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.)


  1. These books sound wonderful. I can relate to some of the Anamay's struggles and will check this book out. Lovely reviews.

  2. Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle sounds like a really good story. I will try to check it out. Thanks for the reviews.

  3. I've not yet read any of the Girls Who Code books, but I've had book #1 on my list for a looooong time. One of my masters degrees specialized in educational technology and I find it so unfortunate that few girls are interested in coding when it's such an important skill for this generation. The only real book copy we have of this series (locally) is book #2, however I just checked our online library and found book #1. So I'm very happy about that! Thank you for sharing these reviews -- I always appreciate your attention to detail!