Monday, April 25, 2022

MMGM- The Peach Pit and Forensics for Kids

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Downing, Erin Soderberg. The Peach Pit (The Great Peach Experiment #2)
April 5th 2022 by Pixel+Ink
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Fresh from their summer adventures in When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie, the Peaches find themselves back in Duluth, having sold their pie truck to Lois Sibberson in Ohio. They're about ready to head back to school, with Lucy in 7th grade, Freddy in 5th, and Herb in 3rd, and their dad's Aunt Lucinda makes them a deal-- the family can have her house if they fix it up. She moves into a senior facility, and the Peaches rent their home to college students. The house is in need of a lot of repairs, and cousin David thinks she should sell, but she gives the Peaches until Thanksgiving to open a bed and breakfast. Their father cuts back his hours at the university a bit, and the family throw themselves into renovations and preparations with the same verve they did when operating the peach pie truck, but with a bit more success. There are plenty of problems-- plumbing, bees in the walls, and structural faults-- but there are interesting and fun things as well. Lucy has an attic above her room, where she finds a replica of the house. She gives this to Herb, who uses it to house his collections. Freddy has a large room, so he can spread out his many art projects. Herb starts to visit Lucinda at her facility quite a bit, and makes friends with some of the other ladies there, even doing "work" for them when he comes. Herb also finds a cellar, where he makes friends with some mice. When Lucy finds a map that looks like it may lead to treasure, she hopes that she might be able to find some money to help with renovations. Since the father has given away most of the money received from the mother's invention, and the house has so many problems, it is likely that they won't be able to keep it or run the B&B. Herb helps with the treasure hunt, and all three children investigate the cellar. Will what they find be enough to dissuade their cousin David from selling the house? 
Strengths: This was an upbeat, fun story even though the children are still dealing with the death of their mother, and the family is facing challenges. I loved the positive attitude, and the agency that the children are given. Herb is even allowed to ride his bike to the retirement home several blocks away. All three children have some challenges at school, and have to learn how to balance their school work, personal interests, and time spent working on the house. There should be a lot more middle grade books (like Delle Donne's Elle of the Ball) that show children dealing with time management. Aunt Lucinda is great, and the smaller characters, like the carpenters and Lucinda's friends, are well developed. Weaknesses: For my own purposes, I would have liked to see the story told all from the point of view of 7th grader Lucy, but it's interesting to see how Freddy and Herb perceive the situation as well. There also could have been a little bit more of the Dad's presence as well. 
What I really think: This was somehow reminiscent of The Penderwicks (which one of the children is reading), The Melendy Family stories, or The Vanderbeekers, but felt more realistic in the problems the family faced and the solutions that were implemented. There was never any moment where this felt twee or forced, as is the case in so many of these "modern classic" family stories, and I am looking forward to the third book in the series.

Ross, Melissa. Forensics for Kids: The Science and History of Crime Solving, With 21 Activities (For Kids series)
Chicago Review Press (April 26, 2022)
ARC provided by the publisher

Like other titles in the For Kids series, this is a deep dive into the history of forensic science, and is packed with mini biographies, side bars on specific historical events, and, of course, a range of activities. Forensics is a topic of great interest to middle grade readers, which suprises many people. I'm not quite sure why, but when my school had career day, the county coroner's sessions were always full, and our new elective of investigative science is very popular! 

This book starts with a history of forensic science, talking a little about the prevalance of poison and how hard it was to detect, and about how there was not a lot done until the 1800s with forensic investigation because of the slow development of medical science. I loved the short biography of Frances Glessner Lee and her doll house crime scenes! There's a great chapter on identification of bodies, and the many different traits that can be used for identification, and also a chapter of identifying tools, shoes, and car tires. Forensics now involves cybercrime and forgeries, and both of those get a good treatment here. Young readers will be fascinated with the science behind determining the causes of fires and explosions. The most practical chapter is the one on how to assemble one own's forensics kit! 

The activities range from ones that address mysteries, and how to set up and solve a mystery robbery, to fun experiments like the one with different powders or hair analysis. I was a huge fan of activity books when I was young, but my mother had limited patience for putting string and salt on an ice cube! These require a very limited amount of parental involvement for tweens, so should be fun and easy to do. 

There's a great timeline at the front of the book, a glossary, web resources, and bibliography for readers who love forensics so much that they want to continue their research. This is a great nonfiction companion to the murder mysteries that young readers love so much, like Souder's Coop Knows the Scoop, Bunce's historical Premeditated Mrytle or the excellent and somewhat underappreciated Club CSI series. 


  1. I'm looking forward to this next 'peach' book, wish many would realize how much children are able to do if only given the chance. Thanks for the forensics introduction, too. Have a nice week coming!

  2. I like the realistic issues the family deals with in The Peach Pit. So many kids will identify with their struggles and cheer for their success. Sounds like a great MG read. Well, the Forensics book is certainly timely -- especially if you watched the CNN special about the poisoning of Navalny last night. This book sounds intriguing for those who like to solve a mystery. (I've been having trouble posting on you blog -- hope this one takes.)

  3. I didn't read the first Peach book, but I sure like the sound of this one. Maybe I will find them both and read them. The forensics book sounds great. I'll bet that will fly off the shelves in middle grade libraries. Thanks for the heads up on these.

  4. I had planned to read the first Peach book but it got buried in my TBR pile. Your review of this second title has put it back on the top of my list. I agree that more time management scenarios are needed in MG stories. So many kids are dealing with multiple responsibilities and pursuits. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM.

  5. I love that you compare this family to the Melendy, Vanderbeeker, and Penderwick families! I've seen this book several places, but that just sold me!!

  6. I haven't even read the first Peach Pit book, and here is the second in the series. Luckily, my library has When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie as an audiobook so I can listen to it when I am out working in the garden.

  7. Anonymous3:13 AM EDT

    The Peach Pit sounds a good read but I love the sound of the forensics book. I'd have loved that so much as a child, so one I will watch out for my young relatives!