Monday, November 11, 2019

MMGM- The Ghost in Apartment 2R and Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

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.

Markell, Denis. The Ghost in Apartment 2R
November 12th 2019 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Danny's family lives in a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. The family has struggled financially, with his filmmaker father doing contract work, and in order for Jake and Danny to have their own space, Danny ends up with a closet bedroom. When Jake heads off to Cornell on a scholarship, Danny hopes to get his own room, but the parents decide to rent it out as an Air Hotel room. Danny's not happy about this, but there isn't much he can do. Odd things start to happen as his mother works to set up their new business, though-- the web site won't take the listing, customers have to call support to book, and the bed keeps falling apart. Even stranger are the sightings of ghostly faces in pictures and in the window. Danny consults his friend Gus, whose family runs a butcher shop, and his friend Nat, whose family has had a deli for over a hundred years. They agree with Danny that the room seems haunted, but aren't quite sure what to do. Suggestions come from Danny's grandmother, who thinks there is a dybbuk who needs to be understood to be dispatched. The kids do some research and find that a tragedy occurred in the apartment. After some parental dissent, Nat is able to stay overnight and help talk to the ghost, find out what is tying her to the room, and figure out a way to help her move on. 
Strengths: This is more of a love letter to Brooklyn than a scary ghost story, but it is quite fun nonetheless. The details of Danny's every day life will seem super exotic to my students, most of whom can't walk to stores, schools, or anything else! For some reason, the various Air Hotel guests were funny and fascinating, and reading about Nat's family deli was also enjoyable. The family's financial struggles were realistic; there are a lot of odd expenses associated with college, and I can't think of a single middle grade novel to address families hosting hotel guests! (In their own home. There are books about actual hotels and motels.) The ghost story is well constructed, and i thought the reason for the dybbuk to hang around was very sweet. Like this author's The Game Masters of Garden Place or Click Here to Start, this is a fun novel with just a little bit of the supernatural.
Weaknesses: I wish the ghost mystery had been scarier. When she possesed the hotel guests, it was more humorous than frightening. I liked the book a lot despite this, but I do have a LOT of students who want scary books, and struggle to find enough.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing; fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright will like the slight ghost mystery, and readers who want humorous books or books set in New York City will enjoy this one. 

Drimmer, Stephanie Warren. Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff
September 10th 2019 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

I love finding out about the origins of things we use every day, and so do my students. The Food Dudes series from Abdo and the Brands We Know series from Pilot are frequently checked out. This book is even better. It not only has brand name items, but also the back story on things like chess, pens, tools, and nail polish. There are fantastic timelines with fads in toys, foods, and table manners. 

Each topic (and there are a lot crammed in this almost 7" square book) is well-illustrated with lots of colors, and has small sidebars with additional information. It's all done in a humorous way, but is very informative. I appreciate especially that there is an index in the back-- some books like this don't have them! 

I learned several things from this, including the fact that the iron and thimble are no longer Monopoly playing pieces! The only omission that I saw (and this book covers more than one would expect, so this is just a personal peeve) is that Cabbage Patch Kids weren't on the Toy Fads timeline. I have very vivid memories of that bit of consumer frenzy.

This would be a fantastic book for get for a child to keep in the car for long trips-- reading these tidbits of information aloud would be fun for the whole family. It's paperback, so I might look for a prebind for the library, but certainly there are hours of fun contained within these pages. 

We finally have cold weather here; I gave up posting outfits because I never ended up wearing what I had put out. This is what I wear all winter-- Turtleneck, blazer, pleated skirt. It's easy to throw pants on under a skirt on my walk to work.

Again, I feel like this is the modern equivalent of the Victorian old lady in her high collared black dress, in amongst the Flappers, but I don't care. It's comfortable, professional, and gives me joy. Also, it's a timeless look, right? The pattern at the right is from the 1930s. 


  1. Ha! Love the clothing comparison. The more things change. . . And thanks for the two books, both sound worth finding, Karen.

  2. I am excited to read Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff. It really is fascinating to find the backstory on basic thing that we don't think much about. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Definitely a timeless look, and if you can't please yourself...I don't much see the point. ;)
    I like the sound of The Ghost in Apartment 2R in particular and enjoy silly/fun ghost stories so will keep my eyes open for it! I'll pass on the giveaway, though, since I've recently won several books and have gotten super behind on my reading list. Many thanks for the recommendation, and happy MMGM!


  4. These both sound great. I love books that are perfect for car trips with lots of varied info. My daughter lives in Brooklyn. A light ghost story set there sounds like fun. Thanks for the reviews.