Saturday, August 31, 2019

Cartoon Saturday- The Okay Witch

Steinkeller, Emma. The Okay Witch
September 3rd 2019 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Moth lives in Founder's Bluff on the east coast, and her town has an annual celebration that celebrations the founders, the Kramers, triumphing over a group of witches. The problem? Moth finds out after a small incident that she and her mother are, in fact, witches! She keeps this fact from her new friend whose father is a Kramer, even though she uses her magic to earn him a role in the school play about the town's founding. The real problem is with her mother, who doesn't want Moth to have anything to do with witchcraft, mainly because of the mother's difficulties during the time of the Salem Witch Trials with her own mother. Moth's grandmother wants to shelter her kin from the difficulties of the world by allowing them to remain in the realm of the witches, which Moth and her mother don't find exciting. Add to this the fact that the town's depiction of witches is offensive, and you have a very interesting take on the festival and play. Things come to a head both in Moth's school and in her family world. How will she find a way forward?
Strengths: I love the Aladdin M!X and MAX books, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a graphic novel. The art is quite appealing, and the story easy to follow, with text that is a good size. There are strong themes of family, being true to oneself, and making friends who might be different from you. I also loved the former shop owner turned cat! Definitely a winner, and one of the rare graphic novels with a character of color. Hooray!
Weaknesses: The noses were a bit odd. I don't know why so many graphic novels depict noses as being a different (darker) color than people's faces, nor why this bothers and distracts me. This was a bit overly angsty with the family relationships, but my readers won't care.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Many of my readers like to think that they could be witches or have magical powers, so this will circulate well!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, August 30, 2019

Guy Friday- Dough Boys

Chase, Paula. Dough Boys (So Done #2)
August 27th 2019 by Greenwillow Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Simp and Rollie both live in the Cove, and are doing they best they can in a rough neighborhood. They are both very interested in basketball, but being on the neighborhood team, the Marauders, also means that they work as lookouts during drug sales for their coach, Tez. Simp is glad to have the money to help out his mother and younger brothers, but Rollie doesn't like the illegal activity at all, and know that his church going grandmother would not be happy if she found out. Rollie is more interested in music. He is in the Gifted and Talented program at his school, and his music teacher, Mr. B., thinks he has a shot at the big time when a local boy band asks him to audition. Simp feels that basketball and living in the Cove are his only options, so when his mother indicates she knows where they money is coming from and wants him to get his younger brothers involved, he thinks this is a possibility. He is looking to move up in Tez's organization, but he fears that Rollie wants out. Rollie does, but he wants to support his best friend. He hopes that he can get into the band, and that will be his excuse for dropping the look out jobs. When Rollie is attacked because of his involvement with Tez, both boys reassess their activity and plan a new way forward.

This is a continuation of So Done, but can be read independently, even though Bean and Tai do show up in this volume. Since the main focus of the first book is dance, and this is more concerned with basketball, it will appeal to a different set of readers. There is plenty of basketball, certainly, but the major concern is Tez's drug running and the boys involvement with it. While I can think of books for older readers that involve this sort of activity, this is one of the few middle grade novels that have young teens working their way up in a drug organization. It is sad that this occurs in real life, but if we want books to be windows and mirrors for all readers, we need to include this substantial sub culture as well.

Rollie and Simp come from vastly different backgrounds. Rollie has a lot of support at home and doesn't have to worry about where his food is coming from. Simp, on the other hand, frequently pays for babysitting, rent, and food so that his brothers have a better life. His mother is not abusive, but is not a parent who supervises her children closely, either. It was interesting to see how Rollie's church going is portrayed, and how it is an integral part of his personality. Simp's concern for his brothers, and his wish that they have a more stable life than he has, is admirable.

Fans of Sharon Flake, Kekla Magoon, Coe Booth and the late Janet McDonald will enjoy Rollie and Simp's involvement with music, basketball, and the vibrant and sometimes dangerous environment of the Cove.

Once again, I had some trouble understanding the slang used. Slang tends to be very localized, and my only worry is that my students might have similar difficulty with the vocabulary, or that it will date quickly.

Kester, Eric. Gut Check.
August 13th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Public library copy

LOVED Wyatt, but his story is definitely more YA. Purchase for high school or public libraries. From Goodreads: "Wyatt has wanted nothing more than to play football on Grayport's championship-winning team. But not for the fame, glory, or girls. It's his last chance to build a relationship with his older brother Brett, the star quarterback, before he leaves for college. Now that their team has gained national attention, a big win could be just what the small town needs in order to rebound from a fishing season that has been devastated by Red Tide. But when Brett suffers a terrible concussion, Wyatt must decide if keeping his brother's secret is worth risking his scholarship future. "

I don't know why so much Lands End stuff ends up in my local thrift store, but I am not going to complain! Both the sweater and shirt were almost brand new. Vintage, homemade (1990s) pencil skirt; I prefer pleats for riding my bike, but I've been walking to work more. Love the Far Side glasses pin!

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Picky Reader is coming to get furniture for her apartment. She currently has an inflatable bed, lamp on the floor, and a folding table and three chairs. I offered to help find things, but she declined. She does have a nice set of Fiesta Ware dishes and some Oneida silverware-- we are very picky about brands, but only if we can find them at the thrift store! (Helps to get the right size if I know the brand, as well, since things can't be tried on.)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Shadow School

White, J.A. Shadow School: Archimancy
August 27th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Cordelia Liu moves from California to the Northeast because her father has lost his job. She enrolls in the local school only to find out that it is a quirky building that is haunted! She does meet a friend, Agnes, but when the ghost sightings start piling up, she also gets to know Benji. Benji was a popular kid and great soccer player until he started to hide behind his hoodie and earbuds. Cordelia suspects he can also see the ghosts, and she's right. He introduces her to the vast variety of characters who occupy their school, and the two try to find a way to deal with the problem. The school's history is rather dark, and the founder, Elijah Shadow, met an unfortunate end, so getting to the bottom of the problem isn't easy. They eventually figure out "brightkeys"; objects the ghosts seem to need before they move on, and they manage to send some of the ghosts to a happier place. Their principal, Dr. Roqueni, isn't happy with this, especially when poltergeists who trash the cafeteria are stirred up. Shadow was her relative, and she has taken over the principalship to preserve her family legacy. She thinks the children have riled the ghost hunters, who clear the building of ghosts, and wants them to stop. Cordelia thinks that ghost hunters kill the ghosts. With the help of Agnes, who can't see the ghosts, the children try to solve the mystery of the building, the ghosts, and the awful legacy of Elijah Shadow.

I really enjoyed that there was a solid reason for the school to be in an old house-- the Shadows couldn't pay their taxes, so let the school district use it while maintaining ownership. Could work! Having taught in a school that was in an old house, I can attest that it is an odd experience, and a perfect setting for a hodge podge of different ghosts.

Agnes is a bit odd, but it's reassuring that she reaches out to Cordelia and the two become friends. Benji's transformation (the earbuds block the noise of the ghosts) also makes sense, and I'm sure he is glad to have help in dealing with the paranormal. There is some cultural diversity, with Cordelia's father being Chinese, Benji being Latinx, and the Shadows being African American. There are a number of teachers and staff members who play a role in the mystery, and while some are rather extreme,  most are realistic and add a layer of believability to the story. The twist at the end with Mr. Derleth is rather sweet, and I see him being helpful to the children in the next installment of the series.

The reasons for the ghosts infesting the school are well explained, and the history of the Shadow Family is intriguing. This reminded me very strongly of the work of Dan Poblocki,  Betty Ren Wright, West's The Shadows or Nielsen's Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. It isn't quite as dark and scary as this author's Nightbooks, but is an appropriate level of scary for middle grade readers.

The weather has cooled off, so out come the cardigans! This is a little springy, but I love the mint green and pale blue. Lands End sweater, Appleseeds skirt, and Vineyard Vines t shirt that set me back $4 and is actually rather nice. Wouldn't pay $60 for it, though!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Zoboi, Ibi. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
August 27th 2019 by Dutton
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Ebony-Grace has a comfortable life in Alabama in 1984 with her mother and her grandfather, who was an engineer for NASA. When things start to go wrong with her grandfather, she is sent to visit with her father in Harlem. He runs an auto repair shop and loves his vibrant, if sometimes struggling, neighborhood. He thinks that Ebony should fit in well with the local children, who listen to rap music and are given a lot of freedom. Ebony, however, has had a sheltered childhood, and she and her grandfather spent a lot of time watching Star Trek and other science fiction stories, and also created their own worlds, where she is E-Grace Starfleet and he is Captain Fleet. She had played with her neighbor, whom she called "Bianca Pluto", but Bianca has moved on to the world of lip gloss and her crew, the Nine Flavas, where the members all have ice cream names. Ebony is dubbed a plain "ice cream sandwich", and Bianca is mortified when Ebony wears boys' super hero short sets and pretends to deflect the words of the crew with her Wonder Woman bracelets, complete with "pew! pew!" sound effects. As the situation with her grandfather worsens but isn't explained to her, Ebony plots her trip home, even taking the money that her grandfather has sent for a visit from her father. Since her Uncle Richard, who lives in the brownstone as well, has some issues with women, and possibly drugs and hot merchandise, Ebony's father accuses him of taking the money. Bianca's crew is trying to compete in a double-dutch and rap competition, and Ebony doesn't quite understand what they are doing, and manages to make a mess when she tries to contribute. In the end, Ebony makes some progress in accepting life in Harlem, although she must go back to Huntsville to deal with a family tragedy.
Strengths: I loved the 1984 Harlem setting, and the descriptions of the street life, as well as the dance competition, was fascinating. The north-south dichotomy of Black life is well depicted, and it's interesting that the Southern life in Ebony's case is more affluent. The inclusion of NASA history and the Black pioneers in the field is great. Bianca's family is a good support for Ebony, taking her to church and watching out for her as she lives a typically 1980s latch key child life; her father doesn't enroll her in all of the summer camps her mother suggests! The cover is fantastic, and I love that this is set in the city but is not "gritty". There are a few comic strip style panels throughout the book that tell Ebony's sci fi version of her life.
Weaknesses: Ebony's "imagination" was so intertwined with her real life experiences that at several points I thought there would be a discussion of some mental issues. It often made understanding scenes difficult, since Ebony's space adventures were interposed with what was actually happening. Also, the print in the ARC is smaller than usual for middle grade novels; I always feel weird mentioning this, but I can't tell you the number of times I hand a book to a student and it's handed back because the print is "too small".
What I really think: Really debating and may wait to see a finished copy before purchasing.

This week's experiment of seeing the study groups was not a great one. At the beginning of the year, the groups had 20-30 students, and the idea was to take the pressure off Language Arts teachers, who are dealing with shorter periods. In years past, they have brought students once a week for a brief lesson and to get books.

Instead, we are going to see the LA classes on a seven day rotation. This also helps, since I see one grade a day. Since each grade has a slightly different schedule, this will help.

More casual again with L.L. Bean gingham blouse ($2) and vintage (1980s) khaki skirt with pockets. I worked for a year in the houseware department of Lazarus in downtown Cincinnati, and always feel not quite professional unless my outfit consists of three pieces. Back in the day, all of us in housewares just kept a blazer at the store to slip on.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dead Voices (Small Spaces #2)

Arden, Katherine. Dead Voices (Small Spaces #2)
August 27th 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Coco, Ollie and Brian are glad to be going skiing with Coco's mom and Ollie's dad, who has won a  trip to a new ski resort called Mount Hemlock in Vermont. The weather is horrible, and the car trip is difficult because of all the snow on the roads. At one point, Coco thinks she sees a man in the middle or the road, but no one else does. When they finally arrive, the owners, Sam and Sue Wilson, tell them that the power and the generator are out, but they have some things that are powered on propane. It's still somewhat of an adventure, and Ollie's dad pitches in to cook. The next morning at breakfast, a brash young reporter for a ghost hunting magazine, Mr. Voland, breezes in, wolfs down pancakes, and proceeds to tell the Wilsons that having a haunted hotel is a good business move. Mount Hemlock has a good chance of being haunted, given its history as an orphanage where at least one girl died because of the woman who ran the place, who then killed herself out of remorse. There was also a skiier who disappeared in the area a couple of years previously, and Coco knows that this is much too much like the bus trip to the farm in Small Spaces. Sure enough, there are some clever twists, and soon Ollie is trapped behind a mirror, in an alternate world with the orphans and Mother Hemlock, and Coco and Brian have to fight forces of evil to get her back. The thing with the forces of evil is that they don't play fair, and Coco has to use all of her wiles and resources in order to save her friend.
Strengths: I think the reason that Small Spaces has been so successful in my library is that the ghosts/spirits of evil really do want to kill the children! This continues, with the forces being angry they were thwarted the first time-- there's a nice twist I did NOT see coming and I don't want to spoil. The kids work well together, and there are all sorts of good details, like a ouija board and a chess games (Darren Shan's Demonata, anyone?) where they have to really think and plan in order to outwit their opponents. I am always a sucker for a book where people are snowed in, and that it is a ski lodge with creepy taxidermied animals that seem to move... *shiver*.
Weaknesses: At some point about 3/4 through the book, I got kind of confused about how Coco thought she was going to get Ollie out, but I quickly got back to speed. I wish that Brian had played a larger roll, but I imagine he will get his chance in the next book, since Ollie was the main character in the first book.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing! I just wish I had read it in the winter instead of the summer!

Harmonic convergence of Renaissance Day (students who meet certain criteria going to the pool), study groups rather than language arts classes visiting, and a cross country meet today lead to this very casual outfit. Denim skirts are my go to rather than jeans.

I'm not coaching this year, but offered to help get the team over to the park and help with place cards.

Monday, August 26, 2019

MMGM- Count Me In and The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

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.

Bajaj, Varsha. Count Me In.
August 27th 2019 by Nancy Paulsen Books
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Karina lives next door to Chris and goes to school with him. They used to tolerate each other, and she thought he was decently nice, but on the first day of middle school, idiot boys on the bus made fun of Karina's arms for being hairy, and Chris went along with them. Told in alternating view points, we hear from Chris, who doesn't like the jerky boys, but isn't quite sure how to stand up to them. He likes Karina, so when her grandfather, Papa,  moves in with Karina's family and starts to tutor at her school, Chris is glad to be able to make a connection with her. The tutoring goes well, but when the three are outside the school, a man gets out of his car and starts harassing them. He spews hateful racist things and pushes Papa to the ground, injuring him badly. Luckily, other adults in the area do the right thing, photograph the car's license plate, call an ambulance, and stay with the children. Papa ends up in the hospital in need of surgery. Karina is very interested in photography, and manages to get some very moving pictures of her grandfather's glasses on the ground, and posts these to social media with messages against hate. These are much read, and the woman who helped, Mrs. Maxwell, is a reporter and interviews Karina. The community rallies around them, Papa improves, and Chris and Karina are good friends.
Strengths: Like this author's Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood, this is an engaging, well-written story with interesting characters. It has the added bonus of including the very timely topic of hate crimes against people of color. I loved Papa's history; while younger readers won't quite understand the impact of Papa having come to the US in 1968, it struck me how difficult it must be for people who have been here that length of time and still have problems with people being mean to them. The use of hashtags and social media is not overdone, and certainly a part of cultural awareness these days.
Weaknesses: It always seems far fetched to me when a tween posts something and it goes viral, but that's probably me just being bitter that after almost 14 years nothing of MINE has gone viral!
What I really think: This was just a good story that was fun to read. The cover is fantastic. I see it being a long term investment, like Save Me a Seat or Front Desk. It would be a great read aloud for the new school year!
Miller, Sarah. The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets
August 27th 2019 by Schwartz & Wade
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

My father was just an infant when the Dionne quintuplets defied odds by surviving their birth in 1934. Their parents, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, were farmers who were doing just a little better than their neighbors, despite their six children. Elzire's pregnancy had been difficult, and even though it was expensive, she had consulted Dr. Dafoe, the local GP. When she went into labor two months early, the midwives consulted him yet again. When five babies, all very small, were born, he advised keeping them warm and handling them as little as possible, feeding them minute amounts of improvised formula and a little rum if they took a turn! Despite this, they survived, and their care was debated and mismanaged from the beginning. Because of an ill-advised contract with an American company to show them at the World's Fair, custody was given to the government. This helped with the massive amount of care that they needed, and a nursery building was built across the road. Unfortunately, the parents were denied access, at first under the guise that the children were medically fragile, and then just as a matter of course. This was an issue that was constantly fought, but Dafoe managed to triumph. Sadly, the girls were kept separate not only from their family, but from other children, and when they were finally returned to their family at the age of nine, it was difficult for them. Their father arranged for them to be educated by nuns with a few select children, and even their college education was very sheltered. This lead to problems in their later lives, and the girls never did feel at home with their family, which is not surprising, especially considering that their father was abusive. This book is a terrific overview of everything Dionne!
Strengths: The average twelve year old has NO idea about the Dionne's and how impossibly famous they were at the time! This is a fascinating topic, and Miller covers it beautifully, from caring for the tiny babies to the swirl of tourism that surrounded them... until it didn't. Very complete, well researched, and engaging to read. I can't wait to have this on hand for my students who love nonfiction, and also for those who are up for something different!
Weaknesses: I was expecting a novelization, similar to this author's Miss Spitfire, and I was envisioning a story told from the perspective of one of the quints (I was hoping for Marie!). It's hard to be disappointed when so much good factual information is laid out, but I think my expectation made it harder for me to process some of the nitty gritty details about custody and other legal issues. Still a great resource!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing! I think that Ms. Miller should retell the story of Karen Killilea for modern middle grade readers. I don't know why that kept popping into my mind as I read this book, but I remember being enthralled with the book Karen when I was in middle school, but it is very long and detailed. It is interesting to see how people who were different were treated in the past!

Back in the winter of 1998, I was at Lazarus, and they had a clearance sale on Leslie Fay dresses. Even though I was pregnant, I bought four of them, because they were $10 each. This was before I started going to thrift stores for all of my clothing. There was a turquoise dress, a bring pink one, and a blue flowered one with a lace collar. I don't know when or why I got rid of the other three, but this one survives. The only quibble I have with it is that it's hard to wear jewelry of any kind with it.

The shoulder pads are impressive and make me feel very powerful!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Oh, Rats!

Seidler, Tor. Oh, Rats!
August 27th 2019 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Phoenix is a young squirrel who is just starting to become adventurous. He is very jealous of Tyrone, a squirrel who lives in the attic of a house, brings home exotic food like red licorice, and impresses the girls with it. Phoenix is interested in Giselle, who is taken with Tyrone's wild ways, and is motivated by her attention to become more daring himself. When he saves Tyrone one day, he thinks he has a chance, but Tyrone is later found dead, electrocuted by power lines. After this, Phoenix is snatched up by a bird, Walter, only to be dropped over Manhattan. He lands on a soft spot... of hot tar! He barely survives this, as well as being dropped in the river, but is saved by two wharf rats, Lucy and Beckett. Beckett is a very thoughtful rat, and when another rat shows up seeking medical assistance from Mrs. P., Beckett is able to realize that there is poison around, and the wharf is going to be demolished to make way for some tennis courts. The rats slowly accept Phoenix as one of their own, and he is part of their campaign to get back at the humans and save the wharf. Using Tyrone's untimely demise as inspiration, Phoenix helps plan a successful black out of the area, and the humans are not happy. Will the rats be able to save their habitat, and will Phoenix ever make it back to his home in the woods?
Strengths: This is reminiscent of Appelt's The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp or Perkins' Nuts to You. There are not a lot of books about rats fomenting rebellion, and the animal antics are fun. Readers who like Pyron's A Pup Called Trouble or even A Cricket in Times Square might like this one. The illustrations are very charming.
Weaknesses: I had trouble being sympathetic towards the rats wanting to save a crumbling wharf.
What I really think: I weeded Avi's Poppy years ago and don't see this doing well in my library. You'd think, with all the Warriors fans that I have, that this would do well, but it's just not quite the right flavor of talking animal book, somehow.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Cartoon Saturday- Dear Justice League

Northrop, Michael and Duarte, Gustavo (illus.). Dear Justice League.
August 6th 2019 by DC Zoom
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this short, middle grade graphic novel, DC superheroes from the Justice League answer e mails from young fans. Superman is asked if he ever makes mistakes, and a story unfolds with one of his rescues taking multiple wrong turns. Aquaman gets an inquiry about whether he smells like fish, leading to some super hero introspection. Wonder Woman recounts her busy life after being invited to a young admirer's birthday party, and then decides to attend. The Green Lantern thinks about his costuming after being questioned by a young fashionista, and Batman counsels a young writer about being new in town.

The super heroes' backstories unfold with lots of pictures and few words, but it is clear that they struggle just as much as their fans, although in somewhat different ways. I love the administrative side of being a superhero, and the fact that answering e mails is a chore even for the likes of Wonder Woman! There is a good mix of silly antics and introspection that is not a surprise coming from a great middle grade author like Northrop.

The illustrations are done in full color, and this reminded me of the comic books we used to purchase at gas stations on long car trips, although the small size makes this easier to carry in backpacks.

Young readers who are fans of DC comics, or adults who WANT young readers to be fans, will find this an excellent way to introduce the canon of characters in the Justice League and entice readers to look into the comic books. This is a must have for readers who enjoyed Yee's DC Super Hero Girls Adventure Collection, Fridolfs and Nguyen's DC Comics: Secret Hero Society and Pearson and Gonzalez's Super Sons: The Polarshield Project.

Yardi, Robin. Owl's Outstanding Doughnuts
September 3rd 2019 by Carolrhoda Books (R)
E ARC provided by

Mattie has moved to Big Sur to live with her aunt following the death of her mother. Her aunt runs a small doughnut shop, and the two live in a trailer behind the shop. It's been a difficult transition, but Mattie has made two friends, Sasha and her younger sister, Beanie, whose family run a small campground and general store. A short while before school is to start, an owl taps of Mattie's window in the middle of the night. Going outside to investigate, Mattie sees two figures with a white van dumping something into a river. She lets her friends know, and they start an investigation. When Mattie points out that Sasha's father's van is very similar, Beanie enthusiastically puts him on the lists of subjects, but Sasha is angry and won't talk to Mattie. When the owl drops some sludge right in front of Mattie, she searches and finds more of the "gloop", and knows something is very wrong. With Sasha angry at her, Mattie tries to get more help from the owl to figure out what is going on.
Strengths: I am a big fan of stories that involve environmental issues, and the Big Sur setting adds a lot of color to this one. Any book involving doughnut, pie, or ice cream shops is good as well. The friend drama between Mattie and Sasha is very realistic. It's nice to see that Mattie has the support of a beloved aunt when dealing with the death of her mother. The investigation of the dumping moves the story along quickly, although I have to say that my favorite part was the description of the doughnuts at the beginning of each chapter!
Weaknesses: I wasn't thrilled with the chapters narrated by Alfred, the owl, but when Mattie climbs up to his nest and communicates with him by asking questions and having him blink, this really made it seem less realistic. I think younger children might enjoy this more.
What I really think: There were a lot of things I liked about this one, but I don't think my students want this sort of mystery. They are quite a bloodthirsty lot, and want more murder mysteries!
Ms. Yingling

Friday, August 23, 2019


Feinstein, John. Benchwarmers
August 27th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Jeff is not sure he's going to make the newly created 6th grade soccer team; he's not a great player, and his forte is backetball. He's even more doubtful about his chances when Andi Carrillo tries out, because she is every bit as good as blowhard Ron Arlow. Even though there is a girl's field hockey team, Andi is a soccer player, and the principal doesn't see a problem with her trying out for the team. Coach Johnson, however, does. He talks to the principal as well, and wants support for his decision, which ends up to not let Andi on the team. He tells her and the principal, separately, that it is not about her playing-- he thinks a girl's presence on the team would be divisive, and not the best thing for the team. Andi doesn't think this is right at all, but her lawyer parents know that there's really no good course legally. Luckily, Jeff's father is a sportscaster who does local interest pieces, and he manages to get his station interested. Another reported does an Internet piece that arouses a lot of interest, and Coach Johnson is forced to let her play, since she should have made the team based on her skills. There are a few boys, like Arlow, who don't want her on the team, but most are glad to have her contribute. When Coach J. doesn't play her, though, she can't help the team. It takes some convincing, and a few scuffles within the team and with other teams, but Andi's skills can't be denied. Jeff struggles with playing time as well, but works hard and improves a lot. Andi does miss some play time because she is kicked in the head during a play and everyone follows proper concussion protocol, including a doctor's visit the next morning. When the local championship comes down to the Mustangs versus KP-North, whose coach is even less thrilled about girls playing in the league, Andi and the boys have to not only play a great soccer game but watch for dirty tricks. Have they grown enough as a team to work together to do this?
Strengths: The best part of this book, for me, was that everything that happened seemed realistic. The principal followed procedure, the coach wasn't happy but was within his rights, the news media got involved, things changed. The boys were pretty much okay with Andi, but a few weren't, and when she was attacked, they got angry because she was their teammate. It's even realistic that Coach Johnson realizes what a jerk he was! I'd like to say that there aren't any more chauvinistic coaches and teachers out there, but just four years ago I had to go talk to a history teacher of my daughter's because he repeatedly made really sexist remarks! There were girls on other teams in the book where it hadn't been an issue-- this was just all well done. Jeff's last rung place on the team was also well played, and the friendship and slight romance between him and Andi warmed my heart. There are not a lot of good soccer books out there, so this is a great addition for ALL of my soccer loving students.
Weaknesses: I think the time has come to move beyond situations where girls want to play soccer/football/basketball on boys' teams and just DO. We're there. I really think we are.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Feinstein just keeps getting better and better; The Sports Beat books were good, but The Backfield Boys and The Prodigy were phenomenal!

So, apparently, I collect clothes in the way that some people collect dolls. Blogging about my fashion choices is a little embarrassing, because I have a LOT of clothes that are older than my students!

I bought this navy sheath dress in 2000 for a trip to Boston, and I wore the jacket when I first started teaching at Blendon... in 2002! I know this because I won a prize for summer reading at the Westerville Public Library the summer before I started, and a couple of us had our picture in the paper. I was wearing this jacket!

The 1970s Trifari angelfish pin is a new acquisition, $2 at the Ohio Thrift Store.

Oh, isn't the internet a wonderful place? Look what I found when I searched for the maker of the jacket, Suburban Petites: You can buy your own! Trust me, I did not pay $60 for this!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Babysitting Nightmares

As hard I try, I occasionally miss books that are published. I was about way into this Kat Shepherd book when a character popped up and I thought "Wait... this is not the first book!" So, here is a good mystery SERIES to take a look at! I'll mention the other books below; I will probably order them, then read them before I put them on the shelves, although my public library does have copies.

Shepherd, Kat. The Twilight Curse (Babysitting Nightmares #3)
August 20th 2019 by Imprint
E ARC provided by

When Clio's aunt Kawanna brings the girls into the Twilight Theater in Piper, Oregon, to see it before a production of Macbeth starts to rehearse, Maggie is the most excited. She would love to be in the play, but it doesn't have any young cast members. She's excited to babysit the daughter of Emily, the star, at the theater. Juniper is a well behaved child, and Maggie gets to see some of the play as well as investigate the theater. Built in 1929, the theater has had nothing but bad luck, and never has been able to stay open for long. Kawanna tells the girls they shouldn't say the name of the play in the theater, and the girls wonder if the run of bad luck for the current production has anything to do with them. When Clio, Rebecca and Tanya help Maggie delve into more of the history of the theater when weird things start to happen, they find out that the star, Vivien Vane, was not able to perform opening night because the understudy, Norma Desmond, did some underhanded things. Vivien appears to be haunting the theater with the help of the Night Queen. Can the girls keep the theater safe from evil influences, and bring the spirit of Vane some peace?
Strengths: The theater was an awesome setting, and there are lots of similar venues that are having difficulty, so this was a fun way to introduce younger readers to some interesting cultural history. I loved that Norma Desmond was the name of the actress who was at odds with Vane; that, of course, is not a real person but the name of a character in Sunset Boulevard portrayed by Gloria Swanson! I'm sure the dealings with the Nightmare Realm and the Night Queen would have made a lot more sense had I read the first two books, but this held up very well as a stand alone. Nicely creepy, with murderous ghost as well as babysitting and a play production.
Weaknesses: While I understand why the culturally diverse cast is used, it's sort of a cliche. Clio is African American, Rebecca is Asian (this book didn't specify which country), and Tanya is Latinx. Maggie has red hair; the White character sometimes has blonde hair. Oddly, this ensemble is never used for boys. It's not a bad thing, but it is a little odd.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing the whole set for my readers who like mystery and ghost stories.

Shepherd, Kat. Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand
Published June 5th 2018 by Imprint

"The Baby-Sitter’s Club meets Goosebumps as a diverse group of friends encounter supernatural problems on their babysitting gigs. The typical babysitting job just got a whole lot scarier!

Rebecca Chin is understandably freaked out when something begins haunting her babysitting charge, Kyle. Ever since a powerful thunderstorm, strange handprints have appeared on the walls, shashadows prowl his room, and the baby is not quite himself.

After investigating, Rebecca and her three best friends discover that a sinister, paranormal villain known as the Night Queen has taken Kyle and replaced him with one of her minions. To stop her, they embark on a chilling journey into the woods to outwit the Night Queen and her creepy creatures—or risk being trapped in her realm forever!"

Shepherd, Kat. Babysitting Nightmares: The Phantom Hour
Published January 29th 2019 by Imprint


"Clio has already had one brush with the paranormal, and she's dead set on making it her last.

But her new babysitting job is in a haunted house! At first, Clio's excited to work at the historical Victorian mansion in town--until doors

Clio enlists the help of her three best friends, Tanya, Maggie, and Rebecca, to uncover long-buried secrets from the past. Can Clio face her fear and solve the mystery of the haunted mansion?"

Curriculum Night, so here is another Petite Sophisticate jacket in Blendon Blue, with a Chaps black knit dress. Glass bead necklace completes the look.

Oh, my. Petite Sophisticate went out of business in 2005. No wonder I haven't been finding as many of their things at the thrift store! Good thing I believe in style and not fashion!

I keep all of my shoes at school, since I wear out a lot of tennis shoes on my walk. I prefer Clarks loafers, and change when I get to school, humming Mr. Rogers' "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" to myself while doing so.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home

Farr, Bridget. Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home
September 17th 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Reader
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Pavi has been in several foster homes, as well as the Crossroads group home, ever since her mother became unable to care for her. Her foster mother is now Marjorie, a teacher, whose son Hamilton is Pavi's age and a good friend to her. Pavi has a "business" where she counsels other foster kids and does research on their families and new schools in exchange for school supplies. She is working with Santos, a new 8th grader. When she stops by Crossroads to try to get information from Lenny, one of the Crossroads workers, she sees a little girl, Meridee, and finds out that she is going to live with the Nickersons soon. That family was one of Pavi's placements, and she not only received inadequate care there, but she also saw dog fighting and lost a puppy in one of the fights. She takes it upon herself to try to get another placement for Meridee, having Santos (who has a deeper voice) call Child Protective Services, and coaching Meridee how to fake appendicitis when her case worker is taking her to the Nickersons. There's also her regular life to deal with-- school projects, dealing with Piper, Hamilton's friend, and keeping her grades up. Hamilton and Piper are working together on a series of makeup videos that are very popular, and this gives Pavi the idea to film the Nickersons and use the tape to keep Meridee out of their home. This is an elaborate project, but one that doesn't work. Luckily, things end fairly well both Santos, Meridee and even Pavi herself.
Strengths: With the growing number of children in foster care due to the opioid epidemic, it's not surprising that we are finally starting to see foster children as main characters in books. Pavi's story is interesting because she has such a good rapport with her foster brother, and she has regular contact with other foster children, especially at the group home. She has some keep insights on how to get along with families, making good impressions, and dealing with people who don't know what to say when they find out she is in foster care. Her concern for Santos and Meridee is touching.
Weaknesses: I had trouble believing that she would be able to conduct her business, and it made the story slightly less believable to me. The ending with the Nickersons was nice, but a little too convenient. I also wish we had just been told why Pavi's mother couldn't take care of her at the beginning of the book; I think this is a big concern for readers unfamiliar with foster care, as they might not readily grasp the concept of why children are placed into the system.
What I really think: This was an engaging story with likable characters, so I will probably purchase, but am concerned that some readers might be a little confused by some aspect of the story telling. I did appreciate that the author tried to work more humor into the story, which will definitely gain it more readers.
This washable L.L. Bean dress feels sort of like wearing a nightgown to work, but it's fine with a Petite Sophisticate jacket over it, right? I've had these both for years, and the necklace was a Christmas present from my mom about ten years ago.

A dress with a jacket is definitely my go to look for back to school. Comfortable, inexpensive, and I can fold the jacket up in my pack back if it's too warm to wear on the walk home.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Grey, Melissa. Rated
September 3rd 2019 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maplethorpe is an elite academy where students can boost their ratings through academics. Since the entire society revolves around these ratings, students like Be x know that every facet of their lives needs to be carefully controlled so that they can go to good colleges and get good jobs. Bex's rating is a 92, but she is very stressed. Chase, whose father is an alcoholic and whose mother has left, has a rating that  has dropped so much that he might be kicked off the team, is tutored by Bex. Noah is a photographer who has a younger sister who is very ill and needs a bone marrow transplant, and he connects with Javi, whose rating is high because he does very well at a video game. Hana is a figure skater whose parents push her so hard that she has developed anorexia; she becomes friends with Tamsin, whose mother owns an herbal remedies shop, after her coach sends her there. Tamsin's rating is very low, mainly because she often skips classes and just doesn't care. At the very beginning of the school year, the school is vandalized by a spray painted sign that claims the ratings aren't real, and the security cameras have stickers put over the lenses. These stickers appear on invitations issued to all six characters. They have to decipher the message, and when they finally attend the meeting, they realize that the ratings system is not something that everyone at their school supports.
Strengths: I loved the premise of this-- everything in your life depends on your ratings in everything from academics to behavior to social interactions. If students actually saw a concrete accounting of how they measured up, wouldn't they behave and pay more attention in school? Wouldn't their parents be more concerned as well? The characters were nicely varied, the romance between Javi and Noah is good, and I loved Bex and her drive to be better.
Weaknesses: I lived in Cincinnati in the 1980s, so the constant mention of Maplethorpe (albeit with a different spelling) conjured up a completely different image for me!
What I really think: This is more of a YA book and took much too long to get to the main point of the plot. I was hoping for something dystopian with a fun social twist, but this just fell short of the mark for me.

Another scorcher today, so a knit dress. $1.50 at Goodwill, and I was egged on by my daughter, because this is shorter than I usually wear. Accessorized by Hang Ten necklace that makes me laugh to myself because no one knows the meaning of it any more.

Will probably also throw on my black Teacher Sweater at some point during the day. I also have a beige one, as well as a navy fleece, since the temperature in the library can fluctuate wildly.
Ms. Yingling

Monday, August 19, 2019

MMGM- Hoax for Hire

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.

Martin, Laura. Hoax for Hire
August 27th 2019 by HarperCollins
ARC Provided by Young Adult Books Central

Grayson MacNeil would really like to be able to pay attention in school, get his application essay for a private school written, and get a scholarship so he can pursue a career in photography, but his family is holding him back. His father and grandfather are cryptid hunters and hoax masters who travel the globe fabricating Big Foot and sea creature sightings. Grayson and his brother Curtis often have to accompany them, and when the family gets a big contract to pull off four sea creature sightings in a short amount of time, they end up pulling a successful hoax themselves. This comes at a price-- Grayson is told that if he misses one more day of school, his scholarship application is in jeopardy. Since family finances are tight and his mother has passed away, Grayson feels like he needs to put his own needs on hold. This includes socializing with the fun and friendly Clare from his class. When he finally agrees to meet her at a bonfire party (and even buys the name brand marshmallows for s'mores), things are going great... until he hears a recording of a monster that he himself did! The teens panic and run away, but Curtis and Grayson end up in jail. The people behind the hoax? The only other big hoax masters, the Gerhard family from Germany. Clive and Axel are angry that their family didn't get the big contract, so they have decided to pull out all the stops to sabotage the MacNeils. Not only have they detained the father in Scotland and sent the grandfather off on a wild goose chase to save him, but they break into the MacNeil's property and steal all of the newest and best hoax equipment. With the adults out of the picture, it falls to the boys to pull off the one last hoax in Vermont, with less than optimal equipment. It will be a tough task, but help comes from an unlikely source. Will they be able to pull off this scam, or will the Gerhard family finally win?

This was a completely fresh and engaging novel! There are very few books about cryptids out there (Savage's Lemons, Smith's Cryptid Hunters and Aldredge and DuBois-Shaw' s Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things are the only ones I can think of), but the idea that since cryptid hunting isn't lucrative, the family has turned to inventing cryptid sightings was brilliant. I loved how the author just set out all of this information and expected me to believe that the MacNeil clan was involved in the Loch Ness sightings in Scotland, hunted cryptids for years, and that the boys' father, when things became tight financially, decided to stage sightings! The family log book, the years' worth of antique equipment, and the habit of mayors of towns wanting to hire the family to ramp up tourism were all details that made me nod my head and say "Huh. That could work."

Grayson was a great character, with his passion for learning and doing well in school. Curtis, whose love of the family business makes his less than enthusiastic about attending classes, is a great foil for him. The fact that the boys do okay on their own, cooking meals, successfully setting up sea monsters, and even getting out of jail by themselves, will appeal to young readers. I would have preferred that their mother were off setting up a hoax to get her out of the way, but the grandfather is such an appealing character that I am glad that he is there, trying to fill the mom sized hole with a tornado of his own energy!

I wasn't sure how I felt about the Gerhards, but I was surprised when they showed up. They are quite evil, and aren't fooling around in their attempts to take down the MacNeils. This took the novel in a direction I wasn't quite expecting, which I loved! This is the sort of book that I can always use-- it's funny, a little dark, and has plenty of unexpected adventure. Hand this to any middle grade reader who isn't quite sure what they want, other than a fantastic read!

I secretly want to dress like a flower child in loose peasant skirts and tops, and occasionally hallucinate that I will wear skinny jeans with chiffon and knit tunic tops. Hahaha. My fashion sense was formed almost completely by the 1980s prep era, so if I can't wear something with a polo, turtleneck, or oxford shirt, I probably won't wear it.

This is an exception, since it's supposed to be 95 degrees today. The peach Limited dress was $5, but it was brand new; maybe a prototype, because there were a lot of new dresses at the thrift store when I got it. The Mercer and Madison top was $2. I do love the dangly lion necklace.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club

Nickerson, Sara. Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club
August 27th 2019 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Josh's family has moved from Chicago for a new start, and Josh is starting at Mountain View K-8 school. His first day doesn't go particularly well, partly because of the return of his imaginary friend, Big Brother, whom his parents had him bury in a funeral ceremony when they thought he was too old. Josh has seen a lot of imaginary people (including a woman in the old school library who gives him a book), and his mother in particular is very concerned. Fifth grade at his new school is not too bad otherwise; his teacher, Mr. K., is lots of fun, but it is hard to make new friends, and Josh tends to keep to himself. There is another student, Lucas, who also sees people who aren't really there. His best friend, Moxie, died when they were in first grade, but he keeps seeing her at school, and she talks to him. After Mr. K. shows a video to the class and asks the students to count the basketballs, Josh and Lucas are the only ones to see the unusual occurrence, and Josh also sees Moxie. The two boys are invited to a meeting of the Gorilla Club by Moxie, and go to the home where she died, which is supposedly haunted. Another tragedy almost occurs, but the boys survive and the fact that they have each been able to make an actual friend bodes well for their future.
Strengths: This had a very realistic school setting, and it was interesting to see a story about a character who moves who doesn't move directly into a haunted house. Yes, there are "haunted" areas, but this is a twist. Josh and Lucas are both engaging characters, and the school is a fun setting.
Weaknesses: I was hugely bothered by the author's use of the word Kleenex when tissue should have been used. I remember reading about using trademarked names in Writer's Digest years ago.
What I really think: The cover made it seemed like this would be a funny book, but it was really more of a story about anxiety and grief. I will probably pass on purchase since I am having trouble thinking of students who might want this. If the ghosts had been scarier, that would have helped.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Cartoon Saturday-- More Notebook Novels

King, Zach. Mirror Magic (Zach King #3)
December 31st 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After his adventures in My Magical Life and The Magical Mix-Up , Zach has reawakened his magical abilities, but is keeping this a secret from his family so that he doesn't have to go back to being homeschooled. His friends Rachel and Aaron always help him out, and the three of them are involved with the school play. After a disastrous incident with a magical paint brush, Zach has an accident with a magical mirror he discovered in the attic when his mom had him cleaning things out. Zach travels through the mirror into an alternate reality, Reverse World. There, he is Jak, and he attends a magical school. His friends have powers, as well as slightly different names and personalities. Tricia is nice, Rachel is timid, Aaron likes dogs, and his mother is a horrible cook! While Zach is in this world, Jak has come into our place of existence, and is having to adjust to all of the changes. Unless Zach cam figure out what has happened, both he and Jak will be stuck and unable to return to their own realities. Will the two boys be able to count on their friends in order to solve the mystery?

Mr. King is a You Tube presence who specializes in videos that make it look like he is doing magic tricks. Zach has struggled over the last few books trying to figure out what his abilities are. It looked as if he did not have any abilities, which is why his family sent him to public school, but it turns out that he can take other people's magic implements (his mother has a ring, his father a watch, and his sister a pair of glasses) and use them himself. The attic that his mother had him clean was full of family heirlooms that all had magical qualities, including the mirror.

The thing that I like best is Zach's relationship with Aaron and Rachel. Aaron is a good friend (who has a cute cat), who supports Zach no matter what goes wrong. And a lot goes wrong! Zach has a crush on Rachel because she is fearless and brave, and she pushes Zach to work through his difficulties instead of giving up.

There are some graphic novel style pages in between chapters, and this is a big draw for readers who like books like Holm's Squish: Super Amoeba and Vernon's Dragonbreath, but want somewhat longer books. Zach is a fun character who would be right as home at a cafeteria table sitting next to Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson, Peirce's Big Nate, or Beaty's Dorko the Magnificent.

Russell, Rachel Renee. Masters of Mischief (Max Crumbly #3)
June 13th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

When we last saw Max and Erin, they had just thwarted three inept burglars and were headed for a garbage dumpster. That's where they are now, in the middle of the night, trying to figure out a way to get home. As luck would have it, they make it out of the fenced dumpster area and end up in the back of a crowded pick up truck... which is of course being driven by the burglars! They manage to jump out, find a bike and wagon to use to get home, and then have to explain what they were doing. Since Max still has not returned his father's valuable comic book to him, he's hoping to fly under the radar, but that is hard to do since his sister and crabby neighbor saw him come in late at night. Max's father wants him to help clean the garage, and there is a goofy run in with Mr. Howell and Max's father. When the criminals show up at the school again, will Erin and Max be able to head them off, or will they be headed for another adventure in the dumpster?

Like Kinney's Wimpy Kid books, the Dork Diaries and Max Crumbly have a cult following of young readers who like the hand drawn font, copious illustrations and goofy adventures. Max spends a lot of time opining on minutiae, such as why the trash bin at the school is so heavily guarded while the computers have no security at all. He also spends a lot of time imaging things, from soaring in his super hero cape to magically building muscles through light exercise.

The plot is sort of the reverse of books like Johnson's The Great Green Heist, Max Rylander's The Fourth Stall or Ferraiolo's The Quick Fix in that Max and Erin are not fomenting goofy criminal hijinks, but trying to prevent them. There are still mad chases through air ducts, hacking into security systems, and trying to hide their actions from parents, but our heroes are trying to stop the thieves, not perpetrate crimes of their own.

The big draw of these books is, of course, the illustrations, which have a Manga style air to them, with big eyes and exaggerated expressions. While I don't quite see the appeal of the books, they are undoubtedly popular with young readers, who will have to wait until the next book to find out how Max gets out of his latest scrape.

Pichon, Liz. Tom Gates: Extra Special Treats (Not)
April 22nd 2019 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

When Marcus Meldrew gets a Star Pupil Badge, Tom decides that he will try to mend his ways and earn one himself, since students sporting the badge get preferential treatment from teachers. This gets off to a rocky start, since Tom rarely has his textbook or extra papers, and he has a tendency to doodle unflattering pictures of Mr. Fullerman. That's okay; winter is closing in, and soon school is canceled. Tom looks forward to spending time at home, locating his mother's secret stashes of chocolate covered raisins, but his uncle, aunt and cousins descend to plan The Fossil's fiftieth wedding anniversary party and end up staying because their heat is out. The posh family isn't keen on roughing it, although Tom notices that his cousins don't turn up their nose at the snacks provided! At least the family has time to plan an epic anniversary party and gift, and grandma gets the opportunity to knit lots of wooly garments to mail to the family. There's some snow sculpting and outside activity, some DogZombie band practice, and as always, caramel wafers and grandma's sketchy cooking!

I have always been a sucker for a book with a good snowstorm, from Haywood's Snowbound with Betsy (1963) to Kinney's Cabin Fever (2010). While I am not impressed with the British snowfall (it seems like just a couple of inches knocks out power supplies; it's not the three feet of snow that, say, Buffalo, New York is apt to get), the resultant family togetherness is just as much fun.

Of all the characters, I think that Granny Mavis is my favorite. Her sundae-inspired sweaters, complete with cherries atop the hats, are beyond awesome, and her peaches and pasta and cornflakes and chicken are the sort of quirky, passive-aggressive subterfuge that should get one excused from all further cooking duties! Give me a souped up golf cart to drive back and forth from the Leafy Green Old Folks Home, and I'd be glad to party with The Fossils as well!

Tom would be a good companion to Peirce's Big Nate; they are both well meaning but misguided boys with a boundless enthusiasm for what they hold dear. These notebook novels are the homemade apple pie with whole wheat crust of children's literature; books that are sweet and satisfying while still being nutritious enough to be served occasionally, even for breakfast.

Jeans and t shirts. That's all I can manage on the weekends. I understand casual clothing even less than I understand work clothing. Most of my tennis shoes are trail shoes, thanks to the last nine years of coaching cross country.

A friend gave me this t shirt that says "Easily distracted by dogs and books".

Sylvie approves.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Michael Collins: Forgotten Astronaut

Buckley, James Jr. Michael Collins: Forgotten Astronaut
August 27th 2019 by Jeter Publishing
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

There have been a huge number of books about the Apollo 11 moon walk since this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of that event, and all of them have contributed greatly to my knowledge of the space program. This biography takes a slightly different approach, concentrating on the one man of the three who did  not walk on the moon, Michael Collins. While the first section of the book is a fairly standard biography, mentioning Collins' early life and  giving lots of details about his military and flight experience, it gets very interesting when Collins enters the space program. The details of training, as well as descriptions of the rigorous process to even be chosen as an astronaut, are very interesting, and unlike anything I've read. The fact that the applicants were all white males is addressed, and a brief mention is given to women and people of color who were space pioneers. Probably the most fascinating part of the book was the description of the survival training the members of the Gemini and Apollo missions had to undergo-- in jungles and deserts! There was no guarantee that the modules would land in the ocean, so the crew needed to be prepared! I also enjoyed the depiction of the KC-135 cargo plane that would provide moments of weightlessness when it would fly straight up and then back down-- it's nickname was "the vomit comet"! The inclusion of more personal moments, such as Collins going to Dave Scott's house to help with his children when the Gemini 8 mission was in trouble, and his role in notifying Roger Chaffee's wife of his death, gives us insight into the personality of our subject. Where this book really shines, though, is the Apollo 11 mission through Collins' eyes, and the celebrations and tour afterwards through the same lens. This points out that history isn't monolithic, and that there are always lots of stories to be told about any event. There is just enough information about Collins' career after his stint in NASA to make me feel a sense of closure.
Strengths: I bookmarked a lot of pages, because there were so many small things that I learned. This will make the book appealing to readers who adore nonfiction, but the book also was a compelling read, with just enough information to keep it fast paced. I always tell my students that reading biographies is a great way to be allowed to be nosy about someone else's life, and this had a great balance of public and private life.
Weaknesses: This is more of a weakness of my students--I wish my students read more narrative nonfiction. For a while, I could get them to plow through some 42 page nonfiction books, but it's sometimes a struggle to get them to get through a reasonably long book like this one. Maybe now that they aren't allowed to use their cell phones during study hall, we will see a resurgence in nonfiction reading.
What I really think: I am going to start recommending books about the early space program to my readers who ONLY want to read about WWII, because all of the astronauts had a military background. Which is so obvious, but just blows my mind. I think it will do the same for my students.

My favorite moment yesterday was when three 6th grade boys came in. One said "We don't like to read, but my brother said you could help us find good books."

"Yeah," another chimed in, "since we're in middle school now, we want to read something besides Wimpy Kid."

Got the ring leader Korman's Chasing the Falconers and Joe Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson, one friend Horowitz's Stormbreaker, and the other Sherman's A Time for War.

Yes, I wear a lot of navy blue! This Liz Claibourne dress ($3) actually has a beige pattern. The cameo came from my best friend's mother's jewelry collection, and was amusing because I had one of my mother's almost exactly like it! (It has a hook on the back to make it a necklace.

Also, I don't have a smart phone, and my arms are not long enough for a good selfie with the iPad!