Monday, November 08, 2021

MMGM- The Swag is in the Socks and Weird But True: New York City

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Baptiste, Kelly. The Swag is in the Socks
November 2nd 2021 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Xavier is starting the new school year with a couple of things that might seem problematic; his parents are both incarcerated, he stutters, and has braces. He's not quite sure who he is or what he wants to accomplish, although he does really want to be a part of the elite Scepter League at his school. He lives with his great aunt Kat, who is very strict but makes sure he is comfortable but also well behaved. Her means are somewhat limited (the family shops at the thrift store), but she advocates for him to recieve speech therapy at school. Kat's brother, Frankie Bell, is a musician who travels a lot and occasionally lives with the family. When he sends Xavier a pair of funky socks and a letter giving him advice, Xavier doesn't want to stand out by wearing the socks, but knows that his great uncle's advice has helped other people out and tentatively embraces his new, snazzy sock persona. When he is not picked for the Scepter League, he meets with the organizer to ask why he wasn't picked, and is told that he wasn't as much of a leader as the group wants. Armed with new self confidence because of Frankie Bell's socks and advice, Xavier uses his placement in an all-girls sewing class to set up a fundraiser, asks a girl to a school dance, and works toward improving himself so that the Scepter League might reconsider his application. When a family tragedy occurs, Xavier realizes how much his uncle meant not only to him but to his family, and redoubles his efforts to continue his self improvement while also doing good in his community. 
Strengths: The best part of this book is that while Xavier has some challenges, he also has a well-rounded life. I have often wondered about the effect of books that showcase issues like foster care, incarcerated parents, or physical differences in a way that makes these things seem like the only issue in a child's life. I've had students with incarcerated parents, and I think it would help them more to see a character like Xavier who is dealing with this reality and talking to his mother, but who also has a stable life, a supportive network of family and friends, and interests at school. This is true also of the treatment of his stutter. He is in therapy at school, he often has to use coping skills to speak, but goes on with his life. Sundee Frazier's new Mighty Inside is the only other book that I can recall that addresses speech challenges.
Weaknesses: Are there really elite groups like the Scepter League in public schools? This is just something outside of my realm of experience, like the paramilitary group in Johnson's Twins or the mandatory cotillion in Delle Donne's Belle of the Ball
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and looking forward to handing this one to students who want an upbeat story about a kid who takes control of his own destiny and pursues activities despite less than pleasant circumstances in his life. 

National Geographic Kids. Weird But True: New York City  September 14th 2021 by National Geographic Kids
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

This collection of bright, glossy photographs and snippets of information on a variety of topics will appeal to readers of books like National Geographic's Brain Candy and the Guinness Book of World Records. There's not much in the way of organization, but none is really needed; this is just a fun book to dip into. 

I learned several things, the most important being that the New York Public Library has a digitized collection of historical menus! This is a fabulous thing that could be useful to people doing research for historical novels, and is just plain fun. Yes, there was a Spaghetti Warehouse in 1978 in Columbus, Ohio, just like I remembered! 

There were a couple of instances where I would have liked a bit more information; one page mentions that a man walked between two buildings, when adding the name of Philippe Petit and even a date and location wouldn't have been all that hard. While I desperately want to know which musician created the sound of chimes in street grates (Max Neuhaus), young readers might not care as much. Still, couldn't we be told which two brothers created frozen custard? (Archie and Elton Kohr invented the treat in 1919.) Why leave this information out?

I'm a big fan of books for long car rides, providing readers don't get as carsick as I do, and this is a great gift for young readers who love fun facts, cool photography, and books they can share with family members. I'm not really a fan of New York City, but many people are, and this is a great look at a fascinating city. National Geographic has a wide range of Weird But True books to fit every interest. 
Ms. Yingling


  1. I'm glad to learn of The Swag is in the Socks - adding it to my list. I'm comforted to find more middle grade books including characters with speech impediments or a stutter. A couple of my children have really had to work to be understood and, having not experienced these difficulties in my family of origin, it was a huge learning experience for me. A bestie who is a speech pathologist helped me through some of this uncharted territory and I'll always be so grateful for that guidance. Anyway, thanks for these shares, Karen. I hope you have a great reading week!

  2. What a great title that will certainly get the attention of a lot of kids. You don't often see books about kids who stutter -- much needed. Know there is a big support group for kids to share in the Stuttering Foundation newsletter. But, we need more books. I enjoyed your comments about incarceration and how it's portrayed. Great review and a book I should read. I'm also reading "Daughter of the Deep." And my great grandson loves books about weird facts. What a great book for kids everywhere.

  3. The Swag is in the Socks sounds great. Loved Isaiah Dunn so looking forward to this one.

  4. I'm reading these books now so your review was very timely. I'll share my own thoughts in a few weeks but am also glad the issue of stuttering is getting some recognition in MG lit. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  5. I am always surprised by how quickly MG authors can churn out books—I thought Kelly J. Baptist's debut just came out! But it does sound like an excellent read, with a whole lot of topics AND some fun socks! Also, I haven't seen too many books about characters who stutter, although I just saw a review of one called Say It Out Loud that I think tackles that too. The Weird But True? book sounds fascinating as well! Thanks so much for the great post, Karen!

  6. My granddaughter wears the most interesting socks. The funkier the better. The Swag in the Socks sounds like a fun book. Weird but True is right up my alley. I love books like that. Thanks for telling me about these.