Monday, August 06, 2018

MMGM- The Dollar Kids and Eleanor Roosevelt

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.

29625895Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. The Dollar Kids
August 7th 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley

Lowen Grover and his family have a decent life in the city, but after his best friend is shot at a convenience store along with three other children, the off from a small town to buy a house for a dollar has a lot of appeal. Millville is struggling with the closing of its paper mills a while ago, and the town needs more families with children in order to keep the schools going. The Grovers have careers the town wants (the mother wants to open a pasty take out shop, and the father is a physician's assistant), and Clem and Anneth are interested in helping out the sports teams, although Anneth is the least excited about relocating. The family applies, is accepted, and even gets the one house of the five that they wanted. It has four bedrooms, but is also right next door to the local funeral home. This gives Lowen, who is still grieving the loss of his friend Abe, especially since he feels guilty about sending him to the store for candy, a bit of a hard time. In order to get money to repair the house, which is one of the requirements of getting it for a dollar, the father stays in the city to work, so Lowen misses him. Clem settles in, and even Anneth finds a group of people, but aside from Dylan, who helps out at the funeral home and used to live in Lowen's house, Lowen struggles to fit in. The mother's shop struggles, especially since the restaurant owner next door feels threatened and keeps sabotaging their efforts, offering lunch and take out boxes. Sami, whose mother wanted to open a pet boutique but was denied a loan, gets along well with Lowen, and the two are very invested in their parents businesses, helping Sami's mother set up and stock her resale shop. As the year progresses, some of the families do better than others, and it looks like Lowen's family just might make it. When Dylan's grandfather becomes ill and is in danger of losing his house, the "dollar kids" rally behind Dylan, which helps Lowen's family in an unexpected way.
Strengths: This was a great look at a different type of life that will be new and informative for many readers. The Grovers are struggling financially, although they were doing okay in the city. The family bonding because of the move was interesting, and the reality of setting up a restaurant was fun to read. The reaction of the townspeople was also intriguing, and the story moved at a decent pace. The inclusion of comic strips (used by Lowen to deal with Abe's death) will appeal to readers who like graphic novels.

Since I have family in a small town in Iowa (under 600 people), and have witnessed its downward progression over the last thirty years, I know that this is absolutely realistic, even though it might seem odd to people with no experiences of small town life. One of my relatives even ran a resale shop for a while! Giving away houses for $1? Absolutely. In the town I know, people routinely give their houses to the town and the fire squad burns them to the ground for practice fighting fires. I was impressed that Millville had a dollar store, a grocery, and a restaurant, although I was a bit surprised that there was a library and the school was still operating with only eight children in each class.
Weaknesses: Since this book is on the long side, I could have done without the plot line about Abe's death, but I realize that this is completely on trend and I'm the only one who doesn't like the portrayal of grieving in middle grade novels.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. It's a bit on the long side, so I'm interested to see a print copy, but the story of small town life is such a fantastic one that I can't wait to hand it to my readers.

37581725Cooper, Ilene. Eleanor Roosevelt: Fighter for Justice
August 7th 2018 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Eleanor Roosevelt has always been one of my favorite historical figures; my daughter is named Eleanor, since it's a good, solid name if she ever wishes to become president or a corporate bigwig. Her difficult childhood, the way people treated her because of her looks, and the enormous amount of work she did on behalf on all manner of groups of people are all fascinating topics. I am not surprised, given the recent increased interests in women's issues, that there is a new biography of her. This aptly discusses her background, including her marriage to Franklin and her experiences of motherhood, but also discusses the wide range of social issues for which she fought.

I learned a lot of things I didn't know, and thought that the way Cooper talks about some of the more difficult, adult issues was well done. It is mentioned that Franklin had affairs, but the discussion centered on how this affected Eleanor's life, as it should. I hadn't known about her mother-in-law, Sarah, and how overbearing she was, and there was just enough coverage of that topic to make sense of some of Eleanor's later actions. Her relationship with her children was rather sad, but not terribly unusual for the time. I didn't know that she taught, or that she enjoyed it so much! Had circumstances been different, perhaps that would have been her career path.

It is difficult to judge the actions of people 90 years ago. There is a mention that, mainly to spite her mother-in-law, Eleanor replaced that household staff with all African-American employees. She was publicly brought to task for using the word "darky" in her writing; it had been used by a relative in what she had assumed was a term of endearment, and when someone corrected, she apologized and asked for a better term. She was always a champion of the underdog, which makes perfect sense, so  her interest in the Civil Rights movement is not surprising.

I'll definitely purchase this book for my school library, and it gives a nice overview of the state of what life was like for many groups in the early part of the 1900s. Seeing what Eleanor's views of how other people treated different groups was somehow illuminating, since despite being a product of her time, she does seem to have many modern sensibilities.

Going to lunch with Ms. Roosevelt today and reflecting on things have and haven't changed since her death would be quite amusing, wouldn't it? I would even wear a hat!


  1. I have THE DOLLAR KIDS high on my list of books to read. Though I too am tired of the grieving angle in books. It seems like a parent or dog dies in every book I read anymore. They are all well written but I'll take a few laughs instead. Thanks for your great recommendations this week.

  2. I enjoyed The Dollar Kids. I say I live in a small town, but compared to the town in the book or the town you have family in, it's huge. I found the concept of $1 houses interesting. I find it even more interesting knowing that it's quite realistic.

  3. Both of these books sound great! The Dollar Kids sounds like a unique portrayal of small-town life (although I agree with you about MG novels about grief getting old). The biography of Eleanor Roosevelt seems very timely, and it would be interesting to see how some of her views are similar to today's and some are not. Thanks so much for the reviews!

  4. I have The Dollar Kids, will read it soon! I've read other adult bios of Eleanor Roosevelt, a strong woman, but a product of those times and of the wealthy, too. Your review made me want to read this new one. Thanks, Karen.

  5. I really appreciated your review of The Dollar Kids, this week. I've heard bits and pieces, but feel like I have a much better understanding of what to expect, now -- I am looking forward to reading this one as soon as we can get a local copy. Have a wonderful reading week!

  6. That Eleanor Roosevelt book looks fantastic, I've long been fascinated with her, too.

  7. I have a copy of The Dollar Kids but I haven't gotten to it yet. I hope to soon. I haven't seen the Eleanor Roosevelt book. I will have to check it out. Thanks for the reviews.

  8. That Eleanor Roosevelt book sounds good. I have always liked her as a First Lady and would like to read more about her life. Also I think it's important that history is portrayed honestly. I know its uncomfortable to read that people called African Americans darkies or worse, but it also teaches why those terms are so negative and should not be used today. History is not perfect and the only thing we can do is learn from it.

  9. Wow, I'm interested in reading both of these books. I appreciate the detail that went into your post. Thank you!

  10. Oh, I love stories about small town life. I just reviewed a book I haven't shared yet about a small town. Your enthusiasm about this story is very convincing. Thanks for sharing!
    I also like to read or watch things about Eleanor Roosevelt nd her involvement in social justice issues. Such a strong woman!

  11. I definitely want to check out the Dollar Kids book. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week!

  12. Looks like I need to move Dollar Kids up in my stack! I've put it off because of the length, but I'll try to get to it soon.