Monday, May 06, 2019

MMGM- Stu Truly and The Sounds of Silence

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.

Richards, Dan. Stu Truly: First Kiss
May 7th 2019 by Yellow Jacket
ARC graciously provided by the publisher

Stu and his friend Ben have an awesome summer all planned out when Stu's grandmother falls and breaks her hip. She runs a women's clothing store in town, and her assistant will need help. Stu is the only one available, and the 10-2 shift leaves him with plenty of time to do other things, right? He loves hanging out with Becca, but after they hold hands in a movie, Ben starts making comments that it's a sure thing they will kiss pretty soon. Kiss? Stu is not sure he likes the idea of that, especially when he sees Jackson hanging around Becca. A lot. Stu feels that Jackson is a lot smoother than he is, and is just about ready to give up on Becca... except that he really likes her. Fortunately, the shop is buys enough that it takes his mind off of his own problems. Elsa is great at running the shop, but a little disorganized about running the yearly fashion show, so when Stu's father's friend Harley offers to help Elsa with it, she is glad of the assistance. Stu notices that even a grown man like Harley can blush in the presence of a female he likes, and this gives him a little bit of hope. In the meantime, Stu learns how to talk to older women... and help them pick out polyester dresses, purses, and (horror of horrors!) sundries. He does have a knack for it, and the older women love him. This is a good thing when Elsa's planning on the fashion show goes badly wrong, and he must rely on the help of the older models, as well as the infatuated Harley, in order to keep his grandmother's business going. He also finally works things out with Becca... and there is a kiss!

Stu could walk straight out of the pages of these books and into my library. The impulsivity, the lack of filters, and the misplaced enthusiasm are all characteristics I see every singe day! His feelings about Becca are also spot on-- he likes her, but does he LIKE like her? It's new, it's scary... and it's exciting. These are feelings that middle schoolers live with, but they are rarely portrayed with such accuracy! Ben's jibing bravado at having already kissed a girl, is a good foil for Stu's insecurities.

It's great when tweens have jobs, and Stu is a great family member for stepping in to help his step-grandmother. It's fun that Ben's father, who runs the local hardware store, also presses him into service when his grades turn out to be less than stellar. Even though Stu isn't crazy about the idea, his work ethic is strong, and he starts to really care about doing his best job.

We don't hear a lot from Becca in this book, mainly because of Stu's misunderstanding about her and Jackson, but when she does finally talk to Stu, their conversation is brilliantly thoughtful and filled with the sorts of angst that parents hope their children can address in a constructive fashion.

There are readers who recoil from the "first kiss" in the title, but there are an equal if not greater number who will pick it up because of that. Will boys read a book about a boy working in a women's clothing store and planning a fashion show? Yes, if it's filled with lines like "Maybe it was the root beer talking, but I had the sudden urge to throw that no-good, bicep-flexing poser off the steps"! There are not enough humorous, realistic fiction series like Bingo Brown, Phineas L. Macguire, or Charlie Bumpers, so hand this to fans of humorous stories like Vance's The Heartbreak Messenger or Luper's Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets

Uhlberg, Myron. The Sounds of Silence: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents. 
May 1st 2019 by Albert Whitman Company
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Born during the Great Depression, Myron had a typical Brooklyn life... except for the fact that both of his parents were Deaf. From the relatives banging pots and pans to make sure he could hear to having to translate the outside world, for his parents everywhere from the butcher's shop to parent-teacher conferences, Myron's job was always to help support his parents. When his younger brother was born, he was the first line when the boy woke up, and when the brother started having severe seizures, it was Myron who woke up with his and who got critical information from the doctors. His father working at a newspaper in the printing division, which employed Deaf men because they could work unperturbed by the loud racket. This memoir recounts not only Myron's interactions with his parents, but also a fascinating amount of information about the Great Depression, World War II, and family life in Brooklyn in the 1940s, but always thought the lens of Myron's tangential relationship to the Deaf experience.
Strengths: Myron's (and it's hard to think of him as Mr. Uhlberg, since he is young in the book!)interactions with his parents are filled with both love and frustration. While a lot was asked of him, and he could have been overwhelmed, he is from a generation where you did what you had to do and you didn't complain. Young readers need stories like this, since they see so little of this philosophy at work in modern day life! There are lots of funny moments in this, like when Myron is not exactly signing the correct things to his parents and teachers during a conference, but also filled with many moments where the descriptions of the difficulties and injustices faced by the family were brilliantly sad. The depictions of daily life make this perfect for a Decades project that our 7th grade students do, and the book had the same feeling of authenticity that Meltzer's Tough Times had.
Weaknesses: This is a young readers' edition of  Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love (2009), and I wish there had been pictures included, at least on the cover, although the cover is quite nice. 
What I really think: This is a fantastic book on so many levels. Certainly the depiction of Deaf culture at this point in history is fascinating and not covered in anything I have read, but it is the details of daily life that made this so enjoyable for me. I've read a lot of books set in New York City during this time, and this was a perfect distillation of everything I thought I knew about it. It also reminded me a bit of the wonderful movie Avalon. Definitely purchasing and recommending heavily to students.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Both selections sound intriguing and ones I could get students to read.I also enjoyed your wide variety of reviews this week!