Monday, May 25, 2020

MMGM- Hello from Renn Lake

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Hurwitz, Michele Weber. Hello from Renn Lake
May 26th 2020 by Random House/Lamb
E ARC provided by Netgalley, thanks to the author!

Annalise feels a deep connection with Renn Lake in her Wisconsin town. She was abandoned at a gift shop close to it, she feels that the lake can communicate with her, and her adoptive parents, the Olivers, run a resort on its shores. Her birthday and "found day" come at the beginning of the summer and are celebrated with fanfare and cupcakes, but she always feels a bit odd about the time, and her younger sister Jess (surprisingly conceived after Annalise's birth) always finds some to throw to turn the attention to herself. This year is especially hard, because the woman who found her, Mrs. Alden, has passed away, and Annalise had never been able to bring herself to visit and thank her. Jess's highjinks this year consist of wanting to travel into Madison to audition for a movie; she has delusions of being an actress and expects that her family will support her, no matter how sketchy the audition seems. Annalise, however, has bigger worries; there is a weird scum appearing on the lake, and the lake seems feverish and quiet. Zach, who is staying in one of the cabins, has also been investigating, and fears that it is an algal bloom of cyanobacteria. The authorities are brought in, and the bloom is confirmed, but the state doesn't have the resources to mitigate it. The resort and the town of Renn Lake will suffer, but Annalise's real concern is for the lake itself. She and Zach, along with her best friend Maya who is babysitting two high energy boys, look into ways to help. They come up with the idea (helped by the lake) of floating plant islands, which soak up excess nutrients and algae. The kids pool their money, but this effort is harmed when Jess takes Annalise's share and goes with a friend to the movie audition. Getting creative, Annalise approaches Mr. Alden, whose shop deals in plants, and asks for his help. She also asks about when she was found, and is able to make a little peace with that. With Mr. Alden's help, the kids manage to install seven floating islands. When the authorities find out, they decide to help anchor the plants instead of ripping them out, and praise the children't initiative. It will take some time, but Annalise's concern for the lake should help it recover, and her efforts at educating the town will hopefully prevent future occurrences.
Strengths: Books where children have very clear passions that they use to make a positive impact in their world are always my favorite. Add to the story Annalise's conflicted feelings about being adopted, Jess's bratty sister actions, Maya's humorous adventures in babysitting, and a nice friendship with Zach (who does mention having had bad breakup with a boyfriend), and this was a compelling story with lots to discuss. The parents are very involved and supportive, but also very concerned about their business. I also liked that Annalise helped with cleaning the rooms and with other parts of the business. I'm a sucker for a good summer story, as well as any story involving a hotel, and Hello from Renn Lake is a great book to read at the start of the summer!
Weaknesses: I'm not a fan of fantasy elements, like Annalise communicating with the lake, in novels that are otherwise very realistic. (Think Messner's The Seventh Wish and the talking goldfish.) This won't effect most readers' enjoyment, but wasn't my favorite part.
What I really think: I am so glad to see this book, since algae blooms have been a problem in Ohio as well. Science teachers are always asking for fiction books they can use to create interest in their curriculum, and this is the perfect one. The notes at the end about some of the science concepts discussed are a great addition as well. Definitely purchasing, and I will display this one with the cover facing out a LOT, because I love the colors and the vintage postcard vibe!


  1. This sounds like an excellent book that blends a lot of different aspects together! I also agree, the cover is great—I was going to say that even before I read your opinion. Thanks for the great review!

  2. I love magical realism! So that weakness might be a strength for me. As long as the writing makes sense and it moves the character arc along, I really enjoy it. But when done poorly, it detracts from the novel. I'll take a closer look at this one, thanks!

  3. Ooooh, this really does sounds like a great start-of-summer read. Thanks for sharing the title, Karen. So many story strengths, here!

  4. This does look like a fun summertime read, will be keeping an eye out for it.

  5. It's a new one to me and I enjoyed reading your sharing of all the different parts, Karen. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for this Karen. I too like books where the characters are passionate about something. I've added it to my list.