Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Playing Through the Turnaround

Larsen, Mylisa. Playing Through the Turnaround
October 11, 2022 by Clarion Books
ARC provided by Follett First Look
Middle school can be challenging, but for Jake and his group of friends, Jazz Lab every Tuesday is what makes the rest of their educational experience bearable. Jake has to deal with one aunt who is getting married and forcing him to wear rose print socks, and another who is running for school board on a platform of fiscal responsiblity. He also has to deal with uber jock cousin Peyton. Cassie loves playing saxophone, and usually is able to stand up for herself and for others, including the shy Lily, whose parents are very demanding. Mac and Nick also enjoy being in the Jazz Lab, but Quentin "Quagmire" Tiarello is not in the group; he tries to fly well under everyone's radar and the teachers all know not to call on him in class. The inscrutable old Ms. Harken manages to finagle him against his will into helping with the tech crew. When Mr. Lewis doesn't show up for Jazz Lab, the group worries that the course is going to be cut, and they gather signatures on a petition to give to Principal Deming. When the ecology club finds their document in the trash, unopened, they switch into high gear and approach the school board about cutting groups that don't affect a lot of students. They don't get any joy there, so with the help of Quagmire, plan a protest at the upcoming band concert. The children all have their own issues that require attention, but all feel that Jazz Lab is worth saving, even when additional information about Mr. Lewis' absence becomes available. Will they be able to convince the school that more learning occurs in Jazz Lab than might occur in classes that help prepare them for tests? 
Strengths: There are a lot of good, funny lines as well as amusing situations. I'm always a fan of "kids who do things", and there are not a lot of books about children in band, even though there are still a decent amount of band programs around. We've even had jazz as an after school club in my school. 
Weaknesses: This was more character driven than plot driven, and felt a bit like Because of Mr. Terupt, especially with the plot surrounding Mr. Lewis. There were some details of the private lives of the children that weren't tied up by the end. It seemed unrealistic that students would have been able to save the Jazz Lab class. When districts need to make budget cuts, art, gym, and music are always the first to go, followed very closely by the library. I'm a little surprised every day that I still have a job to go to after several rounds of cuts in my district over the last twenty years. 
What I really think: Hand to fans of Nichol's Matthew Meets the Man (2012), Grosso's I Am Drums (2016), Dionne's Notes from An Accidental Band Geek (2011), and Dominy's Audition and Subtractions (2012), or students who are interested in social activism. 

Ms. Yingling

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