Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Problem with Prophecies

Reintgen, Scott. The Problem with Prophecies
May 24th 2022 by Aladdin 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Celia Cleary comes from a long line of seers, and when her 4,444 day of existence rolls around, she's a little disappointed that her mother has to work, even though her mother doesn't have any powers. She's content to spend the day with Grammy, who uses her powers to advise people who seek her advice, even though this doesn't always end well. Celia has a vision, but it's a troubling one; she sees classmate Jeffrey Johnson killed in an auto accident. Even though Grammy tells her she can't change the future, she heads out to the scene of the crash and manages to save him. This isn't enough, since fate will win, and she must save him again and again. She gets to know him a bit, since she is essentially stalking him, and saves him from falling from the bleachers and also from another car. She doesn't get a vision every day, and a week might go by when she doesn't have to risk life and limb to save Jeffrey. He's a great kid, and seems interested in her, which makes the situation even more stressful. It's hard to concentrate on her homework, so her grades suffer, which makes her mother crack down on her. This, in turn, makes it hard to get out of the house to save Jeffrey! Luckily, a friend's sister operates a sort of teen taxi, and is available to take Celia when she really needs a ride. When Celia sees a vision at the waterpark that the seventh grade is going to visit, she knows that she has to save Jeffrey yet again. What is the price of trying to thwart fate?
Strengths: This has a bit of a twist at the end that I should have seen coming but didn't, so I don't want to ruin it! The acquisition of a magical power is well portrayed, and it's great that Grammy is around to help Celia process. There is a brief appearance by cousins who have slightly different powers that was helpful in understanding the family traits. The balance that Celia has to find between school work, friends, having a crush, and saving someone's life was something that will resonate with overscheduled readers, even if they don't have to worry about life and death circumstances. The teen taxi was a great way to enable Celia to get around without relying on her mother or grandmother. Young readers will enjoy the romance and find the ending satisfying. 
Weaknesses: I'm old and jaded, so I wouldn't have tried to save Jeffrey. People die every day. The cover could have been better-- Celia is in 7th grade, so if this had been given a more YA cover, it would appeal to some older readers as well. 
What I really think: This was a well-paced, engaging story with likeable characters and a good use of a magic power, so I will definitely purchase this for my fans of magical realism. It reminded me vaguely of Harrington's Clarity, but only because of the family connections. It's more like Meriano's Love Sugar Magic or Harrison's A Pinch of Magic, but definitely felt like a unique story.

Monday, May 30, 2022

MMGM- Cookies & Milk, Omari McQueen's Best Bites Cookbook

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Amos, Shawn.Cookies & Milk
May 17th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

At the end of fifth grade in 1976, Ellis is hoping to have the best summer ever with his friend Alex, even though his mother has moved away and his father is living in a bungalow near other divorced fathers. Instead, his father has a plan to open a store selling nothing but cookies, and has obtained a run down location on Sunset Boulevard. The two need to clean the building, perfect the cookie recipe, create a customer base, and open the shop, all in five weeks! They have problems with the equipment, which Alex's father is able to fix even though he has problems with Parkinsons, and Ellis' grandmother visits frequently to keep them in line. Ellis is allowed to travel the area by himself, getting chocolate chips at the grocery and meeting local characters along the way, like Hershel, a homeless man who helps him fix a shopping cart and later becomes a valuable employee. He also meets a local DJ, Wishbone, who has a mysterious connection to his family. Wishbone motivates him to perfect his Afro, start to wear a dashiki from one of his father's failed business ventures, and to get his father to stop calling him "Little Man". There is some time for fun, and he and Alex spend time listening to old jazz and blues records, especially enjoying Muddy Waters' music. As the business opening draws near, the group paint the parking lot in vivid colors, hand out lots of free samples to get customers interested, and work with Wishbone to get some radio advertising as well. Will Sunset Cookies be a hit?
Strengths: This was a fascinating fictional look at life in Hollywood, based on the real life experiences the author had with his father, who founded Famous Amos cookies, the first store to seel ONLY cookies. The process of setting up a business was interesting, and I loved that Ellis was given so much freedom to go places and interact with people in order to build the business. There are good period details, like Ellis' Afro, his zip-necked terry cloth shirt (that right there made the book for me!), and the interesting business on Sunset Boulevard. Of course, there are also details about the racism the family faced at the time, since they are some of the few Black people in the area. It is great to see that Alex and his father don't seem to care about this,and interesting to see Ellis' reaction when he goes to Wishbone's radio station, where most of the employees are Black. There are some slapstick moments of mishaps, adventures riding down hills in the shopping cart, and meeting some surfers, and the story moves briskly with a lot of heart and humor. Think of the historical fiction you've read involving Black characters-- how many of those books cover Black joy? Not very many. Despite the challenges they face, Ellis and his father not only experience joy, but do their best to spread it through cookies!
Weaknesses: There is a tiny bit about the Bicentennial, but it isn't explained very well. During the summer of 1976, Ellis would certainly have seen a lot more of this celebration, and young readers will have no idea how ubiquitous it was. More details would have helped. I also found it a little difficult to believe that Ellis managed to cause destruction to cookie ingredients more than once; wouldn't his grandmother have been there, waving her cane and saying "Not today, Satan!"? (Which might well be my new catch phrase, at least in my  mind!)
What I really think: While the writing isn't as smooth as it could be, this was a vivid trip to a specific and vibrant place and time peopled by fascinating characters and scented with chocolate and pecans. I only wish that there were a good middle grade book detailing Wally Amos' exploits, because those are even more fascinating and would make for a highly readable biography. I'd love to see more of Ellis' adventures, and will definitely be buying two copies of this humorous but gently philosophical title. 

McQueen, Omari. Omari McQueen's Best Bites Cookbook
June 7th 2022 by BuzzPop
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I've never heard of this young British vegan cook, but he must have quite the following! While this is a vegan cookbook, and has a lot of great food that doesn't rely on animal products, it's quite simple to substitute mainstream ingredients in the recipes. Omari's family is of Caribbean descent, so the recipes have a strong (and very hot!) flavor of that region-- again, it's not necessary to purchase ghost peppers in order to make the recipes. This is good, since I'm pretty sure there is not a single ghost pepper in my entire neighborhood! This does put a different spin on some of the recipes; the hummus, for example, did not involve cumin, and the salsa is made with canned tomatoes. 

There's a nice range of recipes, from Light Bites to hearty lunches and dinner, with a few side dishes and deserts to round things out. I made the Jamaican patties with ground turkey instead of meat substitute, and they came out very nicely and smelled really good when I warmed them up the next day. The curry powder in the pasty-type dough is inspired. The sweet potato and spinach bake is one I might try next, and the lentil bolognese reminds me of my college days when I made a lot of Hamburger Helper with lentils.

There were a fair number of ingredients that were a bit difficult to find. I happened to be near my favorite Saraga market after reading this, and they did not have ackee or callaloo, although I could have gotten jackfruit, and have bought bulk tumeric there on a number of occasions. My area has more Latinx, Asian, and African  immigrants than Caribbean ones, so it will probably depend on your location when it comes to obtaining ingredients not usually available at the neighborhood Kroger. 

The photo illustrations are colorful and fun. I buy far more cookbooks than I should, so I may pass on this one unless I have a lot of students asking for vegan recipes; this would then be the top of the list to purchase.

Ms. Yingling

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Best Frenemies Forever

McCafferty, Megan. Best Frenemies Forever
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to Be True to Your Selfie, we follow the story of Sophie, who was cruelly dropped by best friend since birth Ella when Ella joined forces with the evil Morgan. Sophie is getting ready to start Mercer Middle School, and is spending her summer alone, working through the activities in The Book of Awesome for Awesome Girls to occupy her time. Her therapist mother and college professor father encourage her to make friends with the new neighbor girl, even though the parents have built a larger, new house after tearing down the one they bought. Kaytee is a bubbly, enthusiastic girl, which is a big constrast to Sophie's guarded, cautious personality, and seems to know how to be the kind of girl that everyone likes. She is going to a private school, so Sophie makes her think that she is still friends with Morgan and Ella, even though Morgan calls her "Ickface" at school and makes fun of everything Sophie wears. Sophie tells Kaytee that the group had a rift when Sophie invited Kaytee to a beach house for her birthday instead of Morgan and Ella. Kaytee has some secrets in her own past, and her brother Alex knows them. When Kaytee decides to come to Mercer Middle School, she gets assigned to the "cool group" that Sophie isn't in, and Sophie finds that her lies are going to work against her. Will she be able to make peace with Kaytee, even after all of the deception?
Strengths: So many middle grade books cover friendship breakups, but few continue to discuss how these former friends are still influencing each other. It's interesting to see Sophie's perspective, and to understand how traumatic Ella's actions were to her. This definitely is in tune with modern children and the way they process things; I had a friend ghost me at the end of 7th grade, and never thought to talk to her about it-- I just moved on. There are other good details about dealing with boredom, feeling out boundaries with parents (going to the mall alone for the first time was HUGE!), and making new friends. I rather enjoyed all of the Awesome Activities that Sophie did. Building her own rain barrel is certainly a better way to spend her time than doing social media postings with Ella and Morgan. Oh. Now I sound as judgey as Sophie's parents!
Weaknesses: Sophie's parents are really horrible and judgey, and it's scary to see their thoughts in Sophie's head throughout the book. Despite the mother's therapy background, they've managed to contribute a bit to Sophie's intensive self doubt. That was just hard to read; younger readers won't be as disturbed by it. 
What I really think: While I'm glad that the changed the cover style, Be True to Your Selfie doesn't circulate as well as I hoped it would. Debating purchasing this; friend drama is always popular, and this cover will probably entice readers. This could be read as a stand alone, as Ella and Morgan are explained as much as is needed for this story. 
 Ms. Yingling

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Alexis vs. Summer Vacation

Sarah Jamila Stevenson and, Agarwal, Veronica. Alexis vs. Summer Vacation 
June 18th 2019 by Avenue A Books
Library copy

During the summer following her parents' divorce, rising high school freshman Addie finds her days consumed with watching much younger young siblings Austin and Addie. At least she gets to take them to the pool most days, where she makes friends with Luke, who is in the life guard training program, and Jason, who helps his father run the Pool Noodle food truck often parked outside. They have a lot of interests, from a Dungeons and Dragons type game to reading graphic novels. Jason is having a hard time with two boys who frequently come to the food truck, Max and Ryan, who constantly come right up to the line of bullying. His father won't step in and lose a customer, but it bothers Jason. Luke has issues with his "perfect" older brother, and Alexis has a crush on Haley, but hasn't figured out if she really likes girls, and certainly hasn't told her best friend or parents about it. There are small issues involving the care of her siblings, as well as her chafing at the expectations of her parents, who are both struggling to adjust to the new reality as well. When she and her new friends play their game, she encourages them to "level up" in real life as well, and Jason and Luke try to make changes in how they act in situations that bother them. They eventually challenge Alexis to do the same and talk to Haley. The two become friends, after some awkward moments, and while Alexis isn't sure if Haley likes her in the same way, she has at least talked to her crush and told those close to her about her feelings. 
Strengths: This reminded me a bit of Sunny Makes a Splash, in the best possible way! The only pool where I grew up was a country club, so I was never able to spend summers hanging out there, but my community now has TWO public pools that were within walking distance for my children, and they spent a whole lot of time there. That little bit of freedom is so appealing to tweens, and I even loved that Alexis had to babysit her siblings-- that goes on a lot, and when I was 12, I babysat a four and six year old from 5:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. five days a week! Of course, I didn't have friends to hang out with while doing this. My students are going to absolutely adore this. LGBTQIA+ books have become increasingly popular since the pandemic, and the illustration style is fantastic. Great summer colors. 
Weaknesses: Given the mother's business suit and the style of Alexis' kitchen, I thought for a moment that this was set in the 1980s. Then a cell phone appeared, and I was personally a little disappointed, but modern children will not be. 
What I really think: Glad I purchased this. It was a bit hard to get ahold of, although I will definitely be investigating other titles by Avenue A Books. I wish that Follett made this available in a prebind, but even PermaBound only has the paperback. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Lines of Courage

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Lines of Courage
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's 1914, and things are tense in Europe. Felix Baum and his father, who are Jewis and live in Austria-Hungary, see the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Later, they have a visit from Elsa Dressler and her family, long time friends. Elsa raises carrier pigeons and leaves one with Felix, as things are looking fire in Austria-Hungary. When the father is off at war, the Russians take over and Captain Garinov offers Felix's mother a opportunity-- turn over the names of all of her Jewish friends so they can be put in camps, and he will go easier on her. Felix sends a pigeon to Elsa, who arrives with a wagon to rescue the Baums. Meanwhile, things are bad in England as well, and after the death of her father, Kara Webb accompanies her mother on a Red Cross hospital train, acting as an orderly. She has good medical skills, but runs afoul of the administration when she saves Sgt. Baum's life. He gives her the Golden Cross of Merit that was his father's out of gratitude. Shortly after, Kara meets Juliette in Verdun. Juliette is trying to sell possessions to feed her mother and brothers, and Kara buys a red wool hat from her, but gives it back out of kindness. Juliette and her family try to flee, but the wagon gets stuck. While trying to get it to move, the family is attacked by the Germans and Juliette is separated from them. She passes out, but Kara spots her due to the red hat. She comes aboard the train, but when she has to leave, Kara gives the medal to her. Juliette ends up in a work camp, but eventually runs away and lives in a cave in the woods. By 1917, we also meet Dimitri, a fourteen-year-old Russian boy who has been press ganged into the military and is serving under Garinov. After the death of his friend Igor, he is gravely injured and rescued by Juliette. After he recuperates, he wants to get back to his unit, so Juliette sends him with supplies and the medal. After the death of the tsar, he decides to leave the army. At one point, Elsa comes across him because her father is in charge of prisoners and he is working in their home. He is accused of stealing the medal, which Elsa recognizes as being Felix's father's, and remembers Felix mentioning Kara. As the war winds down, will the five teens be able to find their way back home? Will there be any homes once they get there?
Strengths: This was harrowing to read, especially once I realized that Lemberg, where Felix lived, is the modern day Ukranian town of Lviv. World War I doesn't get a lot of coverage, so it was good to have the reasons for the different countries to be fighting. Up until recently, it would have been easy to look at this as a period piece, but looking at Putin's blatant land grab really puts this into perspective. I was able to follow the different perspectives easily enough, and it was interesting to see a range of experiences. The Red Cross hospital train was especially interesting, and the flu pandemic was addressed briefly. This was well researched, and led to a long and interesting conversation with one of my history obsessed friend... maps were involved. (And I'm curious to see if the finished book includes one, since modern day countries are a bit different from that era.)
Weaknesses: As in Kessler's When the World Was Ours, it seemed somewhat hard to believe that the characters would run into each other several times during the war, but it did make for a very interesting story. 
What I really think: Will definitely purchase this, and have to remember to put Resistance up on display on my WWII rack. I have several students following the events in Ukraine right now (3/21/22) who would find this to be a rather illuminative story. 
 Ms. Yingling

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Theater Mysteries!

Henry, April. Two Truths and a Lie 
May 24th 2022 by Christy Ottaviano Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Nell is excited to travel to the big city for a theater competition. The group's advisor, Ms. McElroy, has even managed to get a school van. In addition to Nell, there's Maeve, Jermaine, and Raven, and when bad weather forces the group off the roads, they end up at a creepy motel in the middle of nowhere. Stuart, the owner, gets them rooms and tells them a bit about the motel and its ammenities, including a game room and closed Tiki bar.  Another group of high school kids, a robotic team, shows up with their college aged advisor, Oscar. Mrs. McElroy gets her team settled and tells them to behave since she is going to bed, so of course all of the kids meet in the game room and start to play the game Two Truths and a Lie while scarfing down dodgy vending machine food. When one of the slips of paper, and an extra one at that, has alarming information saying that one of the people likes to watch people die and has killed more people than can be counted, the teens take the obvious preventive measure and consult a Ouija board. It, of course, replies in Latin, and things start to go badly wrong. An odd handyman who talks in the third person tells them the checkered past of the motel, where a double murder took place 25 years previously, and things take a grim turn. One girl appears to be murdered, and the kids try to figure out what is going on. Secrets are revealed, tensions rise, and no one seems safe. As the winter storm rages on and the killer is afraid of being caught, will anyone survive? (Tried not to spoil the twists and turns!)
Strengths: This gets double bonus points for one particular scene where there is lots of blood and gore... that turns out to be theatrical blood made of food coloring and corn syrup. This is perfect, because my readers want gore, and I don't particularly want to give them too much human on human violence. Henry is great at writing older characters in a way that is still appropriate for middle grade readers to read; this reminded me very much of the Joan Lowry Nixon titles from the 1990s that have recently seen a huge surge in popularity in my library. To bring the story into the 2020s, though, there's a bit of LGBTQIA+ representation (Nell talks about her two moms, Maeve is interested in one of the girls on the robotics team), and a small subplot about the exploitation of asylum seekers. The motel is super creepy, and I loved the details of the Tiki bar and the dusty carpet... ugh! While there is a tiny bit of alcohol (which Nell doesn't think is a great idea) and some romantic tension, the focus is mainly on escaping the maniacal killer. Remember, young readers have hopefull NOT seen all of the teen slasher horror films, so this will all be new to them. Adding in the decades old murder was a good call, and its connection to the current situation worked out nicely. I have one 6th grade boy who is going to be so thrilled to get this one-- he would check every day to see if The Girl in the White Van had been returned! This is a great title to read along with Alexander's Vacancy and Nixon's The Dark and Deadly Pool
Weaknesses: There are always a number of people who don't understand Henry's work and audience and give it two stars on Goodreads. Don't listen to these people. Middle school readers LOVE these books and absolutely devour them. Henry does her research into the criminal details and adds just the right amount of scary elements. Is this book a little bit cheesy? Yes. Is that what my readers want? Absolutely.
What I really think:  The only question is whether or not I should buy two copies. Since someone moved away with a brand new copy of Eyes of the Forest, the answer to this question is probably "You should buy THREE."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Key, Janet. Twelfth.
May 17th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Maren is glad to go to summer camp to get away from problems at home surrounding her older sister, Hadley, but she still can't escape her sister's shadow, since she also had attended the Charlotte Goodman Theater Camp. Maren has a knack for solving little mysteries, like where Jo, the camp director, left her phone, and she settles in to her cabin. Roommate Theo, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them, is interested in filming, and manages to irritate the other campers, especially after saying the name of the play the camp is putting on, MacBeth. There's already been an issue with the oldest counselor having gone missing, and there is a fear that this is the last year that the camp will be open, since there is development occurring around it. There's also the issue of the camp's history-- Charlotte Goodman was the daughter of a dancer and a set designer in Hollywood, and went into films herself, but unfortunately perished in a horrible fire in the 1950s. The camp was set up by her sister in her honor. There was another woman who died in the fire, and she had a very expensive engagement ring with her. The diamond has been rumored to be at the camp somewhere, and Maren starts to think that the counselor's disappearance had something to do with the clues she has found around camp, as well as rumored sightings of Charlotte's ghost. When developer Renee Wallace is seen lurking around the camp, Maren becomes more suspicious, and redoubles her efforts to find the diamond. In flashbacks, we see Charlotte's involvement in early Hollywood, and find out some secrets about her past. Will she and Theo be able to find the diamond, save the camp, and deal with the family issues that Maren will once again face when she returns home?
Strengths: There is a lot of good LGBTQIA+ representation in this book, and very good conversation on gender diversity with Dr. Jennifer Feldman at the back. A large plot twist revolves around the fact that Charlotte developed a romantic relationship with a female star, but I don't want to ruin the mystery! Theo's treatment is realistic, as they are not always treated well by some people but generally accepted. We didn't get a lot of information about Hadley's depression, but did see how it affected Maren. There is interesting information about the Red Scare in Hollywood; readers might want to pick up Brimner's Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment for more information. The fact that the camp might be endangered is realistic, and the alumni's support of it is touching. Since Charlotte was born in 1930, I think this was set in 2015 so that the timeline was a bit more realistic. 
Weaknesses: I know that there are some schools that get really into Shakespeare, but mine is not one of them. We have a small theater program now, but books about theater don't circulate very well. 
What I really think: This is a good mystery for readers who like Snyder's 2011 William's Midsummer Dreams, Freeman's (2021) Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost, Condie's 2016 Summerlost or Asher's Upstaged
 Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


Booth, Coe. Caprice
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

*Some spoilers, but they are in the book description as well. *

Caprice has spent seven weeks at a leadership camp on the campus of the elite Ainsley International School. She enjoyed it, but is a bit homesick for her Newark neighborhoodand best friend Nicole. When she is offered a full tuition scholarship to the school starting in a few weeks, her parents are thrilled. It's a great opportunity, and the family has been struggling since the family security business hasn't done well recently, and the father has to travel and work away from home a lot. While she is home trying to decide, her mother recieves news that her own mother is gravely ill and needs help. Unfortunately, the two have been estranged ever since an episode when Caprice's father was in the military and she and her mother werestaying with her grandmother and uncle in Baltimore. Four-year-old Caprice ran away and was missing for some hours, and the grandmother kicked the two out. We find out that there is more to this story; Caprice's uncle was sexually abusing her. This has left Caprice with some PTSD, which manifests itself in ways that those around her don't understand, since she has never told anyone about the abuse. She can't decide whether or not to attend the school, but spends some time at home at the neighborhood recreation center, working to establish a club for girls and doing other positive things for the area. When she and her mother have to travel to Baltimore to deal with the grandmother, her past becomes all too present, and she finally has to face and deal with the issues from her past in order to go forward in her life. 
Strengths: First of all, I love the cover! The colors are great, and look closely for the silhouette of Caprice's four-year-old self in her eyes. The pull between a posh academic experience and her comfortable home life made for a lot of tension, especially when there was a budding romance for Caprice at home thrown in. The family's financial problems are realistic and dealt with well. Nicole was a fantastically supportive friend, and I appreciated that she told her mother what Caprice had shared about her past in order to get her friend the help she needed. There is more detail about the abuse than there are in some books (talk of clothing being removed and touching occurring), although there are no graphic details. This is a delicate balance, but I appreciate it when children with some knowledge will know what occurred, but children without that knowledge won't find out anything they don't know. (If that makes sense.) The adults are supportive, ask questions, and act appropriately when details are revealed. Booth has tackeled other tough issues, and does so in a timely and helpful way. 
Weaknesses: I had some trouble with the time line for some reason. Camp was almost the whole summer, so the book must have taken place during about three weeks, but those three weeks were really packed for Caprice. I would have thought the school would have needed an answer sooner, but maybe it just had space for a new student and didn't need to rush her.
What I really think: This is a good book to add to other titles that address issues of abuse, like Carter's How to Be a Girl in the World (2020),  Bradley's Fighting Words (2020), Messner's Chirp (2020) Chase's So Done (2018).

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Let the Monster Out and other May Fantasies

Lucas, Chad. Let the Monster Out 
May 17th 2022 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bones Malone, his mother, and two brothers have moved to Langille, where they are one of the few Black families. The community has a large company called Fluxcor, Royden University, and a new sports complex where Carlos Robeson, a retired baseball player, is coaching, so Bones' mother wants him to be open minded. Due to problems with his father (who is no longer in the picture) in the past, Bones has some anger management issues that are constantly getting him in trouble. He's a great pitcher, and he starts to make friends on his baseball team. Marcus, the coach's son, seems too cool for Bones, but is really nice. Kyle is a bit difficult to deal with, since he himself suspects he might be on the autism spectrum, even though his parents don't want him tested and labeled. When odd things start to happen to the adults in town, including Bones' mother and the local librarian, the boys wonder what is going on. Fluxcor has recently unveiled new technology, a free WiFi that they are gifting to the town, and this conincides with the rise in incidents of Alien Zombie Librarian-ification. Will they be able to figure out what's causing this, and deal with their personal issues, before things get really bad?
Strengths: While there has been an increase in the number of books centering inner city children of color, there aren't as many set in the suburbs. Seeing Bones struggling with being Black in a predominately white community adds another layer of interest, and it was good that people (other than his babysitter and her son) seemed to be welcoming. The inclusion of baseball details will make this appealing to more readers. I especially liked that Marcus was a great kid who was kind to Bones and Kyle and included them in his plans. This has sort of a Twilight Zone vibe to it, and was a solid science fiction tale with enough elements to root it to the real world so that readers who don't read a lot of sci fi can easily pick it up. 
Weaknesses: I was surprised that Bones wasn't in some kind of therapy to deal with his trauma. He had gotten in trouble several times at school, so that seemed like a logical next step. As the mystery ramped up, his anger became less of an issue. I was glad that when Kyle approached his parents directly to be evaluated so that he could understand his reactions to things better, they did agree to help him even though they were afraid of having him labeled. 
What I really think: This was very similar to Hautman's The Flinkwater FactorLang and Bartkowski's Whispering Pines Lawrence, or Lawrence's The Stitchers . The cover isn't great, so this might take a little hand selling, but will be an enjoyable book for the right reader. 

Two more fantasies to consider; I enjoyed both of these but often struggle to write reviews of fantasy titles. Drat. I saw a student with a paper copy of Riordan's new Daughter of the Deep and forgot to find out what the name of the ship was. The audio book made it sound like it was "the Butternut". See? Easily distracted. 

Mandanna, Sangu. Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse (Kiki Kallira #2)
May 17th 2022 by Viking Books for Young Readers 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This was a good sequel to the first book, and the ending leaves room for a possible sequel, but also finishes things up nicely. 

From the publisher:
Fresh from the exciting discovery that the beautiful kingdom and band of rebel kids she drew in her sketchbook exists in another world, Kiki Kallira has an unexpected visitor. One of those rebel kids has come into the real world to ask for her help—-the river Kaveri that is Mysore’s only source of water has suddenly vanished! With no water to drink or grow food, Kiki’s kingdom is doomed. 

Kiki returns to Mysore and quickly learns that drawing a new river doesn’t work. In her search for answers, she stumbles upon the origin of the Kaveri: it’s actually a princess from long ago who was transformed into water by a terrible curse! It’s up to Kiki and her friends to restore the river without sacrificing the princess again—-easier said than done! And with her mounting anxiety, enemies seeking to stop her, and a city growing weaker by the minute, Kiki’s confidence falters. Will she be able to unravel the curse and save her kingdom before it’s too late?

Emerson, Kevin. Drifters
May 10th 2022 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I always enjoy Emerson's writing, and this stand alone is great for fans of Condie's The Darkdeep. 

From the publisher:
Jovie is adrift. She’d been feeling alone ever since her best friend, Micah, left her behind for a new group of friends—but when Micah went missing last fall, Jovie felt truly lost. Now, months later, the search parties have been called off, and the news alerts have dried up. There’s only Jovie, biking around Far Haven, Washington, putting up posters with Micah’s face on them, feeling like she’s the only one who remembers her friend at all.

This feeling may be far closer to the truth than Jovie thinks. As strange storms beset Far Haven, she is shocked to discover that Micah isn’t just missing—she’s been forgotten completely by everyone in town. And Micah isn’t the only one: there are others, roaming the beaches, camped in the old bunkers, who have somehow been lost from the world. When Jovie and her new friend Sylvan dig deeper, they learn that these mysteries are nothing new: the town’s history is far stranger and more deadly than anyone knows. Something disastrous is heading for Far Haven, and Jovie and Sylvan soon realize that it is up to them to save not only Micah, but everyone else who has been lost to the world and set adrift—now, in the past, and in the future.

Acclaimed author Kevin Emerson returns with a stand-alone spec-fic mystery, perfect for fans of Stranger Things.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, May 23, 2022

MMGM- Swim Team and Enola Holmes

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Christmas, Johnnie. Swim Team: Small Waves, Big Changes
May 17th 2022 by Harperalley
ARC provided by Follett First Look

In this graphic novel, Bree and her father move from New York City to Florida so that he can go to school and also work his new job. Bree is very interested in math and puzzles, and her father has supported her interest in these things. She's a little concerned about the move, and suffers from some anxiety, but meets one of her classmates from Enith Brigitha Middle School, Clara, and is excited to start her new school. She's not excited when the math puzzles elective class is full and she ends up in swimming. She can't swim, and is afraid of embarassing herself or becoming injured. This is especially embarassing because Clara is on the swim team. She finally comes clean to her father, who takes her for swim lessons, but she ends up with very young children and is seen by a girl from Holyoke Prep, a rival private school, who is extremely mean to her about it. After an unfortunate trip into the apartment complex pool, Bree is saved by Etta, an older woman who lives upstairs. When Bree finds out that Etta was on a swim team in middle school, she arranges to get lessons from her and starts to do fairly well in class. The school swim team coach is desperate to get people on the team, especially since the school's pool might be in jeopardy and it is felt that a winning season might help. Since Holyoke Prep, with all of its amenities, will probably beat them, Bree reluctantly agrees to be on the team, and has a fantastic first meet. Keisha, the girl who made fun of her, gets kicked off the Holyoke team for underperforming, and it's not long before she appears at Enith Brigitha. The team struggles to work together, especially since Clara has a secret-- her mother has made her apply to Holyoke, and she might be going there next year. Can Bree and her teammates find a way, with Etta's help, to work together and have a successful team?
Strengths: It's always good to see children who can see the bright side of moving, even if they aren't thrilled about it, and Bree understands that this is a good opportunity for her father. It's always great that she loves school and math! I'd love to see more of this in middle grade characters, even if they don't participate in math clubs like Bree does. I enjoyed Clara, and her conflict about changing schools, and Etta and her history of swimming was absolutely fantastic. Her relationship with Bree is very heartwarming, and when Bree and her friends try to find Etta's friends to help out the older woman, it showed the value of community and history. The Holyoke Prep team is a bit over the top, but private schools can be a bit rarified. The blues and greens of the colored pages in the ARC are set off by some sunny yellows and pinks; the finished book will be in full color. Lots of character development, some history, and many details about swimming that are hard to find. An excellent addition to a middle grade graphic novel collection. 
Weaknesses: The mean girl antics were really over the top, and I think this lessened the impact of Keisha's bullying behavior. Girls in middle school can be very cruel, but it's usually sneakier and more devastating that the public fighting. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and loved the historical tie in to swimming in the Black community. The notes at the end were helpful as well. This would be great to read alongside India Hill Brown's The Girl in the Lake!
Blasco, Serena and Springer, Nancy. Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novel
May 24th 2022 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ARC provided by the Publisher

When Enola Holmes' mother runs away, her brothers Mycroft and Sherlock feel a need to take the young woman under their care and force her to do all of the sorts of things that were expected of young girls in the late 1800s. Not wanting to give up her freedom, Enola takes the money her mother left her, follows her clues, and runs away. After working on a mystery involving a missing young lord, she sets up shop under the name of Dr. Ragostin, and pretends to be his assistant, Ivy Meshle. She takes on a case involved a young Lady who was forced to be betrothed to a man, and discovers the sinister mind control at work over this artistic young person. Finally, in The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, while she is still on the run from her brothers, she investigates the disappearance of Sherlock's assistant, Dr. Watson. 

The illustrations are really the selling point here, and there are lots of details and notes about Enola's investigations. Since it's a historical setting, it's good to see the clothing and hair styles, and the details about corsets make a lot more sense with pictures for readers who are going to be completely kerflummoxed  by the garment. There's a lot of detail in the drawings, and plenty of text. It's been a while since I've read the whole series, but I've read the original at least twice. There seem to be a lot of details about Enola's childhood that are lacking, and the first mystery doesn't seem quite complete if it's held up to the book. Since this is "A graphic novel adaptation of the hit books that inspired the Netflix film" AND translated from the French, it's really rather remarkable that it bears any resemblance to the original at all! (This seems to be a trend. I was amazed at a recent Clifford retelling as well.)

It's been a bit tough to get my students to read The Case of the Missing Marquess, and I'm unsure how many of them have seen the Netflix film, but graphic novels are hugely popular in my library. Even graphic novel reimagings of classics like Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and Tom's Midnight Garden circulate well, so I'm sure the Netflix tie-in will make this even more appealing. I personally prefer Springer's wonderful writing and the additional details found in the original books, but perhaps the graphic novels (there's a second volume with three more titles in it) will encourage readers to investigate Enola's adventures in prose.

It's the last four days of the school year, a time which always has me wishing for the implementation of year round school. There are still over 100 books overdue; it's almost as if I forgot to tell students I was just LOANING the books to them. I have another exciting Bionic Spy Surgery coming up on Friday, this time on my wrist, and I'm just... done. After 24 years, I'm glad for summer. Not that it will be much better, but it will hopefully involve more sleep and less... pivoting.

If you are approaching the end of the school year, or revving up for summer reading in a public library, I am sending good wishes and strength your way.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

This is Not a Drill

Holt, K.A. This is Not a Drill
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in texts and message boards (which I fear may make me attribute actions to the wrong character), Ava, Char, and Elena all attend Lila O'Lowry Middle school, and start a regular day. Ava, whose parents are separating, doesn't want her friend Char to tell their friend Elena, even though Elena's parents are also divorced. Her phone battery is very low, even though she regularly ignores the school updates, claiming they are mainly about the lunch menu, which is heavy on fruit cocktail. At lunch, Ava isn't feeling well, and spends a long time in the bathroom. When the school goes into lockdown, everyone panics. Ava is stuck in the bathroom, Elena is in the cafeteria with the lunch ladies, and Char doesn't answer her phone for a bit. When they go into lockdown, Ava texts both of her parents, who panic, drive to school, can't get in, and tell her to "ping" them occasionally. When she leaves the bathroom, it's hard to find a room to get into, but she ends up in a room with a number of 6th graders (tater tots), but no teacher. When Char's brother Diego starts having an asthma attack, she leaves the room to try to find an inhaler. There is a school chat, and students find out about this and put an inhaler out into the hallway. Ava steps on the first one, but does eventually find one and gets back to the room. The students all seem to know the rules of lockdown (be quiet, stay out of right, don't open the doors), but as time goes on, students start to panic more and more. When a man starts banging on the doors and seems to be shouting Ava's name, everyone's stress levels rise. It turns out to be someone looking for a teacher, Ada Abernathy, and the tensions go even higher. What's going on? Why are they on lockdown? And do the recently escaped therapy llamas in the town have anything to do with it?
Strengths: This book certainly capitalizes on tween anxiety surrounding phones. There's a low battery, texting from a flip phone, and a phone taken away by a teacher. I liked the message about having an asthma inhaler with you at all times if you need one. Ava's distress about her parents' separation is a good inclusion, and it was nice to see that they were still able to support her together. Lockdown drills are certainly a concern for students, and this was mostly realistically done. It was good that no one was injured, and there is some injection of levity with the LOL updates (the name of the middle school) and the updates about the escaped llamas. 
Weaknesses: I found this extremely hard to follow, and even after going back and trying to follow text threads, and still not entirely sure why we didn't hear from Char for a bit. This might have been easier to piece together with a paper book, and younger readers will be more likely to find this format understandable.
What I really think: Students should not have cell phones on them during the school day, and should definitely not text parents during lockdowns of fire evacuations. (We just had to take the entire school next door to the high school gym because of a gas leak in my building, and I tried to dissuade students from unnecessarily alarming their parents.) Having the chat board just raised their stress levels. Oh, wait. This should be what I think about the BOOK. Even though our drills are really low key,  I can see this being popular with my students. It's the same sort of effect that reading ghost stories or murder mysteries has; your own life doesn't seem as stressful. 

Our students NEVER open the doors. Our administrators come around with a key and announce themselves before opening the door. We were once in lockdown because of an armed robbery at a local jewelry store half a mile from school, and I had 60 students in my tiny back room for an hour. No one spoke. No issues with behavior at all. 
 Ms. Yingling

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Apple Crush (Peapod Farm #2) and Growing Pangs

Knisely, Lucy. Apple Crush (Peapod Farm #2)
May 3rd 2022 by Random House Graphic
E ARC provided by the publisher

After settling into her new family situation in Stepping Stones, Jen is apprehensive about the new school year. She is excited about being hired by a neighboring farm, where she and Andy, her mother's boyfriend Walter's daughter, are going to help set up for the fall season and help out with the haunted hayride. Andy is interested in Eddie, whose father runs the farm. He's homeschooled, but he and Jen bond over a graphic novel series. With Andy in the city during the week, Jen feels very alone at her new school, and mean girl, Summer, gives Jen a hard time about everything, including her friendship with Ollie. Is it true that boys and girls can't be just friends? Jen gets this message from everyone, including Andy and Walter. She does find some respite in the school library, where they librarian lets her come to draw during her free periods, and in an art club. As the big Halloween event at the farm approaches, will Jen be able to understand her relationships with those close to her a little better?
Strengths: Jen's struggles to fit in to a new school will ring true to many readers, and friend and school drama are always popular topics, especially when it comes to graphic novels. The rural setting, and the brief glimpses we get of Peapod Farm's struggles with their chickens and mushroom logs, are quite fascinating. It's nice to see Jen and Andy get along most of the time, even though there are some problems. Eddie is an interesting character, and his reaction to Jen is very realistic. I loved the scene where Eddie continued to scare Andy at the hay ride preparation even though she told him not to. The mentions of different books that interest Jen are not named, but described well enough that readers will know the kind of books Jen likes; this is a hard balance to get right. Of course, the understanding librarian was great! 
Weaknesses: The most interesting part of Stepping Stones was the family dynamic, and we don't see as much of that here. It makes sense, since the first book was set during the summer, and Jen's school relationships are important, but I wish we had seen a bit more of how things at home were going. 
What I really think:The first book was just the right title for one of my students who was struggling with some issues with her stepfather, so I'm definitely looking forward to being able to give her this title. Hand to fans of Chmakova, Miller, Telgemeier, and Jamieson.

Ormsbee, Kathryn and Brooks, Molly (illus.) Growing Pangs
May 3rd 2022 by Random House
Public library copy 

 In this graphic novel, Katie, growing up in the 90s, struggles with anxiety, home schooling, and problems with her best friend Kacey. She navigates summer camp, a theater production, minor dental surgery, and dealing with OCD. She does eventually get help from her parents as well as a professional. Based on the author's own experiences, but somewhat fictionalized. 

This is on trend with current middle grade reads about mental health, and will be popular with readers who enjoy similar titles like Telgemeier's Smile, Libenson's Emmie and Friends series, or Scrivan's Nat Enough.

Friday, May 20, 2022

What Twenty Years Looks Like

 I don't really know what to make of this. This year, I've averaged about 160 books a day. My twenty year average is... about 160 books a day. Circulation has gone back to 2007 levels even though I haven't stopped pushing books. 

Statistics rely on a lot of other things. For example, in 2018 we cut SSR. But how could I have checked out more books in 2020? A small portion of circulation is Chrome Books, but I certainly didn't check out THAT many. Wouldn't 2020 have been smaller than 2021? 

No idea what to make of these numbers. I guess I'll just try to make small increases over the next fifteen years. 


Dowell, Frances O'Roarke. Hazard
May 10th 2022 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hazard should be used to having his parents in the military, since both his mother and father have served for most of his life, but he still didn't quite expect his father to come home missing a leg after a bombing. He seems to be dealing with it... until he tackles someone much too strenuously on the football field. In order for him to come back to the team, he has to go to counseling, and his story is told through texts to friends, e mails with his counselor, interviews with relatives, and older e mails that his father sent to his mother from Afghanistan. His father is now at Walter Reed Medical Center, recuperating and getting fitted for a prosthetic leg. Hazard and his brother Tyler have been to see him a few times, and Hazard knows he should be grateful that his father is still alive. It's hard, though, especially when he starts to realize that his father is also struggling to come to terms with the incident in Afghanistan that led to his injury. Hazard thought that losing a leg would be hard for his father, but it turns out that there are even tougher psychological injuries that need to be addressed. It's not easy for Hazard to come to terms with all of these things, and his anger still is manifesting itself on the football field. Will he be able to understand the root cause of his anger so that he can continue on, hopefull on the football field as well?
Strengths: There are not a lot of books that deal with military families, and the plight of a parent coming home from serving and being injured is one that could use a lot more discussion. Hazard's family life is supportive, and both of his grandmothers step in from time to time to help. It seems like everything is holding together... until it's not. I think that anger issues are often a bit surprising, and the way that Hazard's emotional state is shown is done very well. The questions and answers with the therapist really get to the root of his problems, and we see this unfold at the same time he does. This reminded me a bit of Meyer's Monster in the construction of the format. The text is brief but really packs a punch. 
Weaknesses: I had hoped there would be more football in the book, and the short e mails and nonlinear format occasionally makes it harder to understand what's going on. 
What I really think: This was an intriguing, short read that might resonate with reluctant readers. It's a rather different type of book than Dowell usually writes, but it definitely fills a niche, and is an excellent book to describe and explain some of the causes of PTSD. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Blather-- Snapshot of my library

I used to do detailed reports about what went on in the library, and now... I don't. Ever since Sierra Dertinger ofBooks. Iced Lattes. Blessed mentioned that she got a job in a school library and wanted tips for the transition, I've been thinking about what notes I would leave my successor. (At left, my library.)

There just is not enough paper in the world to tell a new librarian everything that needs to be known. I volunteered for FIVE YEARS for the librarian in my position. I weeded HER collection, cleaned out HER back room, and learned to eviscerate a VCR under her capable tutelage. Still, I have spent twenty years finding random keys, "I'm a happy booker" buttons, vintage tissue boxes, and chalk chucks still in the original packaging. 

We have five days left with students. Over 200 overdue books. I need to clean the back room, revamp my curriculum for next year and deal with textbooks and 17 carts of 30 Chrome books, 12 carts of a dozen Chrome books, and who knows how many random student Chrome Books. Nota Bene: Textbooks are NOT my job. Chrome Books are textbooks. Just sayin'.

Because there's so much work, let's visit my library instead! I took some pictures on my way in this morning to show Sierra and other hopeful, shiny, new librarians what glee awaits them. (At left, the circ desk. This is also where I keep deodorant and other toiletries that I hand out thanks to neighborhood bridges. And yes, these include sanitary products.)

Sure, there are the 13,000 books that I have to organize. But there's also the vast space, as well as storage that I am very grateful to have. I've taken down some shelves over the years to have more floor space and to limit the amount of unneccesary STUFF. 

I am very diligent about cleaning out and organizing, but there is still so much stuff. Supplies. Equipment. Cords. Book processing supplies. A tambourine. A stuffed alligator hat. And this isn't the worst. One of our district librarians inherited several drawers crammed full of plastic flatware, because the previous librarian used her back room to host parties for teachers (back when we had assistants, I imagine.) The back room is such a mess because I can only get into it in the morning, and that's when I try to write book reviews. I haven't had lunch outside the library more than five times this year.

Sierra is also expecting her first child in October. Inheriting a library is similar to having a child. You can read all the books you want, makes plans, and it's still just... a crap shoot. No matter how hard you try, it can still go so, so wrong. You do what you need to do, and hope for the best. I have zero regrets about giving my toddlers powdered milk with a side of bread and margarine for the fat for their little brains. The pediatrician said it was okay.

Last year, I didn't get the library organized because I spent several days cleaning out the classroom of a teacher who had been here for thirty years. I took fifty trips to the recycling to clear out eight file cabinets. Unearthed 60 boxes of tissues. There were dusty paperbacks, student projects from twenty years ago, and more paperclips than I have ever seen amassed in one location. 

I have at least fifteen more years left to teach, if I am lucky and my district keeps librarians. You never know. I started out teaching Latin, and I have been grateful to be employed every single year of my 24 year career. It could end tomorrow. I'm not leaving a procedure manual. There might be one page of notes. Whoever takes over my job will have a baptism by surprise filmstrip projectors and letters from long dead authors in a file cabinet, but I hope that things are not messy, dirty, and cluttered. 

Note to self: remind daughter that if I die, she needs to clear the cabinet of Clarks loafers and my box with an entire change of clothing out before the new librarian arrives. That person, however, is totally welcome to my cabinet of pain relievers and over the counter meds I keep for teachers. And that stuffed alligator hat.

Dear Friends

Greenwald, Lisa. Dear Friends
May 10th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Eleni has been friends with Sylvie since they were born; their mothers were in a prenatal class together, so their friendship has a deep history. As 6th grade approaches, however, things are changing. After a difficult time at summer camp, where her camp friend Maddy prefered spending time playing soccer than hanging out with her, Eleni returns home to help Sylvie plan her birthday party, only to find that she is not one of the three girls invited to the sleepover. She's given Sylvie a cool denim jacket, and has one just like it, but the chances of the two twinning at school look bleaker and bleaker as Sylvie continues to hang out with Annie, Zora, and Paloma. Eleni  starts to worry about her ability to make and keep friends, and enlists the help of Adelaide, the daughter of one of her mother's friends with whom she is occasionally forced to hang out, to look back at her FriENDships. There's neighbor Will, who quit hanging out with her when it became uncool for boys and girls to play together; Brenna, from Hebrew School; and Charlotte, who moved away. She starts to write letters back and forth to Charlotte, and tries to reconnect with her former friends to try to figure out what she did wrong. In the meantime, she does have a new group, which includes Rumi, Elizabeth and Anjali. This is good, because the 6th grade overnight trip and Halloween party are on the horizon. Eleni's been looking forward to them for years, but it's not the same without Sylvie, who continues to freeze her out and be mean. This cause issues with Eleni's mother, who is very snappish at the best of times. Eleni discovers that she was meant to be helping Adelaide, not the other way around, after the two have a bit of a falling out. Will Eleni be able to find some closure with her other former friends?
Strengths: Yep. Just about everyone loses at least one friend in middle school. Interests change, distance creates difficulties, and sometimes, people just become mean. Friend drama is one of the top requests for topics in books. I loved the inclusion of Eleni's Hebrew school, and the fact that she rather enjoyed learning about her religion. I spend a LOT of time at church in middle school, and religion doesn't often show up in middle grade stories, which is probably fairly representative of the population, but food to see occasionally. All of the characters are very well developed, and it's easy to see, in retrospect, what happened with Eleni's friendships. The 6th grade ovenight is a good theme to move the story along, and the changes that are made to it because of parental pressure are very realistic. This has a somewhat exotic setting, since Eleni goes to New York City. The cover is great, and I can't wait to hvae a copy of this to hand to students!
Weaknesses: Eleni's mother and Will's father had some serious stuff going on that wasn't well addressed. I'd actually love to see a whole book about Will and how his family is dealing with his father losing his job because of anger management issues. Eleni's mother seemed like she needed a lot of help, but nothing is ever discussed. 
What I really think: Defnitely purchasing, since Greenawald's books (My Life in Pink and Green (2009), Sweet Treats and Secrets Crushes (2010), Reel Life Starring Us (2011), the Dog Beach (2014) series, TBH This is So Awkward, (2018) and 11 Before 12 remain popular titles in my library. This definitely shows some deep dives into the anxiety in modern tween culture. I'm not sure if my students would ever undertake a project like Eleni's to investigate their failed relationships, but I do think they will enjoy reading about it. 
 Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bound for Home

Hashimoto, Meika. Bound for Home
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Emi's mother has recently died of cancer, and her father had died in a lobster boating accident before she was born. After several unsuccessful foster placements, she has landed with Meili and Jim. They live in a wooded area in Maine, and take Emi to pick out a dog from the local shelter. She picks Max, who has been there the longest and has a tendency to run away. Max, whose perspective we also hear, has been abandoned by his family when they were expecting a baby. He still has a tendency to run, although Emi and her foster parents are trying to teach him to stay. On some of his briefer forays into the woods, he meets Red, a cat who was left behind by her family and who has decided she likes being wild. Emi tries to keep Max in line (one of his many eccentricities is his insistence on peeing right in the threshold of her room every morning), and learns to get along with Meili and Jim, who are very glad to have her. When family circumstances are about to change, Emi decides to head out on her own to survive in the woods with Max. This goes poorly, since she is ill-equiped, and both she and Max suffer injuries and privations. They do find a cabin, and don't perish, but eventually have to decide if they want to return home and make a life with Meili and Jim. 
Strengths: Like Hashimoto's The Trail (2017), this is a solid adventure book with good details about surviving in the wilderness. Emi was a sympathetic character who was struggling to feel loved and wanted, and her reaction to Meili and Jim's news was not overly unrealistic. I liked that she wasn't really running away from any mistreatment, and that she liked being with them; it was a preemptive measure based on her previous life experiences. Meili briefly mentions how difficult it is to be of Asian descent in predominately white Maine, and the fact that the two of them had each other was a brief moment of light. Max and Red have very distinct personalities, and the chapters from their perspectives added an interesting element to the survival aspect. 
Weaknesses: There was a lot of grim hunting for food and getting injured, which is completely realistic, but got somewhat repetitive. What's the good of running away if there aren't some awesome Boxcar Children moments of cooking your own food and seeing the sun set spectacularly? Although as an adult, I guess I should be grateful the experience of running away isn't glorified. I guess I wanted some glorification!
What I really think: This made me think of Burnford's The Incredible Journey (1960) and the movie version (1963), which I remember watching on the Wonderful World of Disney as a child. It's a great choice for readers who liked Behrens' Disaster Days, Pyron's A Pup Called Trouble, or some of Jennifer Li Shotz's more adventuresome dog titles. 
 Ms. Yingling