Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Saint Ivy: Kind at all Costs

Morrison, Laurie. Saint Ivy: Kind at all Costs
May 18th 2021 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ivy lives in Philadelphia with her mother and older brother, Will. Her father and his partner, Leo, live in a newer apartment close by. Ivy always tries to help others out, and is doing okay in school, with her friends Peyton and Kyra. When she gets a strange e mail thanking her for helping out the sender, she is confused but feels good that her efforts have been noticed. At first, she thinks the e mail has come from Sydney, an older girl she knows who has just broken up with her boyfriend and has talked to Ivy about her problems. Ivy spends Friday afternoon with her Nana, learning to bake from old family recipes. It's only been two years since her father and mother split, but even though she has gone to counseling, it's still tough sometimes. When she finds out that her mother is pregnant, carrying a child as a surrogate for friends of theirs, Ivy feels as if she is being kept out of the loop with her family. She steps up her efforts to be kind to others, helping out Josh, even though one of her friends has a crush on him. When new girl Lila finds out, she uses this bit of information to get Ivy to spend time with her. Lila and her moms have just moved from New York, and Lila has struggled to fit in. Since Peyton and Kyra keep giving Ivy a heard time about not being honest with them and sharing her real feelings about her mother's pregnancy and other issues, Ivy is soon spending more time with Lila as she works to figure out the mystery of the e mails. As her mother's pregnancy progresses, Ivy worries more and more about everything, and finds it harder to keep up her front of always being "fine" and helping others. 
Strengths: There's a lot going on in this book, but it was easy to keep track of the characters. I especially liked retired school principal Nana and her "morbid" talk about dying, insomuch as Ivy needs to learn the family recipes from her. The issue of surrogacy is one I don't think I've seen in middle grade lit, so that is a novel plot line, and handled in a perfect middle school way (How does this affect Ivy? What will people say? Will her mother still love her?) There's a nice mix of school and home scenes, and a lot of good details about local sites in Philadelphia. There are a fair number of diverse characters, especially when it comes to LGBTQIA+ representation. There is a scene with purported cheating that is extremely realistic and well done. The parents are both present and supportive. While Ivy is anxious, there are other things going on in the book to keep this from slowing down the pace of the book. 
Weaknesses: Most of my students don't check their e mail, so this would have seemed a little more realistic with a mystery text. E mails are harder to attribute, so I can see why this was the method of communication.
What I really think: This has enough friend drama and other activities to appeal to a wide range of readers. This author's Up For Air has been popular, so I will definitely be purchasing. 

Carey, Elizabeth Doyle. Selena to the Rescue (Summer Lifeguards #3)
June 1st 2021 by Sourcebooks Young Readers 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Selena is a bit hesitant about being a junior lifeguard. She's glad to be with her friends, but would rather spend her time building her brand and working on her singing and acting so that she can be a Hollywood star. Her parents, who have immigrated from Ecuador, want her to work hard and aren't so sure about her aspirations. It's difficult to live in a wealthy beach side community when her parents are groundskeepers for a family who is rarely in their expensive house, especially since Selena is not allowed to keep a cat, since the family lives in a house on the property. When she misses seeing a celebrity who is staying in town, Indigo, she is sad, thinking that this might be a way for her to have a contact. She struggles with life guarding, but works hard at it, but is glad when she gets a job babysitting. When it turns out to be for Indigo and his wife, she is thrilled. She makes some peace with the daughter of the family for whom her parents work, and starts to realize how fortunate she is that her parents care so much about her. 
Strengths: It's hard to feel that your friends are better than you at something, and Selena's worries that she won't be able to hack life guarding will resonate with many young readers. It's also realistic that she both adores her parents and is slightly embarrassed by them, and ashamed that she is embarrassed. The brush with celebrity is something young readers always enjoy. 
Weaknesses: Selena has the least realistic interests of the group, although I'm sure many middle school readers want to be Instagram influencers when they grow up. (Clearly, I am doing it all wrong, since I've had an account since 2013 and still have about 200 followers!)
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this whole series! What great beach reads these would make, especially when stuck at a pool in central Ohio!

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