Thursday, February 04, 2021

Rosa Parks, Crocodile Rescue

Today is the anniversary of Rosa Parks' birth (February 4, 1913, Tuskegee, AL). While I already have several biographies of her, I was very interested to see this new one.

Theoharis, Jeanne and Colbert, Brandy (adapted by) 
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Young Readers Edition) 
January 26th 2021, Beacon Press  

This is a great new discussion of Parks' life that looks more closely at her childhood as well as the Civil Rights work she did up until her death in 2005. With a continuing interest in Black history, it's good to see a thorough adult book adapted by a Young Adult and Middle Grade author. (See Colbert's The Only Black Girls in Town). While it's a little long (288 pages), it's wonderfully complete, and includes a lot of primary source pictures and copies of documents. This is a much more thoughtful biography than the ones I have, so I'm definitely ordering it for my library. (Hull's 1994 installment of Black Americans of Achievement, Rosa Parks, is VERY worn out!)

Márquez, Melissa Cristina. Crocodile Rescue (Wild Survival #1)
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Adriana Villalobos can't wait until she turns 13 and is allowed to be on camera with her parents and older brother Feye. After spending years traveling and rescuing animals all over the globe, the family has been approached to do a television show, since the parents are "as famous as wildlife conservationists can be" (quoted from uncorrected proof). The director, Mr. Savage, wants the whole family involved, but Adriana's parents are very protective. Their latest mission is to travel to Cuba to locate and help a very large Cuban crocodile that has been injured. Soon, the whole crew, including the scuba diving Australian Connor, who is very helpful to Adriana. Once in Cuba, the show manages to get some footage filmed, but can't find the giant crocodile, and there are several mishaps, including one for which Adrianna is responsible. She didn't MEAN to put too much glue on the tracking device and cause her brother to super glue himself to a crocodile, but it happens. There is concern about poachers in the area, including two that have hurt several animals and people. While filming a side story about dogs in the small village nearby, Adriana befriends a small dog she names Duke and smuggles him back to the hotel. She and Feye do some research and discover an unmapped canal where they suspect the injured animal might be hiding and the crew manages to retrieve it, but Adriana suffers an injury. Savage acts in a suspicious way, and later, the siblings want to go back to the area to search for some things. They make the risky choice of going alone, while Adrianna is still recovering from her injury. Will they be able to find what they need to, and will their parents' show survive the difficulties they face in Cuba? AND WILL THE DOG SURVIVE?

Sorry, just have to say that you should never take small dogs anywhere near where crocodiles or alligators might be hanging out. Just don't! Also, while Hasimoto's The Trail, Goebel's Out of My Shell, and Gemeninhart's The Honest Truth have some similarities to Wild Survival, it really should be compared to Spradlin's Menace from the Deep (Scholastic, 2013), Teagan's Survivor Girl (Clarion, 2019) and Gerber's Lights, Camera, Cassidy (Puffin, 2012) series. 

Strengths: This was a solid middle grade action/adventure mystery with the great inclusion of scientific information about species and habitats in Cuba. I learned a lot about mangroves! I loved the strong family unit and the nice relationship between Adrianna and Feye. The film crew and the staff at the zoo where the parents worked were also supportive. While the kids have to follow their parents' sensible rules, they do have some agency, and figure out the location of the crocodile being sought. This had excellent pacing, vivid descriptions of the surroundings, and a solid plot. 
Weaknesses: There was a lot that could have been done with Savage and the violent poachers. I really felt like the book was headed for a major, Scooby-Doo type encounter ("those blasted, meddling kids!"), but that just fizzled. Adrianna, while she makes good choices when she is actually in danger, makes a lot of questionable ones throughout the book. Smuggling stray dog into hotel room? Going out in the boat with just your brother when you're still injured? The parent in me hated this, but middle grade readers will find these actions intriguing. As long as they don't go to Cuba and try to recreate these behaviors, I think we're okay!
What I really think: Definitely looking forward to more books in this series. I have a weirdly large number of students (remember, I'm in central Ohio) who what to be marine biologists when they grow up, so it's great to see a Latinx marine biologist turn her hand to middle grade fiction incorporating lots of facts about animals and their habitats! Great choice, Scholastic. Now, let's issue these in hardcover! (The Follett prebind is already on my order list!)

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