Sunday, February 28, 2021


Crowder, Melanie. Mazie
February 23rd 2021 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's 1959, and Mazie Butterfield lives on a farm in Nebraska. She has been singing for years, and gets solos when the car hops perform every hour at the drive in where she works, and is sure that she can make it on Broadway. Her boyfriend, Jesse, doesn't want to squash her dreams, but can't leave the family farm, even though he does very well in school. Her parents just expect that she will graduate from high school, get married, and settle down. Her grandmother is the one person who believes in her, and when she passes away unexpectedly, she leaves train tickets to New York and enough money to last Mazie six weeks in New York. After senior exams, Mazie decides to go to the big city and try to make it before she gets sucked into life in Nebraska. She finds a boarding house for aspiring actresses, packs a bag, and takes off. The city is daunting, but one of her roommates shows her the ropes and gets her started with auditioning. Even though she has taken voice and dancing lessons and worked hard at her craft, Mazie finds that many people snicker at her name, her freckles, and the fact that she is sturdily built rather than sylph like. Luckily, this works to her advantage at an audition. She's not right for that part, but the director sends her to a friend who is doing an industrial musical about tractors. Mazie gets hired as an understudy for all of the parts, which is a thankless task, but one which she attempts wholeheartedly. She deals with handsy men, meets gay actors, and embraces her differences even as her industry tells her to lose twenty pounds. Will she be able to be successful in an acting career? And what will the future hold for her and Jesse?
Strengths: Occasionally, an author who does perfect fine novels will just blow me out of the water with something completely different. Three Pennies was beautifully written, but Mazie... wow. Everything I want in a historical novel. Great period details, acknowledgement of social norms and mores, and a fast paced story that will appeal to a variety of readers. I loved the realistic details, like all fo the work that Mazie has done to prepare for her career, and the fact that she is hired for industrial performances. I had never heard of those, and Crowder has some great notes about them. Really enjoyed this. 
Weaknesses:Introducing Mazie to gay characters made perfect sense, but when she meets up with someone from her hometown while visiting friends from her tour, it seemed like an awfully big coincidence. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. It will be fantastic for our Decades unit, for anyone who thinks the stage is a good career move, and for readers who want a book about an older character setting out on her own. This reminded me a bit of Weil's I'm Glad I Did

Gonzalez, Mandy. Fearless
April 6th 2021 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Here's another one about a girl from California getting a shot at singing on Broadway. She's in a production with three other children, they have a tutor, and things keep happening to sabotage the play. Is the Ethel Merman theater cursed? Or are evil developers plotting to get their hands on the building. Theater books don't circulate well at all in my library, but if they do in yours, definitely take a look. There are lots of good details about Broadway superstitions, history, and traditions provided by the author, who is herself a Broadway star. This looks to be the start of a series. 

From the Publisher: 
Better Nate than Ever meets Love Sugar Magic in this spooky middle grade novel from Hamilton and Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez about a group of young thespians who must face the ghost haunting their theater.

The Ethel Merman Theater is cursed. No one is sure how or why, but the evidence speaks for itself. Show after show has flopped and the theater is about to close. Enter twelve-year-old Monica Garcia, who has been cast to star in a Broadway musical revival of The Goonies, the theater’s last chance to produce a hit before it shutters its doors for good.

The kids in the cast each have their own reasons for wanting to make the show a success, and all eyes in the theater world are on them. Will this show finally break the curse of the Ethel? The kids aren’t quite sure if the curse is even real, but when their first performance doesn’t quite go as planned, it certainly feels that way.

Then they realize the ghost light—the light that is always kept on at every theater in order to appease the ghosts—wasn’t lit! When the kids rush to flick the switch back on, they find themselves locked in the theater—but that’s the least of their problems when the ghost of the Ethel makes her debut appearance!

Can the cast overcome their fears and reverse the ghost’s curse before opening night so they can save the show—and their dreams?

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Cartoon Saturday-- Ozy and Millie, Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior

Simpson, Dana. Ozy and Millie: Perfectly Normal
March 2nd 2021 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the author

In this second collection of Ozy and Millie strips from Phoebe and Her Unicorn author Dana Simpson, we see the two friends engaged in highjinks ranging from building snow forts (and quoting Shelley's Ozymandias!)to dying Millie's hair purple, to speaking in haiku. (As someone who submits tech tickets in haiku frequently, this has my support!) I never saw this strip in the paper when it ran from 1998-2008, I'm glad to see these collections. Now, I just need to find out why Ozy's father is a dragon...

From the publisher:
Millie is one unusual fox, and she knows it. She comes up with highly unusual thoughts, invents ingenious excuses to get out of her homework, and her classmates are not always sure quite what to make of her. But thankfully she has Ozy, one of the most loyal friends anyone could ask for. Together the two of them, their friends, Millie's mom, and Ozy's dad, Llewellyn (who happens to be a red dragon) enjoy various misadventures, whimsical conversations, elaborate schemes, and delightful bouts of mischief in this collection of comics.

Sourcil, Pirate. Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior Graphic Novel: An OP Alliance 
March 2nd 2021 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Someday, I will play enough Minecraft that I will finally understand books like The Crash, The Voyage, The Shipwreck, and the Cube Kid books. 

No. That will never happen. 

So a Minecraft graphic novel? Sort of right up there with books about philosophical talking animals who have Southern accents. Not my cup of tea.

Will readers who like graphic novels and Minecraft absolutely love this? Yes. For $14.33, you can get a prebind from Follett so that this holds up to steady circulation. 

From the publisher:
This new graphic novel series is an adaptation of the best-selling Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior series. Readers will reconnect once again with their favorite characters in a familiar Minecraft world and embark on new, heart-pounding adventures.
Runt is not a village boy like all the others. Growing carrots doesn’t really interest him and selling them interests him even less. All he wants is to be a warrior! One day, he gathers up all his courage and decides to head off on a journey. He meets a zombie who dreams of being a human, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey. Follow these two unlikely friends as they trek across the Minecraft universe in search of excitement and a little bit of danger—now in graphic novel format.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, February 26, 2021

Guy Friday- Into the Wind

Loizeaux, William. Into the Wind
March 2nd 2021 by One ELM Books 
ARC provided by the publisher

Rusty lives on an island off the New England coast with his father, who works in the local hardware store, his bossy older sister, and his mother, who is currently away at a residential treatment center for depression. This is hard for a ten year old, and if the summer weren't bad enough, Rusty has to go to summer school for math and his best friend is away. He is excited about a small boat that a neighbor has given him to work on, and he is making a project of fixing it and learning to sail. While working on the boat one day, local artist Hazel asks if he will take her out in the boat. The problem? She's elderly and in a wheelchair. Because it is a small town, before long she is asking his father if Rusty will do odd jobs for her, feeding him chicken salad and watermelon for lunch, and helping him with his math before he mows her lawn, dusts her living room, and learns about sailing from her. Hazel is also matter-of-fact about his mother, and allows Rusty to talk a bit more about his feelings than he is encouraged to talk at home. Eventually, his mother comes home, summer winds down, and his connection with Hazel fizzles out. Luckily, their one day of sailing was a memorable one that both enjoyed. 
Strengths: This was well written and definitely painted a vivid picture of life in a small New England town. The information about sailing was understandable and informative, and I liked that Hazel and Rusty were able to bond over a shared interest. I wish that there were more occasions for middle grade readers to meet the elderly, either in books or in person. Hazel is portrayed as engaged in the present and passionate about art and sailing despite her frailty. The issue of Rusty's mother was depicted in a matter-of-fact rather than soppy way, and doesn't highjack the entire story. It's helpful to see students who struggle in school but are able to find some success through help and hard work. 
Weaknesses: This was a gently sad novel of love, learning and loss. The best middle grade novels teach these lessons with a few explosions and embarrassing situations thrown in.
What I really think: The author seems to write primarily literary works for adults; to make this a better middle grade novel, he could have included Rusty's best friend, with whom he could have had more adventures in the boat, and some more highjinks involving working for Hazel. This reminded me strongly of Greene's 1969 A Girl Called Al, a book which brings me to tears and I can't bear to weed. 

Guy Friday-- Jason Henderson Celebrates Guys Read Pink Month

If you're a middle grade librarian and don't know about the following author, start making a list of books you need to order for your students right away! Jason Henderson writes the very exciting Alex Van Helsing series (Vampire Rising, Voice of the Undead, and Triumph of Death), The Young Captain Nemo trilogy, (Young Captain Nemo and Quest for the Nautilus, with the third book, The Serpent's Nest, coming out 9 March!), as well as the adult titles The Book Man  and California Tiki: A History of Polynesian Idols, Pineapple Cocktails and Coconut Palm Trees with Adam Foshko. 

He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for our Boys Read Pink celebration. It's always fun to hear what authors have to say about books. Enjoy!

Give us your age in terms of what movies or television series were popular when you were 12. What kind of middle school student were you? Do you think you would have had different interests if you had been a girl? 

o   This is such a fun question! When I was 12 years old the most popular stuff was certainly Star Wars which just then had wrapped up for the time being with episode 6. At this time, the Star Trek movies were incredibly popular as well, plus if I think of that summer, I believe there were even two competing James Bond movies. So it was a really great time for what we would now call genre-- action and comic-book-related stuff and all of that.

o   The truth is I don't think there would have been very much difference as far as any media that I was consuming if I were a girl, because those things that I just listed were incredibly popular across the culture, maybe with Star Trek coming in 3rd. But what was invisible to me was the literary culture that was enjoyed by women and girls and that was more or less ignored by young men. Men and boys didn't generally read things like Judy Blume or the suspense novels of Lois Duncan but I have to tell you that we probably should have. I'm not even getting into the true classics, where women tended to—at least once—read books like Little Women or Pride and Prejudice, and men did not—I didn't read those books until I was well into adulthood.

o   I probably haven’t changed a lot since middle school. I was a little serious and I was already interested in writing. I was editor of my school newspaper. I was fairly lonely but being lonely isn’t the end of the world. My best friend then is still my friend and I talk to him nearly every day, since we work together.

What type of books did you like to read? Can you remember any books with female main characters that you enjoyed? 

o   A loved Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, and how we get to see her take a leadership role in her family, and we also get to see her grow up in those books.

o   Going off the top of my head the first thing that pops to mind is Psycho II by Robert Bloch and Cujo, both of which were new novels and indicate the kind of thing that I was reading at the time. I also really loved short story collections, many of which were at this point almost twenty years old, like especially the Alfred Hitchcock collections and the much newer Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Actually, short stories made up most of my reading, because I remember I also really loved to read Twilight Zone Magazine, which featured new horror fiction every month.

o   I remember even then Stephen King freely employed female main characters, and a little later, writers like Dean Koontz would write their suspense novels and often employ female or male main characters. But spy novels and action novels remained heavily male-centered.


 What reasons for reading a book with a girl as the main character would you give to a middle school boy who doesn’t think he should read one?

o   There are so many reasons but now I think the main one is that all that really matters is the story, and how the character relates to the story. For instance in The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling's gender is relevant to the story because she is trying to Excel inside of an educational system that has traditionally promoted mainly men. So it's an interesting conflict to see her navigate.

o   But I was always surrounded by strong and competent women, so to me I'm mainly interested in whether the story appeals to me and you get the protagonist that you get.


 In Young Captain Nemo books, Misty holds her own with Peter and Gabriel. Were there reasons you chose to include a girl instead of having a trio of boys? Do you find writing female characters at all difficult? (And remind me of any female characters in Alex van Helsing. It’s been about ten years since I’ve read those!)

o   The gender dynamic in the Young Captain Nemo books is almost identical to the gender dynamic in the Alex Van Helsing books, which is that you have this super competent female member of the trio who also is frankly a little bit more emotionally evolved than they are. But I actually write them simply the way that I would write myself if I had their background and interests. I don’t write Misty as a girl—she’s just a genius and she happens to be a girl. And unlike in the world of The Silence of the Lambs, Misty doesn't have to deal with an organization that is traditionally aligned against her because of gender. So far it has not come into play.

o   The truth is I like books where smart people solve problems under pressure. And I don't care about the genders of the characters so much as I want to be intrigued by how they solve those problems.


 Are there any books with girls as the main character that you would recommend to my students?

o   My reading is all over the place. I think Jennifer Ziegler’s Brewster Triplets books are hilarious. Way on the other side of the spectrum, in the adult realm,  Intensity by Dean Koontz is un-put-down-able. And I think a middle-grader could read it. It’s amazing. And you can’t go wrong with The Silence of the Lambs. Coraline by Neil Gaiman has a female lead, of course, and is so, so brilliant.

o   Also, from my own, I have two I can think of—Ronnie Van Helsing is the lead of my graphic novel Sword of Dracula, and I have a female lead Frannie Cohn in my surfing-horror book Night of the Book Man (Written under the name Peyton Douglas), which is very close to YA.

           o   There are so many books!

Many thanks to Mr. Henderson for his great answers, and check here on March 8 for a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review of The Serpent's Nest!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame

Kelkar, Supriya. Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame
February 24th 2021 by Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Meera isn't thrilled to be turning 13, because it means that she will finally have to move to her husband Krishna's house. They were married when quite young, and she hasn't really ever met him, but she realizes that this is just how life is arranged in 1857 India. She would rather stay home with her own mother,  but her family believes in traditional values. When Krishna dies suddenly, her father is determined that she should join him on his funeral pyre and immolate herself in the ritual of sati, in order to preserve her family's honor, even though the British have outlawed this practice. When a chance presents itself, she runs away from home, and ends up surviving with the help of Bhavani, who is trying to find her older sister, who is serving as an ayah (child care provider) for a British family. When Meera and Bhavani are caught in a British ammunition storage area, Captain Keene punishes them by putting them to work in his household. This isn't ideal, but it soon appears that Bhavani is working with resisters to the British who are trying to find information to sabotage British interests, and working in the household, Bhavani is able to sneak looks at papers on the Captain's desk. While the situation is not ideal for Meera, it is providing her with a place to live and work to do, and she is saving up money to try to go far from her town so that she will be safe from Krishna's family. She has an uneasy understanding with the Memsahib, so has lost her own daughter and is usually nice to Meera, but also harbors the racial prejudice the British felt towards Indians at the time. As the situation with the British becomes more intense, and Bhavani becomes more involved, will Meera be willing to give up her life of subsistence to try to make things better for the Indian people?
Strengths: This is a great book to use to replace Whelan's Homeless Bird (2000), if that's something that you are currently using in the classroom. While I always liked that title, it has made me increasingly uncomfortable as we get more and more #ownvoices stories. The details about every day life, and about the sociopolitical situation in India at this point in history are well presented, and offset by a really page-turning story about a young girl trying to save her own life. I'm a big fan of interesting bits of history I don't know anything about, and the Sepoy Mutiny is something I had never encountered, and I learned a lot while rooting for Meera's future. 
Weaknesses: This author's Ahimsa has circulated better than I had anticipated, but historical fiction set in the 1800s can be hard to convince my students to read. 
What I really think: I very much enjoy Kelkar's work, and her American as Paneer Pie (2020) has been popular with my students. I will buy this title, but it may take some handselling. I hope that Kelkar alternates between historical fiction and modern stories with cultural connections; she is equally brilliant at writing both.
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Football Books

When my Sports Book page has in the football section "On order for the 2008 school year" and my podcast of football books is from 2015), I guess it's time to update the list. Most of these are available to purchase through Follett. I didn't annotate it in case people want to print it out and use it to order books. I did link to my review, if they exist.

I have many more books in my library, but a huge number are out of print. They can be hard to find. Very few are published each year.

Now I'm just sad about Thomas J. Dygard, who died back in 1996. If you have his books, hang on to them. They are excellent, especially Backfield Package (1992).

Football Books

Alpine, Rachel. Friday Night Stage Lights (2018)

Barber, Tiki. Kickoff!  (series) 2008

Behrens, Andy. The Fast and the Furriest (2010)

Bowen, Fred and Ransome, James E. Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League (2020)

Speed Demon (2019)

Double Reverse (2014)

Quarterback Season (2011)

Bradley, John Ed. Call Me By My Name (2014)

Brouwer, Sigmund. Cobra Strike.

Attanas, John. Eddie and the Jets (2005)

Berk, Josh. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin Book (2010)

Christopher, Matt. Various titles.

Coleman, K. R. Showdown (2017)

Coy, John. Crackback.(2005)

Deuker, Carl. Gutless (2016)

Payback Time (2010)

Gym Candy(2007)

Ellis, Deborah. Bifocal (2007)

Feinstein, John. The Walk On (2014)

Backfield Boys (2017)

Green, Tim. The Big Game (2018) Left Out (2017)Kid Owner (2015)

Heldring, Thatcher. The Football Girl. (2017)

The League (2013)

Howling, Eric. Long Bomb (2020) Lorimer Sports

Hengel, Katherine. Before the Snap (2012)

Kitchings, Taylor. Yard War (2015)

Klass, David. Second Impact (2013)

Korman, Gordon. Pop (2009)

Lupica, Mike. Triple Threat (2020)

            Touchdown Kid (2018)

Fantasy League (2014)

Lone Stars (2017)

Unstoppable (2012)

Football Genius (2010)

McClafferty, Carla Killough. Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's

            Make-Or-Break Moment (2013) Nonfiction

Payton, Belle. A Whole New Ball Game (2014)

Reedy, Trent. If You're Reading This (2014)

Sheinkin. Steve. Undefeated : Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team,                    (2017)

Volponi, Paul. Top Prospect (2016)

Wallace, Rich. Roar of the Crowd (2004)

Whitaker, Nathan. Snap Decision (2014)

Walters, Eric. Juice. 2005 Orca Sports

Wetzel, Dan. Tom Brady (2019) Biography

Woodson, Jacqueline. Before the Ever After (2020)

Ms. Yingling

Baseball Books

Baseball books have, sadly, gone the way of baseball. It used to be the national sport, and now I have fewer students interested in it. The ones who do enjoy the game are often avid readers, so I do need an equal number of books. 

Baseball books don't stay in print very long. Even Deuker's fantastic Heart of a Champion (1997) is no longer available. Have to say that Deuker's books have more longevity than many others, so if you don't have his titles, definitely take a look at them. 

Interesting also-- John Tunis has FOUR paperback books still available, even though his titles came out in the 1940s! World Series and Rookie of the Year are fantastic titles!

Baseball Books

Alpine, Rachele. You Throw Like a Girl (2017)

Barr, Jennifer R. Goodbye, Mr. Spalding (2018)

Bauer, Joan. Soar (2016)

Berk, Josh. Strike Three, You’re Dead (2013)

Bowen, Fred. Lucky Enough (2018)

     The Perfect Game (2013)

Dugout Rivals (2010)

Christopher, Matt. Play Ball! (2013) Series

Corbett, Sue. Free Baseball (2006)

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm (2020)

High Heat (2003)

Gutman, Dan. Honus and Me (1997) Series

Gratz, Alan. The Brooklyn Nine (2009)

Green, Tim. Baseball Genius (2017)

Lost Boy (2015)

New Kid (2014)

Force Out (2013)

Pinch Hit (2012)

        Baseball Great. Series (2011)

Higuera, Donna Barba. Lupe Wong Won't Dance (2020)

Hughes, Dean. Missing in Action (2010)

Jeter, Derek. The Contract (2015) Series

John, Antony. Mascot (2018)

Klages, Ellen. Out of Left Field (2018)

Krishnaswami, Uma. Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (2017)

Lipsyte, Robert. Center Field (2010)

Lorenzi, Natalie Dias. A Long Pitch Home Book (2016)

Lupica, Mike. Batting Order (2020)

The Batboy (2010)

The Big Field.(2008)

Heat (2006)

Manzer, Jenny. My Life as a Diamond (2018)

Moore, Steve. King of the Bench: No fear! (2017)

Negron, Chris. Dan Unmasked (2020)

Northrop, Michael. Plunked (2012)

Ripken, Cal. The Closer (2016)

Out at Home (2015)

Squeeze Play (2014)

Wild Pitch (2013)

Hothead (2011)

Ritter, John H. The Boy Who Saved Baseball (2005)

Robinson, Sharon. The Hero Two Doors Down (2016)

Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. The Way Home Looks Now (2015)

Tooke, Wes. Lucky (2011)

King of the Mound (2013)

Vernick, Audry. Screaming at the Ump (2014)

Volponi, Paul. Game Seven (2015)

Basketball Books

Well, this was interesting. Basketball books seem to stay in print a LONG time. The longevity winner is Walter Dean Myers' Hoops from 1981 (when I was in high school!), but the runner up is Deuker's 1988 On the Devil's Court! Do publishers look at their back list and think "Oh, we've got some sports books on the list," and not acquire anything new, even though the books they have came out when my students' parents were in school? Or born?

Basketball and football stories are by far the most popular in my library. I am printing out a few of these lists for students who really do try to read every relevant title in the library. It's a little sad that there are so few titles that it's a manageable task!

Basketball Fiction

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. Sasquatch in the Paint. (2013)

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover

Bildner, Phil. A Whole New Ballgame (2015)

Blair, Kelsey. Tough Call (2020)

                    Pick and Roll (2014)

Bowen, Fred. Outside Shot (2017)

The Final Cut.(2009)

Hardcourt Comeback (2010)

Real Hoops.(2011)

Chase, Paula. Dough Boys (2018)

Delle Donne, Elena. Elle of the Ball (2018) Series

Deuker, Carl. On the Devil’s Court (1988) 2nd Longest in print!

Swagger (2013) YA

Farazin, Sara. Here to Stay (2018)

Feinstein, John. Foul Trouble (2013)

Flower, Jessie Graham. Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year in High School (2019)

Gutman, Dan. The Million Dollar Shot (1997)

Harkrader, Lisa. Airball: My Life in Briefs (2005)

Heldring, Thatcher. Toby Wheeler: Eighth Grade Bench Warmer (2007)

Hoose, Phillip M. Attucks! (2018) Nonfiction

Howling, Eric. Hoop Magic (2014)

Herbach, Geoff. Hooper YA (2019)

Khan, Hena. Zayd Saleem (2018) Series

Krech, Bob. Rebound (2007)

Lupica, Mike.The Turnover (2020)

        No Slam Dunk (2018)

        Fast Break (2015)

        True Legend (2012)

        Travel Team (2004)

Mack, W.C. Mathlete vs. Athlete. (2013)

Mackel, Kathy. Boost (2008)

Moore, Wes. This Way Home (2015)

Myers, Walter Dean. Game (2008)

        Hoops (1981) Longest in print

        Slam (2008)

Ostler, Scott. Bouncing Back (2019)

Parker, Robert. Edenville Owls (2007)

Roberts, Barbara Carroll. Nikki on the Line (2019)

Shang, Wendy. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu (2011)

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. The Hoopster (2005)

Smith, Matthew Ross. Lizzy Legend (2019)

Soto, Gary. Taking Sides (1991- still available!)

Stoudemire, Amar'e. Home Court (2012) (series)

Volponi, Paul. The Final Four(2012)

            Black and White (2005)

Waltman. Kevin. Next (2013)

Yee, Lisa. Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time (2005)

Yep, Lawrence. Dragon Road (2008)