Thursday, March 08, 2018

Midnight in the Piazza

35068664Parks, Tiffany. Midnight in the Piazza
March 6th 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

When Beatrice's father gets a job as the head of the history department at the American Academy in Rome, she is angry that they have to leave their home in Boston. She's not given a choice (her father is very fortunate to have a job!), and the two are soon ensconced in the Jewish Ghetto. Beatrice wants to explore, and her father reluctantly agrees. She meets a few other children who speak English, uncluding Marco, and starts to establish some routines. When she is awakend one night by a clanging from the fountain in the square, she looks out and see a man stealing the sculptured turtles from it. The next morning, however, the turtles are still there, although their position seems slightly off. Even though she is busy with exploring and taken Italian lessons from, Beatrice is enthralled with the story of the Palazzo Mattei and the fountain that was built overnight. The more she investigates the palazzo and the turtles, the deeper Beatrice gets into a complicated mystery in which her own tutor might be involved! Will she be able to use her skills of deduction to figure it out before an important piece of history is lost for good?
Strengths: The details about living in Rome were just exquisite, and I loved the fact that the mystery was happening actually in her front yard. This is great for students who  like Blue Balliet's art mysteries or Marianne Malone's The Sixty-Eight Rooms but also for anyone who wants to live in a new and exciting foreign city. I want to go get some gelato and eat it by a fountain right now!
Weaknesses: I never understand why tweens don't want to move to foreign countries-- how fantastic that would be! Also, I couldn't believe that her father didn't use a computer. In academia these days? Pfft. The history professors at the University of Cincinnati were all about computers when I was there in 1987, so that stretched my credulity.
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Runholdt's Kari and Lucas mysteries or Gonzalez's Moving Target books, which see a steady circulation in my library. Also a bit like the very new Asselin and Malone Art of the Swap book. It's not the gory type of murder mystery that my students want, but it involves traveling to Italy, so I'm sold!

28250907Budhos, Marina. Watched.
September 13th 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books
Digital copy from the Ohio E Book Project

Naeem's father and stepmother moved from Bangladesh hoping for a better life. A senior in high school, Naeem has found school frustrating, and has falled so far behind that he's not even sure how to catch up. When it turns out he can't, his parents are very disappointed in his. They work very hard running a convenience store in their Queens neighborhood, and had high hopes for Naeem and his younger brother. Naeem has a friend, Ibrahim, who is trouble, and one of their adventures ends with Naeem getting arrested for shoplifting. In exchange for not having the event on his record (thus perhaps impacting his father's green card), the police offer him a chance to work as a mole for them in the Muslim community. He is to infiltrate mosques, student groups, and Muslim online chat rooms and look for "suspicious" behavior and report to them. For a while, Naeem enjoys being more involved in his community and going back for GED classes. When his friend Ibrahim starts to act suspiciously, however, Naeem needs to decide whether he wants to continue working with the police on their profiling activities.
Strengths: Naeem's struggles with wanting to do well and failing to do so will resonate with many of my students. The joy he takes in being a "good citizen" is great to see, and the police are painted as fairly as possible in the matter of profiling. It definitely is portrayed as "seemed like a good idea at the time" choice for all parties, instead of an essentially evil one. I enjoyed this a lot, and Naeem's parents and younger brother were realistically heart breaking.
Weaknesses: Sometimes, college aged characters are a hard sell, but I think my more mature readers will enjoy the mystery and intrigue. I appreciate that there isn't anything that makes this inappropriate for middle school.
What I really think: This brings up some interesting questions and is very interesting. I think that some of my 8th grade readers will enjoy seeing characters with immigrant background and rocky high school experiences, combined with the timeliness of the political background. Don't know how I missed this, but will definitely purchase.

Ms. Yingling

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