Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Simple Art of Flying

Leonardo, Cory. The Simple Art of Flying
February 12th 2019 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Alastair and his sister Agatha hatch at Pete's pet shop and have a rocky upbringing. Luckily, they have a fledging doctor, 11-year-old Fritz, who works in the pet shop and gives them more attention than Pete, who just wants to get his money's worth out of them. There are guinea pigs and other animals who have quite an active social life in the pet store, and occasionally some of them get out with 80-year-old Bertie Plopky, who has events for seniors to mingle with pets. Bertie is lonely, and writes letters to her husband, since her son is away, and eventually buys Alastair, although Fritz wishes he had the money to have a parrot of his own. Things do not go smoothly, although Bertie and Alastair eventually start to understand each other. Unfortunately, Alastair tries to escape, and Bertie falls and breaks a hip while waiting for him to return, which makes Bertie go to the Prickly Pines nursing home, which ends up being a decent fit after all.
Strengths: Readers who enjoy books like Woodrow's Field Tripped, Birney's Humphrey books, Reiche's Freddie the Hamster, Hale's Class Pets series or Selfors' Wedgie and Gizmo will enjoy the hijinks of Alastair and his friends. I was kept reading by Bertie's adventures, and Fritz was also an intriguing character.
Weaknesses: This starts out with Alastair's poetry, which combined with talking animals (my bĂȘte noire!) made my stomach sink, but really went uphill from there.
What I really think: This struck me as more of an elementary book, since I have a lot of trouble getting books about classroom pets to circulate. Books like Cervantes' Gaby, Lost and Found or
Griffin's  When Friendship Followed Me Home do okay. I think it might be because my students don't have one classroom, but have a schedule where they have a different teacher for each subject. Would purchase for elementary school.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas

Pyros, Andrea. Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas
February 1st 2019 by Capstone Editions
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Josephine is dealing with middle school, friend issues, and her parents' divorce, and doesn't feel that she handles things as well as her twin brother, Chance, who is very popular. In fact, when the popular Autumn is planning a big, fancy boy-girl party, Josephine hopes that she will get invited if she can facilitate a relationship between Autumn and her brother. TO make things even more awkward, Josephine has a crush on her brother's best friend, and asking him to the party will be hard! On top of all this ordinary middle school angst, the twin's mother drops this news-- she has breast cancer, and will need surgery right before the party. Their father will come from two hours away to stay with them, and then their aunt will come while their mother is recuperating. This is scary, and Josephine does NOT want anyone at school to know about it. She doesn't want to have everyone look at her as "the girl whose mom has cancer". Chance has no such scruples, and dyes his hair pink to benefit breast cancer research. Even after he gets in trouble for it at school, he encourages his teammates to raise money to have the entire team's hair done. This, of course, lets everyone know about her family's situation, and Josephine is not happy. She's worried about her mom, but also about the party, and as the two events near, she finds it harder and harder to keep things together. How can she live her life but also show her mother how much she cares?
Strengths: Personally, I think that Josephine has the right idea. No one needs to know her family's story. Well, the teachers should, but they should not tell anyone else and not mention it to her, just be aware in case she needs support. The twin tension is a nice touch, as is the rather irresponsible noncustodial father. The details of the mother's treatment are informative, and the worry the children feel is realistic. The friend and romance drama is especially well done, and "drama" is certainly something for which I get a LOT of requests.
Weaknesses: The school suspending Chance about the hair dye even after the mother goes to the principal's office and tells them about her cancer doesn't seem right to me. Also, Josephine's desire to keep things private is frowned upon, and I think she is entitled to her privacy.
What I really think: Like Sonnenblick's Falling Over Sideways, this does a great job at showing how family events can impact students' lives, and how normal concerns about school and friends don't fade away in the face of larger issues, just become more complicated. Definitely purchasing, and like the new cover better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Norris, Andrew. Mike.
February 26th 2019 by David Fickling Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Floyd is a very good young tennis player who has worked very closely with his supportive parents to do well. However, he starts seeing a young man hanging around when he plays, and at one point, "Mike" walks onto the court during a meet and stands right behind the referee. At this point, Floyd realizes that only he can see Mike, and his parents help him get some psychiatric counseling. Dr. Pinner is very understanding, and helps Floyd see that Mike is a part of him and trying to tell him things about his life. Floyd realizes that even though his parents haven't pressured him into playing, and have even said that he can stop if it isn't fun anymore, that he's not enjoying the sport and wants to quite. His parents ask that he compete in one more tournament, and he trounces his opponent but is still intent on quitting. He starts to actually apply himself in school a bit, and spends some time on the shore with his grandmother, where he meets Charity, the daughter of an American marine biologist. Oddly, Charity is able to see Mike. Upon returning home, he follows Mike and ends up working at a small local aquarium. Mike only shows up at pivotal moments, when Floyd needs some prompting, and at one point even saves Floyd's life. Floyd never regrets giving up tennis, although his parents were more invested than he thought, and his father ends up coaching other students. In the end, we see a completely different version of Floyd than would have existed had he not had the input of another side of his personality.
Strengths: Starting with Floyd's tennis skills, competition, and training is a brilliant hook. After that, the mysterious Mike, and his influence on Floyd, is just mesmerizing. I kept turning the pages and being astounded at the ways that Floyd's life took him. Marine biology is an oddly popular career choice among my middle school students (although not many of them actually major in this in college), so that tie-in is nice as well. I can't really explain why I liked this one so much, but my 8th grade readers who want more mature books like Key's Four Mile, Rupp's After Eli, Hautman's Slider and Currinder's Running Full Tilt will enjoy this quirky title.
Weaknesses: It was a bit much when Mike led Floyd to a discovery that netted him a LOT of money. Otherwise, I was okay with all of the coincidences
What I really think: I will purchase this one because I adored it so much, and while it won't circulate constantly, I can think of at least five students I want to hand it to right now. Not wild about the cover, but this is one that will be hand sold anyway.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, January 28, 2019

MMGM- One-Third Nerd

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.

Choldenko, Gennifer. One-Third Nerd
January 29th 2019 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Liam is in fifth grade and enjoys playing tennis with his friend Dodge. He doesn't enjoy his younger sister Dakota's antics quite so much-- she loves science, and often conducts ill-advised experiments, such as blowing up watermelons and collecting their dog Cupcake's urine to see why she's peeing on the carpets. Too bad she feels compelled to keep it in the refrigerator in a drinking glass! Because their landlord, Mr. Torpse, lives below them, they have to try to be quiet, not let Cupcake bark, and generally not make the elderly, fractious man irritated. Liam's parents are divorced, and they are both struggling with their jobs. His dad brings dinner over once in a while, but doesn't stay to eat, and his mom after has to work long hours, so occasionally leaves Liam and Dakota in the apartment by themselves, or with Dodge's grandfather, Crash. Izzy has Down Syndrome, so she needs to go to speech therapy and has frequent doctor's appointments. Cupcake's overactive bladder is such a concern that Mr. Torpse is threatening to evict the family unless the issue can be resolved. There isn't money for an expensive doctor's visit, so the children have several money making schemes, from collecting newspapers to winning the science fair. Eventually, it is Izzy who has the good idea to seek a second opinion about Cupcake's problem, and not a moment too soon, since Mr. Torpse is all set to evict the family.
Strengths: This is a great book for showing realistic elementary school concerns. Dealing with parents living in different locations, having altercations with siblings, and agonizing over pets are all things far more likely to happen to most children than having a parent die. Money issues affect children deeply, and it's hard for younger ones to realize that these happen to other people, too. Liam shows typical tween embarrassment, but also takes steps to make his situation better. I especially like his interactions with another "nerd" friend at school; he thinks the other boy is cool and doesn't want him to see where he lives, but when the friend finds out, he is very understanding.
Weaknesses: The illustrations are great, but it seems completely unrealistic for both of the girls to be wearing skirts. Jeans, leggings, perhaps, but I hardly ever see a student in a skirt!
What I really think: This was a lot of fun, but I am debating whether it is too young for my students. This has a similar vibe to Clement's The Losers Club which is just now gaining some traction with my 6th grader.

Gates, Jr., Henry Louis and Bolden, Tonya. Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow 
January 29th 2019 by Scholastic Nonfiction
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

This is a great combination between civil rights and civil war information. It is well-researched and has lots of anecdotes about various people, but it is very dense. Lots and lots of information. Usually, Young Readers Editions give just enough information to make for a fast paced and readable text, but this was a lot, even at the relatively short length of 250 pages. Bolden does a good job at sifting the information, but the writing style still screams "Harvard professor".

I'll probably buy this for use in research projects, but it doesn't feel like the sort of book that any but the most dedicated students will pick up for pleasure reading.

"This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history's most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction's noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new "color line" in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Best Family Ever

Kingsbury, Karen and Russell, Tyler. Best Family Ever (Baxter Family Children #1)
February 5th 2019 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC from Netgalley

The Baxter family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the father is a doctor. Brooke is the oldest, and is "perfect" and responsible. Kari is good at school but not as good at soccer. Ashley is very flighty and would rather draw than do her math. The two youngest children, Luke and Erin, don't have as much of a role in the book. On the eve of a vacation to a beach house, the parents drop the news that the family is going to move to Bloomington, Indiana, where the father has a job heading up a new hospital. This is the worst news in the world, and Ashley is especially horrified by it. Still, family is everything, and they can all pray to God for help with this situation. When they return home, the school year continues with Ashley not doing her school work and getting in trouble, soccer try outs that are almost as crushing as the news of the move, and the eventual slide to the end of the school year and the very last day. The moving van is packed, and the family holds on to the thought that even though they are sad to move, they will all be together in their new home.
Strengths: This is a gentle tale that hearkens back to classic literature for children. The problems are very uncontroversial, and the family is privileged enough that the horrific things that happen are moving and not making the soccer team. The family is very religious, which is not shown much in middle grade literature. I could see a lot of home schooling parents want to share this with their children.
Weaknesses: This had a lot of hallmarks of fiction for children written by someone used to writing for adults. It was slower paced, focusing more on feelings than action. It put more emphasis on family than most middle school students put, and the parents were beloved and not irritating. I know that Kingsbury writes a lot of adult fiction, which I haven't read, and maybe the next book will have a better grip on what children want to read.
What I really think: I won't be buying this for my school. It's just not very interesting. When I reviewed Never Evers, I commented "If we have books about children living in poverty, why not books about children who ski in France? The world is full of all kinds of people, and it's interesting to read about them." So yes, we need books about well-to-do, heavily Christian white families, but unfortunately, it was not very interesting to read about the Baxters.

On a purely personal note, I took a violent dislike to the family after one sister decides that what should go in the center of her dream collage is a picture of her parents dancing in the kitchen, because her highest goal in life was to have a marriage and family. Gah! That's just me, I know, but it really set my teeth on edge for the rest of the book, especially knowing that the first adult book about the Baxters involves the father having an affair and the mother refusing to divorce him. Not my truth.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams

Lundquist, Jenny. The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams 
February 12th 2019 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Audrey, Grace, and Harlow's fathers played high school baseball together in their small town, and thre three grew up as friends. This ended when the factory owned by Harlow's family, and managed by Audrey's father, burned to the ground. Grace father, a firefighter, thought that Audrey's father was in the building, and lost his life trying to save him. The entire community has felt the loss of the company, with the lack of jobs, and also are cool toward Audrey and Harlow's families. Audrey's mother (who had previously struggled with depression) has left town, Grace's mother is all set to move to California, and Harlow's parents are working very hard to find investors to help reopen a factory. When all three girls get "pumpki grams" on the eve of the town Carnival of Wishes and Dreams instructing them to meet at midnight on the Ferris wheel, each girl wonders who might have sent the message. They all go, although Grace is grounded and sneaks out, Harlow feels a need to go in disguise, and Audrey is hanging out with Julia, posting pictures on social media that paint a much brighter picture of her life than is true. During the course of the carnival, secrets are revealed, relationships are examined, and closure is sought.
Strengths: The names amused me greatly (Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jean Harlow? Only Harlow is specifically mentioned.), and I was able to keep all three characters separate when the narrative changed. That's not something all writers are able to accomplish. The setting and the auxiliary characters were interesting as well, and there is some light romance. The effect of one factory on a town's economy and morale is interestingly portrayed.
Weaknesses: This was quite angst filled; the writing was so well done that I started to feel anxious myself!
What I really think: This looks like it should be magical realism but really isn't. Carnival books don't so well in my school, even carnivals that AREN'T completely creepy, so I am debating purchase.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 25, 2019

Junior Ninja Champions

Hapka, Catherine. The Competition Begins (Junior Ninja Champion #1)
June 5th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Ty Santiago's family runs a gym that has a ninja training obstacle course, so when there is a junior competition announced for the National Ninja Champion reality show, it attracts several young people. Kevin has been doing boring workouts after his bout with cancer, and he's interested in ninja training even if his mother wouldn't let him. Mackenzie loves the show but is more of a blogger than an athlete, but her dads are okay with her competing. Izzy's family is big on running, but she's more into parkour, and when she accidentally breaks a window with a skateboard, she ends up running at the gym as punishment. JJ comes to the gym because his father is helping to construct kid sized equipment, He doesn't like to draw attention to himself, but he begins to enjoy the training. The group is lucky to have Tracy, a former NNC competitor, to help train them, and they all make great progress. There are some obstacles, like soccer team try outs for Ty being on the same day as the  NNC taping, but the kids all learn to work together to accomplish their goals. How will the five fare in competition? Since a sequel, The Fastest Finish, comes out 15 January 2019, it's safe to assume that they all do fairly well!

Allyssa Beird, a teacher and competitor on American Ninja Warrior contributed to this book, so there are lots and lots of good details about ninja training and competition. There's the Crazy Cliff, the Loco Ladder, and Tiptoe Tulips obstacles that must be understood and mastered. It's good to see children involved in physical activity. Even Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed nerd, rides her bike back and forth from the gym! While Ty is fairly gung ho, Izzy is reluctant about running, and Kevin is tired of leg lifts and stationery bikes, but when the children are given the opportunity to try different exercises, they find things they like. This is a good message for children who might not be very active.

This is a short book, so the five main characters develop slowly. There is just enough drama with parents to strike the right note. Kevin's mother causes the biggest problems, since Kevin has to lie to her in order to train, but she eventually sees his point that he has recovere from cancer and doesn't need to be coddled. Izzy's family is a bit more problematic-- her father's repeated assertion that "Fitzgeralds run" isn't very helpful to Izzy, and the fact that her family chooses to run a 5K instead of watching her competition is concerning. Mackenzie interacts positively with her dads as well as her birth mother, but hopefully more information will be relayed in future volumes.

There are very few middle grade books involving actual ninjas, and not very many about extreme sports, unless you count some of Matt Christopher's twenty five year old BMX bike books. Pam Withers did some good outdoor adventure stories about ten years ago, but Junior Ninja Champions is a rather singular book that will be welcomed by readers who would rather be out rappelling down a cliff or riding skateboards down stair cases!

Hapka, Catherine. The Competition Begins (Junior Ninja Champion #1)
June 5th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Lost Girl

Ursu, Anne. The Lost Girl
February 12th 2019 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Lark and Iris are twins who have always been assigned to the same class. Going into fifth grade, their parents think that the girls are too dependent on each other, and have them put into different classes. To make matters worse, Iris gets the sweet Ms. Shonubi, and Lark gets the new Mr. Hunt.  Not only that, but the mean Tommy is also in Lark's class. Lark has trouble fitting in and getting work done, and at the same time, small and large things are going missing from the girls' Minneapolis neighborhood. A bracelet, a small doll, but also the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture from the Walker Museum. This might have something to do with the new antique store, We Are Here, run by the odd and creepy Mr. Green. The girls also have to participate in different after school programs, including a girl power group at the local library. Lark starts to go downhill, but no one will listen to Iris. Can she manage to save her sister?
Strengths: I always enjoy books that introduce a place as practically another character; it's fun to look up actual locations on Google maps! Lark and Iris' relationship is an interesting one, and it's a good thing that their parents are trying to get them to be less dependent before middle school. The girl power program is a nice touch, as is the 1947 science fact book that Iris realizes is not still correct.
Weaknesses: Mr. Green is super creepy, and the book is filled with a lot of twin and school related angst.
What I really think: My readers who enjoy magical realism usually like things where the magic is happier. This had the vibe of Snyder's Bigger than a Breadbox, which I can't get to circulate. The girls' method of dressing is firmly elementary school, and I fear my students will think this book too young for them. Will probably not purchase, even though this style of cover circulates well.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

#WNDB Wednesday: A Sprinkle of Spirits and Under My Hijab

Meriano, Anna. A Sprinkle of Spirits (Love Sugar Magic #2)
February 5th 2019 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

This sequel to A Dash of Trouble finds Leo initiated into the magic of her family and working at their bakery in Rose Hill. Her sisters still think she is too young and irresponsible, and also think that her friend Caroline distracts her. It's also a bit tricky that Caroline knows about the family's magic, and some of the sisters are very opposed to sharing this information with outsiders. Caroline has been visiting her deceased mother's family, and really needs to talk to her friend, but the bakery is very busy, and Leo brushes her friend off because she really wants to learn more magic. Her Tia Paloma is teaching the girls about candles, and how they can be used to communicate with others, even the dead. The next morning, Leo's Abuela, who died a while ago, shows up in Leo's bedroom. She's not a zombie, she's not a ghost; some spell has made her come back to life. Not only that, but several other Rose Hill residents have been dragged back from  El Otro Lado, including a former mayor, the music teacher at the elementary school, and a classmate's grandmother! Leo is blamed for this, and because the bakery is so busy, Leo's mother sends her off with her sisters and aunt to try to reverse the spell. This is difficult, because Leo doesn't think she had anything to do with the spell, and the people who have come back each have their own agenda and keep going off to accomplish it! Abuela is very helpful, but she is getting younger and younger, and Leo eventually realizes that if she is not sent back to El Otro Lado, she will cease to exist on any plane. There are some surprises when it comes to who summoned the spirits, and what other spirit has been summoned, but in the end, things are put right and Leo gains a tiny bit more respect from her family.
Strengths: Leo's struggles with maintaining her friendship with Caroline, learning more magic, and finding a balance in her life were very interesting. It's nice to see that her family was intact and supportive, and the details of running a bakery were fun. Her Abuela was great-- sure, it was nice to enjoy a cup of coffee and see her family, but she was dead and felt that she shouldn't be hanging out with the living. Healthy attitude. The twists with who cast the spell and who else was summoned were great, and I don't want to spoil them!
Weaknesses: I still don't care for Leo very much, although she is improving. Also, I wasn't as interested in the exploits of the spirits; I wanted to know about Leo and Caroline's relationship and the magic instead, so chasing around after the mayor and the piano teacher slowed down the story for me personally.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. This is a nice blend of family and friend drama, magical realism, baking and adventure that is as tempting as a freshly baked cinnamon roll to my students.

Khan, Hena and Jaleel, Aaliya. Under My Hijab 
January 22nd 2019 by Lee & Low Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In this picture book, young girl describes how six women who are close to her wear their hijab in public and also how they dress when they are at home. From her grandmother, a baker, to her aunt and cousin, to a scout troop leader, the girl tells about a variety of ways a hijab can be worn. There is even a cousin who has a sports hijab. Written in rhyme, the book ends with the girl thinking about how she will style her own hijab if she decides to wear one. There are notes at the end of the book detailing why some Muslim women wear the hijab, but also explaining that some women, like the author, do not.
Strengths: This is a fantastic, short book for elementary school students. It can either be a mirror or a window, and may help students understand why their classmates wear the hijab. (In my district, I have seen very young elementary girls wearing the hijab.) I didn't see the color on the illustrations, but they seem very cheerful and full of detail in the black and white E ARC. There seemed to be a bit of variety in the complexions and hair styles of the women and girls. I especially appreciated the inclusion of a girl playing sports; now, if we could just get a description from the Ohio High School Athletic Association on what constitutes an acceptable cross country uniform for observant girls!
Weaknesses: I would have like to see more of the end notes worked into the main text. The verse was fine, but limited the descriptions so that it's not quite a book for middle school.
What I really think: I would like to see more middle grade books (The length of The Hijab Boutique) with Muslim main characters who are from different cultures. My school has a large Somali population, but it seems like many of the Muslims in middle grade literature are disproportionally from Pakistan. My Somali girls usually wear long dresses and are more covered up than the girls whose cultural background is from other countries.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Blood and Bone (Bravelands #3)

Hunter, Erin. Blood and Bone (Bravelands #3)
October 2nd 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Thorn, a baboon, Sky, an elephant, and Fearless, a lion, have been friends since childhood. Due to the evil influence of another baboon, Stinger, who claims to be the Great Parent after the death of the Great Mother, the three have ended up in desperate circumstances and at odds with one another. Sky manages to keep Fearless from being killed, but he heads off to try to coerce a leaderless pride to come under his aegis, while Sky finds that she is the center of an atypical herd of many types of animals who all crave her protection. It doesn't hurt that she is carrying The Great Spirit and has some of the powers, although it is clear that she is not next in line to be the Great Mother. Thorn, along with Nut, is sent to another tribe to spy for Stinger, but they are  not allowed to leave once the tribe accepts them. Told from alternating perspectives, we see how Stinger slowly falls out of favor due to his own vile character and how the three friends manage to keep their own charges safe until the final battle to determine who will rule the Bravelands and restore order and balance to them.

Just like the Warrior Cat books, the Bravelands titles are rich in hierarchies, histories, and allegiances. There are rituals and a well-developed spiritual belief system called The Code, which dictates how the animals are supposed to act. When Stinger violates the code and kills animals when it is not necessary, it's very clear that his time as a pretender will be short.

Thorn, Fearless and Sky are all complex characters with their own back stories and issues. Thorn is devastated to think he may have caused the death of his best friend, and doesn't really want to work for Stinger... but he doesn't want to die, either. Fearless buys Stinger's rhetoric for a while and starts to deal with his new found pride in ways that are not productive or kind, but he soon sees the error of his ways. As the bearer of The Great Spirit, and reeling from pointless deaths in the elephant community, Sky knows her mission without question, but also is unsure of her ability to carry it out.

This is a rather violent series, with animals being killed for food, dying in battle, and attacking each other for various reasons. This, along with the very strict hierarchies, complete with different names for each group of animals and each type of job or level, seems to be a large part of the appeal of these books. Bravelands is much easier to understand than Warriors because of the variety of animals, and will appeal to students who want a more exotic setting.

Do have to say that these are NOT my cup of tea, and reading them makes me a bit lightheaded. I swear I read one description (which of course I can't find) that made Stinger sound like a version of President Trump, and there were two scenes that just made me laugh-- Stinger ala the Evil Queen in Snow White, complete with thunderous rain storm and a cliff, and a "Luke, I am your father" moment concerning Fearless' parentage. Will student see these tropes, or care? Nope. This is why I have every single Erin Hunter book, even though I fear for the social life of children who refuse to read anything else!

Monday, January 21, 2019

MMGM/Nonfiction Monday- The Electric War

29540346 Winchell, Mike. The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World (Gilded Age #1)
January 22nd 2019 by Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt, Macmillan)
ARC provided by the author, E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

While I've been trying to find books about Tesla because he comes up every year as a National History Day subject, I had no idea how contentious and intriguing the "war" between Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse had been!

The Electric War first introduces us to our main players, with all of their talents, foibles, and eccentricities, and frames them against the glittering backdrop of the Gilded Age. Edison was a self-made genius, selling newspapers on a train route at the age of 12 and becoming a telegraph operator not long after. He had a vivid imagination that led to lots of ideas for inventions, but he also had a startling business acumen and an uncanny ability to market ideas to people. He was also tenacious to the point of pugnacity, and a hard task master for his employees. Tesla was a troubled but brilliant soul who had flashes of ideas that were both revelatory but also troublesome. He had an unfortunate business sense, and would rather sacrifice material gain for the name of science. Given his volatile nature, he didn't set up his own company and had difficulty staying on a stable path. Westinghouse was a fantastic example of moderation in all things; he was a solid inventor, a capable and shrewd business man, a fair employer, and a tireless worker. The qualities of these three inventors are crucial in understanding the place that each ended up taking in history.

In a gripping narrative style that had me avidly turning pages, Winchell sets the stage for all three inventors to grapple with their own inventions of businesses after tantalizing us with this innovation: the first electric chair. Once I read that Edison was persuaded to be involved with it's invention if the chair used the alternating current favored by his competitor, and even posited that perhaps the process of death by electrocution be termed "being Westinghoused", I was hooked!

We all learn about Edison's attempts to develop the light bulb, and all of the combinations of elements he tried before he reached success, but it was never clearly pointed out that even once he perfected the light
bulb, there was really no way to operate it on a large scale. No fixtures in which to use the bulbs and no wide spread electrical grid to provide power! Not only did Edison have to produce bulbs, but he had to create lamps and develop a system of electric substations to send out current. That he was able to do this in an area as already built up and crowded as New York City is amazing in itself.

We take electricity so much for granted that it was fascinating to travel back to a time when it was not only new, but extremely controversial. Electricity could lead to fires and even death! While it was, of course, extremely helpful to society, it took the 1893 Colombian Exhibition, which was Westinghouse's biggest marketing triumph, to show people that electricity could be useful as well as safe.

Complete with period photographs and some invention schematics, as well as an informative timeline and complete bibliography, The Electric War is powerful reading for fans of riveting, literary nonfiction such as Louire's Jack London and the Klondike Goldrush, Jurmain's The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing, Borden's Ski Soldier or Martin's In Harm's Way: In Harm's Way: JFK, World War II, and the Heroic Rescue of PT 109.

Wein, Elizabeth. A Thousand Sisters:The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II
January 22nd 2019 by Balzer + Bray
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Even after almost 70 years, World War II remains a topic of fascination for middle grade readers, mainly because there are so many untold stories. One area that is ripe for exploration in the US is the activities of the Russian military during this time. It's sometimes hard to remember, considering all that went on in the latter half of the twentieth century, that Russia was on the Allied side of the war.

It's also hard to remember that in the 1920s and 30s, women were making a lot of progress in many occupations. I loved the statistic that in 1941, nearly one third of all Soviet pilots were female! This mirrors the strides women made in the US workforce before the end of the war returned women all over the world to the kitchen, despite the fact that they had proven that they could do "men's" work.

A Thousand Sisters tells the story of Soviet Airwomen in great detail, drawing on the experiences of many women pilots, some of whom survived the war, and many of whom did not. From the aviation experiences of pilots who ended up being in the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, to the set up of the Soviet military and the experiences of the women after the war, there is a wealth of detail about missions, living conditions, and the trajectory of the war in general, as it affected these brave women.

My favorite chapter was entitled "Life is Life" and discusses the difficulties and deprivations that these women faced. Since so few women were in the military, they had to endure wearing men's boots and underwear, and supplies were so scarce that often had to wash with water from puddles. While my own grandparents often complained about rationing, I know that they never had to eat wall paper paste or boiled shoes! These are excellent details to make the more quotidianal horrors of war come to life.

While this is a rather lengthy book, it would be perfect for National History Day projects on the role of women along with Mary Cronk Farrell's Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp and and is a perfect companion for explaining the details of Kathryn Lasky's The Night Witches (2017).

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Right as Rain

Stoddard, Lindsey. Right as Rain
February 12th 2019 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Rain's family has experienced a tragedy-- her older brother was killed in a car accident. The mother thinks that the answer to their protracted grief is moving from a farm in Vermont to New York City, where she has taken a job in a big hospital. Rain's stay-at-home father seems to be a motivating factor behind the move, because he has been having trouble even getting out of bed in the morning. Moving to the city doesn't seem like the best idea for him, since his primary activity in Vermont was gardening. Rain's not happy having to transition to a new school and also feels that her brother's death is her fault, but she manages to make friends, keep up with her running, and complete the volunteer hours her new school requires. She loves working at Ms. Dacie's, where children and families can stop by to get help with all manner of matters, and work in the garden as well. However, funding has been pulled, and Ms. Dacie may need to close. Rain tries to get her father involved in an effort to get him to be functional once again, and also tries to get her mother to realize that she and her father are in pain and need to process it differently than she does.

The descriptions of both Rain's home in Vermont and and in New York are very vivid. Even though the move is a generally unwanted one, both seem full of opportunities and their own forms of excitement. It would have been nice to have a little more information about Rain's mother's working situation in both settings, but the new home does seem like an excellent place for both Rain and her father to be.

Rain's new school mates are also very interesting. She is realistically portrayed as missing her best friend Izzy in Vermont, but she manages to befriend the prickly Frankie (whose best friend had lived in Rain's apartment) and shy Amelia. Her teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, is very supportive, giving her books to read and encouraging her writing. Ms. Dacie's is a bustling and vibrant environment filled with all manner of understanding, supportive people.

Readers who enjoyed Benjamin's The Thing about Jellyfish, Kelly's You Go First or Haydu's The Someday Suitcase will find this a sad but somewhat hopeful journey through grief.

This was a little more upbeat than a lot of books, but Stoddards' Just Like Jackie has not check out at all, so I am debating purchase. This cover is more appealing, and the inclusion of running adds to its appeal.

Again, this is not my truth. Why was the father not in some serious counseling? Why was the family not? Clearly, the parents were not getting along well, and this is as much of a stressor for Rain as her imagined guilt over the death. If middle grade authors really want to be helpful in their depiction of grief, they would have more characters sent to counseling. Rain especially could use some-- since she covered up for her brother, her parents might well feel she is somewhat responsible, and her feeling of guilt is something that needs to be assessed on a professional level.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Emily Out of Focus

Franklin, Miriam Spitzer. Emily Out of Focus
February 5th 2019 by Sky Pony
E ARC from Edleweiss Plus

Emily and her parents go to China to bring home the little girl they are adopting. Emily isn't crazy about the idea, since she fears losing her parents and having a lot of her time taken up by her sister. She is interested in photojournalism, since her late grandmother was a rather prominent photographer, and she has brought her grandmother's camera with her. While staying at the hotel, she meets Katherine, who was herself adopted from China and who is hoping to find her mother while her family is back in her homeland adopting another baby. The two girls are bored and a bit angry, so armed with Katharine's quest, they take off together, despite the warnings of their parents to stay close to the hotel.
Strengths: Since Spitzer has been through this process, the details of traveling to China to finalize an adoption are first rate, I especially liked the detail in scenes like the one where Emily's family goes to a big box store to get baby supplies! Emily and Katharine's relationship is so typical of girls thrust together by circumstance or parental meddling, and middle school readers will definitely see the truth in it! The adventure is solid. This has a similar vibe to Peacock's Red Thread Sisters (2012) and will appeal to readers who have impending changes in their families about which they are not thrilled.
Weaknesses: Neither Emily nor Katherine seemed particularly likable to me, although this improved a tiny bit as the story progressed.
What I really think: This is a more adventurous yet tween-angsty version of Kadohata's Half a World Away. Sadly, I can't get this one to circulate, so will probably pass on this one, especially since I've spent all of my book budget for this year. If I come across a copy through my review sources, I might pick it up. The cover is good.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 18, 2019

Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Schmidt, Gary D. Pay Attention, Carter Jones
February 5th 2019 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Carter lives with his three younger sisters and harried mother while his father is in the military in Germany. When Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, a trained butler, shows up on a raining morning when the family is out of milk and the dog is throwing up on people's socks and announces that the family's deceased grandfather left funding for him to continue employment helping out while the father is away, the mother takes advantage of his service. He's especially useful, since he comes with a car and the family Jeep is on its last legs. Carter is dealing with the death of his brother, and trying to establish a place for himself in school. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick is helpful in setting up a cricket team, so Carter is invited even though he is only in 6th grade. The butler also teaches Carter to drive, and lets him pilot the car on errands, even when his sisters are in the car. Carter's father doesn't appear to be coming home from Germany, and Carter contemplates a "bonding" trip the two took to Australia. In the end, we find out that Carter's father is not coming home, and that Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick has the chance to be with either Carter and his sisters or the father, and he choses to stay with Carter in the US.
Strengths: This had a lot of funny moments, like the opening before-school scene and Carter learning to drive. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick is technically a "gentleman's gentleman" in the style of televisions Mr. Belvedere or Sebastian Cabot's Mr. French, and tries to get the children to behave properly. I did like the way he sent them off every day: "Make good decisions and remember who you are." It's nice to see Mr. Schmidt doing another contemporary fiction book; his most popular book in my library is First Boy (2005).
Weaknesses: A butler? Cricket? A family named after the Brontes with no explanation? Because of the situation with the father (pretty sure he had another entire family in Germany), I felt more information about the mother was needed, although I am not usually a fan of too much parental intrusion in novels. The situation with the brother was not necessary and changed this from a humorous novel into a more slow paced, depressing one. We have plenty of those, but not enough humorous ones.
What I really think: I loved Lorenzi's A Long Pitch Home about a boy moving from Pakistan and changing from cricket to baseball, but it doesn't circulate well. I'm debating.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Dolphin Named Star

Berne, Emma Carlson. A Dolphin Named Star (Seaside Sanctuary)
February 1st 2019 by Stone Arch Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Elsa's parents are marine biologists who have moved from Chicago, where they worked for the Shedd Aquarium, to a seaside town where they run a sanctuary for marine animals. They have just gotten a grant to have an outside pen, and three dolphins have just taken up residence in the protected cove. Elsa and her friend, Olivia, help out during the summer with feeding, and when the dolphins become ill, they investigate. Having smelled an odd odor of gasoline on one of the new neoprene wet suits, the girls think there is a chemical leaking into the cove, but the scientists, including Olivia's sister, Abby, have done lots of tests and are not finding anything dangerous. When one of the dolphins dies, Elsa's parents' reputation is on the line, and the facility is audited. The girls ramp up their investigation and do some spy work, which uncovers an unsavory plot that involves one of the sponsors of the sanctuary.
Strengths: For some odd reason, a lot of my students are interested in marine biology. This had a lot of good details about the dolphins', their troubles in the wild, and the problems they face when dealing with pollution. It's a simple story, so elementary students won't be confused, and the friendship between the girls is a nice touch. I would definitely buy this for an elementary library.
Weaknesses: More sophisticated readers will see the clues to the mystery right away. While I could see that sympathy was being set up for the woman running the chemical company, I found it hard to believe that someone who cared about animals would turn a blind eye to illegally dumping chemicals, even if she were worried about her job. Again, elementary students won't worry about the subtleties; they will just enjoy the dolphin related mystery.
What I really think: I may buy this if Follett has a prebind of the paperback available. Nearly $20 is pricey for the library binding.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Wind Called My Name

40644601Sanchez, Mary Louise. The Wind Called My Name.
September 18th 2018 by Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Margarita's family has a pleasant life working on their farm in New Mexico, but the drought conditions of the Great Depression have led to decreased crops and a huge tax bill. Her brother and father have spent most of the year in Wyoming, working for the railroad and sending money home. When conditions do not improve, the rest of Margarita's family moves to join them. While Margarita is glad to be with her father again, she misses her one abuela who stayed behind, and has trouble finding friends. She does meet Evangeline Hesse, the granddaughter of the local store owner, who is the only other student in her grade in the one-room school house. Evangeline means well, but frequently hurts Margarita's feelings by wanting to call her Maggie, not understanding that the family is from NEW Mexico, and not liking the family's food. Other members of the community are even less fond of having Hispanic workers in the town, even if their families have been living in New Mexico for over three hundred years. Mr. Hesse is very kind, allowing Margarita to work off the cost of a lantern that she broke by selling him eggs and vegetables. He even arranges for her to get paid to deliver the newspaper to people in town. When one of the railroad workers starts to harass the Hispanic workers in town, Margarita and her family almost decide to go back to New Mexico, but instead stand firm and fight against the accusations.
Strengths: My copy of Doris Gates' Blue Willow completely fell apart and can't be replaced, so another treatment of the Great Depression is welcome. Unlike that 1940 book (which has irreplaceable details about daily life, since it was written at the time), this new book deals realistically with the challenges that Hispanic families faced. Evangeline is well-meaning, but an unfortunate master of the micro-aggression. This is, however, a very realistic portrayal, and it is good to see that Margarita is able to stand up for herself and try to explain why Evangeline's actions are wrong while still remaining friends. There are lots of good descriptions of food, holidays, and even some Spanish phrases.
Weaknesses: I would have enjoyed more details about the clothing and housing, and perhaps a few mentions (tied in with the newspaper the family reads) about events in the world. There is one mention of the abuela in New Mexico meeting an artist named Georgia, but there was no more elaboration. What I really think: Definitely purchasing, since it is not only a good historical document but a good portrayal of middle grade characters learning to accept others' differences in a very productive way.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Haydu, Corey Ann. Eventown
February 12th 2019 by HC/Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Elodee's family is struggling for reasons that aren't clear, and she and her twin sister Naomi are not getting along. When their mother gets a job in Eventown, no one really wants to move, but they do, digging up a rose bush from their old home and bringing it with them. Eventown has a lot of good opportunities and a lot of fun activities for the girls. Elodee loves to cook, and Naomi does gymnastics. When the girls go to the welcoming center for their orientation, they find out that Eventown was founded by Jasper Plimmswood for people whose homes were destroyed in a hurricane, and they needed to start over. The girls are invited into a room where they tell six stories of their lives, including the most embarrassing moment and the most heartbreaking one, and after they do, the stories are gone from their minds. Unfortunately, Elodee's session is interrupted, so she is halfway through the process and can remember just enough about her previous life to make her sad. Elodee starts to notive that the family's new perfect life is not so perfect, and that her new friends have gaping holes in their memories, even of important things like their grandparents. When Eventown starts to not be so perfect anymore, it's up to Elodee to come to terms with the reasons her family came to Eventown and to decide if horrible memories are worth having if it means she gets to hold onto the good ones as well.

Eventown is an interesting setting, and Elodee's mother's new job is a convincing reason for the family to move. The physical layout, the beauty of the houses, and the perfect weather all make for an idyllic new home for a fractured family. The reason why the family is in pain is not revealed until the very ending of the book, and I don't want to spoil it other than to say that there should perhaps be trigger warnings.

While most of the characters are fairly flat, because they have given up their memories, Elodee is inquisitive and engaged, trying to settle into her new surroundings and make things better for her family in their new home while trying to navigate the waters with different equipment than the other residents have. Readers who want to embrace sad stories rather than forget them will sympathize with Elodee's quest for truth, even if it is painful for her.

Personally, I disagree with the entire premise of this novel. There is nothing wrong with forgetting sad things, if one were even able to do so in the real world, and I don't think it is fair to portray the vast majority of families dealing with grief in middle grade novels as fractured and unable to go on. That's just insulting. People go on because there is no other option. As I explained in my post on Jason Reynold's The Boy in the Black Suit, my truth is that unpleasant things are best forgotten. It's not everyone's truth, but it is mine, and this book was at odds with my truth. Everyone else seems to think it is fantastic, so read some other reviews as well before making up your mind about it.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, January 14, 2019

MMGM- Medal of Honor

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.

Spradlin, Michael. Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry at Anzio
Published 15 Jaunary 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Based on the real-life events of Jack Montgomery, this book is an excellent mix of factual information about the war and fictionalized accounts of Montgomery's involvement in it. Montgomery was born in 1917 in Oklahoma. Because he was Cherokee, he was sent to an Indian school, but received a good education and graduated from college with a physical education degree. Unable to find a job, he joined the army and soon found himself embroiled in the war. Soon after his division, the 45th Infantry Thunderbirds came ashore at Anizio, Montgomery was involve in action near Padiglione, Italy, where he single-handedly took out several enemy positions and saved his men. He was wounded and sent home, but awarded the Medal of Honor. Not only do we follow Jack's activities during the war, but we learn additional information about all manner of topics-- trench foot, the Italian involvement in the war, and the treatment of Native Americans. Plentiful pictures and maps help highlight that this is biographical nonfiction, told in an intriguing way.
Strengths: Italy! I have read very few books about this are of WWII, and since Dondi was so interesting, I was always curious about it. The mix of story, facts, and supporting documents is wonderful and will make this super popular with my readers. Like Tod Olsen's narrative nonfiction, THIS is what middle grade books should be like!
Weaknesses: Occasionally I was irritated that Montgomery's narrative was interrupted, but I read this in one sitting, and my students will not.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this entire series and may need some more room for Spradlin's books, since he has been on fire lately!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ruby in the Sky

Ferruolo, Jeanne Zulick. Ruby in the Sky
February 5th 2019 by Farrar Straus and Giroux
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ruby and her mother Dahlia have moved a lot since her dad is gone, but their last move takes them from Florida to a small town in Vermont where Dahlia was raised. Her aunt Cecy helps out, especially after Dahlia is arrested for a workplace incident of harassment for which she is wrongly accused of assault. Ruby isn't wild about her new school, since there are some mean girls who make fun of her clothes and her silence, but she knows that flying under the radar is the way to go. She does slowly warm to Ahmad, a recent refugee from Syria, especially after his uncle hires her mother to work at his store. Ruby finds it difficult to become invested in the Wax Museum project her class is assigned, even though she is interested in her subject, astronaut Michael Collins. Near her run-down rental house, Ruby has met the local Bird Lady, Abigail, who lives in a shed near her former house, having suffered a family tragedy in the 1970s. As she works on her project, Ruby also investigates Abigail's past, and finds out that she worked with the computers that helped with the moon launch. Her mother's trial is the same day as the Wax Museum, and the local government has put a law in place to remove Abigail from her property, so things become a bit fraught in Ruby's world. Luckily, with the help of her supportive friends and family, she and her mother manage to make it through and find a new path forward for themselves.
Strengths: This hits the hard-to-define sweet spot for sad stories for my students. It has the novelty of a parent arrested for a somewhat minor offense but who is nonetheless in danger of going to jail. Ruby's method of coping with her new school-- withdrawing, trying not to speak-- is one that I see all too often. It's good to see that even though the place the two are renting may be cold, Ruby's aunt brings food and warm thrift store clothing to them. I especially liked that even though there were a LOT of sad things, Ruby was fairly positive, even if some of those thoughts were set on going back to Washington, D.C., which never seemed like a likely ending for the family. Ahmad and his uncle are great characters, and I especially enjoyed the interchange where Ruby tells Ahmad he was lucky for only having to go to school two hours a day... until he tells her that school had to be over by 8:00 a.m. because that's when the bombing started! Ruby may have it tough, but Ahmad and his uncle have had it far tougher. I did cry at one point, even though the part at which I cried was a tiny bit cheesy.
Weaknesses: It's hard to believe that Abigail would have spent forty years living in a shed; again, there's that portrayal of grieving parents as being unable to cope that I find insulting. There are a lot of things that come together in a rather unrealistic way, but this is a generally interesting and upbeat book.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing for fans of Vrabel's Bringing Me Back, Arnold's Far From Fair, Sand-Eveland's Tinfoil Sky and Pla's The Someday Birds.

Brown, Don. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
September 18th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Junior Library Guild Subscription

Like this author's The Great American Dust Bowl, The Unwanted is a good introduction to the topic of the war in Syria and the enormous number of refugees who are seeking a home after leaving their war torn country. In well researched anecdotes, Brown puts a very human face on an exodus that has raised tempers of people in many of the countries to which the Syrians are fleeing. Brown concentrates on what has happened to individuals, and tries not to address the issues of religion too much.

It's an interesting and effective way to make difficult information easily digestible, and I learned a lot. I'm just not a fan of Brown's art style. For me, so much hinges on the noses on the drawings of people, and I'm not a fan of his. So, great for information, but I'm not a fan of the art. My students are not going to care, and our ESL teacher practically grabbed this book out of my hands. Similar to Colfer's Illegal. 

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Comic Book History of Comics

Van Lente, Fred and Dunlavey, Ryan. The Comic Book History of Comics 2012 by Idea & Design Works Llc
Actually can't remember where this came from!

This lengthy (over 200 pages) comic book style history gives a very complete overview of the comic strip going back even before The Yellow Kid. Not only are strips and creators named and explained, but information about publishers, trends, and controversies are covered. The format does limit the amount of information that can be presented, but this is certainly an excellent starting place for fans who might like to later find out more about certain aspects of this art form. While there were lots of controversies and problems covered, this never felt one-sided, even when the later chapters address the thorny issue of comics distribution.

This is a great read for anyone who wants to have a brief understanding of the entire comics universe. There was a ton of information, and I came away feeling that my background knowledge was definitely increased. I have to admit to skimming a bit-- who knew that Wonder Woman was so fraught with complications? The most interesting part of this for me was the discussion about how educators in the 1950s decided that comics were morally corrupting children. I don't remember there really being any discussion involving comics in my childhood-- my brother and I had a few Harvey World comics, probably picked up at gas stations on car trips, and there was even a Wonder Woman comic. We treated these more or less like books, rereading on occasion, and no one ever told us they were bad for us!

This is a great book for high school libraries who have a large fan base who enjoy illustrated works. There are a few references to sex in comics, but it's not bad. I just think it is a LOT of information for middle school students.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Soccer School

Bellos, Alex. Soccer School Season 1: Where Soccer Explains (Rules) the World
October 26th 2018 by Walker Books
US Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

"Coaches" Alex and Ben introduce the reader to their school that is all about soccer. Every class, from biology to business studies, deals with fun facts and information about how each topic pertains to soccer. My favorite part of the book was probably the two page spread detailing the schedule, which look NOTHING like a US middle school schedule! It is more like a college schedule, with two days of math and fun things like Design Technology, Zoology, Music, Photography, Fashion, and Business Studies! That makes the idea of Soccer School an amazing opportunity right there.

While the story line takes us through our school week, this is more a compendium of random information detailing just about every aspect of soccer. It is noteworthy that the entire first chapter, Biology, discusses all of the minute details of how professional soccer players (as well as race dogs) manage their BMs. The subsequent math chapter gives statistics on death on the soccer field! (Luckily, the chances are pretty low-- about a 1 in 200,000 chance.) This is followed by the zoology chapter that discusses different team mascots and gives a lot of information about eagles. While all of this is very informative, it doesn't seem to be all that pertinent to soccer!

While there are a lot of pictures illustrating different concepts, there is also a LOT of small text. There are side bars, quizzes, charts with statistics, and a lot of other facts as well as frequent cartoon panels illustrating concepts.

There are plenty of details about playing fields, crowd control, player salaries, and famous players. Readers who have moved beyond the short nonfiction soccer books about various teams and have read all of the how-to books on soccer will enjoy this fast-paced, random compilation of humorous anecdotes that even include space soccer.

Bellos, Alex. Soccer School Season 2: Where Soccer Explains (Saves) the World
October 26th 2018 by Walker Books US
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this second Soccer School book, the first chapter is about pee rather than poop (as the first book was)! This is actually a very important topic for young athletes, who often are not well hydrated. The U.S. Navy actually has a very helpful online chart concerning this:( Soccer school talks about the benefits of water, effects of dehydration on the body's performance, and gives several anecdotes relating to urination. This might seem silly, but as a cross country coach, I spend much more time than I would like discussing this topic with my runners!

The book is again set up to mirror a school schedule with a lot of different topics. Soccer vocabulary in a variety of languages and countries, as well as multilingual soccer players, are discussed in Foreign Languages, and some funny phrases from around the world are described, complete with amusing drawings. Physics class discusses how the soccer ball is constructed and reacts to use, and Botany gives a primer on the different types of grasses used on fields. The authors really dig deep to come up with topics such as engineering, writing and reporting, and even religion. Who knew that there was a "Church of Maradona" that worships Argentine player Diego Maradona!

My favorite chapter was the History one, which discussed how women's involvement in the sport has changed since the founding of the British Ladies' Football Club in 1894. I would love to find an entire book on this topic, especially discussing the 1921 ban on women's teams using most stadiums! The quizzes at the end of each chapter even have a key available at the end of the book, so readers who really, really want to memorize their soccer facts can quiz themselves.

While the Notebook Novel style of this series will appeal to reluctant readers, Soccer School has an enormous wealth of facts about many facets relating to the sport. This is a great book to send with a die-hard fan to dip into again and again.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
January 8th 2019 by Henry Holt
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Coyote and her father, Rodeo, travel around the US in a converted school bus they call Yager. Their life seems pretty comfortable, and they go wherever they want (especially if it involves some really good destination food), but they are on the road because of a sad reason. Coyote's mother and two sisters were killed in a car accident, and their father coped so poorly that he had to sell their house, leave their town, and doesn't even want to call Coyote by her real name or be referred to as her father, because it makes him remember too much. After Coyote talks to her grandmother, who tells her the park near their old home is going to be torn down, Coyote wants to get back in time to retrieve a time capsule that her mother and sisters left there just five days before their death. Since she can't tell her father, she makes an excuse to travel somewhat nearby to get a special sandwich. Her father can't drive enough to get from Florida to the Pacific Northwest, so when Coyote finds a young musician who wants to travel there to see his girlfriend, she invites him along. Rodeo has done this and the past, and has series of questions for people to answer. The answers are correct, and they are on their way. They also pick up Salvador and his mother, who are fleeing his father, after Coyote is accidentally left at a gas station. They also pick up an 18-year-old runaway, Valerie, who has been kicked out of her home because she is gay. Any cross country trip will have incidents, and there are incorrect connections, break downs, and general mayhem. Will Coyote be able to make it back, and will her father eventually realize that she needs to talk about her past in order to go on with her future?
Strengths: A good road trip story is always good, from Cooney's On the Road to Pla's The Someday Birds. The bus is a fun vehicle, the aimlessness appeals to the middle grade soul, and there is a lot of good relationships and adventure. While this is a little different from Gemeinhart's previous books, it shows me that he has studied up on the current climate in middle grade literature. Several topics that are currently in favor are in play here-- a dead parent, LGBTQ+ character, and domestic problems. The cover is good as well.
Weaknesses: I would think that people who had lost a loved one would be really insulted by all of the literary characters who become completely dysfunctional when they are grieving. I liked that the funding for the constant traveling was explained (insurance settlement), but the father's aimlessness, combined with his unwillingness to parent Coyote in an effective way, is inexcusable. While not talking about the departed is an excellent way to deal with grief, the needs of a child come first, and Coyote should have been near her grandmother and in a whole lot of grief counseling.
What I really think: While I very much personally disliked the portrayal of a grieving parent, this is a good story, and I will be purchasing it for my library.