Monday, March 09, 2020

MMGM- Worse Than Weird and Biographic: The Beatles

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.

Coot, Viv. Biographic: The Beatles
March 1st 2020 by Ammonite Press
E ARC provided  by Edelweiss Plus

When John Lennon was killed in 1980, my friends had to explain to me who the Beatles were. I had heard their songs, sure, but the group broke up before I started kindergarten, and I had older parents who listened primarily to easy listening stations. In college, I had a good friend who was a huge Beatles fan, so I started listening to the music more and reading a lot of books about them. I've seen all the movies and several documentaries, and agree that the group is still being listened to by teens, which is no small feat.

This book was fantastic! It's a great linear history that covers all of the usual information, BUT IN INFOGRAPHICS. I love infographics. I especially love them when they do a good job of capturing the spirit of the times, as these do. In addition to the basic information (which young readers might not know), there are all sorts of interesting statistics, maps of the Beatles' childhood homes in Liverpool, timelines of various histories, including an overview of the 1960s, and so much more.

This is a must have for all middle and high school libraries, since it is a good introduction for students who come into the library wearing Abbey Road t shirts but not knowing anything about the album but also for students who can tell you their favorite Beatles song. (Mine is The Word, mainly for the groovy base. Rubber Soul is my favorite album.) This is the sort of book I want to buy an extra copy of so I can laminate the pages and make bulletin boards with them.

I'm definitely purchasing a copy for the library, but also for my daughter, who needs it on her coffee table, since her living room is decorated with Beatles pictures.

Little, Jody J. Worse Than Weird
March 10th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mac lives with her parents, Hank and Coral, in a small house in Portland. Small, as in she sleeps in the living room with the occasional chicken and her dresses is a small basket. Her parents are Millenial hippies who host summer festivals, play bongos, are part of a naked bike riders group and bring in goats for goat yoga. This all exasperates Mac, who just wants to escape by going to a computer coding camp instead of having to hang out with her parents over the summer. The cost is $500, but she hopes to get her more main stream uncle, James, to plead her case. When James arrives, he has rebranded himself as Coho and has bought into the parents' alternative lifestyle ways. Needing another plan, Mac finds out about a local food truck competition-- collect ten clues from different trucks and win $2,000. She enlists her two best friends, but they are both busy. One is a competitive swimmer pushed by her parents into something she doesn't really want to do, and the other is having family problems she is not sharing with Mac. Once they are too busy, she finds an odd ally in Joey, a boy from her school who has initiated several good projects at school, but seems to turn up at the most serendipitous times. Also to his credit is that he doesn't seem to care about the fact that Mac's parents do goat yoga or ride bikes naked, because he has bigger parent problems of his own. Will the two manage to win the money and use it to help ameliorate the problems in their lives?
Strengths: The intergenerational squabbles are spot on for middle grade; no matter what your parents are like in middle school, they can be embarrassing, and Mac's parents have turned this into an art form. Since they are earthy/crunchy/granola, of course she is interested in technology and wants to code! The depiction of Portland is interesting, and the fact that Joey and Mac are able to wander around on their own will be intriguing to my students, who sometimes are not allowed to walk to the library in our very safe neighborhood! Joey's story (highlight for spoiler: his mother has mental health issues and is living on the streets, so he tries to locate her and make sure she has things she needs, since he can't do much else. He wants to use the money to get her into a treatment program.) adds a level of seriousness to Mac's rather lighthearted complaints. Definitely a book from which many readers could learn new things!
Weaknesses: I think younger readers would have benefited from more of a description/explanation of Mac's home, parents, and community, since they will be unfamiliar with many aspects of it. I liked that the story started out quickly, but never felt I could envision Mac's home very well. The same goes for the food truck contest-- Mac seemed to be spending a lot of money to buy food when she didn't really seem to know the rules of the contest well.
What I really think: I don't normally like quirky, but I do like books that show me how people go about their daily lives in an environment different from my own. This was a bit like Svetcov's recent Parked in that it gave good descriptions of a particular city. I will purchase this one.

Ms. Yingling


  1. My husband LOVED the Beatles. He has studied them for years and is always pointing out things about them. I might need to just go ahead and purchase a copy of Biographic: Beatles for our home library. I'm glad to learn of this title, Karen!

  2. The Beatles and a quirky story. You made my day! Can't wait to track down copies of both of these. Thanks for sharing on MMGM.

  3. The Beatles book sounds intriguing. My parents were into other groups too. But I have a student who'd love it. I live near Portland, so Worse than Weird sounds like a spot on description of our corner of the world.

  4. Both of these books sound neat! The first book about the Beatles sounds like an interesting spin on the band's history, and it's neat to know that a new generation is growing up to like the Beatles! Thanks for the great reviews!

  5. I remember watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. (I was eleven) They were an important part of my teen coming of age years so you can bet that I will be reading Viv Coots book, even if I have to purchase a copy for myself.

  6. Thanks for the Worse than Weird review.

  7. My granddaughter is a huge Beatle fan. I will have ot get that book for her. Worse than Weird sounds fun. I will try to get hold of a copy. Thanks for your reviews. I don't know how you can read so many books!