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.


  1. I'm not much of a birder either, though I also enjoy a good walk in nthe woods, but this looks really interesting.
    PS--"I'm sorry I hurt you--the LEADER OF THE PACK!" (vroom, vroom)

  2. I have heard of Styx Malone, & find it interesting that he is a foster child, seems to put them into a category, but it would be a contrast between city and country kids. The birding book sounds good, though I agree that it's probably for older readers. Thanks, Karen.

  3. This made me giggle: "...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." Oh my goodness, yes. I mean, I really do love getting out in nature, but the bees are especially horrid in my area right now (which is weird since we've already had snow and freezing temps). Thank you for the new titles to note. I'm adding The Season of Styx Malone to my list right away.

  4. Warblers and Woodpeckers sounds just perfect - I love travelogues that really let you get to know the travellers, as well as their experiences.

  5. Thank you for the awesome review, Ms. Yingling! I promise to show you the difference between a Red-cockaded and Ivory-billed Woodpecker when we meet!

  6. Can't wait to read Styx Malone! Thank you for sharing your thoughts

    Here's what I'm reading:

  7. Thank you for making me laugh today Karen! Warblers and Woodpeckers: A Father-Son Big Year of Birding sounds like a delightful book. I too have trouble identifying birds, but love to be out in places where I can hear them warble away.