid. When Hannah is out in the woods, she meets the mysterious Cady, who wants to be her friend. Cady gets out and about a little, but generally wants to meet Hannah in the woods. She is also not fond of anyone who comes between her and Hannah, and starts to dress like her in an unsettling way. Hannah is even more unnerved when Cady sets off her brother Scooter's life threatening asthma on purpose, and when spooky occurrences take place back at the house. The death of one of the owners years ago seems to have led to many unresolved issues as well as a couple of threatening ghosts. When her friends return from their vacations, will they be able to help Hannah solve the mystery before life at Nightshade becomes truly dangerous?
Strengths: What this lacked in creepy moments at the beginning of the book, it made up for in friend and family drama. Scooter's sever asthma was interesting, and not something I've seen in middle grade literature, although I have many students with asthma. The older sister's desire to go to college and leave her family behind was also a nice touch. This did get creepy later on, and it was fairly apparent to me what Cady's issues were, but she was odd enough that I wasn't entirely certain.
Weaknesses: The Irish grandmother seemed odd, and as far as I can tell, there were no Studebakers manufactured in 1984. (Said grandmother is described as driving one she purchased off  eBay.)
What I really think: I need to read the descriptions on Edelweiss more closely. My students are not fond of paperbacks, and they don't hold up. Luckily, this is available from Follett in a prebound copy. Will purchase a copy.

Bernstein, Jonathan. Live Free, Spy Hard (Bridget Wilder #3)
April 11th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Bridget really tries to be more like her perfect cheerleader sister, Natalie, but it's hard when you are secretly working as a spy and occasionally have to step out without explanation to, say, save a lot of restaurant patrons from being poisoned. When Natalie is chosen to be the face of a new campaign by the president's wife, Bridget manages to save people from a mutant insect attack... but also get fire extinguisher foam all over the first lady. Jocelyn Brennan isn't pleased when (using her suspension as an excuse to her unaware parents) Bridget is assigned to impersonate the Jamie, the presidential daughter, who has been uncooperative with the campaign. Using nanomask technology and a wig, Bridget is a convincing Jamie. She is almost too convincing when she manages to slip and take a tumble just like the first daughter has done in the past. This infuriates Jamie, but Bridget manages to not only repair her reputation by staging a spontaneous dance routine at another event, but even bonds with Jamie over their love of the boy band L4E. When Jamie goes missing, Bridget is easy to blame. With the help of new annoyance Adam Pacific (and even DaleTookey), she sets out to uncover a major national scandal that involves presidential candidate Morgan Font without her parents realizing why she is gone.

Bridget irrepressibly goes from catastrophe to catastrophe, utilizing nanomarbles, deep fried Mars bars and Cheerminators to further her goals. Since Bridget has been learning spy techniques, she doesn't have to rely on the gadgets quite as much, although it never hurts to have an Uber account.

Carter Strike and Irina don't play as large a role in this volume, except that Bridget's mother remains very irritated by Irina's dashing, exotic style. Carter does save the day from time to time, and is always helpful is smoothing things over with Bridget's family. Jamie and the presidential family are an interesting addition, and adds Bridget Wilder to the list of children who are secret agents protecting the presidents' children, just like Bradford's Connor Reeves, and  Jones' Clayton Stone.

This walks the line between humorous and goofy beautifully, and should be a popular choice with both fans of Carter's Gallagher Girls and Rylander's Codename Zero.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Someday Suitcase

29536748Haydu, Corey Ann. The Someday Suitcase.
June 27th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by publisher at ALA

Clover and Danny are always together, and even their families spend time hanging out on Sundays. Clover's father is frequently away driving a truck, and her brother Jake is high maintenance due to some of his autistic qualities. When Danny becomes ill, and the doctors have trouble figuring out what is wrong with him, Clover is very worried. She makes him her science fair project and keeps careful track of his symptoms. The two find a clinic online that promises some hope, but it is in Vermont, and Danny's parents want to stick with local doctors. Danny is in and out of school, but slowly gets worse. Clover's parents are very concerned for her, since the two are so close. Eventually, Danny and Clover stow away in her father's truck when he is headed to Vermont, and take their "someday suitcase" with them. Will the clinic be able to help?
Strengths: Jake's portrayal is accurate and well done. His reactions to things are dealt with constructively, and Clover's parents address how hard it can be for her. The families are both supportive, as are most of the teachers, and Clover does find some new friends at school who help her through Danny's illness.
Weaknesses: Extremely sad, and Danny's illness could have used some more explanation.
What I really think: Great for fans of really sad books like The Truth About Jellyfish or Somewhere Among, but I will pass on purchasing.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ghost Attack and The Dark Prophecy

33123440Lubar, David. Ghost Attack: (Monster Itch #1)
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Alex and his cousin Sarah get to spend some time at their grandparents' house for the summer, so they are looking forward to ice cream and hanging out with their grandparents, who write and illustrate children's books. Alex manages to get the smaller room in the new house, and his arms start itching like mad from a horrible rash. He eventually discovers that the rash is caused by contact with ghosts, and there is one ghost in particular who needs their help. After seeing a historical reenactment in down town Thistle, the cousins decide that their ghost must have something to do with the long ago bank robbery, and start to investigate it... after several servings of ice cream, of course!
Strengths: This is perfect for readers in about 2nd-5th grade, which are possibly the BEST years for summer reading... or summer in general. This had some suspense, a fun cousin relationship, and was just a nice mystery. The format was much better than this author's Monsterific Tales, which tend to have very small print.
Weaknesses: The cover should have had the ghost from the robbery on the cover. Plus, it's a shame that this is only available in paperback.
What I really think: I love Lubar's work and am always glad to read it. He knows his audiences very well.

30145666Riordan, Rick. The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo #2) 
May 2nd 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Apollo, disguised as the mortal Lester Papadopolous, is traveling with Leo and Calypso after their adventures in The Hidden Oracle. They are searching for Meg, Apollo's demigod master, and their search has taken them to Indianapolis. There, they are attacked by extremely polite but terrifying blemmyae, and seek refuge in the Waystation, which is protected by Emmie and Jo, who were both Hunters for Artemis but had to leave because of their romance. They are upset because their daughter Georgina has been taken by one of the triumvirate, and before they will help Apollo in his quest, ask that he save two of their griffins and find Georgina. Britomartis, a minor deity with whom Apollo has had dealings in the past, offers to help, and the group is off to the Indianapolis zoo to use magic tater tots to get the griffins home. Lityerses, a minion of the "new Hercules" who is trying to take over Indianapolis, is out to get Apollo, but eventually ends up on his side. Once Georgina is found, it is determined that her memory has been impaired, and Apollo must find the throne of Mnemosyne to help restore it. This involves another quest, which also helps determine that Apollo must travel to the case of his son Trophinus to receive his prophecy before the forces of evil can receive theirs. Meg shows up and helps him with this, but because she doesn't properly prepare herself, her mind is addled. Trophinus is still angry over the treatment that he received from his father, so makes it more difficult for him to get the prophecy, but eventually delivers it. Apollo returns to the Waystation with Meg so that she can be healed, but the journey isn't over yet. A character from one of the other books shows up at the very end to take Apollo and Meg through the Labyrinth so that they can complete their mission.

Riordan's plots are also richly convoluted, even though they follow a comfortable formula: there is a mission that involves several quests that involve traveling, there are small fights along the way, and eventually there is a bit battle that informs the characters' next movements. These fast paced plots keep the pages turning at a furious rate, but they aren't the best part of Riordan's books.

Descriptions like Apollo being cursed with "a case of acne that would not respond to over-the-counter medicine" or random facts like the 3 Mile Island disaster being caused by an epic chainsaw fight between Hephaestus and Ares, caused by an insult to Ares bell-bottom jeans, or even phrases like "battle ukelele" are brilliantly delightful. I find myself not paying much attention to the plot because I just want to swim in the wonderful stream of words and phrases.

The other wonderful part of Riordan's writing is his inclusion of very obscure mythological characters, and the way that he manages to work their mythological story into his own. There is a glossary of characters and words at the back of the book that is very helpful, but I always feel like I need to have a copy of Edith Hamilton next to me so that I can refresh my memory of some of the stories. I hope that younger readers will be similarly inclined.

When The Lightning Thief came out in 2005, I (as a former Latin teacher) was thrilled just to have ONE middle grade book about mythology. Now there are multiple series by Mr. Riordan, as well as books by Anne Ursu, K.L. Armstrong, Zoe Marriott and many other authors, covering the mythology of different cultures. Not only that, put Riordan has been given a Disney-Hyperion imprint, Rick Riordan Presents, that will showcase adventures that include the folklore of different cultures.

Give Riordan books to anyone who loves mythology, action, or just a really good, well-turned phrase!

30835803Riordan, Rick. Camp Half-Blood Confidential
May 2nd 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
Copy Provided by Young Adult Books Central

After Nico sings some tacky songs from a Camp Half Blood orientation video he has seen, the other campers decide it's time to find an updated way to inform new campers about the amenities and history of their hideaway. Interspersed with "screen shots" of Apollo's circa 1950 orientation film, various characters talk about difference facets of the camp, and offer descriptions of some of the more important features. Annabeth talks about increasing living space by constructing "tiny home" cabins, Chiron recounts his introduction to the camp, and Ellis Wakefield discusses "The Ares Peacetime Challenge". Pete the Palikos offers brief, illustrated overviews of areas such as Thalia's Pine, the Athena Pathenos, and the dining pavilion.

Riordan's trademark good humor shines through, and readers who have enjoyed the different series, from Percy Jackson to Trials of Apollo, will be glad to have additional information about their favorite characters and will more easily be able to imagine themselves as residents of Camp Half Blood. Pair this guide with a bright orange Camp Half Blood hoodie as a great gift for a die-hard fan!
Ms. Yingling

Monday, June 26, 2017

Nonfiction Monday- National Geographic Books

30012805Cottman, Michael. Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

Cottman, a reporter for the Washington Post and an avid SCUBA diver, was intrigued when he learned about the Henrietta Marie, whose artifacts identified it as a slave trading ship. Little was known about the ship, so Cottman set out to find out everything that he could. He started in London, at the National Maritime Museum, and started to collect clues to various aspects of the ship's history. He traveled to the site of the foundry where the cannons were made, which lead him to investigate the Barbados holdings of the owner of that land, "Mad Jack" Fuller. Traveling to Barbados put him in touch with other Fullers-- who were black, since slaves often took the family name of their masters. He learned a lot about the sugar industry there (which is beautifully covered in Aronson and Budhos's Sugar Changed the World: The Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science), and eventually made his way to Senegal and the House of Slaves where the ship's journey would have started.

Written in a very conversational style but filled with lots of interesting facts about a variety of details related to slave trading, sailing, and scuba diving, Shackles from the Deep offers an in depth look at a little discussed topic. This would be a great book to read with students to prepare them to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., since the exhibits start with an in depth examination of this topic.

All too often, the story of slavery seems to start with the Civil War or slaves' attempts at escape. I know that many of my students were very surprised by the exhibits on the slave ships. Cottman's book addresses the fact that people were taken from their communities in Africa and sent as slaves to a number of places in a way that is not overly graphic but that does delineate just how inhuman this action was. This strikes a good balance for a book that might well introduce this atrocious chapter in history to children.

There are some color photos in the center of the book. While these pictures are illustrative, it would have been nice to see them included with the appropriate text instead of gathered in one place. I was a bit surprised at this; National Geographic has produced some beautiful and enticing nonfiction books with many more pictures that are more graphically pleasing. I know that cost is an issue in these, but using more pictures does make books more appealing to young readers.

Shackles from the Deep is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries, since it covers a variety of topics that are often studied, and is an excellent choice for readers who like converstaional nonfiction and are interested in history, civil rights, or maritime matters.

30012807Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

James Meredith was a ground breaker in the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African-American to graduate from The University of Mississippi, in 1963. In 1966, he decided to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in order to highlight the ongoing racial problems in the south. Unfortunately, his march ended just one day in, after he was shot. While he survived, his wounds were painful, and he was not able to go back to his route immediately. Several other organizations seized the opportunity to continue his quest, and soon Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and others were poised to walk part of Meredith's path. Various organizations wanted the march to highlight different things-- from voter registration to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, the march was an opportunity to highlight any number of causes of note at the time. While Meredith hadn't wanted to include women and children, fearing for their safety, the march soon encompassed many types of people. There were many altercations between marchers, members of the communities through which it passed, and law enforcement. This led some of the marchers, like Stokely Carmichael, to draw attention to the continuing inequities in the south and to demand black power. This was a divisive move, since it alienated some of the white marchers who had come to support the march. The March Against Fear is now regarded as one of the more important marches of the era, and it's good to have such a definitive explanation of its events.

Bausum's research is complete, and the book covers a wide range of organizations, events, and people who were involved with it. She draws important parallels between the march and the current Black Lives Matter movement, making this a timely and essential book to read when investigating the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

The inclusion of many photographs along with the scenes describing them are welcome and essential. The world looked very different in 1966, from the way people dressed to the cars on the road, and children have a hard time visualizing how different things were. Pictures help tremendously with that.

I am always surprised at how much I don't know about this era, even though I have read a fair number of books on the topic. There were a number of things that I learned-- from the grouping of The Big Five organizations (SCLC, SNCC, NAACP, CORE and National Urban League) to the feelings of supporters of the movement.

Older middle school students and high school students who want to know more about Civil Rights History will be wise to add The March Against Fear to their reading lists along with Levinson's We've Got a Job, Osborne's Miles to Go for Freedom, Rubin's Freedom Summer, Lowery's Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, and Wallace's Blood Brother.
Ms. Yingling

Midwinter ALA is in DENVER

949252Honestly, once I found that out, I could only think of making a Lenora Mattingly Weber pilgrimage!

About 30 years ago, I collected a lot of teen romance books from the 1950s and 60s. Many libraries were weeding them at the time, so they showed up everywhere. My very favorites were Beany Malone and Katie Rose, along with anything by Anne Emery and Rosamund du Jardin. There was something soothingly nostalgic about them, and I was beyond thrilled when Image Cascade Publishing started to reissue them.

Wouldn't it be marvelous to have a Lenora Mattingly Weber party in Denver? Ideally, there would be a tour of sites, but I don't know how well that would work out. Maybe just a tiny reception with someone from the Denver Public Library to speak?

It would just be so much fun to hang out with others who loved this author. I know that fans include Mitali Perkins, and there have to be others out there.

Going to Midwinter in Denver? Any interest at all in this author?

Comment below. I'm off to investigate Denver area ice cream shops that might be able to supply peppermint stick ice cream!
Ms. Yingling

MMGM- This is Just a Test

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and  #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday. 

Rosenberg, Madelyn and Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. This is Just a Test
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

David has a fairly ordinary life in Virginia in the early 1980s. He hangs out with his friend Hector, playing Atari and practicing for a trivia contest. It's through the contest that he starts to connect with Scott, who is more popular than David, but who has some issues of his own. Scott and David start digging a bomb shelter after the boys are traumatized by the made for TV movie The Day After. It's at home that David has his own stresses. His mother's mother, who is Chinese, lives with the family, and his father's father, who is Jewish, has rented a house nearby so that she can help plan David's bar mitzvah. The grandmothers like to try to outdo each other, especially when it comes to cooking, and the whole celebration starts to get a little out of hand. As the only Chinese-Jewish kid in his school, David isn't quite sure who he is supposed to be; he's just trying to keep his friendships with both Hector and Scott, talk to Kelli Ann, on whom he has a crush, and keep up with his schoolwork and his preparations for the bar mitzvah. Add to this growing concerns with Scott and increasing demands from his feuding grandmothers, and nuclear annihilation begins to sound less frightening!

David has a wonderful voice, and his concerns about life in middle school are universal. Students may not read 1984 anymore, but there's still homework; not everyone has grandparents from disparate cultures, but the idea of trying to please everyone remains the same. I especially liked David's crush on Kelli Ann and his inability to speak coherently around her. While some of Scott's issues were on the serious side, David remains upbeat throughout, making his tribulations something that readers will feel comfortable laughing about with him.

This is a great book for so many readers-- readers who want to read about friend issues, about Jewish or Chinese culture, or who just want a funny book with a great cover. In fact, it would make a great bar mitzvah gift, accompanied by cash in multiple of $18! This doesn't really read like history, but could certainly be used for school projects that require great details about another period in time (Betamax! Funny clothes! Four television channels!).

The details of both family life and the 1980s add interesting dimensions to this book. I had just started college when The Day After was on television, and since I had no access to television, it wasn't on my radar at all. While it's a little alarming that my adult life is now historical fiction, it's great to have it written about by people who lived through it and can get all of the references correct! Now, if someone would write a historical fiction book about the last M*A*S*H* episode in February of 1983, I'd appreciate it. It was a huge deal at the time!
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Difficult Home Situations

33159369Galante, Cecelia. Stealing Our Way Home
June 27th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

After their mother's death from cancer, 4th grader Pippa refuses to speak, and her brother, 7th grader Jack, feels responsible. Their father is struggling as well. The family's water and electricity are turned off, their credit card is declined when the children go to buy new school clothes, and when Jack and Pippa visit their father's car dealership, they realizes that he has had to close it. Luckily, they have a neighbor, Nibs, who is there to help them. Nibs alerts Pippa's teachers to her problem, and watches out for the children. Jack is not getting along too well with his friend Ben, and he's glad to meet a new girl in their neighborhood, Shelby, who is also very kind to Pippa. Jack is very worried when his father tells him that he has a plan for making the family finances right again, and doesn't want to be involved. Still, he doesn't want to lose the family's house by the lake, so he goes along with his father. Eventually, Pippa finds out about the plan, and insists on going with her father and Jack the next time they go out. Will the family ever be right again?
Strengths: I didn't want to spoil the plot, which is why the description is a bit vague. This was tremendously readable, and a real page turner. I liked all of the characters, even though some of them weren't likable. However...
Weaknesses: Argh! So sad! The whole "unable to move on after a death" thing irks me SO MUCH!!!! It's just not realistic. And yet, I liked this book. So conflicted.
What I really think: Will probably buy a copy. Damn it.

Honestly, even my students are done with this sort of soggy, immobilizing grief. One of my student helpers was reading If Only during a quiet time in the library, and she said "I don't think this is realistic." Not wanting to offer my own opinion on the book, I asked her why. She replied "I had a friend at my old school whose mother died. She was out for a month, but when she came back, she didn't mope around like this character. She had sad moments, but she... moved on."

So it's not just me. I wouldn't find this comforting as a tween. My mother might die, and then my father might fail utterly to take care of me? Just confused as to why people write books like this.

Scott, Lisa Ann. Back on the Map. 
June 6th 2017 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Penny Porter's mother passed away, she left a letter telling Penny to watch out for her twin brother Parker, and to make the best of her situation. Currently, the twins are living with Grauntie in New Hope, which is a town on the skids. Ever since the local orphanage was shut down and bids to sell the building as "the Finest" fell through, the town has decreased in population as opportunities there have dried up. That was the early 1970s-- a dozen years later, New Hope is no longer on the map. As Grauntie's mental state diminishes and her ability to take care of the children is in jeopardy, Penny realizes that she needs some plans to assure that she doesn't have to leave New Hope. Her first plan of attack is to get the town back on the map. Not only does she write to a map company about this, but she asks the mayor of the town if she can start fixing up the Finest. With an assortment of children and adults, the building is slowly, if oddly, refurbished. Penny has long made her existence possible by trading things around town-- for example, she makes animals out of tin cans and trades them for food from the Carlson's diner. This skill helps when items are needed for the finest, and her willingness to talk to adults makes some progress in getting the building back into commission, and also helps her to locate her long lost father. There are a lot of problems along the way, but Penny has a positive attitude and makes up a family tree for herself that includes famous people with a "can do" attitude, and this serves her well.
Strengths: Fans of Polly Horvath who want a quirky story with a touch of magical realism (Penny can see what color auras people are projecting, and the orphanage was for children with similar abilities. This wouldn't have been fantasy until Penny has a couple of protracted conversations with the famous people she has put on her family tree.) will find this to be an endearing story.
Weaknesses: Had a quirky, Southern vibe that doesn't do well in my library.
What I really think: The cover of this doesn't help. I like it, but the illustration is a bit young for middle school. Maybe it is best suited for an elementary audience, and that's why I didn't like it as much. I had trouble suspending disbelief long enough to become invested in the characters.
  Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

28107111Sager, Ryan K. The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops
June 20th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zoey is such a fantastic cook that she has people buying food from her at her family home. Her parents, Valentine and Gershwin, are jazz musicians who give her a lot of space to do her own thing, and they are willing to cosign a $50,000 loan for her with Miss Lemon so she can open her own restaurant. She goes looking for locations, only to find one in Chinatown across from her idol, Chef Kung Pao. She meets the famous chef, but he tells her she can't open up across from her, and even threatens her. She also meets with a friend and mentor, Chef Cannoli, who tells her that opening a restaurant is more about bookkeeping than cooking. Undaunted by lack of support or appropriate venue, Kacey, along with her best friend, Dallin, find an abandoned cable car and pay her friend Knuckles to fix it up and drive it. Someone is out to sabotage her as she competes for the Golden Toque, awarded by Royston Basil Boarhead. Will her fascinating food juxtapositions be enough to surmount the odds facing her?
Strengths: This had great descriptions of San Francisco, and great descriptions of food. It's over the top, of course-- no one is going to give a $50,000 loan to a child, and that's probably barely enough to open a restaurant these days. This was a fun but unlikely romp.
Weaknesses: I'm debating this one. It was too much of a suspension of disbelief for me. I almost wanted there to be magic, so it would explain how Kacey was able to do all that she did without ever going to school or her parents caring at all.
What I really think: If you have readers who like The Candy Makers, Bliss or All Four Stars, I'd buy this. I'm not sure I'll buy this, but I DO sort of want to try the chocolate covered pork chop recipe!

Burnham, Molly B. Teddy Mars: Almost an Outlaw
March 21st 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this sequel to Teddy Mars: Almost a Record Breaker and Teddy Mars: Almost a Winner, big changes are coming to the Mars household. Ms. Mars has gotten a job as an animal control officer since Jake (the Destructor) will be heading to kindergarten. To help out with the transition over the summer, Great Aunt Ursula will be staying with the family. Teddy is not a fan of Ursula and her rules, but there is no denying that a family with seven children might need some help to adjust to this change. Teddy is concerned about having to take care of Jake, who is prone to doing things like living in the cat box or walking around in a shirt festooned with tin cans. It makes sense that his teacher assigns him to be a buddy with Jake the following year, but Teddy doesn't have to be happy about it. He does love his teacher, Ms. Raffeli, and is glad to be working on a mural project with her and his friends over the summer. Once Ursula moves in, things start to change. For one, she has a small dog named Peanut to whom Jake takes a shine. Jake also starts to weave potholders and to behave. Other siblings help out with housework and are persuaded by Ursula to give up their most annoying behaviors. It doesn't work as well with Teddy-- he and friends Lonnie and Viva are determined to break a world record even though Ursula would rather they mow the lawn or clean the basement. When Teddy's mother's job is at odds with the Grumpy Pigeon Man's pigeons, Teddy must try to look outside of himself for ways to help his friend and the pigeons for whom he cares.

Teddy is an exuberant characters with a lot of endearing qualities. He's not a bad kid, just a typical one who would rather be playing with his friends rather than doing chores. He is annoyed by his younger brother, but wants to try to help him. He's not pleased that his mother won't be at home, but is glad that she is proud of her new job, and really wants her to be happy. The other characters in the book are portrayed in a realistic fashion as well. It is  unusual to see a family with this many children in modern middle grade literature, but the realities of having a large family are sympathetically addressed.

Interspersed with Teddy's exploits are his attempts at breaking records as well as details about records that are already in the books. The Guinness Book of World Records is perennially popular with elementary and middle school students, and gives this series an additional selling point.

Like many humorous series with boys as the main character, Teddy Mars mixes the goofy with the sympathetic in a way that will appeal to readers who would be right at home at a cafeteria table with Byar's Bingo Brown, Danziger's Matthew Martin, Dowell's Phineas L. MacGuire, Harley's Charlie Bumpers or Weeks' Regular Guy.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, June 23, 2017

In the Shadow of the Sun

33198198O'Brien, Anne Sibley. In the Shadow of the Sun
June 27th 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Edlweiss Above the Treeline

Mia and Simon are traveling in North Korea with their father, who works with various entities in that country to provide humanitarian food relief. While Mia, who was adopted from South Korea, is enjoying being in a country where everyone looks like her and so doesn't look AT her, Seth is being difficult in the wake of a breakup and bad choices back home. When Mia sees her father sneak out of the room late at night, she's a little concerned, since security is so rigid in the country, and when she opens up a gift and finds a cell phone with incriminating pictures of conditions in South Korea, she is even more worried. When they are visiting one site, their father is taken away in handcuffs, and Mia and Seth make the snap decision that their only option is to run and try to make it to China on their own. Not surprisingly, this doesn't go smoothly, even with Mia's well stocked back pack. There are injuries, people chasing them, and a very difficult road to get to China. Once there, how will they begin to get their father released?
Strengths: Not only was this extremely information about North Korea, but it was a great adventure. The sibling relationship was also nicely done. It reminded me a bit of Senzei's A Ticket to India, with just as many perils to be faced. The notes from the author about the time she spent in the country with her family, and the research that she did to plot the escape were very interesting. This was a little on the long side, but kept me turning the pages. A great companion to Nine Days or Ryan Quinn.
Weaknesses: As much as I would like my students to want to know more about countries in the world, they don't. Still, I think the action and adventure will sell this.
What I really think: Still bothered by the children's decision to run instead of seeking help, still really want to stock up on pain reliever, protein bars, and thermal blankets and carry them everywhere with me. but really liked this one! Great cover and great adventure, with a nice multicultural aspect.

On a sad note, North Korea is a very dangerous place, as is evidenced in the recent death of Ohio resident Otto Warmbier. Perhaps this book is very timely.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Great Giveaway at From the Mixed-Up Files!

Giveaway at From the Mixed-Up Files!

If you haven't seen this blog, which is celebrating seven years of awesome, you should, lots of great middle grade authors, lists of upcoming books, author interviews... fun stuff.

There's also a fantastic giveaway. I've decided that doing all of the activities to earn multiple entries should be a final exam for a social media class. Whew!

The Rules for Thieves

27424750Ott, Alexandra. The Rules for Thieves
June 6th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Allie Roscoe is in an Azeland orphanage, but isn't excited about Adoption Day. She's been adopted before, and things didn't work out, so she is surly to prospective parents, and then decides to run away, not thinking about what she would do afterwards. Hungry, she tries to steal something and is almost caught. Luckily, she meets Beck, who helps her and tells her about the Thieves Guild, and offers to take her there to come under their protection. Unluckily, she has been cursed with Xeroth's Blood by one of the city's Protectors, and will die in nine days unless she can get to the far off Healing Springs and pay ten thousand majas to enter. She and Beck go to the king of the Thieves Guild, and he agrees to help them... after they complete the task of stealing Lady Atherton's necklace. This is a complicated matter, and takes a lot of preparation and cunning. The two manage to steal the necklace, but the theft does not go smoothly, and there is a death. Will Allie manage to get to the Healing Springs in time? Will she and Beck be accepted into the Guild?
Strengths: Hard core fantasy readers who like books like Nielsen's The False Prince and Turner's The Thief will enjoy this quasi-medieval tale of magic and suspense. It moves quickly and has all the facets of a standard fantasy adventure. A sequel is in the works.
Weaknesses: Allie was not a very pleasant character, the world building fell flat for me, and there were a lot of improbable moments.
What I really think: My library already has a TON of this type of fantasy (and few readers for it), so this type of book has to really have an unusual hook for me to buy it. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart had a similar premise, but intrigued me more.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- Superstar

22670994Davis, Mandy. Superstar
June 20th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lester's father was an astronaut who was killed during a mission, so he has been raised and home schooled by his mother. When his mother gets a job at the local public library, Lester is thrilled because he loves to spend time there, but she tells him that instead, he will have to go to school. Lester has a lot of trouble with this-- he gets hungry and is not allowed a snack, he can't study what he wants when he wants to, noises overwhelm him, and the other children, picking up on his odd behavior, are mean to him. There is one girl, Abby Chin, who is friendly to him and tries to help him navigate the difficult waters of fifth grade. Abby had won the science fair the year before, and Lester is very excited about the fair, especially when his mother finally gives him permission to do a flight themed project instead of one on plants. When a new girl arrives and Abby starts to hang out with her, Lester's behavior becomes more erratic. Luckily, the school tests him and finally delivers a diagnosis so that Lester can get the help and support that he needs.
Strengths: This had a very authentic voice, and Lester's behaviors are ones that I see all of the time at school from our children in the autism spectrum unit. The story moved along nicely, and the characters were all realistic and engaging. I particularly liked how the classroom teacher wasn't thrilled to have Lester, but made sure that he got the attention he needed. Actually, the reactions of the staff were all spot on. They were surprised at first, but once they realized what was going on with Lester, started the process of getting him help.
Weaknesses: It seemed unlikely that Lester's mother would not have figured out that he was on the autism spectrum before he started school. Fifteen years ago, I could see this being the case, but today children are usually diagnosed at much younger ages.
What I really think: This will be good to use with Baskin's Anything but Typical and other titles with characters who are on the autism spectrum.

32319718Bishop, Jenn. 14 Hollow Road
June 13th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
Public library copy

Maddie wants the sixth grade formal to be the beginning of the new-and-improved Maddie, but instead her crush, Avery, asks another girl to dance. Even worse, after the lights go out in the gym, the students find out that a tornado has hit their Massachusetts community. Both Maddie and Avery's houses are uninhabitable, and Maddie's dog, Hank, is missing. Luckily, very kind neighbors let Maddie's family stay with them, but Avery's family is there, too. It's awkward to be living so close to her crush, but Maddie gets to know Avery a little better. Even though her family is working hard to restore their former life, there's still middle school drama to be had. Maddie does realize she is lucky, especially when Avery's family may have to move to another town because their insurance didn't cover tornadoes. The summer before seventh grade ends up being transformative for Maddie, but not in the way that she would have imagined!
Strengths: This had a great middle grade voice and will be perfect for my young readers who want friend drama, family drama, and a little bit of romance. This is the kind of trauma my readers want-- something bad but not too bad. Something they could imagine happening to them so that they can be glad it DIDN'T happen to them. Tornadoes do wipe places out-- here in Ohio, we have the memory of Xenia in 1974, the May 1985 tornado that struck from Newton Falls, Ohio to Sharon, PA, and several towns in Iowa. This was quick, well paced, just loved it.
Weaknesses: A little too much friend drama for me; not enough for my 6th graders, probably!
What I really think: This was so much more appealing than The Distance To Home. I hope Bishop continues to write slightly more upbeat books like this one! Maybe if there is an author event in Cincinnati, I can visit with her! Ooh. And Andrew Speno. Have to keep my eyes open!

  Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior

So, here's the thing about being old. The first video game I ever played was Pong, which didn't interest me at all, although the TRS-80 my dad got for Christmas in about 1978 was kind of cool. I had to work the day that MTV first aired. I can code HTML, and gave up my home phone years ago, although I still have a slide out keyboard on my dumb phone because I can't afford a data plan. I can find, download and use apps on an iPad, sound mix with Audacity, and can also take apart a VCR, fix it, and put it back together.

I'm not a complete Luddite, but I will admit that digital solitaire is vastly superior to using cards. But I will never, never understand the allure of video games.

That said, I imagine that these books will be HUGELY popular in my library, if Minecraft is still popular in the fall.

28813486Cube Kid. From Seeds to Swords. (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #2)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Like the first book in this series, this is best read if one is familiar with the game Minecraft. I am not, so it was a bit difficult for me to follow. We follow the exploits of Runt, which include a lot of information about making a potion for an enderman so that he can go into the water and be a professional swimmer. Many of the children do this in order to earn emeralds. There are issues with school and friends there, zombies, mobs, and a lot of fighting and explosions.

On the bright side, this series is now available in paper-over-board hardcover, and book one and two have an Accelerated Reader test.

30648712Cube Kid. Crafting Alliances (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #3)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Runt is joined by Breeze and Emerald as groups form at school and give him a hard time, and there are lots of attacks by creepers. There are buildings to be designed and built, sword fighting to be done, and lots of school and chores. Runt does fairly well on his report card.

Readers who play Minecraft will love this, especially since the books are well illustrated and have a lot of color and motion on every page. They are rather reminiscent of Geronimo Stilton in the use of a variety of font styles.

Cube Kid. Path of the Diamond (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior #4)
May 30th 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher

Runt is supposed to be finishing up his training, but there is a threat to the village. Nothing new, since it is frequently besieged by zombies and all sorts of creatures, but this threat is an unexpected one. Can Runt keep his mind on his work, especially since his nemesis Max is back and steals his diary?

These books were originally published as Diary of a Wimpy Villager, which explains the Notebook Novel format. There are eight books in that series, so I don't know if those will be available in hard cover as well.

Disclaimer: This is book is not official. It is not endorsed, authorized, sponsored, licensed or supported by Mojang AB, Microsoft Corp. or any other entity owning or controlling rights to the Minecraft name, trademarks or copyrights. (less) Ms. Yingling

Joplin, Wishing; Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

32075665Stanley, Diane. Joplin, Wishing
June 13th 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Joplin never knew her grandfather, the much celebrated author Martin Camrath, but when he passes away, there is a media frenzy around her New York apartment, which she and her mother share with her mother's best friend Jen. The death is hard for Joplin, but only because she must deal with her mother's sadness. She was allowed to take one keepsake, and grabbed a Christmas tin with a broken platter in it. She and Jen go to have it restored. The first person to whom they talk creeps them both out, but the platter is put back together by someone else, and Joplin hangs it in her bedroom. After the rumors that her grandfather had problems start to bother her at school, Joplin wishes that she had a friend... and the girl on the platter comes to life! Since the girl can't live in the garden, Joplin convinces her upstairs neighbor Chloe to pass Sofie off as her visiting cousin while she figures out what to do. Joplin also meets Barrett Browning, a boy who shares many of her interests, and the two work to figure out the connection between her grandfather, Sofie, and the mysterious man who is following them around.

My favorite part of this book was the fact that Joplin DID tell people about Sofie... and they reluctantly believed her! Granted, the best part of magical books is often keeping the secret from the adults who are around, but I appreciated the fact that Joplin's mother was sympathetic to her plight and was willing to help her out even though the circumstances were very odd indeed!

Joplin starts off as a rather underdeveloped character, so it is interesting to see her grow and start to stand up for herself. Her relationship with Barrett is charming, and Chloe is an intriguing secondary character. Sofie's past is filled with all sorts of people, including the creepy Lucius Doyle. I especially appreciated the fact that Stanley brings a 21st century sensibility to Joplin's dealings with this man-- she tries to make sure that Joplin doesn't go meeting the suspect character on her own!

While I wish we had more information about Sofie's world, the New York setting is very vivid, and the author's notes about her own childhood in a similar place imbue this with a charming nostalgic feeling that will resonate with readers.

Stanley has done more high fantasy novels in the past, but this is a book filled with magical realism and mystery that will resonate with fans of Ruth Chew, Liz Kessler, Laurel Snyder, Kimberly Griffiths Little and Kathryn Littlewood.

32320210Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth
June 20th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Prez is being raised by his grandfather, a former sailor, but when his grandfather's dementia worsens, he is sent to Children's Temporary and then out to a family on a farm for a summer placement. Once there, an odd boy shows up at the door and declares that his name is Sputnik and he's there because the Earth is in danger and he's going to save Prez. However, everyone else sees Sputnik as a dog. The two get involved in a number of adventures, including going back to Prez's apartment, trying to jailbreak the grandfather but getting the wrong "prison", and eventually visiting Prez's grandfather at the Shangri-La retirement home. Sputnik is problematic as a dog, and Prez's foster family debates sending him away, but even after Prez is returned to Children's Temporary, the two have a solid bond and Sputnik helps Prez through his difficult times.
Strengths: This was an interesting way to deal with the difficult topic of a grandparent dealing with dementia and a boy having to go into foster care because of it. I liked that the foster family was very supportive, and the details about farm work and family life were very nice.
Weaknesses: This had a very strong, British feel to it, with a large dose of Roald Dahl or David Walliams' type humor/difficulties.
What I really think: As much as I enjoyed this, I will probably pass on purchasing, since Boyce's work just is not picked up frequently by my readers.

  Ms. Yingling

Monday, June 19, 2017

MMGM- I Love You, Michael Collins

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and  #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday. 

31145091Baratz-Logstead, Lauren. I Love You, Michael Collins
June 20th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Mamie enjoys spending the summer of 1969 hanging out with her best friend and next door neighbor, Buster. They play with her cat, Campbell, watch television when they can, read in the cool basement, or more often, run around outside until dinner time. Mamie is enthralled with the upcoming NASA project, and has decided that she likes astronaut Michael Collins more than Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and continues her class project of writing a letter to an astronaut even though it's summer vacation. She finds it a good way of dealing with the stresses in her life. Her father thinks the NASA mission is a waste of money, but her mother wants to have a Launch Party. When her father says that she can't, it's the last straw, and her mother packs a bag and goes to stay with his sister. After a couple of days of awkwardly tending to Mamie, her father also goes off to try to reconcile with her mother. Mamie is left in the care of her older sister Bess, who is either sleeping or hanging out with her boyfriend Vinny, and even older sister Eleanor, who has her own apartment and works as a secretary. Mamie isn't too worried about being on her own, and doesn't want Buster to tell his mother. Instead, the two research Apollo 11, and Mamie plans her own party. As exciting as the moon walk is, it also is an event that shows how much life is changing in Mamie's world, and all around her.
Strengths: The details of everyday life in 1969 are absolutely perfect. THIS is what we need in historical novels. The constant battle over Froot Loops (How are they better than Cap'n Crunch?), the insistence that children need to be outside all day, the phone numbers written on the side of the phone, the details of watching the NASA coverage (Buster's father works downtown, so will go to the appliance store to watch!), and the idea that a 16 year old who sleeps all day is perfectly fine for watching a ten year old while her parents are two states away-- wow. Tang. Erector sets. Hoop earrings. One fan in the house that moves from room to room. This book used more details to good effect than any I have read recently. On top of that, the story was pitch perfect as well. Mamie's mother is tired of being at home, tired of having to ask permission, and her father was just confused about this. It had always been that way! Why isn't it working now? Told through Mamie's eyes, and including lots of details about the moon launch and talk, this is a fantastic slice of red and blue frosted life at a particular moment in time.
Weaknesses: I'm not a fan of epistolographic novels involving famous people (Dear Hank Williams, and it just seems like there are others), but this had such great details about daily life that it won me over. Also, the pitcher for the Tang on the front cover is not quite right. There were about 400 million promotional Tang pitchers, and I'm betting Buster would have had one!
What I really think: ADORED this. Buying two copies because it is so perfect for the 1960s  unit one of my teachers does.

Bugs! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #4)Buckley, James. Bugs! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #3)
June 13th 2017 by Animal Planet
Copy received from Blue Slip Media

Bugs covers an impressive range of information about insects. Not only does it describe what constitutes an insect, but the book proceeds to lay out the life cycle, diet, methods of movement, and other facts about insects in general, and also includes chapters on particular types, such as beetles, mosquitoes, and butterflies. Well illustrated, with easy to read text, the 112 page length of these will not be daunting even to emerging readers, since the books are pocket sized and the information is presented in manageable chapters. This would be a fantastic accompaniment to the Scholastic series Jack Patton's Battle Bugs and a good introduction to insects for readers who are not quite old enough to appreciate the humor in Sneed Collard III's Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever. Package this with a bug collection net and container (like the set at the left, picture taken from, and you've got the perfect gift for just about any eight year old on the planet.

Earlier books in this series include Sharks #1 and Dinosaurs #2, and there is even a fiction series, Animal Planet Adventures, that looks intriguing. Who doesn't want to reading a book entitled Puppy Rescue Riddle? (September 2017).

Animal Planet Chapter Book: Snakes!Buckley, James. Snakes! (Animal Planet Chapter Books #4)
June 13th 2017 by Animal Planet
Copy received from Blue Slip Media

I definitely learned several things about snakes from reading this book. For example, different varieties of snakes move in different fashions, which makes sense when you think about snakes in the desert who have to travel over shifting sand! I also did not know that snakes had heat sensing receptors on their bodies called pits. Like the previous book in the series, Bugs, Snakes has a variety of chapters that cover different subdivisions of snakes as well as what snakes eat, how they protect themselves, and (the most useful chapter) Superdeadly snakes. Let's just say I am now afraid of both the cottonmouth and Black Mamba snakes!

Very clear photographs showing the differences in types of snakes makes this book a particularly useful one. At the back there is a list of zoos that have snakes, as well as a few further books to investigate and some organization web sites to check out.

Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Ten: A Soccer Story by [Flint, Shamini]Flint, Shamini. Ten.
June 20th 2017 by Clarion Books (first published 2009)
ARC from publisher at ALA

Growing up in Malaysia in the 1980s, Maya desperately wants to play soccer, but it's not something that girls do. She must content herself with watching teams on television and fantasizing about meeting the great Zico. She and her brother, Rajiv, are worried because their parents fight a lot. Life in their household is very stressful; their father, who is English, has trouble keeping a business afloat. Their grandmother is very critical of her daughter, their mother, who does her best to keep things together. Maya is also one of the few children of Indian origin in her school. She manages to get a team together and enjoys playing with her friends, but when her parents decide to get divorced, and her father moves back to England, she feels like a grand gesture might make her family whole again.
Strengths: I love books set in other countries that talk about what daily life is like. Maya is an interesting character; since I don't watch sports, it was a little hard for me to understand how she could think she could be a soccer star when she didn't even play, but I loved how she was able to get a start on her dreams by working really hard at being allowed to play soccer, getting the equipment, rallying players, etc. Hopefully, it will make players in the US who read this feel grateful for the opportunities they have!
Weaknesses: I understand that this is set in the 1980s because it is largely autobiographical, but I wish it had been contemporary.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase this for the soccer content, as well as the great depiction of life in another country.

I used to love to read YA and MG romance books, but since I have become more and more like a 12-year-old boy in my reading habits, I find that unless they are like Heldring's The Footbal Girl, I don't have much interest in them. YA romance especially has so much drama, and I'm done with drama. Who cares? Move on. Go to college. Get a life. Save the world. Think about something other than boys.

So, I'm not the best person to opine about these two, but here we go.

Smith, Jennifer E. Windfall.
Published May 2nd 2017 by Delacorte Press
Public Library Copy

Will buy this one, since 8th grade girls still have souls that have not been shrunk in the dryer.

"Alice doesn't believe in luck--at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she's been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday--just when it seems they might be on the brink of something--she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune... But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy's newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall."--Provided by publisher.

Dessen, Sarah. Once and For All
June 6th 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

I usually love Dessen's work, but this had the f-word early on, teen drinking, and a deceased former boyfriend. Add to that the wedding planning theme (which doesn't do well with my students), and I think I'll pass on this one. Pleasant enough, although I also had trouble envisioning a girl younger than my daughter having hippie vegan parents. Most people about my age were just trying to keep employment in 1999; alternative lifestyles were not really a big thing.

" Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna's summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged now that he's met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna's second chance is standing right in front of her." --Provided by publisher

  Ms. Yingling