Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Twins; Twig and Turtle

36483883. sx318Johnson, Varian and Wright, Shannon. Twins
October 6th 2020 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Francine and Maureen feel differently about starting middle school; Francine is reinventing herself, going by "Fran"and rocking a hat an funky t shirt on the first day. Maureen is scared and misses the security of elementary school, where she was the top student in the fifth grade. Maureen is also upset that she has Cadet Corps instead of gym, like Francine does, and is assigned a lunch where she doesn't know anyone. When Maureen finds out why she and her sister got the schedules they did, she is angry at her parents, and then at her sister, whom she feels she is losing. With the changes in Fran, the friend group the two were in also feels off. Maureen is also struggling in Cadet Corps, and isn't good at drills. She approaches the teacher to ask about extra credit, and is told that she might receive some if she runs for a class office. She decides to run for president... and so has Francine. This widens the rift in the sister's relationship, and even leads to Maureen moving out into her older half brother's room so that the sisters can plan their campaigns in private. Both girls come up with good plans, but Maureen doesn't feel as confident as Francine does. When someone vandalizes Maureen's campaign poster with comments that reveal a secret only Francine knows, Maureen finally confronts her sister, but finds out that her twin's confidence isn't as unshakable as she thinks. The parents are ready to make Francine drop out of the campaign, but Maureen wants her to stay in so that she will know which sister could win on her own merits. Which sister will it be?
Strengths: This is a graphic novel with twins that has bright, exuberant illustrations and has Black main characters. This will be automatically popular in my library. It also has great parents and a fun older half brother (who is a first grade teacher!), lots of friend drama, and a little bit of possible romance. I'm not normally a fan of election stories (my school has never had elections in my 20+ yesrs there), but twins running against each other is certainly a great twist. This is also definitely #ownvoice-- not only is Mr. Johnson a twin, but he has twin daughters!
Weaknesses: My students might need a little more explanation about the Cadet Corps; I looked it up, and this, alarmingly, a real thing. Never heard of this attempt to militarize middle school students before, and am curious as to why and how these groups are in middle schools. It looks like an organization that means to have a positive impact with leadership and education, but... militarization.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and would LOVE to see Johnson and Wright follow this up with more stories like this. If the characters in the future are not quite as anxious about middle school, that would be fine! Maybe throw in some sports.

Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Big Move to a Tiny House (Twig and Turtle #1)
October 6th 2020 by Pixel+ink 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Twig and Turtle are having their third first day of school this year, after starting back in Boston, moving to Denver to live at their grandmother's while their tiny house was being finished, and now starting for a final time at Happy Trails elementary. Twig, who is in third grade, is very self conscious about how her fellow classmates will perceive her, especially her limited wardrobe. She does okay, and even has some people to eat lunch with eventually, but some of her classmates see her being teary (over missing her dog, Bo) and make fun of her. Her teacher recommends that she attends a group for students who need to improve their social skills, and she finds out that people weren't making fun of her at all. When Twig finds out that her grandmother is having trouble with Bo barking all day, she starts researching a plan to bring Bo to Happy Trails, perhaps to work as a Service Dog helping children to read at school. Will she be successful?
Strengths: I loved that the family lived in a tiny house, parked in the small uptown area. The details of living like this are great. Twig's worries about fitting in at school are also well done, and her class is a fun place to visit. The teacher encourages the students to write and think critically. Being separated from a pet is hard for children, and I liked how Twig worked intelligently to find a way to work around her circumstances and be near Bo. Little's Worse Than Weird  is the only other book where a family lives in a tiny house that I can think of.
Weaknesses: Twig and Turtle are the characters' real names, and there is even some discussion about this, but I'm old and cranky enough to feel sorry for children with names that will give them trouble. Also, I think each girl could have six shirts and not take up too much more room. The house was actually a decent size for a tiny house. They had a television and I was surprised they had enough power to run it. 
What I really think: I did love this one, but it's just a tiny bit too young for my students. I invested in a large number of early readers a few years ago, so I probably won't purchase this, although it is an absolute necessity for elementary libraries. 

The second book, Toy Story Trouble, also comes out today. Twig agonizes about hiding a sixth toy from her parents, since she and turtle are limited to five, and the sisters are looking forward to the new toy store near them, but concerned that the owner has organized the toys into "boy" and "girl" sections. As someone who bought both a play kitchen and a play work bench for my girls, and who hated the whole "princess culture" of the early 2000s, I heartily approve this book as well. (But for elementary school. By middle school, kids definitely don't talk about toys!)

If I haven't mentioned it, my older daughter moved to a tiny house near Athens, Ohio back in March 2020. It's not on wheels but smaller than the family room in my 1965 two story Colonial. I think the porch gives her more room than the inside of the house! She has solar power which won't even run a tea kettle, a propane refrigerator, and a composting toilet on the back porch. It's been interesting hearing about her experience, and we've even tossed around the idea of a middle grade book about a girl who lives somewhere similar!


  1. Twig and Turtle really... annoyed me. I dislike parents who drag their kids into their weird lifestyle choices. Tiny houses are fine! They're great if that's what you want to do with your life! But to force your kids into it? Separating them from their family, pets, and everything they own? I'm not buying it.

  2. I hear you, but parents always drag their children into whatever lifestyle choices they make. Wasn't there some economic disadvantage motivating the choice? The names really made me angry. And the parents didn't have to be so strict about adhering to the rules.