Saturday, March 27, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- Simon B. Rhymin'

Reed, Dwayne and Paul Jr., Robert (illus.) Simon B. Rhymin'
March 2nd 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Simon is a fifth grader who likes to think of himself as a rapper. He does have a way with words, and can create cadences very quickly, but he is also very shy, and leery of speaking out, much less performing. His rap alter ego is The Notorious D.O.G., and while he has the support of his parents and friends, he still is apprehensive about his own talents. After agonizing about what to wear to the first day of school, Simon does feel a little better when his new teacher, Mr. James, wears bow ties and tennis shoes, and starts rapping in class. When Mr. James assigns an oral report, however, Simon's anxiety goes into overdrive. He has a great topic: there is a man in the neighborhood, Sunny, who is always sweeping the sidewalks and making the neighborhood look good, but who appears to be homeless. After interviewing Sunny (and finding out that he had been a custodian at Simon's school at one point!), Simon feels that more needs to be done in the neighborhood to help the homeless. After a disastrous attempt at speaking that ends in him having to leave to throw up, Simon tries to put measures in place so he can speak in public. Will he be able to overcome his fears and use his voice to help people in his community. 
Strengths: This was a good story about wanting to help others and overcoming personal difficulties in order to do so. Simon is a well meaning character who is trying to work through his problems with public speaking, especially when they get in the way of both his personal dreams as well as his desire to fulfill his civic duty. The author is a teacher who has some renown due to his own rapping videos. Sunny was treated with respect, and Simon did his homework in locating organizations that helped the homeless in his neighborhood. 
Weaknesses: The illustrations did not come through on my e reader, so I am curious about what they look like. 
What I really think: This seemed a bit young for my students. I would love to see something with an older character and different style of illustration that I could recommend to my reluctant readers in the 8th grade. This would check out to 6th graders, but would be a hard sell to my older students. I wish this weren't the case. I may take a look at the finished book to see how the overall package looks. 

Brown, Jeffrey. One Upon a Space-Time 
June 2nd 2020 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

There are human kids who are studying at the Earth School for Space Mission Preparation in the year 2216. They are considered for a space mission that the alien race of Tobeys is preparing. The Tobeys (who are clones, and all have the same name) are pleased with the way the humans have handled the technology introduced to the humans, and think they are ready for the next step. Of course, adults are quite right for the mission-- it has to be tweens because adults are "whiny" and would be annoying. Helped by Commander Gusevitch, the children undergo training that includes stints on "the vominator", manual dexterity challanges, and tests of how long they can stay in a cold environment.  Petra and Jide are chosen, and soon they are on a mission to Mars with a Tobey. They do experiments in space, as one does, and eventually land on the red planet! They are met by the robot Kay, and spend some time at the base. They meet fellow explorers, who come from several different races and don't look like humans. The group eats space food, works on projects in the base, and travel on the surface, but dust storms soon make it imperative that they return to Earth. More of their adventures will be told in book two, A Total Waste of Space-Time. 

Brown has a great background in STEM related graphic novels, including several volumes of the Star Wars Jedi Academy series as well as Lucy and Neanderthal. He tends to include a lot of great scientific information, with lots of text in the comic style panels. 

Petra and Jide's reactions to their surroundings are humorous, and the general tone of the books is snarky enough for older readers to find amusing, while still making sense to younger ones. Reads who like Graley's Glitch, Sanity and Tallulah, Ali-A's Adventures: Game On! or Kochalka's The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie will find Once Upon a Space-Time a fun romp through the stratosphere. 

I find Brown's work a little too wordy for my own personal taste-- words are really crammed onto the pages. There's also a weird snarky tone that other reviewers have likened to the writing of The Office, but for kids. The artifice of an entire race named Tobey seemed odd, and the alien's face was enough to give me nightmares, for some reason. Still, very popular with the target demographic, which is what matters. 

Ms. Yingling

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