Sunday, November 07, 2021

Jukebox and Nina Soni: Halloween Queen

Chanani, Nidhi. Jukebox
June 22nd 2021 by First Second
Public library copy

When Shahi's father Gio doesn't come home for several nights, her busy mother is surprisingly unconcerned. Shahi is worried, because the last interaction she had with her father was a fight about how she felt he cared more about music than he did about her or her mother. Along with her cousin, Naz, the girls go to the record store where the father spends a lot of time with his friend Earl, trying to locate rare records. What they find (after they sneak into the store) is a jukebox that plays albums. When they put in a record, they are transported back in time to a performance of that song! They decide that Gio must have gotten stuck back in time, and travel to different eras to try to rescue them. The traveling does cause them some pain, and Naz, who had some ear problems, starts to lose her hearing. Will Shahi be able to find her father, make amends, and ask him about how the jukebox came to be?
Strengths: The real draw for thsi one is the music from different eras and its connection to social upheaval at the time. There is a playlist at the end, which is great. Naz is particularly concerned about finding Gio, because she has recently told him she is bisexual, and is counting on his support when she tells her parents. Shahi's attempts to connect to the music when she doesn't care quite as much about it, but does care about her father, is touching. Earl's involvement in the building of the jukebox adds another level of intrigue. As in Pashmina, there are a lot of cultural connections that are interesting. 
Weaknesses: There are a few moments that worried me more than they will worry students, such as Shahi's father being missing and no one contacting the police, the girls breaking into the store, and the girls continuing to time travel even though it is taking a toll on their health. Those are more adult concerns, and young readers will just enjoy the adventure. 
What I really think: This is a fun choice because of the time travel and all of the information about classic rock music, so I'm buying a copy. My students don't care what graphic novels are about and will read just about anything; at least with this one, they will get a well developed story and some history. 

Sheth, Kashmira. Nina Soni: Halloween Queen (Nina Soni #4)
September 1st 2021 by Peachtree Publishing Company
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Nina is usually prepared for holidays, thanks to her list keeping in her journal, but this year Halloween has come right on the heels of Diwali, and thrown her off. Her sister Kavita has asked Jay's mother, Meera Masi, to make her a costume, but Nina has no ideas at all. She knows that her mother is not good at making costumes, especially on short notice, and she doesn't have the money to buy one, even if the stores had any left. To makes matters worse, her friend Jay has a great costume, and she fears that he will forsake her to go trick or treating with his new friend who is a boy. She claims to be going as a "Halloween queen", but only has a tiara that a friend is loaning her. In typical Nina fashion, she makes lists, but gets distracted by the thought of having a haunted room for trick or treaters to visit. She hopes that this will intrique Jay and convince him to spend time with her. She gets involved in massive preparations for this, with cleaning out a box room in the basement, making decorations, finding snacks, and inviting many people, including her vary kind neighbors the Crumps. Still, she keeps putting off making a costume. Will she be able to pull off all of her Halloween plans and find something to wear at the last minute? 

Nina's family is delightful, and many readers will understand her frustration with having to include her younger sister all of the time, even if she genuinely likes her sister. Her struggles with getting older and having a different sort of relationship with Jay, who has been her friend since they were infants, will also be relatable. I love that her parents are involved but definitely have their limits as to what they are willing to help with!

The pell mell pace at which Nina gets ideas, and her desperate attempts at organizing what she needs to do are a good lesson for readers, not only as a cautionary tale (a lot of her plans are very ambitious!) but as a constructive lesson in how to approach problems. While I found it hard to believe that there would be enough children in the neighborhood who would be allowed to go in the Soni's basement to make this a profitable venture, the situation is realistically drawn, and Nina works through all of the challenges of such a daunting project. 

Halloween figures so largely in the calendar of elementary school readers that it is always good to see a book that incorporates it. There are several delightful series that include this, such as 
Brown's Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream, Warner's Absolutely Alfie and the Princess Wars, Harley's Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull and even Sells' graphic novel Roar of the Beast, so it's good to see this addition to the Nina Soni series. 

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