Monday, March 28, 2022

MMGM- The Epic Mentor Guide and Turn the Tide

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Raia, Illana. The Epic Mentor Guide: Insider Advice for Girls Eyeing the Workforce from 180 Boss Women Who Know
March 15th 2022 by Forefront Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books CentralCopy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Ilana Raia, The founder of the website, a mentorship platform, found that young girls often have questions for women who have succeeded in business. How did women who have been successful break into their fields? What training did they need? How do they utilize social media? In order to collect all of their fantastic advice in one place, she put together The Epic Mentor Guide. There is a huge variety of women represented in the book, from best selling authors to entrepreneurs to political insiders. Each woman answers a question (posed by a young girl) on a one or two page spread. Questions range from the very practical (how to write a good thank you note) to more philosophical ("What should we do if our career feels like it's zigzagging into of moving in a straight line?"), and information about social media is given next to a description of the woman who has answered the question, so that young readers can further engage.

The pages have subtle peach colored designs on them, and center the questions and answers on the page. This is one of those books like Favilli's Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World, Schatz, Stahl, and Klein. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!, or Megdal and Lossing's 50 Trailblazers of the 50 States: Celebrate the lives of inspiring people who paved the way from every state in America! that you might want to purchase twice so you have one to read, and one to cut up, laminate, and make into bulletin boards!

There are a lot of women of whom I had never heard, and they represent jobs that I never even knew existed. When I was preparing for college, it was exciting to think that my classmates weren't limited to being teachers, nurses, or secretaries, but could go into law, medicine, or business. How great is it that in 2022 there are so many accomplished women to inspire and motive young readers to explore the limitless career opportunities the world has to offer. I'm definitely making sure that the leader of our Girls Rox! program gets a copy of this.

That said, this is not broken down into any categories or topics, but has all of the questions and quotes arranged alphabetically by the repliers' first names. The table of contents does give some insight as to the question answered and the woman answering it, but this arrangement makes it hard to use to dip into to get a good quote, or to find the answer to a question a reader might have. This makes it more suited to skimming.

Dimopoulos, Elaine. Turn the Tide
March 8th 2022 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Mimi (Demetra) and her family move from Massachusetts to a small coastal island because it's less expensive to run their Trident restaurant and they have family on Wilford Island, Florida. She is sad that she has to leave her best friend and fellow piano enthusiast, Lee, behind, but the two are able to talk frequently. The school is small, but Mimi makes a friend in super popular Carman. When their enthusiastic science teacher, Ms. Miller, teaches them about Melati and Isabel Wijsen and their Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement,, Mimi is enthralled and wants to start banning plastic bags from their island right away. She has a somewhat unlikely ally in Carman, whose father owns the local grocery store, and Anne and Henry Lowell, who run the local bookstore, Dusty Pages. Getting signatures on the petition, being interviewed by classmate Ethan for his Scaled Fish podcast, and worrying about her parents' restaurant opening makes it hard for Mimi to concentrate on her piano lessons with her new teacher Kyle and cut into her practice time. Carman seems super supportive when they are handing out free reusable bags at her father's store, or brainstorming flyers at home, but seems aloof at school. When Mimi doesn't invite her to the Trident's grand opening, Carman is hurt. Mimi worries that she won't be able to make much headway without her, and the Lowells have a health scare. Not only that, but Lee visits, and her piano playing has improved much more than Mimi's has. How will Mimi learn to balance her activism, piano, family and friends in her new community?
Strengths: This was a great depiction of a small island community, and I loved that Mimi's family was Greek and had a restaurant! It made me immediately hungry for a good, authentic horiatiki! There is a great balance between parental involvement and Mimi's own activities, and it's good to see that the parents have their own interests (but balance things a bit better than the parents in Pizza My Heart!). There are not a lot of books involving young people who play piano, so Mimi's interest in a future of competing is interesting. Of course, the best part is Mimi's determination to ban plastic bags from the island. Dimopoulos' has done a lot of research to outline what local governments can and can't do about this scourge, and gives great examples of places where bans have been effective. This is a topic dear to my heart, and with as many young environmental activists as there are in the world, you'd think we would hvae more middle grade books about topics of conservation. Anne and Henry are good examples of older people who have been and continue to be positively involved in their community, and the fact that the beach clean up crew is predominately older citizens is so true to life. All of the elements in this story were well balanced and entertaining to read. The notes and lists of resources at the end of the book will help readers who want to get involved. This is an essential purchase for middle school libraries, and I've already requested that my public library buy it!
Weaknesses: There are certainly some poetic lines, and Mimi's love of music and books gives a decent excuse for this format. Like most novels in verse, there isn't much in the way of meter, and it reads more like prose. 
What I really think: I would LOVE to see a whole sub genre of realistic fiction books where middle school students take up worthy environmental causes and set about trying to change the world. I'm always a fan of Kids Doing Things, and when the book also includes some very realistic and constructive friend drama like Mimi has with Carman, this makes for a compelling story I can't wait to get into readers' hands. 

More about my difficult relationship with novels in verse, for transparency: I actually had the first two students EVER who told me they LIKED novels in verse yesterday. I've bought a number over the years, but theydon't circulate (yes, even Red, White and Whole), and kids will wrinkle their noses at the format when I try to hand sell them. No matter how much I like books, if I can't get students to read them because of topic (dead parents, all the sadness) or format (verse novels), they are frustrating to purchase. Of course, the reason the girls liked novels in verse is right in line with the surge in popularity of graphic novels-- they are shorter. Many people like novels in verse, but it's a format with which I usually struggle, not only because I have rather exacting standards for poetry (I love you, Helen Frost!), but also because they have been hard to place with readers. File under: A me thing, not a book thing.


  1. I'm interested to hear about your ideas about verse novels. Since I'm retired, I only have a couple of granddaughters to depend on & they have enjoyed some, perhaps because of teacher recs. Thanks for these new titles.

  2. What I wouldn't have give to have a book like this in the late 60s. Girls today have access to so many role models. I remember my father believed I should study nursing or be a teacher. It was how parents thought then. I bucked and studied journalism. But, I sought out many mentors along the way.
    "I Am Woman" was our song.
    My favorite stories to share involve kids wanting to making a difference in the world. Turn the Tide sounds like a great read. I agree with you -- there are so many kids interested in conservation today that I too wish there were more novels written with this theme. And, I like free verse, if it is well-written. Thanks for sharing today!

  3. These both sound really good. I used to teach in an academy, and the mentor guide would have been very useful. I also like seeing kids take on environmental causes. I'll be looking for that one. Thanks for the reviews.