Friday, January 31, 2020

Winter in Wartime

Terlouw, Jan. Winter in Wartime
February 4th 2020 by NYRB Kids (first published 1972)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

 Michiel is the son of the mayor in a town in Holland during World War II which the Nazis have occupied. Food is scarce, and everyone is on edge. When Michiel's friend Dirk tries to steal identity cards from a distribution center in order to help the Resistance, he is caught. Michiel is supposed to deliver a letter from Dirk, but is leery of letting anyone else know what his friend's plans were, so opens the letter himself. Dirk has been taking care of a downed British pilot, Jack, and Michiel takes over, even though the extra food is difficult to obtain. Since the pilot is injured, he tells his sister Erica, who helps care for the man. Things become even more difficult when a German is found dead in the woods. The Gestapo round up ten men from the village, including Michiel's father, and when no one comes forth, his father is shot to death. This steels Michiel's determination to work with the Resistance, even though this work is very dangerous. Some missions go better than others, but the general feeling is that the Germans must be thwarted at every opportunity, no matter how great the cost.
Strengths: Like many older books about the Holocaust, this is a first hand account of  the deprivations of war. Like Shirley Hughes' Whistling in the Dark, there are details that one would know only from living through this time period. Wooden wheels on a bicycle! Wow.
Weaknesses: This does have a bit of an older feel to it, but it still moves quickly.
What I really think: There is a Follett Bound copy of this available, and I think I will purchase it. About half way through, I remembered that I had read this before, but I no longer have the 1976 copy (pictured at left) in my library; it was very worn out and started to smell. The new cover and fresh pages will help boost circulation!

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, January 30, 2020

96 Miles

Esplin, J.L. 96 Miles
February 11th 2020 by Starscape
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus'

John and Stew Lockwood are trying to get from their home in Nevada to the along state route 318 after the power has gone out. Their father, a survival prepper, had food and water saved up, but that was stolen, and their father is out on the road and can't get back home. They have friends at Brighton Rnach (a tortoise ranch!) 96 miles away, and the boys are determined to walk there. While they are getting water out of a toilet in a house, they run into Cleverly and Will, who are also on their own, having left their grandparents' house because their grandfather was giving the children all of their food. It's not easy to walk across the desert with few supplies, and the children also come across the men who stole the Lockwood's supplies. When Stew's health becomes imperiled, John and Cleverly take off in the night to get water from a reservoir, steal a truck, and are able to get a little farther. When they finally arrive at the ranch where Stew's friend Jess lives, her brother tries to chase the children off so they don't cut into their stores of food and medicine. Luckily, the power comes back on and more crises are averted, but the children are well aware that they need to be prepared in the future!
Strengths: This was a quick and compelling read for children who want adventure, survival, or light dystopian tales. It was scary but not overly so, and the evil people got their due. The relationships between the children were realistic, and the survival tips were top notch. There were even moments of humor that were appreciated.
Weaknesses: The end was a little abrupt, but I was oddly okay with that. It made the whole book a bit less terrifying.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing! I love the cover, and this is a great survival tale along the lines of Philbrick's The Big Dark or Walter's The Rule of Three.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nothing Ever Happens Here

Hagger-Holt, Sarah. Nothing Ever Happens Here
January 9th 2020 by Usborne Publishing
Copy provided by @davidowenauthor through Twitter

Izzy lives in a small town in Eastern England with her mother, father, older sister and much younger brother. She has a great friend in Grace, and the two are determined have a great year and try out for the school production of Guys and Dolls run by Izzy's favorite teacher, Mr. Thomas. They get good roles, but Izzy's life takes a strange turn when her father tells the family that he is transgender and will be transitioning so that his appearance matches how he feels. Older sister Megan is devastated, but Izzy just doesn't know quite what to think. Her parents are staying together, but her dad (now called Dee) will be changing. She tells Grace, who reacts badly, having picked up some unfortunate opinions at church. Izzy loves Dee and wants to be supportive, but also doesn't care for kids in her class making fun of her for something she cannot control. The family has some support, but when her father makes the news, Izzy realizes that trying to keep her situation a secret isn't helping. Grace's mother turns out to be more understanding that she had suspected, and she gets support from a boy at school, Sam, as well, and even Mr. Thomas is able to share something with her that makes her feel better about her situation. Dee goes on a local talk show to discuss his experiences, and even though he must confront Grace's minister, the program goes well. Even Megan comes around, and Izzy's life continues, her family situation just a small part of who she is and how she lives her life.
Strengths: Representation matters. There are children dealing with all sorts of family dynamics, and if we don't have books that show those experiences, some children will feel left out. Izzy's father's experience is not new or that unusual-- when my mother was teaching in a small town in North Eastern Ohio in the 1970s, she had a boy whose father transitioned. It seemed odd at the time, since no one I knew even used the term transgender, but the focus was still on helping the student adjust to change and continue on. Hagger-Holt does a good job at showing the challenges as well as the positives of the family dynamics, and paints a sympathetic portrait of a family going through changes. The fact that Izzy is also involved in a time consuming school activity like a play and is also having some friend drama makes this perfect.
Weaknesses: It would have been good to see Izzy involved in therapy of some sort. This book is not available through Follett in a hard cover, but is available in the US through Book Depository.
What I really think: For a British family, Izzy's is actually quite functional! Think of all of the Jacqueline Wilson books where the mothers are ineffectual and the fathers or boyfriends abusive, and Izzy's parents look fantastic. We need to see more books like this in the US. There are a few Britishisms that take some figuring out.

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid
April 9th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
Public library copy

Rowley has been so intrigued by Greg's journals that he decides to write one of his own, illustrated in a similar (but not quiet as well done) way. At first, he claims that he is going to write about himself, but then decides he will make it a biography about Greg so he doesn't get angry. He then recounts his interactions with Greg, every single one of which makes me hate Greg even more. He's mean to Rowley, lies to him, gets him in trouble with his parents, and is generally a complete and utter jerk. At one point, Greg creates a "special award" for Rowley to manipulate him into doing things he doesn't want to do! At the end, after the two get in a lot of trouble and Rowley's parents even stage an intervention and tell him it's time to find some new friends, Rowley states "me and Greg get on each other's nerves a LOT so I guess that just proves that we're BEST FRIENDS."

Um, no.

I've never been a huge fan of the Wimpy Kid books, mainly because they lack plot and character development. But students love them, and there's something to be said for a book that adults don't like but kids do. But this... goes over a line a bit. It makes me really worry that Rowley has some kind of learning challenge that is unidentified, and that Greg is purposefully using Rowley'd good nature to abuse him.

Anyone else worried? Am I just over thinking this? I don't usually complain about books-- good for Jeff Kinney for creating such an empire-- but this came off as very mean spirited.

My students haven't asked for this one, although they are avidly awaiting Wrecking Ball (which sounds like it might have an interesting plot), so I might not purchase this one.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Midnight on Strange Street

Ormsbee, K.E. Midnight on Strange Street
21 January 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
ARC provided by Young Adult books Central

The town of Callaway, Texas, is a refuge from the global war that is going on and affecting Los Angeles. Avery has moved there because it was where her mother grew up, and when her parents divorced, her father was too busy with everything to spend any time with her. She is enjoying her new home, which is on Cedar Street, with other kids. She, along with twins Bastian and Lola and Dani Hirsch, have formed a Glowboard team called the Sardines. Glow is something that was found in Callaway, and is a much sought after commodity with a variety of powers, including the power to make hoverboards. All four children have some sort of powers that seem tied to the Glow. Another former friend, Zander, used to Glowboard with them, but is now riding with the Grackles and the evil Mitchell Jensen, whose father has a Glowboard factory. When the children start getting messages from alien beings, telling them to meet at a particular time, they are worried, especially since the twins' brother, Nando, is working for the government and won't tell them many details. With the big Glow in the Park race coming up, the Sardines are concentrating on winning. This is especially important to Dani, whose high powered parents don't consider it a sport and would rather she swim instead. They make her a deal that she can continue to Glowboard if the Sardines win. The Sardines continue to practice, and also hone their abilities to read each other's minds and "tether" to each other while racing. They are warned to stay away from the race, and are being followed by shady operatives. Will they be able to win the race and keep things in Callaway on an even keel?

This is an action-packed speculative fiction book with a very realistic setting. The Global War is always on the horizon, especially since Avery's father and Nando are more involved in it, but it hasn't quite reached Callaway yet. The Glow, and its effects on the area and the children, is an interesting topic, and I would like to know more about how it is involved in the war. Certainly the best way to use it is to create hoverboards with the ability to race at lightning speeds.

There is a subplot with the evil Jensens that adds a frisson of danger, and we, as readers, can see the actions of the people stalking the teens, even though they are unaware. Readers who enjoyed Savage's The Truth About Martians, Winick's Hilo series, Haddix's Children of Exile or O'Donnell's Space Rocks will find this futuristic adventure to be a winner.

I really wanted to know more about the Global War and how the Glow was discovered. For something so powerful, it seemed vastly underutilized. There was a fair amount of backstory that felt like it was missing.

Monday, January 27, 2020

MMGM- A Galaxy of Sea Stars and To Fly Among the Stars

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.

Ferruolo, Jeanne Zulick. A Galaxy of Sea Stars
February 4th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Izzy loves livign in Seaside, Rhode Island, but there are challenges. Her father has returned from military duty in Afghanistan with some injuries as well as PTSD, and the family has had to leave their home and are now trying to run the local marina. Her mother is living on a nearby island, helping her family run a diner. Izzy is angry that her mother is not at home, and it doesn't help that her two best friends, Zelda and Piper, are acting strangely. They've all managed to get into the same homeroom, since they are all doing the school video announcements, but something is off. Izzy starts to spend more time with Sitara, whose father was a doctor and an interpreter in Afghanistan and had to leave because of threats to the family. Sitara wears a hijab to school and is forthright about it, even mentioning on the school announcements that if anyone has questions, she would rather be asked them to her face. This doesn't stop some of the jerky students from giving her a hard time about it. When this includes Zelda, Izzy is distraught that her best friend is so mean. Combined with her father's difficulties and the absence of her mother, she becomes overwrought, but eventually learns to take to heart the idea that her courage should be bigger than her fear.
Strengths: Friend drama is one of the most requested type of books in my library, and I love that while this is central to Izzy's story, there are a lot of other things as well. Sitara is a great character who has a realistic reaction to the ill treatment she receives (she asks to study at home for a while), but eventually goes back to stand up to the bullies. Izzy's interactions with her parents are realistic and handled well. The small, seaside town is a great setting.
Weaknesses: This was hard to get into; I felt like I had missed something and wondered if it were the second book in a series. Once I got a couple of chapters in, it moved right along.
What I really think: I'll purchase this, since Warga's Other Words For Home, Yang's Front Desk, and other titles with immigrant children are circulating very well in my library.

Siegal, Rebecca. To Fly Among the Stars
March 3rd 2020 by Scholastic Focus
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mauerer's Destination Moon: The Remarkable and Improbable Voyage of Apollo 11 or Sheinkin's Born to Fly, this is a fantastic, well researched overview of the various people involved in the early space program. It is perfect for students who want to do a National History Day project on a slightly different aspect of the space program, since there are so many people mentioned. While it was a fascinating read, it is also somewhat difficult to synopsize, since there is so much information. I'm definitely purchasing this one, but we'll let the publisher describe this for you. (And Scholastic Focus has been coming out with a lot of interesting nonfiction lately. Definitely keeping my eye on this imprint.)
"In the 1960s, locked in a heated race to launch the first human into space, the United States selected seven superstar test pilots and former military air fighters to NASA's astronaut class--the Mercury 7. The men endured grueling training and constant media attention for the honor of becoming America's first space heroes. But a group of 13 women--accomplished air racers, test pilots, and flight instructors--were enduring those same astronaut tests in secret, hoping to defy social norms and earn a spot among the stars.

With thrilling stories of aviation feats, frustrating tales of the fight against sexism, and historical photos, To Fly Among the Stars recounts an incredible era of US innovation, and the audacious hope of the women who took their fight for spaceflight all the way to Washington, DC.
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Beginners Welcome

Baldwin, Cindy. Beginners Welcome
February 11th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Annie Lee was very close to her father, so she is still reeling from his recent death. It doesn't help that odd things are happening, like whiskers left in the sink or radios that suddenly play his music, that make Annie and her mother feel like his ghost is still with them. It also doesn't help that his life insurance hasn't come through, and the two are struggling to get by on the mother's salary cleaning houses. Annie must stay by herself in the afternoons, and she is supposed to stay in the apartment, but she scooters around the town, eventually running into Ray, who plays piano. He offers to give her lessons, and the local beauty salon owner, Queenie, whose presence seems to give Annie a lot of solace. There is a piano competition offering cash prizes, and since it states "beginners welcome", Annie thinks it might be a way to help her and her mother. She makes some progress, but when Ray doesn't show up for a few days, she becomes concerned. It's a good thing she does, even though she gets in trouble when her mother finds out what she has been up to, but being part of a larger community helps both her and her mother navigate their new reality.
Strengths: This reminded me a little of Constance Greene's A Girl Called Al, in that it is sad but sweet. Annie and her mother struggle with putting food on the table and clothes on their backs, and there are not a whole lot of books (although there are a growing number) of books that show this reality. While both are grieving, the mother is doing her best to keep going, and Annie's forays into town also show a good way of coping.
Weaknesses: I never got a good feel for what was going on with the ghost of the father-- were both Annie and her mother imagining it?
What I really think: This is a slow paced book, and the cover is not very appealing, so I am debating purchase. There are a lot of books being published about people dealing with grief, and I only need so many in my library collection.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912: A Graphix Book

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912: A Graphix Book 
Georgia Ball (Adaptor), Lauren Tarshis, Scott Dawson (Illustrations)
February 4th 2020 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

George Calder is traveling on the Titanic with his widowed aunt and his younger sister. There are a lot of opportunities for adventure on board, when he can manage to sneak away from his cabin. When he hears that there is a mummy in the luggage area, he sneaks down in the dead of night, only to meet a creepy man with a scar who threatens him. When they are about to open the mummy case, the ship lurches and George manages to escape. Ship personnel tell his aunt to get everyone dressed and ready to go to the deck of the ship; she doesn't want to, but reluctantly agrees. George's sister is not in her bed, and George feels she must have heard him slip out and followed him. He and his aunt finally locate her, but she has gotten down into steerage to see Enzo, an Italian boy with whom she has made friends. George manages to make it to the deck with Enzo, his father, and his aunt and sister, but there is no room on the life boat for George. He and the father try to stick together, jumping off the ship before it capsizes and hanging onto doors to float in the cold sea before being rescued by the Carpathia.
Strengths: This has an excellent text to picture ratio for elementary students, and is sort of like gummy vitamins; it gets history into students who might not normally pick up historical fiction. Tarshis can tell a fast-paced, We Were There type story very effectively, and this is a good adaptation.
Weaknesses: The I Survived books are short enough as they are, so this seems sort of unnecessary.
What I really think: I guess the graphic novel is helpful in that it shows what the historical era looks like. I'll have to buy these, and they will be wildly popular, since both the I Survived books and graphic novels are constantly checked out.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 24, 2020

Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook #3- Sidelined

Palmer, Iva-Marie. Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook #3- Sidelined
August 6th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Gabby travels from Peach Tree to Seattle with her family for a vacation, but it ends disastrously. Not only is it gray and rainy the whole time, but she trips over a hot dog at a Mariners' game and breaks her arm! Back at school, she's upset she can't play baseball, but she distracts herself by running for class president, even if she has to possible run against her sort-of boyfriend, Johnny. Just when she's made peace with her bright orange cast, her father announces that he is in the running for a job writing for a newspaper... in Seattle! This is the worst possible news, and Gabby and her brother Peter stop their normal sibling quibbling to band together to convince their father and Louie, their stepmother, that this is not a good plan. They try to enlist their grandmother, who is only proud that her son has the opportunity. They take their father to his favorite restaurant, which is run by a family that relocated happily. They even nominate him for the Peach Tree citizen of the year award, and more misguidedly, send a letter of interest to an Atlanta newspaper in their father's name. This gets back to the Seattle paper and imperils his prospects. In the meantime, Gabby has had to figure out several things at school, and decide what she will do if her family does indeed move.

Gabby is a headstrong but well-meaning character who acts with typical middle school impetuosity. She and Peter are both convinced that leaving their hometown would be horrendous, and don't really think through what their father's job prospects are. They eventually realize that it is a rare opportunity, and regret their efforts at stopping the move. It's nice to see the two working together, and Gabby even opines that she had not really thought of her younger brother as an ally before.

There aren't as many details about sports in this volume, since Gabby has a broken arm, but that is a pity. I enjoyed details of her baseball and field hockey careers. I do enjoy her light romance; it's just the right touch for middle school.

Gabby's friends are a good supportive cast and try to help her with her plans, even if they think they are a little misguided. They also try to be positive when it looks like the move will happen. They are also supportive of her student body president run, and flesh out the story with realistic middle school activities and emotions.

Fans of the Dork Diaries will enjoy the plentiful illustrations, even if this story is much longer than those books. This is also perfect for readers who enjoy sports stories like Alex Morgan's The Kicks series and Aladdin's M!X books.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue (The Vanderbeekers #3)

Glaser, Karina Yan. The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue 
September 17th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Public library copy

The Vanderbeekers are excited because their mother is going to be interviewed by Perch magazine about her cookie business, which could lead to a lot more sales. When she is at another appointment when the health inspector visits, however, the kitchen fails the test due to all of the pets. Not wanting to dash their mother's dreams, the children keep up with preparing the house for the interview, getting free fuchsia paint for the living room and rescheduling another inspection without telling their parents. Meanwhile, more and more animals are showing up at their door, from dogs to kittens to chickens! There's not much time to get everything situated, especially since the parents seem oddly uninvolved in the whole process and an uncle takes the time away from preparations to build a tree house in the back yard. When the kitchen fails another inspection and the mother realizes she's been operating illegally for years, she wisely decides to brush up on her accounting skills. This isn't good enough for the children, who look into inexpensive places to rent. They actually find one, and their extended circle of family and friends help the mother put together a cat and cookie cafe.
Strengths: This is a great series for fans of The Penderwicks or of older titles like Enright's The Melendy Family. The children are given a lot of freedom to do whatever they want, there are animals and activities, and interesting and supportive neighbors. There is even a bit of mystery with the animals that are showing up on their doorstep.
Weaknesses: There is a lot of suspension of disbelief that is needed for these. The children do a lot of misguided things without their parents' consent, none of which end particularly well. You'd think by this time, the parents would have learned.
What I really think: I finally deaccessioned The Penderwicks because no one ever could be persuaded to check the first two books out, so I don't think I will purchase these. I do keep reading them because I enjoy them a bit, and in case this sort of family centered fiction is ever in demand in my library.

That said, the first book was chosen for our 6th grade Battle of the Books, so I now have six paperbacks that were purchased with grant  money. We'll see how the students like them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Catherine's War

Billet, Julia and Fauvel, Claire. Catherine's War
January 21st 2020 by HarperAlley
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Catherine is living at the Sèvres Children's Home since both of her parents were taken. It has a progessive school, and children are given some freedom in what the want to study. Catherine loves photography, and thanks to an instructor, Penguin, has a good camera and knows how to develop pictures in the darkroom. The staff is vigilant about protecting the Jewish students from the Nazis even having them change their names to be on the safe side, but eventually it is necessary for them to leave. Catherine has another student, Alice, under her care, and the two go to a covent school, where Catherine takes first communion. She also meets a young photographer, Étienne, in the village, and is quite fond of him. Soon, though she and Alice end up in the country at a modest farm. Their teacher is rather snotty about the lack of education in the family, but the girls thrive, enjoying the security, good food, and gentle care they get. Since Catherine is older than many of the students, she starts to teach some of them. This is helpful when she and Alice must move again, this time to an orphanage. Catherine continues to take photographs of the people she encounters. When the orphanage is evacuated, Alice chooses to stay with a younger boy to help him out, and Catherine ends up with a young wife of a soldier. Eventually, the war ends and Catherine returns to Paris, only to find out that her parents have not returned and their apartment has been trashed. She find the photographer, Étienne, and is about to contact Alice as well.

While there are lots of books about people in concentration camps, there are fewer about people hiding from the Nazis and even fewer about children hiding in plain sight, under assumed identities. This graphic novel is based on the experiences of the author's mother, and seeing the number of people who were willing to help children is a testament to the good of humanity!

Catherine's interest in photography helps to give more dimension to her character; it's hard for my students to grasp that the vast majority of the people displaced by the Holocaust came from comfortable, middle class backgrounds similar to their own. The drawings depict many of the photographs taken, some replicas of actual photographs taken by the author's mother.

The drawings are very lovely, and the brown and gray color palette, with touches of green and pink, seem very appropriate to the time period. Historical graphic novels are helpful because they show so many details about life at the time-- clothing, buildings, cars, etc.

I would have liked to have seen Catherine's life before the Sèvres Children's Home, but this is a nice overview of what happened to the character during the majority of the war, as well as what happened afterwards.

This is a somewhat longer graphic novel than books like Holm's Sunny Side Up, and the print is somewhat smaller, but this makes it a great selection for readers who want more details about this historical period and who have enjoyed Jablonski's Resistance or Robbins' Lily Renée, Escape Artist. Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Wild and Chance

Zadoff, Allan. Wild and Chance
April 28th 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Our main character wakes up when the yacht she is on explodes and people are chasing her. She makes it to land, and eventually meets Chance, a boy who is in a group home because his mother is addicted to drugs. He offers to help Wild, who turns out to be a dog. Not just any dog, but a genetically modified super dog who can talk to humans with the proper collar and corresponding ear bud, can heal quickly, and has great physical prowess. Wild has vague memories of a little girl whom she loved, and is trying to remember enough to get home, but in the meantime, people are out to get her! Chance takes her to a pet store to buy a leash, and a groomer there identifies the dog as "Honey", but the two can't stay long before someone is after them. Myron the groomer had a case Wild had asked him to hold, and also mentions "Maelstrom". Chance and Wild are joined by Junebug, a hacker who helps them locate a GPS chip in Wild's hip that needs to be removed. Junebug has stolen her father's car, so police are after her, but she doesn't think it's animal control who are after Wild. She lets them know that there was a Dr. Pao who developed a BreedX, and the group tries to locate her to find out what she had to do with Wild's development. They can't stay long, and Junebug says they should go to her father's cabin and try to lay low. There's a lot more going on with Wild, though, and there are a lot of people who are invested in her abilities. Will she be able to find her family? Or is she the type of dog who is destined for greater, or worse, things?
Strengths: Sorry to be so vague-- there are a lot of nice twists and turns that I didn't see coming and I don't want to ruin. Suffice it to say that Junebug is not quite who she appears to be! This book was written in a very fast-paced, pell-mell style that was very much like watching a movie. I think that students who like spy books, dog books, or a lot of action and adventure will get into this one immediately. There's just not a good place to put the book down for about five chapters-- you just need to know what happens next. That is what my students want, but it's hard to find. There's also a lot of science, some philosophy about the idea of home and friends, and a plethora of villains! Top notch stuff. There could possibly be a sequel. I hope so!
Weaknesses: The beginning is a bit confusing-- Wild is not identified as a dog for a bit. A few sentences about who she was would help struggling readers get their bearings before being swept up in the action.
What I really think: I loved Zadoff's 2009 Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have, and even picked up his Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin (2007), but his other titles have been a bit too Young Adult for my crowd. Wild and Chance is a perfect middle grade adventure book with a wildly appealing cover. I'm glad to see this author delving into middle grade and will definitely purchase this while eagerly awaiting (hopefully) the next installment.
Ms. Yingling

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Lee, Lyla. Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business
January 14th 2020 by Aladdin Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mindy and her father move from California to Florida for his work, and it's a bit of an adjustment. Mindy hopes that now that they have a house, she can finally get a dog, but her father doesn't think she is quite old enough. Mindy is very apprehensive about starting second grade at a new school, but she manages to make friends with Sally early on. The other children think that Mindy's lunch of Korean food, including seaweed snacks, is rather odd, but when they try the snacks, most of the students think they are yummy. Sally points out that Mindy could trade for other students' snacks, and this works well, but there are too many snacks to eat at lunch. Sally then suggests that Mindy sell the snacks, and Mindy thinks that this is a way to earn some money that she can put towards a dog. She thinks that a dog will help her father be less sad about the death of her mother before the move. Right away, the teacher finds out about the business venture and shuts it down, but is understanding that Mindy was just trying to make friends, and didn't know the rules. Mindy starts to feel more comfortable in her new school, and hopes that someday soon she can get a puppy!
Strengths: My gold standard for early reader chapter books is Carolyn Hayward's B is for Betsy, the first chapter book I ever read. This had a similar vibe, and I would have loved it is first grade. Reading about other children's lives always fascinated me, and books like Kashmira Sheth's Nina Soni or Debbi Michiko Florence's Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen would have utterly fascinated me. This had great illustrations, lovely, nice sized font, and a story that most children can relate to. Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade comes out January 14th as well.
Weaknesses: Her father drove her to a store an hour from home to buy snacks? That was the only thing I didn't believe! (And since I posted this on Goodreads, another reader assured me that her own family would indeed drive that far to get foods at an ethnic grocery store, so I no longer doubt that! My own mother disliked going to the grocery store so much that she would freeze gallons of milk in the winter so we didn't have to go out! Every family is different.)
What I really think: This is too young for my students, but I would love to see similar realistic middle grade novels with cultural connections!
Ms. Yingling

Monday, January 20, 2020

MMGM- Susan B. Anthony

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.

Kanefield, Teri. Susan B. Anthony (The Making of America #4)
March 26th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Why we still need biographies of first wave feminists: "A married woman taking her husband's name reflected that under legal principle of coverture she no longer had a separate legal existence of her own." (page 31) Women changing their names is one of my pet peeves, and now I have solid proof as to why!

Born in 1820, Anthony's life was so much different than women's lives today. She had to struggle to get an education, even though her family was slightly more supportive and expected less household work from her. She was able to eventually obtain a good teaching position in a school (as opposed to being a governess), but had to quit in order to take care of a family member. She became active in the abolitionist movement, and eventually met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she would work for over fifty years. This friendship helped focus her energies into getting the vote for women. In 1888, (forty years after Seneca Falls) she helped form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and led the group until 1900. It's amazing that she was able to travel and speak as much as she did; it's hard to imagine the obstacles she must have faced.

The best part of this book is that Anthony's life is put into perspective with discussion of the times in which she lived. Other famous women's rights activists are mentioned, such as  Amelia Bloomer and Lucy Stoner, and there ware sidebars on daily life conditions as well as social movements. The notes, timeline, and bibliography at the end are very thorough. Rare period photos are accompanied by drawings and newspaper illustrations from that same time.

The intersectionality of the early women's movement is notable; many suffragettes started their activism as abolitionists, and many were also entrenched in the temperance movement, which was concerned for women in poverty. Since the suffrage movement was active both before and after the civil war, there was a lot of discussion as to whether it was more important for African American men to get the vote before women, and at what point African American women would get the vote. it took 70 years for the 19th Amendment to be formed and passed; what seems like such a simple matter now was tremendously difficult and convoluted, and Kanefield does a good job at showing how Anthony played a role in this process while highlighting missed opportunities.

I would like to see biographies of lesser known early feminists like Carrie Chapman Catt, since there are a number of Anthony biographies already, but until we have them, I'm glad to see a woman represented in The Making of America series.

Ms. Yingling

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Best Friend Plan and Wild Bird

Calmenson, Stephanie and Cole, Joanna.
The Best Friend Plan: The Adventures of Allie and Amy 1
January 21st 2020 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Allie and Amy live in an apartment building in the city, and when summer vacation starts, they are ready to spend every moment together, working on their list of things to do. When Allie finds out she is going to go to Camp Merry Moose but Amy is not, the two do everything on their list in one day. They frequently run into Marvin, a boy from their class, and also visit Madame Lulu to get their fortunes told. Luckily, a place opens up in the camp for Amy, too, and when the friends get on the bus to go to camp, they find out that Marvin is going as well, and Madame Lulu is a counselor. They make a list of things they want to do at camp, and have a great time there.
Strengths: Like Simon and Schuster's M!X and MAX! imprints, this QUIX book has a fun, fast paced story, appealing characters, and simple plot. Allie and Amy don't have to deal with tragedies or family drama; they just get to be average kids in a fairly privileged world. This is perfect for beginning readers who are ready for a slightly longer book.
Weaknesses: Too young for my demographic.
What I really think: This seemed really familiar; it was published in a different version in 1995 called The Gator Girls, and I am almost positive my daughters had a copy! This imprint is bringing back a few titles from that era, including Robert Quackenbush's Miss Mallard mysteries. I won't purchase, but these are great titles for elementary libraries.

Van Draanen, Wendelin. Wild Bird
September 5th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Public library copy

Wren had a difficult time when her family moved from the city to the suburbs. A really difficult time. She couldn't make friends, and when she makes friends with the spoiled, louche Meadow, her life slowly spirals out of control. She smokes pot and shoplifts, but then she gets involved with the rakish Nico and gets involved in even more sordid activities. Finally, he supportive if busy family have enough and send her to a wilderness survival camp meant to help troubled youth get in touch with the issues that made them run off the rails. In typical fashion, Wren at first balks at the idea, but realizes that her relative comfort in the dessert depends on listening to the counselors and learning skills that will make her time there less painful. In doing so, she comes to realize that the way she conducted her life wasn't making her happy. Told in flashbacks interspersed with Wren's time in the dessert, we see both how Wren's life got off track, and how she got it back on track.
Strengths: This was so well done! I don't know how I missed it. Wren didn't come across as a brat, even though she certainly acted that way, and the transition from home life to the dessert made sense. I appreciated that her activities that got her in troubled were circumspect enough that I can include this in a middle school collection. None of what she does seems like a good idea! This is a great choice for middle school readers who want to read about a life that is really worse than theirs!
Weaknesses: Nothing really surprising in the way the story unfolds.
What I really think: April Henry's 2006 Shock Point, Strasser's 2007 Boot Camp or Schrefer's 2009 The School for Dangerous Girls.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Slip of a Girl

Giff, Patricia Reilly. A Slip of a Girl
August 13th 2019 by Holiday House
Personal Copy

In this novel in verse, we find Anna and her family struggling to stay alive in Ireland in the 1890s. They must pay the English lord more money in rent than they can afford. While they are growing some potatoes, the crops are not doing terribly well. Anna's brothers take off for the US, her mother dies, and her sister eventually goes to the US as well. Anna is left with her father and her developmentally disabled sister Nuala. When she throws a rock at the lord's house and breaks a window, Anna and her father are both hauled off to jail. Anna escapes, and takes off across the countryside with Nuala, hoping to locate an aunt. She does, and the aunt takes in the two girls. She takes a liking to Nuala, who blossoms under her care, and is glad to have Anna's help, even teaching her to weave. Eventually, when the Irish Land Wars come to her area, Anna goes home to help her father stand firm against the tyranny of the English.
Strengths: Giff has a passion for certain areas of history, and she's one of the few authors who writes about events in Ireland. I love that photographs of Irish homes and people being turned out of them were included. Anna is a great character who is faced with overwhelming odds but doesn't give up. This was a quick read, and I enjoyed it.
Weaknesses: I wish this weren't in verse. I could have used a lot more information about this historical event.
What I really think: This might do well with my students who love The War That Saved My Life, which one of the fifth grade teachers must do as a read aloud, and I must say I learned some Irish history from reading this!

Weir, Andy and Andersen, Sarah. Cheshire Crossing
Published July 16th 2019 by Ten Speed Press
Public Library Copy

Dorothy Gale, Alice Liddell and Wendy Darling all are consigned to an asylum in 1910 due to their dissociative psychosis, and have a nanny to take care of them as well as Dr. Rutherford. Alice is quite angry, but the other two have been in and out of places since their families learned that they think they can travel to other dimensions. Luckily, the asylum turns out to be a research facility where they hope to find out more about the girls' abilities. Alice still isn't having it, and sets off a series of travels where the girls slowly acquire each others' abilities and go into each other's worlds. This causes the Wicked Witch of the West (a younger, non-Edith Hamilton version) to meet an attractive Captain Hook, and Alice to have to deal with an older adolescent Peter Pan who is VERY interested in her. They also manage to get their nanny liquefied, but Dr. Rutherford manages to bring her back by adding a spoonful of sugar to her essence! Things are not tied up at the end, and there could well be more adventures.
Strengths: This was a super fun graphic novel mash up of the three stories, with a bonus entry for the nanny. Andersen's (Sarah Scribbles) is quite good, and the whole idea of the three being in an asylum together is clever.
Weaknesses: It's 1910. Why is Wendy wearing joggers and a belly shirt? The other two have on dresses and pinafores, so I was just confused. Also, I requested this thinking it was a novel, so was a little disappointed.
What I really think: The target demographic for this is probably adults, just because my students are no long familiar with The Wizard of Oz or Alice. Not even sure about Peter Pan any more. My daughter, who is the same age as Andersen, would love this. There are a few bleeped out curse words (also not in keeping with the time period!), and the age progressed Peter is pretty randy, but it would be okay in a middle school. I think I'll pass, although will recommend this to the high school librarians.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, January 17, 2020

Home Games

Markovits, Benjamin. Home Games
February 4th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ben doesn't have a lot of friends in New York City, but he does hang out with a neighbor, Jake, who goes to the same expensive private school that he does. Ben's parents are on edge, and his father is frequently traveling. When his father gets a position in London, his mother decides not to join him because she and Ben want to stay in the city. However, she decides to spend the summer in Texas with her mother, which confuses Ben. It's even harder to make friends in this new environment, especially when school starts and his mother gets a job teaching in his school. He does befriend Mabley, who is friendly to everyone, but often chooses to eat his lunch at odd places on the school grounds. His mother starts dating his social studies teacher, and he rarely gets to visit his father. Ben joins the basketball team as a manager, and when one of the other players is injured, gets to dub in during a game. Even though he does get to see his father, it is clear that his mother has made a new life in Texas, and Ben tries his best to create one for himself as well.
Strengths: I am always looking for realistic fiction that has some sports component to it, and it's refreshing that Ben moves to a new city and his house isn't haunted! The struggles he has fitting in to a new environment are realistic, and it was interesting to see his mother working at the same school. Mobley and the other students are nice enough, and when Ben makes an effort, he does manage to make some friends.
Weaknesses: This was slow paced and lacked an interesting plot line.
What I really think: The cover and description made this seem so appealing, but I had trouble getting into the book. This author has done a variety of fiction for adults, and perhaps struggled to understand what appeals to middle grade audiences. I won't be buying this for my library, but take a look at it for yourself before deciding if the title is right for you.
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Nessie Quest

Savage, Melissa. Nessie Quest
January 14th 2020 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley

Ada Ru is NOT happy when her parents tell her she isn't able to stay at home with her best friend in Denver during summer break, and it's not because they are going to Disney World. Instead, the father is teaching a photography class in Scotland, and Ada and her mother are going along so they can visit the father's family, Uncle Clive, Aunt Isla, and annoying cousin Briony. The university housing is in a creepy old building with an even creepier caretaker, Euna Begbie. Since the town where they are living is small and located on a loch where Nessie has been spotted in the past, it's at least a little bit interesting to wander around. She manages to meet Hamish Bean Tibby, Hammy Bean to his friends, who works with his grandmother giving boat tours of the loch to tourists. He's also home schooled by Ms. Begbie because he is blind. She also meets Dax, another American spending the summer in Scotland. Dax is cute and angsty, and carries his guitar everywhere with him. The three team up to help Hammy with the Nessie Race and also in publishing his Nessie Juggernaut, which his a bit outdated, so they also work on creating a podcast with the same information. Ada gets to meet lots of locals while interviewing various residents about their Nessie experiments, and comes to think that Scotland is not too bad. There is some friend drama with Dax (involving Briony) and Hammy (involving secrets about his parents), as well as some suspense when Hammy makes some bad decisions when upping the level of his investigations. In the end, however, devotion to cryptozoology wins the day, and Ada is sad to be leaving her summer location.
Strengths: Scotland! This is a much less stressful vacation to that locale than Schwab's City of Ghosts, and who doesn't want to spend a summer lakeside? The inclusion of a sight impaired character and explanations about how he does certain tasks was interesting. The possible romance with Dax is fun, and the drama with Briony on point. The local restaurants are the real star for some of this for me, but younger readers will love the freedom to wander that the characters have. I don't have a lot of students interested in cryptids, but there are usually a few, so this is a good title for the long haul.
Weaknesses: I'm never fond of children who don't want to go to fantastic places, so Ada really irritate me during the beginning of the book. There's also a bit more dialect than I enjoy reading.
What I really think: While I enjoyed this one, I fear it won't be a big circulator. I will probably purchase, justifying this as a title readers might pick up after reading Martin's fantastic Hoax for Hire.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Marks, Janae. From the Desk of Zoe Washington
January 14th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Zoe lives in Boston with her mother and stepfather. Her best friend, Trevor, lives next door, but as summer starts, Zoe is still smarting from comments she heard Trevor make to his sporty friends about her, so she doesn't want to hang out with him. Luckily, her mother has a friend who runs a bakery, and Zoe has the opportunity to spend time there honing her skills so she can try out for a kids' version of a baking reality show. Unfortunately, she spends more of her time folding boxes than scooping batter, since the other workers don't trust a kid. When a letter arrives for her and turns out to be from the father she has never met because he is in prison, Zoe is curious and writes back. Her father seems very nice, and she slowly gets some more information about the murder he is accused of committing. Sure that her father is telling the truth that he didn't do it, she starts to investigate some leads, going with Trevor to find a women who remembers meeting him when she posted an ad on Craigslist. Her grandmother has been helping Zoe get the letters, but eventually the two have to come clean to her mom. Armed with her evidence, the family goes to Project Innocence to try to get her father released.
Strengths: My readers will be very happy to find a book about an African American girl who is solidly middle class. I've been looking for books like this for years, and have been glad to see titles like Love Like Sky, Blended, and Some Places More than Others that don't take place in the inner city. Baking books do fairly well, so readers will enjoy trying out some of Zoe's recipes for Froot Loop cupcakes, and the details about having a parent in prison are thought provoking.
Weaknesses: Several things seemed far fetched to me, although they won't to younger readers. There are a lot more boy-girl best friends in books than in real life, the internship at the bakery seemed unlikely, although the way Zoe was received was realistic. It was surprising that the grandmother helped her keep information from her parents, and that Zoe has a lot of luck in her investigations.
What I really think: This has a fantastic cover, so I would purchase it just for that. It's a solid story, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what else Ms. Marks writes, but it wasn't as gripping as Front Desk. (The publisher's description compares it to this.)
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Race to the Sun

Roanhorse, Rebecca. Race to the Sun
January 14th 2020 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nizhoni Begay struggles a bit. She manages to embarrass herself on the basketball court, watches out for her younger brother Mac because her mother left several years previously, and has to deal with her father's long work hours. When he is approached by Mr. Charles, who wants him to relocate the family to Tulsa, Nizhoni  is concerned about moving but also because Mr. Charles is a monster! A statue of a toad, Mr. Yazzie, that she has in her room comes to life and reinforces this information, and is very helpful. Her father doesn't believe that Mr. Charles wants to kill her because she can see monsters, so when she and her brother are called to the office at school, Nizhoni decides to run away, getting help from her best friend Davery (who helpfully has a credit card!). Mr. Yazzie sends them off to try to find Spider woman, who can help get their father back from Mr. Charles. In order to request a map from her, there is a quest to get four jewels from the Four Sacred Mountains, as described in a song that a Diné Holy Person has given them. When they finally meet the Spider Woman, she tells them that a map is not needed, but Nizhoni  still needs to travel the path to the sun in order to free her father. Along the way, there are trials and tribulations, she briefly loses both Mac and Davery, and she finds someone from her past who is able to help. In the end, will her skills and powers as a Hero Twin be enough to send Mr. Charles and his monsters back and keep the world safe?
Strengths: This was much easier to follow than most fantasy books, and had a lot of action and adventure. The inclusion of Navajo mythology was well done, and Riordan's note that "mythology" means tales of gods and goddesses and does NOT necessarily mean false or untrue stories was very helpful. Nizhoni learns more about her culture from a variety of sources, embraces her role as a hero, and undertakes her quest with good humor. This was definitely one of the better books from this imprint; not a surprise, given the author's award winning background.
Weaknesses: I could have done without Nizhoni's problems in school; they didn't really add much to the story and felt as if they were included because all middle grade novels now must included problems.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, but I wish that the Rick Riordan Presents books would be stand alones and not series. If they are series, it would be nice to have trilogies. I spend a lot of money on later books in a series that very few students read. I can't imagine they sell terribly well.

Monday, January 13, 2020

MMGM- Pixie Pushes On and Rise Up

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.

Bundy, Tamara. Pixie Pushes On
January 14th 2020 by Penguin/Paulsen
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Pixie has moved with her father and sister Charlotte to her grandparents' farm because life is hard in 1942. Her mother has passed away, and her sister is in the hospital with polio, which has fortunately attacked her legs and not her lungs. Her neighbor, Ricky, also has difficulties in his family; his father has left, his brother is in the army, and his mother is not coping well. Pixie misses her sister and feels responsible for her illness, but has to continue to do her chores on the farm and go to school. Her grandfather gets a runt lamb for Pixie to raise. She names him Buster even though she has been warned he is not a pet, and puts a lot of effort into bringing him back to health. Pixie doesn't get along well with Bertha, the daughter of the local general store owner, but the two get to know each other a bit and slowly become friends. As the war progresses, there are events that impact life on the farm, but by the end of the book, the war is over, Charlotte is home, and Pixie is able to "push on".
Strengths: This had excellent details about daily life in a rural setting during the war, and the feel of a somewhat older title; I kept thinking of Lowry's Autumn Street when I read this. Life just seemed to take more effort back then, but people were more engaged in their communities. There are a few books that touch on the polio epidemic, but not many, so this was a good addition. (My mother had a slight case when young and was left with a heart murmur.) It's also good to see stories set on farms, since that is something fewer and fewer young people experience. It was realistic that the children in this book experienced loss of family members, but I liked how the grief was dealt with. The other book this reminded me of was The House Without a Christmas Tree.
Weaknesses: This was rather slow paced, so isn't for all readers.
What I really think: I will purchase this for both our WWII and Decades (1930s-1970s) project, and will definitely hand to the growing number of readers asking for historical fiction.

Li, Amanda and Blackwell, Amy (Illustrator). Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories.
January 14th 2020 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

This beautifully illustrated collection of biographies of young people who made a difference covers a wide range of people from different parts of the world and periods of history, although has a large number of people who are in the news now, like Greta Thunberg. In addition to the biographies, each section gives advice on how young people can participate in activities similar to the ones in the accompanying biography. Interestingly enough, though, there is a disclaimer at the back of the book that readers should NOT try these things at home! This book is great for dipping into and getting ideas about further study, and is one of those books that makes me want to buy two copies so I can take one apart, laminate the pages, and make bulletin boards!

I do wish that every entry had years associated with the person, however. Most do, but some do not, and this was less than helpful. There is also not an index, and the table of contents does not list the subjects' names. There is a lot of good information in this book, but it seems to be intended as more of a casual read than a book for research.
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, January 12, 2020

On Snowden Mountain

Watts, Jeri. On Snowden Mountain
September 10th 2019 by Candlewick Press
Personal Copy

When Ellen's father is off fighting in World War II and her mother fails to provide food and supervision because of her depression, Ellen reaches out to her Aunt Pearl, hoping that her aunt will come to Baltimore and help out. Instead, her aunt unceremoniously packs up both Ellen and her mother and takes them back to the mountains in Virginia. There are few creature comforts there, and Ellen has to learn to live without running water and electricity. She also has to attend a one room school house with children who don't always come to school. One of these students, Russell, often comes to school smelling of skunk, and Ellen soon finds out it is because his father has him trapping the animals for the bounty on their fur. Russell's home life is even more dire than Ellen's-- his mother is abused by his alcoholic father, and he doesn't have an aunt to help out. Aunt Pearl is good about necessities, but is unable to make much headway with Ellen's mother's mental health. Ellen tries to help Russell learn to read, although her schoolmates and the town busy bodies frown on it. Eventually, the lives of both children improve a bit.
Strengths: This felt a bit like Gail Rock's 1974 The House Without a Christmas Tree, which I really love, and offers many details about what daily life was like in the country during WWII. Aunt Pearl is typical of the stoic, can-do type of woman who had to struggle with everything from food to clothing to keeping the community together during this time. Ellen's troubles with adjusting to another sort of life are realistic, and the portrayal of a mountain community is not something we see a lot in middle grade literature. A nice, short read.
Weaknesses: Would Ellen's mother have been allowed to fall apart? Yes, I know that mental illness can be devastating, but during WWII, many men were off serving in the warm, and I wonder how many women at home struggled this much. Interesting question, but at the time, attitudes surrounding mental illness were different, and Ellen's mother might have just barely managed to hang on to escape the stigma that mental illness had at the time.
What I really think: This will be a good choice for readers who have to have a book for the World War II project or the decades project and want something with details of life during the 1940s but with more modern sensibilities.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Secondhand Wishes

Staniszweski, Anna. Secondhand Wishes
January 29th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Personal copy

Lexi is very particular about how she goes about her day; things have to be just right, or tragedy could occur. When she misses meeting up with her best friend, Cassa, on the way to school because her brother Austin has had a rough morning, she knows that things will not go well. She ends up in detention, which her teacher moves to lunchtime so that Lexi can go to her after school job at Cassa's mother's antique store, but Lexi is concerned when Cassa talks a lot about the new girl, Marina, and her brother's health starts to deteriorate. Cassa's mother is unable to have Lexie stay with them, so Leix ends up at her Aunt Glinda's house while her parents deal with her brother's hospital stay. She finds four stones in a pouch at the antique store and makes wishes on them, but the wishes don't work out quite the way she expected. Instead of Cassa and Marian not hanging out together, they literally can't SEE each other, leading to weird complications. Her brother's health improves, but he starts to squeak like a hamster. Luckily, she gets some help from former school mate Elijah to help her try to figure out the mystery of the stones and their odd connection to her family .
Strengths: Magical realism is gaining popularity in my school, and I like that this has a cover that will age well--  no particular fashion or illustration style, just a standard photo. Lexi's anxiety is warranted, given her brother's health problems and their effect on her family, and trying to use magic to solve them is a nice touch. I also enjoyed her relationship with Elijah. Friend drama is always popular as well, and readers worried about losing best friends will understand Lexi's difficulties with Cassa and Marina.
Weaknesses: There's a little too much coincidence for my taste, but young readers will enjoy it.
What I really think: I think this one will do well for fans of Wendy Mass' Willow Falls books or Sarah Mlynowski's Whatever After books and will hold up for a long time. I've never really cottoned to this author, but may have to go back and revisit her other titles.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Guy Friday- Clean Getaway, Leaving Lymon

Stone, Nic. Clean Getaway
January 7th 2020 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by

William (Scoob or Scoob-a-doob to his grandma) ran into some trouble at school, and his father decides to send him to spend his spring break with his grandmother so he can be supervised, since his mother took off when Scoob was a baby. G'ma, however, has plans of her own. She has sold her house and bought an RV, and takes off on an adventure with Scoob. He's a little concerned that after checking in a few times with his dad, G'ma turns off the phone, but doesn't think too much about it. G'ma wants to recreate a trip she took with Scoob'd grandfather in the 1960s. It was difficult then, since she is white and her husband was black, and traveling through the South required the Green Book so that black people knew places where they would not run into trouble. Scoob wishes he knew more about his own mother as well as his grandfather, and he enjoys spending time with G'ma, so he is up for the adventure. As it continues, however, he is concerned about not contacting his father, about G'ma's memory lapses, and about what really happened with his grandfather being sent to jail for grand larceny. Eventually, he can no longer control things, and his father comes to the rescue, and also sheds some insight to Scoob's past.
Strengths: I loved the road trip with the grandmother idea-- it's been down before (Cooney's Hit the Road, Acampora's How to Avoid Extinction), but is always a fun way to see a grandchild interact with a grandparent. The inclusion of Civil Rights history is fascinating, and the spot illustrations will make sure that readers pick this one up. Great cover, too.
Weaknesses: The issue with the grandparents wasn't resolved well. We learn some of the history, but not enough, and the ending was a bit deus ex machina. Don't want to spoil it, but it seemed incomplete.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and hope that a final version is a little different.

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Leaving Lymon
Published January 7th 2020 by Holiday House
Public library copy

It's 1938 in Mississippi, and young Lymon lives with Grandpops and Ma because his father is in prison at Parchman Farms, and his mother has started a new life in Chicago after struggling with parenting at a very young age. Things are okay, and Lymon's favorite thing is playing music with his grandfather and his friends on Friday nights. In 1941, Lymon starts school, which has its ups and downs, and Grandpops' health starts to fail. After his death, Lymon's aunt Vera decides that Ma must move to Milwaukee to be near her and her family. His father gets out of prison, but has a nomadic lifestyle playing gigs, and always promises to be with Lymon but never makes it happen. There are good and bad things about it, and Lymon goes to school and makes some friends, although it is not the same as living in the South. When Ma's health fails and Vera's young family demands her attention, Lymon's mother comes in the middle of the night to take him to Chicago. There, he struggles with school and with dealing with his two step brothers and Robert, his mother's husband. Robert is abusive, and even smashes Lymon's grandfather's guitar. When Lymon finds out that Vera is sending money for his upkeep but Robert is taking it all, he steals the money and tries to get a bus ticket back to Milwaukee. His mother doesn't want him, so he eventually ends up back there after a stint in juvenile care, and his father finally steps up to take care of him.
Strengths: This short companion novel to Finding Langston gives another picture of the Great Migration. I very much appreciated that it gave the place and date at the beginning of the chapter instead of making readers hunt for those things! The difficulties of daily life for Blacks in the US during this time, both in the North and the South, are laid out, and an end note about Parchman Farms and the father's experience there is interesting. Lymon's stint in juvenile care for a minor offense was eye opening. The music connection will draw readers to this story, and it will also please readers who like problem novels that deal with abuse. (My students have very particular demands when it comes to sad books, and this fits right in!)
Weaknesses: I almost wish that this were a little longer, and that the end note information about the criminal "justice" system at the time were worked into the story.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this will be popular during our Decades unit.