Monday, August 31, 2020

MMGM- Tune it Out and Millionaires for a Month

Sumner, Jamie. Tune It Out
September 1st 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Louise and her mother are living in Nevada, but things aren't great. Hermother has a job as a waitress, which is good, but money is tight, so they are living in their vehicle, which isn't. Lou's mom thinks that the two will be able to havea better life is Lou is discovered by a talent agent, so has her perform at talent shows and coffee houses. Lou's singing is great, but she hates to perform. She is very sensitive to sounds, and is uncomfortable in front of people, but her mother will not listen. When Lou is driving to pick her mother up at work on a snowy night, she has a crash with a deer, and the police and children's services get involved. Soon, Lou is being taken by plane to Nashville to stay with her mother's sister, Ginger, and her Uncle Dan. Maria, the social worker, picks up right away that Lou struggles with the noise of the plane, and buys her an iPod so she can listen to music. Things are not bad at her aunt's house; her aunt is a lawyer, and Dan teaches at a private school that Lou will be attending. Louise settles in to her new school with the help of Wells, who is on Dan's tennis team. Well's thinks Lou's voice is great, and she should be involved with the theater group, even though singing in public is not her idea of a good time. After a few incidents in school, Lou meets with a counselor who has her do a sensory survey-- nor surprisingly, it turns out that Lou has several issues. Since her mother had never wanted her to be identified, since it would make her look week, and her mother never wanted to take help from anyone, Lou had internalized that opinion at is at first reluctant to look into coping strategies. Eventually, though, she realizes that letting things go on as they are isn't helpful. Everyone in her new life is supportive, but when her mother comes for a visit, it is a bit upsetting. Still, she loves her mother. Is there a situation where Lou and her mother can both get the support they need?
Strengths: Of all of the "sad" books, the only one my students really, really like are the ones where parents are less than effective. This certainly has that, since Lou's mother is so involved in her own issues that she is not attuned to Lou's. At first, Lou does not have the language or understanding to understand or describe her own neurodiverse difficulties, but she eventually begins to understand them; this allows the reader to also slowly grasp what is going on. Wells is a fun character with his own issues, but it's nice to see him be enthusiastic about welcoming a new student. Ginger and Dan do their best to help in an unexpected situation, and Lou's mother's motivations eventually make sense, even if their results aren't great. This is an engaging, quickly moving story that fans of this author's Roll With It will be eager to pick up.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of details about the play and about Lou's singing; even though I have an increasing number of students involved in theater, books involving theater or performing are still a hard sell in my library. This might take a little hand selling, but Lou's other issues will be a big draw.
What I really think: Sumner isn't an #ownvoices author, but she does have connections with the special needs community, and her research seems solid. Lou's sensitivity issues are very reflective of how I see students with similar issues react all the time, and her emotional responses also seem realistic. Until we start seeing more #ownvoices narratives, I am fine with well researched and sensitive portrayals. I will definitely be purchasing.

McAnulty, Stacy. Millionaires for the Month
E ARC provided by Netgalley
September 1st 2020 by Random House Bfyr

Benji and Felix are classmates, but very different people. Felix is all about following the rules, and Benji just wants to have fun. When they are on a field trip to New York City, the boys find a wallet in Central Park. When it turns out it belongs to millionaire Laura Friendly, Benji is okay with "borrowing" $20 so the boys can eat lunch. They do turn the wallet in, and Ms. Friendly is glad they did. She's also a bit put off by the fact that Benji doesn't feel too bad about borrowing the money, and she issues the boys a challenge: the boys need to spend over $5 million in a month. If they do, she will give them each ten million dollars that they can keep. Of course, there are lots of rules about what they can and can't buy, but the biggest rule is that they are not allowed to tell their parents! Mr. Trulz is in charge of their debit cards, and has to approve purchases. It's a lot of money to spend, especially since they can't give any to charity of buy gifts. Some purchases are easy enough to get away with, like delivering doughnuts to school, but many, like taking a hotel room, renting cars, and employing a driver, prove to be more difficult.  The boys find a dog, whom they name Freebie, and have their driver, a college student named Reggie, help to take care of him. Their school work suffers as they try to find ways to spend the  money that won't get them in trouble with their parents. This is hard, especially when Felix wants to do things like help his sister Georgie pay for her wedding to Michelle. Felix's single mother, as well as his sister, are struggling with day-to-day expenses, so they don't approve of all of the expensive meals and tennis shoes that the boys are buying. While Benji's family is a little better off, they also feel there are more intelligent ways to spend the money, and eventually go to court to get the boys to stop spending money! This puts a crimp in their plan, and they try to find a way around it. When a tragedy occurs that necessitates spending money, the boys skirt the rules a little. Will Ms. Friendly let them get away with it? Or is she determined to teach them a lesson?
Strengths: This is pure tween wish fulfillment! Spend $5 million dollars in a month! Buy doughnuts for everyone, live it up with meals out, fund princess parades for teachers' kids! Great stuff. There is also a subplot involving the boys trying out for the school basketball team that is well done, and is a great selling point for a lot of readers. The boys are different enough that it is fun to watch them work together; they hadn't been friends, but don't mind each other, and work well together in their enviable predicament. The family angst is realistic; I really enjoyed the wedding scheme, and Felix's stress when his mother quits her job brings an air of seriousness to this. There are pictures of the banking app and the amount of purchases made that keeps the story moving along. This is a great doughnut of fun with an icing of more serious issues and a few sprinkles of moral lessons for good measure. Tasty!
Weaknesses: While I really like McAnulty's fresh plots and generally upbeat tone, I wish her books were just a tiny bit shorter. 200 pages remains the Gold Standard for middle grade literature, and it's sometimes hard to convince my students to check out longer tomes.
What I really think: It was a little hard for me to believe that Ms. Friendly would want to keep parents in the dark, and that the boys were able to do this, but that's just my adult perspective talking. Ms. Friendly eventually doubts her methods, and what tween hasn't tried to hide things from a parent? Definitely purchasing, and the cover and title will make this a popular pick.


  1. I find it interesting that your students "like are the ones where parents are less than effective." Both these books sounds interesting. I am putting both of these on my TBR list. Thanks for telling me about them.

  2. Both of these sound great Karen. I enjoyed Roll With It so I'll be looking for Tune It Out.

  3. I've heard about Tune It Out, and I'm glad to hear that, despite not being #ownvoices, it is accurate—I remember having a lot of sensory oversensitivity as a little kid, which I luckily outgrew for the most part, so it's neat to see that in a book! Millionaires for a Month sounds totally fun as well! Thanks for the great post!

  4. I'd forgotten about Tune It Out, but I see I added it to my list over the summer. Looks like something my theatre kid might really enjoy. And I just received an e-ARC of Millionaires for the Month last week, so I'm looking forward to this one. I always appreciate your detailed strengths/weaknesses section, Karen. So helpful for making reading/purchasing decisions. Have a great week!

  5. When I was a kid reading kids books, the only thing better than an ineffective parent was a dead one. Now I raise my eyebrows more. But it's like Harry Potter -- as a parent, the school safety standards appall me, but as a kid, of course it's fine. (Not that I was a kid when I first read them, but it was before I HAD a kid, which was a big tipping point.) Both of these look fun.

  6. I agree that kids do not value solid parenting in books, and it only gets in the way of some of the plots we see. I am looking forward to seeing more of both of these books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.