Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Minecraft: The Shipwreck and National Geographic Kids Almanac

Lee, C.B. Minecraft: The Shipwreck
Published November 3rd 2020 by Del Rey Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Jake and his father have moved around quite a bit after the death of his mother. His father is a project manager who oversees renovation of public housing complexes, and their latest move has landed them in a somewhat rough Los Angeles neighborhood that is being gentrified. While his father claims that since Jake is entering high school they will make this their final stop, Jake doesn't believe him and prefers to spend his time in the world of Minecraft rather than trying to make friends in the real world. Living in the complex is Thanh, who is Jake's age and who is called "Tank" by the group of kids he hangs around with, including Shark, who is usually up to know good, and Emily, who is ashamed of her larger family because she has friends whose lives are devoted to Instagram, YouTube, and shopping. Tank doesn't play Minecraft much, preferring only the gardening aspect of the world building, although his younger sister Viv does. Emily plays, but is ashamed of the geekiness of the pursuit. The three meet up when they are all caught after hours in a restricted area of the construction zone by a guard. Jake's father, along with community advocate and overseer Ellen Jenkins. Instead of calling the police, Mrs. Jenkins ask that the teens be remanded to her care in order to help clean up the community center that is going to be turned in fancy shops. The kids aren't thrilled, but glad not to be in more trouble. Jake has found an old version of Minecraft on the community center computers, and it involves a mystery that he hasn't been able to solve on his own. He gets Emily and Tank involved, and in between cleaning out sentimental items from Mrs. Jenkin's office, they work their way through the game. Time is not on their side, but they find an unlikely ally, as well as a surprising enemy, to their investigation of the mermaid themed world of the game and the history of the community center. Will they figure out the game before the cord is literally pulled on it?
Strengths: This was a fantasy book involving a game that makes absolutely no sense to me, but I was able to remember the story line and even characters' names, which says to me that this is really strong writing! The parts that I like best were the real life worries. Tank's concern about his father's employment and Tank's willingness to take small jobs to help the family while grappling with issues of personal identity and trying not to get sucked into a life of crime by Shark could have been a book all on its own. Emily's desire to please her friends even though she doesn't really enjoy their activities was nicely balanced at the end when her friends didn't care that her family's abode wasn't as picturesque as their own. Jake's disbelief in his father's promises was well founded, and it was good to see that his father did make progress to giving Jake more stability, and his new friend group was quirky but based on a common interest. Even the story with Mrs. Jenkins was touching. In short, this was a solid, middle grade novel with appeal for students even in high school who are fans of the video game. There are plenty of details about that, but I have to admit that I skimmed most of those!
Weaknesses: Come on, people. There are NO other reviews on Goodreads of this book? This series has been super popular in my library, and this volume is the best of the bunch. Adult librarians and teachers, go read this NOW!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. The Shipwreck is definitely a whole grain, fiber added Pop Tart of a book!

National Geographic Kids. Almanac 2021
May 5th 2020 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by the Publisher 
Not sure how much traveling will be happening THIS year, but in case you are traveling anywhere with elementary aged children, this is a great book to purchase for long car rides. Just make sure that you assign reading times so there is no fighting about whose turn it is. Of course, as quotable as these books are, you might find that reading this is more of a group activity. 

Unlike the pulpy, dictionary-like almanacs we used to keep on hand with statistics about countries before the internet (yes, children, there was a time when everything had to be looked up in print!), the National Geographic almanacs are filled with glossy pages of fantastic photographs. While there are some entries about countries of the world in the chapters under "Geography Rocks!", most of the book is filled with fun facts that are a great way for young readers to add to their general knowledge of the world. 

From Amazing Animals (with super cute pictures) to Space and Earth, there are lots of topic covered. Science and Technology covers new innovations and has an interesting quiz, the Culture Connection covers holidays, religion, money and other topics, Going Green has good tips for being environmentally conscious, and History Happens offers up information on a variety of topics including government, presidents, and women in history. There's a little something for everyone, and you never know what small tidbit of information might lead to new avenues of investigation. 

One of my favorite pieces was about codes-- "an old lady doesn't look like a threat"! Just what I need; more confirmation that I could totally be an international spy! 

Right up there in popularity with the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe It Or Not, the National Geographic Kids Almanac is a great choice for parents who would rather hear statistics about presidents recited than hearing about all of the gross records that get broken every year.
 Ms. Yingling


  1. Hi Ms.Yingling,

    I came across your blog as I just started a Teacher Librarian course. Thank you for the book recommendation, "Minecraft: The Shipwreck". One of my goals this year is to incorporate more Minecraft Education in the classroom. There are many teachers, who are unaware of the capabilities MCEDU has to teach literacy, design, math, and even science. I appreciated your comment that the "game makes absolutely no sense to me". I agree that many educators are in the same camp.

    The popularity of the game has been its downfall so to speak in some educator's minds. However, which digital tool is out there that most kids, even some as young as grade 2, are more experts at it than the teachers?

    I will see if one of our school libraries has this series. If not, I will look at purchasing it. You are also recommending this for a middle school audience, do you think it would be okay for a younger audience-say grade 5 or 6?


    1. This book in particular would be great for 5-6th graders. Some in the series wouldn't. The Crash was more YA. E mail m if you have any questions.