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"!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Three books this time. I don't know how you get through so many books. I appreciate knowing about this. Thanks for the post.