Monday, December 31, 2018

MMGM-1919: The Year that Changed America

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.

Sandler, Martin W. 1919: The Year the Changed America
January 8th 2019 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

While I knew a little about the events of 1919, I hadn't really put them together in the way that this informative book does. Yes, I knew about the Great Molasses Flood thanks to Joan Hiatt Harlow's 2002 Joshua's Song, but I had never tied it in to companies wanting to hoard molasses in order to make as much run as possible before Prohibition! It's good to see coverage of women's suffrage at this particular moment, right before 1920, and in the wake of the war. The Red Scare chapter helped lay the ground for all the fears about Communism after WWII, and the descriptions of the large number of strikes occurring made sense given the general air of social changes and concern for working conditions.  The chapter on Prohibition was a nice overview.

What blew me away was the chapter on the Red Summer. I'd never heard of it. The history teachers in my building had never heard of it. Everyone should have. It was a HUGE deal, and involved more than riots in just Chicago, although the racial incidents came to a head there with a young African-American man being killed by a rock thrown by a white man because of a segregated beach. Sandler does a great job at tying many of these century old issues into topics of concern today, well illustrating the fact that if we don't remember history, it's going to be repeated.

I think that schools tend to teach history in isolation-- I only had World History for one year in school, so never had a good feel for how US history fit into that much larger picture. Of course, our textbooks ended with the Korean conflict, so we never studied anything about civil rights at all.

History that is not main line is definitely ignored, even today. If the US history teachers have not heard of the Red Summer, who else would? It's difficult to align EVERYTHING that happened in the world, but I do think history books need to get better about giving a more complete picture and incorporating history about all people.

I have one African-American student who loves to read about civil rights history, because his grandmother was born in Alabama in 1954 and has some stories that alarm him. He is reading about Medgar Evers right now, and his comment was "I thought it was just Martin Luther King. But there are a whole lot of people who worked for civil rights." Yes. Yes there were. His class is now reading about WWII, and I made sure he got Sheinkin's Port Chicago 50 so that he can chime in with another view point during class discussions.

When I looked up "Red Summer" at my public library catalog, there were very few books. The Westerville Public Library has an absolutely excellent collection, so I was a bit surprised. I was pleased, however, to see the book below.

Hartfield, Claire. A Few Red Drops" The Chicago Race Riots of 1919
January 2nd 2018 by Clarion Books
Public Library Copy

There's a good deal of information about the events of the Red Summer, but the best part of this book is the extensive background of Chicago's Packingtown and Black Belt neighborhoods, starting in the 1850s and continuing on. It discusses living conditions in both the north and the south for African-Americans, and describes the black middle and upper class in a way that is very hard to find. For students who may only ever have read about blacks in slavery or being denied rights in the south, this is a refreshing change! Ida Wells Barnett is discussed quite a bit, and there are other historical figures, such as John Jones, about whom I would love to have biographies!

There's also a lot of discussion about the Irish immigrants in Chicago, and the prejudices that they faced. I think it's important to read these accounts, because most students have NO idea that the Irish were ever considered an important "minority" group that were not particularly welcome in the country. It is a somewhat hopeful note that opinions, in some circumstances, can change, enough so that a generation or two later, no one remembers. There was also a lot of information about the Chicago meat packing industry, but I would bet that this larger history of Chicago was NOT covered in my daughter's class when they read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. (Which, for some weird reason, she absolutely loved. It made her a vegetarian six years ago!)

This book was beautifully formatted, with comfortable text size and white space, a fair number of period political cartoons and photographs, and was very engaging and easy to read.

This is a great book to use to set the stage for Shabazz and Watson's  Betty Before X.

I'll definitely be purchasing both of these titles!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Find Your Rainbow: Color and Create Your Way to a Calm and Happy Life

Lyn, Jenipher. Find Your Rainbow: Color and Create Your Way to a Calm and Happy Life
December 31st 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

This combination self help/ coloring book offers a lot of brightly colored, on-trend advice to help tween girls process this difficult stage of life. Divided into seven chapters, it covers topics such as being yourself, making friends, and being comfortable with your body, all big concerns as this age. There are feel-good, poster-like pages with positive sentiments (such as "Be your own kind of beautiful") alternating with questions and activities for readers to complete, such as lists of goals, a plan to cheer up friends during the day, and a grid to fill out of "what makes you awesome". There are lots of activities, but not all that many pictures to actually color, if you are looking for more of a coloring book. (Is this still a trend?)
Strengths: This would be great fun to give to a self conscious tween who is introspective and artistic. There's lots of good, current information on how to survive the tween years, although none of it is very specific.
Weaknesses: The reality is that most tweens would fill out the first ten pages and then lose the book under their bed. Still, if you need a gift, this is quite nice.
What I really think: Since this is an activity book, and I don't circulate these in the library, I will give this to a teacher who has four daughters.

I was a tragically weird middle school student, and even my best friend at the time agrees that if I were told "Be yourself, always, unique quirks and all," there is no way this would have ended well for me!

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Tom Gates is Absolutely Fantastic [at Some Things] (Tom Gates #5)

Pichon, L. Tom Gates is Absolutely Fantastic [at Some Things] (Tom Gates #5)
October 16th 2018 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

The big event in Tom's world is the upcoming School Activity Trip, but he might not be going! He forgot to turn in the permission slip, and even when he gets another one, it is lost in the morass of his room. Luckily, his mother saves the day and sends him off with substandard wooly jumpers and way too many bananas instead of decent snacks! He has an odd assortment of roommates, including Marcus, who shoots his mouth off about how great and brave he isn't, but is really just whiny and annoying instead. There are lots of fun activities like raft building, and competitions with another school. Of course, the best activities are the forbidden ones, like snacking after lights out and being silly. Still, the trip is a success and Tom is glad that he finally got organized enough to go... even if he loses his teddy bear and everyone on his bus finds out he brought one.

Like Peirce's Big Nate, Tom is an imminently likable and tremendously typical middle school student. He means well, but still can't remember to pack his own pajamas! He's obsessed with snacks, but in a world where you can buy caramel wafers at the corner Tesco, who wouldn't be? Tom is also very British, with his gym kit, rubbish bins, and even the whole concept of the School Activity Trip! The last time I took middle school students on a trip that stayed even one night away was 1989!

The other characters in the book are slightly one-dimensional; Tom's father is always claiming to want to stay fit but sneaking biscuits, his sister Delia is often mean and snarky to him but ends up saving the day when he forgets to mail in an entry to a t shirt design contest, and his teachers a bit waffly and ineffectual. I do appreciate that even with Marcus, Tom is understanding and not mean. This makes a big difference between this and the US Wimpy Kid series.

The hand-lettered font and copious pictures will appeal to fans of Stick Dog and Charlie Joe Jackson, and many readers will use this book as an arguing point to get a wall of their room painted in black board paint just like Tom, so they can doodle all over a wall. All of Tom's exploits are amusing, humorous, and pure fun to read. I am not overly sad that this series is fourteen books long in the UK!
Ms. Yingling

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Red Ribbon

Adlington, Lucy. The Red Ribbon
September 11th 2018 by Candlewick Press (MA)
E Book from Ohio E Book Project

Ella is in Birchwood (Birkenau), fully believing that her grandparents are still at home and that she will soon be able to leave and resume planning her career as a seamstress. She's thrilled when she gets chosen to work in the Upper Tailoring Studio, where seamstresses rework dresses for the commandant's fashion savvy wife as well as other officers and people of importance in the camp. One of these is Carla, a guard who is oddly friendly to Ella when there is no one to witness, but doesn't hesitate for a second to remind her that she is one of "those people" who is beneath her contempt. In the studio, Ella meets Rose, who seems more refined and less able to take care of herself. The two eventually become friends and help each other through the complicated give-and-take systems at the camp. Unfortunately, much more is taken from the girls, and when Rose swipes a red ribbon for the storehouse of clothing and objects taken from the incoming campers, both girls suffer tremendously for it. Ella has to take harder, more demeaning work with fewer perks, and Rose eventually becomes ill. When the camp is liberated, Ella wants to try to find her grandparents as well as Rose, and is fortunate enough to eventually find her friend.
Strengths: This had a lot of really good details about what it was like to have a somewhat privileged position in a concentration camp. Survival was a precarious proposition, and both Rose and Ella have a lot of close calls before everything falls apart. Carla's behavior was especially interesting. It was also helpful to see what happened to the girls after Liberation; many books stop short of that, and I think students assume everyone in the camps died.
Weaknesses: It seemed odd to call the camp Birchwood, and I also wondered if the residents would have been clueless about the number of deaths occurring.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Our 8th grade does a unit on the Holocaust, and this was an easy-to-understand, quick read that also clearly explained what when on in the camps.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dodger Boy

Ellis, Sarah. Dodger Boy
September 1st 2018 by Groundwood Books
JLG Selection

Charlotte and Dawn (who prefers to be called that rather than her Polish name) are fast friends who have adopted an UnTeen pact to make sure that they don't succumb to the social pressures of 1970 Vancouver. Dawn's family is more conventional, so they might expect her to marry young so she can have a matching dinette set, but Charlotte's family runs a flower shop and don't go for a lot of interior decorating. The girls embrace some parts of the modern culture and are a bit fascinated by "hippies", even hitting the thrift store, scoring a Laura Ashley dress and belled skirt and tie-dying them in order to attend a Human Be-In at a local park. There, they meet American draft dodger Tom Ed, from Texas, and he ends up staying with Charlotte's family, even though they are Quakers and Tom Ed is not avoiding the war because of pacifism. At the girls' school, they have a forward thinking teacher who is in her last year, and is allowing the students to read anything they want, since she will be retiring. On girl, who is reading the Bible, becomes upset by Catcher in the Rye, and her mother tries to get the book banned and the teacher fired. One night, Charlotte finds Tom Ed and her brother James kissing, and the next thing they know, Tom Ed has moved out to go join a commune. Charlotte examines her feelings about the situation and is not upset, her teacher remains employed, and she and Dawn continue on their junior high experience during an interesting and pivotal time of history.
Strengths: There are lots of good details about daily life in the 1970s, and the topic of draft dodgers is one for which I really needed a book! It's a nice length, and moves along quickly. Good feeling of the time in both details and larger issues.
Weaknesses: The cover is not a good one. Even a similar photo would have been better. While the book challenge scenes and Tom Ed's sexual orientation are vaguely interesting and well done, I wish more description of the Vietnam conflict and its effect on people like Tom Ed would have been given. There would have been more than enough background information to round out a story without the other issues.
What I really think: This will be perfect for the Decades Unit the 7th grade does. It's not perfectly written (I bought it without reading it because I was thinking it was by Deborah Ellis, author of The Breadwinner), but it's the only one I've ever seen about draft dodgers living in Canada, although there is Kurlansky's Battle Fatigue that covers a young man before he heads to Canada.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Emmi in the City

Alikhan, Salima. Emmi in the City: A Great Chicago Fire (Girls Survive)
January 1st 2019 by Stone Arch Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Emmi and her toymaker father have come to the US from Germany, hoping to make a better life for themselves in the 1870s. Emmi still misses home, and has some trouble getting along with Irish children in the neighborhood, particularly twins Seamus and Cara. When a fire starts nearby, Emmi and her father are separated, and Emmi tries to make her way to the river. Along the way, she runs into the twins, and the three work together to escape the flames. They are worried about their families, but also about whether they will survive themselves. Eventually, they make it to safety, where they are reconnected with their parents. Emmi's father has helped a wealthy businessman to safety, so it given the use of his summer cottage and a stone shop back in Chicago when the city is put back together.
Strengths: This is one of those historical events that shows up from time to time, and the book reads very much like a Lauren Tarshis I Survived volume. Lots of good details about daily life at the time, and about how the fire unfolded and Emmi managed to survive it. Glossary of terms at the back.
Weaknesses: This seemed slightly odd. There was a lot of pining for her father, and a lot of discussion of the difficulties of the Irish. Given the dire circumstances of surviving the fire, I'm not sure these topics would have been foremost in Emmi's mind.
What I really think: I'm really interested to see what else Girls Survive! However, since I already have Hilmo's Cinnamon Moon, which covers this event nicely, but if you need another book on the Great Chicago Fire, have a look at this one, and at this great list:

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Secrets of Winterhouse (#2)

Guterson, Ben. The Secrets of Winterhouse (#2)
December 31st 2018 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Elizabeth is so relieved to get back to Winterhouse and be with her grandfather Norbridge again that she doesn't think too much about why her somewhat evil aunt and uncle appear sad at her leaving. She's very glad to find out that her grandfather has finally take care of all the legal details, and she will finally be living with him permanently. She is introduced to nearby Haventown, which has delightful shops, including a fantastic book store! Freddy, Leona, and the other people at Winterhouse are also glad to have her back, but there are some troublesome guests. She had a run in on the train with the Powter family, including nasty teenager Rodney, and is wary of Elana Vesper and her creepy grandmother. Something is up, and after a worker is attacked in the candy kitchen, Elizabeth and Freddy put their puzzle solving skills to work. There is a mysterious verse that shows up in different places around the hotel, put there by Riley Granger, a guest long ago, and Elizabeth expects it is somehow tied to Gracella, whom she doesn't think is completely dead. While she's glad to finally be home for Christmas, Elizabeth wants to keep her new home safe from dangerous family magic.
Strengths: The hotel is such a wonderful, appealing place, and Norbridge is a great adult-- makes sure Elizabeth is safe and well cared for, but gives her space to roam! The illustrations are very appealing, and bring all of the fantastic meals and intriguing spaces to life. I enjoyed this one even more than the first!
Weaknesses: Not personally a fan of anagrams or puzzles, so found myself skipping over those bits.
What I really think: This is one of those series with some staying power, rather than a quick, popular appeal, and those books make me happiest of all. Yeah, students have worn out several copies of The Hunger Games, but it's the well-written, classic feeling books that stay on the shelves for thirty years or more that feel like old friends. Definitely purchasing, and will have to take a look at the finished interior illustrations.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, December 24, 2018

MMGM- Gamer Army

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.

37825373Reedy, Trent. Gamer Army
November 27th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In a futuristic society where almost everything has gone online, Rogan spends a lot of his time playing the game Laser Viper, a virtual reality war-type Mutliplayer Online Role Playing Game. He doesn't like to have to rely on the group, and wants to always be the best, even if it means not giving others an equal chance. His parents are both very busy online as well, with his father involved in another MORPG and his mother the founder of an online forum about technology. He spends a lot of time in Virtual City, where he even has his own apartment where he doesn't feel quite as alone, especially when he puts a VR headset on his dog, Wiggles, so the dog can accompany him! When the creator of Virtual City, William J. Calum, shows up at his door, Rogan doesn't believe it's really him, but believes him when he is invited to participate in a Laser Viper Final Challenge, since her's one of the best young gamers. His parents approve, even though it will mean having limited contact with him while the competition is going on, and soon he is off to meet the other combatants in the reality show. He knows Shay online, and the two frequently spar about who is the better player. There is also Takashi, who takes the role of the Healer and works well with other, Beckett, who is an egocentric jerk, and Jacqueline, who is the engineer and hopes to use her winnings to fund her college studies. The group, except for Beckett, works well together, and complete several training missions, getting used to the virtual reality suits that make the game more life like. After Beckett is voted off, the missions get more involved and more potentially deadly. By the time it is just Rogan and Shay, things look suspicious, and the former players get in contact with the current ones to let them know that their virtual battles are actually taking place in reality. Calum and his Atomic Frontier corporation has designs on detroying the important Sun Station One, and a rival organization, Scorpion, is trying to save the children as well as the world. Is it even possible to do this, or are Calum's plans too far gone?

Readers who think that they can grow up to be professional video game players and who enjoyed books like Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson, Dashner's Eye of Minds or Anderson's Insert Coin to Continue will love this action-packed book. The descriptions of the "games" the children play reflect several of the commonly popular online shoot-em-ups and will be the closest thing readers can get to a video game while reading a book!

Rogan starts off as kind of a jerk, which is not all that surprising considering how preoccupied his parents are. He attends Steve Jobs Middle School, which is also online, so has had very little actual social interaction in his life that is not virtual. Dealing with actual people is much harder! He does learn to work with his teammates and starts to realize the benefits of collaboration.

Calum and his Atomic Frontier corporation seem legitimate at the beginning, but the slowly emerging Ender's Game quality of his organization is chillingly revealed. Of course, only twelve-year-olds can save the world, and the five best candidates are those who excel at video games. Makes complete sense, right? This is the best kind of escapist fantasy for tween readers who believe that if the video game plan doesn't work out, surely their back up of playing professional basketball will!

There is room for a sequel, and I would love to see Mr. Reedy (Stealing Air, Words in the Dust) put his writing talents to work on more of Rogan's adventures.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Cotton Candy Wishes

Springer, Kristina. Cotton Candy Wishes
January 8th 2019 by Sky Pony
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Taylor throws an exquisitely planned, cotton candy themed birthday party, invites all of the students in her grade... and no one but her best friend comes. Crushed, especially after she overhears other girls calling her attempts lame and desperate, Taylor isn't even comforted by her small group of three friends. When she gets home, she finds out that her family has to move two hours away for her father's job. She doesn't want to leave, but feels she has little to lose. She and her friends research the latest fashions and best way to act to be popular, and Taylor heads off to her new school determined to make things different. Luckily, they are, and she attracts the attention of the popular Elle, as well as a boy whom Elle thinks would be good for Taylor. Soon, Taylor is surrounded by other popular students, makes the cheerleading team, and is exhausted by the effort it takes to stay in the social whirl. To complicate matters, she has a lot in common with kind, math-minded Colin, but he has run afoul of Elle and is a persona non grata. Taylor has to decide if she wants to continue to be popular or stay true to the person she really is.
Strengths: Why popularity is so important to middle school students, I don't know, but it is definitely a thing. And yes, I tried out for the cheerleading squad in middle school. Again, no explanation. Certainly didn't make it! Taylor's angst is all completely true to life, and her friendship with Colin is sweet. Bonus points for her being a mathlete- both my daughters ended up in math related fields!
Weaknesses: This is my favorite sort of book to read, and after going through thousands of titles spanning seven decades, I still live in hope of a twist. Elle has a secret crush on Colin. Anything other than mean girl, being true to yourself, etc. Not Springer's fault; just the way of the world. Middle school readers on their tenth book like this will not notice!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. These are wildly popular, if possibly a passing trend. (I'm still bitter the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies don't circulate quite as well as they did... ten years ago!) Still, they'll see heavy use.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Books date. Sometimes very badly. I had fond memories of Deenie from my own middle school days (which is why I have the 1978 paperback cover, which is the one I remember), and we've used it for our Decades project, in which case the horrible attitudes of the mother are very illustrative. (Deenie is "the pretty one", Helen is "the smart one". I can't imagine a mother in 2018 using that distinction. It's also weird how the father is always the one to drive to important appointments and is generally portrayed as being the parent in charge, which is not entirely bad because the mother seems unstable.) Still, I think I'm going to weed (eyes downcast with shame) BOTH copies that I have.

So passes the glory of the world, indeed.

Blume, Judy. Deenie
January 1st 1973 by Bradbury Press
School library copy

Deenie's mother really wants her to be a model, because she's always been pretty and even won a contest as a baby. Since they live in New Jersey, they go to meet with modeling agents in New York City. They think that Deenie is pretty enough, but her posture isn't good. When Deenie tries out for the cheerleading squad and doesn't make it, her gym teacher calls home and mentions that Deenie really should see a doctor about her posture. When the diagnosis is scoliosis, Deenie convinces herself that she will have surgery to fix her back, recover glamorously in the polyester negligee her friends buy her, and go on with her life. Her mother engages in some whining hand-wringing. When it turns out that Deenie has to wear a Milwaukee brace, complete with boy's undershirt to keep the brace from chafing her skin, she does not react well. Her mother screams and cries, and when Deenie gets home, she chops off her hair. She has to wear Helen's old clothes, and is afraid that the boy on whom she has a crush, Bud, won't like her if she has on the brace. Eventually she settles in (this is a short book, just 159 pages), and tries to go to a party without wearing her brace. Her father insists, and it's okay because Bud likes her and kisses her even though she is wearing it.
Strengths: There are a lot of good details about the medical side of the brace, although I'm sure that some of these have changed. Still, visiting with doctors and the basic explanations are top notch. I wore a Boston brace that was all metal rods and canvas strapping, and today they are all plastic. Deenie's reaction is a bit extreme, but not unusual. Deenie's slight romance with Bud has its moments.
Weaknesses: Wow, 1973, how did any of us survive you? Deenie's mother comes across as being an absolute nut, and Deenie's obsession with cheerleading and boys was very true to life. Even I tried out for cheerleading, believe it or not. The part of this book that I really disliked was what Blume was particularly lauded for at the time-- introducing taboo topics like masturbation. At the time, they were revolutionary, but today they seem just randomly stuck in the book, and they are sort of like a slap in the face-- appearing with no explanation and then not really addressed again. The "rap sessions" with the teacher were particularly awkward.
What I really think: Because this deals with a medical issue for which the treatment has changed, I'm going to have to weed this one. It's just too far out of the understanding of most children (whose grandmothers would be Deenie's age) for this to be in any way helpful.

Below, original cover and a Milwaukee brace.


Ms. Yingling

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Last Battle

I was a fan of C.S. Lewis in middle school. In the summer of 1978, right before 8th grade, I saved up my babysitting money and bought a paperback boxed set, and sat out on the front porch drinking lemonade, reading the books. I was not a fantasy reader, so I can only imagine that I was encourage to look into these titles by my group of friends, who were HUGE Tolkien geeks.

The funny thing is that I had just gone through confirmation class at my church, but I don't think I ever made the connection that this was Christian allegory. I also purchased The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity before I saw the light during my sophomore year of high school and became a confirmed nonbeliever-- reading these titles as an adult, I felt that Lewis was reactionarily mean about people who didn't believe just what he believed.

This is why I reread this title. I had a student who was reading through some heavy duty classics-- Twain, Poe, E.B. White, you name it. He read a book a day from this series, but when he checked out The Last Battle, it came right back. He couldn't do it, he said, because he was Muslim, and Lewis had a very negative portrayal of people who were very Muslim-like. 

Of course, I apologized. We had a conversation about the fact that C.S. Lewis wrote a long time ago, when things were (sadly, not much) different. He was very polite and understanding, but clearly hurt. Since children never ASK for Lewis and only check his books out when I recommend them, I felt like a jerk. I don't know that I'll pull the books from the shelf, but I also don't know just how long they will stay. 

Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle
Published September 1st 2006 by HarperCollins Publishers
(first published September 4th 1956)
Library copy

Things are not pleasant in Narnia. Ape and his assistant Puzzle the donkey have found a lion's skin, and have taken to wearing it around making proclamations about what Aslan wants, which includes the enslavement of talking animals. There are also a lot of Calormenes, who worship Tash instead of Aslan, who are helping Ape with his evil plan. Enter Tirian, the king in this particular age, and Eustace and Jill, who have been to Narnia before and are back, but hundreds of years later in Narnian time. When Tirian and Jewell the unicorn see a talking horse being abused, they immediately kill the Calormenes in charge. They turn themselves in, but since Ape is so corrupt and things don't look like they will end well, Jill and Eustace rescue him. There proceeds to be a lot of very unpleasant fighting, the horrifying appearance of Tash, Ape's using the term Tashlan and telling everyone the gods are the one and the same, a reappearance by most of the form queens and kings, Aslan arrviing, and a very Dallas, Bobby-in-the-Shower moment involving a train wreck.
Strengths: This concludes many of the threads from the other books, and evokes a very particular world in the same way that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, the world is horrible. Aside from the depiction of the Calormenes, there is a fair amount of the use of "Darkie" as an address which is quite grating today. Eustace and the other humans seem a bit disconnected from the complete devastation of Narnia. The writing is preachy, with lots of info dumps. I did not enjoy it at all.
What I really think: Just from the perspective of reading an interesting, well-written tale, this was disappointing. It was overly fraught, super heavy on message, and despite all of the fighting, fairly boring. I really think that Lewis had a huge inferiority complex, and he wanted to outdo Tolkien's books (which are still riveting and do still have fans), but didn't have the natural talent to do so. Also, I do think that Lewis, as an adult convert to Christianity, felt that he had to justify his choice at every turn even if it meant being condescending about other's beliefs. Interestingly enough, this book has more one star ratings on Goodreads than I think I've ever seen a book have.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Collector

Alexander, K.R. The Collector
Published August 28th 2018 by Scholastic Press
Public Library Copy

Josie's mother has lost her job in the city, and her grandmother is slipping further into dementia, so the family moves to the country to take care of her. The grandmother has some odd rules, such as not opening the windows at night or having dolls in the house, and insists that Josie and her younger sister do not visit the house near them in the woods. Josie has a hard time at school, but there is one girl, Vanessa, who is nice to her. Vanessa lives with her aunt, and invites Josie to come for a visit... but she lives in the house Josie is forbidden to enter. Preferring a friend to her grandmother's rules, Josie does visit, but the house leaves her feeling anxious. When Vanessa gives Josie a doll for her sister, who is having bad dreams, Josie is willing to do anything to help her sister. Josie's grandmother becomes agitated, and claims that children will soon go missing, and this does come to pass. Several school mates are missing, and Josie begins to feel that perhaps Vanessa and her aunt are behind the disappearances. Will she be able to figure out the mystery before she and her sister become victims?
Strengths: Nicely creepy, and plays on the ever present middle grade fear of not making friends. The setting is increasingly creepy, and the cover will scare off anyone who cannot read tales about creepy dolls. Those who enjoy books like this will find this to be deliciously creepy.
Weaknesses: I feel like I've read this before, but with a more Southern setting. The idea of children moving to a new house and being haunted is tried and true, which doesn't bother students but is beginning to get old for me. See this 2010 post about Betty Ren Wright's work!
What I really think: It's only available in paperback and Follett Bound, but I am definitely purchasing. I need a lot more creepy books!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Better You Than Me

Brody, Jessica. Better You Than Me
November 13th 2018 by Delacorte Press
Copy provided by the publisher

Ruby Rivera is the star of a popular genie-themed television show, but she's not entirely happy with the life that entails. Skylar Welshman, A Ruby Rivera super fan,  has had to move from Massachusetts to California with her mother, who is a professor, and is really not happy with the way the girls in her new school are treating her. When one day is especially bad, she hops on a bus to go to the studio where Ruby is filming, and the two end up locked in a props closet together... and change bodies. A lot of fast-footwork by phone is necessary to get both girls up to speed with each others' lives, but they muddle on pretty well. Ruby is thrilled to be living with a professor of literature and lots of books, glad to be able to eat whatever she wants, and even deals with the mean girls fairly effectively. Skylar points out flaws in the script, gets to talk to teenie bopper stars she loves, and is willing to put up with the crazy demands of Ruby's mother because... she's a star! For a while, both girls love their new lives, but eventually, the pressures catch up and they each make decisions that have lasting impact, they both decide that while having a different life, they miss their mothers and are willing to give up the other's life in order to go back home.
Strengths: This hits so many topics pertaining to teen life in a pitch-perfect way-- friends, not knowing exactly who you want to be, glamorizing celebrity life, mean girls, crushes. I asked about 15 tween girls yesterday if they thought, to be totally honest, that if circumstances were right, they could be actors, and they all admitted that the thought was in their brain, even if they were reluctant to admit it! This is similar to Jen Calonita's Secrets of My Hollywood Life, but with the added body-switching, which is always fun. Most enjoyable thing I've read in a while, and the cover has staying power.
Weaknesses: Thinking back to when I was that age, I would gladly have stayed Ruby Rivera, even if it meant never seeing my mother again. And I liked my mother! The girls just seemed so happy with their new lives, and their old lives just weren't a good fit. The way it was written was good; I just didn't quite believe it. Also, it would have been nice if Ruby's costar Ryder Vance had been a bit more romantic to Skylar, but that wouldn't really work.
What I really think: Very fun! I can see this being popular. Not sure how I feel about Brody referencing one of her own books ala Jacqueline Wilson-- my daughter always hated that, but I didn't care as much.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ultraball: Lunar Blitz

Chen, Jeff. Ultraball: Lunar Blitz
January 15th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In a futuristic dystopia where governmental differences are resolved with Ultraball games, orphan children are recruited to play the game on their colony on the moon. Strike Sazaki is glad of his opportunities, even if things don't always go smoothly for him. Playing Ultraball is better than being in the Tao Children's Home with other children, many of whom are recruited for the sport, since the only Ultrabot uniforms are child-size. Since NASA delivered those, Earth went "nuclear", and there is no support from the home planet. Strike really wants his settlement's team, the Taiko Miners, to win the Ultrabowl so that they can get the vital equipment they need, but they just don't have the right players. Enter Boom, who is a great player, but who is from the Dark Siders community of exiles. The different moon colonies are all very distinctive, with separate jump suit colors, but the Dark Siders wear all white, since they are rumored to be deathly pale. Hopefully, Boom will help, since she is a fantastic player, because if Taiko loses, the colony will be taken over by Raiden Zuna and using for blast fracking and explosive mining. Strike has to deal with a potential traitor on the Miners team, and make sure that everyone works together, since so much rests on the big game.
Strengths: This was an interesting mix of space adventure and football, and there aren't many of those around. Strike and his friends are scrappy and have their differences, but eventually work together for a common goal. I loved that their saving grace was Boom, who was from a community they didn't trust. The Ultrabot suits were very fun, and there are some interesting details about living on a moon community that isn't really thriving (sketchy food, regulated bathroom times, etc.). The cover and title are great; no guessing what this one is about!
Weaknesses: It would have been helpful to have more background information on what went wrong initially, and then why the moon colonies are imperiled. The information was there, but in bits and pieces. This is one instance where I would have liked an introductory info dump.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this, although it may be hard to find the right readers for it. Jake Maddox fans forced to read sci fi? Football players who just pretend to read The Maze Runner? There's not a lot of overlap in my library between readers who want football books and readers who want speculative fiction, although this does a great job of including both.

Monday, December 17, 2018

MMGM- World War II Nonfiction

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.

During World War II, the US army was unfathomably enormous. During the years of the US involvement in the war, not only were there unprecendented numbers of people involved in the military, but the citizens of the US got involved in everything from victory gardens to bond sales to scrap collecting. Many of my readers are interested in the details of battles and fighting, but there was so much more that went on behind the scenes. Can you imagine producing all of the military uniforms, for example? I'd love to hear details about that! Even 77 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there is still an overwhelming interest in this historic event, and we are seeing books on facets of the war that were given very little attention.

38641687Farrell, Mary Cronk. Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII
January 8th 2019 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Because of the enormous need for men to be at the front battle lines, or in one of the theaters of war waiting to go to the front lines, there were many opportunities for women to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Core. From office positions to transport to nursing and general support, thousands of young women took the opportunity to serve their country in these many roles. It was a chance for them to be involved while men they loved were off fighting, and it gave them an opportunity to be involved in careers that otherwise would have been off limits to women. Black women were recruited from colleges to go into the WAAC, but because of widespread cultural and systemic racism, the army strictly segregated black units for both men and women. Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune were instrumental in getting black women the right to fill positions other than general cleaning and cooking, the two occupations that the army wanted to force these women into. The 6888th division, headed by Charity Adams, was a unit devoted to sorting mail. After training, they were sent to Europe, where they often dealt with letters addressed to "Jimmy, Army" and had to sort through an enormous backlog of items.

This book is a very comfortable length (185 pages) with a format that allows for plentiful pictures, clippings, etc. There is a good mix of information about the state of civil rights at the time and the progression of the 6888th entry into active service in the European theater. There are secondary stories, such as a military band of all black women, that help readers to understand how difficult the positions of black women was at the time. The backgrounds of a few individuals are covered in more detail, which adds to the understanding of what the life of a WAAC would have been like.

Like Farrell's Pure Grit, this is a compulsively readable and informative volume on a little known aspect of World War II that is all the more timely given the interest in the treatment of black Americans, which has not changed as much since WWII as one would have hoped. Definitely purchasing and can see this as a starting point for many National History Day projects.

Edsel, Robert M. The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: The Story of the Monuments Men
January 1st 2019 by Scholastic Nonfiction
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Since the Army knew a lot about how fighting was progressing across Europe, it makes a fair amount of sense that they had dedicated art historians who tried to locate and protect great works of art from the clutches of the Nazis. Hitler was a huge fan of art, and since he was involved in attacking various countries, it was part of his plan to appropriate the art for Germany, where he felt it would be better appreciated. Local art concerns were often too busy trying to stay alive to do more than hurriedly relocate art to manor houses outside of cities, which sometimes put the art behind enemy lines. The Monuments Men tried to save art from being destroyed, keep it physically safe, and keep it out of the hands of the Nazis.

It is amazing the number of people and the amount of resources that were put into the preservation of art. It's a good thing that this was done, since the art was very old and irreplaceable, but it also seems a bit silly when one thinks about 9,000 men dying on the beaches on D- Day and about 400,000 being killed or injured during the Battle of Normandy. There was a lot of strategy and espionage attached to the efforts to save art that will appeal to readers who enjoy this facet of WWII.

This is a rather long book (368 pages), with a lot of detailed information about a huge variety of people and places. Many of the individuals have extensive backstories presented in the book. There are plentiful pictures, although there could have been a little bit more of the art. I'm not sure that I have readers interested in the preservation of art, if I gauge this from the number of students who want to pick up the many art mysteries that are popular, and the level of detail in this book makes it more suitable for high school. It was definitely interesting and well-done, but not the best fit for my middle grade readers.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Giant Days

Pratt, Non. Giant Days
August 21st 2018 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Susan, Daisy and Esther are very different women, but they become fast friends after meeting on their college dorm floor. Susan is premed, and trying to avoid her former boyfriend, whom she did not know was going to go to the same college. Daisy has led a sheltered life, having been raised and home schooled by her grandmother. Esther has a privileged background, but presents herself as a goth chick. Three are adjusting to the freedom of college life, going to parties, doing too much under aged drinking, and spending more time hanging out at the student union that they seem to spend going to classes. Susan gets a lot of her notes from fellow student Ed, which allows her to stay afloat with her more demanding course load. Esther, who is majoring in English literature, gets half way through the semester without ever seeming to have attended any classes. Daisy is a bit unfocused, and in an attempt to become more involved in campus life, signs up for 32 different groups during the Activity Fair. This is clearly not a viable way to live, so Esther and Susan help her extricate herself from all but one group. She remained in the Zoise fellowship, which is a yoga group with suspiciously narcotic cookies. Esther finds herself going to more classes while she is trying to stalk the very cool Vectra, who seems like she should be a soul mate, but who is not very nice to Esther. When Daisy's behavior becomes erratic and she disappears for several days, her friends have to track her down and figure out what the ulterior motives of Zoise are.

College is an exciting and somewhat frightening time and reading about the intricacies of daily life makes actually going off to college a bit easier. I loved Esther's melt down about all the "administration" required just to get through the day-- at home, if she needed shampoo, she just put it on a list, and it appeared! I wish this had shown the girls actually going to more classes and not bunking off so much, but the consequences of not showing up don't make this seem like a good idea!

Friendships in college are often very odd as well, so seeing these three girls hit it off was amusing. Susan is given to ratty jeans and flannel shirts, Esther embraces her Goth style, and Daisy is still firmly rooted in her childhood, but the three bond over ramen noodles, trying to get through all of the reading for courses, and navigating the difficult waters of adult relationships.

This novel is based on a comic by John Allison, and having some familiarity with those would make this a bit more engaging, but all of the background necessary is in the book. I just found that reading the strip helped solidify the characters in my mind a bit more. There are so few books that address the college experience, so readers who loved the college time travel tome Waking in Time (Angie Stanton, 2017) and want to know more about what it is like to be off without parental supervision will love this funny, bright romp about three friends trying to make their way in a new setting.

Aside from the fact that Susan is premed, there is really nothing that makes this book similar to the classic Cherry Ames, Student Nurse books, so I had to laugh when Goodreads told me that since I was reading Giant Days, I might also like Cherry Ames. Of course, those books were written almost 80 years ago, so maybe they are both good depictions of their times! This has a bit too much drinking and discussion of birth control for middle schoolers to be all that interested, but lacks anything graphically descriptive.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 15, 2018

WeirDo (WeirDo #1)

Do, Ahn. WeirDo (WeirDo #1) 
January 29th 2019 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Weir moves to a new school, he becomes the immediate target of laughter when he explains that his name really is Weir Do, because his mother's maiden name was Weir and his Vietnamese father's last name is Do. He is also stuck with a father who thinks farting is funny, a toddler brother who likes to dunk cell phones in pudding, and an annoying older sister Sally. He has a crush on a girl in his class, Bella, and there are a number of odd and annoying friends in his class. It's not easy to impress Bella, especially when she has to spend the afternoon at Weir's house surrounded by his odd family, but Bella has a good sense of humor and thinks the Dos are funny.
Strengths: Like the British Lyttle Lies and the French My Life in Smiley, this is an interesting take on a notebook novel from Australia. It's short, easy to read, and has very pleasant pictures by Jules Faber.
Weaknesses: This is a little on the young side, with a lot of potty and fart humor, but there is also the crush on Bella, leading me to believe that Australian primary school readers are more romantically advanced or that Australian middle school students are very juvenile!
What I really think: It's a notebook novel. With fart jokes. I'll have to buy a copy, if Follett has a prebind. I'm not buying anymore notebook novels in trade paper-over-board.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Medal of Honor: Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts

Spradlin, Michael. Ryan Pitts: Afghanistan: A Firefight in the Mountains of Wanat (Medal of Honor) 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (January 15, 2019)
(I've seen about three different pub dates for this; I'm going with the Edleweiss Plus one.)

In 2008, the US Army set up Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near the Wanat Village in the mountains of Afghanistan. The purpose was to cut down on traffic in the area and to keep an eye on activity in the area. From the beginning, it was a precarious situation. Staff Sargeant Ryan Pitts was situated  in an observation point with the men of the second platoon and helped by the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne to secure the area. They were attacked by insurgents in the area, and were greatly outnumbered. The men tried to hold the post, but several were killed, and Pitts was injured. Reinforcements were called from nearby Forward Operating Base Blessing, but before the Humvees could arrive, things looked grim. Apache helicopters from the 173rd helped, and before long, there were Black Hawk medvacs that arrived to take Pitts, who was losing a lot of blood but continuing to fight, away to get medical help. After his removal, more reinforcements arrived, and fighting slowed down enough for the army to search the village and find remains of massive amounts of weapons stored. Shortly after the Battle of Wanat, orders were given to leave the area. Pitts became one of nine living individuals to be awarded the Medal of Honor, even though he insisted that the honor belonged not just to him, but to all who fought with him.
Strengths: The matter of fact tone is just right, and is highly informative. I love how Spradlin seamlessly weaves the more exciting scenes of Pitts' involvement in the battle with information about the history of the Taliban, the US involvement in Afghanistan, and the history of units such as the 173rd. This is a brilliant way to hook readers before delivering some top notch facts and figures! Pitts' bravery is well evidenced, and the importance of this battle given thorough explanation. I'm amazed at the research and detail about equipment and fighting that goes into these books. (Also see Jack Montgomery World War II: Gallantry at Anzio).
Weaknesses: While there is a Follett Bound version available, this needs to be a hardcover with a dust jacket! School libraries everywhere need this to have some longevity, and paperbacks tend to go out of print quickly, so there will be no replacing the extremely odiferous prebind in twenty years!
What I really think: This series is definitely worth purchasing and will be hugely popular. I would love to see many more books about more recent military conflicts. The technology of fighting has changed so much since WWII that modern readers will benefit from reading about these events.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Impossible Crime (Mac B.: Kid Spy #2)

Barnett, Mac. The Impossible Crime (Mac B.: Kid Spy #2)
December 26th 2018 by Orchard Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Mac is calmly playing mini golf when the queen of England phones him yet again for help. She is afraid that someone will steal the crown jewels, so wants Mac on the case. He ends up in her castle in Scotland, where all manner of things go wrong, including the jewels being taken from a locked room. That's a new and exciting type of mystery for Mac, who has to use all of his skills to solve it.
Strengths: This is just the right level of 6th and early 7th grade goofy (but would be good for younger students, too), and the formatting is really brilliant. The font is sanserif, there are better-than-average spaces between lines, and the pictures are inserted into the text where they make the most sense. For students with reading problems, this is the best book I have seen yet. I love that the author made up all of these stories years ago.
Weaknesses: The mystery is a tad weaker than the first book, but I applaud the desire to construct a locked room mystery. I now what it was! It reminded of Kin Platt's Big Max: the World's Greatest Detective (1965).
What I really think: Do enjoy this series, but wish it weren't paper over board. Definitely purchasing, and I wish there were a Time Travel Mart in my own neighborhood. Good for you, Mr. Barnett. Diversifying. And yes, I have a time travel outfit, although I still need a wool shawl and a pair of boots without zippers. (If anyone gets close enough to my skirt to see the zipper, I figure I have bigger problems!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tales from the Inner City

File this one under things I did NOT understand. Not only did I not find it appealing (in the same way I didn't enjoy David Weisner's picture books), I can't see my students liking it at all. Still, I try to review things fairly even when my gut reaction is "Children's authors should not drop acid". Trippy, trippy book.

37825535Tan, Shaun. Tales from the Inner City
September 25th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this heavily illustrated short story collection, Tan explores the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world. Using animals to link together the narrative, Tan explores such topics as the eternal relationship between mankind and dogs, the place that fishing holds in one community's daily life, and a vignette about all of the members of a governing board turning into frogs. Some of these tales are longer narrative form, and some are blank verse.

All of the stories have at least one full page illustration done in Tan's trademark dark, impressionistic style. The cycle that goes with the dog story is especially evocative and touching, showing the relationship of the two through history. There are some that are a little unnerving, such as a stark-eyed owl in a hospital bed, followed several pages later with a two page spread of just the owl's eyes, and some are just rather sad, like a pig looking out of the darkness through a door. All complement the stories well and add to their meaning.

This would be a very useful book for a classroom studying essential conflicts in literature, since the stories are predominately about the theme of man versus nature. This theme is explored in a variety of approaches that would be conducive for interpretation. I can't think of a lot of collections of literary short stories for middle grade students; this is certainly a level above the Guys Read short story collections on a variety of themes, or the Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, two of the most popular short story collections in my library.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1)

Mancusi, Mari. The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1)
November 20th 2018 by Disney Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley

Guinevere and Arthur get along quite well, practicing their fighting and trying to stay out of the way of the knights who terrorize the peasants they are trying to help. They are young, and Arthur's position is precarious, but they care for each other deeply. In modern times, Sophie and Stu hang out together and are big fans of a video game where they must defeat the evil Morgana. However, Stu's step brother Lucas has gotten Stu to try out for the soccer team, and Sophie feels him slipping away from her. When Guinevere and Arthur accidentally lose a very important sword from Merlin's collection right before  a big tournament, Merlin has to use his powers to get the weapon back, and this includes sending Sophie a computer code that makes her travel back in time! When Arthur gets pulled to the present, and Stu goes back to impersonate Arthur and pulls the sword from the stone while under a glamor to look like him, things get oddly complicated. Add to this the trouble the kids have with their romances (Arthur Googles himself in the present day and finds out about Guinevere's relationship with Lancelot, which doesn't make him happy!), and the precarious situation that time travel and changing the course of history puts them in, and this is a harrowing twist on the Arthurian cycle.
Strengths: Camelot and Arthurian legend is always popular, and this is an interesting cyber twist, sort of like VandeVelde's 2002 Heir Apparent series. Since that is falling to bits, I should get this as a replacement and weed that. Fiction involving video/computer games can date fairly quickly. Fun story, and my hard core fantasy fans will love it.
Weaknesses: The love interests, combined with the time travel, made this a little confusing and slow in the middle for me, but I think my students won't feel that way.
What I really think: I like this author's Gamer Girl (which I've had for almost ten years!), and she clearly has some gaming chops. I'd love to see her write a book about students and video games only in the modern world. I'll buy this one, but it will circulate primarily to students who love Arthurian legends and fantasy.

Side note: Heir Apparent has a book BEFORE it-- the 1991 User Unfriendly, which I never had in the library. I do have the 2012 Deadly Pink, which has only gone out seven times in as many years. I've been finding it hard to weed this year, but I think these two books are an easy removal for me!

Monday, December 10, 2018

MMGM- What Not to do if You Turn Invisible

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.

Welford, Ross. What Not to do if You Turn Invisible
October 9th 2018 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Public library copy

Ethel suffers from acute acne, and students at her school are not particularly nice about it, especially the evil Knight twins. They are even mean to Boyd, a new boy from London who makes friends at school right away by backing the wrong soccer team. Boyd has helped her move a free tanning bed to her garage, and is now presuming they are friends. After Ethel drinks some mail order herbal tea for her acne and sits too long in the tanning bed, she really needs a friend, because she turns invisible! Her grandmother (who is raising her), doesn't believe her, and she takes comfort in at least having Boyd know. There are lots of trouble that they can get into with Ethel being invisible, but there is also an intriguing mystery about her deceased mother and absent father. Just as Ethel is afraid that her invisibility might be permanent, the twins start blackmailing her, but she and Boyd find secrets about them as well. Will Ethel be able to get back to her "normal" life, acne and all?
Strengths: Ethel was one of the best characters I've read in a while. Her life isn't perfect, but she has a great attitude and makes the best of her. Her grandmother is WONDERFUL-- I love her distinctions between "common" and "vulgar", and all of the manners that she has taught Ethel. Boyd is fun, the British setting is very vivid, and even Ethel's great-grandmother at the nursing home has a good turn. Even though this is a bit on the long side (422 pages), it was a pleasant, quick read.
Weaknesses: Things got a little fraught near the end of the book; I had to put it down for a bit near the end when some decidedly unpleasant things occurred. Did that make the story better? Debating.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although this will not be a particularly popular title, since very British books seem to confuse many of my children. For selected readers, however, this will be a fun read, and I'll hopefully have it available in the library for many years.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Graphic Problem Novels

My least favorite thing to read used to be talking animal fantasy books, things along the lines of Brian Jacques or Warrior Cats books. Now, I fully realize this bias, and understand that my students often LOVE this sort of book. I now have a new least favorite-- the graphic problem novel written by young writers.

Again, I realize that this is my own bias. As piercingly painful as I found these to read, they will no doubt be popular with my students, who embrace that over-the-top angst exhibited in both of these titles. Also, some of my students are addicted to graphic novels, regardless of content or merit. In a world where Hey, Kiddo has won the National Book Award, these books by Zuiker Press deserve a look.

Glad to have them for my library, not a fan personally. Coming in April are the titles Imperfect, about body image, and Colorblind, about racism. 

Recca, Sophia Recca, Zuiker, Anthony Edward (With), Leach,Garry (Illustrations)
Mend: A Story of Divorce
Published November 6th 2018 by Zuiker Press 
Copy provided by the publisher

"Sophia, the fourteen-year-old author and protagonist, tells the heart-wrenching story of her parents’ divorce. She was just eleven years old, happy and enjoying life with her mom, dad, and little brother in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unexpectedly, one night, a violent argument disrupted her sleep and shattered her life. The next morning, her parents told her the dreaded news—they were getting divorced. Her dad was moving to California, while Sophia and her brother would stay with their mom.

Any child who has experienced the trauma of divorce will understand Sophia’s reactions: First, she blamed herself. But then, she remembered a note a teacher once wrote on her report card, and was inspired to focus on bringing both parents back into her life. Even if they could not be under the same roof, she thought, they could still share in caring for her and her brother.

Sophia’s story will resonate with children (and adults) who have faced a split in their family, or who have friends dealing with divorce. The book includes helpful advice for parents, as well as a special Teacher’s Corner page."

Recca, Sophia Recca, Zuiker, Anthony Edward (With), Leach,Garry (Illustrations)
Mend: A Story of Divorce
Published November 6th 2018 by Zuiker Press 
Copy provided by the publisher

"Click is the heroic story of a young girl who was terrorized by schoolmates with merciless online harassment and her brave effort to overcome her tormentors. Her powerful, compelling story is told in brilliant graphic novel form.

Lexi’s story of cyberbullying is a shocking depiction of young teenager’s torment in the newfound world of online harassment. Lexi, from Northridge, California, is ganged up on by a few girls over a misunderstanding on the schoolyard.  The incident escalates on social media, local chat boards, and gossip sites.  Forced to change schools, Lexi gets her karmic revenge when she returns to her old school for a Winter Formal.  In a gesture of pure bravery, Lexi turns the tables on the “clique” by landing the boy at the dance and her picture in the yearbook. "