Monday, December 30, 2019

MMGM- Running Wild and Escape This Book

Bledsoe, Lucy Jane. Running Wild
September 10th 2019 by Margaret Ferguson Books
Personal copy

Willa lives with her father and brothers Seth and Keith in the Alaskan wilderness. The nearest settlement is Fort Yukon, and they only have one neighbor. Their father, a high school teacher, moved the family after the death of the mother, and tells the children that humans are just animals, and need just food, clothing and shelter, not all of the fripperies of civilization. Willa, who loves to read and mourns the loss of the encyclopedia after her father burns it out of spite, disagrees. For a while, living off of the grid wasn't bad, but after their father alienates the one couple who are their neighbors and brings back whiskey from a supply run (after years of sobriety) and becomes increasingly abusive, Willa knows that it is time to leave. She gathers supplies and readies her brothers to raft to Fort Yukon. Of course, this is not an easy task, especially since her brother has made a pet of the wolf pup whose mother their father shot. The journey is fraught with peril, and when they arrive at Fort Yukon, it is not as easy to just phone their aunt in New York City as Willa suspected. Luckily, they get help from a family, who not only contacts their aunt, but helps make arrangements for the wolf pup to go to a sanctuary. The children are ready to go to the city with their aunt, but the pup runs away, and they go back to try to find him. Their aunt decides to stay in Fort Yukon for a while and eventually gets a job there, which gives the children the best of all worlds-- the Alaskan wilderness, but with actual adult support as well as friends and an education.
Strengths: Survival tales are always in demand, and this is a good choice to put with Lawrence's The Skeleton Tree, Hobb's Never Say Die and Carter's Not if I Save You First. Willa's reasons for undertaking the adventure are not frivolous, she is fairly well prepared, and she cares for her brothers as much as she can. I enjoyed particularly the view of life before the children run away, and also her interactions with Amelia and her family in Fort Yukon. Her aunt's move to Alaska was a charming addition as well.
Weaknesses: The dysfunctional grieving parent trope has now displaced my former least favorite thing (talking animals), but at least in this case the dysfunctional father affords the children an adventure, and is addressed at the end of the book.
What I really think: I really enjoyed this one. It was a good length, had a variety of appealing elements, and was fast paced. I am glad that Holiday House has gotten better at cover art-- I can see this title having great longevity in my library!

Doyle, Bill and Sax, Sarah. Escape This Book! Tombs of Egypt 
January 7th 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

This blog is devoted mainly to books suitable for school libraries, but on occasion publishers send me activity books. This makes me a little sad, because many of these are ones my daughters would have loved. Tombs of Egypt would have been great to have for the 6th grade unit on this period of history. We built a "pyramid" out of cardboard, and my older daughter's class had an assignment to research and make a model of the items that might have been in a Pharaoh's tomb. (I think this is the same year we made a cuneiform calendar out of dough as well!)

The point is: ancient history is fascinating to some middle school students, and activity books are a great way to get students off of their phones. This book starts with a mission-- an "escapologist" wants help with this Egyptian venture, and gives a variety of drawing assignments that will help along the way. It's a little uncomfortable for me, since there are instructions not only to draw things, but to poke holes through and crumple up pages, but that's part of the fun. There are activities, puzzles, or things to write on every page spread, and a lot of information about ancient Egypt along the way. Accompanied by the escapologist's gopher, Amicus, the reader takes the role of the oldest child of Tuthmosis I and has a variety of adventures, accompanied by historical background and facts about each one.

I will probably give this book to one of our 6th grade social studies teachers, and I can see it being used in some class activities, or maybe as a prize for a student who REALLY likes Ancient Egypt.

Ms. Yingling


  1. I am really drawnto Running Wild. I love to read books about people surviving in the wilder parts of Alaska. This one has a lot of danger. Will check this out, since most of what I've is for adults. If you haven't read Kristin Hannah's "The Great Alone," and you like strong women characters surviving Alaska, I highly recommend it. It is being made into a movie. I don't share activity books either, but Escape This Book sounds like an interesting way to learn ancient history. Happy Holidays!

  2. I'm always looking for good survival stories. Thanks for the recommendation and have a Happy New Year!

  3. The Egypt book sounds like it'd be a fun project to do with a class!

  4. I love survival stories and Running Wild sounds great. Thanks for telling me about it. Happy New Year.