Sunday, February 14, 2021

One Jar of Magic and Twig and Turtle #3

Haydu, Corey Ann. One Jar of Magic
February 9th 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rose Anders and her family are looking forward to New Year, when children who have turned twelve get a chance to gather magic for the first time. Since her father Wendell is widely known to father the most magic, Rose is known as "Little Luck", and everyone assumes that she will also excel at the crucial skill. Magic, which is kept in jars, is used throughout the year for various purposes. Each jar has a different purpose, and the people whom magic chooses must determine its use, although the magic all seems to be used for insignificant things. Rose's friends Ginger and Maddy are also going to collect magic, but they have grown weary of the attention that Rose gets, and tired of her attitude as well. When New Year comes and Rose only gathers one jar of magic, it becomes a topic of much discussion. Everyone is upset, and when her father gets upset, it isn't good for anyone. While the town where Rose lives is magic, there are towns nearby full of people who "aren't meant for magic", and when Rose and her mother stop by a diner on their way home from the gathering, they meet Zelda and her family, who don't want anything to do with magic. As Rose tries to figure out her life without magic, she finds out family secrets and comes to terms with the way her father acts. 
Strengths: This is mainly a story about an abusive household, and there is certainly a need for those stories. Roberts' 1977 Don't Hurt Laurie still circulates in my library and was my daughter's favorite. Of course, in that time, attitudes are treatment of this topic has changed, and Rose's story hints at the abuse and describes it in circumspect terms so as not to trigger readers who might have personal experience with it. I enjoyed the subplot with Rose and Maddy's friendship, since friend drama works in just about any middle grade novel, and Zelda was an interesting presence. The father's backstory was helpful to include later in the book, and the message that magic only treated the surface of things was interesting.
Weaknesses: While I understand why the father's behavior was described in vague terms, this made the story a bit harder to understand, especially since the world building made it hard for me to pinpoint exactly what the magic and why there were communities that didn't have magic. Some of my readers may struggle with the development of both of these topics as well. 
What I really think: Haydu includes a very helpful foreword about her opinions concerning grief. I have very different views, which might explain why I don't enjoy her books (The Rules for Stealing Stars (2015), The Someday Suitcase (2017)Eventown (2019)) as much as most people do. She is very popular with most other librarians and teachers. Fans of magical realism with sad overtones like Redman's Quintessence ,Staniszewski's The Wonder of Wildflowers. Ruby's Penelope March is Melting or Lloyd's  A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary will enjoy this layered and lyrical novel. 

Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Quiet, Please! (Twig and Turtle #3)
February 16th 2021 by Pixel+Ink
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this early chapter book, Twig and her younger sister Turtle are continuing to get used to living in their tiny house. Twig, however, is trying very hard to read for a lot of hours in order to help her class with their readathon, especially since the winning class gets to bowl in the middle of the school day! It's hard to find quiet in such a small place, and Twig even tries to hide in the square bathtub, and her mother turns the shower on her by mistake! Twig also plays soccer, and gets to try being a goalie, although she doesn't feel she does a great job in that position. After a night of having Bo, who is now the school reading dog who lives with the janitor, but used to be Twig's dog, stay with them in their loft, Twig is so tired that she accidentally wears her pajama pants to school. Twig's parents understand her need for quiet, and after trying to find places for her to read, institute a family quiet time every day so that all members of the family can get things done. Twig and Turtle will return for a fourth book in Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
Strengths: I love the small, artsy Colorado town setting, and the details of living in a tiny house are fascinating and true to life. (My daughter lives in a tiny house, but hers is out in the woods!) Twig and Turtle's parents are both involved in creative pursuits and are very supportive of both girls. There are challenges, but they are addressed in useful ways. I do identify more with the grandmother, who isn't as wild about some of the choices, and she's great to have around to tell the parents that soccer cleats are athletic equipment, not a third pair of shoes when the girls are limited to two! 
Weaknesses: What happened with the library book that was caught in the shower. I know it molded. Did Twig have to pay for it? This was not addressed, and librarians everywhere are concerned!
What I really think: I can see Twig being great friends with Cheng's Anna Wang, Meyerhoff's Friendship Garden gang, Springstubb's Cody and especially Mills' Kelsey Green, Reading Queen! At 112 pages, this is a great early chapter book that is perfect for elementary schools and even works at the middle school level for some struggling readers who do well with somewhat shorter, easier books, and who often love series! 

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