Monday, May 02, 2022

MMGM- Bernice Sandler and Shine On, Luz Véliz!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

I like to coordinate my Monday fiction and nonfiction posts if possible, and I love this pairing in particular. Luz would not have been encouraged to pursue her love of technology if it weren't for Sandler's pioneering work! I just wish I had had Barton's title for Women's History Month, although I did read it during a week I was presenting a timeline of women's rights to students, all of whom were shocked that girls at our school were not allowed to wear pants to school until 1970!

Barton, Jen and Green, Sarah (illus.). Bernice Sandler and the Fight for Title IX 
May 3rd 2022 by Magination Press 
E ARC provided by the publisher

Like many women born in 1928, Bunny Resnick was faced with many obstacles, from not being able to be a crossing guard in elementary school to being told she wasn't being hired because she "came on too strong for a woman". She was able to graduate from Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology, and eventually earned a doctorate, but found it hard to find jobs. Her frustration led her to discover a 1968 change to a section of 1965 Civil Rights legislation that included laws about gender discrimination. Armed with this, and with the legal help . "I was the director of Department of Labor's office of federal contract compliance, Vincent Macaluso. She started to compile statistics and research, and eventually contacted Rep. Edith Green, who chaired the subcommittee that dealt with higher education. All of this work eventually lead to Title IX, but that was just the beginning. Getting schools and universities to comply with the new laws was difficult. One big sticking point was the expense of providing equal opportunities for women. Since it's adoption, Title IX has made it possible for women to have far more opportunities in education and sports, and in recent years has been expanded to include protection against sexual harassment as well as the protection of LGBTQIA+ individuals in educational settings. Sandler worked for twenty years with the Project on the Status and Education of Women at the Association of American Colleges, and passed away in 2019. Additional information on how to do research and interviews is included, along with more information about Title IX.
Strengths: I've read quite a bit about Title IX, and I still learned a lot of things! While I was not surprised at the challenges Sandler faced, my students will be appalled, and gain a new understanding of how women used to be treated. I wsa so impressed with how Sandler found a problem and worked tirelessly to address it. The amount of documentation she amassed was helpful in getting Title IX started and adopted; without this work, it's possible we still wouldn't have this kind of educational protection. The narrative had a good balance between her private life and her public work, some pictures and supporting information. This is a perfect read for middle school students who can't begin to imagine a world where a woman doesn't get hired because "we already have one woman in the department". 
Weaknesses: I need to take another look at this in a hard copy, since I wasn't able to annotate the E ARC. While the sections on doing research are well done and interesting on their own (I did, in fact, look up who our district's Title IX compliance person was!), I wish those had been an appendix instead of scattered throughout the text. That's mainly because I was so engrossed in Sandler's story that I didn't want to stop reading about her. 
What I really think: I need an "ERA NOW" button, and am probably buying two copies of this excellent title to have on hand for students for pleasure reading as well as research. This is an essential book to have in any middle school collection, along with an updated edition of the late Karen Blumenthal's Let Me Play

Balcárcel, Rebecca.Shine On, Luz Véliz! 
May 3rd 2022 by Chronicle Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Luz was a fantastic soccer player until an unfortunate injury on the field damaged her leg to the point where she must always be very careful with it. Since her identity, as well as her relationship with her coaching father, was so dependent on the sport, she finds herself struggling with where to fit in. Even her first hour class at school is soccer, and she has to decide on whether to stay in it or to switch. When she sees a coding class, she decides to investigate that, since she frequently hangs out with a neighbor, Mr. McClellan, who worked for Texas Instruments and has a workshop in his garages with lots of computers and parts. The teacher says that there is limited space in the class, and there are prerequisites as well as a competition to show off coding skills... which happens in nine weeks. She and Mr. Mac think that she can learn enough code in that time, but her parents have a surprise for her. Her father has a daughter in Guatemala, and since her mother has died, she is coming to live with them. She will even share Luz's room. This isn't great news, but there's little Luz can do about it, and the more she gets to know her new sister, the more she realizes the challenges that she is facing. Of course, Luz is also irritated that Solara gets a lot of attention from her parents for her cooking and upbeat attitude, and that she is also popular at school, even though she doesn't speak much English. Once the girls start to communicate more (through Google translate, at times), Solara starts to help Luz with her coding, since she had worked on computers with her aunt back home. With the competition right around the corner, the girls have a falling out. Will Luz's new grasp of technology help to find her sister, and will the two be able to find a way forward as a family?
Strengths: The beginning sucked me right in-- a sports injury that makes a child incapable of playing a sport they love. This is absolutely devastating, especially when the father was also coaching. It was good that Luz found another interest, and her relationship with Mr. Mac was fantastic. In fact, I think he is my favorite middle grade neighbor EVER! Of course, he is about my age, given his relationship with the entire history of computers! The coding and tech descriptions are about the best and most realistic that I have ever seen. Having a new sister arrive at the house is also done realistically, and the information about situations in Guatemala, as well as the Guatemalan culture in Luz's household, also strikes just the right note. The depiction of starting a new school in a new country is great, and I loved that the girls communicated using Google translate! Just the other day, I had a student come in to the library, type into her phone, and show me "Can I have a book that's not too hard?" This is a spot on use of technology. Luz's parents are supportive, the school details all make sense, and I enjoyed this stroy quite a bit. 
Weaknesses: Ah, man. Did we have to have that happen to Mr. Mac? (He lives. He doesn't even go into the hospital. But I don't want to spoil it.) I wish the cover weren't so young. The new sister drama and the soccer injury would make this great for 8th grade readers, but they will be reluctant to pick this up. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although my students will be somewhat disappointed that we don't have any coding opportunities at our school.

Blather: Can't complain too much about this year, since I daily tell myself I am not in Ukraine or evacuating school children from London during the Blitz, but it's been a tough year. The children have been rude in so many ways; I never thought I would have to stand in the hallway between classes and tell children not to RUN. There have been many teachers out, but few subs, and today I suspect I might be covering one teacher's classes in the library all day while keeping the library open. A coworker referred to the last month of school as "the end times". My reserves of resiliency are somewhat depleted, and I find myself looking forward to summer, which I have never really done before. Happy thoughts are appreciated.

Ms. Yingling


  1. Great review combination today. I'll be tracking down copies of both of these.
    Yes, the end of the school year is near and you are not alone in looking forward to summer. It's been a tough two years and kids are more of a challenge than ever. I think a more normal summer will do us all good. Relax, rejuvenate, and have lots of laughs during this time off.

  2. I agree with Greg. Endure these last few weeks and enjoy the summer!

  3. I'm sorry the end of your school year isn't being a happy one. Sadly, I think it may well be a widespread problem. Shine On, Luz Véliz! sounds like a terrific book with lots of complexity and relatable problems. I will look for it. Thanks for your reviews.

  4. Interesting pairing, and I am interested in both, particularly Shine On! I thought last year was tough, but I think this year has been tougher as everyone's reserves are low (colleagues, students, parents...). Will teaching ever feel like teaching in 2018 did next year? I hope so, but I am not certain. I think some of the ways people have changed are permanent. Oops, you said happy thoughts. I will hope that you will not have too many more days of covering classes and that your reserves last more than you think they will.

  5. I just read She Persisted: Patsy Mink and learned about Title IX. It's truly amazing how many things women weren't allowed to do and have even just in the last century.