Monday, June 10, 2019

MMGM- Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship; Build Your Own Theme Park

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.

Platt, Cynthia. Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship
May 21st 2019 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Parker always hangs out with her friend Cassie, and the two have a lot in common, including a love of science. When their class has a science triathlon, Parker is really excited about the Science Bee, Egg Drop, and Animal Adaptation Presentation... until Cassie invites Theo to join them. Parker thinks he's a good student, but he seems to have a lot of trouble talking to her, although he seems perfectly comfortable with others. The three do well with the trivia questions, but struggle a bit with the egg drop competition. Parker really wants to do well with the final presentation, especially since triplets in the class, who normally are just goofy and disruptive, are doing really well in class for a change. Theo raises chickens, and thinks there could be a project there, but the group decides to build a fleet of robotic guinea pigs. They approach their work very productively, and come up with a good project, but things don't go smoothly during the presentation. Parker and her friends realize that scientists aren't always successful at specific projects, but the process of discovering information is always instructive, and they must learn from their mistakes.
Strengths: Parker is a fun character who has her own science workshop, posters of Jane Goodall and Mae Jemison, and supportive parents who help her, even if they have their own interests (mom is a gym teacher and dad runs a bakery). Her long time friendship with Cassie is great, and it's very realistic that she would be upset about adding a new friend into the mix. The science competition sounds much more enticing than the standard science fair or invention convention, and it's good to see the students excited about science.
Weaknesses: Theo's awkwardness around Parker seemed a bit forced, stemming from a long ago incident, but since I held a grudge against someone for stealing my purple crayon in third grade until well into high school, I should accept this as completely realistic!
What I really think: I enjoyed this, especially with the science component, but both the interest in academic matters and the nature of the friend problems put this more into the elementary realm for me. It's a tough line; sometimes my students skew very young in their interests, and sometimes they don't. I will think about purchasing this next year, depending on my new batch of sixth graders!

Lunney, Lizz. Build Your Own Theme Park: A Paper Cut-Out Book
June 11th 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Quick! Where are my sharp scissors that can be used on paper? This activity book begs to be immediately cut up, glued and taped together into the brilliantly pastel theme park showed on the cover. Two cats help guide us through the directions. Each element of the theme park is set aside, with complete instructions, photographs of the finished product (very helpful!), and tips on how to work the tabs, set up characters, and arrange the buildings. One of my favorite parts of the theme park was the BACK of the sheets-- they are printed with an element that coordinates with the building, like cats, unicorns, or suns! Since I've been doing a lot of quilting lately, I sort of want some of these pages reproduced in fabric!

Summer is the perfect time for activity books like this-- clear off a table or floor somewhere, and watch as the village  unfolds on rainy or cold days. While middle school students could easily put these items together on their own, younger children would need some help with construction, as well as with cutting out the pieces neatly. With the ubiquity of cell phones, I wonder have the scissor skills of the average six year old are developing? This is a great way to unplug children, reinforce their manual dexterity, and fire their imaginations.

I do like the end of the book, where our friends the cats talk about ways to add to the theme park using original drawings and ideas. When I was a child, I spent endless hours with shoeboxes and wallpaper sample books, creating all sorts of things, and my own girls were into cardboard construction as well. Build Your Own Theme Park could easily occupy many happy hours and be a springboard for a lot of creative and imaginative play.


  1. Reporting in from a childhood shoebox and wallpaper (and Sears catalog!) crafter! :)
    This book sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for leading me to it. Happy summer!

  2. My granddaughters make things all the time, will love this maker book, I'm sure. The other book is certainly an interesting idea, bringing new science into one also about friendship. Thanks, Karen!

  3. I just ordered the theme park book. My daughter and her friend LOVE cutting out and making things with paper. I can barely keep them in construction paper. Also, when I was a kid my dad owned a hardware store - I had basically an unlimited supply of wallpaper sample books at my disposal. Of course I took that for granted :-).

  4. I am cracking up over your grudge over the purple crayon! LOL Oh my, thanks for the laugh. And I am definitely excited to read Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship -- hopefully later this summer. Have a great reading week!

  5. Activity books are great for summer. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. My two year old granddaughter loves to sit with me at my sewing machine when I am using it (usually to piece together quilts) I'm sure that when she is big enough, she will love books like this theme park one.
    I didn't know you were a quilter! I would love to see some of your creations.

  7. I know the perfect reader for Parker Bell--thank you for sharing it :)

    Happy reading this week!

  8. Oooh! Colourful and fun and highly interesting middle grade novels here. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great reading week.