Sunday, July 25, 2021

J.D. and Boogie Bass

Dillard, J. and Roberts, Akeem S. J.D. and the Family Business (#2)
August 3rd 2021 by Kokila
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After his triumph in The Great Barber Battle, J. D. is happy with his continues work at Hart and Son, but feels he should have more fame outside of his hometown of Meridien, Mississippi. Now that it's summer vacation, he wants to make some plans. At his mother's graduation (for which he cut his mother's hair!), his older sister Vanessa and Jessika approach him about working on their YouTube Channel. They will concentrate on hair and make up, and J.D. will get to showcase his hair designs, rather than just giving haircuts. Even though he likes having his own money from working, he approaches his boss and gets the summer off. Vanessa and Jessika have researched equipment and procedure, and have a good start. J.D. is a little concerned when they want to take shots inside the church during Vacation Bible School, but he is most concerned when the girls don't let him have enough screen time. He takes matters into his own hands and writes his own script for an episode, and his friend Jordan helps him out. Will he be able to produce successful videos and build his brand?
Strengths: While my students are interested in becoming YouTube stars, I'm not sure they know how much work that involves! J.D. wants to translate his local fame into something bigger, and his sister helps. She is even interested in a young entrepreneurs program that her school is starting. There's plenty about hair styles as well. There was just enough about the parents and grandparents in this to make it interesting-- the mother was a nurse, but went back for her MBA and works for the mayor, the grandfather retired but now sells burial insurance, and the grandmother is key to the "summer school" learning that J.D. and Vanessa have to do. (I also loved that they talk about having an encyclopedia around!) While a lot of J.D.s activities are pure wish fulfillment, there is plenty of realistic family life to keep this series grounded. Fans of Watson's Ways to Make Sunshine will enjoy this look at small town life. 
Weaknesses: I'm not sure if part of the E ARC was missing, or if the story concludes in the next book of the series, but this seemed to end in the middle. 
What I really think: J.D. is eight, and this is a little young for middle school. I would love to see something with an upper middle grade main character who is interested in the same topics.

Mills, Claudia. Boogie Bass, Sign Language Star (After School Stars #4)
August 3rd 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Boogie has a large family of brothers and an unruly dog, and when he is watching Bing and forgets to shut a bedroom door, the dog destroys a favorite stuffed animal. Boogie's mother is not happy (especially when she wakes up from lying down with a headache, there is an indoor luge tournament going on!), and unfavorably compares Boogie to his best friend, Nelson Nanda, who seems to do everything well. Like his friend, Nixie Ness, Boogie is involved in an after school program, and is learning sign language there. He finds it interesting, but also a bit of a challenge. There's a lot to remember, and he feels that he isn't getting the hang of it as well as Nelson is. There is some friction with his best friend because when Boogie tries to make things right with his younger brother and replace the ruined stuffed toy, he doesn't have enough money or access to a credit card. Nelson offers to loan him the money, Boogie declines, but Nelson orders the toy anyway. Boogie is grateful and angry at the same time. Boogie's skills at sign language are better than he thinks, and he is chose to emcee the sign language program after he interacted well with children at a school for the deaf that the after school program visited. He also is able to make his younger brother happy when the new toy isn't quite what he wanted. Boogie learns that he can't always compare himself to others, but has to see his own skills for what they are, and that he is more successful than he thinks. 
Strengths: Family and friend drama is so different in elementary school, and Mills does a great job at showing how much events can effect children, even if they don't say anything about them. Boogie wants to be a good brother, but taking care of younger siblings is hard. He's glad Nelson is nice to him, but angry when he feels he is not as good as Nelson. The inclusion of sign language details should appeal to a lot of readers; I know that anytime my readers see it used, they want books about it! (In middle school, my best friend and I saved up our money to buy a sign language dictionary to share!) There are supportive adults, but they don't quite see all of the details about how the children feel, which is very true to life. My own children went to before school School Age Child Care (SACC), and it's something that many, many young readers experience. I'd love to see more books like this and Clement's The Loser's Club
Weaknesses: Boogie's name is explained, but it still is a pretty quirky name. 
What I really think: This a a great series for elementary schools. I love the occasional illustrations, and at 128 pages, they are a great length for emerging readers. I just wish there were more similar 200 page books like this with characters in the 8th grade so that more of my readers would pick them up. 

Ms. Yingling

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