Monday, June 14, 2021

MMGM- Clique Here and Rolling Warrior

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Staniszewski , Anna. Clique Here
June 1st 2021 by Nancy Paulsen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lily has decided she really needs to leave her private school after an embarrassing incident with mean girl Courtenay, so she plans to use her scientific bent to study how to be popular. Her older sister, Maisie, who is going to high school, is impressively upbeat and popular, and Lily would like to be more like her. Having sifter out five factors of popularity, Lily tries to implement them, and starts off at her new school reinventing herself as her middle name, Blake. Things get off to a rocky start when she shows up at school wearing her lab goggles like a headband, but she manages to talk to one of the soccer players, Ashleigh, and sit at lunch with her and the very cute Parker at lunch. The problem? At her new school, sports players are looked down upon, and the science club has the popular kids! Making an abrupt about face, Blake befriends Owen and Priya, and goes to science club, although she still goes to soccer practice. Priya's older brother is a science rock star, so Priya is very focused on a winning project that positively impacts the world. Owen, however, is secretly playing science related pranks on a variety of people, but also asks Blake out on a date! She is pleased to have the attention of the most popular boy in the school but isn't thrilled about the pranks until he offers to play a big one on Courtenay if she helps him with two pranks. When Blake's best friend, Kat, shows up at her new school, Blake panics. She's told Kat a bit about her popularity project, but can't get Kat to really understand that art is not a "popular" pursuit, and really can't get Kat behind the pranks. 
Strengths: The twist with the science kids being the popular ones was very fun, and I really enjoyed how they are just as troubled in their own way as some athletes are portrayed in middle grade literature. The idea of reinventing oneself has been around since the 1950s; I was a big fan of Conford's 1981 Seven Days to a Brand-New Me. I enjoyed the family dynamics, with Maisie having secrets of her own, and the parents being in the back ground but having a few interests of their own-- the father is training for a marathon to impress his brother-in-law, and understands Blake's reasons for wanting to change her approach to middle school. A fun, quick read. 
Weaknesses: I didn't care for how Blake found the pranks fun even though she says she didn't like them. I've never had any patience for pranks that involve physically messing with someone; most of these involved liquid, paint, or slime dropping on someone, which is just mean.
What I really think: This is somewhat similar to Kinard's 2012 The Boy Project with shades of Haddix's 2012 Game Changers and is a great addition to the WISH novels, which are super, super popular with my readers. I never understood the need to be popular, but it is apparently more of a concern than I thought, according to a random selection of 6th graders I polled.

Great example of the self-improvement genre is Wilson's 1957 Always Anne. I have a copy that was deaccessioned from my father's elementary school library in about 1974, but I've never seen the dust jacket. One of my favorite comfort reads.

Heumann, Judith and Joiner, Kristen. Rolling Warrior: My Story of Fighting to Belong 
June 15th 2021 by Beacon Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1947, Heumann had polio at a very young age, leaving her legs and arms very weak. She was used to being in a wheelchair, and went about her daily life as a child with modifications that she just took as normal for her, in the way that some children had curly hair while others had straight. This changed when she wasn't allowed to go to public school because the principal thought she would be a fire hazard. Her parents eventually got her into a class called Health Conservation 21, which included students from different ages with different levels of functioning. This was not ideal, but Heumann eventually got into a general education high school. Before instructional aides, she had to ask people to help her with the most basic functions like moving her wheelchair and getting to the rest room. Undaunted, she did well and got into college, hoping to become a teacher herself. Knowing that this might not be easy, since she could not think of any teachers in wheel chairs, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and asked for their advice. She was told to get her degree and contact them if she had trouble finding a job. Unsurprisingly, she did, but the ACLU concluded that being excluded from a license on the basis of a physical exam was not in violation of her rights. This lit a fire in Heumann, and she went on to work with the Center for Independent Living in California and was deeply involved with the protests  when Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Much of the book is given to the details of the lengthy sit ins and other tactics that were used to finally change the minds of legislators about the rights of the disabled. 
Strengths: This book moved so quickly that I didn't start putting bookmarks in it until Ms. Heumann was in college! The story was very compelling, and told in a very relatable voice. Incidents in her life are related in very matter-of-fact ways, and her philosophy that her situation isn't something that needs to be "fixed" is very clear. When it comes to the protest, I wonder if the many students who have 504 plans will be interested in knowing how those came about! An important, compelling story told in a way that middle schoolers will find interesting. 
Weaknesses: I'm not sure if the final print version will have an index, but it would have been nice to have a timeline of disability advocacy. There also could have been a few more pictures, but there may not be that many. I find that my students are surprised even by the fact that there aren't color pictures, so visuals of earlier decades are always helpful. 
What I really think: This reminded me very much of Karen, by Marie Killilea, which I loved when I was in middle school. It occurred to me when reading Rolling Warrior that reading Karen definitely formed how I think about people with disabilities. Karen struggled with some areas, but excelled in others, and her disability did not stop her from working towards her goals. Representation matters, and Heumann's is a great story that covers a period of time in my own life about which I was unaware. I knew that equal access legislation was put in place very late (1990), but hadn't realized how discriminatory education practices were until then. Definitely purchasing. 


  1. I like the science twist on tackling being more popular in Clique Here. I think a lot of girls can relate to the desire to be more popular in middle school.

  2. Clique Here sounds like a really fun story that a lot of middle-schoolers will enjoy—the struggle for popularity is a real one indeed! Rolling Warrior sounds excellent as well—I could learn a lot from its discussion of how protections for people with disabilities came about. Thanks so much for the great reviews!

  3. I love that the science kids are the popular group. My great granddaughter would fit into that category, but she's more well-rounded. Think she'd enjoy this book. But, you're right -- don't like the pranks. But that is a good thing for kids to ponder/discuss.

    I love the Rolling Warrior story -- will be looking for it because I had friends who had polio. It is a period that kids today aren't familiar with. A woman (my age) had polio and she is driven -- CEO of a large company. Didn't stop her. Think she'd love to share this one with her niece. Great selections today!

  4. I'm excited to see a new title by Anna Staniszewski as I loved her fairy tale books. This sounds fun, and I love the idea of science kids being popular.

    I need to read Rolling Warrior. I've taughtspecial ed most of my life, and it's interesting how things have changed over the years. When I first started teaching in the late 90s, teachers were fondly reminiscing about when they could send "those kids" to their own schools or classrooms. This sounds like a moving and important book.

  5. Thank you for sharing both of these titles. I'm particularly looking forward to reading Rolling Warrior: My Story of Fighting to Belong. Sounds so good and this is the first I've heard of it. Have a great reading week!

  6. I read a picture book this year that taught me a lot about the history of disability activism (which shows what a low level of knowledge I started from), so these look interesting. I also never felt the popularity buzz, but I was never horribly lonely either.

  7. These both sound good. Clique Here touches on topics that are always of interest to middle-graders,and Rolling Warrior seems like an important one for kids. Thanks for the reviews.