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.

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