Monday, June 07, 2021

MMGM- The Monster Missions

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Martin, Laura. The Monster Missions
June 1st 2021 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Berkeley and Garth are working with their families as scavengers on board the Atlas, supervised by the demanding Gizmo. Ever since the Tide Rising, all life has to be conducted about boats, since everything is underwater. The Atlas harvests supplies from submerged cities, and workers get credits to support themselves and their families. On one expedition, Berkeley drops something on a sea serpent, and it terrorizes the ship. She and Garth are then told that to make up the economic damage, the two will be assigned to a work boat, where life is even harder. Instead, they are rescued by Captain Reese of the Britannica, who offers them a position there, which will also take care of their debt. Seeing no other recourse, the two join the ship and are greeted by the friendly Kate and unhelpful Max. The Britannica is a research vessel that deals with sea  monsters, which the general populace doesn't believe exist. Their ship is huge and government funded, and they have a training program for younger people. Berkeley and Garth have to do chores around the vessel and learn to live on a submarine, but get thrown right into all manner of adventures. When the sub is attacked and taken over by pirates, the children have to use their skills and knowledge to save the day as well as protecting the world from the sea monsters. 
Strengths: Martin's note in the back of the book about how her work has turned to monsters for no particularly good reason is great. She writes them VERY well-- Hoax for Hire is super popular with my students. I especially loved how quickly and succinctly the post-Tide Rising world is described, and the fact that the parents aren't dead, but are probably told that Garth and Berkeley are. This gives the kids agency to go out on their own and save the world without parental supervision. There are so many good details about life underwater, sea monsters, and living in close quarters. Berkeley, Garth, Reese, and Max are a good assortment of different personalities and skills. The best scene is when the Britannica gets swallowed by a Leviathan and they, of course, have to blast their way out. You don't want to irritate the animal before you kill it, lest it's thrashing damage the ship. Okay! Good to know! The pirate invasion is scary, but the kids convincingly save the day. Absolutely perfect (but completely different) for fans of Henderson's Young Captain Nemo series. 
Weaknesses: Ms. Martin's work deserves much better covers. This one is a bit odd and reminds me of... something. Fall's Dark Life, perhaps?
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. This had a bit of introspection in between the cryptid snot, was the perfect length, and was just a fun, adventuresome read! 

Brinkman, Kiara and Chiki, Seth. Lucy in the Sky
May 1st 2021 by First Second
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The end of the school year was ROUGH, and this was a casualty of reading during that time. It was, however, fantastic and absolutely necessary for every middle school library, so even though I am fuzzy on details (which are hard to retrieve from E ARCS of graphic novels), it deserves to be mentioned. 

Lucy's mother is a journalist who travels a lot, and her father also spends a lot of time at work, so Lucy depends on her grandmother a lot. Unfortunately, her grandmother has cancer and is becoming increasingly frail. When Lucy discovers her father's Beatles records (and the timeline on this works; the book is set in 2012, when my own daughter was in middle school, and there are a lot of people my age who still were interested in the Beatles), she wants to put together a band, but has some difficulty with her friends wanting to do this. There's a lot going on, but the combination of multiple middle school dramas and The Beatles will make this a steady, if not constant, circulator in my library. Remember, one of the most popular middle school graphic novels ever is Telgemeier's Smile, which is basically about the drama surrounding dental trauma. 

The drawing style was okay, but I was disconcerted by the eyes in many of the frames-- blank circles filled with white, which made the characters depicted this way seem like like they were either Little Orphan Annie or were possessed by demons. Solid black dots I can handle, but I often get stuck on one feature of the drawing style, which is why graphic novels are not my favorite. Tweens will not have this problem. I may even have to buy a personal copy of this for my daughter!


  1. The Monster Missions sounds like a great read! Though I agree that the covers could be improved—I think a lot of fantasy series get saddled with some really unfortunate covers (like the Morrigan Crow series by Jessica Townsend).

    Lucy in the Sky sounds great as well—it reminds me of All Summer Long and its sequels by Hope Larson! I pulled up a preview of the book on Amazon to see what the eyes looked like, and you're right, they are a bit strange. I read a lot of graphic novels, and I definitely find myself unnerved by the art style from time to time. Thanks so much for the great reviews!

  2. Both sound like adventures, though in such varied ways. And it's interesting to see another return to Beetlemania!

  3. I have The Monster Missions on my list and I am delighted to hear what you've shared, here. I need more fun, adventuresome reads in my family! I hear you on drawing styles. I can get so distracted by some features and I wish I could just ignore it. But I am who I am. :) Thanks for the shares, Karen!

  4. I like the idea of a book written about the rising tides that cover cities -- which could be a reality in the coming years. This sounds like an excellent fantasy and I really enjoyed your review. Monsters, I'm not so fond of, but readers will enjoy. Yes, agree with the cover. Hard to make out. You always have a good pulse on what your students like.
    Not good with graphic novels, but Lucy in the Sky sounds like a perfect summer MG.

  5. Two good choices for the middle-grade set. I think the blank eyes would really bother me. I don't read a lot of graphic novels because I often find the art gets in the way of the story. Thanks for the reviews.

  6. Not only did I add The Monster Missions to my want to read list, I crossed my fingers hoping that my local library might have it. No such luck. I'll see if Lucy in the sky ends up on the Cybils list before I search for it.