Saturday, October 31, 2020

Cartoon Saturday-- Measuring Up and Pet That Dog

LaMotte, Lily and Xu, Ann(Illustrator). Measuring Up
October 27th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Cici and her family move from Taiwan to the US for better opportunities. Cici settles in fairly well, although she misses her A-má (grandmother) very much, and has to deal with microagressions from people who make fun of her lunches or can't understand that she is Taiwanese and not Chinese. She would love for her A-má to visit for her 70th birthday, but money is too tight. When Cici finds out about a children's cooking competition with a grand prize of $1,000, she knows that she has to try to win. She is paired with Miranda, whose father is a chef and has an Italian restaurant. Miranda is very pushy and sure she is right, so when the two have to choose dishes, Miranda ignores Cici's recommendations, saying that they can't make "take out food". Cici manages to tweak the recipes with spices and ingredients that help the two advance to the next level, and Miranda becomes more open to suggestions. She is especially interested in Cici's ability as a "super taster" when it comes to spices. Cici's mother knows about the competition and her desire to have A-má visit, but her father does not. As Cici and Miranda keep hanging on, they know that they might eventually have to compete against each other. Who will have the cooking skills necessary to meet the challenges to the judges' satisfaction?
Strengths: This had a lot of interesting information about cooking a variety of ingredients, and even has a shout out to the culinary advice of Julia Child! The competition features different ingredients that must be used for the competition dishes, like spinach, rice, or potatoes, and the girls have their own ideas on what might be best. Their rivalry, and eventual friendship, is realistic. Miranda's father is overbearing, which explains her behavior, but this is a small part of the story. Cici's dealings with microaggressions are important to read about, and will hopefully make readers more empathetic to fellow classmates with different cultural backgrounds. Definitely the tastiest graphic novel out there!
Weaknesses: There are a significant number of middle grade novels about cooking competitions, and my students haven't been too interested in them. Are there really competitions for students? Clearly, I am out of the loop on this one.
What I really think: My students will read realistic graphic novels on just about any topic, and this has pleasant illustrations, a good text-to-picture ratio, and fast paced story, so I will purchase this.

Kidd, Gideon and Braunigan, Rachel. Pet That Dog: A Handbook for Making Four-Legged Friends. 
October 20th 2020 by Quirk Books
Copy provided by the publisher

This is a cute guide to getting to know dogs. It covers things like how to approach a strange dog (ask its human companion first!), some history of dogs, different types of dogs, and how to take care of dogs. It is only available in paperback or e book from Follett, and since there are spaces in the back to write down dogs one has met, this might make a better gift book than a library purchase. 

From Goodreads: 
From 11-year-old dog-loving Gideon Kidd of the viral social media account "I've Pet That Dog," Pet That Dog! A Handbook for Making Four-Legged Friends is a highly-illustrated guide to meeting, caring for, and learning about humans' best friend.

Like many kids (and adults!), Gideon loves to pet dogs. He loves petting dogs so much, he asked his mom if he could make a website showcasing all of the dogs he's pet. That website eventually became the Twitter account "I've Pet That Dog," and since April 2018, Gideon has amassed over 300,000 fans of his heartwarming and delightful tweets. In a world filled with strife and sarcasm, Gideon's account brings a bit of sunshine into so many lives. Even celebrities like Lin Manuel Miranda and Kirstie Alley are fans of Gideon's sweet and wholesome content. With each tweet, Gideon presents a photo of himself with a dog he has met and a few lines about the dog's story. He has now pet and profiled over 1,000 dogs!

Pet That Dog! A Handbook for Making Four-Legged Friends is an illustrated guide by Gideon and his mom. The handbook includes a guide to meeting, petting, and caring for dogs, facts about dogs, quizzes, and more. The interactive format is perfect for dog lovers — as well as kids who are curious about dogs, but may be nervous around them. The "How to Pet a Dog" section is full of helpful do's and don'ts.

The bond between kids and dogs is timeless — and with a social media platform like "I've Pet That Dog" attached, this handbook is both evergreen and solidly of the moment.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Smartest Kid in the Universe

Grabenstein, Chris. The Smartest Kid in the Universe
November 3rd 2020 by Random House Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Jake goes to Riverview Middle School, where he is a lackluster student content with his C average. The school itself is also lackluster, and the principal, Mrs. Malvolio, is more concerned with letting it disintegrate so the property can be sold to her uncle for luxury condominiums. Jake's mother is an event planner at the Imperial Marquis Hotel, and when the two don't want to cook dinner, they take a bus and get banquet food from the hotel workers who know them. They are waiting for their dinner when Dr. Blackbridge is giving a talk on Ingetible Intelligence, and Jake eats a quantity of jelly beans. These were made by a graduate student named Farooqi who hoped to get Dr. Blackbridge's attention-- they were prototypes of nanoprogrammed capsules that make learning much easier. Suddenly, Jake is spitting out facts and even getting onto the school Quiz Bowl team. This is fine with him, because he has a huge crush on Grace Garcia. Her uncle is the school custodian, and also holds knowledge about a pirate treasure linked back to their family in Cuba. He's fired briefly by the principal, who hopes that the resulting chaos in the school will further its decline. Jake also finds himself being approached by the military to break codes, and the FBI, which brings him further notoriety but also undermines his position on the Quiz Bowl team when he is framed for cheating. Eventually, he and Grace decide to look for the pirate treasure and find themselves in a race against Principal Malvolio. Will Jake be able to use his new intelligence to save the day?
Strengths: Don't we all wish there was ingestible intelligence? Librarians would take book pills like vitamins! I thought the scientific explanations were really well done; almost had me believing that this could be real, and I was worried through the whole book that the effects would wear off like in Keyes' Flowers for Algernon (1966)! I enjoyed Grace, who was super smart and generally a great person to have on your side, and Kojo was a lot of fun, with his random quoting of 1970s spy television! The portrayal of a Quiz Bowl team was good to see. This was fast paced, humorous, and a lot of goofy fun.
Weaknesses: I wish we had seen more of Emma; there should be more siblings in middle grade lit. I wasn't a fan of Mrs. Malvolio; over the top villiany makes books seem unbelievable. A principal wouldn't have the authority to fire a custodian, and the school district would not close down a building and sell the land that quickly. 
What I really think: This isn't my personal favorite because of the Mrs. Malvolio, but it has a great cover and title, and it is the type of humorous books that my students can't get enough of. Will definitely purchase.


Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Hungry Place

Haas, Jessie. The Hungry Place
October 13th 2020 by Boyds Mills Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rae lives with her father, who is an artist who does found sculptures, which his job as a garbage collector supports. Her grandmother, Gammer, lives in a trailer and spends the winters in the south, but the rest of the year near Rae. Rae's mother, who passed away, was an avid equestrienne, and Rae hopes to follow in her footsteps and one day have her own pony. Princess is a Connemara pony born to an elderly mare, but seems to have the breeding and carriage to be an excellent show pony. She is owned by Roland, an elderly man who is well-to-do and has raised many ponies, who currently employs a trainer, Charlie, and his wife Darlene to help manage his stable. When his health declines, he sells some of the ponies but refuses to part with Princess. Rae's Gammer is sympathetic to Rae's wish to own a pony, and shows her how to take practical steps to eventually own one, even though the family's finances do not permit that currently. When the two attend a pony show, Rae sees Princess, and the pony and girl feel an immediate connection. Rae continues to visit stables, and is sad that her friend, Eden, has sold her own pony and is taking riding lessons that Rae cannot afford. Over the course of a few years, she and Gammer save up a little for Rae to go to a three week riding camp. Around this time, Roland is in the hospital and is unable to come back to his stables, and Charlie and Darleen strip his house of valuables and put the remaining ponies out to pasture, reporting back that everything is fine when it is not. Eventually, the ponies almost starve and are taken over by an animal charity, which places Princess with Trish, who runs the riding camp which Rae attends. Few people can ride Princess, who was finnicky even before her abuse and near starvation, but Rae and Princess bond. Is there any way that the two can spend more time together?
Strengths: The details about riding and caring for a pony are very good, and the additional information about being a pony and being involved in competitions will delight readers who have equestrian aspirations. There is some interesting friend drama with Eden, and the depiction of a riding camp is a great inclusion. The story of the evil trainer was a bit melodramatic for me, but certainly riveting. I did enjoy Gammer, and her very practical advice to not just ask "may I have a pony?" but "HOW could I get a pony". I'm a fan of any book where a child has a particular interest and works hard to be able to make dreams come true. The conclusion is believable and practical.
Weaknesses: Rae is very young, but that isn't all that evident in the story line and her actions. As a parent, she made me bristle with her constant whining about having a pony; clearly, young readers will be more sympathetic. I'm also not as much of a fan of chapters being from the pony's perspective, especially when this trope starts at the pony's birth.
What I really think: Haas knows her way around a equine story; I very much enjoyed Rescue, and she also does the early reader Bramble and Maggie series, along with other titles. Since readers who enjoy these books often binge on them, I like to purchase a few every year and will definitely include this one in my order.

I never went through a horse phase, so am not the target demographic for this. My cousin lived in the country and did own a horse for many years, and I get a fair number of students who take lessons and have the same aspirations that Rae has.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


Gennari, Jennifer. Muffled.
October 27th 2020 by Simon & Schuster
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Amelia has auditory sensitivity, and struggles to cope with loud noises. She has been wearing noise canceling headphones at school, but these have also lead to her social isolation. As she begins fifth grade, her parents and therapist have decided that she should try to be less dependent on the headphones. Her father buys her a pair of fuzzy purple ear muffs to help with the transition. Amelia likes the earmuffs and takes great comfort in them, although they do not filter out noises as much as she would like. Her teachers are somewhat sensitive to her needs, but are unwilling to let her out of the music elective at school. Her mother, worried about Amelia's lack of friends and reliance of escaping into books, wants Amelia to leave even the ear muffs behind. Amelia tries choir, but finds that to be too challenging, and ends up in band. She tries the flute, but finds it to be very high pitched. On one trip to the Boston Public Library (she has her own transit card to encourage her independence), she meets a trombone player, and finds that that instrument is very soothing. She still has to put up with classmates who don't understand, and her mother, who still insists that Amelia try to cope with noise without any tools, although this usually proves to be too difficult. When she has to navigate a big band concert, Amelia doesn't do the job she would like to do, but is able to make her parents and teachers understand how difficult it is for her to navigate the noisy world. Luckily, her mother finds ear buds that subdue background noises, which will be more effective.
Strengths: This is a good depiction of how auditory sensitivity manifests itself in a school setting, so is great for readers who want to learn about the experiences of others in order to be more empathetic. The reaction of Amelia's classmates seems very accurate. I very much identified with the mother even as I could see the error of her ways-- she should have understood Amelia's sensory difficulties more, but as a parent, you do not want your child to be a target because they are different. The father's style is a good foil for her overconcerned one. Like Mackler's Not If I Can Help It, this is a great book showing the many ways that a sensitivity can affect learning and social life.
Weaknesses: While Gennari doesn't have auditory sensitivity issues herself, there are members of her family who do. I feel that she is qualified to write this story and does a good job, but it is worth mentioning. It was sad that the teachers didn't seem to have all of the information they needed to help Amelia; I've come to the conclusion that my school does a slightly better job than some schools in helping students with differences. (We had an 8th grader last year who wore the headphones, and she did occasionally seek refuge in the library during noisy study halls.)
What I really think: This is a tiny bit young, but definitely a good book for students who want to read about characters who are not like them and who face challenges, so I will purchase it if I have the funds.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found

Moses, Rucker and Gangi, Theo. Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found
October 27th 2020 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kingston and his mother had moved to the suburbs after his magician father's disappearance during a magic act four years ago, but they are back in Echo Park, Brooklyn to try to revitalize the family business so it is not foreclosed. Kingston's uncles, Crooked Eye and Long Fingers, haven't had a sale in the magic shop for well over a year, so the mother wants to turn it into a cafe, her long time dream. While being back in the city stirs up painful memories of his absent father, whom he believes will return, Kingston is glad to reconnect with his cousin Veronica and his best friend, Too Tall. After seeing a shadowy figure at the Mercury Theater, where his father's act ended in tragedy, Kingston goes back to investigate with his friends. He finds a box of his father's, the Lost and Found, which seems to imbue him with some strange powers. The group connects with a person who was seen with his father, Urma Tan, and she claims that there are two realms, and Kingston's father is trapped in the one from which she came. She is able to stay in our realm only through the power of crystals, and she needs their help to be able to maintain her presence. They are understandably leery, and investigate other options, eventually coming into contact with the children of their father's nemesis, the Maestro, who was responsible for the trick that caused his disappearance. Sol and Sula are knowledgeable, and soon Kingston is swept into the other realm, where he meets famous black magicians. Will this journey enable him to find his father and bring him back to Echo City?
Strengths: Kingston's desire to figure out the magic in his world and the adjoining realm to bring his father back forms a strong central premise to this well-paced and engaging fantasy novel. Although Echo Park and the Mercury Theater seem to be fictional locations, they provide an interesting setting for the magic that occurs. There are a lot of interesting codes as well. The best part is the inclusion of actual Black magicians from history, like Black Herman and Richard Potter. It's always great to be introduce students to unheralded historical figures through fiction.
Weaknesses: It has been difficult to determine if the authors are Black, since these seem to be pseudonyms for Craig Phillips and Harold Hayes, Jr. of Sunnyboy Entertainment. Mr. Hayes seems to be Black, but I can't find information about Mr. Phillips. With the interest in providing #ownvoices books to students, it would be helpful if this information were easier to identify.
What I really think: My students aren't super keen about books involving magicians, but this has a bit more adventure to it. It reminded me a little of Henderson's The Magic in Changing Your Stars (April 7th 2020 by Sterling Children's Books), but with famous Black magicians instead of tap dancers. I will probably purchase. (It's currently 6/29/20, and I feel like my entire life should be couched with the word "probably". Will I have a budget? Will school open? Will I have a job?)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Running out of books!

There seem to be very few books being published in December, and not a hugely large amount in January. I've posted a book review every single day since 1 January 2012, so to keep the streak going, I need to be creative. 

Going back through my collection, I've found some older titles I still recommend. Should I? I'll be rereading the following and posting full reviews.

Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three
Weeks, Sarah. Regular Guy
Christopher, Matt. The Basket Counts
Hesse. Kissing Doorknobs
Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Marunas. Manga Claus
Richardson, E.E. The Devil's Footsteps
Williams, Rita Garcia. Like Sisters on the Homefront

Let me know if there's any back list titles you would like to see me feature!

Ms. Yingling

MMGM- Donut Dreams and Attacked at Sea

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

This post is both a paean and plea to Simon Kids. I am an unabashed fan of "Coco Simon" "Chloe Taylor", "Phoebe Rivers" and "P.J. Night". I am pretty sure that these are all pen names: research uncovers only Tracey West as admitting to penning some of these titles. 

These are all fantastic books. They are quick, concise stories that appeal to my readers and cover a huge range of "small problems". So many middle grade "literary fiction" covers "big problems" like death, divorce, disease and dismemberment, and while there is a limited market for this sort of book among the actual target demographic, my students feel more seen when problems they are actually having are addressed in books. This is why "friend drama" is the number one request I get in realistic fiction. It's a big deal when you're eleven and your parents don't want to get a dog, are having financial or marital problems, or are just trying to juggle the activities of a family of children. P.J. Night's Creepover series manages to blend ordinary middle school problems WITH scary stories, which is also brilliant. 

My only problem with series like Donut Dreams or Cupcake Diaries is that the series go on so long, and when someone loses the prebind version of book two, it can be hard to replace. I know that publishing exists to make money, but shorter series would be more profitable. As a parent, I was always loathe to buy book #28, and this is spoken by someone who tracked down ALL of the Animorphs books for my children. It doesn't make sense, but I'd be totally on board with buying twenty different five book series. 

So, Simon Kids, what I would REALLY like is different #OwnVoices authors writing engaging short series with the kind of cultural references about every day family life coupled with familiar, universal middle grade problems found in Hena Khan's Zayd Saleem, Maulik Pancholy's The Best At It or the works of Renee' Watson, Lisa Yee, Torrey Maldonado and many others. For extra bonus points, a series of creepy #ownvoices books (please include killer ghosts!) would also be very popular.

Simon, Coco. Family Recipe (Donut Dreams #3)
May 5th 2020 by Simon Spotlight
Library copy

Molly has a busy life; playing soccer, working at the family restaurant, keeping up with her school work, and hanging out with her sisters and friends. Since her dad is a high school shop teacher and her mother is an accountant with the restaurant, the family schedule is packed and requires strict adherence to a calendar. Molly does well with this, but Kelsey struggles to get her homework done and wake up on time. Molly has a close relationship not only with her immediate family, but also with her cousin Lindsay (whose mother passed away) and her grandparents. When her history teacher assigns a family tree project and classmate Eric gives her a hard time about whether she will include her "real mother" along with her adoptive family, Molly is conflicted and upset. Everyone knows she was adopted; her Korean features set her apart not only from her family but also most of the students in her school. In addition, Molly and Kelsey have always wanted a dog, and end up fostering two for the weekend-- chaotic but cute Ruby and steadfast Rusty. Molly isn't sure how to deal with Eric and the feelings that the project has aroused, but gets help from her supportive family when she reaches out to them. 
Strengths: Like Grandma's apple pie doughnut, there is a lot packed into this book! What I liked best was the warm relationship that Molly had with her father, and their shared love of running. The handling of the family calendar and the rehashing of what would happen during the day in regards to activities and transportation was also great. Kelsey's struggles with homework and Lindsay's inclusion in Molly's family so she didn't miss her mom as much worked well. I always wonder about Family Folklore or Family Tree projects, especially when it comes to children in foster care, but the teacher assigns the project in an understanding way (your family and your history are what you consider them to be), and Molly and Eric work out their differences with each other and with the project with the help of Molly's mother. I LOVED the family's realization that puppies are a lot of work, and the chaos Ruby causes adds some light moments. For a 150 page book, this is a masterpiece of interesting situations, lovable characters, and thoughtful problems.
Weaknesses: While Molly's experiences being adopted from outside the US seem true, I cannot accurately judge whether or not they would resonate with someone with a similar background. 
What I really think: See above. I really want similar books from #OwnVoices writers with boys as the main characters as well. If they can retain the sports interests, all the better!
Tougias, Michael J. and O'Leary, Alison.  Attacked at Sea
October 27th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co. 
(first published 2016 as So Close to Home)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1942, the Downs family was returning from Colombia on the freighter Heredia, owned by the United Fruit Company, for who the father, Ray Downs, worked. Because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and other events surrounding the beginning of WWII, the family thought it wise to return home. The mother, Ina, was a little disappointed because the home the company provided was nicer that the one they had had in the US, and the children, Ray, Jr.  and Lucille, had been enjoying themselves in their new surroundings. Travel on the ship was different from the liner they had taken to travel to Colombia; it was transporting mainly fruit. The crew, however, was nice, and the family made the best of it. When a German U-Boat was suspected in the vicinity, the family tried to disembark at Corpus Cristi, Texas, but was told that they would have to continue to New Orleans before getting off the ship. Of course, the ship was attacked, and the family members were separated. Ray and his son went in one direction, Lucille in another (luckily with some of the crew), and Ina was alone, and her eyesight compromised by the oil in the water. They spent almost a full day in the water, but luckily were all rescued and recovered in time. 

The most interesting thing about this book is that it also covers the attack from the German viewpoint, and talks about the German commander and his motivation, making the point that war is unpleasant, and people do whatever they need to do to survive!

This had a selection of pictures of the various people involved in the incidents. The reason that my students like books like this (and other nonfiction tales by Tougias, including Into the Blizzard ) is that they are good stories. We learn a bit about what the Downs' life is like in the US, and therefore have a vested interest in their survival. Following each of the people in the water gives this an immediacy as well. This is the sort of nonfiction that tweens don't mind reading, since it is informative AND engaging.

See some more pictures and read an interview with Ray, Jr. at HistoryNet

Sunday, October 25, 2020

In a Flash

51470401Napoli, Donna Jo. In a Flash
October 27th 2020 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1940, young Italian sisters Simona and Carolina move to Japan with their father, who takes a job as a cook at the Italian embassy. Going to a local school is not the easier thing Simona has ever done, since the children are not all that friendly, but she does manage to make a few good friends, and her Japanese language skills grow quickly. For a while, things are okay at the embassy, but as the world hurtles headlong towards WWII, things become increasingly difficult. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and even though Italy is part of the Axis powers, there is increased prejudice against foreigners. When the US invades Sicily in 1943, Simona's father is worried about the US taking over Italy, and what that might mean for their relatives there. When the Japanese emperor declares that Italy is the enemy, things quickly become dire at the embassy. Eventually, all of the occupants are rounded up, told to bring one suitcase, and sent off to internment camps. The ambassador's wife wants to bring two suitcases, so Simona's is left behind. Eventually, the girls are separated from not only most of their possession, but also their father. Survival in the camps is very difficult, especially since food is scarce in Japan. Eventually the girls escape and make their way across the countryside, where they are helped by a variety of kind citizens who realize that they are just children and need care. When towns are being fire bombed, the latest person to care for them, a professor, feels that the girls are endangering him, and offer to drop them off in Omihachiman, which is supposed to be unimportant, but is also where their friend Aiko lives. The girls eventually end up in Hiroshima under the care of a Catholic church, but the radiation sickness is spreading, the town is in ruins, and they can only hope that the US soldiers can help them get back to Italy.
Strengths: Napoli is uniquely qualified to write this book, and I love the fact that it deals with Italian children living in Japan! It's especially interesting that the girls do not go to the international school but go to a local one, and their experiences with prejudice will resonate in the current climate. This is also a good survival story, much like Napoli's Stones in Water, which is one of my favorite WWII books.  I've long thought that there should be a lot more books about the war in Italy. Marsden's Take Me With You, Hughes's Hero on a Bicycle and Spradlin's Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry at Anzio are some of the few books that deal with this area of the world. Stelson's Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story, Burkinshaw's The Last Cherry Blossom, Kadohata's A Place to Belong, and Smith's The Blossom and the Firefly are some of the few that deal with events in Japan.
Weaknesses: This was very dark, and oddly dense. Even though I have read a lot about WWII, it was tough going for me, and my students usually have very little background information.
What I really think: I'm a huge Napoli fan, but this was not my favorite. Her note at the beginning of the book about how dark this book was originally is very informative. Still, if I have enough money, I will buy this, since it is such a different viewpoint of WWII.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Distress Signal

Lambert, Mary E. Distress Signal
October 20th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Lavender is really excited about her class science field trip to the desert of Chiricahua National Park in Arizona. This is a three day school tradition, and something which the students have been looking forward to for a long time. There was even a school fundraiser to get enough money for a telescope to use at night. Things start to go wrong from the very beginning. Lavender's best friend, Marisol, has been becoming more and distant, and is hanging around the popular but mean Rachelle. Marisol won't sit with Lavender on the bus, so she gets stuck next to John, who is hiding in his hoodie for most of the bus trip. When their teacher announces that the money for the telescope was stolen, the mood on the bus is dampened, but the students perk up when they finally get going on their trek. After a boring talk about the dangers of the desert from an annoying guide, the kids set out with their teachers. Lavender has a HAM radio with her, and is supposed to check in with her father using it, because she doesn't have a phone. While testing it, she hears that there is a flash flood warning for the area, which is odd, because the teachers are having them hike in a dry riverbed. She eventually warns the teachers, and they move the children to safety, but there's one problem. Lavender has decided to pay Marisol and Rachelle back by telling them that there is a game of "sardines" being started by the popular kids, so they have gone off on a break to hide. John has overheard this, and the four are stranded when a wall of water comes through. They climb to safety, but aren't sure where they should go. They pool their scant resources, but the interpersonal conflicts get in the way of effectively dealing with their problem. They end up hiking over a mountain, meeting a bear, eating cactus, trying to dig for water, and otherwise trying to survive while working out their different personal problems. How long will they be out there before they are rescued?
Strengths: The inclusion of HAM radio operating was interesting, and I would have been glad to know more. Details about surviving in the desert are good; this would be a good companion to Bowling's The Canyon's Edge. Friend drama is always a big draw for middle grade readers, and John's problems at home are timely. I really loved Lambert's Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes, and this cover will be an automatic draw.
Weaknesses: This had a few moments that didn't seem quite right. Adults would not leave students alone with fund raising money, and John's plan would not have worked on a school trip. Trust me, I count the kids very carefully! Also, the girls were all so nasty I was sort of rooting for the bear.
What I really think: Very similar in a lot of ways to Behren's Alone in the Woods. Perhaps we will have a mini trend of friend drama with survival!

Friday, October 23, 2020

One Real American and Thurgood Marshall

Bruchac, Joseph. One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker, Seneca Sachem and Civil War General
October 27th 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ely Parker was born in 1928, a time when many Tonawanda Senecas in New York state were adopting many European conventions, in dress, homes, and sometimes even religion, in the way they lived. Unfortunately, they also had to deal with whites wanting to take their land. Having learned Latin, Greek and other topics taught during this time period, Parker had few academic problems when he attended the Cayuga Academy, although his classmates were often abusive. His education helped him assist a delegation of Tonawanda chiefs on a trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss government settlements that they wished to refuse. He impressed the president and other officials, and even met with John Ross, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. He had been considering a career in law, but a friend convinced him that going into engineering would be a better path, and Parker eventually became the resident engineer for New York State Canals. He was also chosen as the "grand sachem" of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1851. While his education and insistence on fashionable frock coats gained him a lot of ground with the white government officials, his knowledge of and respect for his Native culture helped him in the ranks of the Six Nations. When the Civil War started, he tried to enlist, but was turned away. In 1863, John E. Smith asked that Parker be appointed to his staff, and this military service culminated in Parker being the highest ranking Native American in the Union Army, and the man who wrote out the official copy of Lee's surrender at Appomattox. After the war, Parker married Minnie Orton Sackett, a white woman, and struggled to find jobs. He remained active in Native affairs, and passed away in 1895.
Strengths: I had never heard of Parker, and I also have never read anything that talked about communities of Native Americans during this time period. This was a fascinating look at an individual who was very influential at a time when Native Americans were often treated poorly. Parker was able to forge an unusual path and go between the Native and white worlds, and be trusted in both. His involvement in the Civil War will definitely interest a lot of readers.
Weaknesses: I was reading this as an E ARC, so it was hard to determine the formatting. I will have to take a look at the finished copy, but this seemed to be arranged more like a fiction book than a modern nonfiction book with lots of pictures and color. While there were pictures, this lacked sidebars and additional information.
What I really think: This is definitely a great biography to have in a middle school or high school collection. Bruchac always does a great job at making his books readable and also packed full of information.

50159807. sx318 sy475Kanefield, Teri. Thurgood Marshall (The Making of America #6)
April 21st 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Born in 1908, Thurgood Marshall experienced an array of institutionalized racial injustices in his New York and Baltimore homes, even though his parents were outspoken about race, and his mother strongly supported the NAACP. His father encouraged young Marshall's interest in current events and the law, taking him to hear cases being tried at court. Initially wanting to study to be a dentist because there was a high demand and his mother thought it was a good idea, Marshall enrolled at Lincoln University. After participating on the debate team, he returned to his previous dream of becoming a lawyer. At the time, few law schools accepted Black students, and those that did were too expensive. He ended up studying at Howard Law School,commuting to D.C. from Baltimore by train. After graduation, during the height of the Great Depression, he set up his own law office, where he took many cases on a pro bono basis. In 1935, Marshall took the case of donald Murray, a Black man who wanted to attend law school at the University of Maryland but was told that they did not accept Black students. Marshall won the case, and started on his illustrious career as a Civil Rights attorney, even though he received threatening letters, some from the Ku Klux Klan. He was involved in many school related cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court, where he served until 1991. He died in 1992.

Kanefield does a great job at telling the story of Marshall's life, including the state of the world around him. We get just enough background information about his family, his early school experiences, and the state of Black American rights during the early part of the 1900s. Accompanying photographs and primary source documents support the text.

Like other books in this series (including Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony), the book is nicely formatted for the elementary and middle school reader. At just over 200 pages, the text is comfortably readable, the pages well laid out, and the bibliography and selection of Marshall's writing helpful for providing additional information.

Although Kanefield is not Black, the research in this book is solid, and the thread of the challenges Marshall faced throughout his career is well presented. Thurgood Marshall is an excellent book to hand to students who are seeking information not only about individuals, but about the details of their lives during particular periods of history.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tower of Nero

Riordan, Rick. Tower of Nero (Trials of Apollo #5) 
Published October 6th 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
Library copy

Lester (aka Apollo) and Meg, after a number of tragedies and a few significant triumphs, and back in New York, and know that they somehow need to deal with Nero, Meg's evil stepfather. There is also the little problem of the Python, who has encroached upon the Oracle of Delphi and needs to be dispatched. The only problem? The prophecies seem to indicate that in order for the Python to be dealt with, a god has to give up divinity. Apollo doesn't want to do this, but there are an increasing number of things he will do to protect humans, since he has warmed to them, especially Percy Jackson's family and his baby stepsister Stella. There are a few stops on the way to Nero's place in Manhattan, notable Percy's family's home and Camp Halfblood, where Lester is glad to see Nico and Will, but soon the two are on the subway in New York, dealing with (literal) snakes in suits as well as an imposing Gallic warrior named Luguselwa, who was also Meg's nanny/guardian. Lester does not want to trust a Gaul, especially since he's not sure if the woman is, in fact, trying to kill him, but he doesn't have much choice. Nero wants to set fire to the city and destroy as many humans as he can, but Lester is determined to stop him. Will he be able to stop the mad emperor, unseat the Python, and regain his godhood?
Strengths: When it comes to consistently delivering a well written, funny, adventurous tale, Riordan cannot be beat. My favorite part of the book was when Lester and Nero are battling it out, and Nero is trying to find the remote that will dispatch the fallen god, to the tune of the BeeGees Stayin' Alive. These books are SUPER popular with my students; when the shipment came in, I immediately had two students who were rereading the series who wanted it. I was granted one day to read it before handing it over! The students remember the details far better than I do, and dissect the characters and their motivations with a passion no less keen than what Rowling's fans have.
Weaknesses: I love these, but really struggle to keep things straight. This wasn't my favorite volume; there wasn't as much travel, humor, or funny incidental characters as the other books. 
What I really think: Riordan seems to be working on a series with Celtic mythology, which would be great, but the Camp Halfblood Saga doesn't seem to be finished. Before Percy and Annabeth get too comfortable at college, there should be one more volume that ties together the various series into a nice gift bow! I feel like there have been hints of the characters in different series seeing each other. Apollo's story is finished, and the only opening here is for Will and Nico, who seem to have a prophecy they are not sharing, but I didn't find their characters compelling enough to pull off a book on their own. (Although many other readers are quite looking forward to this idea.)

Ms. Yingling

Haunted Houses

Oakes, Cory Putnam. The Second Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street
August 18th 2020 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Willow Ivan's family has run a haunted hotel for 400 years, although business has not been good lately. Her father is so distraught at the death of her mother that he pays no attention to the business at all, and Willow hasn't been to school in six months. Her mother haunts the hotel, but as a weeping woman who can't remember much, which is difficult. The hotel is staffed with actual ghosts, some of whom, like Pierce, have been there since the beginning. When a chain hotel, the Hauntery, opens up on the same street, everyone is very concerned that this will mean the end of their business. The Hotel Ivan is highly rated according to all of the best haunted hotel measures (like the Zagged guide), but offers a gentler, cozier haunted experience. The Hauntery strives for consistency across locations, so hires ghosts to fill particular roles. Evie and her family work there, and Evie and her cousin play the role of "spooky little girls" who dress in dresses and pigtails, and have a set script of asking people to play with them in a creepy fashion. When Evie goes off script, she gets in trouble with the management. The two girls meet when they both go to the local library and Evie (who is such a new ghost that she can't manipulate material objects) reads a mystery novel over Willow's shoulder. Evie does not tell Willow that she works at the Hauntery, and when Hotel Ivan is in need of a phantasm, Evie offers to work, since that is a role she would like to embrace. The Ivan's ghosts are starting to fade at an alarming rate, and Willow can't quite figure out why. Her investigations also turn up some inconsistencies at the Hauntery, where the big draw for employment is that the employees DON'T fade. As things become more and more dire, will Willow be able to figure out the threat of the Hauntery, make peace with her parents, and keep the hotel's Zagged rating?
Strengths: I liked the fact that we were immediately plunged into Willow's world, and there were just enough explanation to keep the story going without getting bogged down in details. Details about the difficulties of running a hotel are realistic, and Willow does the best she can. The issue of her truancy is addressed. I liked that she and Evie bonded over a favorite mystery character. The Hauntery is a great, evil corporate entity, and Evie's struggles to retain her identity will resonate with middle grade readers. There is some diversity with Leo, the screaming phantasm, who has another persona as Leonata, a drag performer, and his husband Alfred.
Weaknesses: The father is so distraught that he doesn't even notice Willow hasn't attended school in six months? I will never be found of the trope of the dysfunctional grieving parent.
What I really think: This was a fun romp, but not really very scary, making it perfect for elementary students who want to read about ghosts and their antics, but has enough meat in it that middle school readers who want a book with magical realism will enjoy as well.

White, J.A. Dehaunting: Shadow School #2
August 25th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After Cordelia Liu's initial exposure to the creepiness that is Shadow School, she is forced to take some time off from ghost hunting by Dr. Roqueni. Her uncle, Elijah Shadow, who used her to find ghosts when she was a child and wasn't always kind, has appeared, and Dr. Roqueni doesn't want him to know about the students who can dispatch ghosts to the beyond using "brightkeys".  When she's allowed back into the school, Cordelia and her friends Benji Nunez and Agnes Matheson find some odd things going on. Ghosts are refusing their brightkeys and remaining in the school. Agnes is hard at work trying to make a dehaunter, a device that will use the forces of the school to send ghosts on their way as a group, making brightkeys less important. Cordelia feels that this is generally good, but a little impersonal, so when the device is damaged, she is blamed. She and her friends make a startling discovery, though, when they spy on their teachers. The teachers have been acting even weirder than the ghosts, staring into space and complaining of frequent headaches. Will Cordelia and her friends be able to help the teachers, continue to send the spirits on their way, and get through the school year?
Strengths: This had come nice twists, which I don't want to ruin. I enjoyed Cordelia's work ethic when it came to finding the brightkeys, and found the number of runners who showed up as ghosts wanting shoelaces or earbuds to be highly amusing. The story line with Benji's new friends, especially Viviana, gave this book an extra kick of friend drama that will be well received. Agnes' math and science abilities are put to good use on the dehaunter. All in all, a great ghost romp that will circulate well with readers who enjoy Mary Downing Hahn and Dan Poblocki.
Weaknesses: This took me a little while to get into, since it started with Cordelia being forced to take a break from ghost hunting.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing for my oddly large population of fantasy readers who only want books that are set in schools. This is a great ghost story, has friend drama, and doesn't have a ton of underlying sadness to weigh the story down.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Out of Hiding

Gruener, Ruth. Out of Hiding
October 20th 2020 by Scholastic Nonfiction
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ruth Gruener, born Aurelia (Luncia) Gamzer in the early 1930s, lived in Lvov, Poland with her parents, who ran a candy shop. When the Nazis started to round up Jewish citizens, her parents took the offer of hiding their daughter made by customer Mrs. Szczgiel. Because the consequences of hiding a Jew were so serious, young Luncia had to spend hours sitting still, not looking out of the windows or talking, and for several weeks had to spend twelve hours a day sleeping in a trunk with an air hole. Eventually, she went to stay with her parents, who were being hidden by the Oyak family. This was a little better, but still stressful; at one point, Luncia overhears her mother talking about ways to kill herself, her husband and Luncia, so that they didn't cause the Oyak's any more problems, and the execution only fell through because the soldier they approached to carry it out didn't have the stomach for it. Eventually, the war ended and they were free, but there were still many problems with getting out of Poland, since their city of Lvov was now part of the Soviet Ukraine. Once they managed to get to America, Ruth (who used this name suggested by a cousin) tried to pursue an ordinary teen life, but was plagued by memories of her past. She reconnected with Jack Gruener, who lived with her family in Europe, and was the inspiration for Alan Gratz's superb Prisoner B-3087. The two eventually married, and later in life, Ruth decided to tell her story about the Holocaust.
Strengths: This is a nice, short overview of one Jewish child's experience during the Holocaust. The text is large, the story simple to follow, and the details vivid and affecting. It's good to get the full story of Gruener's life.
Weaknesses: It would have been nice to have had the photographs appear with the appropriate text, and a WWII timeline would have also been a nice addition.
What I really think: This is a great introduction to the Holocaust, and fills a need for stories that continue after the war is over. It is less graphic than many of the books I have, and there are always some students who are a little more sensitive and don't want all of the details when our 8th grade classes have a study unit covering this period of history.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Last Mirror on the Left (Legendary Alston Boys #2)

Giles, Lamar. and Adeola, Dapo (illustrations).
The Last Mirror on the Left (Legendary Alston Boys #2)
October 20th 2020 by Versify
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, Otto and Sheed return to their world rather warily, especially since Otto is very concerned that Sheed is ill and will die prematurely. He tries to convince his grandmother to take the boys to the doctor, but are soon swept up in another adventure. Officer Nedraw needs the boys' help; Nevan has escaped from his mirror prison in the Rirrom Mirror Emporium and has freed a lot of other criminals and taken them into another dimension, the Warped World. Trying to retrieve him is dangerous, and the boys run into other threats, like the ArchnaBRObia gang of jailbird spiders with names like Spenelope. These spiders turn out to be more helpful than dangerous, and the boys start on their quest through this alternate reality. They run into versions of people they know from Fry, including Dr.Medina, odd versions of Wiki and Leen, and even travel into other worlds. Otto's main concern is still Sheed's health, and when he learns that there is a cure-all elixer, Fixityall, he wants very much to obtain some for Sheed. However, Dr, Medina warns him that unless Sheed intends to stay in Warped World forever, taking the medicine might have serious consequences. In addition to finding Nevan, the boys turn their attention to the disappearances occurring in town. Could the two be connected? And what is behind the alternate versions of people in Warped World? Most importantly, will Otto be able to look into the Black Mirror and see an old version of Sheed so he knows his cousin will survive?
Strengths: Any significantly well-crafted time travel or alternate dimension book makes my brain hurt a little bit, and Otto's and Sheed's journey into Warped World caused a little bit of an ache! Their hunt for Nevan causes them to question many other occurrences in Warped World, and Nedraw in particular. I liked that the explanation for why people manifest the way they do in Warped World, and there is a sort of Phantom Tollbooth allegorical vibe to this.  There are also funny things like "butt shrubs". You'll just have to read this to find out about those! It's difficult to find fantasy books with Black characters, and I am so glad that Otto and Sheed are prominent on the cover! Most of all, Otto's concern for his cousin and his attempts to insure his survival is a great example of a caring, positive relationship between boys.
Weaknesses: It would have been nice to see more of Wiki and Leen in this; they are intriguing characters, and excellent foils for the Alston boys.  I have four copies of Giles' Fake ID, which is hugely popular in my library, so I keep hoping for another murder mystery from this author!
What I really think: I can see this being especially popular in an elementary setting, especially with the spot illustrations, the goofy names, and the funny adventures, but it is also a solid choice for middle school libraries wanting to add some humor and diversity to their collections.

Monday, October 19, 2020

MMGM- Flying Over Water and All Thirteen

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Hitchcock, Shannon and Senzai, N.H. Flying Over Water
October 20th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

When Jordyn's mother offers to help Noura Alwan's family settle in Tampa, Florida, Jordyn hopes that it will improve her mother's mood. Since her mother had a miscarriage, the whole family has been out of sorts. Jordyn is finding it hard to go back to competitive swimming, and her mother is barely getting dressed. Noura's family has certainly had it tougher. Their home in Aleppo, Syria, as well as the hotel her father ran, were destroyed in bombings; Noura lost her best friend, who drowned while trying to get to Greece, and the family was not selected to settle in Germany near family. Still, they know there is no going back to Aleppo, so they are making the best of it. The father gets a job as a bell hop, Noura and her twin brother Ammar settle in to school, and the mother learns to navigate their new world with toddler Ismail. The Alwans came to the US in 2017, right when a travel ban to restrict Muslims was attempted, so they know there are people in the US who aren't keen to have them. Their social studies teacher wants his students to understand current events, and assigns a project dealing with immigration through history. There are students in the class, like Nick, who make snide comments and do underhanded things to others, but generally the class is culturally diverse and works well together. Jordyn, who is helping the Alwans navigate school, offers to work on the project with them, and the three end up incorporating a model of Aleppo that Ammar has made with information about their personal immigration story. In order to allow his sister to use his model, Ammar has a challenge for her-- she has to let Jordyn teach her how to swim. Since hearing about her friend's drowning, Noura has been afraid of the water, but she has worked with a psychologist and wants to try to work through her problems. The two, with the help from Jordyn's swimming coach, make progress with lessons, and Jordyn starts seeing a doctor to help her deal with the miscarriage and some panic attacks that she has had. Because Ammar and Noura want to pray at school, the administration makes a room available, and many students help them make the space welcoming and inclusive for students of all faiths who need time to reflect. When several racially motivated instances occur in the community, Jordyn and Noura both feel the need to speak up.
Strengths: There is so much upheaval in the world right now, and we hear so much about children being upset. I think it is very helpful to have books that model positive behaviors, but we don't see as many of them because positive behavior is less interesting than mean behavior. (Just look at what trends on Twitter!) This book never downplays the seriousness of the situations that the characters face, but they all get help from supportive adults, have positive attitudes, and demonstrate ways to deal with their problems. The characters are all diverse, well-developed, and interesting, and the story moves along at a good pace. It's especially nice to see books from two perspectives written by two authors; Weeks and Varadarajan's Save Me a Seat and Farqui and Shovan's A Place at the Table are two other excellent books written this way. (I would love to see sports authors collaborate on a book with boys from two different cultures.)
Weaknesses: The one thing that felt off about this was the mother's depression affecting her ability to care for Jordyn; this is one trope I never, ever enjoy, and it seemed particularly out of character for this book, which was generally filled with so many positive attitudes and coping strategies.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing and can't wait to recommend to students. This would be an excellent book for a class read aloud or a lit circle study, and should definitely be accompanied by Senzai's informative and interesting Escape from Aleppo in order to help middle grade readers understand how difficult a time Syrian refugees (as well as other refugees) have with the immigration process. I am hoping that this will be available in paperback and widely available at book fairs!

Soontornvat, Christina. All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team
October 13th 2020 by Candlewick Press (MA)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In June of 2018, a young soccer coach, Ek, took his Wild Boars team on an after practice outing to the Tham Luang cave. The boys had to be back for a birthday party for one of the members, but when they went to leave the cave that evening, they found that they were trapped by rising water. They had no way to contact anyone, no extra food or water, and only their soccer outfits for protection against the water and the chilly cave. When the boys did not return home, their bikes were found outside the cave, and an amazing multinational rescue effort was begun. While signs were posted warning about flooding in the cave, it was not yet the season for heavy rains, although recent precipitation had been heavier than normal. The rainy season was, however, on the way. Because of the levels of the water, the intricacies of the cave structure, and the fact that the rescuers did not know exactly where the group was, a host of agencies were involved in formulating a rescue strategy. There were members of the Royal Thai army, US military troops, a Sirikorn rescue specialists, a team of experienced divers from the UK, and even a renowned Buddhist monk! Equipment also came from all over the world, including a rescue capsule from Elon Musk and specialized masks for the boys. Local workers tried every available tactic to drain water from the cave, including getting pumps from nearby farmers and trying to drain the water with bamboo pipes. Eventually, a daring plan formed that involved sedating the boys and having a team of divers retrieve them, which was thankfully successful.

Soontornvat, who happened to be in Thailand while this event was unfolding, does a great job at alternating personal information about the members of the team and the rescue crew with scientific information about the structure of caves and the methods of extraction. Plentiful photographs give a great feel for what the area is like.  The follow up stories about what happened to the Wild Boars after the rescue is interesting as well, and Soontornvat's research and writing process was fascinating. I'm not sure how much interest there is in this particular event, but readers who like action and adventure nonfiction like Oldson's Into the Clouds or Tougias's Into the Blizzard: Heroism at Sea During the Great Blizzard of 1978 will enjoy this ripped-from-the-headlines tale. I'm half tempted to read Marc Aronson's Rising Water; he's a great writer, although I completely understand the thoughts behind having an #ownvoices writer tell the story.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Storm Dog

Elliott, L.M. Storm Dog
August 18th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ariel has a difficult home life in her Blue Ridge Mountain home in Virginia. It's not because of economics; her father is older, educated, and well-to-do. However, her mother, a former Apple Blossom Parade princess, does not appreciate Ariel's keen mind and love of music. Instead, she focuses on the fact that Ariel is not conventionally pretty like her sister, Gloria. As preparations for the parade ramp up, Ariel also has to deal with the fact that her older half brother George is deployed in Afghanistan. She misses him and his support, and worries about his fate. When she is wandering in the woods one day, Ariel gets caught in a storm and saved by a dog, who takes her to a cabin. There, the two meet a vet who also served in Afghanistan, Sergeant Josie. Ariel knows her mother won't allow her to have a dog, so asks for Josie's help, since she was a canine handler. The dog, named Duke, is a big help to Ariel, and she decides to train the dog to dance. This escalates into a caper with Gloria's former boyfriend, Marcus, that involves breaking dogs out of a local shelter, hiding them, and dressing them up in Gloria's clothing to be on an unregistered parade float. Will Ariel be able to make peace with her family?
Strengths: This was such a vivid description of spring in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains that I could smell those apple blossoms. Very atmospheric! Ariel's family dynamics are interesting, and her friendship with Sergeant Josie is touching. I especially appreciated the unfortunate but illuminative scene where Josie is targeted by people who want her to "go back to her country"; she's from Puerto Rico. Teaching Duke to dance was fun, which nicely balances out her well warranted anxiety about George. I was also glad to see that the father was described as older when his involvement in Vietnam protests was mentioned.
Weaknesses: Ariel was not a very pleasant character, and while it was fun to watch her get into highjinks with Marcus, I worried about the dogs. The mother's behavior was inexcusable, although the sister comes around a bit.
What I really think: I loved this author's Annie Between the States, Hamilton and Peggy, Suspect Red, and especially Under a War-Torn Sky (2001), which I helped a student buy years ago because he loved it so much. This is similar to Sorosiak's I, Cosmo, so I may pass on purchase, due to Ariel's poor choices and the unusually large number of outdated songs and books mentioned in this, but definitely take a look at this to fill a need for stories involving dogs or outspoken girls.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World

Favilli, Elena. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World
October 13th 2020 by Rebel Girls
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls came out in 2016, and the second volume in 2017. There are also wall calendars, journals, and coloring books with temporary tattoos. I had somehow missed these, although my own personal girls would have absolutely loved these books when they were young.

Each mini biography is just one page long, perfect for bedtime reading it you are in a hurry; you can always read more than one if you have time. I did appreciate that the years of birth and death were included at the bottom of this page, so the reader can place them in time. The accompanying illustrations on the facing pages are bright and energetic, and often include a quote from the subject. The women portrayed are widely varied in time period, area of interest, and location in the world; Gloria Estefan is followed by Golda Meir. Some of the subjects are well known, but others, like Canadian judge Rosalie Abella will be new to many.

My only complaint is a rather large one; the biographies are organized by the first name of the subject. My preference would be to have them arranged chronologically or by are of interest (sports figures together, humanitarians, activists, etc.), but as a librarian, I wanted these to at least these could be arranged by last name!

Books like this are great when students want an overview of people to consider researching for history projects, although some women may be a bit obscure or too recent for much else about them to have been written. My first though upon seeing books formatted like Rebel Girls is to take the book apart, laminate the pages, and make a bulletin board out of them, but reading these stories at bedtimes is a great use as well.

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Popper Penguin Rescue and Descent

Schrefer, Eliot. The Popper Penguin Rescue
October 13th 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nina and Joe Popper move with their mother back near the family's home of Stillwater, where in the 1930s, former housepainter Mr. Popper got a number of penguins from Admiral Drake and trained them to perform. The town across the river, Hillport, had tried to capitalize on the penguin craze with all sorts of tourist activities, but has fallen on hard times. Their mother has purchased the foreclosed Penguin Pavilion to live in, and it needs a lot of work. While cleaning and painting, the children find two penguin eggs in the basement, and hope that they will hatch. When they do, they know they need help in caring for the chicks, whom they name Mae, for Mae Jemison, and Ernest, for Ernest Shackleford. They contact the Popper Foundation for help, and are glad when they are given the contact information for Yuka, who runs the station near Popper Island in the Arctic. It's even more exciting when they are sent there with their mother to deliver the penguins! Things aren't going too well at the station, with various problems, but the more pressing problem is that the descendants of the Popper penguins seem to be causing the local puffin population problems. Will Nina and Joe be able to be environmentally responsible and manage to get the Popper penguins to the Antarctic where they belong?
Strengths: This is a short, fast paced book with illustrations (that I didn't get to see in the E ARC), and that cover will make any young reader interested in penguins beg to read it. I appreciated that there was a bit of disbelief-- Stillwater and Hillport still have some penguin culture, there are eggs that hatch with fortuitous timing, and the Foundation is willing and financially able to help with an amazing trip. There are some children's books that are so enduring that having an updated version, like Martin's Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, can increase readership of the original. Schrefer clearly has some love for this title, and does a great job in mentioning key points for Atwater's work and having fun with the premise.
Weaknesses: As an adult, I had a hard time believing that there would be viable penguin eggs just left behind in the basement.
What I really think: This was really charming, but I may pass for my library. The original Atwater title only circulates for our decades project, but elementary students enjoy animal stories a lot more and would be thrilled with this one.

Alexander, Kate. Generation Brave: The Gen Z Kids Who Are Changing the World 
September 22nd 2020 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

I tend to buy biographies only after the people are deceased, so I'm giving this to a teacher who does a unit on activism. Very complete information, but I always wonder what will happen to these subjects in twenty years. Timely, definitely, but sometimes that is exactly the problem for long term collection development. 

I'm not sure that publishers need to seek permission to include people in the public eye in a corporate biography, but one of the people in the book was not happy to be included. 

Satvik Sethi
 · Dec 19
Never thought I’d have to write this, but @AndrewsMcMeel & Hollan Publishing have published a book titled ‘Generation Brave’ that features stories about me and several youth activists without our consent and permissions. We were never informed of this book ever being written.
An illustrated celebration of Gen Z activists fighting to make our world a better place.

Gen Z is populated—and defined—by activists. They are bold and original thinkers and not afraid to stand up to authority and conventional wisdom. From the March for Our Lives to the fight for human rights and climate change awareness, this generation is leading the way toward truth and hope like no generation before.

Generation Brave showcases Gen Z activists who are fighting for change on many fronts: climate change, LGBTQ rights, awareness and treatment of mental illness, gun control, gender equality, and corruption in business and government at the highest levels. Illustrated throughout, this book will offer a celebration of what might be the most influential generation of the century, including profiles of figures such as:

Simone Biles
Jaden Smith
Jazz Jennings
Haile Thomas
Yara Shahidi
Nadya Okamoto
Marley Dias
Helena Gualinga
Fionn Ferreira
. . . and other amazing kids who are using their voices for good.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Spy School Revolution (Spy School #8) and Goodbye, Mr. Terupt

Check out this great spreadsheet of #MGLit debut authors over at Middle Grade Book Village! It's so hard to keep on top of everything that is being published, and this is a great resource!

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Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School Revolution (Spy School #8)
October 6th 2020 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

First of all, this had me snerking audibly by the end of the first page, which was good. Eight books (and this is not the last) in a series is a bit of a strain on the system for a school library, but darn it, Gibbs never fails to amuse me even as I am contemplating how on earth I'm going to wedge in yet another book to the "G"s without moving a ton of stuff. So trust me: buy this, read this, and look forward to the next one!

After his tussle in London taking down SPYDER, Ben Ripley's parents have finally had to be told about his involvement in spy missions, because they are now the targets of assassination attempts. They are being put into the Witness Protection Program, and are surprisingly equanimous about it, asking if they could move to Florida and maybe get jobs dealing with pets or run an ice cream store. Ben is being recruited by Agent Nora Taco (Don't make fun of her name. Just don't. ) for a division that will identify and deal with double agents. Of course, things are never calm for long, and soon a conference room where they are supposed to have been meeting is hit by a rocket... fired by Erica Hale. Ben knows that Erica is too smart to do something like this and be caught, so he suspects she is being coerced and wants to be found out. Sure enough, she leaves her message sending teddy bear, FooFoo BinkyBum in his room with a cryptic message. Ben figures it out, meets her, and finds out that she has been forced by an evil society, the Croatoan, to attack the CIA. This society was started by the Spanish as a way to fight the British influence in the US, but of course has not gained much traction. Zoe thinks that Erica must be working for this new evil group, and tries to take Erica down. Soon, Ben, Mike and Erica's mother Catherine are sneaking into Mt. Vernon to find letters from George Washington and careening through the nearby neighborhood's in one of the estate's carriages. Ben manages to crack the code and start them on a hunt for Croatoan's evil lair, where they hope to uncover their newest evil plan. As always, there's a lot of action, close calls with plastic explosives being carted about in people's shorts, ever shifting allegiances and plans, and a day that absolutely must be saved.
Strengths: The writing in these is just so funny, and Gibbs has a great knack for pacing as well. We get a little bit of almost romance thrown in, and the traveling around D.C. (in this case) is fascinating. Ben's parents have such a good sense of humor, the Hales are always intriguing (although we don't get quite as much of them in this book), and the kids at the school are always ready with a quip, knowledge of code, or some explosives. The Croatoan are a good enemy to put in place now that SPYDER has been vanquished, although I'm wondering who will be the adversary in the next book, which may take us to Nicaragua, where Murray Hill has been hanging out.
Weaknesses: Gibbs has already proven that he can write a lot of different characters and settings, so I'm fine if the next book wraps up this series and he moves on to writing other, shorter series. That said, I may have read all 29 of the Lilian Jackson Braun Cat Who mysteries back in the day.
What I really think: Trixie! Erica has a sister. I want to know so much more, which means I (as well as my students) need book nine right now.

Buyea, Rob. Goodbye, Mr. Terupt (#4)
October 13th 2020 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

8th grade is a challenge for everyone, and Mr. Terupt's students are sad that he is staying in 7th grade, although the seven of them do have him for advisory period. The Terupts also occasionally have all of the children babysit Hope, although the boys are less than helpful in changing diapers. The character development and the story lines we have seen previously are all maintained; Lexie is still a bit of a drama queen but genuinely concerned about her and her mother's health; Luke is still scientifically inclined but does enjoy spending time with Danielle on her family's farm; Danielle struggles with her diabetes; Peter acts out. The most interesting story is Jeffrey. An older wrestler tells him that he has a chance to wrestle at the high school level, but only if he cuts weight to get to 113 from 120, and this negatively affects his health. This is a huge issue in school age wrestling, and I would still love Buyea to write an entire book about the sport. A spoiler here, but one that should be welcome: Mr. Terupt is NOT dying; he and his wife are moving, so the students create a time capsule and a bucket list to deal with this separation, even though they would be going to high school anyway.

This is a fine conclusion (although we can't be sure) to the series that includes Because of Mr. Terupt (2011), Mr. Terupt Falls Again (2012), and Saving Mr. Terupt (2015). I've just never been able to buy in to the idea that the students are that connected to Mr. Terupt. I'll probably purchase in order to complete the series, but I would still prefer stand alones from Mr. Buyea, preferably about wrestling! I think school stories are more popular with elementary readers, although there is an attempt to address the interest in romances in this installment.