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.


  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the Enola Holmes book and that it might appeal to your students as a graphic novel. I want to start this series but I can never seem to get time to read it. Enjoy the start of your summer break.

  2. SWIM TEAM is now on the top of my summer reading list thanks to your excellent review. The characters will certainly appeal the the middle grade crowd. Thanks for being a part of MMGM (you always get a free pass since you are reviewing so many books and don't need one more thing like emailing me every week).
    Last week of school around these parts. I hope your end of the year routine goes well.

  3. Good luck with you wrist surgery, Karen. I hope you heal quickly.
    Both your reviews sound like excellent summer reads. I don't read many graphic novels, so I'm not familiar with Enola Holmes and will look for it on Netflix. I've noticed a lot of classics being turned into graphic novels and don't know what to think. Swim Team sounds like a fun read -- especially the community tie-in with the older woman. Thanks for sharing. Ang good luck Friday!

  4. Wishing you a speedy recovery from wrist surgery and I summer of happy reading.

  5. Swim Team looks good! Thanks for sharing. I'm ready for summer too...

  6. Your comments on both books were very interesting.So many books to read--so little time!

  7. I hope your surgery goes well, and I sure hope those kids bring those books back! Ack! That is a LOT of missing books. Enjoy your summer. I will try to check out Swim Team. It sounds really good. Thanks for the post.

  8. I'm just envying the fact that a school library has so many books! I was in a small school but we just a couple of dozen books on the shelf at the back of the classroom - I was probably one of the few who read any of them! Wishing you a speedy recovery and a well deserved summer break!

  9. Yes, I hope your surgery goes well! (Do you remember the movie Fantastic Voyage? I keep picturing tiny scientists doing surgery on your wrist) Hope it heals up well enough to hold your books all summer!