Monday, January 18, 2021

MMGM- The Million Dollar Race, From Here to There

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Smith, Matthew Ross. The Million Dollar Race
January 19th 2021 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Grant Falloon loves to run, and he's good at it. His best friend, Jay, pushes him to be his best. The two compete in the Penn Relays, and Grant is confident he can win... until he sneaks a look into the grandstands for his family, trips, and falls in a humiliating spectacle that circulates on the internet. Jay is supportive, but Grant's younger, social media obsessed brother Franny tries to milk this for all its worth. Grant's parents are former collective community members whose "parenting isn't about rules. It's about Creating a Worldview That Will Allow Us to Decide Right From Wrong For Ourselves." (Page 32, E ARC). This becomes important when both Grant and Jay get approached by the Babblemoney Sneaker Company to participate in a Million Dollar Race, a publicity stunt for a new running shoe they have in development. The boys train, knowing that they will be racing each other, and come to a hard but helpful agreement that they will both do their best and support each other, no matter who wins. When Grant does win, but his parents can't produce a birth certificate to ensure that he is the USA representative, second place finisher Jay gets a chance to run. Undaunted by this hurdle, Grant and Franny decide to create an internet "country" for Grant, Grantsylvania, and have him participate as Grantsylvania's representative. Ms.Babblemoney, the querulous older woman behind the sneaker company, in her pearls and red track suit, admires Grant's cheekiness and lets him participate, since it's good publicity. When Jay and Grant find out that the sneaker company is using unfair labor practices in their factories in other countries, will they be willing to forego the million dollar prize to make things right?
Strengths: The best part of this book for me was Grant's family. Hands down. They were hysterically funny, but also so supportive. The father had an embarrassing deal at the local grocer to buy the expired yogurt, the family didn't own a car, and while they didn't really understand Grant's love of running or his drive to compete, they took him wherever he needed to be and cheered him on. The high stakes international competition will attract a lot of readers who are normally more concerned with other sports. Supporting characters are well developed as well, and Samoan-American Jay is one of the best best friends in #MGLit. Franny is an annoying but ultimately helpful younger brother. The twist with the Babblemoney Sneaker corporation took the plot in an unexpected direction but ended up inserting another layer of interest into a solid story about athletic competition. Really well done, engaging, and with amusing lines like "I'll lie here till the whole human race dies out and the grass pushed up through the track and the squirrels build a new civilization in the ruins." (Page 2, E ARC.)
Weaknesses: One of my pet peeves is "hippy" parents, and while Smith gives a convincing backstory for the Falloon families beginning in a collective community, it was still hard for me to believe that a child born in 2008 had no birth certificate. Readers actually born that year will be fine with it. Also, I never like quirky names, so Babblemoney made me wince a bit when I read it. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this fantastic cover will mean that this book never makes it back to the shelf. Also, may have to make a t shirt for myself with dad Dave Falloon's slogan, "Let's just get the cheaper one"!

Kirkfield, Vivian and Ford, Gilbert (illustrations). 
From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves
January 19th 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Starting with the hot air balloon and continuing on to self driving vehicles, this book tells short stories about different modes of transportation. The selected timeline in the front needs to be made into a poster! I especially liked the chapter on Karl van Dreis and the bicycle; I always assumed that this was an innovation that no single person came up with! This reminded me a bit of Wulffson's 1997 The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle, but with longer chapters. 

The E ARC I accessed didn't have any page illustrations, and the sidebars appeared just in different text. I want to see a finished copy of this, because I imagine the pages are actually well illustrated and amusing. This is the kind of short, readable nonfiction that I really like (multiple reviews and synopses compare this to  one of my favorites, Thimmesh and Sweet's 2000 Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women), but my students prefer books with illustrations, so I want to read again before buying. 


  1. Happy MMGM! The Million Dollar Race sounds so fascinating! I love how it touches on unfair labor practices and heavy topics like that while still being amusing. The friendships sound super amazing too, oh my goodness. I love that they create they're own country! That's so funny.

    I also can only imagine how much better From Here to There would be with illustrations. Thanks for the reviews!

  2. The Million Dollar Race sounds like it's packed full of interesting plot elements! Like you, though, I'm not entirely convinced by not having a birth certificate after being born in 2008. From Here to There sounds great as well! Thanks for the great post!

  3. Sounds like a good book! I too cringe at too many quirky names. Or rather over-the-top quirky names.

  4. I was captivated by your summary of The Million Dollar Race! Definitely going on my list. Can't wait to read it! I'm sure some of my friends saw us as those hippy parents since we home birthed our last three babies (first two were cesarean section births). We had to file for our own birth certs online since we had no doctors or midwives witness the births, and I recall hearing of families who waited a VERY long time to file (and some who outright refused to file for social security cards -- why???). Also, I just read that Matthew Ross Smith is the Founder of The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project (a nonprofit that provides free biographers for people with Alzheimer’s). I just love that! Before my grandfather's dementia got bad, a professional biographer came into my mom's home and did a lengthy video interview. What a worthy project! Thanks for these shares, Karen!

  5. These both sound really good. I have been hearing a lot about From Here to There, but nary a word about The Million Dollar Race. I will try to check them both out. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Sometimes I suspect your reviews are probably as good if not better than the books. Anyway, any book that you give 5 stars to on Goodreads is an automatic #MustRead for me. Thanks for sharing these today.

  7. Both books sound so wonderful...and I know I will be adding them to my TBR (and ignore its groans)