Monday, March 23, 2020

MMGM- My Life as a Potato and Trending

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.

Ohio is now under a Stay At Home Order, so things are interesting. I have only gone out once to the grocery, and everyone was so considerate and kind. Around the neighborhood, people will cross the street to avoid be close to others! I've been continuing to work as much as I can, but most of my job deals with students. This is technically our break week, so I will try to post books on Instagram instead of activities.

Two important things: Households with students can get 60 days of free internet from Spectrum, and anyone in the state of Ohio can get a Columbus Metropolitan Library Card to use for digital items.

Also, the fantastic middle grade author and scientist Sneed Collard has avideo STEM lesson:

Coster, Arianne. My Life As A Potato
March 24th 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ben Hardy's family has moved from California to Idaho, and he's having a bit of a hard time adjusting. Luckily, he has made two friends, Ellie and Hunter, so has secured a safe place in the cafeteria. He also has a crush on a cheerleader, Jayla, and she seems to like him as well. When he gets involved in a hot dog throwing incident in the cafeteria that ends up putting the school mascot (a giant potato!) out of commission, the coach gives him an option--act as the mascot for the next four games, and stay out of trouble. Ben reluctantly agrees, even though he doesn't completely understand what he needs to do as the mascot. The coach, a former mascot himself, gives him some pointers, and Ben does some research on the internet, but it isn't until he has an underwhelming performance during the first game and his team loses that he begins to take his job seriously. He gets invited to a dance by Jayla (with an elaborate locker surprise) and agrees to go with her, and even meets her for a date before that. He has to lie to his friends and tell them he is grounded, since he doesn't want anyone to know he is the mascot. He does talk to Mitch, the custodian's son, who finds out his secret. He even makes an attempt to get the lonely Mitch to eat lunch with his friends. He also doesn't tell his parents that he is the mascot. This is a tenuous situation, and things will eventually meet with disaster. How long can Ben manage to make things work?
Strengths: This was such a delightful relief after months of deep, sad, lyrical middle grade fiction. The cover is fantastic and shows how much fun the book is going to be. The page illustrations are helpful in getting readers of Wimpy Kid to pick this up. I loved Ben-- he meant well but occasionally did stupid things. His crush on Jayla is perfect, as is his eventual realization that there is a better girl for him. There are lots of good details about life in middle school. I just adored this one!
Weaknesses: Found it hard to believe that Ben was able to keep his mascot duties secret from his parents (Permission slips? Pay to play?), and some of the team names and mascots walked the line of overly goofy. Small quibbles, though!
What I really think: Buying at least two copies for the fans of Richards' Stu Truly. I need a LOT more books like this-- fun, but with small underlying middle school problems. Brilliant stuff.

Vermond, Kira and Hanmer, Clayton (Illustrator). Trending: How and Why Stuff Gets Popular 
March 15th 2020 by Owlkids Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

I absolutely loved this one. It was just the right length, had lots of interesting information about all manner of trends, and... I did not write the review of it quickly enough to retain information over Christmas break!

Definitely purchasing, as it was not only fascinating, but in a format that will entice my Notebook Novel readers to pick up some nonfiction!

Here is the publisher's description:
Fads and trends: How do they start? Why do they spread? And how deep can their impact be? Although trends might seem trivial, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that our desire to chase the next big thing can have an even bigger impact than expected.

Established middle-grade author Kira Vermond and cartoonist Clayton Hanmer team up in this fun and accessible nonfiction look at fads. In four short chapters, the book explores what a fad is, how the latest crazes catch on, and what makes us jump on the bandwagon. Finally, it looks at the fascinating and even frightening effects of fads both modern and historic. Who knew the beaver pelt craze in 17th century Europe would change ecosystems, start wars, and disrupt life as people knew it?

Comic-strip illustrations, an upbeat tone, and reader-friendly text make this a fun and timely tool for young readers who are building critical-thinking skills in the age of fake news and a world gone viral.


  1. Great choices. I can't wait to read both of these. Glad you are holding up well in these crazy times.

  2. With all that is going on in our world, it is nice to find a humorous and upbeat stories with light problems. Nice way to escape!

    I remember telling you I live in SW Ohio. Our governor and ODH director are really on top of things -- as much as they can be! Not too concerned -- just doing what I normally do every day and hope that it's warm enough to walk.

  3. I've not read either, heard about the potato one, but not the other. Will put them on my list, Karen. I know it's a trying time for those who are unable to see their students, even help them as they usually do. Wishing you good health as we try to do good during this time.

  4. I keep seeing this book (My Life As A Potato). It looks good. I will have find a copy. :)

  5. Just from the title, My Life as a Potato sounds like a totally fun read! Trending sounds like a fascinating read as well. Thanks for the reviews, and good luck in these hard times!

  6. Yay for more non-tragic middle school books.

  7. I am so happy to hear about the kindness you're experiencing at your grocery stores. I think the worst cases are being showcased in the news. We've had a relatively calm environment at my store, as well. I mean, I haven't been in a week, but when I WAS there it was pretty calm even if busy. I really want to read Trending. I think my kids will appreciate this one as much as me!