Monday, March 15, 2021

MMGM- Wild River and Finish Strong

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Philbrick, Rodman. Wild River
March 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Daniel isn't all that sure why he was chosen to go on an outdoor experience trip with four other students from the brand new middle school he will be attending, but he's glad to get a break from his responsibilities at home. Project Future Leaders also includes Mia; a quiet and studious girl, Imani; who says very little in order to keep her identity a secret, Deke; a monumental jerk; and Tony, a boy who just follows along with Deke's behavior. Their leaders are Sky, who runs white water rafting trips in Montana, and Cindi Beacon, a famous soccer player. Early on, they run into snags. The river they were originally going to travel was too shallow, so they head 100 miles over to the Crazy, and the satellite phone the leaders have isn't working. They start off in rafts, and it's an interesting trip for children from New Hampshire. Of course, things don't go smoothly for long, and when a local dam breaks, things become truly treacherous. Sky and Cindi are both swept away in the waters after getting the students to safely, and leaving them with a back pack of supplies. From the beginning, Deke is a self serving jerk who doesn't want to follow Mia's plan to conserve food, since he is sure they will be saved soon. This ends in one tragedy, and Imani, Mia and Daniel have to use their strategies not only to confront mountain lions, bears, torrential rains, and a lack of supplies, but also to keep Deke from being a danger to himself and others. When they find Cindi badly injured, Deke does step up to carry her, but will the group be able to locate help in time?
Strengths: Survival books are always popular, and there weren't many new ones for a while, so I'm glad to see the resurgence of this genre. Philbrick himself has the great The Big Dark (2016) and Wildfire (2019), which were both excellent. While there are some philosophical moments in this (Daniel and Imani are both dealing with some issues; Daniel's involve his father, who has bipolar disorder), this cuts right to the chase. It also offers teasers about the horrible things that will happen, which work very well for the target demographic. The Montana landscape is well described, and the children work together well to try to survive. The exception is, of course, the horrid Deke, who learns his lesson in the hardest way possible. The cover of this is fantastic, and I can see this being a wildly popular title. 
Weaknesses: I've read enough books about adventure in the wilderness that the minute the satellite phone didn't work, I thought "Abort! Abort!" I knew nothing good could happen. This was similar to Lambert's Distress Signal in that the adults made some bad moves. There were two deaths in this, if you have very sensitive readers. 
What I really think: While there aren't as many details about rafting as I had hoped, this was an excellent survival adventure with lots of details about survival tactics, some stupendous interpersonal drama, and children saving the day. If books like Henry's Playing with Fire, Behrens' Alone in the Woods and Disaster Days, Teagan's Survivor Girl, and Johnson's Ice Dogs are popular in your library, this is a must purchase title. 

McGillivray, Dave, Feehrer, Nancy, and Li, Hui. 
Finish Strong: Seven Marathons, Seven Continents, Seven Days
March 15th 2021 by Nomad Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2018, Dave McGillivray, long time running enthusiast, philanthropist, and race director of the Boston Marathon for the last twenty years. He has run the Boston Marathon every year since 1973. As if all of that weren't impressive enough, in 2018, he completed the World Marathon Challenge with his Team Hold the Planet. This book details the route, the challenges faced in different climates (running in Antartica!), and the difficulties of completing such a grueling task. Along with this narrative are side bars with encouragement for young readers, including my favorite: "No one can stop you from running--you just ...RUN!"

This would be an awesome book to have on hand for elementary and middle schools who do running programs such as Girls on the Run, Kids Run the Nation, or the Mileage Club. It has a great message about perseverance and overcoming ostensibly overwhelming obstacles that is especially important today! While this is a great overview of the experience Mr. McGillivray had, I found myself wanting to know even more information about how the challenge was set up, how the team found the funds to travel and compete, and more details about each course. 

I'm definitely going to be investigating doing the Dream Big Marathon with my students. We've done 100 Mile Challenges, with a distance line in the library and shoes for each runner that we move as runners progress, but I love that this also challenges readers to read 26 books and do 26 acts of kindess! 

Leighton, Abby. National Parks Maps
March 2nd 2021 by Gibbs Smith
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This was a beautifully illustrated book about the National Parks. Most parks have one page spreads with basic information about the location, year the park was dedicated, acreage, and a brief overview of the highlights of the park, although some larger or more well known parks have a two page spread. The drawings are beautiful and done in colors that reflect the individual parks, and the features of the park are noted on the maps. This is the sort of book that I want to take apart and make into bulletin boards! 

This is a great introduction to the parks and would be a great gift to a budding naturalist who wants to start building a bucket list and learning more about the parks. It's a shame that there is not room for some photographs or the parks, since those would be interesting as well, but this is a book of stylized maps, and a good way to whet an appetite for further research.

1 comment:

  1. Wild River sounds like an excellent survival story! Finish Strong is also intriguing—I cannot imagine what it would be like to run in Antarctica. National Parks Maps also sounds great. Thanks for the great post!