Monday, April 12, 2021

MMGM- Modern Soda Shoppe

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Thanks to Ms. Zachman, who had a Twitter giveaway of this fantastic book! I won, and am super excited to get it out to kids this year instead of having to wait for my August order.

Tweens and teens no longer hang out at the local soda shoppe-- their socializing is all on line, and sometimes has disastrous consequences. I have to admit that all I want to do today is curl up with Anne Emery's Senior Year, or maybe Cleary's The Luckiest Girl! Oh, to be able to hang out in a poodle skirt and saddle schools with my Orlon sweater set at the local malt shop!

Zachman, Kim and Donnelly, Peter (illustrations)
There's No Ham in Hamburgers: Facts and Folklore About Our Favorite Foods
April 6th 2021 by Running Press Kids 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I'm a sucker for popular culture, especially regarding food. So a brief overview of hamburgers, french fries, pizza, ice cream, chicken fingers, peanut butter, cereal, cookies, and chocolate! Yes, please. And you don't even need an antacid tablet! 

Breaking down popular, kid oriented food into these major categories allows room for a wealth of tangential information about things like ketchup, Mr. Potato Head, and Birdseye Frozen Foods! I even learned that the the phrase "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" came from a song recorded by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians and written by Howard Johnson! I enjoyed the format of this book, and especially liked the vague 1950s feel to the font and framing of the illustrations. Even the colors were a nice mix of the 2020 ubiquitous light teal with a more 1960s lime green, complete with the sparkly starbursts. I do want to take a look at the illustrations in the print book; the E ARC ones came out a bit wonky.

While I was familiar with most of the information in the book, due to apparently  all too frequent deep dives into tomes likes Sussman's Just Heat It 'n' Eat It!: Convenience Foods of the '40s-'60s (2006), Wyman's Spam (1999) and Better Than Homemade, Kimmerle's Candy: The Sweet History (2003), Gitlin's The Great American Cereal Book (2011) as well as everything Jane and Michael Stern ever wrote (especially Road Food (2006) and Square Meals (1984), younger readers will not be. This is an absolute powerhouse of an overview. I'm amazed at how complete the coverage is, and the amount of information that was still new to me. This shed light on why chicken nuggets always seemed like something new: they weren't widely available until I was in high school, at which point the last thing I was interested in was eating processed, deep friend chicken.
Clearly, I have a huge interest in food history, and since middle grade readers have eaten up books like Power Kids Press 
What's In Your Fast Food series, this is a definite purchase for elementary and middle school libraries. I would even buy it for a high school library, since it has such a wealth of information and is well-indexed, with an extensive bibliography. 

Faris, Stephanie. The Popularity Code
Published April 28th 2020 by Aladdin
Library Copy

Faith is hanging on in middle school, thanks to her association with the fairly popular Janelle and Adria. She used to be friends with  Tierra, but the two had a falling out. Faith is very interested in coding, which her friends aren't, and is working on some apps. She's part of a coding club, and has a mentor, Ms. Wang, whom she can consult. When a new web site called SlamBook appears in her middle school, Faith has questions. She's not really interested in hearing comments about other people, but she is interested in the site. For one, it's not an app, it's a web site, and it seems to be run by a company that will create sites for different schools. The registration questions are long and involved, but users are identified by numbers. Posts are fairly anonymous. However, users can create pages for members of their school, and comment on those pages. At first, the comments aren't bad, and Faith doesn't even have a page. Janelle and Adria want her to put positive comments on their pages, and Faith starts to get sucked into the whole process. She makes a negative comment about a boy who is very full of himself, and feels it is justified. When Faith has a page created for her, and sees negative comments, she starts not only to look into the source code and try to figure out how the site works, but also to make negative, mean comments on other people's pages by way of retribution. When someone on the site makes comments that lead Faith and her friends (which now tentatively include Tierra again) to believe that the person might harm themselves, Faith and her friends finally let the school and parents know what is going on. 
Strengths: Teachers and librarians who are very invested in topics such as bullying and mental health issues (which is pretty much all adults BUT me!) need this book, yet this doesn't seem to be on everyone's radar. My public library didn't buy this, and I bought a copy before reading it-- this is how much I trust this author. There are so many things to like about this book. First, Faith's interest in coding is fantastic to see. I love that she really knows her stuff, and so much information about coding is included, and it's not a book ABOUT her coding. This makes her interest much more realistic, and is such a great example for students. The fact that this interest ties into a social media platform that sweeps her school and causes such damage is just inspired. Her friendship with Janelle and Adria is one I would like to see a lot more in middle grade books; like Walker's Let's Pretend We Never Met, I think there are a lot of times in middle school where students have friends of convenience who might be people they don't really like. Even the parts of the book that made me uncomfortable as an adult are completely realistic. I can't stress enough how much middle school libraries need this book. Not only does it have an important message, but it will be wildly popular with students. The fact that the website is completely made up will keep this relevant for quite a while. 
Weaknesses: The M!X books should all have the striped spine, Aladdin! My students are trained to look for that on the shelves, and this one doesn't have that. I wish that the students had contacted adults earlier in the situation, but that would not have made for as exciting a book. At one point, the student who might harm themselves is left unattended, and I was quite worried that things would work out badly. Again, good for the plot, but I could have used more warnings about what students should do if they see incidents like this occur.
What I really think: Faris' work should be better appreciated. She covers important topics like gossip and popularity in really relatable ways. Her 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses are super popular in my library! The Popularity Code is a must purchase for middle school libraries, where massive doses of school drama are always needed!


  1. Glad you enjoyed this book that you won so much. Yes, hanging out at a soda shoppe vs. social media sounds fun.

  2. I am always up for a book about social media, technology, and how they impact our lives.

  3. Yes, socialization for us in the 50s-60s was at Sandy's/McDonalds, the Woolworth soda fountain, candy stores, -- anywhere we could walk. Kids just do that today. "There's no Ham in Hamburgers," sounds like a fun and terrific read. May turn me green. I remember when the fish in sandwiches was cod, that chicken nuggets was real meat, and milk shakes were made with real ice cream (my grandfather made ice cream at a dairy). I will probably shudder at what I learn.

    "The Popularity Code" sounds like a book that belongs in all school libraries. I haven't read a story like this one and it sounds engaging. Need to better inform myself since my kids are adults. My daughter introduced me to a lot of things, but nothing like what is happening today! The technology wasn't quite there. Great review of both books!

  4. That food book sounds really fun. Thank you for sharing your list of other books on this topic. I am intrigued. Have a great reading week!

  5. I'm intrigued by the coding aspect of the book. Sounds interesting.

  6. Thanks for the introduction to Stephanie Faris. My library has three of her books so all I have to do is decide which to read first. Way back when I was a kid we used to hang out at a local fast food joint called Hannigans. There was also this thing called Teen Town with a club house that was open part of the time. The group used to organize dances and other entertainment. Other than the skateboard park, there isn't even a place in this small town where kids can congregate.

  7. Both of these books sound excellent—and I love the theme that ties them together! There's No Ham in Hamburgers reminds me of a very old but very fun book that I read once, Everything But the Kitchen Sink, which also had a bunch of fun food facts! The Popularity Code (great title!) also sounds excellent, if terrifying! Thanks for the great post!

  8. These both sound really good. I like reading books about esoteric facts, like the food book. And it's great to see a book about a girl coder. I can see that appealing to middle schoolers.

  9. Both sound like interesting books, but, boy, howdy, The Popularity Code sounds like a real page turner. Thanks for telling me about both of these.