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.

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