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!


  1. Count Me In is one I loved. You've reminded that I have a copy of The Miracle and Tragedy of The Dionne Quintuplets that I've forgotten about. I need to pick it up and read it!

  2. I have Count Me In on my list and of course remember about the Dionne Quints, but not the details. I imagine some kids will enjoy reading this one. Thanks, Karen.

  3. Count Me In is on my list. I am going to be looking for this book about the Dionne Quintuplets. As a Canadian, I can't help but know about them. A couple of weeks ago I finished an adult book that had a fictionalized version of them. I need to find out how much of it was based on truth.

  4. I had no idea what the life of the Dionne Quintuplets was like but, wow, it was terrible. I didn't know about them but there were Dionne Quintuplets paper dolls at the local five and dime and my mom told me about them then because they were part of her childhood, too.

    I do, however, enjoy your wardrobe choices each day. I hope you keep it up, at least for a while longer.

  5. I liked Count Me In as well. I had kind of forgotten about the Dionne Quintuplets. I think kids would be fascinated by that. Thanks for your post.

  6. The Dionne Quints book looks good. Their story has always fascinated me. I'd love a good novelization, too. And why not from Marie's POV? (She has the best name of the five. Just saying. But maybe I'm just biased.)

  7. I'm definitely looking forward to Count Me In and now I'm adding The Miracle and Tragedy of The Dionne Quintuplets to my list. Your review captivated me - can't wait! Have a wonderful reading week!