Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How We Roll, Jasmine Toguchi

35791915Friend, Natasha. How We Roll
June 5th 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Quinn's family has moved from Denver to near Boston so that her brother, Julius, who is on the autism spectrum, can attend the Cove school. Quinn is glad to move, since she is suffering from alopecia, and can start her new school with a wig so that no one will suspect. She also had some bad occurrences with her friends in Denver at the end of 8th grade, and is glad to be starting over. She is accepted right away by a small group of girls who seem nice enough, but she is intrigued by one of the girl's former boyfriends, Nick. Nick was involved in a ski mobile accident and lost both of his legs, so is in a wheelchair while he is learning to use prosthetic legs. Nick's brother, Tommy, was responsible for the accident (he was driving drunk), but is still considered very cute by the other high school girls. Nick is bitter, because he was an up and coming football player. As Quinn makes friends with him, she finds out that he enjoys drawing more than football, but his father thought that artistic endeavors took away from sports activities, so didn't encourage him. Quinn is afraid to tell her new friends about her alopecia, but after Nick and Tommy help her get Julius off the roof of her house, her wig falls off, and they know. She eventually tells her friends, who are more understanding than she thinks they will be, and also makes some peace with her parents, who are often more concerned with Julius than they are with her.
Strengths: Friend's work is always concerned with issues students today face, and she treats these issues with frankness and compassion. My daughter was a huge fan of her Perfect, Lush, and Bounce. Quinn's experiences with being touched inappropriately and with a boy hinting that she participated in a sexual activity are handled in a very helpful, middle grade appropriate way. Quinn knows she should tell someone, but doesn't, and does not feel right until she is able to process the experience with her mother, who is very understanding. This is a great lesson for middle grade readers. While it seemed a little unlikely that Nick and Quinn would hit it off so quickly, this was also realistically done; Quinn, as a new student with her own secrets, was able to connect with Nick in an honest way that classmates who knew him before the accident weren't able to pull off. The description of dealing with alopecia also was instructive and sensitive, and one I haven't really seen since Haddix's Because of Anya (2002). While we are seeing a lot of books about children with siblings on the autism spectrum, Julius' difficulties make sense in this book. You'd think there are too many issues, but somehow Friend pulls it off. Love this one!
Weaknesses: Having had many friends who got PhDs in Classics and were never able to find a job, I found it hard to believe that the father would leave a job in Colorado AND found one in Boston. AND spoke in Latin to his daughter. Cute, but I am the only one who isn't buying it!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although I wish the publisher had kept the cover style of  Perfect, Lush, and Bounce.

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl
April 3rd 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Public library copy

Jasmine's school announces that there will be a talent show on the coming Saturday, but she's not sure what talent she can demonstrate. Most of her talents, like mochi pounding or collage making, are good for showing to people. All of her friends seem to dance or take music lessons, so they automatically have things to do. When Jasmine mentions this to her mother, they go to visit a college friend of her mother's who plays taiko, Japanese drums. Jasmine takes to them right away, but is disappointed that she still needs to practice, even though she has a talent for them, With less than a week to prepare, it's a close call, but with some help from her mother and sister, Jasmine is ready for the show, even if the practice doesn't go the way she thinks it should.
Strengths: Books about children who do things and have interests are fantastic, and the fact that Jasmine discovers an activity that is also connected to her cultural identity is particularly fun. I love her supportive family, her struggles to identify what she likes, and the difficulties she faces when learning something new. This is a great length for beginning readers, and has a feel of B is for Betsy for the new Millenium.
Weaknesses: Less than a week for a talent show? And Jasmine premiers a talent she has just learned? Seemed unlikely, but made for a good story.
What I really think: I'm going to wait and see if my students this coming year are still reading books that seem young for 6th grade. These are an essential purchase for elementary school, and I would have adored them in first grade, but I'm a little leery of purchasing them for middle school.
Ms. Yingling

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