Monday, February 17, 2020

MMGM- Parked

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.

Svetcov, Danielle. Parked
February 4th 2020 by Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jeanne Ann and her mother have struggled in Chicago, with the mother working in a restaurant and Jeanne Ann spending a lot of time at her local library branch. They've always thought about going to San Francisco, but Jeanne Ann is a little concerned when they pack up in a decrepit van to drive out there to live with a former co worker of her mother's. They end up parked on the street when the van's tire goes flat, and the mother is looking for work. Cal is very artistic, but struggles with social skills after losing his friend group, and gets in trouble for an art installation at his private school. His mother, who works in the restaurant she owns, very busy but feels Cal needs "a change of scenery" and has him working at the restaurant. Their home is right across from where Jeanne Ann's van is parked. The two eventually meet up, and Cal is very concerned, because he has watched the vans for a while and knows they are occasionally towed, especially in the first one in line, which is where Jeanne Ann's is parked. The two have a tentative friendship during the summer. The mother's job searching is not going well, and she will not fill out forms or take certain jobs, which makes Jeanne Ann worry about her motives and planning. The friend ends up not being in town. Living in the van is difficult, and when Jeanne Ann finds out how much rent is in San Francisco, she starts to panic. She sells all of her carefully collected books, and saves the money that appears under the van's wipers with notices to vacate the area. There is a citizens' group trying to oust the vans, led by Cal's neighbors. Another van sweller, Sandy, has a complicated relationship with this group. Cal and his mother try to help the family, but there are no easy answers.
Strengths: This was an interesting book with many levels. The juxtaposition of Cal and Jeanne Ann's lives was particularly interesting since they lived on the same street. The details of why the family ends up living in a van, and how they manage various activities is important in helping young readers understand how others may face difficulties they may not. Cal's presence makes the neighborhood initiative to remove the vans more interesting, and the fact that Jeanne Ann loves reading will immediately endear this to librarians and language arts teachers. The San Francisco setting and the different restaurants adds to the appeal of this.
Weaknesses: I wish this had been tightened up a bit-- Cal's problems at school didn't add to the story for me, and I'm still reeling from the fact that Jeanne Ann left Chicago with over $500 in library books. The notes from her librarian there were sweet, but again, could have been cut.
What I really think: This is similar to Nielsen's No Fixed Address in that the mother is having some problems, but they are not as defined or addressed as they are in that book. I may purchase, since I have been looking for books on housing insecurity, but this was rather long (400 pages) for middle school. Trust me, I wish this were not the case, but I know that when I hand this to a lot of my readers, they will balk!

Here are the books on homelessness or housing insecurity that I have found. Notice that there have been a lot more since #WeNeedDiverseBooks started in 2014.

Armstrong's Roam (2019), Cameron's Maybe a Mermaid (2019), Knowle's Where the Heart Is, (2019), Stevenson's Lizzie Flying Solo (2019), Pyron's Stay (2019),Sarno's Just Under The Clouds (2018), Nielsen's No Fixed Address (2018), Messner's Exact Location of Home (2017), Strasser's No Place (2014),  Nelson's The Prince of Venice Beach (2014), Bauer's Almost Home (2012), Watson's Living Rough (2011), Moses' Joseph (2008), and Cooley's Shelter (2006).

Reid, Megan and Freeman, Laura. Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet of Foot Girl
January 21st 2020 by Balzer + Bray
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Born in 1927, Althea Gibson experienced the racial and gender disparities that were prevalent at the time, but were in the process of being changed. For example, the all Black Women's Tennis Association was formed in 1916. Growing up in Harlem, Althea had opportunities to play many sports casually, in streets that were blocked off during the summer for children to use. When her talent for tennis was noticed, she was fortunate enough to be near the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, where she was allowed to take lessons in exchange for helping around the club. Once she was able to best everyone at that club, she traveled with with ATA, but even that had limited opportunities. With a lot of hard work, and the support of some other tennis players, she was eventually allowed to play at Wimbledon. In 1956, she was as part of a doubles team, and in 1957 she won the women's singles title. This lead to her having a ticket tape parade in New York City, and also to her being named Women Athlete of the Year by the  Associated Press. After her retirement from tennis, she wrote and also played golf professionally, and has been cited by Venus Williams as being a great inspiration.

While Gibson's road was not easy, she came along at a time where opportunities were opening up for black and for women athletes. She had to work much harder to get as far as she did, and this picture book is a great representation of how much things have (and haven't) changed in the world of sports.

The picture book format is used well, with colorful page spreads showing Gibson in action. I wondered if women tennis players would have worn shorts in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but an online search did turn up lots of picture of Gibson in shorts. I'm always a big fan of photographs (when they exist) in biographies, but younger readers will just pull out there phones and search for them if they want!

There's an afterword providing additional information, as well as a timeline which is very helpful. A short bibliography is included as well. This book is an excellent introduction to lots of different topics for young readers.


  1. Thanks for these reviews Karen. I'm especially keen on reading the second one. Like many of your readers, I too balk at those books full of so many pages. It has to be highly recommended or be by an author I adore. I sometimes find that those books need to better edited!

  2. Parked looks like one I need to check out for my library--thank you! :)

    Happy reading this week!

  3. Thanks for the post. I really liked No Fixed Address and think we need more books on homelessness. Unfortunately, many of our young people relate to this issue. The Althea Gibson book looks good too.

  4. I've been pleased to learn of more books in MGlit and YAlit that center around housing insecurity, lately. So I'm especially glad to learn about Parked and how it's somewhat similar to No Fixed Address. The Althea Gibson picture book biography is new to me, so I'm happy to add it to my list. Thanks for the shares, Karen!