Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters

Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters
July 31st 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Harper moved to Washington, D.C. with her family and found out about her paranormal abilities in Spirit Hunters. She has made friends with some of the ghosts in a nearby cemetery, and her best friend (also a ghost!) Rose has been freed from being tied to a mirror and can go with her. When the two visit the cemetary, they find that the spirits are missing, and the one remaining boy, Roderick, thinks that something bad has happened to them. Harper doesn't have a lot of time to investigate, since her parents are dragging her and her siblings, Michael and Kelly, to Razu Island, where her aunt runs a resort. At least her new friend Dayo is invited as well. She calls her grandmother and finds out it is likely spirit eaters, but her grandmother can't help because Harper's aunt is expecting a baby any day. On the island, Harper visits her evil cousin Leo, who is looking rough. He claims that a ghost girl is trying to talk to him every night and is disturbing his sleep. Harper meets Holly, a girl who was vacationing with her parents at the resort when they were all killed by the monsters, and learns more and more about how the monsters came to be and whom they are targeting. There is a lot of history on the island, and Harper sometimes has visions through the eyes of the original founder of the resort, Monty. Monty's granddaughter, Olivia, befriends the group, and provides some helpful information. As Halloween approaches and the monsters gain energy, Harper realizes that there is no one to help her, and she must defeat the monsters on her own or watch 13 young people become sacrifices!

Harper's grandmother is a Korean shaman, so the rituals and bells she uses to deal with the spirit eaters are a fresh addition to a traditional story of monsters and demons. It is particularly interesting how the Razu are traced across several different cultures and name changes before they arrive on the creepy, haunted island! This is a much scarier book than the cover would indicate, and I found myself checking behind my ears for mysterious bruises and wishing I could cover my shoulders with a blanket to keep me safe!

There are a lot of characters involved in this story, and I was able to keep them all straight, which means that Oh did a great job at constructing individual personalities for each one, including the spirits. I love Harper's irritated sister and parents, her adoring brother, her supportive friend Dayo, and even her "imaginary" friend Rose, whom she loses. Even Olivia and her troubled family are described just enough that their story made sense and added a lot to the sage of the demons. This sort of reliable character building across the entire population of the book is no easy task!

The draw of this book is, of course, the monsters. They are suitably evil. They glow from the ingested spirits that Harper must release, and are relentless in their pursuit of energy. Harper's growing skills at dealing with them will be interesting to follow in subsequent books, and I love the fact that not all of the spirits she meets are evil-- she runs across a whole range, some of whom are lovely.

Spirit Hunters has all of the best qualities of traditional ghost stories but has a fresh, updated quality with the details of Harper's Korean background and her supportive if somewhat clueless family network.

 Hale, Bruce. Fuzzy Freaks Out (Class Pets #3)
August 28th 2018 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Fuzzy and the other pets in Miss Wills' class 5-B are getting ready for Halloween. Fuzzy in particular is trying to come up with a plan so he can see all of the costumes this year, and Cinnabun is trying to have the pets have their own contest! She, of course, gets to be a princess. When strange things start to happen in the classroom, Fuzzy suspects that there might be a ghost who is messing up classrooms and making weird noises, but his investigation is thwarted by weekend trips to students' homes and general school activity. Even Fuzzy and Mistletoe have seen weird happenings, with lights going off and shadowy figures lurking. The pets try everything they can find (with some help from the internet) to persuade the ghost to leave, but eventually find who the real culprit is. The custodian, Mr. Darius, doesn't want to set traps or poison to deal with the unwelcome addition to the pets, but his assistant Rhonda has less patience and is ready to declare full scale war. Can Fuzzy make sure that the "ghost" doesn't come to harm?

Books like Birney's Humphrey and Barkley's Critter Club series, and The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson and Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl, are always popular with young readers. The pets get to see the secret life inside the school or house, and react to it in a way that young readers are not able to. There is a lot of humor to sentient pets, and the personalities (like the oddly Southern Cinnabun and not-so-bright Mistletoe) of the pets make it even more fun to see the human world through their eyes.

Fuzzy is a good manager, and he sets out with a  lot of deliberation to assess the mystery. He corrals his allies, does his research, and is able to deal fairly with the "ghost" when it is located. He also has pretty strong opinions as to what makes an appropriately suitable guinea pig costume-- and it does NOT involve a pink tutu!

The page decorations are fun, and done by Hale himself, which is a nice addition to the book. This series is bound to be a popular choice in classroom libraries and at book fairs. My own daughter still has her elementary copy of The World According to Humphrey (2004), and it was always the book she took to school as a tension reliever during state testing!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fantasy series, book two

37534756Burgis, Stephanie. The Girl with the Dragon Heart.(Tales from the Chocolate Heart #2)
November 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

The chocolate shop in The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart is still struggling a bit, since the owner, Marina, cares more about her chocolate creations than pandering to customers, but Silke is handling the publicity and trying to help. Of course, she tells a lot of stories, and is claiming that the Chocolate Heart products are so good that they helped deal with the dragons! The crown princess Katrin hears about this, and has Silke brought to her. She offers her a position in the castle as a sort of spy, which angers the other princess, Sophie. When royal elf visitors come to the palace, Silke finds it hard to control herself, since both of her parents were lost in a trek across Elfenwald when she was very young, which is how she and her brother came to have a used clothing store on the banks. Fearing that no one is being considerate of the dragons, her friend Aventurine's people, Silke tries to help but makes some bad choices.
Strengths: This is a solid continuation of my favorite fantasy novel from last year, and the story continues in a good fashion. Getting a view of the palace workings is different and interesting, and the secrets of Silke's past in connection with the elves is well developed. Katrin has a complicated personality, and Sophie's plight is a bit of a surprise.
Weaknesses: Not as much chocolate, and Silke is probably my least favorite character from the first book. She just doesn't think things through. True to life, perhaps, but somehow it irritated me.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this, but was just not as wild about it.

Nix, Garth and Williams, Sean.
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2)
30 October 2018
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Sir Eleanor and Sir Odo are back with their respective talking swords. After the death of Sir Halfdan and the appearance of the former king Egda, the kingdom of Tofte is in turmoil. Egda's sister Odelyn is acting as regent for Prince Kendryk, but is going to have her crowned king because he is acting soft in the head, spending his time finger painting. The Regent has sent out unpopular Instruments to announce that the rules are changing, more money must be collected, and their way it the only way, so the knights know they must travel to help Kendryk out. Along with Egda's guard, Hundred, they set off on a perilous journey to Tofte, meeting a variety of threatening and helpful characters along the way. At one point, Biter needs to be repaired, and in the process remembers his former knight, who could be a powerful adversary. When the group finally arrives in Tofte, secrets about the lineage of the kings comes out, unsuspected allies emerge, and a new and surprisingly king is crowned.

Readers who like classic, medieval fantasy books like Alexander's The Book of Three, Rodda's Deltora Quest, Pierce's Alanna, and Wrede's Dealing with Dragons will adore the formulaic medieval adventure quest and its comfortable familiarity. Forests are always dangerous places, having allies in the Urthkins (who control the underground realm) allows them to bypass some of the more dangerous elements, and dragons can be helpful if you approach them the right way... and your objectives serve their purpose.

For all of its traditional elements, there are some fun twists concerning gender roles. Their are no female equivalents of ruling positions-- everyone, male or female, are kings or Sirs. There is a brief mention that Eleanor and Odo might be romantically linkws, but they are far too busy to think about this too much. Everyone on the quest is brave and powerful, and the only one who really needs to be saved is Kendryk... who has some tricks up his own sleeves.

This has many similarities to Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice books, but is slightly younger. The talking swords (whose voice is portrayed in an old Germanic style text) and the bats (whose utterances are punctuated thus: "L!o!o!k! l!e!f!t!") add an element of whimsy that will amuse a younger audience.

While I have been enjoying the fantasy adventure books set in other cultures and dealing with other mythology, there will always be a core group of fantasy aficionados who crave more British style Camelot inspired fantasy where there are swords to be wielded against dragons.

Monday, October 29, 2018

MMGM- In Your Shoes

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.

Gephart, Donna. In Your Shoes
October 30th 2018 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by publisher through Netgalley

Amy has just moved to town to live with an uncle after her mother's death. Her father will come eventually, but he is getting training to work in     her uncle's funeral parlor and only visits on some weekends. She is leery of starting school, especially since she thinks people notice that one of her legs is longer than the other. When she is head in the head with a rogue bowling shoe on her way into the building on the first day, she takes this as a bad omen and starts writing a fairy tale involving the incident. The wearer of the shoe, Miles, is mortified, even though it's his friend Randall's fault. Miles is an anxious young man who feels most at home at the family bowling alley, although even there is a sadder place since the death of his grandmother. He's trying to bowl a perfect game, would sort of like to ask a girl to the school dance, and is saving up for a special present for his grandfather's 75th birthday. Amy doesn't have that hard a time at school, and even meets a like-minded friend, Tate, who is into weight lifting and knitting. The girls are library helpers during their lunch for librarian John Schu. Randall has a crush on Tate and is trying to figure out a fun way to ask her to the dance, and Amy often wanders off to the bowling alley to have a hot chocolate and escape the funeral home. She enjoys bowling with Miles, although the regular shoes make her hip hurt. As the grandfather's birthday party and the school dance approach, the four children learn more about each other and develop even closer relationships, which help them cope when things don't always go well.
Strengths: I liked seeing the development of the relationships between the children, and the light romance is always welcome. Amy is generally upbeat, and even though she doesn't really want to move, she does a good job at settling in and making friends. Miles' relationship with his grandfather is sweet, and the bowling alley setting is fabulous (Anyone remember Ed?).
Weaknesses: There was a LOT going on in this book, and I think it would have been stronger if it had concentrated on just a couple of difficulties instead of introducing so many. For example, Amy should have been in grief counseling, and I would have been interested to see her practice some coping strategies. I also would have found more in-depth information about leg length discrepancy, anxiety, or severe asthma (which were all just touched on) helpful and informative.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and the cover will make sure this never gets back to the shelves. Our high school has a really good bowling team, and I was in a league in middle school, so I am glad to see another book with bowling beside Crystal Allen's 2011 How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Soof and Attack of the Grizzlies

Weeks, Sarah. Soof.
October 9th 2018 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Aurora's parents had fostered a girl named Heidi before she was born, and she has heard lots of stories about her, because her parents attribute their luck in finally having Aurora to Heidi. (This is the main character from 2005's So B. It, which I didn't realize until halfway through the book!) Aurora is a quirky kid who is NOT on the Autism spectrum-- she's been tested. She does have some trouble fitting in at school, but she's a happy kid content to hang out and talk to her parents. When Heidi is going to come to visit because she is pregnant and wants to connect to her past, Aurora is not overly pleased. She thinks her own luck is getting bad, and when the house catches on fire and her beloved dog, Duck, goes missing, she thinks things are only going to get worse. Her parents and Heidi work with her to get her to udnerstand that family's all have issues to work through, but can persevere by loving each other. ("Soof" was  Heidi's mother's word for "love".)
Strengths: Interesting and innovative to revisit a character after so much time, and the cover of this is fantastic. Middle grade readers will pick up anything with food on the cover. I enjoyed Aurora's supportive family, and the details about having a home damaged by fire are interesting and something I don't know if I've seen in middle grade literature. Weeks' writing is always right on target for appealing to middle grade readers.
Weaknesses: I know the trend is to allow kids to be as quirky as they like and tell them that other people don't matter, but as a formerly quirky and obnoxious child, I can only say this was not a good approach in my world. Because of this, I had trouble liking Aurora's character. I was also worried that Duck would die. (Spoiler: He doesn't.)
What I really think: I'll purchase, because So B. It still circulates well.

37715349Tarshis, Lauren. I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967 (I Survived #17)
September 25th 2018 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Copy provided by the publisher

Melody and her young brother usually spend some time at their grandfather's cabin in Glacier National Park, but this summer is different. Mel's mother died in a car accident for which she feels responsible, so every scenic view in the park leads to painful memories. When a grizzly bear almost attacks Mel and then actually does attack the cabin, there are bigger things to worry about. Mel and her Aunt Cassie (a friend of her mother's who is a reporter) tell a ranger about the bear, he says there is nothing to worry about, but Steve, a scientist who is studying the bears, thinks otherwise. The three visit the Granite Park Chalet and find some disturbing events that are contributing to the bear attacks. When two women are killed by two separate bears while they are sleeping, there is enough outcry to change the way that food and trash are handled in the park, and new rules to keep visitors are bears safe are implemented across the country.
Strengths: The details of every day life at the time are good-- Bugles, Grape KoolAid, typewriters. Even a funny bit "Mel wished she could press a button & instantly send this story to people all over the world. But this was real life in 1967, not some science fiction story set a thousand years from now." As always, there are good notes at the end of the book about the real historical events and tips on how to survive. Appreciate the the clothes on the cover are historically accurate, although would have liked to see the tie-dyed t shirt!
Weaknesses: Having Mel's mother be dead was not at all necessary, and slowed the story down. Also, one stylistic device bothered me. Many sentences start with "because" or
but", even though it would be just as easy to continue with the compound sentence. Perhaps this is thought to be easier for younger readers, but it was jarring when I read it. (E.G. "Mel's temper flared up again. Because she was pretty sure she should be worried." Page 50.)
What I really think: My students love these, and they make for a great, short read full of information.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Louie (The Puppy Place #51)

37825426Miles, Ellen. Louie (The Puppy Place #51)
October 30th 2018 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

The Petersons are working together to clean up a camp ground near Loon Lake, where they will be spending time this summer. Charles and his neighbor Sammy are working hard but also having fun, but the day takes an exciting event when their mother calls from home to say that a dog has been abandoned... at Loon Lake. Sure enough, in a carrier in a parking lot there is a puppy. When the group approaches the dog, they find that it is a very large Newfoundland who is skittish around so many people. They manage to calm it, and Charles and his sister Lizzie figure that they will foster it, but large puppies have special needs, especially as they grow into even larger dogs! Because the dog is so large, the boys, including Liam and twins Hunter and Tyler, decide that training Louie should be a Cub Scout project. They work very hard to train Louie so that he will be easier to adopt. Eventually, the people who abandoned Louie come forward, saying that they regretted leaving him the way they did and returned very soon to the parking lot, but the dog was already gone. In the end, Louie's training goes well, and his new home is easier to find than the boys could have expected.

Dogs end up at organizations like Caring Paws for various reasons, and Miles gives a sympathetic portrait of harried dog owners who make a poor decision but immediately try to rectify it. The difficulties with having a large dog are not made light of, either, and it's good to see the Cub Scouts working together to insure that Louie has a bright future. Children need to know that there are sometimes unfortunate situations, but it is empowering for them to read about other children who are able to make a difference.

I enjoy getting to know the family's of the friends of the Peterson children, and it's also fun to meet local veterinarians whom they consult for different aspects of animal care, or in this case, to try to find Louie's owners. This imbues the books with a nice sense of community-- even the cookout and clean up at the lake is a great, fun way to start off a story.

Liek the other books in this series, there are Puppy Tips at the end, these centering around why puppies might need to be surrendered to shelters, and the best way to do it. There's also a recipe for cinnamon toast.

Readers who enjoyed the short stories in Lucky Dog : Twelve Tales of Rescued Dogs or the sad plight of Lee's Dog Lost will especially love this story of Louie. Be warned that once your readers start with The Puppy Place books, it will be necessary to obtain as many as possible, and at a good clip! Luckily, they don't need to be read in order!

Simpson, Dana. Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater (Heavenly Nostrils #8)
October 23rd 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Phoebe is getting ready to go to summer camp, but instead of going to music camp, she is heading off to a drama camp. Marigold is going with her, but so is Marigold's sister, Florence. The sisters have been long estranged after a childhood incident, but are starting to reconnect, leaving Phoebe feeling lonely. She has her friend Sue and her sea serpent Ringo, but as Marigold and her sister spend more and more time together, Phoebe feels angrier and angrier. Even when Florence attributes her renewed relationship with Marigold to Phoebe's influence, things are not the way they should be. Can Phoebe and Sue's play save the day?
Strengths: Marigold is always funny, and the drawings are delightful. I had my reservations about any series that involved the phrase "heavenly nostrils", but it's worth a try if you have a large audience of graphic novel/comics loving middle grade readers. This is not a collection of strips, but rather a graphic novel in the manner of The Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6) .
The friend drama was a bit overdone, and this was probably the least humorous of the series.
What I really think: Students love these. Thinking about getting the volumes I like best in a Follett bound.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Grand Escape

Bascomb, Neal. The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century
September 25th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

World War I was a harrowing war, but is not covered as frequently as World War II. This is a shame, since there are so many facets of the war that have not been covered. For instance, I had forgotten that the Hague Conventions laid out very clear and extensive rules about how prisoners of war should be treated. During WWI, the Germans violated these on multiple occasions. The Grand Escape tells how prisoners at Holzminden were so mistreated that the planned an almost impossible escape.

In prose that has all of the compelling interest of a fictionalized tale but with plentiful period photographs to reinforce the reality of the horror, Bascomb follows soldiers as they are fighting and then captured, eventually ending up in the notorious prison camp. Following the individual's backstories, as well as their experiences in the camp, brings a very personal immediacy to the escape. Of course, any true follower of war tales will appreciate the maps and copies of notes as the prisoners plan and eventually execute their plans.

Bascomb (who also wrote The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi and other adult titles) knows how to tell a tale that keeps the reaer on the edge of the seat. I got so caught up in the details of the story that I frequently forgot this was nonfiction, and then stopped to check the chapter notes to reassure myself that I was not reading a novel!

While there are shelves and shelves of riveting historical nonfiction about WWII, such as McCormick's McCormick, Patricia. The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely HeroFreedman's We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler, Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club and O'Reilly' s Hitler's Last Days: The Death of the Nazi Regime and the World's Most Notorious Dictator, there is relatively little about WWI. Freedman's  The War to End All Wars: World War I is excellent, but more of an overview than an in-depth dissection of a particular facet. I would love to see more on this military conflict and encourage my readers who like this sort of literature to broaden their scope a tiny bit!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Conferences-- Blather

I haven't done a book fair for about five years, because with a Scholastic fair I never made enough for cash profit, and there were only so many books I wanted to have to process. I am having a Follett fair this year, and so far it has gone very well as far as selection, set up and ease of use. If I have $300 in profit, I will be very surprised, but it was worth a try. The super nice thing is that I order all of my library books from Follett Titlewave, and I can apply any profit there.

We also had the cross country banquet on Tuesday, so three nights in a row of not getting home until 9:00 p.m. gets a bit wearing. What thoughts get me through?

I'm glad I'm old. Younger teachers were complaining that we had a fire drill while they were wearing skirts and real shoes. Young whippersnappers, I could run a marathon in my pleated skirts, turtlenecks, Sag Harbor blazers and Clarks loafers. This is my outfit from now until the middle of April, so it's not surprising that one of the 8th grade boys (when another student was being reminded not to sag because "if you don't want to see an outfit on Ms. Yingling, you shouldn't wear it yourself"!) described it as his favorite outfit that I wear. Kids pay attention.

Pale cornflower blue. Okay, so it's very 1980s, but it's also the color of my living room. My library is an orangey-brown yellow that looks like baby poop. I haven't seen the sky since Monday. I think about this color, and Pfalzgraf Tea Rose and Yorktowne dishes.

The Brothers Gibb. Yes, Andy, I will be more than happy to lay my troubles on your shoulder. Also, if you and Barry would like to help clean up book fair, I'm totally fine with that.

Here's to whatever it takes to get your to Friday!

Dragons in a Bag

Elliot, Zetta. Dragons in a Bag (#1)
October 23rd 2018 by Random House
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

When Jaxon's mother must go to court to appeal an eviction notice, she takes Jaxon to stay with the grandmother he has never met for the afternoon. "Ma" is not thrilled to see either Alicia or Jaxon, but agrees to take care of him. She has an odd, musty apartment, and it's not long before Jaxon finds a bag of dragons under her care! It quickly becomes apparent that Ma is a witch, and one of the problems she has with Jaxon's mother is that she didn't want to be a part of the magic. One thing leads to another, and the two travel back in time, run into Jaxon's friend, whose sister feeds and bonds with one of the dragons, therefore imprinting one of them on her. Jaxon also meets his grandfather when Ma is temporarily missing, and finds out more about the role that magic has in Jaxon's own background. The judge grants an appeal, but Ma invites Jaxon and his mother to live with her until things are more settled, leaving plenty of opportunity for Jaxon to accompany  Ma on more magical adventures.
Strengths: The Brooklyn setting is well described, and I loved the note that Elliot was a big fan of Ruth Chew! The illustrations are very attractive, and will help readers pick this one up. The inclusion of the eviction troubles adds some depth to the story and will be a mirror for some readers. Elliot usually writes Young Adult fantasy but has transitioned nicely to writing for the elementary crowd.
Weaknesses: The note on Ruth Chew also pointed out to me why this was more on the elementary side-- in Ruth Chew books, the children invariably have adventures without a parent or adult in sight. Jaxon's supportive adults are great characters, but middle grade would prefer to save the world without adult supervision!
What I really think: This is along the same lines as Yep's A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans which does not check out at all in my library, so I think I'll pass. Would definitely purchase for an elementary library, since I know that fantasy books have overwhelmingly white protagonists.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Counting to Perfect

38351517LaFleur, Suzanne. Counting to Perfect
October 23rd 2018 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC from Netgalley

Cassie wishes that life were the way it used to be, before her older sister Julia had a baby her senior year in high school. Now, instead of going away to college, she will be living at home with Addie. Cassie's friends aren't allowed to visit her home now, and her parents don't come to her swim meets as much. When Julia mentions that she and Addie are going on a vacation, she asks Cassie to come along. Since she has swim team, Cassie doesn't want to go, but ends up tagging along. Julia doesn't have a plan-- she just wants to get away. The two girls have some savings, and spend time staying in hotels and eating lumberjack breakfasts, having great days hanging out together. They let their parents know they are okay, and while the parents aren't happy, they instruct the girls to check in and let them have their trip without freaking out. Eventually, Cassie wants to get back to her friends and swim team, so her parents fly her home. She is able to work things out with her parents, and when Julia returns, she is, too.
Strengths: This was an interesting and fun road trip book, and I liked that the girls followed safety protocol with their parents. Julia is a good mother for the most part, and takes care of both Addie and Cassie. The parents are portrayed as very understanding and see how the family dynamic could be slightly different. The sisterly bond is sweet.
Weaknesses: The trip seemed like an extreme reaction to a fairly good, if unfortunate, situation. Not many young single mothers would have the financial assets to take such a break.
What I really think: I was confused by the reactions to Addie. It's 2018. I marched for abortion rights, so was sad to see that Julia did not avail herself of them. That said, having chosen to have the baby, her embarrassment seemed odd, if somewhat understandable. What was not understandable was the portrayal of the action of the friends' parents not allowing them to come to Cassie's house. That sounds like a 1960s reaction, and I worry that my students, many of whom have been raised by young, single mothers, might be confused and feel bad about their own situations after reading this.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Forgotten City and Wrath of the Dragon King

36300664Ford, Michael. Forgotten City
October 9th 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Kobi and his father, Jonathan Hales, have lived in an abandoned school in Seattle since the Waste devastated the world around the time Kobi was born. There are no other survivors, unless you count bears, wolves, giant rats, and the horrible, predatory Chokerplant. There are also flying Snatchers, machines that pick infected animals up from the ground and might take humans if they are not careful. When his father gets very ill because of the Waste seeping into their compound, he returns to his lab to get more medicine, telling Kobi he will be back in two weeks. When he doesn't return, Kobi sets out to find him, braving the dangers to get to the local hospital. He doesn't find his father, but he does find some children who claim that the organization behind the Snatchers are actually the good guys who have helped to take care of them. Kobi doesn't believe this, and when he is captured, he starts to understand why. Melanie is the Guardian that the kids like most, but she tells him horrible things about his father, which he tends to believe-- his father worked with the scientist who caused the Waste in his attempts to solve the world hunger problem. Not only that, but they have his ailing father, who may not survive because of all the years he was exposed to toxins. Not only THAT, but they give Kobi more information about his special skills and resistance to the Waste. It's still hard to tell who are the good guys and the bad guys, but Kobi's struggle isn't over. I strongly suspect a sequel will answer many questions.
Strengths: Great world building, with abandoned buildings, vicious creatures, and a scientific scheme gone wrong (even if Kirkus has problems with the science). This has lots of harrowing chase scenes, children saving the world from evil, and edge-of-your seat, nonstop action.
Weaknesses: While I love books that shade the characters so they aren't so black and white (think Delaney's The Last Apprentice which is brilliant in showing the evil in the good characters and the good in the evil ones), I still like to know who is supposed to be the good side and who the bad. This is why I never cared for Artemis Fowl. Students won't care.
What I really think: While I am tired of Dystopian novels (why imagine a future when so many bad things happen?), I still get a lot of students who like Jeff Hirsch's titles (The Eleventh Plague, The Darkest Path, Dark River Falls), Haddix's The Always War, Dan Smith's Boy X, and of course, The Hunger Games and the Maze Runner series. This will be perfect for them.

Mull, Brandon. Wrath of the Dragon King (Dragonwatch #2)
October 23rd 2018 by Shadow Mountain
EARC from Edelweiss Plus

It's hard to believe that Fablehaven came out in 2006-- I still want Shadow Mountain to reissue hardcovers of the first series so I can replace my well-worn ones! (Wait: Follett now offers it!) While I like this series, it's not quite intense enough for some of my hard-core fantasy fans when they get into 8th grade, but Dragonwatch definitely steps things up a bit.

Seth and Kendra, newly minted caretakers of the Dragon Sanctuary, are in an impossible position with Celebrant, and when he invites them to his castle, they know things won't end well. Celebrant breaks the pact and all of the characters are sent on different journeys home or to find out information, ending at Stormguard Castle, where Seth and Kendra are pitted against the dragons in an almost impossible game put on by Humbuggle. Can they use their smarts (as well as their fairy powers) to figure out how to win, freeing the inhabitants of the castle as well as defeating the dragons?

I read this during the first week of school, so don't feel like I can write a complete review, but I did really enjoy it. It did have a decided Dungeons and Dragons feel to it, with the journey and the contest at Stormguard, and that might appeal to many readers today. A bit darker, and definitely NOT the last book in the series. Can't wait to hand this to my students!

Monday, October 22, 2018

MMGM- The Season of Styx Malone

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.

Magoon, Kekla. The Season of Styx Malone
October 16th 2018 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

There's not a lot to do in small town Sutton, Indiana, and as much as Caleb and his brother Bobby Gene try to amuse themselves, they are a little bored, especially since their parents are very strict. There is a reason for this-- their father maintains that everyone in town knows them, but if they went somewhere bigger, like Chicago, it might be dangerous for two young black men. When slightly older Styx Malone shows up in their neighborhood, they soon find out that this young man, who is in foster care, doesn't care all that much about being safe. He wants to have adventures. Not only that, but he really wants a moped he has seen in a store in town, and tries to inveigle the brothers into helping him with an "escalator trade" so that they can work their way up to getting the moped. Since Caleb and Bobby Gene have just gotten into a lot of trouble for trading their baby sister to Cory in exchange for a bag of fireworks, they have something to start the trading. This is a little shady, and the trades get shadier. At one point, the boys hop a freight train and steal an engine from a junk yard. When their parents find out, they aren't allowed to hang out with Styx anymore. When the boys still manage to complete their trades, they are looking forward to the freedom the moped will provide, but things don't go well. Once they learn some secrets about Styx, they are finally able to understand him a little better and find a way to help him.
Strengths: This was an interesting novel, because it showed the dichotomy between street smart, city kids and small town kids with really involved parents. For some reason, many of my suburban African-American students are fascinated by the portrayal of inner city children. Seeing Caleb mouth off to his mother in a way that Styx would is perfect! Their punishment with Cory is interesting as well, since they previously hadn't gotten along with him but find they have a lot in common when they are forced to work together. The escalator trade concept is nicely done as well.
Weaknesses: Unlike Torrey Maldonado's Tight, this really doesn't get all that dangerous, and there's a moment that's a little too Leader of the Pack for my taste, not that students would have any idea of that reference!
What I really think: Something a little different from Ms. Magoon, whose work I really like. Definitely purchasing, but I REALLY want her to finish her nonfiction work on the Black Panthers!

38813761Collard, Sneed B. III. Warblers and Woodpeckers: A Father-Son Big Year of Birding.
October 1st 2018 by Mountaineers Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Sneed Collard has writing chops, and Warblers and Woodpeckers brings together many of his skills beautifully.. He is the author of many nature nonfiction books, several middle grade novels, and a memoir of his childhood, Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts: Journeys of a Biologist's Son.  He and his teenage son had a vague interest in birding, but then decided to ramp it up and devote a year to extensive travel in order to see as many birds as they could. Their travels took them all over the US as well as to the Galapagos islands. Such traveling always involves adventure, mishaps, and moments well worth remembering, on top of the enormous list of birds sighted that the two compiled.

I have zero interest in birding. I like a good walk in the woods more than the average bear, but perhaps my eyesight isn't good enough to stare into the leaves and try to tell the difference between an Ivory-billed or Red-cockaded woodpecker. That said, this book was still an interesting window into what it would be like to go on birding adventures, without the discomfort of being attacked by bees while doing so.

This is more of a book for young adults or adults, given the size and density of the text. It also has a fantastic level of detail concerning different facets of locating, identifying, and enjoying the avian world. There's also a wistfulness concerning connection with family, and especially the difficult process of remaining close to teenage children.

Reminiscent of Bill Byson's travel books with their sometimes slapstick anecdotes, vivid descriptions of places and humorously introspective take on life, Warblers and Woodpeckers will introduce the pastime of birding to the uninitiated and delight birding aficionados with delicious details of an epic year of birdwatching.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Apple Pie Promises

Homzie, Hillary. Apple Pie Promises
October 2nd 2018 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Lily loves to bake, especially with her mother, to whom she has been close after her parents' divorce. When her mother suddenly gets a fellowship to study in Morocco because another participant couldn't go, Lily is very proud of her mother, but doesn't really want to have to live with her father and his "new and improved"family. Kimberly is okay, and her daughter Hannah is a year older and goes to the same school. The girls usually get along okay, but because her father's video business is finally taking off, he has his equipment in the spare room, so the girls have to share. Hannah is horribly messy, and Lily is not. Lily tries to remain positive, but when Hannah finds out about Lily's crush and threatens to tell everyone about it, Lily starts stooping to pranks. It doesn't help that Hannah is the head of the haunted house committee for the fall festival, and Lily doesn't always agree with her approached. Lily wants to bake an apple pie for the festival, but her father is too busy to take her apple picking, and it's hard for her mother to find time and band width to Skype. The family is looking for a new house, and as the pranks escalate, Lily and Hannah both become increasingly unhappy. Can the step sisters work things out?
Strengths: Interesting descriptions of life in Seattle, decent baking information, and a very good plot involving school mates who have to learn to live together as sisters. I have seen this with my students, and always marvel at how this would work. This series always has a nice romance, and lots of friend drama besides. I can't wait to put up a display of the books, since the covers all look so delicious!
Weaknesses: I wasn't a fan of the pranks, and they seemed out of character for Lily. Also, the secret to good pie is in the CRUST, and Lily spends most of her time worrying about the filling. (Pie baking is one of my skills.)
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. The Swirl novels and the Scholastic Wish novels have done very well in my school library.

Hale, Shannon. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare (#6).
September 25th 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from

Princess Magnolia is all set to share her poster on the growth of seeds into plants and the local science fair, even getting coverage for the monsters so they don't disturb her! She meets up with many of her friends, who all have submitted projects of their own. When one volcano project seems to be harboring a monster in its goo, the princess heads under a table, suits up, and the Princess in Black is ready to fight. She's met by the Princess in Blankets, and the two have quite a fight with the monster. They decide to take it back to the field to send it to be with the other monsters, so have to carry it on the train, which requires the help of other princesses as well. Eventually, the monster is dispatched, the science fair is won (not by Magnolia, who is a good sport about it), and three new monster fighting princesses are minted.
Strengths: Unlike some series that tend to flag as they go on, Princess in Black keeps getting better. Each book shows some character development and some strengthening of her community. Including science experiments in this one is especially welcome. I'm just sad that these were not around when my own daughters were in the target demographic!
Weaknesses: Princess Sneezewort's costume needed some work. Kids probably find it funny, but I was somewhat disappointed!
What I really think: I purchase all of these and check them out a LOT to my struggling readers, especially the boys, since Ms. Hale has had such ridiculous backlash against boys and princesses. With the first book, we only checked it out to boys until the first circulation card was filled up, just to prove a point.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cartoon Saturday and The Perfect Secret

Schulz, Charles. Snoopy: Boogie Down
October 16th 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by publisher

Snoopy and his friends are back in this collection of classic comic strips from 1978. (There is a lovely frame of Snoopy's nemesis, the cat, swiping the year into the roof of his dog house!) Even though the vast majority of the strips are timeless and universal, we do get occasional glimpses of forty-year-old pop culture, with mentions of Farrah Fawcett-Majors, UFOs, reading the TV Guide, and Snoopy disco dancing! Rendered in full color, the strips exhibit the clean, clear lines of Schulz's simple yet emotive illustrations. It's hard to believe that Schulz has been gone for nearly twenty years, but his comics are just as amusing as they always were!

Kalickey, Ann. My Life in Smiley: I Got This
October 16th 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Max is back after My Life in Smiley, and continuing his exuberant life in middle school in France. It's August, so for summer break he and his sister travel to Brittany to stay with their grandparents for a bit before starting the school year. Max's schedule is very full and includes German and English classes, and the copy of his schedule listed was very interesting-- all classes don't meet every day, and there's an hour and a half for lunch, much different from the 25 minutes US students get. He hangs out with his friends, schemes to get presents, fights with his sister, and pursues his crush, Nais. This is a notebook novel, with hand drawn style font and lots of pictures. Perfect for fans of Lyttle Lies, Big Nate, Tom Gates, and Planet Tad.
Buyea, Rob. The Perfect Secret
October 9th 2018 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

In this sequel to The Perfect Score, we revisit the classmates who were involved in Ms. Woods' project to visit the senior center as they start seventh grade. Their teachers are all okay, and they do get to continue to visit the center. Other things, however, have changed. Trevor's parents have kicked his abusive brother Brian out of the house, which makes things better even though his mother misses his brother and there are still some problems with him. Randi's mother is much calmer about her gymnastics, and the two get along much better, although Randi finds out a secret when she attends a camp. Natalie is trying to get Ms. Woods and Ms. Magenta to talk to each other, but since no one will tell her why they have been estranged, it is difficult. She is also helping Gavin's mother learn to read. Scott, whose grandfather is in the senior center, becomes the stat man on the football team, but some of the other players, as well as the coaches, are jerks about it. Trevor still plays football and is very focused on it, but he starts understanding the appeal of graphic novels that Ms. Woods, who is volunteering at the local library, sends his way. When Gavin is injured at school and his mother is involved in an auto accident, many of the secrets that all of our characters are keeping lead to some problems that are difficult to overcome, but with the support of their class, the students work through them.
Strengths: This addresses several issues of current concern in an age appropriate way. Immigration problems, problems with siblings and parents, getting along with high achieving parents, and finding community service that is productive and enjoyable are threaded through this book. Buyea is good at making the characters distinctive so they can be told apart, and I know that teachers often like to use his books as an example of voice.
Weaknesses: I'm not a fan personally of multiperspective books, since each chapter change tends to take me out of the plot for a bit. I would love to see Buyea mix it up a bit and get away from the multiple character, entire year formula he has used in the past.
What I really think: I got the first book in this series late in the year, so I may wait to see how it circulates before purchasing the sequel.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, October 19, 2018


Gratz, Alan. Grenade.
October 9th 2018 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Hideki is about to graduate from his school when the American ships appear outside of Okinawa. He and his classmates are each given two hand grenades, and told to kill as many Americans as they can with the first one and kill themselves with the second. Hideki has already been separated from his family, who have been evacuated to mainland Japan. He sets off across the island and is not quite sure what to do, other than to try to survive. At the say time, Ray, an American soldier, lands on the island. He has been taught some rudimentary phrases and has been instructed to try to save the native Okinawans, although his fellow soldiers feel that you can't necessarily tell them from the Japanese and have an alarming tendency to strafe anyone they come across. Ray is not happy, but feels he has no other course of action. To cope, he starts to take pictures from the wallets of the men he has killed, saving them in his rucksack. The island is a hell hole of killing and destruction, with atrocities being committed by just about everyone. Hideki does find his father at their family tomb, but he passes away after telling him to find his sister Kimiko. Eventually, Ray and Hideki run into each other,with grave consequences for both young men.
Strengths: Gratz has these history books down to a science, not that any two are the same or in any way formulaic. There are interesting and engaging characters, tense and exciting situations, lots of information about the events, and a fast-moving plot. I especially appreciated that both sides had good and bad characters; well, the Japanese were not discussed quite as much, so they didn't come out looking very good, since they rather threw Okinawa under the bus. I didn't know much about Okinawa, and there were lots of interesting details, like the hajichi (Okinawan tattoos). I'm thinking that Scholastic should do a boxed set of these titles for book fairs-- the covers look great together.
Weaknesses: It would be preferable to see an #ownvoices account of WWII from a Japanese perspective, but until I can find those, I am grateful to have books that try to portray a non-US view.
What I really think: Like Graham Salisbury (The Hunt for the Bamboo Rat), Gratz does a great job at researching a variety of tense situations and writing about them in a way that is interesting but also does not glorify war. Definitely purchasing.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Truth About Martians

Savage, Melissa. The Truth About Martians
October 2nd 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Mylo lives with his parents and baby sister near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. His best friend, Dibs, is obsessed with Martians and comics, especially Planet Comics. The two boys spend a lot of time together, since Dibs' mother left home and his father is not coping well. Mylo has lost his brother Obie and also has trouble coping with his grief. When there is a huge, sudden flash of light in the sky one night, Mylo is sure it is a Martian flying saucer landing, and with the help of his  friends Gracie (on whom he has a crush) and Diego, he finds the crashed spaceship... and an alien. Of course, the army is ready to come and take away the wreckage for study, but Mylo manages to help the alien escape and hide her. His parents don't quite believe him, of course, and since the entire community is perturbed by the event and doesn't believe that it was really weather balloons, they think it's just his way of dealing with the things that have gone on in his life. Mylo and his friends know better, and do what they can to help, especially since the aliens manage to communicate with Mylo telepathically.
Strengths: As she did in Lemons, Savage does an excellent job of including details of life at this time, from overalls and hankies to Aqua Velva and church picnics. She also provides a good picture of the residents of a community, and shows how they work together in interesting ways, from Mylo's mother delivering bread to a neighbor to how Dibs' situation is finally resolved.
Weaknesses: The reason for Obie's death, and Mylo's grief about it (as well as the grief of a neighbor for the loss of his family), take up a lot of the story and slows it down. In 1947, almost everyone would have lost neighbors, relatives and community members in the war and might have been a bit more resilient. There probably wasn't a lot of grief counseling available, but Mylo certainly needed some.
What I really think: This reminded me a little of Mark Teague's The Doom Machine (2009) which I can't get to circulate even though it's shiny. I may wait to purchase this one even though the 1947 Roswell setting is fabulous.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Collectors

34614114West, Jacqueline. The Collectors.
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus
October 9th 2018 by Greenwillow Books

Giovanni lives in New York City with his mother, who is an opera singer. His father was a set designer, and the one thing "Van" has kept through all of their moves to different cities is the maquette his father had- a small stage with curtains. He finds objects out on the street and uses them to reinact scenes on the stage. His frequent moves, as well as the fact that he is hard of hearing, occasionally makes it difficult for him to make friends, so when he runs into Pebble in the park, he feels a connection to her. She's a bit odd, wearing a long coat in the warm weather, but he follows her and eventually finds out that she is part of a group of Collectors who gather wishes and keeps them safe in an underground facility. He also meets Mr. Falborg, who collects a number of different things, including Wish Eaters. He claims that Pebble's group is trying to starve and abuse the Wish Eaters, who are little, tiny and cute, and he gives Van a Wish Eater of his own to keep. Since he needs to feed it wishes, he wishes for a number of things in order to feed it, but wishes are unpredictable. For example, his mother is dating the father of Peter Grey, who doesn't like Van very much, so he wishes that the two parents won't be together, and his mother gets a job at La Scala in Italy. When he then wishes to stay in New York, something happens to his mother to prevent her from traveling. The Collectors are after Van, and when they finally corral him, he finds out more information about what is going on, and decides which side he needs to be on.
Strengths: The world building in this was particularly engaging, and Van is able to travel back and forth and meet with inhabitants of both worlds easily, which makes it fun. The story with Peter adds a nice dimension. Van's hearing loss is well portrayed, and his struggles with understanding speech are explained in a way that will help younger readers understand what it might be like. Having an opera singer as a mother is not something many children have, so that was interesting as well.
Weaknesses: It was really hard to tell who the good guys were, and even after Van decides, I'm not entirely convinced. Mr. Falborg in particular creeped me out a bit.
What I really think: If this were a stand alone, I would buy it, but I don't really need anymore fantasy series. They just are not circulating very well. I love West's The Shadows, and will encourage students to read that one.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Darkdeep and Sven Carter and the Android Army

37542247Condie, Ally. The Darkdeep (Darkdeep #1)
October 2nd 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC from

When bully Logan and his cronies send Nico's expensive, handmade drone into the bottomless waters of Still Cove, Nico tries to retrieve it despite the warnings of his friends Emma and Tyler. Of course, the rescue doesn't go well, but the three discover a weird houseboat and island in the middle of the cove (which sounds sort of like a flooded quarry to me). This, of course, has to be investigated, and along with Opal (Logan's girlfriend, who thinks he is overly mean to Nico) they spend some time cataloging the creepy items and checking out the pond in the middle of the island that is especially alarming. When Emma dips her toes into the "Darkdeep", it sucks her under the waters. Luckily, she emerges, but so does the embodiment of her worst fears. As the group continues to return, more and more creatures are brought to life. Logan's father's logging business has been negatively impacted by Nico's father's work protecting an endangered owl in the area, and since jobs have been lost, the townspeople aren't overly keen on Nico. Logan's father works behind the scenes to get Nico's father transferred, which is certainly upsetting. At the same time, the town is preparing for the Radish Festival, and the children get drawn into this as well. They are getting closer to figuring out some of the mysteries of the Darkdeep, but will the monsters break away from Still Cove?
Strengths: Nicely creepy, with fairly scary monsters and the overwhelming feeling that at some point, someone will get sucked into the Darkdeep and not come out. Condie's Matched is very popular in my library, so her fans will check it out, and readers who enjoyed Neal Shusterman's dark tales or McHale's Morpheus Road Trilogy will enjoy it as well.
Weaknesses: Paranormal forces preying on people's worst fears has been done a few times, most notably Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) and Shusterman's Full Tilt (2003). Of course, the target demographic has probably not read those.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase, although for some reason, this didn't seem at all scary to me. On the bright side, I usually can't stand books where there is an overwhelming feeling of damp and decay, and I was able to get through this!

Vlock, Rob. Sven Carter and the Android Army
October 16th 2018 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Haven't read the first book in the series, Sven Carter and the Trashmouth Effect? Definitely take a look. It's funny and goofy and perfect for middle grade readers.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of reading this during the first week of school. Once I get the book in the library, I'll have to wait until summer to get my hands on it! With my fantasy amnesia, there's no way I can write a convincing review, but trust me. Just buy these. They'll get read. Just look at the covers! Perfect cartoon-type illustration for middle school!

Monday, October 15, 2018

MMGM- Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle and Girls Who Code #4

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.

39397847Burgos, Hilda Eunice. Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle

October 2nd 2018 by Tu Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Ana Maria (or Anamay) lives in New York City with her three sisters and her parents. Her grandmother is nearby, but much of her family lives in the Dominican Republic, including her Tia Nona, who is a well-to-do doctor. When Tia Nona gets engaged, she and her fiance invite the entire family to the wedding. Anamay's father is a public assistance lawyer, and since the family will be getting larger when the new baby is born, there's not a lot of money, so Tia Nona also offers to pay. A lot of preparations ensue, which take Anamay's mind off her anxiety about applying for a scholarship to the Eleanor School, which her parents say they can't afford unless she gets a full ride, and her part in a piano concert at Lincoln Center. Meeting family in the Dominican Republic is fascinating, and the differences between Tia Nona's lavish lifestyle and her other relatives more modest accommodations without indoor plumbing make Anamy grateful for her cramped apartment in the US. She is surprised that her aunt has a young girl Anamay's age working as a servant... and that her aunt is not very nice to the girl. Her aunt is very mean, doesn't call the girl by her own name, and fires her when Anamay gives Clarisa's father and ill younger brother food. This goes against everything her family stands for, and puts her aunt in a new light. When the family returns to the US, Anamay and her friends have a bake sale and send money to Clarisa, allowing her to go to school, especially after Tia Nona is encouraged to hire her father as a gardener. Anamay is still working on her recital piece, which she feels isn't as good as Sarita's. Sarita goes to the same teacher and has a lot of family issues, which put into question her ability to attend the recital. All families have issues, and Tio Lalo's are with alcohol. He didn't make the wedding, is in and out of jobs, and on Halloween is driving drunk and hits one of Anamay's sisters with the car, injuring her badly. Anamay's mother is hospitalized with high blood pressure and put on bed rest. Will Anamay be able to overcome her family issues to do well in the recital and the scholarship test for the Eleanor School?
Strengths: This certainly kept me turning the pages! I especially like the details of life in the Dominican Republic, and the wedding preparations with all of the close knit family. Anamay's interest in Clarisa is realistically presented, and I liked that her family is dedicated to helping others. I was able to keep all of the characters straight, which means that they are all very well described and different. Sometimes books set in NYC don't do well in my library (my students are not going to understand why getting into the school is so important; it's just not a thing where we live), but I think that Anamay's family relationships and personal struggles will resonate with my students.
Weaknesses: There is enough information in this book for TWO books! It's all interesting, but I think I would have made this one concentrate on Anamay's school and piano struggles and the trip to the Dominican Republic. It was good to see her help others there, and to continue that when she got back to the US. The sub plot with the uncle and the sister being injured could make another whole book!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. I have a small but steady number of students whose parents have come from the Dominican Republic, and they often want books set specifically in that county. They are hard to find! (Only Joseph's The Color of My Words (2000) comes to mind.)

Shusterman, Michelle. Spotlight on Coding Club (Girls Who Code #4)
October 2nd 2018 by Penguin Workshop
Copy provided by the publisher

Erin is looking forward to the school talent show so that she can perform using her many talents, and she's also glad that the coding club is working with Mrs. Clark to develop a real time voting app. However, she's been suffering a lot of anxiety with the new developments in her dad's deployment status and the news that Mrs. Clark has taken a job away from the school, and she's afraid to say anything to her mom, since she really thought she had grown out of it. She throws herself into the coding and preparations, and self-soothes by making red velvet waffles and other tasty baked goods. Her friends are helpful and supportive, but can only really help if she tells them what's wrong, which she doesn't want to do. Fortunately, after talking to her friend's sister, Leila, who also suffers from anxiety, she decides to ask her mother if she can talk to a new counselor.
Strengths: It's nice that these books focus on the concerns of different members of the club, since it also gives us another view of the other members. I hadn't remembered a lot about Erin, but she had some interesting interests and skills. I've not read any other books about a child dealing with the stress of a deployed parent, so that alone was worth it. I hope that more girls get interested in coding after reading this.
Weaknesses: I wish that there were a CLASS were the girls learned to code; if it is an important thing to learn, computer skills shouldn't be relegated to only a club.
What I really think: Glad to have these books, and have them cataloged under the same call number even though there are different authors. (Stacia Deutsch wrote the first two, and Jo Whittemore the third.)