Monday, September 06, 2021

MMGM- Beaver and Otter Get Along... Sort of and Partly Cloudy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Collard, Sneed B. III and Sodano, Meg (illus.)
Beaver and Otter Get Along... Sort of
September 7th 2021 by Sourcebooks Kids
Copy provided by the publisher

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, the complicated relationship between beavers and their ecosystem is explored, with special emphasis on how they interact with otters. Beaver first finds a stream, then sets out to painstakingly cut down trees, dam up the stream, and create his lodge. A female beaver arrives and the work continues. The newly created pond attracts a variety of wildlife, including birds and beetles who live on the trees that the pond causes to die. When Otter arrives, its a sign that the area is healthy, but the otters often damage the dam in order to get to other bodies of water, and are loud and rambunctious. The otters eat different foods from the beavers, so the two are able to coexist. In addition to the story, with its watercolor illustrations rich in the blues and greens of the aquatic setting, there is information at the back of the book about beavers, otters, and the building of dams. 
Strengths: Collard does a great job at finding topics that are of interest to children and educators alike, and also balances stories and information nicely. I can't say that I knew a lot about beavers and their effect on the environment, so I learned a lot from this. It would be a great book to hand to a reader who has picked up Terry Lynn Johnson's Rescue at Lake Wild. 
Weaknesses: I wouldn't have minded a little more information about how beavers change their environments by building dams, but it's not really necessary for this book. 
What I really think: This is a great choice for readers who are a little too young for the amount of information included in books like this author's Hopping Ahead of Climate Change or Firebirds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests and would make a great read aloud for classes studying ecology, animals, or getting along with others!

Davis, Tanita S. Partly Cloudy
September 7th 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Times are tough for Madalyn family in the Gold Hill neighborhood in the Bay Area of California. Her father has been out of work, so even though her mother is busier than ever in her job as a social worker helping residents of retirement homes, the family has to move to a less expensive rental. Madalyn's school was problematic, and she doesn't want to return. Her mother won't home school her, and private school is too expensive, but her parents come up with a clever idea-- Madalyn will go live with her elderly great uncle, Papa Lobo, to help him out and to be able to attend the school near his home. When her father gets a job in Cambridge, Massachusetts and her mother remains busy, this seems like a good idea for everyone. Madalyn doesn't like the idea of being away from her mother, even though she likes Papa Lobo, but hopes that the new school will work out. The first day is rough, since she skins her knee and realizes there are very few Black students in the school, but there are also kind staff members and fellow students. Still wary, Madalyn doesn't want Papa Lobo's neighbor, Jean, to watch out for her at school, even though he is very nice, but she's still angry when new classmate Natalie, seems to be scared of "boys like that" when she sees Madalyn with Jean. Natalie had been bullied the previous year, and is being raised by her sister Annica, who has warned Natalie about boys, but Madalyn realizes that she is specifically scared of Black boys, which is just not right. Madalyn manages to settle in to her new neighborhood and school. She likes having the library on the way, and even gets along with a neighbor who doesn't seem to like Papa Lobo (and his Sunday morning poker games!). When nearby wild fires occur, Madalyn must come to terms with many difficult problems in her life, especially her relationship with Natalie. 
Strengths: So many middle school books kill off one or both parents so tweens can have opportunities on their own, so double bonus points to Ms. Davis for finding a new and innovative way to get the pesky parents out of the way while letting them live! So many children live with grandparents or other relatives, and it was really interesting to see how Madalyn settled in to her new environment. Papa Lobo's neighborhood was fascinating, and his ingrained habits and relationships with his neighbors were interesting. Madalyn's experience in her new school gets off to a rough start but slowly improves, which is also good to see, and watching her navigate the difficult racial problems will be instructive to young readers who may have similar issues in their own lives. The details about experiencing a wild fire were so timely and interesting, that I wouldn't have minded seeing that happen earlier in the book. 
Weaknesses: While I really enjoyed reading about Madalyn's new life with Paper Lobo, the most frequent complaint I get from students is that "nothing happens". Once the wild fires started, that propelled the book forward quite a bit, but I wondered where the book was going at first. I was enthralled with Madalyn's new life, so hopefully my readers will be as well. 
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Cleary's The Luckiest Girl (1958), since there aren't that many books about children going to live with other families and going to school. This lacks the romance of that, but includes interesting perspectives on race, friendship, and being a good neighbor that are timely and interesting. I was a little sad about Papa Lobo's tree print wall paper being torn down, and sort of want to see the rooster collection! Definitely purchasing, and love the cover!


  1. Beaver and Otter remind me how much I enjoyed learning about beavers in Terry Lynn Johnson's novel. I'd read this one.
    Partly Cloudy has so many interesting elements to the story. I'm with you about getting rid of a parent/s in a story. This offers a unique perspective with Madalyn living with her grandfather -- love the intergenerational focus of parenting.

  2. Beaver and Otter Get Along...Sort Of sounds like such a fascinating read! And Partly Cloudy sounds great—like Patricia Tilton mentions in her comment, it's aggravating when so many books just kill off the parents, so getting them out of the picture in a different way is intriguing! And the plot sounds compelling as well. Thanks so much for the great post!

  3. Partly Cloudy sounds interesting. Although, when I read the title, I want to know if there's a chance of meatballs!

    I will look this one up! Thanks for putting it on my radar.

  4. Beaver and Otter is so good! I wish they talked a little bit more about how Otters helped Beavers instead of just how they annoyed them :-D Unless that is the only thing they do.

    Partly Cloudy sounds good, but I agree that students struggle with books where "nothing happens."

    Happy reading this week :)

  5. Both of these sound great. I really got interested in beavers reading Rescue at Wild Lake, so I will try to get a copy of Beaver and Otter Get Along. Partly Cloudy sounds like it has a lot going for it. It is nice to not have the parents killed off, and the racial aspect is one kids really need to better understand. Thanks for telling me about these.

  6. LOL, Karen, I assure you, the tree print wall paper is nothing to miss!!!

  7. I'll be adding Partly Cloudy to my list of titles to check out. And I had to giggle over Maria's comment, above. YES! Thanks so much for these shares, Karen.