Monday, August 17, 2020

MMGM- Stealing Mt. Rushmore, Pounce, and Fetch

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

I've had to disable comments for most of the week because of alarmingly filthy spam comments, but will try to enable them on Mondays. My apologies. It's been crazy at school, trying to set up for remote learning. I always work hard, but I've never worked THIS hard, because it's a lot of stuff I don't know how to do. Everything is like trying to play the piano wearing mittens. Or type wearing gloves, which I've been doing at materials pickup. 

Kalmar, Daphne. Stealing Mt Rushmore.
August 18th 2020 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nellie Sanders lives in a Boston neighborhood with her father, older brothers George and Tom, and younger brother Teddy in 1974. Their mother has recently left home and has not been in contact with the family. Because their father works long hours as a cook at the Far Reach restaurant, Nellie is in charge of watching Teddy during the day, earning ten dollars "to make sure that Teddy at something besides Popsicles, didn't stay in his p.j.'s all day or get run over by a bus" (from the E ARC but SO descriptive!). The two read the newspaper every day, lingering over the horoscopes and Hagar the Horrible comic strips but also following the Watergate coverage and the news of Mooch, a bird at a nearby zoo who has been stolen. They also take in a dog, whom they name Abe, after they see him being beaten by a neighbor. Abe becomes a big help in dealing with their precarious situation. When their father finds out that the $500 that he had saved up to take the family on a trip to Mt. Rushmore was taken by Nellie's mother, he goes back into a deep depression, not getting out of bed, going to work, or getting groceries for the family. Nellie steps in to take care of the family, and after she finds out from George that he's the one who took the money and sent it to their mother, she decides to try to earn back the money so her father feels better. She asks neighbors for odd jobs like weeding, washes cars, and has a garage sale to sell her mother's clothes and jewelry. She's able to keep the sale a secret from her dad even though all of the neighbors know. Tom and his friend help out a lot, earning money from carrying groceries at the store for people. When the father finds out George's role in the theft, they fight, and George goes to live with a friend, putting even more of a burden on Nellie. Her friend, Maya, comes from a supportive family, but Maya is becoming more interested in clothes and boys, and Nellie has no patience for either. Nellie isn't able to come up with the $500 she would like, and when her mother visits, an incident occurs that causes the family to need the money for other expenses. Will Nellie and her family be able to reconcile themselves with the mother's absence and find a way forward?
Strengths: Nellie is the epitome of the scrappy, borderline neglected kid of the 1970s. Had her horrible mother actually been home, I'm sure she would have locked all of the kids out of the house from 1-4 so she could watch the daytime movie, smoke cigarettes, and take a nap without being bothered. (Fun fact: the babysitter I went to when I was five did that every day. Never told my mother until later; there were plenty of other kids in the neighborhood who couldn't get inside either.) I love that she isn't mean with Teddy at all, but takes good care of him; taping together a broken crayon from his deluxe box of 64 and taking him to feed birds in a park near the Swan Boats. She goes to the restaurant to ask a waitress to cover for her dad. She cleans the house, does laundry and grocery shops, even though she is in 7th grade at the oldest. I did appreciate that she started to chafe at her brothers NOT pulling their weight, and when she complains, her father makes the boys pitch in. While the mother seems especially callous and evil, I could totally believe the depiction. The details of daily life, like reading the newspaper, interacting with neighbors, and the coverage of Watergate add a nice historical depth to this.
Weaknesses: This was more a saga of survival than a plot driven novel. It was fine, but I found myself wanting just a tiny bit more plot. It did read like a lot of books I remember FROM the 1970s, so maybe this was a deliberate construct.
What I really think: I will definitely be purchasing this for the Decades Unit (although I will have to explain why people collected pop tabs-- my brother and I had a whole shoe box full!), since it has enough period details for the project as well as a compelling story about poor parenting choices and the resiliency of middle graders. Interesting that with all of the neglect, Nellie is never depicted as anxious or depressed. That would not be the case if this novel were set in the current times.

Weitzman, Gary and Andrus, Aubre. Fetch! a How to Speak Dog Training Guide 
August 4th 2020 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by MediaMasters Publicity

Like many people, I love my dog dearly, but never trained her properly. My children were 8 and 12 when Sylvie joined the family, and my father always claimed that little dogs didn't need to be trained, because you could just pick them up and take them away from a situation. This is so wrong, and I have always felt bad about how Sylvie was raised. 

This book would have been super helpful when she was a puppy. Accompanied by National Geographics usual spectacular pictures, Fetch! lays out exactly how to go about training a dog. It has a helpful flow chart determining whether your dog is ready to be trained, and has a lot of information to process about how dogs learn, treats, and optimal environments for training before you start a program with your dog. There are three main chapters on training; basic, advanced, and expert, as well as a super helpful chapter on problem-solving different behaviors like jumping on things and people, peeing inappropriately, and barking excessively. There's even an extra credit chapter at the back with a few more tricks and tips on how to make toys and treats. 

This is chock full of interesting and informative information about dogs and their behaviors. There are frequent side bars with "Dr. Gary's Training Tips", and occasional pages with historical information or anecdotes on exceptional dogs. This makes the book a fun read in addition to a useful and practical guide to training. As an introduction to pet ownership, this will be a helpful for for my students to check out of the library, although having a personal copy would be helpful if students are intending to train their own dog. 

Weitzman, Gary and West, Tracey. Pounce! a How to Speak Dog Training Guide 
August 4th 2020 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by MediaMasters Publicity

Since I was both raised in a household where cats were not favored and am highly allergic to them, I can't say I'm a fan. My daughter, however, lives in a tiny house with two felines, and I think she will benefit greatly from this book!

This piqued my interest right away with the introduction: "You can't TRAIN a cat, can you?" West and Weirzman do a great job at convincing me that you can by discussing cat body language, natural cat behaviors, and ways to personalize the training to your particular cat. The pages are all illustrated with high gloss, colorful pictures of cats and kittens, which even I think are adorable. Cats do seem to need a pre-training regimen, and a safety circle for young kittens is recommend when they first come to a new home. 

Basic training includes a list of supplies helpful in training a cat, such as a clicker, target stick, and toys; these items all have separate pages with further information. There are also chapters for intermediate and advanced tricks, as well as a chapter on problem solving. My daughter has one cat who likes to scream in her ear, and another who likes to knead her head when she's sleeping, so I'll definitely have her take a look at this! The chapter on enrichment is probably the most helpful, especially for people who already have an older cat. 

I like that fact that there is a list of resources and further reading as well. Ponce! will be a great introduction to cats for my students who are looking into having one as a pet, and this book would make a great gift for anyone who gets a cat, since having a copy around will make training with it much easier. 


  1. Stealing Mt Rushmore sounds like a perfect book for me. I will have to hunt down a copy. I'm through with getting new pets in my life, but the training books sound good, and I will keep them in mind for gifts. Thanks for your always thorough and thoughtful review.

  2. Stealing Mount Rushmore sounds really intriguing. All those details take me back to my days growing up in the 70s. We were the last of the "free range kids" really.
    The dog and cat books sound like fun, and I'm sure will be checked out by many.
    This is my fourth year online teaching, but it still is getting used to the constantly changing technology that makes me feel like I'm learning a new language all the time.
    Good luck with the start of your school year!

  3. Good luck preparing for remote learning. I really love the title, Stealing Mt Rushmore -- after reading your review I want to add "Healing Mt Rushmore. Sadly there are kids who are on their own. I like the time period because I was just out of college. I remember getting $2.00 an hour babysitting. This period story would bring back many memories for me. Thanks for sharing. Great books about animal care for teens.

  4. I'm sorry you've been dealing with spam comments—I had a period when a bunch were showing up on my blog as well, although they finally stopped. I'm also sorry that work has been so crazy! What a fun coincidence that Greg Pattridge reviewed Stealing Mt. Rushmore as well! Fetch and Pounce sounds like incredibly useful books for pet owners. Thanks for the great post!