Monday, October 09, 2017

MMGM- We Are Party People, Not on Fifth Street

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. 

Margolis, Leslie. We Are Party People
October 3rd 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
E ARC From

Pixie's parents run the local party business, We Are Party People, and also give toddler classes on music from their storefront in the mall. Her mom and dad dress up as everything from John Lennon to Luella the Mermaid to the Crazy Chicken. When Pixie's estranged grandmother develops increasingly bad problems with dementia, Pixie's mother goes to stay with her and get her resettled. This means that a lot of the party business needs Pixie's help. This is a lot to ask, since she is trying to make her way through middle school with the help of longtime friend Lola and newcomer Sophie. Pixie suffers from shyness and some social anxiety, so when Sophie decides to run for class president and wants her help, and her father wants her to sing at birthday parties, her anxiety escalates, especially since she is also meeting her mother. She is impressed with how well Sophie can go up to other students and introduce herself, and is a bit jealous of her ability to talk to boys. Sophie gives a great speech for the school election, and thinks that being the mermaid at a birthday party would be a lot of fun. Since Pixie doesn't want to do that, Sophie is recruited, but has second thoughts when mean girl and election opponent Jenna is at the party! Will Pixie be able to harness her inner resources to save the day?
Strengths: This is what we need in middle grade novels. Some realistic friend and family drama, a little crush, a fun setting in which a middle grade character DOES something, and a happy ending. Confetti on the cover. I love Margolis' other books, such as If I Were You, and I can't wait to share this title with my readers. This would also be perfect for elementary students who want to read about older students.
Weaknesses: The character development could have been a bit better. Pixie is anxious and anxious and anxious... and then she's not. There were some circumstances that made this make a little more sense, but I wished she had analyzed Sophie's behavior a little more and tried it out with varying degrees of success before finding out what worked for her.
What I really think: First of all, I want to name my next dog Pixie! I was a little put off by the portrayal of Pixie's anxiety at first, but was glad to see her be able to overcome it. I will probably get people who are really annoyed at me by that comment, but honestly, I think the way she felt is pretty much how 95% of middle school girls feel, and I'm including the teachers and librarians in this group! It's people like Jenna and Sophie who are unusual.

Wiechman, Kathy Cannon. Not on Fifth Street
October 10th 2017 by Calkins Creek Books
E ARC graciously provided by publisher upon request

Brothers Pete and Gus live with their family in Ironton, Ohio in 1937. Practical Pete, the younger brother, is the one the father counts on to help around the house, and Gus is the more poetic, distracted, romantic type. When the Ohio River starts to rise after a warm and rainy January, the father asks Gus to accompany him in helping their neighbors prepare for and fight the rising waters. Gus is pleased to be asked instead of Pete, until he realizes that being left in charge of the house and younger siblings is a greater responsibility. Pete accepts his job and performs it with diligence, trying to keep the house dry while not alarming his mother more than necessary. As the water rises, he removes the refrigerator motor and takes it upstairs so it doesn't get damaged, brings food and supplies up, and even positions the family row boat so it can be accessed if needed. Gus helps with sandbagging until the men in the town realize how futile their efforts are. When his father wants him to go home, he instead crosses the river to visit a girl he likes, only to be stuck there when the bridge is closed. His family hadn't liked Venus because her family is protestant and her mother is divorced, but Gus learns some family secrets that make the girl more accepted by his family. Pete evacuates the family to an aunt's house and is worried that he hasn't heard news of Gus and his father, but eventually the family is reunited, and the clean up work can begin.

Historical fiction is a great way to help young readers understand current events. I read this book while Hurricane Harvey was devastating the Gulf Coast in Texas. While the conditions of the flooding are different, the end results are the same. The author based this story on her own family's experience living through this flood; it was interesting to read that the brothers marked the flood level in the garage, and that the house is still standing! This is ultimately a hopeful story about living through and overcoming disaster.

The details about daily life are accurate, but might surprise readers. The fact that Venus is not Catholic is bad enough, but that her mother is divorced? Scandalous. Again, there are many issues today with people from difference religious backgrounds getting along, and it's all too easy to forget that not very long ago, the Catholic/Protestant division was very, very important. Perhaps in 80 years, it will be just as unremarkable to have Muslim neighbors. There are other, more frivolous details as well-- knickers, ice boxes, and popular radio shows are just a start.

The drama between the brothers, as well as the socioeconomic divide between Pete's house on Fifth Street, which should be safe from the flood, and his friend Richie's house closer to the river that is prone to flooding, add interesting dimensions to the book, but the real draw is the flood. Through short chapters, first from Pete's perspective and then from Gus's, we see day by day and hour by hour how the water rises, and what devastation it causes. There's a light but palpable tension as Pete tries to keep his family safe but unaware of how bad things are, and Gus's decision to travel out into the midst of the problem steps the tension up a notch.

The short chapters help to really move the story along. Readers who enjoy survival stories with lots of action and adventure will want to add Not on Fifth Street to their pile of books containing Will Hobbs, Gary Paulsen, and Terry Lynn Johnson titles.
Ms. Yingling


  1. Both books sound interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for telling us about Not on Fifth Street. We are always looking for good adventure stories.

  3. I love the sound of these two new titles. I've put them on top of my to read list. Great choices for CYBILS books yet to be nominated. I've been spreading the word to get more nominations in from those who may have forgotten.

  4. We Are Party People sound like a fun read. Like Pixie's name. I really liked your review of Not on Fifth Street. I remember my grandparents talking about the big flood of the Ohio River. (I live in Dayton, OH) I lived through a flood in 1958/59, when the Olentangy River in Cols and flooded my neighborhood. I also remember similar Catholic/Protestant divisions in my youth. This book would appeal to me. Thank you!

  5. Both books do seem to be good for the purposes you mentioned. I remember growing up & a cousin who was Catholic could not enter my church. Times have changed. That 2nd one will be good to read for the flooding problems too! Thanks, Karen.

  6. Both of these sound like books I now wan to read.
    I agree with your comments about We Are Party People and think that some anxiety and insecurity are just part of the human condition, especially for adolescents.

  7. Not on Fifth Street sounds fabulous - now to wait for its publication.

  8. Not on Fifth Street looks really nice. Really enjoy reading your standard reviews of these middle grade novels (with strengths/weaknesses, etc). :)

  9. You are always so good at keeping up with the ARCs. I find that I get pulled by recently published books more often, and I need to get back on the ARC train.