Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Changeling King (Estranged #2)

Aldridge, Ethan M. The Changeling King (Estranged #2)
Published October 1st 2019 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by the publisher and Wunderkind PR

After the events of Estranged, Childe has returned to his parents in the World Above and has gone back to being called Ed, and Edmund has returned to rule the World Below and is now called Cinder. Things are calm enough that Cinder invites Ed, his sister Alexis, and their parents to visit the kingdom. The parents find it a lot to take in, and when the father is kidnapped by a troll and the mother must go to rescue him, they are not thrilled about leaving their children there. Cinder knows that the kingdom is his responsibility, and Alexis and Ed find the World Above to be very boring after the adventures that they have had. When the magic starts to weaken in the World Below,  they rally their forces to try to figure out how to restore the kingdom. Ed has to deal with the former queen, who has returned, and still treats him more like a bauble than a son. Alexis is glad to finally learn some magic, although it doesn't always turn out well. Cinder has to navigate the difficult role of ruler while fighting against traitors and figuring out his feelings for Fawntine. Working together, the siblings manage to restore the magic, but in a very unusual way that will make the next book, should there be one, VERY interesting.
Strengths: Like the illustrations in Estranged, these are very beautiful, and even the scenes that are supposed to be dark manage to be light enough to see details, something not all graphic novels can manage. I like the sibling relationship that Alexis has with both of her brothers, and having the parents involved in the beginning adventures was especially welcome. Alexis learning magic made the plot of magic disappearing seem more urgent, and the supporting characters helped to flesh out the story. 
Weaknesses: Poor Ed. He's clearly suffering a lot more than Cinder, but there's too much going on for him to really process all of the abuse he received at the hands of the queen, although it is touched on. That would be a whole book in itself!
What I really think: My graphic novel fans are not as fond of fantasy books, and my fantasy readers don't go for graphic novels, so this series hasn't circulated constantly like Raina Telgemeier's books, but it has found enough readers to make it worthwhile. This just means that the books won't fall apart quite as quickly, which is fine with me!
Ms. Yingling

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Colfer, Eoin. The Dog Who Lost His Bark
September 10th 2019 by Candlewick Press
Public Library Copy

A small dog is adopted by a family and given to a young boy for Christmas, but things do not go well. The father is rough and mean, and the boy doesn't take to the dog and doesn't treat him well, so the dog eventually ends up in a shelter. When Patrick and his mother and grandfather show up looking for a dog to adopt, the man at the shelter says that this dog requires a lot of care, but Patrick is sure that Oz (as he names the dog) is meant for him. Oz won't bark, and is very scared and reclusive, and also relieves himself in shoes. Through a lot of love and effort, Oz starts to engage more. When Patrick finds out that he and his mother are going to stay permanently with his grandfather because his parents are divorcing (the father is traveling with a band in Australia and has a girlfriend), Patrick wants nothing to do with Oz, since his father is allergic. Eventually, he makes peace with his situation and Oz has a forever home.
: This has the most heart wrenchingly cute pictures I have seen in a long time. The story is a good one, and I would have definitely purchased this for my own children when they were young.
Weaknesses: There are many times in the text when the narration has ALL CAPS, which was distracting to me.
What I really think: I'm conflicted, because this is a rather young story, but the pictures are so adorable. I will probably purchase for my readers who love dogs, and who are at a level to enjoy books like Diva and Flea.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Becket List

Griffin, Adele. The Becket List
April 2nd 2019 by Algonquin Young Readers
Public library copy

When Rebecca and her family move to the country so that her parents can have a veterinary practice there and also help out with the family store, she decides to start anew and change her name to "Becket". Her parents, as well as older sister Caroline and twin brother Nicholas reluctantly agree. There are a lot of things to get used to at the new house, and Becket is also taking over some of the farm chores from her grandmother, like collecting eggs and feeding the donkey and mule. She longs for a dog other than the elderly Mr. Fancypants, who is fonder of Nicholas, and tries to earn money in a couple of misguided ways. She and Nicholas go to a summer camp at the school, and she tries to make friends with Freida, although this is complicated by the fact that she also talks to Nicholas. By the end of summer, she is feeling more comfortable with her new environs and is looking forward to school.
Strengths: There are not a whole lot of books set on farms, and while the number of families living in rural environments has shrunk a bit, there is still a significant population whose life this sort of book reflects. Becket is ten, which is a great age to live on a farm, and seeing her do chores will fascinate children who do not have any background in that area.
Weaknesses: Becket is a very young ten, and there are a few facets of the book that make it something that students in grades 6 and up won't like-- the way friendships are formed and maintained, her playing with toys, and the way she interacts with her sister, who is going in to 7th grade. Also, Mr. Fancypants is 14. You know how this ends.
What I really think: I would buy this for an elementary library since I enjoyed it a lot, but it is too young for my readers.
Thanksgiving always makes me think of visiting my grandmother at Clarks Dairy Farm. My grandfather Clark died in 1954 of cancer, fighting the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which was built between his barns and his fields; the concession he got was a tunnel under the turnpike for the cows. My uncles all retired from farming in the 1980s and 90s, and it looks like the farm is slowly decaying. I was always a little jealous of my cousins who grew up in the country.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Pickled Watermelon

Schacter, Esty. Pickled Watermelon
August 1st 2018 by Kar-Ben Publishing
Public library copy from Bexley Public Library

Molly's family is heading to Israel for her uncle's wedding in 1986, and she's a bit apprehensive. She wants to meet her grandmother and grandfather, but is worried that spending a month is a foreign country where not everyone speaks English will be difficult. Her younger brother Ben is a bit more excited. Once there, however, she manages to talk to her grandparents a bit, gets used to salad for breakfast and the big meal at lunch time, and is happy to meet her cousins and aunt on their kibbutz and learn about this style of living. She also finds out more about how her parents met when they were both at university, and how the family came to live in the US rather than Israel. In the end, Molly enjoys her stay and is looking forward to sharing the details with her other grandmother.
Strengths: Like Grace Lin's Dumpling Days , Narsimhan's Mission Mumbaior Lai's Listen, Slowly, this is a great story about visiting family in another country. The food, the different ways of doing things, and the reconnecting with relatives is something many students enjoy, even when they spend a lot of time with local relatives. I am fascinated by the idea of a kibbutz-- it makes so much sense, yet is so totally foreign to the US way of thinking. This was a short, interesting read.
Weaknesses: I wish this one had been longer! I would have loved more details of Molly's life in the US, and more details about Israel! Also, for some reason, I had thought this was a graphic novel. It was not.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. It was a short, easy read, and great for students who are interested in Jewish culture. Now I want to go and reread my copy of Sally Watson's Other Sandals (1966)!
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

All the Colors of Magic

Zinck, Valija. All the Colors of Magic
December 3rd 2019 by Chicken House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Penelope and her mother and Granny Elizabeth live in a well-loved cottage in the English Countryside. Penelope's father left the family a long time ago, but promised to always provide for the family. When her mother is injured in an accident and has to spend a long time in the hospital recuperating, Penelope wakes up one morning to find her normally gray hair a brilliant red, her energy restored, and the omnipresent smell of smoke gone. Her friends, Tom and Pete, are supportive of her new look, and her teacher, Mr. Potts, is nice as well. It turns out that both Penelope and her father have some magic powers; for instance, Penelope often hears her mother say things a bit before she actually says them. She doesn't get a lot of information about her background from the adults in her life, although Granny Elizabeth does give her a book that contains a recipe for a healing potion that she would like Penelope to make. Penelope tries to teach herself to fly, has conversations with a road that also helps her transport her grandmother, and meets another girl who is like her. Eventually, she decides to go to find her father, since she is mad at him for leaving and for recently sending sand instead of money. When she gets to the town where he is, she finds out the real reason he left, and tries to help him be able to return home.
Strengths: Despite the bad things that happen to Penelope (mother in hospital, father having left), this had a warm, cozy feel to it. I think a lot of elementary students really believe that one morning they will wake up with magic powers, and they would love a book about a a girl teaching herself to fly. I liked that Tom and Pete are good friends, and that the grandmother is there to take care of her.
Weaknesses: A little slow and long; there were a lot of good elements, but this might be more of an elementary book than a middle grade one.
What I really think: Debating. I love British books, but my students are less thrilled by them.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, November 25, 2019

MMGM- Tunnel of Bones

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.

Schwab, Victoria. Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2)
September 3rd 2019 by Scholastic Press
Library copy

Cassidy's parents are hosts of a ghost hunting show. After staying in Scotland for City of Ghosts, they are off to Paris. At first, it doesn't seem like a city that would have many ghosts, but when Cassidy tours the catacombs underneath the city, she and Jacob (her ghost best friend) are able to travel past the veil... and also raise a poltergeist. With phone in tech support from Lara, Cassidy starts to investigate Thomas Laurent, who seems to be haunting her. This, of course, takes her all over the city, and eventually has her asking the descendents of Thomas about his story so that they can send him on his way. The older woman won't talk to her, but Adele, who is about Cassidy's age, helps her to investigate after Cassidy tells her about her ghost hunting abilities. With the combined forces, Cassidy is able to solve the mystery, and is ready to set off on her next adventure. The question, however, remains: how long with Jacob be able to accompany her?
Strengths: The first book in the series has done very well, and was quite scary! The covers are great and appeal to my readers. Cassidy is an unusual character-- she gets to travel around and do cool things, but she doesn't have close friends because of this. The story line with Jacob is one I am looking forward to following.
Weaknesses: Not quite as scary as the first book. Thomas was not as much of a threat as the super creepy Raven in Red.
What I really think: Looking forward to the next book!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Paws vs. Claws (Queenie and Arthur #2)

Quinn, Spencer. Paws vs. Claws (Queenie and Arthur #2)
September 17th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Library copy

Things are still not quite right at the Blackberry Hill Inn. For one thing, the cow at the Doone's who provided Queenie's cream has gone missing, and when Bro goes to the dairy to find out what has happened, he finds that Jimmy, who is his age, has a black eye. Jimmy has different stories about how this happened, but when his father is found beaten unconscious in their house, the concern shifts to him. Did Jimmy beat his father? He stays with Harmony and Bro for the moment, and their mother is approached by a lawyer with a strange request-- Mr. Doone has said that in the event that something happens to him, Jimmy is to live at Blackberry Hill Inn, and all of the Doone assets will be cared for by them. There is an odd visitor to the inn, Ms. Pryor, who is interested in Catastrophe Falls, which is on Doone property. More and more clues pile up, but the police are mainly interested in locating Jimmy, who has run away. Can the mysteries all be solved by Queenie and Arthur, with a little help from Harmony and Bro?
Strengths: The essential mystery, with Mr. Doone being attacked and his property be sought after, is a good one. The inn is and interesting setting, and Harmony and Bro are great characters.
Weaknesses: This seemed to rely more heavily on the animals' perspectives, which didn't improve the story.
What I really think: I would LOVE to see Peter Abrahams do a straight murder mystery for tweens; I like his style of writing, but the topics are always a bit quirky. Maybe it's just my students who don't like quirky and love murders.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Superpower Dogs

Peters, Stephanie True. Halo: Disaster Response Dog
March 5th 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Library Copy

Halo is a Dutch Shepherd puppy who is chosen by successful dog trainer Cat because of her curiosity. The dog is trained to work with lots of distractions and be able to sniff out people during times of crisis and help rescue them. We follow Halo's training regimin and also get notes about times that rescue dogs were used historically, and also information about types of breeds used for this work, tips for how to be a dog handler, and some true stories interspersed with Halo's journey. Eventually, Halo is certified and goes to a disaster area with Cat to help save people.
Strengths: This is a great blend of a story with some factual information that my fans of dog books will find fascinating! If you have readers who like Klimo's Dog Diaries, these are a must!
Weaknesses: Even though these are technically 636.73, I think I will shelve them in the fiction section, or my readers won't pick them up.
What I really think: Glad I purchased. These will get checked out the minute they make it onto the new book shelf!

Peters, Stephanie True. Henry:Avalanche Rescue
June 4th 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Library Copy

This book follows Henry, who works with CARDA (Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association). It has full color, glossy stills from an IMAX movie, which makes me wonder if there will be three more books in this series.

This had a lot more factual information, but my readers will still enjoy the story.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Don't Tell the Nazis, The Nazi Sabeteurs

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Don't Tell the Nazis
December 3rd 2019 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Krystia lives in a small Ukranian village with her mother and her sister Maria in 1941. Her father passed away a few years ago, so she is glad to have uncles, aunts, and cousins in the area. Things are difficult, because the area has been under Soviet occupation, but there is some hope when the Germans liberate the town. Of course, even though there are a few nice Germans, like the man who takes over her father's blacksmith shop, there are a lot of Germans that are not. Maria's mother gets a job working for the local commandant in the big house in town, cleaning and helping with entertainment, and occasionally Krystia and her sister help out as well. The loss of life is horrendous at this period in time-- Krystia's uncle is killed, and shortly after, her cousin is as well. The Germans also call together groups in the town, then march them into the woods, shoot them, and push them into mass graves. All of this activity convinces Krystia to try to hide things from the Nazis, such as sending the family cow to live with an aunt in the country. She also gets involved with resistance work. It's very dangerous, since the Germans who have been displaced from other areas are given places to live in her town, but she feels strongly that she must try to work against the enemy. Eventually, the Jews in town are all sent to one neighborhood and cordoned off. Krystia gets food to her friends there whenever she can. When her friend Dolik's father is killed and his mother is sent away, her family takes him in, with two other people, and hides them under the stove in the house. Eventually, they are found out, and Krystia's mother is hung for her role in this. This just makes Krystia more determined to fight against the Nazis, and she joins an aunt who works for the resistance and lives in the forest.
Strengths: I love how Skrypuch bases her stories on those told by actual survivors, and how they cover facets of the Holocaust about which I have never read. The details of the privations are something I always find interesting; things like the small amounts of food people ate, how hard it was to get clothing, and how difficult is was to go about daily life with the Nazis watching every move are all things I think it's important for students to know. There are just enough characters to get a good feel for Krystia's extended family and her village, and it's interesting to see characters like the German mother and daughter who move to the town because they are displaced.
Weaknesses: The mother's death was depicted in a rather disturbing way. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but I didn't expect it due to the off camera nature of most of the other deaths.
What I really think: I am definitely purchasing this, but will try not to hand it to some of the more sensitive souls in my school because of the mother's death. Realistic, but a bit abrupt and shocking.

Seiple, Samantha. Nazi Saboteurs: Hitler's Secret Attack on America
December 3rd 2019 by Scholastic Nonfiction
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

During WWII, the Nazis planned sabotage attacks on a variety of US manufacturing, transportation and other locations that were crucial to the US war effort. Due to human error and frailty, these were never made. Seiple follows the plans of George Dasch and his compatriots in a tale that should have been made into a 1960s WWII comedy (yes, this was actually a thing, youngsters) starring Werner Klemperer, Roy Kinnear, and Arte Johnson.

Dasch was born in Germany, but lived for twenty years in the US. He was disgruntled; even though his parents sacrificed so that he could get a good education, the best work he could find in the US was as a waiter. When the war was percolating, he decided to return to Germany and find a way to make himself useful to the government because he preferred to support Germany rather than the US in the war. However, it didn't take long for him to realize that the Nazis were very evil. He continued with the plans, hoping to somehow use his German connections to better his situation in the US. The men who worked with him all had their own reasons for joining, but none of them trusted each other.

From the time the U Boat dropped them off on the coast, things went wrong. They managed to bury boxes of explosives, but left a trail of evidence everywhere. They were also spotted by a civil defense worker whom Dasch should have killed but didn't. They managed to take a train to New York City, where they stayed in luxury hotels and went on shopping sprees and had lunch at fancy places. Dasch realized that they weren't going to be able to go through with their sabotage, so tried to find a way to make things better for himself, which oddly did not involve just running off with the money to a small town in Iowa and spending his life there, which is what I would have done! The comedy of errors continued. Eventually, the entire group was captured and sent to trial, with six of the eight men involved being executed for being spies in a controversial move that denied them a civil trial. This was important when the US had to deal with the perpetrators of 9/11.

This is a fascinating book that covers a little known facet of WWII. It will appeal to a number of readers, and, like all of Seiple's books, is fast paced, short, and easy to read. I did get bogged down in the middle with the ways that all eight men were apprehended, but it was fun to read about their shopping sprees and antics in New York. An automat! We may have a lot of cool technology now, but I wish there were still automats! Definitely purchasing this title.

No, it's not a sign of the apocalypse, but I've worn jeans twice this week. Of course, when I wore them with a navy double breasted blazer, one student asked me why I was wearing a suit. So even when I wear jeans, it doesn't look like I'm wearing jeans.

This is my OSU camouflage. I don't follow the Buckeyes at all, but there's usually a game, right? Ooh. At noon tomorrow. I should go grocery shopping. There's never anyone in the store during a game. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Safe Harbour

Kilbourne, Christina. Safe Harbour
November 16th 2019 by Dundurn
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Harbour's father has sent her to Toronto to wait for him while he ties up some loose ends in Florida. The pair have been living on their boat since the violent death of Harbour's mother, and recently her father has refused to leave the boat, having Harbour do all of his errands on land. Now, she is living on crackers and canned tuna while living in a tent with her dog, Tuff. Her father has also warned her that the government is out to get the two of them, so she is wary of everyone. There are some people who are helpful, including a librarian who helps her get a card, and another girl on the streets, Lise, who usually stays at a shelter for teens. The two enjoy hanging out, and Lise is helpful when Harbour's credit card is declined and she no longer is able to pay for food. As winter approaches, the cold becomes more intense, but Harbour is bound and determined to wait for her father. When circumstances indicate that he will probably not make it, she finds some support from an unexpected source and learns some secrets about her past.
Strengths: This hit the sweet spot for problem novels for my students. Harbour's situation is dire, but she is determined to make the best of it, and this has a good dose of adventure in it, with a little danger as well. The inclusion of a dog always helps. The friendship between Harbour and Lise is a supportive one, and the ending is happy without being sappy. Enjoyed the Boxcar Children vibe of this very much.
Weaknesses: This is only available in paperback or e copy. Drat.
What I really think: I'll have to stick with Pyron's Stay for a similar story for my students, but I would definitely buy this if it were available in a hard cover or prebind.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Titles I didn't have the wherewithal to review properly.

Various situations are making it hard for me to focus (including my observation this morning!), so I'm giving myself permission to clean out my TBR without always writing reviews. I'm hoping to recalibrate over winter break and do a better job in 2020!

Titles that don't work in my library might be exactly what you need in yours! Take a look!

Denson, Bryan. Catching a Russian Spy: Agent Les Wiser Jr. and the Case of Aldrich Ames
January 21st 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

DEFINITELY BUYING! Just couldn't remember all of the intricate details to write a full review. My students LOVE Agent Kathy Puckett and the Case of the Unabomber, and I'm looking forward to this whole series.

"Aldrich H. "Rick" Ames was a 31-year veteran of the CIA. He was also a Russian spy. By the time Ames was arrested in 1994, he had betrayed the identities of dozens and caused the deaths of ten agents. The notorious KGB (and later the Russian intelligence service, SVR) paid him millions of dollars.

Agent Leslie G. “Les” Wiser, Jr. ran the FBI's Nightmover investigation tasked with uncovering a mole in the CIA. The team worked night and day to collect evidence—sneaking into Ames' home, hiding a homing beacon in his Jaguar, and installing a video camera above his desk. But the spy kept one step ahead, even after agents followed him to Bogota, Colombia. In a crazy twist, the FBI would score its biggest clue from inside Ames' garbage can.

At the time of his arrest on February 21, 1994, he had compromised more highly-classified CIA assets than any other agent in history.

First in the FBI Files, a true-crime series for middle grade readers that follows FBI agents behind the scenes as they work to keep Americans safe."

Swore, Wendy S. The Wish and the Peacock

February 4th 2020 by Shadow Mountain
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the details of Paige's family life on the farm, but I have a lot of books where families are losing their farms and don't really need another one, even though this is certainly a painful reality. The cover is also not my favorite. If Swore writes a book about a farm family that is having success, I would definitely purchase it.

"Paige’s favorite family tradition on the farm is the annual bonfire where everyone tosses in a stone and makes a wish. This time, Paige’s specific wish is one she’s not sure can come true: Don’t let Mom and Grandpa sell the farm.

When Paige’s younger brother finds a wounded peacock in the barn, Paige is sure it’s a sign that if she can keep the bird safe, she’ll keep the farm safe too. Peacocks, after all, are known to be fierce protectors of territory and family.

With determination and hard work, Paige tries to prove she can save the farm on her own, but when a real estate agent stakes a “For Sale” sign at the end of the driveway and threatens everything Paige loves, she calls on her younger brother and her best friends, Mateo and Kimana, to help battle this new menace. They may not have street smarts, but they have plenty of farm smarts, and some city lady who’s scared of spiders should be easy enough to drive away.

But even as the peacock gets healthier, the strain of holding all the pieces of Paige’s world together gets harder. Faced with a choice between home and family, she risks everything to make her wish come true, including the one thing that scares her the most: letting the farm go."
 Callender, Kacen. King and the Dragonflies
February 4th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

This covers lots of topics: grief over the death of a brother, racism in Louisiana, issues of friendship, and a struggling LGBTQIA+ character. It was a lot to process, and the book was understandably slow and sad. The main character also thinks that his deceased brother has turned into a dragonfly, hence the title.

Just not what I need right now, although I have a lot of students ask for LGBTQIA+ titles. I just wish they were happier choices, like Pancholy's The Best At It.

Cala, Caroline. Miss Impossible (Best Bad Babysitters #3)
February 4th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss.

Yes, students still babysit, and this series is so much fun. (Bad Babysitters really made my day!) Loved this, but Goodreads has a better synopsis at this point!
"Malia, Dot, and Bree are psyched to land their highest paying job yet—until they get to the house and realize they’re babysitting Zelda Hooper, Bree and Malia’s archnemesis since preschool. Babysitting: not just for babies, apparently. And it’s too much money to walk away from . . . so at least there are no diapers?

But all of the babysitting in the world couldn’t prepare the girls for their unusual new charge, and even though Zelda should be the one who’s embarrassed that three girls her age are getting paid to babysit her, she relishes the chance to tease them on her home turf. Is she really evil or just misunderstood? "
Hopkinson, Deborah. We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport.
February 4th 2020 by Scholastic Focus

E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The Holocaust Unit our 8th grade does requires a LOT of fiction titles, and I do have students who want to read nonfiction on the topic. This is certainly a fantastic book (everything Hopkinson does is great), but it's on the long side and I may not purchase. It would not see a lot of circulation, so I'll recommend students who need it request it from the public library.

50 Trailblazers of the 50 States: Celebrate the lives of inspiring people who paved the way from every state in America! 
Howard Megdal (Author), Abbey Lossing (Illustrator)
Published November 5th 2019 by Wide Eyed Editions
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

This was fascinating! You need to buy two copies-- one to put on the shelves, and one to take apart for a bulletin board with a US map. Lots of good information. I may pass, though, because my students always seem to want photographs (when available) of people, and I usually agree.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Talent for Trouble

Farrant, Natasha. A Talent for Trouble
November 19th 2019 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Netgalley

Alice lives in the English countryside in Cherry Grange, a house that has been in the family for a hundred years. After her mother's death, he father and aunt are unable to afford the house, so it is sold. The adults move to London, but Alice is sent to Stormy Loch, a Scottish boarding school, so she can stop obsessing about the past. This is fairly successful; she makes friends with Jesse (although they have a misunderstanding) and Fergus, and settles in fairly well, occasionally getting herself into scrapes. When she gets a mysterious message from her father Barney, she thinks she is supposed to meet him on the island of Nish at a castle there. She takes off with Jesse and Fergus, and has a fair amount of adventures on the way, some involving international jewel thieves, but things are a bit fraught when Fergus gets food poisoning. She comes to some realizations about her father, but realizes that good friends can make up for family.
Strengths: I'm glad to see that British children are still free to have adventures, and didn't need to get permission from the head master and be accompanied by a junior member of staff to run off across the countryside. The way that Jesse and Alice got off on the wrong foot was realistic. In my opinion, you can't really go wrong with setting a story in a boarding school in Scotland.
Weaknesses: Cherry Grange was delightful, and I would have liked to spend much more time there.
What I really think: Debating. The cover doesn't seem to go with the story; the castle needs to be in there somewhere. A good story, but perhaps a bit too British for my readers.

Colfer, Eoin. The Fowl Twins.
November 5th 2019 by Disney-Hyperion
Public library copy

Frequent Readers will know of my Fantasy Amnesia, a condition which renders me unable to remember plots of fantasy books. I struggle with it, and certainly the original series is a blur to me, since I read them so long ago (exception:  The Atlantis Complex 2010) My only memories are that things blew up at the beginning of The Arcti Incident, and I was never sure who the good guys and the bad guys were. Apparently, there is a movie on the way, so it's interesting to see a new book featuring Artemis' younger BROTHERS. (For a while I thought they were Artemis' sons, which had me looking up whether or not Geritol still exists. It does.)

This is certainly a worthy successor to the original series, and man, can Colfer write. I do have to say that the writing in this, while exquisite, is not easy to read. Vocabulary, as well as amazing sentence structure, makes this challenging. There was one paragraph that was one sentence. I'll have to wait and see if interest in the original series picks up before ordering this, but I did have a student ASK for The Supernaturalists (2004) yesterday!
Ms. Yingling

Monday, November 18, 2019

MMGM- Speed Demon and Getting to the moon

Bowen, Fred. Speed Demon
September 1st 2019 by Peachtree Publishing Company
Personal Copy

Tim has recently moved to town and is starting ninth grade at Hilton Prep. During gym class one day, his running ability catches the eye of the gym teacher, who tells the football coach about it. Before long, Tim is on the football team. His father is okay with it, but Tim is a little wary, knowing that his mother, who passed away three years ago, didn't like seeing what football injuries did to her patients. Tim figures that he is fast enough to avoid being tackled too heavily, and he enjoys the camaraderie of the football players, who invite him to eat lunch with them. Tim has made some other friends who are on the track team, so he is feeling better about his new school. When a teammate goes down on the field after a tackle, Tim starts to shy away from contact, blowing a play that costs his team the game. Still, he persists, even after he is tackled several times himself. After he is injured, however, he decides that he prefers running and tells his father and his teammates that he won't be back the next season. A note at the end of the book gives some history on football players who were also fast runners.
Strengths: Having main characters of middle grade fiction books be high school students is brilliant, and I wish there were more of these. Bowen's books are always full of plays, strategies, and other football details that I absolutely don't understand, which makes them perfect for my sports obsessed boys. They are short books, but pack a lot into them; sports, family difficulties, and school problems. Speed Demon is a quick read, and I really liked how Tim tried football, decided it just wasn't for him, and was allowed to chose another path without a lot of preaching one way or the other. The historical notes are always interesting as well.
Weaknesses: Tim's mother could have been alive but just opposed to him playing football!
What I really think: If your library's Matt Christopher collection is devolving into piles of dust, look into buying all of the Bowen books in prebind, or in hardcover when available. These are a necessity in all elementary and middle school libraries!

Johnson, Katherine. Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
July 2nd 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Born in 1918 (and just celebrated her 101st birthday as this is being written), Johnson's early life growing up in West Virginia was very different from what students today experience. Even though her family was well-to-do for the time, the treatment of African-Americans and the general privations of the Great Depression will be eye opening. She is unflinching in her descriptions of the racial oppression of the time, but also points out how devoted her parents were to making sure all of their children got the best education they could find, even moving the family to a university town while her father had to find work elsewhere. A talented and motivated student, Johnson studied theoretical math and French, taught and had a family, and eventually was able to move into work with the government as a computer. This biography gives the background of her life while showcasing her accomplishments in the fledgling space program.
Strengths: This was a quick, interesting read that reminded me a bit of the Childhood of Famous Americans series. It never let us forget how much a part of her life the math was, but it gave intriguing glimpses into the jobs and schooling available to African Americans in general, and also provided enough personal touches to make it easy to connect to the story. I'm curious as to whether there was a ghost writer involved in this, because the style is very approachably middle grade. I know Johnson is a talented woman, but math and writing are too very different fields.
Weaknesses: There are not many photographs; while I understand cameras were rare for many families until the 1950s, young readers may be curious.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this is far more interesting and readable than the Young Readers edition of Hidden Figures, which was very dry. This felt very much like Uhlberg's The Sounds of Silence: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents.

Collins, Michael. Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story
May 28th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published 1976)
Personal copy

"In time for the 50th anniversary of man's first landing on the moon, this re-release of Michael Collins's autobiography is a bold, sparkling testament to exploration and perseverance.
In this captivating account, space traveler Collins recalls his early days as an Air Force test pilot, his training at NASA, and his unparalleled experiences in orbit, including the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing. The final chapter to this autobiography is an exciting and convincing argument in favor of mankind's continued exploration of our universe."
This revised and updated version of Collins' memoir has its moments, but it also clearly reflects what was popular in middle grade literature at the time. For one thing, the only pictures are clustered in two central sections. They are on different, glossy paper in full color, which is nice, but I prefer the black and white pictures that are next to the things they illustrate. The narrative also bounces around a bit, and is generally lengthier and more philosophical than books coming out today. While it's nice to have a first hand account, I actually preferred Michael Collins: The Forgotten Astronaut. Still, a good addition to a nonfiction collection in middle school.

I know I've had this skirt since 2003, because one of my neighbor girls borrowed it for a wax museum project! Eventually, pleated skirts will come back into style, right? The L.L.Bean sweater makes me happy. I like color and pattern in my clothing!

The skirt is actually mid-calf length; I wore a knee length skirt on Friday and one of the teachers joked that I was "risque"!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Series Update: Whatever After and Nancy Drew Diaries

Series. Sigh. Such a love/hate relationship. It's great when children breeze through multiple books, but when I buy ten books and no one reads the last three (Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard), it makes me sad. Five books is the optimal length for a series. Thank you, Cassandra Clare  and Holly Black for limiting the Magisterium series, and to Jonathan Stroud for Lockwood and Co. There are some really long series, like Flanagan's Rangers' Apprentice or Delaney's Revenge of the Witch that remain popular for many books.

Then there are these series. I love them, I do, but it's time to wrap them up. Coco Simon's The Cupcake Diaries series is now 32 books long. I just can't buy all of those.

So far, my 6th graders readers keep the Whatever After series moving off the shelves, and since The Nancy Drew Diaries don't have to be read in order, I don't feel too bad about those, either. But the real reason I bought both of these? I have about four readers who were avidly anticipating them.

Mlynoswki, Sarah. Spill the Beans (Whatever After #13)
April 30th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Library Copy

Abby is still having friend problems with Frankie and Robin, and Jonah is worried that he's not good at soccer or anything else, so Abby takes them through the mirror to help cheer them both up. They land in Jonah's favorite story, Jack and the Beanstalk, and he's so determined not to mess up the story that he tells about the magic beans right away. Sure enough, Jack and his mother think buying the beans is a bad idea, so it's up to the siblings to somehow obtain them. They find that there are different versions of the story, and in the current one, the giants aren't nasty, which makes them feel bad about stealing from them. Can Abby and Jonah manage to make Jack's life better without destroying the giants?
Strengths: It's fun that Jonah gets to be in his favorite story, and that he gets to hang out with Jack and even help him. The moral dilemma with the giants is interesting. I would like to see a book just about Abby's life at home. I find the parents and her friends rather interesting (doesn't the grandmother show up as well?), and wish I could have more than one chapter per book about them.
Weaknesses: I was a bit traumatized when the children traded their dog for the magical beans!
What I really think: Let's round this off at 15 books, shall we. I'd love to see Mlynowski write another modern, magical realism book like the 2010 Gimme a Call.

Keene, Carolyn. Famous Mistakes (Nancy Drew Diaries #17)
Published January 15th 2019 by Aladdin
Library Copy

Nancy and her friends get involved with a comic, Brady Owens, whom Ned wants to interview for his podcast, Ned Talks. Owens has recently angered people by making a joke about violence, so there are protesters who don't want him to perform at the new Riverside Arts Complex. His room is trashed, and there's a fake Twitter account spewing more incendiary stuff, so Nancy and Ned start to investigate.
Strengths: Nice use of current social political movements and technology, and it was fun to see Ned having his own interests. Ned Talks. Snerk.
Weaknesses: I am a little conflicted/confused about Nancy's age in these. She appears to be about 11 on the covers, and I don't think she drives, but she's "dating" Ned. I'm glad that she has an older vibe, because students like to read about older teens, but let's make her solidly 18 and bring back a cool car for her!
What I really think: May stop at the next book, which has a cute cover, but am definitely stopping at book 20! My public library only buys these as e books now.

But look! There's also A Nancy Drew Christmas! I have a handful of girls who REALLY like Christmas stories like Taylor Garland's The Twelve Pets of Christmas. Interestingly, some of these fans are Somali American girls who wear hijabs, which supports my thought that Christmas can be just a US holiday and not a religious celebration.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

All-American Muslim Girl

Courtney, Nadie Jolie. All-American Muslim Girl
November 12th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ali's father is of Jordanian/Syrian descent, and her mother is Anglo-American, so she doesn't "look" Muslim. Fair, with reddish hair, she sometimes has to diffuse situations in public when her father comes under scrutiny. Even though her extended family embraces their background and her cousins speak Circassian and Arabic, Ali's family is areligious and not concerned with cultural traditions. While this makes it easy for Ali to "pass", she feels guilty about denying her heritage, and wishes that she could communicate more with her grandmother. In her sophomore year of high school, she's trying to establish herself at yet another new school, since she's moved around a lot with her college professor father's job. She has a bit of a crush on Jack Wells, and he seems to return it, which is a pleasant, giddy feeling. When she connects with Dua, who is raising money for Syrian refugees as part of a Muslim student group, Ali starts to question her own actions. Should she stand up to people who make comments about Muslims in her presence, since they don't suspect the comments affect her directly? She joins a Qu'ran study group and even experiments with wearing a hijab, but matters are complicated when she starts to date Jack. He's a great guy, but his father is an anti-Muslim political pundit. Not only that, but her own father doesn't really support her investigation into religion and culture. What face does Ali want to present to the world, and how will her decision affect her life?
Strengths: This is worth buying if only for Ali's interactions with an Islamophobic passenger on the airplane. Since this is YA, it's not as plot driven as what I usually read, but all of the characters are interesting. Ali's journey of figuring out her identity will ring true with many readers, and the romance with Jack is a bonus!
Weaknesses: For middle grade readers, some of the in-depth discussion on religion and politics will not be overly appealing-- it slows down the story. It's great for high school readers, but some younger readers seem to like more action.
What I really think: I will buy a copy of this for some of my older readers who like Sarah Dessen and Kacey West, although I rather wish it had a photo or drawing of Ali in a hijab on the cover. I have a lot of avid readers of Somali descent who don't often see hijabis on the covers of books and seem to really enjoy finding them!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan

DiCicco, Joan. The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan
October 1st 2019 by Lee & Low Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1877 to freed slaves, Garrett Morgan had an extraordinary life. Because he spent most of his life in Cleveland and invented (among other things) the stop light, he has long been on my radar as an excellent choice for biography projects, but there is not a lot of information about him. (He appears in Eight Black American Inventors (1972) by Robert C. Hayden, and is the main reason I still have the book in my library.) Morgan moved from Kentucky to Cincinnati in his teens, and moved to Cleveland because he heard opportunities were better there. He worked in clothing manufacture and distinguished himself repairing equipment. He later started his own clothing business with his wife (who was of Bavarian descent, unusual for the time), and developed a hood that fire fighters could wear to protect them from smoke and gas during fires. This was a very popular invention, but in order to sell and promote it, Morgan occasionally had to have white friends pretend to be the head of the business. This apparatus was modified and was used to protect soldiers from gas during WWI. He also developed a more effective stop light in 1923 that included the yellow light to warn people to slow down.
Strengths: This was a good picture book overview of Morgan's life, and covered more high points than many picture book biographies. There are also timelines, notes, and a bibliography at the back that are very helpful. I'd love to see Lee and Low put out other biographies on figures who have not been well covered in the past; #WNDB should also cover biographies beyond Harriet Tubman and Dred Scott!
Weaknesses: There's so much interesting stuff about Morgan, and he lived at an interesting time. Not the fault of this book that it didn't cover everything; elementary schools need biographies, too!
What I really think: I will purchase this, but I am still hoping for a longer biography on this famous inventor. I'd love to see information about his social activism as well.

So, that #30Wears thing? This is what I'm wearing today; the picture on the right is from 2010, when the sweater matched the new library carpet so well. I am wearing the same turtleneck and pin, albeit a different skirt! And somehow, this still seems like a "new"sweater!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kat Wolfe Takes the Case (Kat Wolfe #2)

St John, Lauren. Kat Wolfe Takes the Case (Kat Wolfe #2)
December 10th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edleweiss Plus

Kat and her friend Harper Lamb are out for a walk when they see an injured dog in a treacherous position on a cliff. Of course, Kat goes to the rescue, and manages to get the dog just before the cliff falls into the sea. The collapse also reveals a dinosaur skeleton that Harper's father investigates. A lot of people come to down to gawk, including a famous couple who ask Kat to watch their fractious Pomeranian. The dog Kat rescues is Pax, and her veterinarian mother patches the dog up and is trying to locate its owner through the information on its microchip. Bones are also found, and they belong to a man who disappeared a few years previously. Helped out by friend and former librarian Edith, they start to investigate the case. She and Harper also spend some time at her grandfather's estate, Hamilton Park,  where they enjoy the perks of living like the upper crust and also get some information about government officials. They meet the boy whose father is using fossils to cure a demanding patient, Kat babysits a snake, and there are a few other sub plots that all tie in with the illegal importing of animal products.
Strengths: There are a lot of things going on in this book, but they all tie together nicely. I think the author writes some adult books, but she does a good job at making a middle grade mystery that incorporates the more complex elements of mysteries for older readers. The setting is fun, especially Hamilton Park. I like that basic safety procedures are in place most of the time, but Kat and Harper still manage to get into some danger! This was just a very fun, enjoyable read.
Weaknesses: While I enjoyed the animal rights/environmental portion of this, the sub plot with the father and son who work with Chinese medicine didn't seem to fit into this very well.
What I really think: Love the British setting and the dark turns that these take, and the first one has proven to be very popular in my library.

This is not a Christmas sweater, although my brother bought it for my mother for Christmas in 1989. When I cleaned out my parents house six years ago, this surfaced, and I had to keep it. It has everything that was questionable about 1980s garb-- goose motif, oddly vibrant 100% acrylic yarn, shoulder pads, and a weird tunic length. The necklace may, in fact, be a Christmas tree ornament

But the sweater is not ugly. And it is not a Christmas sweater!