Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hatch and Last Kids on Earth #6

Oppel, Kenneth. Hatch (The Overthrow #2)
September 15th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Netgalley

After the invasion of killer plants in Bloom, there was some progress made on coming up with a herbicide to control the plants. Unfortunately, there is a new life form dropped in the rain; this time, larva that burrow under the earth. This new invasion is worrisome, and the government is still concerned. So concerned, in fact, that Colonel Pearson orders Petra, Anaya, Seth, and the others to be moved to another lab. Separated from their parents, the hybrid children are taken to another facility where they are poked and prodded, subjected to a large number of experiments. The scientists do find transmitters in their brains, which is concerning, because it means that the aliens can locate the children. There are many other hybrids in the facility who are undergoing the same physical changes. Darren has skin patterning and a tail like Petra, and Siena and Esta have feathers like Seth. Eventually, the cryptogens make contact in the form of Terra, a voice that speaks to Petra, and tells her that they are coming to Earth to retrieve her blood, in order to use it to make a weapon. We also find out that there are three different life forms; flyers, runners, and swimmers, who all have examples among the hybrid children. The flyers are the ruling class in the society, and are determined to keep the others under their rule. The scientists are trying to remove the hybrid's alien characteristics, surgically if needed, which is received in different ways by the hybrids. When things become untenable in the lab, the group decides to go back to Deadman's Island, but Seth and the other flyers are left behind. Once at the original lab, things do not get better, and as the children become more and more like the aliens, the group finds it hard to prepare themselves to make contact. The ending is quite the cliffhanger; a third book, Thrive, comes out in 2021.
Strengths: We learn a lot more about the aliens, their plans, and their life forms. The scientists are fairly evil, so it gives the children someone to fight against. It's also good to see some of the other hybrids and see how they react to all of this. This was very action packed and exciting; a little bit like MacHale's Sylo or Lore's I Am Number Four. 
Weaknesses: This focused more on the children and their evolution and wasn't as concerned with what was going on in the world at large. It made sense, but I wanted to know what was going on. I thought about this book a lot in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic; "at least it's not raining evil alien plant life"!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. This is the freshest dystopian series I've read in a while, even though this seemed a bit like Patterson's Maximum Ride.

Brallier, Max and Holgate, Douglas.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Skeleton Road (Last Kids on Earth #6) September 15th 2020 by Viking Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Jack and the gang are still continuing to fight in the post apocalyptic world they inhabit, after June's recent solo adventure. Thrull is still a threat, with his skeleton army, but Jack has been training zombies in order to take out those soliders. It's not going particularly well, especially since the skeletons seem to be impervious to wounds, popping back up with the aid of weird vines. This doesn't stop the group from traveling around slashing things, riding in BoomKarts, and interacting with a range of post apocalyptic creatures. Can they save the world? Probably not in this book, since there is a Netflix series, and demand for this paper-over-board volumes will be high.

I'm always saying that middle grade literature needs less soul searching, fewer dead parents, and more action and humor, so I feel bad that I don't much care for this series. My students really like it, especially since it is highly illustrated, but even as a twelve year old, this type of book wasn't my style (my jam being Ellen Conford, Paula Danziger, and lots of historical fiction). On the bright side, to avoid reading this, I did scrub some serious tea stains out of a couple of mugs, and if we ever get back to school, my students will be glad to see this title.

Chase, Mary. Loretta Mason Potts
July 15th 2014 by NYR Children's Collection (first published 1958) 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

The only reason I can see that this has been republished AGAIN (it was reissued in 2014 as well) is that the author also wrote the screenplay for Harvey

I rarely review books if I don't like them, but this book made me ANGRY. I can understand that people might have a nostalgic love of this, and making an E Book available might be a good idea, but to actually print new copies of this makes no sense.

Colin Mason lives with his mother (who is given to wearing high heels and furs) and his younger siblings. His father does not live with the family, and the mother goes out some nights in a drab coat and low shoes to a mysterious, unspecified location. After overhearing women talking at the grocery store, Colin realizes that he has an older sister. Loretta was a difficult child, and after a visit to the country at a very young age, was left with the Potts family because they seemed to be able to control her, whereas the mother was not. Even though she is still fractious and unpleasant, the mother brings Loretta home and expects the children to accept her. Loretta covets one sister's doll, and when she can't have it, makes plans to steal it and run back to the country. Colin, meanwhile, finds out that Loretta can travel through the closet to a magical kingdom where the Countess and General find her rudeness endearing and treat her well. Eventually, the siblings and the mother visit this alternative universe, but things don't go well there, so they are all glad to be back home, although they occasionally listen wistfully at the closet. 
Strengths: The illustrations were very nice. If this is being reissued for older people who have fond memories of it, that's fine. It also could be interesting from a historical perspective on the study of fantasy elements in children't literature. 
Weaknesses: This is not going to appeal to children today, and I wouldn't even want to encourage them to read it. Loretta is a horrible and unappealing character, but her mother just abandoned her with another family? Some older titles, like Ruth Chew's Everyday Magic books, are dated but still have some charm. I did not see the charm in this at all. 
What I really think: I understand the the NYR Children's collection republishes older titles, but the question is WHY? There are so many new books by authors who need to earn a living that are also much better written and much more applicable to modern life. No public or school library should buy this book. 

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