Monday, October 31, 2022

MMGM- Atlas of Dogs and Different

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Evans, Frances and Heaton, Kelsey (illus.) Atlas of Dogs
Published October 18th 2022 by Lonely Planet
Copy provided by the publisher

As much as I love dogs, I've never really thought about where the difference breeds originated! Poodles are my favorite, due to their small size and large intelligence, although my Shih Tzu Poodle mix Pongo has convinced me that there is something to be said for a breed raised to be lap dogs! Atlas of Dogs takes a deep dive not only into the place of origins of breeds, but into their personalities and histories, and was a fascinating look at many difference types of dogs of which I had never even heard!

Heaton's artwork really makes this shine, even though some readers might want photographs; young readers are far more likely to whip out a phone and look up pictures than I am, so I don't think the lack of photographs matters. The colors are absolutely gorgeous, and the illustrations allow the text to be arranged in very pleasing ways on the page, with background cleverly worked in. The maps of the continents are particularly nice, and beg to be hung on walls, but are two page spreads, so have a divide in the center. Lonley Planet should really make these into posters! 

After the maps of the continents, there are brief descriptions of a variety of dogs found there, each getting half of a page. The physical attributes particular to the breed are pointed out for each dog with arrows and labels. There are a lot of bits of additional information as well. Between descriptions, there are spreads on topics like Dogs with Jobs, Record-Breaking Dogs, and A Pup's Life. A glossary and index round out this well designed book. 

In addition to being a fun book for canine fans, I can see this being an interesting book to include in a science class covering genetics and animal adaptations. Since Shih Tzus like Pongo no longer have to make emperors happy, and even Golden Retrievers don't necessarily spend any time retrieving things, it's interesting to take a look at the history of how and why dogs were bred for different purposes. I can't think of another book that includes so much information about place and how the dogs' qualities were formed by their sites of origins. Add this to a diverse group of books about various aspects of dogs in the lives of humans that includes Albee's 2018 Dog Days of History, Horowitz's 2020 Our Dogs, Ourselves, Miles' 2013 Guide to Puppies, and Stall's 2005 The Good, the Bad, and the Furry.

Montañés, Monica, Gómez, Eva Sánchez(illus.), Schimel, Lawrence (trans.)
Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War
November 1, 2022 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Based on the childhood experiences of Montañés' father and aunt during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), we see how the deportation of their father affected seven-year-old Socorro and nine-year-old Paco. The father is part of the Republican movement opposed to the Nationalists, led by Franco and often called the "Falangists". Paco is kept in the city with his mother, where he has to hide the fact that his father was sent away because of his political beliefs and there is a great scarcity of food. Socorro is sent to live in the country with relatives, but misses her mother and doesn't want to eat any of the food forced upon her. She is at first in a school where they know her family situation, but manages to transfer to one where they do not. Because his father has fled to France, Paco hopes to learn French in school, but is traumatized by having to state what his father does that he finds it difficult to learn the language. He instead lies and tells the teacher his father works for the railway. Socorro and her mother eventually join the mother back in the city, although they have to rent the house out to an English family and live in one room. When the father leaves France and settles in Venezuela as World War II is gaining momentum, he sends for his family, and they undertake a long journey by boat and plane to join him. While life in Venezuela is different, the children are glad to see their father after eight years, and slowly adjust to living in a new country. 
Strengths: This reminded me strongly of Levi's Just a Girl, in that it is from the point of view of very young children who don't necessarily understand the politics of why their lives have been upended. I learned quite a lot about what happened in Spain in the twentieth century, and have to admit that I was woefully ignorant about Franco's long reign; he ruled until 1975. I have a fair number of students who are interested in what is going on in Ukraine and stop by the library to read the newspaper; this book would be helpful in explaining to elementary school students some of the experiences that children in war torn country go through. The artwork is very beautiful and reminds me of some children's books from the time period and also of Bishop's 1952 Ten and Twenty
Weaknesses: I have a lot of readers interested in World War II, but they are more often concerned with events on the battle field or concentration camps. It's somewhat harder to get them interested in stories of civilians trying to continue with their everyday lives, although that's what I find most compelling. 
What I really think: Eerdman's first came to my attention with Tak's 2011 Soldier Bear and 2014 Mikis and the Donkey when I was on the Cybils realistic middle grade fiction panel. This book has a similar feel, and it was interesting to learn about the Spanish Civil war. It's fascinating that the author herself moved from Venezuela to Madrid, Spain, just the opposite of her grandfather's journey, and her perspective as a resident of both of the countries adds a lot of vivid details to the story. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Kitten Chaos

Faruqi, Saadia. Kitten Chaos (Must Love Pets #2)
October 4, 2022 by Scholastic Paperback
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Imaan and her friends have started a pet sitting service called Must Love Pets after they were called upon to watch a neighbor's dog during an emergency. Now that fifth grade is over, they are interested in ramping up their business. London has been Imaan's best friend for a long time, but Olivia has just moved to California and joined the group. Imaan's mother is a very busy free lance accountant who is trying to get the business of a neighbor, Mr. Greene, who is selling photographs on Etsy, and somehow the girls always seem to be in the way when he is discussing business. Since Imaan's father died of brain cancer when she was small, her grandfather, Dada Jee, has come from Pakistan to live with them and help take care of Imaan and her six year old brother, Amir. He is a little homesick, and has a lot of lemon trees growing in the backyard. He is in the middle of a harvest, and the kitchen is filled with buckets of lemons he intends to sell at the weekly farmer's market, which is somehow irritating the mother. Must Love Pets gets a referral and steps in to watch three adorable foster kittens who are more trouble than the girls expect! There are all manner of kitten hijinks as they climb curtains, escape outside, and even destroy some photographs of the mother's clients. Will the girls be able to get their charges under control and undo some of the damage the kittens cause Mr. Greene?
Strengths: This was a solid realistic fiction choice with Kids Doing Things. I liked that the girls had a business plan, even though it wasn't always easy to follow. The way they got clients was realistic. I enjoyed the storyline with Dada Jee and the fact that it hadn't occurred to his family that he might be homesick! The farmer's market was a fun setting. Of course, the kittens are the biggest draw here. This could easily be read as a stand alone; I've read so many pet sitting books that I thought I had read the first book in the series, Friends Fur-ever. I hadn't, but I got up-to-date very quickly.
Weaknesses: I was a bit unsure how Olivia's pictures saved the day when Mr. Greene could have reprinted his own, but it made for a nice connection. It also would not have hurt my feelings if Imaan's father were still alive.
What I really think: I would definitely buy this for an elementary library, but may wait to see if I have money leftover before purchasing this. I have a lot of similar titles already, like Howard's Girls Just Want to Have Pugs (and several others), Lang's Rules of the Ruff, Maple's Mission Impossible, Fairbairn and Assarasakorn's Paws: Gabby Gets It Together, Greenwald's Welcome to Dog Beach and even Marks' A Soft Place to Land.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Zara's Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure

Khan, Hena. Zara's Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure
October 18, 2022 by Salaam Reads
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Zara and her new friend Naomi, who moved into the neighborhood in Zara's Rules for Record Breaking Fun  have ridden their bikes to the park, and while they are playing, someone steals Zara's brand new bike. Because she forgot to lock it up (she never locked up her old bike, but then no one wanted to steal it), her parents decide that she's going to have to earn the money to buy the replacement. She and Naomi rule out a lemonade stand, but when Zara's mother discovers that Zara's grandmother and grandfather have let their basement fill up with lots of junk, Zara has the idea to do a rolling garage sale in her neighborhood. Unfortunately, she mixes up the boxes her mother says she can sell, and dips into "keepsakes" along with "knick knacks". Naomi tries to get Zara to clean out her room as well, but as Zara reflects on why she is keeping things she no longer uses, she understands why her grandmother doesn't want to get rid of things. This becomes clear to Zara's mother as well when she realizes that Zara has sold some of her treasured possessions. The grandparents are celebrating their 40th anniversary, and after attending Naomi's brother Michael's bar mitzvah, Zara gets some good ideas for the party and works with her friends to use some of the pictures she finds in the basement to put together some keepsakes. Her grandmother does clean out her basement and has a garage sale, which gives Zara just enough money to get a gently used bike as a charity shop run by her mosque.
Strengths: Zara's neighborhood is a great one, and I love that Zara and Naomi are still allowed to ride their bikes around and go to the park alone. The lesson about letting other people find value in their "junk" is an important one, but I appreciated that the grandmother still cleaned out things like an old toaster oven. There are fun illustrations accompanying this, and it's a perfect purchase for elementary schools where books like Nina Soni and Cleo Edison Oliver are popular. As adults, it's hard to remember how impossible it seems to make money of one's own as a child. I remember searching couch cushions for coins with my cousin; now, no one has coins in their pockets, cutting off an important source of childhood income!
Weaknesses: The grandparents are in their mid sixties and are not fit enough to go up and down stairs? I'm seeing more and more of this, and it's hitting too close to home. Excuse me a minute while I do sevearl laps down to my basement and back, just to prove a point! 
What I really think: I really wish that Khan hadn't gone back in time to when Zayd was younger; I wish she had written stories about an older Zara, because those would be great for my library. Maybe next time!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, October 28, 2022

Miles Morales: Stranger Tides

Reynolds, Justin A. Miles Morales: Stranger Tides
October 18, 2022 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After his adventures in Shock Waves, Miles is back. Vex and Trinity are still causing trouble, and his friend Ganke is trying to help him. After there is a weird incident at a video game launch that causes people in the city to be frozen, Miles discovers that a shadowy figure called the Stranger is behind the occurrence. He's unhappy with the behavior of people on Earth and taking extreme measures to wipe them out. In order to reverse the freezing process, Miles has to work with Trinity. Since his uncle is frozen and is involved in an auto accident, Miles has a vested interest in figuring out what's going on in order to save his uncle. The freezing is caused by a computer game (think Hautman's The Flinkwater Factor), so he works closely with Ganke trying to figure it all out, but when Ganke is also frozen, it's up to Miles to save the day on his own. This doesn't go smoothly, especially since Vex is working against Trinity. Will they still be able to take down the Stranger?
Strengths: Miles is a fun character who is a bit ambivalent about being a superhero, which seems on target for young people today. I have to save the world? Fine, but can I finish this game on the XBox first? Not everyone who is frozen is playing video games; some, like Miles' uncle, are accidentally exposed. I like that Miles occasionally gets help from people like Mr. Granderson, and his family is supportive as well. This reads very much like a comic book, which is appropriate given the topic, and has lots of chase scenes, things  blowing up, and action on the pages. 
Weaknesses: It's helpful to be familiar with the first book; this was a bit confusing at first even though I had read that one. 
What I really think: Jason Reynolds' novel about Miles Morales' Spider Man has circulated well, but I haven't bought Shock Waves yet. I don't get a lot of requests for books set in the Marvel Universe, which is a little surprising. I should see if I can get a student to check out Squirrel Girl! 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Undercover Latina

de León, Aya. Undercover Latina
October 11, 2022 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín, her parents, and her brother Carlos all work for the  International Alternative Intelligence Consortium, better know as "the Factory". They aren't associated with any government, but work to help people of color. Their supervisor, Jerrold, wants to send Andréa and her mother on a mission.  Kyle Summer, of Carson, Arizona, is the son of suspected white nationalist terrorist. Even though his father left the family when Kyle was young, the Factory thinks they might be able to get enough information from him to hunt down and arrest the father. Since Andréa is very light skinned, she is supposed to pass as white, and she and her mother arrive in Carson with the story that the two are living at a great aunt's house because the Andrea's (she has people pronounce her name in the Anglo way in her new identity) parents are separating. The first day in her new high school, Andrea is approached by the popular white girls to be in their clique, but she quickly finds a way to connect with Kyle and his best friend Rámon over a card game called Triángulo. Another teen agent, Imani, who is Black, shows up to help, and the two learn enough about the card game to play in tournaments and connect with the guys even more. Andrea ditches the popular girls because she would rather hang out with Kyle and Rámon, and because they have said negative things about Latines in front of her, thinking she was white. Andrea manages to get information from Kyle's computer for her mother to check, and they find an e mail address. The Factory sends the father a message saying Kyle has been hurt, boping to flush him out. Things get more complicated when a woman Kyle's father has been dating sells Andrea a pack of Triángulo cards and ends up meeting Kyle and his mother. There are some mistaken identities, but in the end the Factory determines that Andrea needs to go to the SanDiego ComxCon to finally run the elder Summer to ground. Things get a little complicated when Andrea falls for Rámon, especially when he finds out she is Latine but has been lying about it. Will her relationship with Rámon jeopardize her mission, or will she and Imani be able to keep the ComxCon safe?
Strengths: I love a good spy novel, and this starts out with an exciting mission that involved the whole family, and Andréa being in high school was a good call. It gives her and Imani the opportunity to go out at night and hang out without parents. There is a lot of information about race and culture, and Andréa must really examine her relative privilege of being fairer than many Latine people, as well as examine how she feels about passing. Kyle is gay, but hasn't told anyone but his family and Rámon, since the town of Carson is conservative. Kyle is also very aware, thanks to his close relationship with Rámon's family, of what language should be used to describe certain situations; people aren't "slaves", they are "enslaved people", and he even mentions tryng to be more "woke". The life of a spy is examined a bit, since Andréa is worried about falling for Rámon, and is glad that she can finally have a friend in Imani. The procedures used to hunt down the elder Summer are interesting, and it's exciting to see Andréa save the day. (Don't want to give too many details about that!)
Weaknesses: The game of Triángulo had so many descriptions that I thought maybe it was a real game. It doesn't seem to be. While some of the details about the make up and history of the game are culturally interesting and tie in later with the ComxCon, I could have done without the description of the rules and playing. I haven't heard any students talk about another game that's mentioned, Magic: The Gathering for years, so I'm not sure how much of a draw the card game will be for middle school readers. 
What I really think: This is a more culturally aware spy novel with some similarities to Carter's Gallagher Girls books that also brings in the culture of gaming. I would have liked to see more spy information and less gaming information, but spy novels are always popular with my students, and it's good to see one that is more culturally aware and relevant. I learned from reading this that "Latinx" is not a preferred term because it can be problematic for Spanish speakers to pronounce or use, so I'll have to remember that. 

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Fight Back

Dassu, A.M. Fight Back
October 11, 2022 by Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Aaliyah lives an hour from London with her mother, who is a lawyer, her father, who has just been promoted to the Head of Science position at his secondary school, and her older brother who is getting ready to go to university. After some incidents in London, there are a lot of people who are mistreating Muslims, and Aaliyah and her mother are accosted in the car park of a local grocery store and told to "go back home". Since bother Aaliyah and her mother were born in the UK, and her father came to the country from Tanzania when he was very young, this is very hurtful. Aaliyah goes to a concert with her best friends, and there is a bombing there. One of her friends, Lisa, has a brother who is very anti-Muslim, and says hateful things to her. Not wanting to wait for her friend's parents to pick them up, Aaliyah goes to her aunt and uncle's house nearby. The whole area is on high alert, and accusations fly about who might have caused the bombing that killed and injured many. A white supremacist organization keeps putting up flyers, and Aaliyah is concerned that her brother might be preparing to fight these dangerous groups. When an elderly neighbor goes into hospital and leaves his cat behind, Aaliyah finds the animal and hides it in her room, taking great comfort in Furball, even though her mother is very allergic. She also deals with her stress by thinking about wearing the hijab, so that she can show everyone that Muslims are good people. Her mother, who starting wearing the hijab in college, thinks that Aaliyah is too young and it is too dangerous. When her school bans the hijab, Aaliyah is very angry, and she and her friends plan a protest. How will she be able to stand up for herself when so many things are against her?
Strengths: Aaliyah's challenges with her friends are very realistically portrayed, and I loved the fact that this was upper middle grade, since she was able to have a lot of freedom that a younger child would not. Her reasons  for wanting to wear the hijab are well considered, and this decision is something that a lot of middle school age readers will be considering. The book moves quickly and has a lot of thought provoking topics. 
Weaknesses: This felt very British, and I'm not sure how appealing that will be to my students. I adore books set in England, but it's a tricky balance to find ones my students will enjoy. (Liz Pichon's Tom Gates books have a lot of fans, but Onjali Rauf's don't circulate well.)
What I really think: This had an important message, and is a good book to pair with Bajaj's Count Me In or Kelkar's As American as Paneer Pie

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Glass Witch

Puckett, Lindsay. The Glass Witch
October 18, 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Adelaide is angry that her mother has to go to Washington, D.C. for a new job for three months and is leaving her with her grandmother, Bee Goode, in Cranberry Hollow. She knows nothing about her father, and her mother has been estranged from her family because of a century's old curse. The Goode family survived the witch trials, but the curse states that if more than three Goode women are within the city limits at the same time, a Hunter will be released and come to get them. The Hern family is also still in town, and were responsible for many of the deaths. Even though she and her mother have some magic, Addie doesn't believe in the curse and purposefully drags her mother over the town line, setting the Hunter free. Luckily, Addie has already made a friend in town, Fatima, who has many interests and skills, and helps Addie come up with a plan. In order to keep her mother, grandmother, and aunt safe, Addie plans to enter the town beauty pageant and draw out the Hunter so he doesn't go after the others. This is somewhat uncomfortable because all of the Goode women are curvy, and Addie, while embracing this, still struggles against the societal pressure to be thin. Will Addie be able to keep her family safe, and perhaps even overturn the curse? 
Strengths: I enjoyed the historical connection to the witch trials and the depiction of descendants of survivors. Cranberry Hollow was a fun setting, and there were a lot of fun connections with cranberry usage; I guess I've never gotten over my love of the Devlin's 1971 Cranberry Thanksgiving, even though I never owned a copy and my only exposure was my first grade teacher reading it to the class! Addie is angry about her mother going off to work, but still cares deeply about her. Her friendship with Fatima is good to see, since often children who move to a new location are depicted as struggling to make friends, and the two girls work together well. There is some very creepy stuff in the chapters from the Hunter's perspective, but this is not so scary that elementary students couldn't handle it. 
Weaknesses: This alternated between a YA level of horror reminiscent of Jones' Need and a middle grade level of humor which was an odd mix. My students will love the horror bits but might balk at grandmother's "Operation Bunny Bunker" and Addie's candy themed costume for the pageant. 
What I really think: This is an excellent choice for fans of Van Otterloo's Cattywampus and is a fun Halloween read. I found myself hoping this would be a much darker story because horror books have been flying off my shelves this year. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

MMGM- All the Nonfiction!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Nelson, Colleen and MacIsaac, Kathie. If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It: How 25 Inspiring Individuals Found Their Dream Jobs
October 25th 2022 by Pajama Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this well-formatted collective biography, nicely illustrated with Scot Ritche's full color, exuberant page decorations, we meet a variety of people who set out to pursue jobs from farming to teaching to writing books. There are common jobs that young readers may see in their every day lives, as well as more exotic occupations like stuntperson, clothing designers and mathematicians, as well as the holy grail of middle school careers, professional video game player! Each biography includes basic information about what encouraged the person to go into a particular field, "pro tips" on how to get into the field as well as tangential areas, "spin-off jobs" that are similar, and a short biography of a younger person who has already started the path to a similar career. I especially liked the "Why Not Try?" feature that might suggest a web site to visit, opportunities young people might avail themselves of, or activities to try to see if they have an interest in a topic. There are also fun facts and information about inspiring individuals and how they fought through challenges, like Dav Pilkey.

The people profiled are not necessarily all that well know, but are all involved in pursuits that suit their passions. There are many young people included, such as Amoy Antunet, who became interested in neuroscience at a young age, and Jessica Walker, who has saved many animals from horrific situations. 

There is also additional information about the different paths of education that can be taken to end up in a career, so that readers can understand that college is not necessary for everyone. The list of future jobs was interesting but did not include Jet Pack Repairer, which was disappointing! The world will definitely need AI specialists, sustainable energy technicians, and urban agriculture specialists, as well as many jobs we can't begin to imagine! The overview of skill sets that are useful for most jobs should be something that all students are required to read; I don't know how one can teach adaptability, but we have all certainly needed that skill the last few years! 

In addition to being a good book to have for career studies, this book can offer a lot of scope for the imagination and open up the world of career opportunities. Include this exciting new title along with books like Dennenberg's 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet!, Bell's You Can Change the World: The Kids' Guide to a Better Planet, Kyi and Kyi's Better Connected: How Girls Are Using Social Media for Good, and Li's Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories.

Full disclosure: Ms. MacIsaac is a librarian with whom I pal around on social media. I applaud her for making her own career dreams come true. I absolutely don't believe the title, but we probably shouldn't be telling young people that. For me to "live the dream", I'd need to travel back to 1950 so I could retire as a Latin teacher before nearly every program in the US was cut. We do what we have to do.

Albee, Sarah. Troublemakers in Trousers
October 25, 2022 by Charlesbridge Publishing
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This fantastic collective biography discusses a wide range of women who lived lives that were just outside of the gender norms of the time. I think it's hard for people under the age of fifty to realize how prevalent skirts for women were until quite recently; certainly, when I started teaching in the late 1980s, most professional women wore skirts. My grandmothers, born in the 1890s, never wore slacks. Starting with an overview of traditional gender norms and a discussion of how these have changed in just the last few years, Albee (who previously discussed fashion in her 2015 Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History) introduces us to women who needed to cast aside skirts in order to get things DONE. 

I appreciated that this presented the women in chronological order, and there was just enough information on each one to whet the appetite for further research (8-10 pages). While there were some people with whom readers might be familiar (Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Bloomer), there were others like Lakshmibai, Rosa Bonheur, Vesta Tilley, and Lillian Bland that might not be. Since many of the women lived before photography, the illustrations are a nice touch to make the entries more uniform. The most interesting one was Maya Angelou and her time as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. This book embraces the current thoughts about gender, colonialism, and marginalized people and makes a great effort to be inclusive. 

Barone, Rebecca. Unbreakable: The Spies Who Cracked the Nazis' Secret Code
October 25, 2022 by Henry Holt and Co.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Full disclosure: I don't really have any interest in World War II, which is unfortunate, because my students are HUGELY interested in it. I've read a lot, but struggle to keep things straight unless the book focuses on one historical figure, like Virginia Hall in Agent Most Wanted. Barone has done an exquisite and exhaustive job at tracking down a huge number of figures involved with the cracking of the Enigma machine's codes, and presents this information in vignettes that capture the suspense and danger these brave men and women would have felt. It's a page turner, but does cover such a vast amount of information that I just couldn't keep it all straight. This will not bother my readers, who seem to have the entire timeline of the war memorizes and don't have any trouble getting through Weintraub's No Better Friend: Young Readers Edition: A Man, a Dog, and Their Incredible True Story of Friendship and Survival in World War II or Farrell's Pure Grit. I will definitely purchase this, and it will circulate really well, given the fantastic cover. 

Sadly, I would retain more of this if it were made into a BBC miniseries that was available on Masterpiece Theater!

From Goodreads:
As the Germans waged a brutal war across Europe, details of every Nazi plan, every attack, every troop movement were sent over radio. But to the Allied troops listening in—and they were always listening—the crucial messages sounded like gibberish. The communications were encoded with a powerful cipher, making all information utterly inaccessible . . . unless you could unlock the key to the secret code behind the German’s powerful Enigma machine.

Complete with more than sixty historical photos, Unbreakable tells the true story of one of the most dangerous war-time codebreaking efforts ever. While Hitler marched his troops across newly conquered lands and deadly “wolfpacks” of German U-Boats prowled the open seas, a team of codebreakers, spies, and navy men raced against the clock to uncover the secrets that hid German messages in plain sight. Victory—or defeat—in World War II would hinge on their desperate attempts to crack the code.

 is a groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction from Rebecca E. F. Barone, the author of Race to the Bottom of the Earth (recipient of four starred reviews)—perfect for fans of BombThe Boys Who Challenged Hitler, and The Nazi Hunters.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

New Kids and Underdogs

Finnegan, Margaret. New Kids and Underdogs
October 25, 2022 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Robyn's mother is a biology professor who has been changing jobs every year and moving the two across the country, finally landing in San Luis Opisbo, where she might get tenure if she publishes enough. Robyn spends summers with her father, and is glad to get back to her dogs, Fudge and Sundae. Preparing to be the new kid in school yet again is not as much fun, and fifth grade looks to be a bit daunting. Robyn has made a list of rules, and knows the kids to avoid and the ones to befriend. Alejandra, who has skipped a grade and wears all purple, is "radioactive", and associating with her would make Robyn "radioactive" as well. Lulu and Marshan seem nice, and have more socially acceptable interests, and Robyn hangs out with them even though some of their attitudes annoy her. Forced to do an activity by her mother, Robyn is interested in a local dog agility training program, but the owner, Mrs. Zazueta, thinks that Sundae and Fudge are not suited to the training due to Fudge's poor sight and hearing, and Sundae's anxiety when not with Fudge. Mrs. Z's grandson, Nestor, learns that Robyn has been turned away, but makes her a deal; if she can tutor him and his friend Jonathan in math, he'll teach the dogs. Robyn's math isn't great, but Alejandra offers to add her skills to the pot. Soon, the four area working together and having a great time. It's still a balance to spend time with people she likes and to placate Lulu and Marsahn, but Robyn does her best. The dogs are prospering, but how far can the training go before Mrs. Z finds out?
Strengths: Robyn's grasp of how to fit in to a new school is very mature, and she does a good job following most of her own rules. Lulu and Marshan are interesting characters in that they aren't mean and they don't really do anything horrible, but they do overly sympathize with Robyn and want to hear how horrible things are for her as well as for Fudge. (Who has limited hearing and sight almost exactly the same way my dog does, so I know it's not too bad.) Robyn has a supportive mother and a college aged babysitter, Nivien, and the other children have supportive adults as well, although we do learn that Alejandra's mother has been deported. The dog training details are all very good. 
Weaknesses: Robyn is in fifth grade, and there are a lot of details about classroom events and playground antics that make this more interesting to elementary students. 
What I really think: I really enjoyed this and would definitely buy it for an elementary school, but because of the age of the characters I think I will stick to Behrens' The Fast and the Furriest and Sorosiak's I, Cosmo when it comes to dog training books. 
 Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Booked: The Graphic Novel

Alexander, Kwame and Anyabwile, Dawud (illus.) Booked
July 12th 2022 by Etch/Clarion Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central 

Nick Hall lives with his mother, who is a horse trainer currently between jobs, and his father, who is a professor of linguistics who has written a dictionary about interesting words that he is always encouraging Nick to read. Nick, however, is all about playing soccer with his friend Coby, and isn't a fan of words. This causes him some problems with his teacher, Ms. Hardwick, who manages to assign an amazing amount of books. These even include Huckleberry Finn, in which Nick is assigned to find examples of malapropism when he gets in trouble in class. To the teacher's surprise, he gives her two examples in a black out poem, which she finds amusing. Classmate April, on whom Nick has a crush, also finds his love of words amusing, and encourages him to read more books. The two attend a cotillion type dance class together as well. The cool school librarian, Mr. MacDonald, who wears Chuck Taylors, reading themed tee shirts, and was a rap producer before he became a school librarian also encourages Nick to read, giving him a biography of Pele. Colby and Nick are very excited about playing in a soccer tournament in Dallas, but Nick's parents have some life changing news; they are separating, and Nick's mother is moving to Kentucky to take a job as a horse trainer. Adding to Nick's stress are two school bullies who have been suspended, but everything in his life brings him to a point where he tells his father he wishes he were dead, and they immediately take him to counseling. Nick isn't a huge fan of the doctor, but does examine his issues with him. When Nick isn't feeling well during a soccer game (a fact which attributes to food poisoning, and perhaps the fact that April has come to watch him play), he is knocked out and injures his ankle in a bad play, and when he is in the hospital, the doctor tells him there is worse news; his appendix has ruptured, and he has to have surgery immediately before an infection sets in. While Nick is glad his mother has returned home, the doctor tells him he won't be able to play soccer for three weeks, which means he will have to miss the Dallas tournament. He spends time in the hospital, and is so bored that he reads books that Mr. Mac and April recommend to him. This leads to April bringing her book club to his house and meeting his mother, who thinks she is great and invites her to go horse riding with Nick. Nick thinks that things are looking up, but as his health improves, his mother heads back to Kentucky, and Nick learns that life changes constantly. 

This is an adaptation of Alexander's novel in verse, and while I don't have the original at hand to compare, it almost seemed that the majority of the text was included in the adaptation, with Anyabwile's excellent drawings accompanying it. Unlike traditional graphic novels, that are arranged like comic books with speech bubbles and squares of scenes, this has the words, which are in various font sizes, on the page. There are a lot of definitions of words in boxed footnotes as well. Since I feel a  need to look at all of the pictures in graphic novels and think about how they support the text, this took me longer to read than the novel in verse, but readers who like graphic novels and use the pictures to support their understanding of the words will appreciate the pictorial backup. 

Anyabwile's black and white drawings, with green accents that bring in the color from the cover of the novel in verse, are always expressive and engaging, and readers who enjoyed his work in the adaptation of the popular Crossover and Rebound will be glad to pick up this new title. 

There are not as many sports graphic novels as I would like, but there have been a few more lately. Yang's Dragon Hoops (basketball), Johnson's The Breakaways (soccer), Wilson's Play Like a Girl (football), and Dawson's Fifth Quarter (basketball) are ones to keep in mind for readers who enjoy Alexander's series, and Anyabwile's work can also be seen in the memoir by Tommie Smith about his life and his 1969 Olympic experience, entitled Stand. Victory: Raising My Fist for Justice. (September 2022)

Friday, October 21, 2022

Nikhil Out Loud

Pancholy, Maulik. .Nikhil Out Loud
October 11, 2022 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nikhil and his mother live in Los Angeles; she's a graphic designer who started her own business after the pandemic, and he's a voice actor who is the main character in the animated series Raj Ready in OuterSpace. He's all set to start 8th grade with his best friend, Anton, but his  mother informs him that they're moving back to live with her parents in Ohio because her father, Nikhil's Nana, is ill and her mother, Nani needs help. It's always just been Nikhil and his mom; his father is remarried and has a new family in Texas. Hikhil will be able to still record for Raj Ready, and he's a little curious about why he hasn't really spent time with his grandparents. He starts at Sycamore Middle School, and things go fairly well. He meets DeSean, who is active in the school's drama program and shows him around. Even when kids realize that he's an actor, they are still nice. Monica Kim is glad to see a successful Asian actor, and when a reporter from the school newspaper interviews him and (with Nikhil's permission) mentions that he's gay, everyone is supportive. He gets the lead in the school play, which feels awkward; he tried out mainly to be with his new friends, and knows that DeSean is a better singer. When a community member complains that Nikhil is using his position as a start to influence fellow students with his gay agenda and wants him to be pulled from his lead role, Nikhil doesn't feel he can step aside to let DeSean have the part. The school does not bow down to the woman's ridiculous demands, and Nikhil's mother, both of DeSean's moms, and his classmates all assure him that they are glad he is in the play. His grandfather, on the other hand, is not pleased with the voice acting or the fact that Nikhil is public about his identity. Adding to Nikhil's stress is the fact that his voice is changing, which leads to problems with the television show. When the community member plans to picket the school production, how will Nikhil and his friends handle this situation?
Strengths: Pancholy has a very appealing and positive writing style, which is much needed in middle grade. Nikhil has a lot going on in his life that could make him anxious and unhappy, but he manages to consult the supportive people in his life and move forward in constructive ways. I was a big fan of how he could tell that DeSean wasn't happy with him, and eventually had a helpful conversation with him, which led to DeSean trying to help him with his role. The family dynamics were interesting, and I'm sure that there are a lot of grandmothers of middle school students who started careers in the 1970s and were somewhat disappointed in their trajectories. Nikhil's voice acting work is fascinating and portrayed realistically. I very much appreciated that this was set in Ohio and like Stamper's Small Town Pride showed community members that were mostly supportive of Nikhil. Interesting book with humor as well as a lot to think about. 
Weaknesses: There were several interesting minor characters that I wish we had learned more about. There was a faire amount going on in the book, so there really wasn't much time, but I would have liked to know more about Monica and Mateo. 
What I really think: Now that we've had a theater club at my school, there are a few more readers for books with performing arts, so I will definitely purchase this. Pancholy's experience with voice acting brings a unique angle to the narrative. 
Ms. Yingling

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Ghosts at Spruce Point

Tandon, Nancy. The Ghost of Spruce Point
August 2, 2022 by Aladdin 
Public library copy

Parker lives with his younger sister Bailey and his parents, who run a small motel, the Home Away From Home Inn. The inn is located in a remote area of Maine, and belonged to his grandmother. His parents quit their stressful jobs in the city to take it over. Parker is glad when summer comes around because it means that his best friend, Frankie, stays next door, and his cousins, Drake and Sylvie, visit more frequently when their mother drops off lobsters weekly. This summer, though, things aren't going as well. Not as many people are coming to the town as the water threatens to cut off the area, and local businesses are suffering. Parker feels that a cranky neighbor, Mrs. Gruvlig, has cursed the area because she is cranky and always complaining about the business that his parents run, but also feels that there might be a mysterious presence haunting his treehouse. He and Frankie, with Bailey and the cousins' help, come up with a plan to turn things around for the motel, and also leave a note for the ghost. The ghost replies and asks to meet them! 
Strengths: This had a very classic feel to it, and the idea of a summer in a remote resort community has a lot of appeal. Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Park are both beautiful areas. The parents' struggles with the business are realistic, and Parker has some good ideas, like his mother running cooking classes. The friendship with Frankie, and with Parker's cousins, is quite fun, and the group is given enough freedom to get into a tiny bit of trouble when investigatin the mystery. Tandon, whose The Way I Say It came out not too long ago, is a solid writer who creates excellent settings and characters. 
Weaknesses: My students want all ghosts to be murderous, so might not consider this scary enough. I wasn't a fan of the reason Mrs. Gruvlig was so mean; she came around, but had the same sort of background as Mr. Biederman in Glaser's The Vanderbeekers
What I really think: This is similar in feel to Markell's The Ghost in Apartment 2R Oppel's Ghostlight, and Key's Twelfth; there's a bit of history, a light mystery, and ghosts that aren't particularly scary. The real terror comes with the idea of losing the motel, and Parker's brush with the supernatural (as well as come affects of climate change revealing a hidden historical graveyard) manages to save the day. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Garvey in the Dark

Grimes, Niki. Garvey in the Dark
October 4th 2022 by Wordsong
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to Garvey's Choice, Garvey and his family have to deal with the events of March 2020 and the early Pandemic. Garvey has finally made some peace with his father, who is super interested in sports, and connected with him over music, since Garvey is not interested in sports, but would rather write or sing. His sister Angie is on a volleyball team and loves to run and play soccer. When his mother comes home with a ton of her school supplies and tells the children that school has been canceled, they aren't quite sure what she means, even though there has been some talk about a disease making its rounds. When the governor of California shuts down all the schools, Garvey and his mother go the grocery store, and things at home change in the ways they did for many of us. School goes online, but since his father installs WiFi in people's houses, he is considered essential and continues to work. Late in the school year the murder of George Floyd rocks the world, and Garvey and his friend Manny want to protest, but are concerned about COVID. Both Manny's grandmother and Garvey's father get the disease, adding to their stress. Will Garvey be able to retain the connection with his father through all of the turmoil of 2020?
Strengths: Grimes does a great job of writing tanakas and using them to tell Garvey's story in an actually poetic way. The details about 2020 will ring true to middle grade readers for whom two years ago seems like a long time. A lot of different threads are woven together well, and seeing each family member, as well as Manny, deal with COVID and other struggles of the time in different ways is illuminating. 
Weaknesses: Readers who don't remember the pandemic would benefit from more details about schooling from home, etc. to help this make sense. And yes, I would classify any books about the COVID pandemic lockdown as historical fiction!
What I really think: This is a good pandemic novel if you want another title to go along with Walters' Don't Stand So Close to Me and Yang's New From Here.  

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Outside Nowhere

Borba, Adam. Outside Nowhere
October 18th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Parker Kelbrook lives with his long suffering father; his mother is out of the picture. Their life in Pittsburgh is hard, even though they have a patron in Ms. Birdseye, who has an emotional tie to Parker's mother. She helped Parker get a job at a local pool, but he thought it would be funny to dump a large quantity of purple drink into the pool before his shift even starts, causing $3,000 worth of damage. Parker, who has a love for wearing vintage suits, thinks he can use his charm to get out of punishment and go to spend the summer at the beach with his best friend, but his father has had enough. Even though Ms. Birdseye covers the damage, Parker soon finds himself on a train to the Midwest. He ends up working on a farm run by a quiet man and his neice, Molly. He forgets his luggage on the train (he thinks someone will get it for him; he's that entitled), and has to wear moldy smelly hand-me-downs while he picks weeds around the farm with other workers, including Ms. Birdseye's nephew. The farm grows radishes, and delivers them to very selected clientele; the worker are not allowed to eat the crop. Parker does several destructive things that cause everyone else a lot of work; it takes him a while to take his new life seriously. The radishes are a magical crop, and once Parker realizes that he has an important role in the success of the farm, he not only starts to work diligently but is even seen coming back the following year, having changed his selfish ways. 
Strengths: Parker is a very unlikable character who does some serious introspection and learns that his actions affect others. I enjoyed the farm setting and the depiction on how hard it is to grow crops; I've planted potatoes, and have friends who regularly walked beans in Iowa, and don't think my students really understand farm life as much as they should! The magical radishes are an interesting topic, and I don't want to say too much about them. Take a look at the cover to see more! This was a fun, quirky title for readers who want to temper their view of magic with gritty (as in farm dirt!) reality!
Weaknesses: I wasn't quite sure when this was set; one character mentions not having a telephone, another listening to the radio for entertainment, and there's Parker's devotion to vintage suits. There's a buggy that Molly takes to the train station. Other parts of this seemed modern. I can see where the cover is going artistically, but I'm not sure my students will. 
What I really think: This light magical realism reminded me a bit of the picture book McBroom's Farm, 
 or Clark's What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World.

Ms. Yingling

Monday, October 17, 2022

MMGM- Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Binns, Barbara. Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist
October 18, 2022 by Scholastic Focus 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1919, James B. Williams was part of a family with deep ties to both education and Civil Rights. His mother, Clara Belle Williams, attended college even though she was made to sit in the hallway for her classes because she was Black, and his father founded the El Paso, Texas chapter of the NAACP and proposed to Clara Belle on their stationery! In addition to information about Williams' family background and childhood, there is also information about the involvement of African Americans during the Revolutionary War and WWI, the racial issues of the summer of 1919, and information about Plessy vs. Ferguson and how the effects of that were seen in Williams' education. Since Williams wanted to be a doctor, Binns frames his studies in a comprehensive overview of how Black students were treated in the 1940s, and continues this treatment when he is assigned to medical corps and sent to Camp Pickett. There is a wealth of information about the treatment of Blacks, and the Freeman Field Mutiny in which Williams was involved that concerned the fact that Black officers were denied admission to officers' clubs even though these were not supposed to be segregated. The careers of both Benjamin O. Davis senior and junior are discussed at length and serve as good examples of how bad the treatment of Black soldiers by the military was. 

Williams' 477th unit missed being sent to the front lines by just a few weeks, and he continued his medical studies, becoming the first Black surgical resident at a non-Black school, Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He also studied at McGill. As the Civil Rights movement started making changes in the 1960s, Williams was involved in a variety of organizations. One was the National Medical Association, a group of Black doctors who were denied admission to the American Medical Association. His own children were able to be successful in their own fields because of the constant work that he did toward equity. 

While there is plenty of information just on Williams' life (and I loved Binns' note about the archival information she was able to access, as well as the fact that his daughter was a journalist, so there was a lot of good information saved!) to write a biography, it's fascinating to see how his life aligned with so many different important aspects of the Civil Rights movement. From his mother, who continued to attend college and learn throughout her life before dying at the age of 109, to his own struggles in so many areas, to the success of his children (who are closer to my age!), Unlawful Orders paints a vivid picture of the struggles Black Americans faced, and how those changed over time through the efforts of people like Williams. 

Binns, whose middle grade novel 2018 novel Courage managed to weave in a lot of information about topics other than diving, has constructed a biography of James B. Williams that also includes a vast array of historical topics that informed his life. The books is just about equal parts biography and history, which is something I haven't quite seen before. The Scholastic Focus series does a great job of including a lot of primary source photographs and documents, and of covering information that hasn't been covered adequately in the past. It would be interesting to see Binns do a historical fiction novel about the Freeman Field Mutiny; there would be readers for that! 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party

Faruqi, Saadia. Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party
October 18th 2022 by Amulet Books
E Arc provided by Edelweiss Plus

Marya is in the third grade and has a very good friend in Hanna, although she is frequently at odds with Alexa, who lives next door,  but has a much bigger and fancier house. Marya loves her family, which includes her mother, who works with plants and drives a delivery van that smells like fertilizer (aka poop), father, brother, grandmother Dadi, and older sister Aliyah, but feels they don't support her. When Alexa invites her to a birthday party, Marya gets the idea to have a fancy henna party and invite everyone from her class. The only problem? Her mother has a wedding the weekend of her birthday, and tells Marya it is out of the question. After telling Alexa that a party is in the works but swearing her to secrecy, Marya formulates a plan to help members of her family so much that they are willing to have a party for her. This doesn't go well, as she ruins her sister's perfume bottle and brother's Lego creation, snoops in Dadi's room and angers her, and even manages to fall asleep with a casserole in the oven and ends up causing a small fire. Her mother knows she means well, but still says no to a party. Her father takes her shopping for a gift for Alexa, and she attends the party. Even though it is very fancy, she doesn't see Alexa or her parents around. She sees clues that neither Alexa's mother or father will be at the party, and finds a dejected Alexa hiding. Alexa admits that her parents aren't supportive, but Marya says she should enjoy the party anyway, and come to Marya's small pizza events with Hanna. When the girls gather for a small party, Marya's family surprise her with a smaller version of her incredible party idea. 
Strengths: This is a great beginning chapter book for fans of Sheth's Nina Soni, and this author's Yasmin series. The family dynamics are interesting and supportive, even if Marya can be hard to live with. Her obsession with the birthday party is relatable, and it was good to see that even though she and Alexa aren't friends, she soon realizes that she doesn't really have any issues with Alexa, and the two learn to get along. Marya also realizes that having a bigger house doesn't necessarily lead to a better life. 
Weaknesses: A cream of mushroom soup casserole would have to be in the over at 350 for a heck of a long time before it would catch on fire, although it certainly made the book more interesting. (It would more likely just become somewhat fossilized, but that doesn't make for as good a story, and I am not going to immolate a casserole to fact check this!)
What I really think: This was a fun book for elementary school students, but I will stick to this author's A Thousand Questions , A Place at the Table (with Laura Shovan), and Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero for middle school. 
 Ms. Yingling

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Saturday Morning DOGS

Robertshaw, Danny, Danta, Ron, and Velasquez, Crystal. 
Catrinella, Lauren (illus.)
Millie, Daisy, and the Scary Storm (Life in the Doghouse #3)
Published July 12th 2022 by Aladdin
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Millie and Daisy have been living at Danny and Ron's Rescue since Hurrican Katrina left them homeless. Daisy is very scared of anything that approaches a storm, even gentle rain. Daisy tries to encourage Millie to deal with her fear, and helps a little by supporting her friend. Daisy is very excited about the prospect of getting adopted, and the two dogs agree that they should be adopted together, and embark on some research as to what makes dogs appealing. This results in them trying to become "fluffy" by rolling in the mud, getting into clean laundry because they feel matching outfits might help, and other highjinks. Daisy, however, starts to realize that she just wants to stay where she is, even though she would miss her friend. To this end, she starts spending more time away from her friend, and working on her own strategies to be less adoptable. The two dogs also work with a younger dog, Luna, to overcome her extreme shyness which is getting in the way of finding her her forever home. Will Millie and Daisy both be able to find a home that makes them happy?

Like Elmer and the Talent Show and Moose and the Smelly Sneakers, this book is based on animals that lived in Danny and Ron's Rescue, and includes photographs of the animals in addition to Catrinella's charming black and white illustrations. At just over 100 pages each, this series is a great length for readers who are looking for slightly longer titles than Clarke's Dr. Kittycat, Coe's Fenway or Higgin's Good Dog books. 

Millie and Daisy's story doesn't have as much input from the human characters, and their attempts to get adopted are humorous because we know it's a little  unlikely that dogs will try to dress themselves. Their counseling of Luna is also a bit unusual, but it's a fun way for children to think about what goes through a dog's mind!

There is a little bit of information at the end of the book about Hurrican Katrina and the start of the dog rescue operation; I'd almost like to see a nonfiction book about this. To young readers, Hurricane Katrina was a very long time ago, yet there are still storms that result in many dogs ending up in rescues in other states. A nonfiction title about that would be very useful. 

Friendship is an appealing topic, whether it is about human or canine friendships, and I loved how Millie and Daisy supported each other even though they had different goals. Hand this to fans of Cameron's Lily to the Rescue, Miles' The Puppy Place, and West's The Underdogs. Good Dogs on a Bad Day and Crimi's Secondhand Dogs are also good depictions of rescue dogs for slightly more advanced readers. 

Braddock, Paige. On the Trail (Peanut, Butter, and Crackers #3)
July 12th 2022 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Peanut is leery of going into a new, scary room, but Butter, the fearless cat, has no such compunction. Crackers, a somewhat larger, older dog, shows Peanut that the room is just a garage, and isn't scary at all. The trio realize that their humans are packing up to take them somewhere, and when they get on the road in a camper van, enjoy having more space to stretch out while on the road. At the campsite, however, Butter starts feeling a bit cooped up and bored, and wants to go exploring. Crackers thinks this is a bad idea, but Butter claws the screen in order to escape and go on an adventure. Crackers counsels against it, but Peanut goes along, hoping to prove less fearful after the garage incident. The two don't come back, and Crackers becomes concerned and ventures out to find his friends. It's a good thing, because the two go far into the woods, it becomes dark, and they fall into the water. Quick thinking by Crackers and help from a local beaver save the day, and the trio heads home, repairs the screen, and decides that staying in the lap of luxury might not be all that boring after all. 

This beginning graphic novel was a lot of fun, and is the third book in a series that includes Puppy Problems and Fetch. I haven't read either of those, but was able to catch up to the group dynamic pretty quickly. The colors are bright, and the text is in a large font size and much briefer than in graphic novels for older readers. This was similar to Keating's BunBun and BonBon, Lerner's Hunger Heroes, and Smith's Pea, Bee, and Jay, and made me think of older titles like the Holms' Babymouse, Krosoczka's Lunch Ladies, or Eaton's The Flying Beaver Brothers books. 

The best part about this book was how well developed the personalities of the pets are! Butter, of course, is a wily, somewhat evil cat, although the portrayal is not overly stereotypical. Peanut is all youthful exuberance and emotional swings, while Crackers is content to nap in a cozy sweater. The beaver, Birch, is a bit of a wild card, but adds a fun note of quirkiness to a solid cast. I need to pick up the earlier books to see if humans are represented as more than feet and hands!

Getting lost in the woods can be traumatic, and Peanut and Butter are fortunate that Crackers is a resourceful character who is able to find them, work with Birch to save them. Crackers also gets extra points in my book for introducing Birch to the concept of kibbles, and for rewarding the rescue with a box of treats. He also cleans up his friends' mess so that the humans don't even seem to know that anything is amiss. This was a fun story, and I definitely want to explore more books by this author. 

Ms. Yingling

Friday, October 14, 2022

Two Degrees

Gratz, Alan. Two Degrees
October 4th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Climate change doesn't affect just one area of the world, and Gratz points this out by focusing on how weather patterns cause problems for three different children in very different areas of the world. Akira lives in the Sierra Nevada of California with her Swedish father and mother of Japanese descent, and gets caught in a wild fire while out riding horses with her father. He doesn't believe in global warming, and thinks that weather is just cyclical. In Miami, Florida, we meet Natalie, who lives with her mother and whose father lives in Cuba. A hurricane brings high winds and punishing rains that flood her house and send her out into the storm with her neighbor's dog, Churro. Finally, in Churchill, Manitoba, George and Owen head out on a snowmobile to spend the weekend at a family cabin only to run into problems with polar bears that are  more prevalent now that the area has become warmer. Should people be living in the area at all? Like Gratz's Refugee, this brings together the different characters at the end of the book, and is similar in tone in that it doesn't sugarcoat the horrors of the various weather events the children face. Akira is separated from her father but teams up with another young girl with a dislocated shoulder. The two are one step ahead of the fire, find Akira's horse in the swimming pool of an acquaintance's house, and see several dead bodies in burnt out cars. Natalie is also separated from her mother, has to escape another house that implodes, and while she meets several helpful people along the way, also sees dead bodies and the tremendous devastation of the storm. George is attacked by a polar bear, and the two have to deal with injuries and being lost as they try to get back home while avoiding more bears. The climate conference at the end shows how many children all over the world are affected by climate change, and is a rallying call for young readers to do what they can to stop global warming. 
Strengths: I'm a big fan of climate stories, since I've been walking to work for 30 years, mainly vegetarian,  and don't even have air conditioning. In order to motivate people to make as many small changes in their lives as possible, books that show the results of NOT making these changes are disastrous. My younger daughter became a vegetarian when her class read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in high school, so books can have a great impact! This was an action-packed tale with lots of details about what happens in the three different types of extreme events. Gratz does excellent research, has sympathetic characters, and writes stories that are hard to put down. 
Weaknesses: It was hard to go back and forth between the different stories; I almost wish this were a three book series similar to Gordon Korman's Dive and Island; there could even be a fourth book about the climate conference! I have a lot of reluctant readers who are more prone to pick up shorter books, and this would be somewhat similar to the very popular Gary Paulsen World of Adventure books if formatted this way. Strong readers who love this author won't care. 
What I really think: I will definitely buy a copy, since Gratz's work is very popular in my library, and I was glad to see that the same style of cover was used. This would make a great read for science classes looking for read alouds with STEM ties. 
 Ms. Yingling

Requiescat in Pace

Dad was fine Wednesday morning, not well when I talked to him at 3:00 p.m., and gone by 6:30 the next evening. We should all be so lucky to live such a long and relatively healthy life.

Walter Standford Yingling, PhD was born March 24, 1934 to Walter and Ruth Fry Yingling and raised in Rootstown, Ohio along with his sister Barbara. He was a company clerk in the army during the Korean conflict, and worked in finance. He graduated from Kent State University and was an elementary school principal for many years, retiring from Boardman Local Schools. He loved traveling, good food, woodworking, and sharing his opinions. He was proud of his family, kept up with current events, and was glad to have been an educator who affected thousands of students. He passed away after a heart attack on September 29, 2022. 

I'm a bit behind right now with... everything. My brother is doing a great job taking care of a lot of the cleaning and the financial stuff, but even though Dad was in a senior apartment, there is a lot of stuff to take care of when the last parent dies. It has been very odd not talking to him every day at 3:00, answering his e mails every morning, and planning the biweekly shopping trip. 

For poetry Friday:

The Laundry of the Dead 

It gives one pause, the laundry of the dead. 

The shirts, pajamas, worn out jeans. The socks,

with careful name tags, finished with their walks.

A winter coat. The dish rag that was spread

to dry out on the stove, but slipped instead

and now lies on the floor. Each empty place

I look has more. A fleece. A sweatshirt. Face

cloth, towels, the crumpled sheets upon the bed

that wasn’t made. And won’t be now. A thread

hangs from a pillowcase. I wrap it round 

my hand, snap it off, throw it on the ground, 

then stop, and pick it up, and go ahead. 

There were a lot of socks. I need some more.

I take the laundry soap and close the door.