Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Timeslip Tuesday- The Magic in Changing Your Stars

Henderson, Leah. The Magic in Changing Your Stars
April 7th 2020 by Sterling Children's Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2010, Ailey decides to try out for his school's production of The Wiz, and feels that he would make a great Scarecrow. He can't necessarily sing or memorize lines, but he loves to dance, and thinks that that talent, along with his sharp dressing, will be enough. His classmate Mahalia disagrees, and states that SHE is the one who should get the part. When tryouts go badly, Ailey is devastated. His grandfather, whom he adores, counsels him a bit, and alludes to his own dancing, which included meeting Bill "Mr. Bojangles" Robinson in his Harlem neighborhood when he was young. There's some mystery surrounding why his grandfather doesn't dance any more and instead runs a hardware store, and when Ailey is snooping through Gramps' closet, he finds a pair of tap shows that Robinson had given to Gramps. When he puts them on, he finds himself transported to Harlem in 1939, where he immediately stands out, thanks to his pajamas and microfiber robe! He obtains new threads, and sees several boys dancing. Sure enough, one of them is Gramps, who is known as Taps. Ailey witnesses the interaction with Robinson, and knows he has been sent back in time to help his grandfather out. Taps gets the shoes from Robinson, but is supposed to meet the dancing legend at a theater to return them and audition, but he is chickening out in a way that Ailey understands. Ailey is taken in by Taps' family, but a misunderstanding threatens to derail his mission to encourage his grandfather. Will Ailey be successful in his mission? Will it make a difference in his life in 2010 if he can help someone else overcome the stage fright he feels?
Strengths: Tap dancing AND time travel? Sign me up! Along with the great time travel method of Bill Robinson's tap shoes, this had a lot of great history in it, plus the very compelling mission of making the grandfather's regret go away. I loved Ailey's supportive family in his present, and he is appreciative of meeting his family in the past as well. Details about daily life in Harlem, as well as some African American entertainment history, make this a great read for those interested in books like Curtis' The Might Miss Malone or Tubbs' Selling Hope.
Weaknesses: One small historical error-- it's specifically stated that this is set in 2010, which was great, because it's a necessary adjustment in order for his grandfather to be the right age in 1939. However, "Teach me how to Dougie" seems to have been released in 2011. Also, Ailey is cocky about his abilities without the talent to back this up. This is absolutely how tweens operate, but makes him a bit less likable.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and I can see this being a big hit with the right reader.

James, Anna. The Lost Fairy Tales (Pages & Co. #2)
May 5th 2020 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Tilly and Oskar are enjoying life at Tilly's family's bookstore, and Tilly is getting used to her mother, Bea, being back after having been trapped in A Little Princess in The Bookwanderers. As Christmas approaches, there is trouble in the Underlibrary. Amelia, the head librarian, is being removed due to all of the problems with Chalke, and is replaced by Melville Underwood. Her grandparents seem leery of him, especially since he traveled into fairy tales and left his sister Decima behind. Fairy tales are very unstable, since there is no definitive Source for them, and Tilly's grandmother actually had specialized in mapping fairy tales. Still, there isn't much for the Pages to do, and Tilly and Oskar are set to visit his father in Paris. There are odd things that happen on the train ride there, but Paris in the snow is magical, and Tilly is glad to meet Oskar's grandmother, Clara, who is an illustrator. Clara takes them to a bookshop her friend Gretchen runs, and even though the children had said they would not book wander, they find themselves going into a fairy tale. Things are not quite right, however, and the tales seem broken. Oskar goes missing, but the two are finally able to get back. They enjoy Christmas in Paris, and again back in London. Tilly reads out loud to  her mother and finds that she is able to read stories into the real world, maybe because she is half fictional. When Gretchen shows up to spend Christmas with the Pages, uninvited, Tilly's grandmother is surprised; Gretchen had been a close friend 30 years ago, but the two had fallen out. When Gretchen tells the children that they need to travel into the fairy tales with her to help fix the magic, they agree, although Oskar is very skeptical. Will Tilly and Oskar be able to help, or will the evil within the Underlibrary community cause them problems?
Strengths: I did end up pruchasing the first book, and while it hasn't been wildly popular, it has circulated well with fans of Chris Colfer's Land of Stories and Buckley's The Sisters Grimm fans. This was an even better book the the first, which is no small feat. Instead of referencing books like Anne of Green Gables (Anne does make a brief appearance), the main focus is the problems with book wandering, with a helping of fairy tales. Add to that plenty of hot buttered toast, London and Paris in the snow, and a charming French grandmother, and this made for a wonderful, cozy read. We learn a little more about Tilly and her powers, and quite a bit about the book wanderer guidelines and administration. There are suitably evil villains, and the book ends with a clue to the next mission-- find the elusive librarians. The illustrations, though few, are marvelous.
Weaknesses: The beginning of the book could have had a bit more adventure instead of so much of the politics of the Underlibrary.
What I really think: This book wants me to recommend the first book even more. I'm curious to see where the next book will take us. I suspect the cover will be green. Also, I feel compelled to make Toad in the Hole for dinner tomorrow night!

Monday, June 29, 2020

MMGM- Coop Know the Scoop

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Souders, Taryn. Coop Knows the Scoop
July 7th 2020 by Sourcebooks Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley.com

Coop and his mother live in Windy Bottom, Georgia with his grandfather, who helps them run A Whole Latte Books cafe and bookstore with his friends' Justice and Liberty's parents. Coop's father died while serving in the military, and while the loss is still felt, Coop is glad to have the presence of his grandfather, who served the town as doctor for many years. When a body is unearthed during the building of a new playground, Coop wants to investigate. Even though it could be murder, it's something different and exciting. When the body turns out to be that of his grandmother Tabby, who was thought to leave his grandfather and his father Steven in the late 1970s, things take a different turn, especially when his grandfather is considered as a suspect. With the help of his father's best friend and local constabulary, Tick, Coop is able to talk to local residents to find out a lot of information about his family's past, as well as town secrets that lead to solving this decades old, but personally important, case.
Strengths: This is a text book example of a perfect middle grade novel! It's just 200 pages, which means it is tightly edited and fast paced. It's an actual murder mystery, and the fact that it is a long gone grandmother makes it both highly personal but also not as painful as it could be. There's buy in without horrible raw emotion. I loved the descriptions of the grandmother and her fashions from the 1970s. The turns of phrase were brilliant; I could happily quote half of the brilliant but off the cuff descriptions if I had the finished book. This had a great twist at the end. I thought I knew who the murderer was, and I thought I was right, but then it took a totally different turn! The small town interactions, as well as the cafe/bookstore, make this a perfect cozy mystery (ala Braun's Cat Who mysteries) for the younger set, something I really haven't seen.
Weaknesses: Coop occasionally does some stupid things, and unless I missed something (which is entirely possible), the issue with Beau's father is unresolved.
What I really think: I would love to see a whole series of these, and I'm not usually one for series! Definitely purchasing, and can't wait to hand to students.

Denson, Bryan. Uncovering a Terrorist (FBI Files)
June 23rd 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2010, a Somali born teenager, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was arrested while attempting to detonate an explosive during a Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. His parents had contacted authorities when they were concerned that their son might try to return to Somalia. Since the parents had left there because of the violence and had made a life for themselves in Oregon, they did not want this to happen. Two undercover operatives Youssef and Hussein, were involved in a sting operation, contacting Mohamud, feeling him out about his intentions, and working with him until the young man tried to set off what he thought was a bomb with a cell phone. He was then arrested, tried, and convicted to thirty years in prison. Agent Ryan Dwyer was the main investigator.

As with this author's Catching a Russian Spy: Agent Les Wiser Jr. and the Case of Aldrich Ames and
Agent Kathy Puckett and the Case of the Unabomber, this is brilliantly well-researched and a very compelling read. I appreciated that it starts out with an explanation that just because one young man who was Muslim got involved in an attempt at terrorism, this was against the tenets of his religion and not a representation of Islamic people. This is reinforced by discussions of Mohamud's family and upbringing. There are excellent notes at the end of the book with more information.

The thing that makes the other two books popular is that they are very black and white. The FBI is good, and the people whom they are pursuing are bad. I felt conflicted about this book. It felt like the agents came perilously close to engaging in entrapment, and the sides of right and wrong didn't feel nearly as clear cut, especially since Mohamud was so young, and his motivations were not as clearly depicted as I would have liked.

Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Summer We Found the Baby

Hest, Amy. The Summer We Found the Baby
July 14th 2020 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Julie and her young sister Martha are taking a cake to the opening of the new children's library in their small coastal town during WWII when they find a baby in a basket on the front steps! Unfortunately, Julie's nemesis, Bruno, also shows up and interferes with her plans to take the baby to the beach and... well, she doesn't have the best plan. Martha, who is six, is up for any adventure, and just wants to name the baby Nancy. While the three try to decide what to do with the baby, we learn about the events leading up to their discovery. Julie has written to Eleanor Roosevelt, asking her to come to the library opening. Since her own mother, who passed away when Martha was very young, was also Eleanor, she feels there is a special connection. Bruno, whose older brother Ben is in Europe fighting, is on a mission to go into New York City and find Tess, the girl that Ben secretly married before he shipped out. Ben is concerned about Tess for a special reason, but doesn't tell Ben what, just that he should bring Tess back home with him. We find out why Julie is angry with Ben, and also the reason he had to find Tess, as well as the identity of the baby.
Strengths: This reminded me a little of Carolyn Haywood's B is for Betsy books, which were written around the time this is set. Leaving babies lying about for people to find was a popular theme in books; think also about The Boxcar Children, where the children run away and live in the woods and no one seems to notice. This book was a gentle way to introduce what was going on during WWII in a way that young people at the time might have experienced it. The opening of the children's library, and especially Eleanor Roosevelt, was especially charming.
Weaknesses: The reason the baby was left outside the library seems really weird to me. I don't want to spoil things, but during the war, I think that there were a lot of young people who got married (secretly or not so secretly) and had babies, and the families were okay with it.
What I really think: I will pass on purchase, since this is a bit young for my students, but I can see it being popular in an elementary library where titles like Rylan's Rosetown or MacLachlan short novels are popular.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Primer

Primer by Jennifer Muro (co-author), Thomas Krajewski (co-author), Gretel Lusky (Illustrations)
June 23rd 2020 by DC Comics
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Ashley Rayburn has had a difficult time. Her father is a hardened criminal who is in jail for a crime Ashley helped him commit, and she is jaded by the foster care system. Eventually, she gets taken in by Kitch and Yuka Nolan, a young couple who can't have children of their own. Kitch is an artist like Ashley, and an overgrown child/hipster who matches Ashley's absurd humor. Yuka is more reserved, and works as a research scientist on a project that might not be 100% well intentioned. Ashley manages to make a friend at school-- Luke, who wan to grow up to be a hairdresser and is glad to go along with Ashley's wild schemes. When Ashley breaks into Yuka's closet and finds her top secret briefcase, she finds out that the body paint Yuka has developed can give the wearer super powers, but only as long as no more than three paints are used. Ashley uses the variety of paints to save an airplane and do other super hero like feats, one of which brings her to Yuka's attention. Yuka is angry, but still cares about Ashley (who uses the name "Primer" when she has her powers), but the evil Strack wants the paints for himself. Will Ashley be able to withstand his attacks, save the Nolan's, and continue with her work as Primer?
Strengths: As far as I can tell, this is a new super hero, aimed specifically at middle grade readers. The full color graphic novel is similar to Larson's Goldie Vance and will be popular with students who like comic books and are big fans of art. This would be one to hand to my students who draw all over themselves with marker.
Weaknesses: Ashley's misbehaviors are portrayed as sort of cute. While I am willing to cut her some slack because of her unpleasant upbringing, I was still a little disappointed that she took advantage of Yuka.
What I really think: This is available for the very reasonable price of $8.79 in paperback from Follett, so I may see if this comes out in a prebind, since the paperback would last about two weeks. My students aren't huge DC fans, but the colorful artwork and adventurous story will appeal to some of them.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

McCullough, Joy. A Field Guide to Getting Lost
April 14th 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sutton lives with her father in an apartment in Seattle. She is homeschooled, loves robotics, and is happy with her neighbors and her life. She's not happy that her mother is living at the South Pole, and decides not to come to celebrate Sutton's tenth birthday because the emperor penguins she is studying have changed their habits. Luis lives with his mother, his Guatemalan father having died of cancer when he was two. He loves to write stories about brave children, since his mother is overly protective because he has life threatening allergies to lots of things, including bees and peanuts. Sutton's father and Luis' mother are dating, and have reached the point where they want to have a "family date" to introduce the children. They go to an art museum that Luis likes, but is outside Sutton's comfort zone. (Sutton isn't labeled but seems to be on the autism spectrum.) Her father is not happy that she couldn't make an effort, but Sutton is obsessed with getting the coding on her robot finished for a science fair, and she's not wild about her father dating. Also, she feels like she DID make an effort to the best of her ability. When another family date is attempted, this time to a park, Sutton and Luis get separated from the parents, have an adventure, and bond a bit more.
Strengths: I loved the depiction of characters who love coding and who have life threatening allergies. There are very few books about kids who need EpiPens, which is a real lack. The fear about parents dating, and missing the absent parents, is done well. The real triumph of this book is the use of the city as almost another character. This was a fun book to read, and the faux-canvas texture on the cover made me ridiculously happy.
Weaknesses: Sutton is nine and about to turn ten, and the adventure in the park was fairly tame. The cover makes it look like they are critically lost.
What I really think: I would definitely buy this for an elementary school, and enjoyed reading it, but think it is too young for my students. There is a lot of imaginative play that seems childish to middle school readers, although this might work for fans of Bridge to Terebithia. (But without the sadness. I am not a fan.)

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Super Puzzletastic Mysteries

Douglas, Peyton (a.k.a Henderson, Jason!). The Book Man
June 2nd 2020 by Castle Bridge Media
E ARC provided by the author

I don't read a lot of adult novels, but I love Henderson's work (Alex van Helsing, Young Captain Nemo) so much that I was willing to give this a try. It's a fun vacation to California in the 1950s, and has a lot of nods to the beach movies of the day. I have to admit that I got a little confused because of the more adult structure of the book that centered on different characters, but Henderson's writing is still strong. This had all of the humor, action, and great descriptions of his middle grade novels, and had a great sense of humor. I particularly liked Frannie's father, and his reliance on English idioms. Of course, there are also creepy monsters from the deep, a demon who seduces young girls only to have origami birds cut them to death, and surfers (including one called Newpup) who manage to fight the demon with a dybbuk box, a golem, and come medallions! I could practically see this on a a drive-in movie theater screen, in glorious black and white, as I read it.

For $2.99, you'll be able to get a Kindle version of this on June 2, 2020. Definitely a worthy diversion.

Grabenstein, Chris (ed.). Super Puzzletastic Mysteries: Short Stories for Young Sleuths from Mystery Writers of America
June 23rd 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Short story collections are hard to review, especially when one includes so many fantastic authors! My students will be glad to see new FunJungle and Riley Mack stories, and skip ahead to the entries by Ponti, Lerangis, and Milford, whom they know well. Alane Ferguson's Forensic Mysteries (2006) are SO popular in my library, and I haven't seen much from her lately, so it was good to have an entry from her. Add Fleur Bradley, Lamar Giles, Bruce Hale, and Tyler Whitesides, along with several authors I really need to investigate now, and this book will fly off the shelf. Short stories collections don't do terribly well in my library, with one notable exception: scary stories and mysteries.

There's a nice mix of types of stories in this. Some area little goofy (like the triplet uncles in Magaziner's Three Brothers, Two Sisters, and One Cup of Poison) and some, like Ferguson's The Scary Place are a little more chilling, but none are super scary. This is mainly because stories incorporate a lot of unlikey clues, and  have the reader trying to figure out the mystery. The answers to which are provided at the back, ala Donald Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown books. I wonder if children will be better at guessing the mysteries than I was. Once you read the solution, it's so obvious, but I don't have much success in solving the mysteries.

This is a great book not only for students, but for teachers who want to do in class read alouds and want to challenge their students' critical thinking skills. Puzzletastic Mysteries will be right at home on a shelf with Half Minute Horrors, Alvin Schwartz, and of course, Encyclopedia Brown.

And yes, I still cry every time I read this note from Mr. Sobol. I used to send author's filled up circulation cards with notes. Along with Carolyn Haywood's B is for Betsy, Sobol's books are one of my earliest book memories. My mother and I would curl up in a rocking chair, read a story, and try to figure out the mystery.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Con Quest!

Maggs, Sam. Con Quest!
June 23rd 2020 by Imprint
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Cat and Alex Gallo are at GeekiCon because their parents are the authors of the cult favorite Ducky McFowl and are participating in a panel discussion. Cat loves comics and is determined to win Con Quest, a slightly illegal contest that awards the winners time with a famous celebrity but is not sanctioned by the con. Alex, who may be somewhat neurodiverse, does not like crowds or being touched, and would just rather play video games of construct with Legos. Their older sister, Fi, is supposed to be babysitting them, but the twins know that there DoubleTrouble team doesn't stand a chance at beating Team Dangermaker for the prize. They elude her and try to work their way through the various challenges, get into trouble several times, so they are stalked by James M., a security guard who wants the con to be attended only by people who know and love comics, and not by rowdy youngsters like the twins. While trying to hunt down her siblings, Fi runs across Rowan, who goes to her school, and the two have an instant connection that turns into an interesting flirtation. Cat and Alex have a lot of success in the quest, but Cat cheats at one point, which makes both her and Alex feel bad. Will they get in big trouble with their parents, or will their Con Quest be successful?
Strengths: Maggs has done a lot of work with comics and geek fandom, so the background knowledge here is impressive, even if there are a lot of pretend fandoms, like Star World (Star Trek cum Star Wars?). She aptly portrays the sorts of activities and personae that one would find at a con, and also works in some of the gender politics that have been problematic for this population. Cat and Alex are typical middle graders-- they have a lot of interesting plans that they haven't quite thought out. The plot arc with Fi and Rowan is interesting, and will pull in my readers who want more LGBTQIA+ stories.
Weaknesses: As an adult, I had a lot of trouble with Cat's actions. She's disobeying so many people in order to win a questionable contest. Students won't mind, but her ill thought out actions made me cringe on more than one occasion, and there seemed to be no consequences from her parents.
What I really think: I will probably purchase this because I always need humorous stories and there are a few students in my school interested in comics and cosplay, but certainly wish that Cat and Alex had been more pleasant characters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Catalyst, Artemis Fowl

Durst, Sarah Beth. Catalyst
June 9th 2020 by Clarion
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Right before her 12th birthday, Zoe finds a very tiny kitten out by her family's garage. She has always been fond of animals and has brought home a large number of strays, but her parents put an end to that after the unfortunate incident with the skunk. Figuring it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, Zoe brings in the tiny kitten, names him Pipsqueak, and introduces her new pet to her best friend and next door neighbor, Harrison. The two make plans for the animal, and Zoe tells her parents, who reluctantly agree to let her keep the kitten, since she is so distraught about her older brother going away to college in France. Things are great... until Pipsqueak starts to grow at an alarming rate! Zoe does the responsible thing and takes him to the vet, who doesn't see a problem. As Pipsqueak continues to grow and starts to talk to them, Zoe know she needs to make a plan, and reaches out to her Aunt Alecia, who lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and has had a falling out with Zoe's mother. When there are local reports of a green flying poodle who looks a lot like a dog Zoe saw at the vet's, she knows she needs to act. Along with Harrison's cousin, Surita, she convinces her parents that she really wants to go away to the summer camp where Surita is a counselor, and uses this time to travel, via Pipsqueak, to her aunt's. Along the way, she encounters other animals who seems to have powers as well. Will her aunt be able to shed some light on these odd events and help her out?
Strengths: I loved Zoe's family. Her parents were busy with work, but really cared about her. They want to protect her, but also want her to have some freedom. And they have "second cake", which is such a good idea! (Eating another piece of birthday cake after party guests leave.) Her older brother is also great, and understands why she is sad he is going off to college. Pipsqueak is very amusing, although we needed Betty Brock No Flying in the House style illustrations to show how adorable she was. Harrison was a good foil for Zoe, and hearing their list of things to pack for running away was hysterical. I loved that his last name was Acharya-- I have students with that last name! All in all, this was a fast-paced, engaging fantasy novel that cat lovers will adore.
Weaknesses: It would have helped to know a little more about Aunt Alecia before they took off. That's a long way to travel to see someone who hasn't been that interested in you.
What I really think: I love that Durst writes intriguing stand alones like Spark (2019), The Stone Girl's Story (2017), and Enchanted Ivy (2010). What cat lover doesn't want to adopt a tiny kitten who grows ala Clifford the Big Red Dog and is the key to finding out about one's emerging powers? The cover alone will sell it to my Warriors fans, most of whom will read anything with a cat on the cover. Myself, I would have liked this better had the green poodle been the main character, although the shark teeth were not very attractive!

Manning, Matthew K. Artemis Fowl: How to be a LEPrecon
Published June 25th 2019 by Disney Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Nearly twenty years after its original publication, Artemis Fowl is a movie! It's apparently on Disney Plus, so readers who are determined to read the book before watching a film version will have a renewed interest in this classic fantasy series.

Instead of focusing on Artemis, the evil criminal mastermind at war with the fairy realm in the seven book series, this guide book is meant to be a translation and interpretation of the fairy tome, The Book of the People, and there a number of side notes from Holly Short, one of the main fairy characters, littering the pages.

There are several catalogs in the book that are very helpful, especially if its been a while since one has read the series. There are descriptions, with very nice drawings, of the different creatures that people the fairy realm, similar entries of the main characters in the books, complete with their characteristics and main accomplishments, and a really fun section detailing all of the gadgets and buildings used in the books. The pencil drawings by Andre Pelaes and Carlos Tron really bring the characters and settings to life.

In addition to these descriptions, there are some illustrative stories offered by way of illuminating certain parts of the manual. We hear from Jeffrey Wigglebottom, who was seen by Mud People, Pidge Plank, who tells a cautionary tale of trying to enter a human dwelling without permission, and an incident report from Officer Root about why its important to fully understand one's equipment. These are fun auxiliary tales to get back into the swing of the series, if it hasn't been read in a while.

The Artemis Fowl (2001) series, along with the newer The Fowl Twins (2019) series, is a nuanced, action packed, well-written set of books that never fully define which side is good, and which side is evil. Artemis is at odds with the L.E.P.Recon and other forces, and I've never been completely convinced that he's the good guy. This is a little unusual, but makes for riveting reading. Readers who enjoy this ambiguity in Salane's Lawless series, Walden's HIVE, and Buckley's National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (NERDS, #1) will look forward to either reading Colfer's original series or watching the television show, and can supplement their knowledge with this helpful guide.

Donkin, Andrew. Guide to the World of Fairies
April 14th 2020 by Disney Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

"Written" by dwarf Nord Diggums with contributions from experts in the field of magical creatures such as Professor Ivana Therey and Dr. Belleva Best, this guide sheds light on a variety of beings who appear in the world of Artemis Fowl so that Mud People (humans) can understand their ways. There are chapters on Trolls, Elves, Pixies, Sprites, etc., as well as a chapter on Fairy Technology. Each chapter includes a Spotter's Guide with quick information to use for identification if a creature is spotted in the wild, and also has lengthier information about the uniform, rituals, and abilities. Encrypted messages from Artemis Fowl are also included.

There are full color illustrations through out the book covering a wide range of activities and settings, as well as a few bits of Gnommish writings, including a great chart of the alphabet. This would be quite useful for fans of the Artemis Fowl series to use both to decode text in the novels or to write each other encrypted notes!

There are not as many stories and anecdotes in this companion title as there are in Manning's Artemis Fowl: How to be a LEPrecon, but there is more information about various entities provided in a larger format with a more leisurely tone. I can see this being a great resource for fan art drawings, and would be excellent fun for a die hard fan to dip into for a refresher when rereading the novels in preparation for the show on Disney Plus.

Monday, June 22, 2020

MMGM- Starting from Seneca Falls and The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Schwabach, Karen. Starting from Seneca Falls
June 23rd 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Bridie and her mother have come to the US after losing her father and brothers in the Irish Potato Famine, and have ended in the poorhouse after her father's new husband drank all of their wages from the woolen mills. After her mother's death, Bridie is sent to live with the Kigley's to work on their farm. Once there, she doesn't mind the hard work, but hates that every time the daughter, Lavinia, messes up, she is beaten for it. She decides to run away, and meet Rose, an African-American girl whose mother is dead and whose father is a sailor from whom she has not heard in a long time. She boards with a canal boat captain, and occasionally works for Mrs. Stanton. She introduces Bridie to her, and luckily, Mrs. Stanton is in need of some help. Since she is interested in women's rights, she pays Bridie (who goes by Phoebe to elude the Kigleys) the handsome sum of $1 a week, which is unheard of in 1848. Mrs. Stanton and her friends are working on putting together a women's convention in Seneca Falls, and Bridie settles in to help. She also goes to school, as does Rose. Luckily, the teacher is sympathetic to Rose's situation, and even spends a few extra minutes after school to go over the more advanced math Rose is covering. When Lavinia and Mrs. Kigley show up at Mrs. Stanton's house, trying to escape Mr. Kigley's beatings, Bridie doesn't want to help them, but knows it is the right thing to do. After the convention, Mrs. Stanton arranges to get Mrs. Kigley to Rochester on the train, but Lavinia is left behind. Using their smarts, Bridie and Rose set off along the canal with Lavinia to keep ahead of Mr. Kigley. Once in the new town, both girls find occupations they wish to pursue.
Strengths: Yes! I have looked and looked for historical fiction about the women's movement, and there is very little! Framing this from the point of view of Bridie, whose life is so difficult, was an excellent choice, and how much fun is it to meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friends and family this way! Rose is also an intriguing character, and brings up a lot of interesting questions about the state of African-Americans in the North during this time period. My favorite part is the girls' journey along the Erie canal. The canals were fascinating, and yet there is little about them as well. I love historical fiction, and this one really brightened my day!
Weaknesses: I wish the cover looked a little older. My 8th graders aren't going to want to pick this up.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this and would love to see more women's history novels by Schwabach. Still have her The Hope Chest (2009), which circulates well.

Halfmann, Janet. The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls
November 5th 2019 by Lee & Low Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1839 to enslaved parents, Smalls had some small advantages in a terrible situation-- he was a house servant to a family that was not overly abusive. When he got older, he was able to work as a day laborer on the waterfront in Charleston, and married and had a son. He was allowed to work in exchange for paying his owners, and he was saving to buy the freedom of the wife and son, the cost of which was to be $800. In 1861, he was hired as a deckhand on the Confederate ship, the Planter, where he continued to learn new skills and get increased opportunities. Seeing the war heating up, and knowing that things were apt to go badly for African Americans in the South, Smalls devised a plan in 1862. He took the ship with its crew and some civilians, and sailed to the Union blockade. Luckily, they were not attacked, and the ship became Union property. Smalls served as captain on the Planter and the ironclad USS Keokuk and was a celebrated military hero. After the war, he went on to an impressive life as a businessman and civil servant, getting elected to both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the State Senate.
Strengths: I am always looking for biographies about previously unheralded people, especially those from marginalized populations. This short biography explains what life was like for African Americans before the Civil War, something that many of my students haven't really studied. The fact that Smalls was able to overcome the strictures put on people of color during this time period is impressive and an important piece of history for children to know. This is a great nonfiction book to read along with books like Schwabach's Starting from Seneca Falls. While there isn't a large amount of information available about Small's life, the inclusion of background information rounds out this biography very nicely. The bibliography and additional resources listings are a great inclusion for further study.
Weaknesses: While the Impressionist style illustrations are artistically beautiful, I wish that they had been more realistic and detailed in order to show historical details that young readers might not otherwise understand.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this title for my library, and will investigate the Story Of series from Lee and Low. It's good to see this imprint is flourishing; I first discovered them right before the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement of 2014, but they've been around since 1991.
Ms. Yingling

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Stepmom Shake-up

Lenz, Niki. The Stepmom Shake-up
June 16th 2020 by Random House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Grace and her father are doing as well as can be expected after the death of her mother three years ago; they are now Team Gravy (Grace and Davy). Her father is a pastor at a  local church, and his parishioners bring up that it's not good for him to be alone and that he should start dating. Grace thinks this is ludicrous, but her father sees some merit in it. Along with her friend Bea, Grace decides to sabotage her father's dating efforts. Bea has her own problems-- after years of being an only child, her parents have adopted a relative's toddler, who is causing havoc in their household. Grace doesn't want her household to experience the same fate. She messes with her father's online dating account, and undermines several of his dates. Eventually, she realizes that her father might like her teacher, Miss O'Connor, and her teacher may feel the same way. Finally understanding that her father is sometimes lonely, Grace tries to encourage the two in all things romantic, but comes up against many obstacles. Grace and her father are very interested in history, so Grace tries to use this as a way to lure Miss O'Connor into activities that might bring her closer to her father. Will she be successful?
Strengths: There are not many middle grade novels with parents who are ministers, and this was rather interesting! I loved that even though the father was a man of the cloth, the book had more of the social aspects of the church than religious ones, which are fine but usually kind of boring. Grace's doubts about her father dating are very realistic, and her journey towards understanding his emotions (and her own) was well done. I loved Miss O'Connor, too! Bea's plight added some humor to the story, and I also enjoyed the details of doing over the attic room and making period costumes in order to portray Teddy Roosevelt and Alice. Very fun!
Weaknesses: While it was funny, it seemed a bit unrealistc that Bea's new toddler brother would be so ill-behaved.
What I really think: This has a fantastic cover, and I will definitely purchase for fans of Elly Swartz's One Smart Cookie, Kyi's Me and Banksy,  and Weston's Speed of Life.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Five Thing About Ava Andrews

Dilloway, Margaret. Five Thing About Ava Andrews
June 9th 2020 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ava has a heart condition that adds to her anxiety, so she is generally quiet and reserved in school. When her best friend, Zelia, moves away from San Diego to Maine, Ava is crushed. She has a supportive family, including older brothers Luke and Hudson and a grandfather, Jichan,  and step grandmother, Nana Linda, but she misses having someone by her side in school. Her father runs a Cotillion program that offers classes for sixth graders, and she is supposed to take part in the program. Her father sees that she is miserable, but says that if she wants to go to visit Zelia the next summer, she must not only go to the Cotillion, but participate. She finds it hard to participate in school as well, even though her teacher is very supportive and aware of her 504 plan to deal with her anxiety. He encourages her work, but insists that she work on a group project with Ty, even though the two get off to a rocky start. Luckily, Cecily, who did improv with Zelia, goes out of her way to befriend Ava and even encourages her to join the improv group. Once there, Ava finds out that gentrification is threatening the local theater and businesses in the same way that a previous project pushed her grandfather out of his own building for the Cotillion. With the help of her Grandma Linda, Ava gets involved in saving Navegando Point, and in doing so, makes some new friends and is able to deal more effectively with her anxiety.
Strengths: Ava has a very supportive family who help her find ways of coping with her various challenges. She is seeing a therapist, and some of the techniques for coping are described. Her older brothers are particularly appealing in the way that they both annoy and care about their sister. The relationship with Zelia is absolutely textbook-- the two distance themselves when they feel lonely and hurt, but ultimately are able to make up. The improv is interesting, I'm always a fan of a good evil developer, and Nana Linda was a delight. I have to keep reminding myself that Cotillion is a real thing; I can't say I've ever heard of a student attending one, even though there is apparently a program in a nearby town. It's one of those things that hits me like golfing-- I can just hear my mother's voice sneering about it as something rich folk do. Hard to overcome our early training.
Weaknesses: I could have used some more details on why gentrification is always bad. There are a lot of places in Columbus where it would be a good thing. Probably just a difference in West Coast and Midwest perspective.
What I really think: I think I will purchase, mainly because a growing number of my students have 504s for anxiety.
Ms. Yingling

Friday, June 19, 2020

Guy Friday- The Day I Was Erased and Smooth

Thompson, Lisa. The Day I Was Erased.
June 2nd 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Maxwell is a very unpleasant boy, but part of that is because his life has some deeply unpleasant moments. His parents fight all of the time, and he has a tenuous relationship with his best friend. The best thing in his life is his dog, Monster, whom he saved from being run over. When Max gets in trouble at school again, he ends up at the house of a elderly neighbor, Reg. Reg is always a calming influence, offering tea and cookies even though he doesn't always remember Max right away. While telling Reg about his horrible day, Max wishes he was never born... and his wish comes true. Max stumbles through a nightmare landscape where his parents are divorced and his mother is dating, his father has never left the office job that drove him into a deep depression, his best friend Charlie is struggling in school, his sister has picked up all of his juvenile delinquent ways, his school has never been renovated, and Monster is not around because Max was not there to save him. Max tells Reg that he is staying with him because his parents are away, and Max tries desperately to connect with the people in his life who no longer know him so that he can improve their lives in this alternate reality. He finally realizes what made him be erased, and with the help of his sister and Charlie, tries to return to his real life.
Strengths: I very much enjoyed this author's The Light Jar, and Max's plight is an interesting one. I loved that he was able to stay with Reg without much explanation, and the way he approaches the mystery is well done. His concerns about people in his life are nicely specific, and I particularly liked his concern for the way his sister turns out without him. The artifacts responsible for the disappearance are nicely tied into the story as well, and Reg's history adds a nice finish.
Weaknesses: Max is NOT a pleasant character at the beginning of the book, and this was another instance of British parenting being shown in a very negative light! I worry about British parents; just reading Jacqueline Wilson makes me want to call Children's Services on the whole country!
What I really think: This reminded me of another British author's books-- Ross Welford's The 1,000 Year Old Boy and What Not to Do if You Turn Invisible. I've been able to sell those to students, and this has an even more intriguing premise, so I will definitely purchase.

I'm kind of a sucker for the illustrations on UK covers, but I think Scholastic made a good call on the update for the US consumer.

The following is definitely a high school book, due to content and language, but I was very impressed with it, so I will include it for anyone who deals with high school libraries or readers. Since I personally hand books to most of my students, I won't be buying it; it's not the sort of book anyone wants to be handed by their middle school librarian. But man, it was good.

Burns, Matt. Smooth
June 16th 2020 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Kevin is starting tenth grade, and has been battling horrible cystic acne. At his doctor's appointment right before the school year starts, he mentions taking Accutane to his doctor. There are a lot of conditions to taking the drug, which has serious side effects, but Kevin's acne is so painful and disfiguring that he is willing to take the chances, and doesn't mind filling out forms and having his blood tested once a month. He doesn't want to tell his good friends Luke and Will about this, since he feels they would just give him a hard time. While the three are supposed to be working on a story telling project for language arts, and start with the idea of doing a horror slasher film. At his first blood test appointment, Kevin meets a girl who is also getting treatment for her own acne, and although he doesn't have the nerve to speak with her, he does get her name and picks up her ear buds when she leaves them behind. He feels like Alex might be a kindred spirit, and is soon obsessed with thoughts of her, and what he might say to her the next time they meet. Kevin has somewhat typical 15 year old boy interests,most of which he tries to hide from his parents, and it'snot a surprise that he has underplayed the seriousness of the Accutane as well. As the school year progresses, he starts to feel that Luke and Will are somewhat jerky, thinks that he might be interested in a girl named Emma, has ups and downs in his relationship with Alex, especially when she transfers to his school, and begins to have mood swings that become very serious, and are no doubt tied to the Accutane. When he is helping his younger sister Kate with some of her middle school problems, he realizes that how he is feeling really is very serious, and takes steps to reach out to people in his life and get himself help.
Strengths: The teen boy voice in this was so painfully realistic that I wonder if this is based on the author's own experiences, especially since this is set in 2007. Kevin is a good kid; at one point, he skips going out with his friends to plan his homework for the quarter. He also is quite frank about the private interests of his age group in quite vivid detail, which is why it would be awkward for me to hand this to students. His slow descent into depression is done well. We see him being irritated with people in his life, and he then spirals deeper and deeper into his own thoughts. These changes in tone take place halfway through the book, so readers who don't make it that far miss the hard hitting reality of this title. Teacher and librarians who adored Niven's All the Bright Places or Green's Turtles All the Way Down need to take a look at this book, and remember that the gross bits about acne, horror movies, masturbation, etc. are what will get the fifteen year old boys to read this book and learn from this book it in a way that they might not enjoy or learn from other YA mental health titles. I can imagine many of my readers enjoying this when they are in high school.
Weaknesses: So many f-bombs and private details. This was hard for me to read. I almost want a "young readers edition" so that I can have it in a middle school library.
What I really think: This was such an absorbing read that I couldn't put it down even when I realized I wouldn't be buying it. I am definitely going to recommend that the high school libraries in my district buy it.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Amelia Six

Gray, Kristin L. The Amelia Six
June 2nd 2020 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Millie has won a trip to the Amelia Earhart museum in Atchison, and arrives with her father (and his CPR dummy) in a chicken truck after their car fishtails in horrible winter weather. Thea arrives with her aunt in a motorcycle sidecar. Cassie is with her parents, who are busy professionals. Nathalie brings her pet rat, and sisters Robin and Wren are YouTubers. All are interested in flying and aeronautics, and have been chosen by the Ninety-Niners who help run the museum to come and visit. They are met by Birdie, the elderly caretaker, her nephew Collin, housekeeper Edna and chef Perry. They are all pleased to be in the home of their idol, and are having fun completing a scavenger hunt when things start to go wrong. A pair of goggles that are on display before being turned over to the Smithsonian go missing, and Birdie is slipped a drug that makes her pass out. Everyone is a suspect, and the girls set out to solve the mystery. This leads them to explore the house, look into Amelia's history, and question the motives of everyone. Will they be able to find the goggles before they are to be handed over?
Strengths: Amelia Earhart is still a very popular person to research, and her life and story are fascinating. There are lots and lots of good details about her life woven into the story. The mystery is solid, and the inclusion of adults who might be suspects worked well. I thought it would be hard to keep the six nicely diverse girls straight, but it wasn't. Hanging out in the historic house was fantastic! It reminded me a bit of being in the Molly Brown house in Denver, and I seriously thought about planning a trip to Atchison, perhaps swinging by Mansfield, Missouri and Wilder's Rocky Ridge Farm on the way.
Weaknesses: The beginning scene with the father, CPR dummy and chicken truck almost made me put this one down. None of that quirkiness extended to the rest of the book and was just a bit odd.
What I really think: I will purchase this one because it's just so appealing, and despite the Blue Balliet feel to the setting, has some decently dark mystery to it. It would have been better had there been a murder, though. Easier to sell to my blood thirsty eleven year olds! Readers who enjoyed the Earhart themed Behren's The Last Grand Adventure (2018) or the historical home setting of Asselin and Malone's The Art of the Swap (2018)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Brother's Keeper

Lee, Julie. Brother's Keeper
June 16th 2020 by Holiday House
ARC provided by Follett First Look

In 1950, Sora Pak lives in North Korea with her mother (Omahni), father (Abahji), and younger brothers Youngsoo and Jisoo. She has been pulled out of school to help with her brothers as her parents work on the farm, and things have become increasingly dire in her community. Her mother is never happy with Sora's work, claiming that she can't cook and will never find a husband. Sora would rather go to college, but this does not seem to be an option. She has already witnessed the shooting of an uncle, and the Communists have limited the information coming in to the community and imposed many strictures on the people. When war arrives, things become even more burdensome: to avoid conscription, her father hides in a hole in the ground during the day. Family friends, the Kims, are planning to flee to South Korea, where there is some family in Busan. Omahni would rather carefully follow all of the unjust rules and stay in her home, but Abahji wants to flee. Eventually, circumstances force the Paks to join the exodus from South Korea. With very few supplies, they take off across the country. After an air attack, Sora and Youngsoo are separated from their parents and brother. Initially, Sora tries to retrace their journey, but quickly realizes she must leave the country. The journey is arduous and treacherous; the siblings have no food, and survive mainly by finding kimchi hidden in the farmhouses they use for shelter. Eventually, they make it to Busan, but Youngsoo is very ill. Will Sora be able to put her family back together and overcome her mother's cultural expectations to choose her own path forward?
Strengths: The Korean War is definitely an era which needs a LOT more books written about it, and I was glad to see this approached from the civilian perspective instead of the military one. Lee does an excellent job of interspersing information about the historical situation with a compelling tale of survival. The way that Sora's mother treats her shows the cultural expectations of the time, but it's good to have Sora speak up for herself at the end. Having the dates at the beginning of each chapter is helpful, and I cannot express how happy I was at the note in the back that apologized for having incorrect weather on a particular date. Now THAT'S the sort of research and attention to detail I want! Since this is loosely based on her own mother's experience, the notes and photographs about this make this story even more powerful. There are so many good things about this book that it's hard to list them all. Even the cover is excellent!
Weaknesses: Is it horrible of me that I sort of wanted a romance to develop between Sora and Myung-gi? I think he was just such an appealing character, and Sora deserved some happiness. I would love to see a companion novel about Myung-gi's experience during this same time period.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and will try to get this ARC to one of my former students whose parents were from South Korea and who was always looking for more books set in that country. Very interested to see what Ms. Lee will write next! Hand this to readers who enjoyed Chang Compestine's The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party or O'Brien's In the Shadow of the Sun, or who just want to know more about Korea and its history. Survival fiction fans will also enjoy this.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The One and Only Bob and The Rider's Reign

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Bob
May 5th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bob survives on his own, thank you very much, but it's kind of nice to have Julia and her comfortable house now that Ivan and Ruby have been moved to the zoo. Since Julia's father now works at the zoo, which is just down the street, the two are able to sneak in and visit Ruby and Ivan. During one trip, the weather is bad but takes a horrible turn. A tornado touches down, making Bob fly through the air and land in the giraffe enclosure. It also damages many of the barriers keeping the animals separated and collapses some buildings. Bob's first concern is his two friends; he finds Ruby quickly, but Ivan is trapped under a building. Luckily, the humans are able to free him, and the zoo staff work to get the animals to safety while trying to corral the ones that are loose. Bob does his best to help, and even has a run in with Kimu, the wolf. When Bob hears a bark that sounds familiar, he heads out of the zoo, only to be captured by the police and taken to the shelter. There, he meets someone from his past (I don't want to spoil things) who sends him on a rescue mission that helps dispel some of his personal demons. The storm forces Bob to reevaluate his life and the friends who are important to him, and gives him an even deeper appreciation for his life with Julia.
Strengths: My students are huge fans of The One and Only Ivan, and they are already looking forward to this one. Bob is my favorite character, so it was very satisfying to have all of his concerns addressed. There is just enough about his everyday life before the storm hits, and then it is an action packed adventure, which I didn't expect. The interactions between the different animals are all interesting; sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes sad. I'm usually not a big fan of character driven novels, but Applegate does a good job at showing us Bob's philosophical journey in the context of his physical one, and it all works beautifully.
Weaknesses: Some readers might be disappointed that there isn't more about Ivan.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. May even get two copies, since the first book is on the Battle of the Books list this year. Hard to believe it has been eight years since Ivan was published!

More importantly, this book is coming out in October! As a parent who has all 54 books plus super specials in a box in the attic, I may have to buy this for my eldest daughter!

George, Jessica Day. The Rider's Reign (Rose Legacy #3)
June 16th 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Anthea's story  and her involvement in the war between various kingdoms is told in The Rose Legacy, and continues in The Queen's Secret. Now, she and her allies Jilly and Finn, must travel to Kronenhof to find Meg, as well as several of the horses which have been kidnapped by Thea's mother, Genevia, and the evil emperor. If Meg is not heard from in two weeks, the Coronami intend to declare war with Kronenhof, so they must work quickly. There is a herd of "ghost horses" that are hiding out in the woods, and Thea is sure that her missing horses are out there somewhere, but communicating isn't going well, sometimes due to stones that interfere with the Way. With the help of Prince Adil, who is himself being held hostage by the emperor, the group locates the horses, as well as Meg, at a hunting lodge. They are being in horrible conditions by, of course, Genevia. Genevia wants power above all else, and is willing to align herself with the emperor if she thinks that it will gain her power. She doesn't care if she alienates her daughter; only power is important. Anthea, Jilly, and Finn think that it is more important for the horses to be viewed as safe (they were not, after all, responsible for the Dag, even if people still believe they were), and for the countries to get along. The adults seem to have all of the political power, and few of them play fair. How will Thea be able to keep her beloved horses safe, stand up to her mother, and eventually get back to a life that doesn't involve political intrigue?
Strengths: This series has been a great hit with my horse lovers and fantasy adventure lovers as well! The covers are great, the girl power is awesome, and the stories are fast paced and full of intrigue. The Downtown Abbey-esque world (there are cars, and definitely a historical feel to the setting) with its Rose Maidens, evil adversaries, and horses that can communicate with humans is one that I could see third graders trying to recreate of the playground. The adults don't seem to know how to organize their world, so it's a good thing that Anthea and her friends do.
Weaknesses: It would have helped (me, at least) to have had a bit of a recap about the political situation. Readers who have just finished the last book will be fine, but if it's been some time, it might take readers a bit to become reacclimated.
What I really think: Readers who love horses, and who love to see young protagonists save the day, will love this ending to a great series. These books are popular with my students who love Wrede's Dealing with Dragons, Lairamore's Ivy Even After, and Burgis' The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart as well as the works of Sarah Beth Durst, Sarah Prineas, and other books by this author.

There was a twitter thread recently complaining about reviewers who comment that children's books are too childish. I thought a lot about that, because while reviewers shouldn't condemn a title because it doesn't suit their personal preferences, it can be important to mention them, because it certainly colors a review. For example, I had an epiphany of sorts while reading this: I don't care about political machinations, not in history, and not in books. So all of the ins and outs of the Coronami and the Kronenhof didn't appeal that much to me. I'm also not a huge fan of horses; the horses talking to their humans and calling them "beloved" kind of grated on me. HOWEVER, that's just me. It's important to be able to recognize the difference!

Monday, June 15, 2020

MMGM- Raising Lumie and American Immigration

Bauer, Joan. Raising Lumie
June 16th 2020 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Olive's mother died when she was young, and her beloved plumber father has just succumbed to cancer. Since her grandmother's hip problems don't allow her to take care of Olive, Maudie, her half sister from her father's first marriage, steps in. Maudie is a graphic designer who is sixteen years older than Olive. She's just gotten a new job in a town three hours away, and the two move there to try to start over. They rent a room in a house, and Maudie's boss even allows Olive to come to the office during the summer. Olive would rather stay home, but once she gets to the office she is happy. One of the employees, Brian, helps raise service dogs for the Northeast Guide Dog Center, and the puppies come to the office to get used to noises and people. A boy Olive's age, Jordan, also helps, and the two start to become friends. Olive and one of the puppies, Lumie, form a bond, and Olive thinks about asking Maudie is she can foster her. Maudie is having trouble with her fiance, and living in a house makes things difficult. Olive also isn't sure that she would be strong enough to say goodbye to Lumie after raising her for a year. The stars align, however, and Lumie moves in with Olive and Maudie. There's a lot of training to be done, and Olive is dedicated to doing her best. Lumie helps Olive have something to do while she is dealing with her grief and preparing to start at a new middle school. She knows she's doing a good thing,  but how hard will it be to let Lumie go?
Strengths: There are a lot of sad books out there, and a lot of teachers and librarians who love them and think they are therapeutic for readers. If all of the sad books were like this, I might agree. Olive has had a devastating loss and is thrust into a new environment that she can't escape and is unsure about, but she finds the positive and soldiers on. THIS is the kind of example that young readers need. I always worry about the soggy sad books-- will they make readers who are experiencing loss  even sadder? Will it make them think that what they are going through is horrible, or will it give them the message this book does: yes, life is hard. But you have to make the best of it. That's all any of us can do. I did appreciate that Olive has a therapist and talks to her regularly, and is processing her losses. Her passion for dogs and her dedication to Lumie is fantastic, and the details of raising a service dog will intrigue young readers. Bauer always writes intriguing casts of characters and interesting scenarios, and this cover will make sure that readers pick up this title right away and are able to read this great story.
Weaknesses: I could have done without the songs and Olive's lists and journal entries. They just slowed things down a bit.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. I love Close to Famous (2011) Almost Home (2012), Soar (2016), and especially Rules of the Road (1998) which stills circulates even though it was published just before Picky Reader (who just graduated from college!) was born.

Krull, Kathleen. American Immigration: Our History, Our Stories
June 16th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Wow. If you need only ONE book that gives an overview about everything anyone might need to know about immigration, this would be the book. I'm familiar with Krull's work for younger students (like her Louisa May's Battle or America's First Ladies), but this is a comprehensive and multifaceted book perfect for middle grade readers.

Not only does it cover the history of different peoples who immigrated to the US, it talks about indigenous peoples and how they were treated. An interesting and welcome twist for a book on immigration, to be sure.There is also some discussion about the fact that certain populations did not choose to come here, but were brought against their will, so they are not necessarily immigrants. Not only is the history of the various policies and treatment of immigrants mentioned, but there are a multitude of short biographies of immigrants who have made significant contributions to US society throughout its history.

Later in the book, there is information about the process needed to become a citizen, and also facts about the policies that the current administration has tried to put into place. While clearly not a fan of Trump and his ideas, the text is admirably dispassionate and lets the statistics and directives speak for themselves.

This would be a fantastic book to have on hand for students who are looking for a place to start a history day project, or who just want to learn about immigration. I didn't know very much about Angel Island and the West Coast portals for immigrants, and found that fascinating. I also appreciated the information about English and German immigrants-- as nearly as I can tell, my family either came over from the United Kingdom in the mid 1700s, or from Germany in the mid 1800s. My daughters are ten generations removed from John Alden and Priscilla Mullins-- there is a paper trail researched by a family member, so we're not just making it up.

The E ARC made it hard to get a good idea about the set up of this book, but it does seem to be more focused on text than pictures, so it's not like the Wallace's very fine First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great which is mentioned in the bibliography. I do have to say that I really have to track down We Were There: The Story of Working Women in America by Barbara M. Wertheimer (1977). Definitely purchasing this book for my library.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Match Made in Mehendi

Bajpai, Nandini. A Match Made in Mehendi
September 10th 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Simran (Simi) comes from a long line of matchmakers-- her mother and aunt run a matchmaking business. Simi and her tech-savvy brother Navdeep have often thought the business could be updated with technology, and decide to test Navdeep's app (with a few of Simi's tweaks) on the school population. Simi's friend Noah helps as well. Simi is also working on a big art project into which she is trying to work her skill in mehendi (henna designs). The app does well, but of course causes all sorts of social upheaval. Super popular Ethan is matched with new girl Tea over their shared love of soccer, but his former girlfriend (and school mean girl) Amanda thinks this can't be possible since she is "meant to be" with him. Simi does get matched with long time art crush Ethan, although she finds a relative of her sister's new boyfriend (whom she sort of discovered) appealing as well. When the app fixes Suraj up with her classmate Jassi, she's disappointed, but arranges a meeting even after Ethan disappoints her with a show of academic dishonesty. When Amanda starts an attack, will the app be in peril?
Strengths: This was a great, light romance with lots of details about high school kids involved in different activities-- art, soccer, coding. It integrated culture and other differences seamlessly. The ending is happy, with Simi getting a kiss, Noah finally realizing Connor is interested in him, Navdeep finding a girlfriend interested in tech things, and the matchmaking business deciding to try the app.
Weaknesses: Amanda's bullying was rather over the top; Simi's story was already intriguing, and Amanda's arc seemed unnecessary.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Some of my romance books are in really bad shape, and aside from Kasey West, it's been hard to find books with high school characters that don't go into more details than I would like when I am handing books to students!

Ms. Yingling