Monday, April 02, 2018

MMGM- Class Action

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.

35721861Frank, Steven B. Class Action
April 3rd 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Sam is tired of homework. It's not that he wants to do nothing but play video games when he gets home from school-- he wants to be outside, build things with his dad, play piano, and do things OTHER than homework for hours and hours. His friend Alistair would use his time to cook, and Catalina wants to memorize Pi to a thousand digits past the decimal. When Sam finally gets fed up with one project too many threatening to ruin his weekend, he gets suspended for causing a disruption in class. When his older sister, Sadie, points out that he can't be suspended without due process, a thought takes hold. Could he really protest homework and take it all the way to the Supreme Court? With the help of his neighbor, Mr. Kalman (who is a retired lawyer who had worked on school cases before), the group (including friend Jaesang) make plans. They raise funds (by selling California Mission projects as well as science fair projects!) to finance their court cases, and lay their plans very carefully. Mr. Kalman's knowledge of the legal system is very helpful, but the case is thrown out by the two lower courts before the group heads to Washington. By this time, there is a huge show of support by children throughout the US who have as their rallying cry the fact that studies have not shown that homework is helpful, and that students need to have free time to process information and to be curious individuals. Can Mr. Kalman and Sadie manage to not only research the case well but argue it effectively?
Strengths: This is definitely Avi's Nothing But the Truth for the new millenium. Frank does an excellent job of making Sam's case seem like it might actually be something that the courts would take on, and Kalman's approach is great. There is even an overview of the "justices" and their different backgrounds that is quite fascinating, and gives a lot of insight into how an actual case might be considered. The fact that Sam and his friends want their free time for productive purposes helps. Parents are supportive, even though Sam's case costs his mother her job as a realtor! The plot moves along quickly, and is just a lot of fun. Frank's experience in an actual middle school classroom is evident. Will definitely purchase.
Weaknesses: Selling projects made me a little uneasy. While I've heard that the Californian Mission projects are very problematic, delving into academic dishonesty wasn't the best way for the children to earn money.
What I really think: I taught middle school Latin, and cannot imagine any 6-8th grader learning that subject without any homework. Just... doesn't work. Considering that I found the basic premise of the book didn't hold, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. This is a testament to Frank's writing, and the target demographic will be delighted with the idea of doing away with homework in a way that I definitely was NOT!

35638833Albee, Sarah. Dog Days of History
March 27th 2018 by National Geographic Kids
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

Want to know lots of interesting details about the history of domesticated canines? Look no further than this great book. Beautifully illustrated, this comprehensive study covers information about dogs from ancient times to the present. In addition to the narrative descriptions of the role dogs have played in human households, there are plenty of sidebars and inserts with fun facts about man's best friend. Readers who enjoy Guinness or Ripley's books will find this just as amusing (although not as gross!), but students who need facts for history reports will also find plenty of information. Like this author's Poop Happened and Why'd They Wear That?, Dog Days is full of interesting information. This is one of those books that would be an excellent present before a long car ride-- it might keep children from wanting to stick their heads out of the windows!

35924694Kalicky, Anne. My Life in Smiley
April 3rd 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Max is documenting his sixth grade year in France with a journal that he doesn't want his parents or his older sister to find. He and his best friend Tom are trying just to keep up with everyone else and not get hurt by the evil Raoul. As we follow their progress through the school year, we see them as their class travels to a nursing home to sing, the boys try to come up with low cost holiday presents, they start to notice girls in their class, and their British pen pals visit for sightseeing in Paris. There are frequent trips to Britanny to visit grandparents, and outings to the car wash and other errands that sometimes don't end the way we think they will. Like a French version of Kinney's Wimpy Kid or Pichon's Tom Gates, Max's adventures are all slightly embarrassing but generally pretty tame.
Strengths: I've gotten to the point where I flinch with nearly every book I pick up, because they have all become so depressing. This was blissfully free of death and depression. It was fun, addressed real concerns that students have, and offered a window into French culture. Mayonnaise on pasta? Field trips to the Eiffel Tower? Fishing with grandparents in Brittany. Skiing during winter break? All very privileged, but also quite a relief. The emoticons will immediately draw students to this. In return, I think it only fair that we send Stick Dog books to France.
Weaknesses: I wish there had been MORE details of what it is like to go to school in France! A lot of it sounded much to American!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. The cover alone makes me smile.


  1. I finished Class Action recently and will post a review soon. It's a great way to learn about our judicial process, although I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it as I was for Armstrong and Charlie. Thanks for all your great reviews this past week.

  2. All three of these are on my must read list. Thanks for your reviews!

  3. Your excellent review of "Class Action" makes me want to read it! I like the idea of kids learning a little about the judicial process. I know some adults who would love "Dog Days." "Smiley" sounds like fun light-hearted reading!

  4. I'm definitely adding Class Action to my TBR list right now. It sure sounds interesting! I really enjoyed reading all your reviews. Since most of my readings is middle grade, I guess one of these days I need to join in the MMGM. Have a wonderful reading week!

  5. I either bought or got from the library the first two books! Looks like I have some good reading ahead of me!

  6. Class Action sounds like an interesting read. I do think there has to be some kind of balance with homework. Homework in high school is one thing, but I don't think younger students should have anything much more than reading to do at home unless they didn't finish work that could have been accomplished at school. That's how it was in the elementary school I taught at. Many students went home and continued researching on topics that interested them. I did send home math games and puzzles for students who needed extra help, but those were fun activities that were for the whole family to play!

  7. Thanks for sharing these new-to-me books! I am adding Class Action to my list! :)

  8. I love knowing more about new middle grade novels through your Monday reading posts. Checking these out.