Monday, September 25, 2017

MMGM- Two Fantastic Titles

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger's Blog and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Hautman, Pete. Slider
September 12th 2017 by Candlewick Press
ARC graciously provided by publisher upon request

David is interested in competitive eating-- he can eat a pizza pretty quickly, and he's watched a lot of competitions and thinks he could probably do pretty well. When he accidentally bids $2,000 on a half hot dog and his bid wins, he turns to several local competitive eating events to try to earn back the money before his mother sees the charge on her account. He wins a White Castle-type challenge, but only receives a gift card as a prize. This is somewhat helpful as he trains for the Super Pigorino Bowl at the local pizzeria, but he needs the money that winning the competition at the Iowa State Fair will provide. He embarks on a training regimen that involves insane amounts of food, including entire heads of cabbage, for building capacity. In the meantime, he parents aren't thrilled. It's not the academic success that David's older sister, Bridgette has in college, and he doesn't require the care that his younger brother, Mal does. If his mother labeled things, which she doesn't, Mal would be on the more serious end of the autism spectrum. David is very good at caring for Mal, so when David's parents think he needs more of a summer job than choking down pizzas, they have him tend Mal while the his mother teaches a class. David makes some headway with Mal's increased socialization-- Mal travels further, with fewer meltdowns, when he is wearing sunglasses, and David also thinks critically about the charateristics that make food appealing to Mal, and gets him to add several new things to his diet. Eventually, David's parents find out about the credit card bill, so the eating competition becomes even more important. Will David be able to use his skills, as well as his smarts, to figure a way out of his financial and personal crises?

Not only was David a particularly appealing character, and his role in his family realistically drawn, but his sidekicks Cyn and HeyMan were interesting as well. I liked the idea that the three of them had been friends, but now Cyn (whom David finds a bit appealing) and HeyMan are spending more time together but aren't sure if they are ready to be boyfriend/girlfriend. A lot of intriguing relationships going on in this book, and they are not the same old ones typical to middle grade literature.

I've also never seen a novel about competitive eating! It's not a topic that interests me personally, but I can see it being appealing to ever hungry middle school boys who are enthralled by the idea eating fifty slices of pizza or several dozen sliders. The research into training strategies, famous eaters, and different types of competitions is well done, and the creation of a couple of less-than-honest competitors is clever. I especially liked how David got the better of "The Gurge" on more than one occasion!

Of course, the most brilliant thing about this book is the way that it takes a very serious facet of David's life-- his brother Mal-- and frames the relationship the two have with the amusement of competitive eating. David is stoic in the way that many children who have siblings with issues can be, and he is kind and helpful to his brother while being a tiny bit annoyed, but he does feel a lot of pressure to be less of a problem to his parents because of the issues his brother faces. Readers will pick up this book because of the premise and the appealing cover art work, and learn some important life lessons in a way that slips down as easily as pizza crusts dipped in water.

For readers who like Jordan Sonnenblick, John David Anderson, and Gordon Korman and other humorous titles that also include messages of social importance, Hautman's Slider is two delicious and nutritious all beef patties of humor on a sesame seed bun of humanity.

33784946Elliott, L.M. Suspect Red
September 19th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley

Richard and his family live near Washington, D.C., where his father does something secretive for the government. They live in a solid, middle class neighborhood with J. Edgar Hoover and other government employees. When a new boy Richard's age moves in, he's glad to find another kindred spirit who liked J.D. Salinger and other books. Vlad's father also works for the government, but his mother is from Czechoslovakia and seems to have somewhat suspect views. McCarthyism is spreading quickly in 1953, with librarians taking books like Robin Hood off the shelves and lots of public figures being accused of being communist. Richard's father (who was involved in enough mission in WWII that he has some intermittent PTSD) is involved in some of the government missions, and hopes that he can redeem a mission gone wrong by bringing in some treacherous Communists. Richard wrongly thinks that Vlad's mother might be dangerous, and tips off his father. As McCarthy's dictatorial ways start to fall into disrepute, Richard and his father become less and less sure that "witch hunting" Communists is the way to go.
Strengths: The details of daily life were fantastic, right from the beginning, and I didn't find any historical anomalies, which made me very happy! Like Wiles' Sixties Trilogy, the chapter start out with period photos and descriptions of what is going on in history. Unlike the Wiles' books, these are short and well placed, and really speak to what is going on in Richard's life. The comparisons to what is going on in today's government are not explicit, but clearly there. Harry Truman. That's what the government needs right now. Harry Truman. Even if he didn't like dogs very much.
Weaknesses: The plot takes a while to develop, but I was so engrossed with the details of Richard's life that I didn't really care. Could have used a few more descriptions of clothing. And cars.
What I really think: So glad to have this to order for the fall! Brilliant depiction of a singular era in US history.


  1. A book on competitive eating is really unusual! SLIDER will have appeal to teens. There is a lot going on the story.

    SUSPECT RED really catches my attention, because of the subject and the era. Great review.

  2. I can't imagine wanting to read about someone who wants to win an eating contest, but you have piqued my interest with Slider.

  3. That Pete Hautman book sounds great. I like his work in general, and a story about EATING CONTESTS sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

  4. Two great recommends. You had me with the eating contest scenario in the first and the time period in the second.

  5. Thanks for telling us about Slider. It is good to know about this book when we confer with teachers and kids. You never know when we will find a reader who will love this book

  6. The both sound great. I will put them on my TB list and hope to get to them soon. Thanks for the post.

  7. Slider sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing!