Monday, April 29, 2019

MMGM- A Kind of Paradise, Mya's Strategy to Save the World

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.

Tan, Amy Rebecca. A Kind of Paradise
April 30th 2019 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Jamie knew what she was doing was wrong, but she had such a crush on Trey and thought she was helping him. Instead, she ended up being publicly shamed by the school and Trey's twin sister, Trina, who posted her apology letter to Trey on social media. Now, unable to hide in her room all summer long, Jamie has to spend 15 hours a week volunteering at the public library. It's not too bad; there's air conditioning, friendly staff like Sonia, Beverly and Lenny,  and the occasional baked good. There are also patrons she comes to look forward to seeing, like the friendly Wally with his weekly flower, and the enigmatic but reliable Black Hat Guy. Jamie also enjoys her increasing level of responsibility in the small library. The director, Beverly, eventually lets her shelve books in the adult section when she proves her abilities, and she is allowed to direct patrons if they ask her questions. She is still working through her problems that got her remanded to the library, and Trina occasionally stops by the library with her cronies to check out cook books, which adds to Jamie's stress. When the library is in danger of losing its funding, and then a tragedy occurs, the town rallies behind its library in order to save it, and Jamie realizes that having to spend time there was anything but a punishment.
Strengths: Jamie acts like a typical tween; she makes some bad choices, she is embarrassed to death by them, she tries to hide, but she still wants to do the right thing. The library coworkers are a good cross section of different types of people, and the patrons have interesting back stories. The challenges of keeping a small town library open are real, even with the windfall that this one receives. I have to say that I envisioned the interior of the Boardman Branch Library of the 1970s the entire time I was reading this book even though it was a 1950s building, and not as old as Jamie's library. Even though not much really happened in this book, it was a charming read for gentle souls who love the library.
Weaknesses: The punishment from the school seemed overly harsh, and I had a lot of trouble believing any seventh grade class would be assigned Jane Eyre. I'm sure it happens, but WHY?
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this will be the sort of book that sticks around for years instead of being wildly popular for a brief time and then falling apart.I love the cover; I'll use it as an example of 20-teens color and cover art!

Former Boardman Branch Library, From Google Maps

Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. Mya's Strategy to Save the World
April 30th 2019 by Puffin Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Mya's grandmother falls ill in Myanmar, her mother heads to her side to take care of her, leaving Mya, her younger sister Nanda, and their father to hold down the fort at home. Their father is not the best cook, so they eat a lot of toaster strudels and ramen noodles, and laundry and house cleaning are not necessarily up to standard. Mya is very involved in her schools Kids for Social Justice group, helping to run the meetings and coming up with fund raisers and letter writing campaigns. She is particularly interested in the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, since her mother is from that country. Her best friend, Chloe, was also involved in this, but lately, Chloe has been way more interested in lip gloss, her cell phone, and whether or not Drew might kiss her. Mya doesn't have a phone (her father just will NOT see reason!), and she thinks the idea of kissing anyone is gross. She's much more concerned with preparing herself to be a shining star at the United Nations some day, working on saving the world. She has a school project that she must work on with Ian-- Chloe and her partner took cell phones, so Mya and Ian are researching texting. It doesn't help that Ian sort of like likes Mya, and Mya finds this partly gross and partly intriguing. Mya starts a multi-pronged strategy to prove to her father that she should have a cell phone, and babysits for horrible neighbor children to earn money, and tries to look after Nanda after school. She even takes cooking lessons from her aunt and tries not to complain about missing her mother, whose absence extends to over nine weeks. There are some problems-- Nanda is an avid skateboarder who is not always careful, Chloe and Mya's relationship is fragile, and Mya starts her period and her mother is not there. Everything works out in the end, her mother and grandmother come home, and Mya's quest for the ever elusive cell phone is successful.
Strengths: This looks like a graphic novel, even though it is not, but some readers will pick it up because of that. I always LOVE books about students who have a particular interest, and Mya's social justice concerns are timely and a good example. (And Mya would be proud that I keep my cell phones for as long as possible-- I've had two in the last dozen years.) Her reasoning behind getting a cell phone is so responsible; I wish my students planned so well! She also interacts with her sister and classmates in a brilliant way-- she WANTS to yell, but she remembers diplomatic training she has had. Her fights with Chloe are completely realistic, as is her relationship with Ian. This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved in middle school. Very Ellen Conford like.
Weaknesses: I was a little confused that Mya was writing to "Premier" until I remembered it was set in Canada, but I'll just try to remind students.
What I really think: Definitely purchase. I could do without the angst surrounding Mya's period, but I know that many people think this is a topic that should be covered in middle grade lit.


  1. Both of these sounds really wonderful, but I have to say A Kind of Paradise is going high on my TBR list. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. I still carry a Tracfone flip phone but my wife and daughter have finally jpoined the 21st century and gotten Iphones. Our daughter found a really good deal with Mint Mobile. It's been great and, realistically, it's very difficult to manage without one these days.