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.

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