Monday, September 03, 2018

MMGM- Tight and Path to the Stars

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.

37482695Maldonado, Torrey. Tight.
September 4th 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Bryan and his family live in a close-knit, urban neighborhood. There are advantages, such as the fact that everyone knows Bryan and watches out for him, but disadvantages, such as the fact that everyone knows when his father is in prison. His father has a bit of a temper, and seems to end up at the wrong place at the wrong time on too many occasions, ending in short sentences in jail. This unsettles Bryan, but he takes comfort in his mother's work at the community center. He frequently hangs out after school there, and even has his own desk where he can do homework and work on his comics. When Mike shows up, Bryan's mother invites him home for dinner. Bryan is wary, since Mike hasn't always been particularly nice to him, but gets to know Mike since his father was kind to the boy. They bond over their love of comics and start hanging out quite a bit. Eventually, Mike suggests skipping school, going up on the roofs of buildings, riding the subway without tickets, and eventually, "train surfing", which is dangerous. Bryan is angry when his father violates his probation and ends up back in prison, and enjoys the rush of the dangerous activities. After a while, however, they become too much, and Mike, who has an unstable family life, gets meaner and meaner. Bryan makes some new friends, and that causes Mike to ramp up his cruelty. When Bryan fights back, his sister Ava is concerned that the fight between the boys will become a bigger thing, and works with their mother to deescalate the situation. Bryan starts to understand Mike's situation more, and becomes more understanding while also trying to protect himself.
Strengths: Personal identity and relationships with friends are the two main concerns of middle grade readers, with parental relationships being a close third. This hits all three beautifully in an intriguing and exciting way. We've all had friends who make choices that we know are questionable, but which seem like either a lot of fun or a good idea, so it is completely believable that Bryan is willing to go along with him. Bryan's interest in comic books and quiet time is nice to see portrayed, and I enjoyed his supportive mother and especially older sister, who is suitably exasperated with him. The scenes of train surfing are just the right amount of adrenalin, but do NOT make the activity seem like a good idea. Readers will enjoy this, and the cover will sell itself.
Weaknesses: There is some slang, and I'm always a little unsure about having that in a book, since it can date a book badly. I've started to just tell students that slang differs from location to location, so in ten years, if people aren't still saying "lit" and "kray", I will just claim that that's how they talk in The Big City.
What I really think: I've had to replace Secret Saturdays a couple of times and am definitely looking forward to sharing this book with my students! One of my seventh grade readers who loves urban stories was thrilled to get the ARC of this and passed it to several of his friends.

Acevedo, Sylvia. Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist 
September 4th 2018 by Clarion Books
ARC provided by the publisher

Ms. Acevedo, scientist by training and CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, grew up in New Mexico in the 1960s and 70s. Her father was a scientist who had some personal issues, and her mother struggled with English when Sylvia was young. Her younger sister was left with learning issues after a bout with meningitis. Despite these challenges, Sylvia loves school and reading, and was determined to make life better for her family. Even though st the time, girls were not always encouraged to aim for careers, explore science, or learn to fix cars, Sylvia doggedly pursued what she liked despite meeting resistance from her teachers. Being involved in the Girl Scouts gave her opportunities she might not have had otherwise, and she was given more support for her interests, especially when a leader allowed her to pursue a badge for an older Girl Scout group when she was interested in studying space. She was also interested in band and basketball, and used the many life skills she acquired through persevering with these interests to go on to college, graduate school, and a varied career.
Strengths: This is well formatted and engaging, with just enough pictures to give us a feel for the time. Ms. Acevedo's story is a fantastic example for young readers that if one has focus and determination, there is a lot that can be accomplished, even if life isn't always easy. The treatment of Latinx during this time period is something I have not seen covered in middle grade literature very much, making this a good follow up to something like Sylvia and Aki, which covers the treatment of this group during WWII.
Weaknesses: Acevedo must be about 8 years older than I am, so while the details of growing up at that time are spot on, the book was a little boring for me because it seemed so much like my own life!  (Yes, even in 1978 there was only one girl in my class who opted out of home ec and took shop class instead!) I'm curious to see if students today will be surprised about the strictures placed on girls, and recognize that there is still a way to go before there are enough women in the scientific and technical fields.
What I really think: I generally don't buy biographies or memoirs until the subjects have passed away (biography of Michael Jackson from 1984, anyone?), but during the last few years teachers have been assigning more in the way of memoirs, so I have been buying a few, especially about people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. If I buy any this year, this would be one of them.


  1. These both sound great! I'll keep my eyes open for them!

  2. Two very different books this week. Thanks or telling me about them.

  3. am surely going to add Path to the Stars to my list.. given I have a girl scout at home.. and also Tight..

  4. I've been interested in Tight and really appreciate your detailed review of it. Thank so much and have a wonderful reading week!

  5. Path to the Stars sounds like right up my alley. :)