Monday, April 05, 2021

MMGM- Rescue at Wild Lake and No Way, They Were Gay?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Johnson, Terry Lynn. Rescue at Wild Lake 
April 27th 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Madi and her friends Aaron and Jack live in Willow Grove, a small town where they are able to go out on the local lake in a boat, and drive the ATV in the woods between each others' houses. When they find two adult beavers dead near the lake, the are very concerned that there might be babies left in the lodge. Madi manages to swim under the water and retrieve two young beavers, whom she names Phrag and Cooler. Since her grandmother, who passed away a few years previously, was an "animal whisperer" and wildlife rehabilitator, Madi knows how to take care of wild animals, but she also knows it can be dangerous and challenging. Her parents, who are very busy with work, have told her absolutely no more wild animals to foster, so Madi and her friends ensconce the kits in their clubhouse, secure in the belief that her older sister Marley won't come in, since it smells like "a barn inside a boys' locker room next to a monkey factory"! Madi is set to go to a lecture by famous primatologist Jane Goodall, and she knows that if her parents find out, she won't get to go. She doesn't feel that there are any other places that can take care of the beavers, and she fears for their safety because of the deaths of the beavers, which she thinks is tied to dams messing up drainage culverts around the town. Aaron and Jack are a little more forthcoming with questions, all but accusing some townspeople they meet during their investigations. Not only are the children worried about the beavers, but the little devils are kind of cute. Less than cute is their instinct to smear their food and mud on the walls of the clubhouse as if it were a dam! Madi and her sister have an agreement-- Marley won't say anything about the animals if Madi won't say anything about Marley having her high school friends over for parties. Eventually, Madi is sure to be found out, but will she be able to figure out the mystery, as well as what to do with Phrag, Cooler, and another small beaver, Xena?
Strengths: There were lots and lots of good details about taking care of young beavers, but it is also clear that this is not something that should be tried at home! Madi very carefully takes her own notes, and follows those left by her grandmother, and does her best to take good care of the animals. It is very clever how she teaches them to build in certain places, thus helping the town's problem. Her parents are both well and concerned about their daughters, but busy enough that they don't pay a lot of attention, which is a brilliant way to structure a middle grade novel. Madi misses her grandmother, but is channeling her grief in constructive ways. Johnson always writes a good story, and this is a great SUMMER addition to her works. 
Weaknesses: Aaron and Jack were not well developed characters, and the ending seemed a bit abrupt. 
What I really think: This is a must purchase for elementary schools, and a good addition for middle schools where books about animals or outdoor adventures are popular. 

Here's a nice video of Johnson describing her book: 

Wind, Lee. No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves
April 6th 2021 by Zest Books
ARC graciously provided by the author

If you've already read Wind's great novel, Queer as a Five Dollar Bill (2018), you know that there is solid evidence indicating that Abraham Lincoln was gay. Given the history of the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community, it's not a surprise that a lot of the history of this community has been suppressed, especially when it comes to the biographies of individuals.  This new collective biography examines the lives of men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who lived outside gender boundaries, and puts these individuals, their times, and their evolving histories into context. There is a concerted effort to include all facets of the LGBTQIA+ community, and there's some cultural diversity as well. 

As was evident in Pittman's Stonewall: Coming Out in the Streets, there's a lot of gay history that was not recorded, or was systematically ignored. Wind starts with a really helpful introduction about different ways this history was hidden, as well as "Good Stuff to Know". I really appreciated all of the helpful side bars as well, especially about the language that should be used. There are a lot of differences of opinion, as well as terminology preferences, and the explanations are really well done. I love that there is information about staying safe as well. This intro chapter alone is worth buying the book; it gives shows readers the difficulties that have been faced in the past and are still being faced, and is a great place for starting conversations. 

Wind's note about whom to include was also helpful. There were some people who were already on my radar, but some that were new to me as well. The research is phenomenal, and there are extensive source notes at the back. It was particularly inspired to present the research and then ask readers "What do YOU think?" There is a lot of primary source evidence cited, making this book a fantastic resource for students who are working on National History Day projects. 

From Sappho, to Queen Anne, to Bayard Rustin, each entry gives a brief description of the person's life and works, evidence as to why they were gay, how this identity affected their lives and treatment. The best part about the book is the inclusion of historical context, and the presentation of as many illustrations of photographs as could be found to support the narrative. I also liked that there was a "Putting it in Order" chart at the back; sometimes it's hard to understand the historical order of events across world history, and this really helped. 

The only thing that made me a little sad was wondering what Eleanor Roosevelt would have thought about being included. She was just a little older than my grandmother, who would have been mortified if a secret about her would have been uncovered after her death. Mr. Wind did indicate that her estate did look at the manuscript and gave permission rights for her writing that is included. Of course, Roosevelt was particularly good at moving with the times, so I like to think that she would have become a champion of sharing hidden histories had she lived long enough. 

No Way, They Were Gay? is a well-researched, intriguing book of history that has a place on the shelves of middle school, high school, and public libraries everywhere. 


  1. I reviewed Rescue at Wild Lake last week too. I adored those beaver kits and am impressed by how much I learned about beavers from that book. I hope it's the first in a series and we will get to learn more about the boys in future novels.
    Thanks for the heads up about No Way, They Were Gay? I've added it to my list and will be looking forward to reading it.

  2. I'm reading Rescue at Lake Wild now and am enjoying the story. Thanks for the video link. Very interesting.

  3. I love Terry Lynn Johnson's wildlife and survival stories. This sounds like a winner. Will have to get a copy. Perfect for summer.

    Wow, No Way sounds like a fascinating read. Is that Ghandi's picture on the cover? I knew about Eleanor Roosevelt as I've seen it in documentaries about her -- most recently the series about Six First Ladies on CNN or PBS, and you really understood this remarkable woman and cheered that she did know love in her life. And, of course Roosevelt could not have been president, without her -- she was the brains.

  4. I am definitely going to have to keep an eye out for No Way, They Were Gay! I've been extremely fascinated with the "hidden" history of the LGBT+ movement.

  5. Rescue at Wild Lake sounds like an excellent story! I'm also very intrigued about No Way, They Were Gay? It sounds very well-researched in spite of the unfortunate lack of recorded history about LGBTQIA+ communities, as you mention. Thanks for the great post!

  6. I am going to have to read both of these books. Lee Wind's book really sounds incredible and important. Thanks for telling me about both of these.