Monday, February 19, 2018

MMGM-Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Hruza, Rachel. Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life
February 20th 2018 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC provided by the publisher upon request

Truth Trendon knows she has scoliosis, and her parents are good about monitoring its progression, but it's still a bit of a shock when she finds out right before starting 7th grade that she has to wear a back brace. She has to wear it all the time unless she is playing sports, and it's hard to fit clothes over. It's also hot and uncomfortable, and makes her feel different and weird, so she decides to hide it from everyone but her best friend, Megan. She doesn't want her crush, Brendan, to know, but she does tell him when the two start to spend more time together. The other person who knows is her friend Oliver, who is in a wheelchair because of his muscular dystrophy. Of course, it's hard to hide something as obvious as a back brace, but Truth manages to make it through the beginning of the year, hanging out with her siblings Charity and Harold, and coming to a grudging understanding with mean girl Jenny. When Megan gets angry at her and then steals Brendan, Truth has to reassess how she is participating in her own life, and manages to be true to herself while putting things to rights with her friends.
Strengths: There were some very good descriptions of what it is like to wear a back brace, and lots of realistic drama surrounding not only the brace but friends and crushes. Oliver's presence was interesting, and made Truth put her own circumstances into perspective in a way that can be very difficult for middle school girls to do. The best part of this might have been the romantic arc with Brendan-- very typical of middle school romances! I am very glad to see more than one contemporary book about scoliosis-- Gerber's Braced came out about a year ago. Hruza has a nice note at the back about how not everyone's experience with scoliosis is the same. This is very much the truth, so having more than one book to hand to students is fantastic!
Weaknesses: There is a scene early on where Truth describes seeing her back's deformities while showering. I can only imagine that this is based off of her own life, but it seemed odd to me, especially since her back looked so bad that the character then throws up. I had a fairly pronounced curvature to my spine, but could only tell because my one shoulder was lower than the other. Most of the book is fairly positive, and Truth deals with her scoliosis in a fairly understandable way, but to start the book off with such an extreme scene reminded me of Blume's Deenie going nuts and cutting off her hair. Not the message girls who have just been diagnosed with scoliosis need.
What I really think: Most of my objections are personal! I wore a back brace from 8th to 10th grade, and it wasn't a huge deal to me, but like Hruza says, everyone has a different experience. With fashions the way they are today, and with all of the talk about body positivity and accepting people's differences, I could see my students wearing hoodies and track pants every day and no one ever even suspecting they were rocking a brace underneath. In 1978, pants and shirts were really tight, and I ended up wearing my mother's clothes. Even so, no one really noticed my brace. In middle school, people are too busy worrying about how they look!

Mattern, Joanne. The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids
March 1st 2018 by Capstone
E ARC from Netgalley

Who knew there were so many kinds of cats, many of them bred in the last century? Who knew so many of them were so completely creepy looking? I'm not a cat person at all (I really do believe most of them want to kill us in our sleep!), but this is a great overview of the major breeds popular in the US. There are a number of breeds mentioned, including American Shorthair, Persian, Ragdoll, Exotic and Sphinx cats. There is a brief overview of each breeds' history and development, a bit about their distinctive personalities, and a few things about caring for the cats.

I strongly suspect that this is a compilation of books on the individual breeds that Mattern has written, but I don't know for sure. This would explain why the care sections, in particular, all sound pretty much the same.

If your library can only afford one cat book, definitely take a look at this. I know my students enjoy the books on individual breeds, so I try to buy one or two a year. I'll pass, because I probably already have this information in individual books.


  1. These books sound great! I do appreciate that books are being written about medical conditions that kids may have but never see represented in books. Also, the cat encyclopedia sounds really fun! Thanks for the recommendations!

  2. I have had a few students with scoliosis and they all seem to handle it well. Seems to be a lot of books recently about kids with some sort of physical limitation and that to me is a good thing—especially if they are well written.

  3. I had a school and church friend in junior high who had scoliosis. She had to have several surgeries and wear different types of braces. The one thing I remembered about her when I read your feature today was that she always had a smile on her face no matter how much discomfort she must have been going through. I will definitely read this book. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. My friend wore a back brace for many years -- even rode horses with her brace on. This is an important book for kids who have scoliosis and their family and friends. This is one I should read and review. Don't have anything like it on my blog. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Hmmm. That scene (ending in vomiting) does sound a bit extreme. But I am usually very happy to see more kidlit, MGlit, and YAlit openly discussing a wide variety of medical conditions or childhood limitations. Anything that helps promote empathy and understanding excites me. Have a great reading week!

  6. It's always really interesting when a book is reviewed by someone who has had a similar or shared experience - I can review a book's writing or plot, but I won't came at it from quite the same perspective, though of course, as you say, no two experiences are ever the same.

  7. My daughter nearly had to wear a back brace because of her poor posture - thanks for sharing strengths/weaknesses that you found for both books - always good to read your refreshingly-candid reviews.