Monday, August 24, 2020

MMGM- The Nerviest Girl in the World

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Wiley, Melissa. The Nerviest Girl in the World
August 18th 2020 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Pearl lives on an ostrich farm near the small town of Lemon Springs, California, in the early 1900s with her family, including three older brothers who are working as stunt men in films. Mr. Corrigan, who is producing silent pictures, relies on their horsemanship to add excitement to his story lines. The pay isn't unwelcome, and it's fun for Pearl to watch her siblings in action, as long as she doesn't forget that it's acting and disrupts filming by shouting out! When she is watching from the back of her horse one day, unexpected gunshots spook the animal and send the two racing across a field. Of course, the astute cameraman captures this, and Mr. Corrigan works the scene into the story line... since Pearl isn't hurt, of course! Soon, Pearl is working part time for the films in a variety of roles. Her parents are okay with this, and even have a phone line put in so that they can speak to Mr. Corrigan. Pearl still has to do her chores with the ostriches, and she puts in extra hours at home preparing for some of the stunts, such as the one where she accidentally goes up in a hot air balloon and has to shimmy down a rope to escape. The one problem she has is Mary, another girl her age who is an actress and seems to dislike Pearl for no particularly good reason.
Strengths: After reading book after book with sad things going on, this was a HUGE relief. Aside from the slight problem with Mary (which is nicely resolved), this is just a refreshing depiction of life in the early 1900s. Farming, cantankerous ostriches, the fledgling cinema world, and Pearl's fun and forthright interactions with all of these things. I loved that she was in a film but had never seen one! The grandmother is a great character, cooking with ostrich eggs and telling Pearl that she's growing too fast, so she can wear her brother's old pants, and generally injecting even more fun into a blissfully angst-free tale. For some reason (maybe the occasional page illustrations), this reminded me a bit of Cleary's Emily's Runaway Imagination!
Weaknesses: I wish this were a longer book, and I don't say that often. I really wanted to know more about Pearl's career, and her life in California.
What I really think: Like Nesbet's Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen, this covers a somewhat obscure but really fascinating time period. It's a quick, fascinating read that I can't wait to put into my students' hands.

50159794. sx318 sy475 Grove, Tim. Star-Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem
May 26th 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

The War of 1812 isn't one that really captures the imagination of young readers like the Revolutionary or Civil War does, but is nonetheless an important chapter of US history. There is a brief introduction to this conflict, complete with a map and list of key figures, but we then see some of the side stories that are going on. An explanation of Mary Pickersgill sewing business is brought in, and we then return to the war as it affected Baltimore. Francis Scott Key's involvement is highlighted, and we return to some of the battle details before getting a British perspective through the eyes of Sir Alexander Cochrane, the highest ranking British officer. As the battles rage on, we see Key's inspiration, the penning of the famous song, and are left with details about the fates of various key players.

George Santayana supposedly authored the phrase “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is an important thing to remember during these times of national turmoil when people are, rightly, questioning many of the traditions in the US that have questionable origins. While it was common two hundred years ago to take great pride in one's ability to subdue other nations, this is not a current opinion. I've never been a huge fan of the Star-Spangled Banner, favoring America the Beautiful as easier to sing and less polemic, but the anthem is part of US history, and as such, is important to study in order to understand US history.

This is a good length for a middle grade nonfiction book, coming in at just about 150 pages, plus notes and appendices. I enjoyed the fact that it did not concentrate on just the fighting, but highlighted key figures and other events occurring at the time. Fans of books about war will find enough descriptions of battle to make them happy!

This nicely paced recounting of events leading up to our nation's national anthem is delivered in a beautifully formatted book. Heavy, glossy paper does justice to the plentiful illustrations, period paintings, and facsimile documents supporting the text. The use of red, blue, and cream made me think of the US Bicentennial when I was a child-- this book would have fit right in! There are Places to Visit, a glossary, a timeline, and a nice bibliography as well.

Nonfiction books about a variety of history topics are always interesting to read. This author has several others including Milestones of Flight: From Hot-Air Balloons to SpaceShipOne and
First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race. Star-Spangled might be enjoyed by young readers who gravitate towards historical nonfiction titles like
Brinkley's American Moonshot Young Readers' Edition: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, Bowen's Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League or Olson's Into the Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain.

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