Saturday, February 03, 2018

Salted Caramel Dreams

Bardenwerper, Julie Nastri. Salted Caramel Dreams
February 6th 2018 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Jasmine and Kiara have always been best friends, so when Kiara joins the basketball team, Jasmine feels adrift. She still has her DYI classes to keep herself occupied, and is working on sewing some tote bags she hopes to sell, but when she hears Kiara insulting her work with one of her new friends, Jasmine doesn't want to sew or hang out with Kiara anymore. Her mother signs her up for a drama group, and she gets involved with a production of Cinderella. She makes a new friend in Ava, and has a crush on another drama club member, Joseph. When her sewing skills turn out to be very useful in drama, she picks up her hobby again, but will she be able to go back to being friends with Kiara?
Strengths: This series is hugely popular, and is perfect realistic romantic fiction for middle grade readers. There are even some more multicultural aspects-- Jasmine's abuela lives with the family, and the characters are not all white and middle class. I had to preorder this whole series, I had so many girls ask for them.
Weaknesses: I didn't read this for a while because I thought I already had-- there was another book with a similar clothing design company friends hoped to start. In 20 years of teaching, I think I've had two girls really interested in sewing. I certainly was, but 40 years ago schools still offered sewing as a required class in middle school!
What I really think: Good stuff. Looking forward to seeing what Bardenwerper writes next!

Swartz, Elly. Smart Cookie.
January 30th 2018 by Scholastic
Public library copy

Frankie's mother was killed in a car accident when she was four, and even though she has a supportive father who runs a bed and breakfast and a live in grandmother, she feels that her family isn't complete. With the help of friend and next door neighbor, Elliot, she sets up a dating profile for her father and arranges for likely candidates to visit the bed and breakfast. She's able to hide what she's doing because her busy dad always figures that the women are customers and Frankie can deal with them. There is a school parade coming up, and Frankie really wants to have a "whole" family before that happens. There are a few other issues going on-- her former best friend Jessica's father left her family, and now her mother is depressed and neglectful. Her father may lose the B&B, but Frankie discovers some family secrets that may shed light on this. Her grandmother is having issues with hoarding that may cause her to move out-- maybe with the man she's dating! Combine this with her friend Elliot's concern that the B&B is haunted and her father's suspicious behavior, and Frankie has a lot more on her mind than getting the B&B cookies baked every day by 4:00 check in!
Strengths: This was well paced and intriguing, and the idea of Frankie wanting to set her father up is fun. Elliot is a good friend, and the relationship with Jessica is realistic. The grandmother was also a good character, and I especially liked that Frankie was concerned that her grandmother was ill when she was tired, when it was more because she was out late with her boyfriend!
Weaknesses: There should have been cookie recipes at the back! I also wish there had been fewer issues, since having so many diluted the important ones. Also a little concerned that Frankie never quite got over her idea that her family wasn't complete. I have a lot of students whose fathers have never been in the picture, and don't want them to feel that their families are somehow incomplete.
What I really think: The great cover and premise of this story sell the book very easily.

25337516Lloyd, Natalie. The Problim Children
February 6th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

The seven Problim children, all born on different days of the week, manage to blow up their house in the woods. Since their parents are archaeologists who are away for work, 16 year old Sundae is watching them and in charge, which is a good thing since the emergency phone is buried. Luckily, they have a deed to their grandfather's house in town, and head there. The lawyer thinks it's find that they move in, but a neighbor, Desdemona O'Pinion, wants the house for her own, since she believes it is hiding a treasure. The children, as well as their pet pig, cause a lot of ruckus in their new situation, which makes Desdemona want them out all the more. The children, however, believe that they are meant to be in the house, and set out to investigate the mysteries of it themselves. This is a fantasy book, as it involves somewhat sentient purple squirrels with silver tails, as well as spiders with some powers.
Strengths: Fans of Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, as well as readers who enjoy books like Lemony Snicket and Sieble's The Trouble with Twins, will enjoy this improbably, quirky adventure. Julia Sarda's line drawings add another layer of oddness to the story. (Her work looks like Joe and Beth Krush raised her, but Edward Gorey babysat her on a daily basis.)
Weaknesses: The catalog of the baby's farts pushed this over the edge for me. It's fine that they are particularly odoriferous, but it's too much to believe that the siblings not only categorized them, but numbered over 200 of them according to the events which precipitated them. There was also a preponderance of overly quirky names, and the whole premise seemed implausible.
What I really think: There will be many people who like this book. Lloyd is just one of those authors whose work never appeals to me, and I cringed every time the name "Problim" was used.

Ms. Yingling

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