Monday, April 23, 2018

MMGM- Running on the Roof of the World

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.

Butterworth, Jess. Running on the Roof of the World
May 1st 2018 by Algonquin Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley

When Tash and her friend Sam witness a man self-immolating himself in the market place in their small Tibetan town, they are scared for many reasons. The police frown on any activity they do not approve, and punish the transgressors heavily. Sam's father is so bludgeoned by his surroundings that he doesn't care all that much about taking care of Sam, but Tash's parents are both supportive of her... and resistant to the Chinese government. Her father writes what the government tells him in the local newspaper, but also distributes anti-government leaflets. When the police come knocking on their door, they give Tash some papers and a few supplies and tell her to hide and meet them later. They never come. Tash and Sam talk, and decide to attempt to travel to India and ask the Dalai Lama for help. They borrow two yaks from a neighbor and set off across the cold and treacherous landscape to India. It's not easy, and they don't trust anyone they meet. When they get to India, will they even be able to get the help they need?
Strengths: If I ever have to travel in the Himalayas, I am definitely making sure I have access to a yak! This is what I learned from this book. That, and it's essential to carry dried yak dung with me to make a fire. I love this sort of detail. I have been looking for stories set in this area of the world, especially Nepal and Bhutan since I have students who were born in those countries, but I'll take what I can get. This was a fantastic survival adventure story with vivid details about traveling through the mountains. The brilliant part of the book was how it addressed the political climate in Tibet so that younger readers can understand it, and they can see how it affects someone who is their age.
Weaknesses: Because this started with the author's note about being raised in the Himalayas, and the characters had vaguely Western names, I thought at first that they were Westerners living in Tibet and was momentarily confused. It didn't take long to be set straight, and this could just be my reaction. I wish there had been a few more notes about history related to this, just because some readers will not quite understand how the real situation is.
What I really think: Definitely looking forward to sharing this with my readers next year. (I've spent all of the money I had for books-- next order will be in August.)

38732127Fry, Erin. Undercover Chefs
Published February 26th 2018 by 50/50 Press
Copy provided by author

Isaac is a very fast runner, but he'd rather be baking than training as hard as his mother would like. Jane struggles in school, and is worried about her grandfather, but loves to bake. J.C. loves to do scooter tricks that sound a lot like skateboarding (something we need MUCH more of in middle grade book!), and cooks a lot by necessity because he takes care of his younger brothers after school. When all three get an invitation to attend a cupcake competition meeting, they attend to escape other obligations and end up in a dusty, abandoned corner of their school. They meet Dr. Gus, a veteran geology teacher who has been placed on administrative leave by the evil assistant principal, M(r)s. Rappaport after a video of him talking to a rock is posted. Dr. Gus shows them the filthy, old home economics room and tells them they can do their baking for the contest there, after they clean it up. He's trying to keep some of the programs that benefit students but are no longer considered essential. It's not easy to keep up with other commitments and continue to come up with an idea for the competition, but the children take a liking to each other and work very hard to do well. When the final cupcake competition falls on a day that is in conflict with a meet and a skateboarding contest, and Jane has a family obligation, will the undercover chefs be able to overcome their obstacles and help out their school and Dr. Gus?
Strengths: The characters alone make it very clear that Ms. Fry is a middle school teacher and gets it. I've seen Isaac's well meaning but overbearing mother many times in cross country. Jane's family situation is a bit complex (adopted from China, mother died of cystic fibrosis, being raised by busy dad and ailing grandfather), but her learning difficulties are real, and it was good to see her get help for them at the end of the book. J.C.'s situation is all too common and a hard one for teachers to understand, because we most often don't know that it is happening. I also enjoyed Dr. Gus-- our geology teacher left about ten years ago and came back to find that his replacement had thrown out all of the rock samples he had collected over the years. Especially clever was the way that all three ended up being invited to work with Dr. Gus; let's just say that senior citizen networking in Isaac's town is alive and well. Dr. Gus's motivation was really sweet and made me cry! All in all, a fast, tasty read that I really enjoyed.
Weaknesses: While I could almost buy the abandoned home ec lab (although what school has that kind of room going spare?), it was hard to believe that M(r)s. Rappaport thought she would be able to get away with her evil plan. It's a fun part of the plot, just not all that realistic.
What I really think: Sadly, this is available only in paperback, so somewhat difficult to keep for long in my collection. This would definitely be a great e book to purchase for a child for the summer-- currently it is $2.99 on Amazon!


  1. Thanks for all your great reviews this past week. My TBR pile is wobbling! I also liked RUNNING on the ROOF of the WORLD. Such a fascinating journey and yes I have ordered my own Yak. (Also thanks for the recommendation of Dan Richard's Stu Truly over on my blog. I read an excerpt and it has great voice.)

  2. Running on the Roof of the World sounds very interesting. That's wild to learn about dried yak dung and starting fires. LOL We pick up such unexpected life survival tips in books. :) Thanks for sharing and have a great reading week!

  3. Self-immolation is hard topic for MG. I'd like to see how this was handled. I do love reading books that provide details about the environment where the story's set, and it sounds as if Running Roof World one did.

  4. I love books about Nepal too, so your share is one I will order. It has a great title and cover. Living in Nepal is survival. I'm curious if they reach Dalai Lama in India. I also enjoyed your review of Undercover Chefs. I have noticed an increase in stories I've reviewed over the past two years that have an element of cooking in them. This one sounds very appealing.

  5. I have Running on the Roof to read--I look forward to it :)

    Happy reading this week!

  6. When I glanced at the titles of the books in your post, I didn't think they were quite up my alley, but after reading your reviews, I want to find time to read both. Thanks for telling me about them.

  7. Trekking in the Himalayas is on my list of things I want to do now that I am retired. I just have to convince my partner that we can do it!
    In the meantime, I will get Running on the Roof of the World, and read it.

  8. Oh wow, we have this book as one of our prizes for the Literary Voyage around the World Reading Challenge - I think this is the book prize for March, if I am not mistaken. :)

  9. Running on the Roof of the World sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Good heavens! How am I ever going to keep up with all the good books you recommend? Running on the Roof of the World sounds so great that I'll have to find it. Am just now about to start on Ice Dogs.