Monday, November 12, 2018

MMGM- Blended

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.

Draper, Sharon. Blended
November 6th 2018 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Isabella's parents are divorced, and she lived with her mother in Cincinnati while her father worked in California. Now he is back, and they switch off weeks, meeting at a local mall for the trade off. With her mother, who works as a waitress, she lives in an apartment and has to worry about vehicles working, but with her father, she lives in a posh house in Indian Hill. Her mother's boyfriend, who is white like her mother, confesses that his family was very racist and abusive when he was growing up, and he feels bad that he was too scared to oppose them. Her father's girlfriend is an interior decorator who has a son, Darren, who is older than Isabella. As her parents' relationships become more serious, Isabella gives more thought to her identity, as well as to her blended family. At school, she has some good friends, and doesn't think much about her racial identity until one of her friends is threatened and everyone at school is thinking about race. Isabella's big concern is playing piano, but when she and Darren stop for ice cream at the Hyde Park Graeters before her big recital, they run into problems that end tragically.
Strengths: This was a good attempt to bring current social concerns to a middle grade level. Draper has done a lot of more Young Adult books with these themes, but her younger books haven't addressed them as much. I have a lot of students who are biracial, and there are not many books (Frazier's Brendan Buckley and The Other Half of My Heart being notable exceptions) directly addressing the difficulties that sometimes arise. It was especially interesting that Isabella herself identifies more as black.
Weaknesses: This is almost two books; one about the blended families, and one about the racial issues. I liked that they were presented together, but at almost 300 pages, it was a lot of information, and the two topics didn't always flow smoothly.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, if only for the descriptions of Cincinnati (they HAD to be meeting at the Kenwood Towne Centre!) and the cover!

Fun fact: I'm pretty sure that when I did a student teaching experience at Walnut Hills High School in 1989, Draper was teaching there! We never met, and all I really remember is the cigarette haze in the faculty room and my cooperating teacher telling me that if I ever saw a fight starting, I was to run and find "a man with a tie".

O'Brien, Ann Sibley and O'Brien, Perry Edmond.
After Ghandi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance
November 6th 2018 by Charlesbridge Publishing

Starting with a complete but brief description of Ghandi's works and continuing with additional, updated information about current social movements, this book covers a variety of people and protests from around the world. Each chapter starts with an illustration that highlights the year of the protest, a description of a particular occurrence, a description of the problem and the method of resistance, and then a brief biography of a key figure, illustrated with that person's portrait. This is a nice way to reinforce the information, and made the book move very quickly. There were some events with which I was familiar, but a lot with which I was not. I can see this being a very useful book for research, pleasure reading, or for inspiring students to participate themselves. One notable omission, no doubt due to timing, is the student protests following the Stoneman Douglas shootings.
Strengths: This author also did the fabulous novel In the Shadow of the Sun-- it took me a bit to make the connection! I really liked the way that the various movements were discussed, and the chapters were just the right length. This would also be very helpful in a high school history class to balance out the textbooks, which always concentrate on WAR instead of social history!
Weaknesses: While I can understand the financial reasons for having drawings instead of photographs for each event, it was really not the same. Photographs would have added a LOT to this book. Perhaps in another ten years, for a new edition!
What I really think: This new edition is in paperback. I will try to find a hardcover, but I don't know that it would get used enough to worry about it wearing out.
Ms. Yingling


  1. Very nice review of Blended! I had to keep reminding myself that Isabella was supposed to only be eleven because she sometimes read like she was older. The cover is beautiful and I hope we get a lot of interest from middle grade readers.

  2. This is the second review of Blended I've read this week. It sounds like one to read. My granddaughter is half Korean. Here in the urban centre where I live, she will fit right in, but I've come to realize that if they move to the interior of our province, it might be very different.

  3. I really enjoyed Blended too but I agree that there was a lot going on that didn't always blend perfectly. Still it's so great to have a middle grade character like Isabella for young readers.

    Here's my Monday post

  4. I've enjoyed Sharon's past books and this one sounds like another good one. We aren't nearly to a saturation point with books on race and blended families, but I can see it happening in the next five years. Thanks for the heads-up on this one and all your selections the past week.

  5. Excellent reviews. I just finished Blended and was delighted to see a MG book focused on a bi-racial teen struggling with her identity. I love Sharon Draper, she lives about 45 min from me. Didn't get to attend her book launch this year as I was on vacation. She is so animated. My guess is that Draper was there in 1989 when you were teaching. But, she hadn't started writing books yet. She's in her 70s now. Love her books and her.

  6. I always appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. Can't wait to read Blended.

  7. Blended sounds great. Well, they both do but Blended interests me more. Thanks for telling me about these.

  8. I really want to read Blended as well. I also figured out from this post why I correct in not wearing a tie. That is such hilarious advice. Thanks for sharing this post!

  9. Blended seems to be receiving a lot of love recently. :)