Saturday, March 07, 2020

Big Nate: Blow the Roof Off! and Willa and the Whale

Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate: Blow the Roof Off!
March 3rd 2020 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Ah, Big Nate. I love you, I really do. The notebook novels are fantastic, and have a much greater sense of plot than Wimpy Kid books. The artwork is also superior, and Nate is so much nicer than Greg Heffley. I also really want kids to get a band together and call it Enslave the Mollusk.

It makes me sad, though, that my students will not pick up the newspaper, even to read the comics! The Columbus Dispatch was recently redesigned, and there is no Life and Arts (or Accent) section, and this makes me sad, too. Comics are at the end of the Metro section. Still, it feels like it is everyone's duty to read the newspaper daily. The comics are our treat for doing this, like dessert.

Well, at least my students love these collections of comic strips, which are even harder than short stories to review properly.

These strips are from September 14, 2015 to February 28, 2016.

Morris, Chad and Brown, Shelly. Willa and the WhaleMarch 3rd 2020 by Shadow Mountain

E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Willa is still grieving the death of her mother, a marine biologist, so continues to watch the whales near her home. Eventually, she comes across one whale who talks to her. Willa isn't sure if the whale is speaking her language, or vice versa, but they understand each other. Willa calls the whale Meg, short for Megaptera Novaengliae, since she can't pronouce the whale's sounds. Willa keeps a journal, and includes lots of scientific facts about her observations, which helps her to deal with Masha, her step mother, and her step siblings. Living with a large family is quite different from being an only child with two parents, and it doesn't help that her former best friend Marc has changed since Willa has been living away with her mother. Talking to Meg helps, especially when school is stressful with projects, like a debate about children and screen time that Willa doesn't think goes well. After a blue whale beaches itself near her home and Willa is unable to save it, she at least wants to do more than let it rot on the beach, and goes to the city council to suggest how it might be able to be transferred to a research facility. When she finds out why Marc's family problems are affecting him so deeply, she realizes that her father's suggestion that she see a therapist has some merit.
Strengths: It's good to see information about marine biology, since an odd number of my students (in the middle of Ohio, remember) want to pursue this profession. Whales are certainly of interest to middle grade readers. I also like books that include blended families, since many of my students are in similar situations. Willa's passion for whales is admirable, and helps her work through her grief.
Weaknesses: This is very similar to The Line Tender (although that deals with sharks) that I thought I had already read the book.
What I really think: I love Morris and Brown's Squint, but I'm just not sure about this one. The talking whale makes this a fantasy book, and it would have been better without that. (Plus, I keep doubting myself-- was the whale REALLY talking to her?)
Ms. Yingling

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