Friday, May 11, 2018

Boy Bites Bug and Whatshisface

35888422Petruck, Rebecca. Boy Bites Bug
May 8th 2018 by Amulet Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Will has been friends with Darryl and Simon in his small Minnesota town for as long as he can remember. When there is a stink bug invasion in the library and their teacher steps out for a moment, Darryl makes racist comments about Eloy, who has recently moved to town. Will is so surprised and disturbed by his friend's comments that he tries to deflect attention from them... by eating a stink bug. Needless to say, this is not a great idea, and Will gets in a lot of trouble. He's unsure how to deal with his friend, but starts talking to Eloy more and finds out that he is interested in wrestling. The season is just starting, and Will has been waiting for it for a long time. He and Eloy are about the only 7th graders on the team, and the two start spending more time together. The "Bug Boy" label is firmly attached to Will, however, and he's trying hard to figure a way around it. For a group science project on insects, he works with Eloy on the subject of entomophagy and works with Eloy's father (who runs a Mexican restaurant that is one of Will's favorites) to bring fried crickets to their presentation. He doesn't do the appropriate paperwork, and gets in a lot of trouble. Eloy feels, with some reason, that Will was making fun of his culture. Will is very confused-- he wants to be friends with Eloy and enjoys the time they spend together at wrestling-- but he seems unable to address Eloy's cultural background without being a complete jerk. He is constantly apologizing but usually getting things wrong. In conjunction with the science project, and to raise money for a teacher with cancer, Will comes up with an idea for a Buck-a-Bug bake sale, and gets Eloy's father to help. In the meantime, he also seems to be a thoughtless jerk to Darryl, which is easy to do after Darryl puts ants in his and Eloy's wrestling singlets. Still, Will tries desperately to be the better person, and tries to overcome his reputation as Bug Boy while making things as right as he can with his friends.
Strengths: This has WRESTLING in it, and the details are really good! There is also the gross out factor of bugs and cooking, but there are also a lot of good reasons for the consumption of insects. I bet Ms. Petruck has an awesome school presentation for this book! Will's struggle to hit the right note with his friends is so painfully true to life, and I know that the plight of children who are not of Germanic or Norwegian descent in Minnesota must be a lot tougher than it is here in Ohio. (I have relatives in Iowa who spoke German in school before WWII who are NOT happy with Mexican immigrants, which I have trouble understanding.) The families are supportive and understanding of the difficulties middle school students have with social interaction, and Will's sister is especially wonderful, considering the bugs with which she has to put up! I really enjoyed this one.
Weaknesses: Will's angst goes on a tiny bit longer than necessary, and the descriptions of ingesting insects are not for the faint of stomach.
What I really think: This is an excellent addition to any middle school collection. The wrestling will draw readers in, and the friendship issues will keep them riveted. The bugs... the students will enjoy much more than I did!

Korman, Gordon. Whatshisface
May 8th 2018 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Cooper Vega is used to moving a lot with his parents' jobs, but it still gets old being "what's his face". At his newest school, he manages to run afoul of Brock, the popular, jerk-face jock. He has a pleasant interaction with Jolie, who is also popular and absolutely addicted to extreme sports. The town, Stratford, is greatly influenced by the wealthy Mr. Wulfson, who is a Shakespeare aficionado and collector of Shakespearean artifacts. Because of this, the middle school always puts on a play, and this year Romeo and Juliet is in line for production. Of course, Brock is cast as Romeo, and Jolie as Juliet, much to Cooper's chagrin. Cooper has bigger problems, though-- the new phone with which his parents have tried to bribe him, the GX-4000 is glitchy... and haunted. The ghost of a Shakespearean era printer's apprentice, Roddy, is in control of the phone and giving Cooper a VERY hard time. Between wanting to go to class to see all of the innovations in the world, to cursing out Brock in inventive language, to giving Cooper tips on how to woo Jolie, Roddy is annoying, but also the closet thing Cooper has to a best friend. He is also very helpful when Brock injures himself and Cooper has to step in to the role of Romeo! Eventually, Cooper and Roddy figure out why Roddy is haunting the phone, and investigate some of Mr. Wulfson's holdings in order to solve a centuries old mystery.
Strengths: I'm not a fan of Shakespeare AT ALL, but the way that Korman worked this into the story was brilliant. The phone is haunted, and we are just asked to believe that, as well as why Roddy is present. Cooper's plight as a new kid gives him more reason to run afoul of Brock and need a friend. Korman could really write just about anything and my students would read it. I am constantly amazed at the number of interesting ideas he can turn into stand alone titles. Great stuff.
Weaknesses: Do military families really have to move every six months? That was the only thing that I had trouble believing. The ghost, of course, but moving that often? Pfft.
What I really think: If this story were written by anyone else or had a different cover, it might take some hand selling, but this author and this cover will assure that this spends very little time on the shelf.

Ms. Yingling


  1. These sound really good but the big question is--how could anyone NOT LIKE SHAKESPEARE??? The plays are still exciting and moving and funny after 400 years. And the language!! He could get more emotional resonance out of five words than most writers do in a whole paragraph. And don't tell me kids won't like him--I once saw a bunch of teens scoff at Mel Gibson's Hamlet at the beginning and were totally enthralled by the end.

  2. Apparently, military families COULD move every 6 months, but it's somewhat rare. And >I< am not a fan of Shakespeare's plays (the sonnets are okay)- I told a friend I would go to Shakespeare in the Park this summer, but am NOT looking forward to Hamlet.