Sunday, August 27, 2017

Elementary Chapter Books

34078847Calandrelli, Emily. Ada Lace, On the Case
August 29th 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ada is not happy. Not only has she broken her leg and has to limit her activities, but her family has just moved to a new town! Luckily, she meets Nina, who is her age, and who also likes to be active and enjoys solving mysteries. Ada spends a lot of time using scientific methods to observe her new neighborhood and details the activities of the neighbors (since she's laid up), and when a neighbor's dog goes missing, she and Nina jump into action. The reality is not as bad as the girls think, but they have fun solving the problem.
Strengths: This was a nice short mystery for readers of realistic fiction books like Springstubb's Cody and the Rules of Life. There's a strong, positive family, girls who have issues with each other but work them out, and a solid story line.
Weaknesses: A tad didactic. There have been scientific girls in books for years; not a lot of them, certainly, but what we really need are books where it seems natural for girls to have a scientific bend. Maybe we aren't there just yet.
What I really think: Will purchase this series for my struggling 6th grade readers.

34228261Calandrelli, Emily. Ada Lace, On the Case
August 29th 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ada's father is also her art teacher, and while Ada would really like to please him, she's not good at art. She is working on George, her robot, to ready him for a competition, so she decides to program him with photoresisters to do artwork for her. In working through the project with her friend Nina, Ada realizes that she can't see shades of red-- she's color blind! Since her parents are both artists, she worries about how they will take the news, but they are kind and supportive, and know that her skills lay in coding and designing instead.
Strengths: There should be more stories that involve children who struggle in school, especially when they are conscientious and just struggle in a few areas. It was great to see a color blind character as well. Fun fact-- when Cross Country race boxes are painted on green grass with red paint, they are invisible to color blind people!
Weaknesses: These are a little young for middle school, but on par with Charlie Bumpers and Jenny Meyerhoff's Friendship Garden books. A definite purchase for elementary schools.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing for my struggling readers.

33313881Warner, Sally. Absolutely Alfie and the Furry Purry Secret
August 29th 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Alfie is not looking forward to second grade (she has a BOY teacher), but she's also a little tired of summer. Her mother makes arrangements for her to spend the last three weeks of vacation hanging out with Hanni, who lives close by. Alfie doesn't want Hanni to think she is boring and to say mean things about her at school, so she plans lots of activities. The girls end up getting along well, especially since Hanni's cat has had kittens, and Alfie has taken a liking to one of them, whom she names Princess. The family rule is "NO PETS", but Alfie feels that the kitten will make the rough parts of school easier, so she takes the cat home and manages to hide it in her room for several days. Kittens are more work than you'd think, however, and she eventually has to tell her parents.
Strengths: Since my older daughter kept a cat in her closet for a couple of days when she was in 6th grade, this was absolutely true-to-life! I love how Alfie knows what her family rules are and that she shouldn't break them, but when they get in the way of what she wants, she justifies her actions to herself. I also appreciated how her parents didn't overreact; they discussed the matter with her, and came to an agreement where Alfie is punished, but the cat remains as a family pet. There are a lot of elementary school issues that come in to play in this book, and they are all handled well.
Weaknesses: I wish that Alfie were a 4th grader; this book is on the long side for an early reader, (130 pages), and while my 6th grade reluctant readers might read about a student that age, they will NOT read about a second grader. Alfie and Hanni seemed more like 4th graders to me.
What I really think: Interesting first book in a series. I don't think I'll buy it for middle school, but definitely would fro elementary.

33313882Warner, Sally. Absolutely Alfie and the First Week Friends
August 29th 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Second grade is starting, and despite the butterflies in her stomach, Alfie manages to get along with her classmates and her teacher pretty well. SHe hasn't seen her best friend, Lulu, all summer, but she seems to get along okay with Hanni. Ms. Havens isn't quite as scary as he seemed, although Alfie doesn't much care for her classroom being called the "All-Stars". When "Back to School Night" plans are being made, Alfie's table group doesn't follow the instructions on making a project, and Alfie worries that everyone will make fun of her. Mr. Havens works with her, and the students learn important lessons about following directions and working together.
Strengths: Once again, Alfie faces challenges with the help of the supportive adults in her life. Her relationship with her older brother EllRay is quite charming. I may have to look into EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken. This is definitely a series I would buy for an elementary library.
Weaknesses: While I like the covers by Shearry Malone, the interior illustrations had kind of a 1980s vibe that wasn't as effective.
What I really think: Clearly, we need an older middle grade book about group projects that highlights the work intensive qualities of a MakerSpace. If you need a parent volunteer to make something work, is it really a good educational initiative?

31145011Harper, Charise Mericle. Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis.
August 15th 2017 by First Second
E ARC from

While this is a good format for my reluctant readers who really like graphic novels, it is definitely a story about a second grader. Her concerns are not like middle school concerns, so I don't think I will purchase. Great for elementary, though. (Side note: Ugh. Crafts. Unless it's something that can be used, liked quilts or sweaters, I don't have much patience. Very glad my girls are older and I don't have glitter glue in the house any more!)

Second grade isn't always a breeze for Birdie. There are just so many opportunities to embarrass herself! But Birdie's got a secret weapon that nobody knows about--her alter-ego, Crafty Cat! Birdie can become Crafty Cat without anyone noticing, and she always manages to get herself out of a jam using her awesome crafting skills! When Birdie goes to a day-camp for crafting, she knows she's going to have a great time and be the best in the group. But when things go wrong, can Crafty Cat help Birdie set them right?

From Just Grace and Fashion Kitty author Charise Mericle Harper comes the next volume in a hilarious, charming, and sweet new graphic novel trilogy for elementary-age readers about a little girl who can craft her way out of any situation.

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