Friday, July 15, 2022

#MGReadathon Titles

I read a lot because it is a good escape. Don't want to think about the Pandemic? Read. Recuperating more slowly than one would like from wrist surgery? Read. Irritated with demands of family members? Read. I love reading middle grade. I love being able to recommend books to students. I like being able to share books with gatekeepers on my blog. 

What has become difficult is reviewing. Back in 2006, when no one read my blog, I could honestly and kindly review books. If they weren't for my students, I could say so. Now, the cultural zeitgeist is so sensitive, often for very good reason, and I honestly never mean to offend someone. Saying that my students don't ask for books about animals sitting around the campfire exchanging philosophical stories (not a real book; just my worst nightmare!) doesn't mean the book isn't a good one. I have limited money and space. I read all the books so that I can use those resources to best help my students. 

I only buy about 30% of the books I read, even though I write plenty of seemingly positive reviews for books I will not be buying. There are a LOT of books coming out in September. There are 50 more books I need to read, and only four empty slots on my blog for the month. 

So! I'm using the #MGReadathon to clear the deck. I will buy some of these books; others I won't. Here's just a brief overview so you can decide if they are titles you wish to explore to meet the needs of YOUR students.

Noon: Fajardo, Anika. Meet Me Halfway 
September 13th 2022 by Simon Schuster
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Mattie moves from Minnesota to California after her  mother remarries, she is surprised to see a girl in her class that looks just like her. Mercedes is a popular girl, but the two soon realize that they have the same father, who lives in Colombia, and with whom they have never been in contact. When they find out he is teaching at a university their class is visiting, the scheme to sneak out and find him so they can ask him questions about their past and see how he fits into their future. 

1:00 p.m. Fullerton, Alma. Flipping Forward Twisting Backward
July 12th 2022 by Peachtree
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in verse, we meet Claire, who is a great gymnast but who struggles in school. Her recently divorced parents exempted her from standardized testing, and since she works hard and doesn't cause trouble, she has been able to make it into middle school without learning to read. When she runs afould of her current teacher, Mrs. Rose, and keeps getting sent to the principal's office, the school finally addresses her learning difficulties. Loved seeing the sports woven into this one. 

2:00 p.m. Jarrow, Gail. American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South
September 1st 2022 by Calkins Creek Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's hard to remember that there was a time when people didn't wear shoes or understand sanitation, but period photography and Jarrow's trademark excellent research show how very true that was! Like her Spooked, Blood and Germs, and Fatal Fever, American Murderer is an in depth look at the science behind hookworms, their impact on society, and how they were finally dealt with by doctors and public health officials. Great for fans of Jurmain's The Secret of the Yellow Death and Murphy's Invincible Microbe.

3:00 p.m. Moore Ramée, Lisa. Mapmaker
September 20th 2022 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Walter is sad that his parents have moved the family from California to Blackbird Bay, and would rather spend his time drawing maps than playing football, as his father wants him to. It doesn't help that twin sister Van is more sporty and outgoing, although she favors skateboarding. Quirky next door neighbor Ms. Wilhope thinks that Walt's maps are great, but he tries to hide his work from his father. Walt does meet neighbor Dylan, and when the three children go to the local convenience store, they meet Officer Canter and store owner Orsten who tell the children that Walt is a Mapmaker and he needs to help them fight Statica, who has destroyed some of the world that they love. When Walt, Dylan, and Van travel into Djaruba, the world Walt has created as a map, they meet Fenn and Heckett, his dragon. At first, Fenn seems to help, but he hands Walt back over to Canter. Walt has to fight Statica to get the magical worlds back in balance. 

4:00 p.m. Zahler, Diane. Goblin Market
August 16th 2022 by Holiday House
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lizzie and Minka live in a vaguely old-fashioned, Slavic town with their parents. Lizzie cansee words as colors, which can cause her some difficulties, so Minka goes to the market to sell the family's produce and bread instead. When she comes back telling Lizzie about Emil, a boy with whom she is in love and who has given her fruit, Lizzie is worried, especially since her sister has given Emil a lock of her hair. When Minka becomes sick, Lizzie and her friend Jakob try to talk to healers and the families of other girls who have become sick. Figuring out that Emil is probably a zdusze (a type of goblin) who wants to steal Minka's energy, Lizzie tries to keep her sister away, but is unsuccessful. When Minka has her own house in the goblin village a nd is set to marry Emil, will Lizzie be powerful enough to save her sister? 

5:00 p.m.Turnage, Sheila. Island of Spies
September 20th 2022 by Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Stick, Rain, and Neb live on Hattaras island in 1942. There's a lot of concern about German U-Boats, and there are even some torpedoes that hit too close to home, some resulting in ships being destroyed. Stick, whose father is away fighting, runs the Dime Novel kids detective agency, so she and her friends try to solve mysteries. Rain and her mother live in an oversized barrel, and Stick's mother made sure that Rain could attend the local school even though she is part Black. Neb's father is poorly. The three suspect everyone on the island of everything; the new players for the baseball team, Austrian artists who seek refuge, and even eccentric neighbor Miss Agnes, who, after all, has a radio hidden just in case the Germans invade. Stick also likes to conduct science experiments. Will the Dime Novel kids be able to keep their beloved island safe? Some good details of life in 1942, and an interesting setting. 

6:00 p.m.Tokushige, Zoe and Naalchigar, Jennifer  (Illustrated by) 
Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish 
September 20th 2022 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this notebook novel, we meet Airi, who is of Japanese American descent and whose military family moves to Hawai'i to be near her grandparents, since her mother has struggled since the birth of Airi's baby sister. Airi doesn't do well in school, unlike her brother EJ, so she acts out, thinking that if she is bad enough, the teacher will just leave her alone. This strategy doesn't work with Ms. Ashton, who hardly blinks when Airi puts sriracha sauce in cupcake frosting or questions whether the class should be reading The Secret Garden (a good discussion of how beloved books can have problems), but does get upset when Airi scares her young daughter at a Halloween party. Lots of fun details about Hawai'i and Japanese food, but Airi seemed younger than 6th grade, and does a lot of thoughtless pranks. 

7:00 p.m.Moore, David Barclay. Holler of Fireflies.
September 27th 2022 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Javari Harris lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn with his parents, younger sister, and grandfather and loves all things STEM. There are issues with police brutality as well as gentrification in his neighborhood, and as Javari is going off to summer camp, the family gets an eviction notice. The STEM summer camp is held at Appalachian Ridge Christian College, which is owned by Uncle Billy's General Stores. There is a competition for the campers, and the prize is money that would be useful to Javari's family. Unfortunately, he has to deal with constant racism in the area. He sneaks out at night and meets Cricket, a local boy who is trying to draw attention to the fact the local water supply is polluted by coal mines. The two explore Horsewhip Holler by night, and by day Javari works with a virtual reality program to progress towards the prize. Like this author's The Stars Beneath Our Feet, this book has a lot of racial issues, a lot of use of the n-word, gay characters, and discussions of Black history. I know that Appalachian culture is problematic, but's it's also... somewhat protected(?) so I'm not sure what the policy on referring to people from that area as "rednecks" is. This is one I would suggest reading before buying. 

8:00 p.m.Yun, Erin. Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight
September 13th 2022 by Fabled Films Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Pippa goes to a private school, and in order to be popular feels that she needs to host the Christmas party even though her family can ill afford it. I liked the bastketball in Pippa Park Raises Her Game, and I have a couple of students who are waiting for the sequel, but the Great Expectations reimagining was completely lost on them. I really liked the South Korean representation, and it's interesting that Pippa's mother is living in that country while Pippa is in the US staying with a sister and brother-in-law. Plenty of romance and friend drama, but not enough basketball!

9:00 p.m.Ahmed, Samira. Amira and Hamza: The Quest for the Ring of Power (#2) 
September 20th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus 

There are so many good, new culturally based fantasies that I didn't buy the first book in the series, The War to Save the Worlds, even though I have lots of students named Amira and Hamza! You'll want to read the first book in the series to get a better feel for E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Tweens saving the world, this time with an Arabic background of jinn, Peris, devs and ghuls. Great for fans of Rick Riordan Presents titles. Liked the inclusion of historical figures like Ibn Sina, Suleiman, and astrologer Abu Said Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Sijzi mixed in with the ones like Ahriman who have more supernatural backgrounds. 

 What can I say. I like sleep. Keeping focus is tiring! It's been a long time since I've read long enough to make myself woozy!


  1. I really appreciate your comments on reviewing, Karen—it's hard to balance the wish to be generous about all books with the fact that, at the end of the day, only a select few are truly 100% worth the time you give them. But it's wonderful that you've been able to make such a big dent in your books with the challenge! Flipping Forward Twisting Backward is one I'll keep in mind, and I enjoyed hearing about the others too. And I'm starting my 48 hours of reading tomorrow morning—I'm excited!

  2. You are amazing and I for one so appreciate the detail to your reviews. If I cannot remember something your review is the one I check. Thanks for organizing the #MGReadathon - it is helping me stay focused this weekend!

  3. Great selection of books. Hope it's going well!