Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cartoon Saturday: Marc's Mission and Be Prepared

Willink, Jocko and Bozak, Jon. Way of the Warrior Kid: Marc's Mission
April 24th 2018 by Feiwel & Friends

ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

This sequel to Way of the Warrior Kid finds Marc having a very bad day on the last day of school. His nemesis, Nathan James, has called him "Plate Face" one too many times, and Marc gets so angry that he throws a fake pumpkin at Nathan-- which ricochets off him and hits their teacher! The principal ends up calling Marc's Uncle Jake, who has just arrive in town to spend the summer with Marc. Uncle Jake doesn't get mad; he tries to get to the root of Marc's problems and help him to fix them. It's not Nathan's fault that Marc was sent home, it's Marc's fault for allowing himself to become angry and act irrationally. In the same respect, it's not Marc's mother's fault that she won't buy him a new bike; it's Marc's fault for not taking good care of the first bike she gave him. Marc ends up spending time in a summer camp which Nathan also attends, and part of his job over the summer is to learn to understand Nathan's behavior and get along with him. He also continues his physical training (Uncle Jake, remember, is a Navy SEAL), fix up his bike, and learn to get his anger under control. In the end, Marc finds that doing these things, while they may seem boring, make him a better person.

Jocko Willink
From Author's Amazon Page
Uncle Jake is a great, unflappable mentor who shows Marc how much he loves him by being tough on him. Of course, at one point Marc complains that he is tired and wants a day just to goof off and play video games, but this day is shown later to be rather unsatisfactory, since accomplishing something always makes for a better day. Not happy to limit his influence only to Marc, Uncle Jake also mentors Nathan, who is depicted as a lonely and bitter child who lacks adequate adult care and supervision. Marc's reactions to life events are realistic and understandable, and he is quite amenable to Jake's interventions.

While this seemed a bit on the didactic side for me, there are many, many middle grade readers who don't understand many of Uncle Jake's lessons, just like Marc! Aimed at fans of notebook novels like Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Middle School: Get Me Out of Here, these books would be fantastic for young readers who struggle with self control, consequences of their actions, and general empathy.

The author looks EXACTLY like I pictured Uncle Jake in my mind!

30623067Brosgol, Vera. Be Prepared
April 24th 2018 by First Second
E ARC from

Vera is trying very hard to fit in, but her single, Russian immigrant mother is in school and struggling to provide the lifestyle that Vera sees her classmates enjoying. After attending a slumber party, for example, Vera asks her friends to one at her house. She doesn't have enough space, her mother doesn't order the "right"kind of pizza, and the girls all call their parents in the middle of the night to take them home. One of the activities that many of her classmates do over the summer is to go to camp, which leaves Vera and her young brother with few children there age to engage with over vacation. When a girl at her church mentions a camp specifically for Russian children, Vera is SO excited. She begs to be able to go, and her mother saves up in order to send them. However, once there, Vera is alarmed at the bathroom facilities and by the mean older girls who are assigned to her cabin. It's a rough camping experience all together until the very end when Vera makes a few friends and has some fun... but not enough to go back for a second year.
Strengths: There are not that many camp stories, and this view of how hard it is to keep up with the "popular" lifestyle was intriguing. The illustrations are very engaging and funny. It's nice that Vera's little brother is included so that his experiences can be compared to hers. I would really like to read a follow up about Vera's move to London, and even a prequel with more about her trying to fit into school.
Weaknesses: I'm not fond of gross details (soiled underpants being run up a flagpole), but this will not bother the target demographic as much. There was a lot of unpleasantness for poor Vera; knowing this is autobiographical made it hard for me to read this, because I wished that more children had been nicer and more understanding.
What I really think: This will be just as popular as Holm's Sunny Side Up or Jamison's Roller Girl, and exposes children to some facets of immigrant life as well as summer camp.

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