Saturday, December 31, 2022

Chunky Goes to Camp

Mercado, Yehudi. Chunky Goes to Camp (Chunky #2)
June 14, 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
Library copy

Hudi, who struggled with a variety of sports at the behest of his father in Chunky, has gotten into a lot of trouble at school with the assistant principal, Mr. Hyatt. Always one to try to make people laugh, Hudi is on all the teachers' radars and starts getting in trouble for inoffensive things, like drawing cartoons that make Mr. Hyatt accuse him of being in a Mexican gang. His parents warn him that he needs to watch himself, but he doesn't quite get it. At the end of the year, they don't feel that he can be trusted at home during the summer while they are working, so give him the choice between a sports camp and one for Jewish kids. He picks Camp Green as the lesser of two evils, especially since he knows some kids who attend. The bus ride in is tough, and he's super sad about misses all of the new movie releases in the theaters (which puts this firmly in the summer of 1986, since Ferris Buehler's Day Off is one of the titles to which he is looking forward), and he has concerns about the preppy Joshes. His cabin mates seem cool, though, and he makes friends with Pepe, another Mexican American Jewish kid who likes to tell jokes; their similarities explain why Pepe can also see Chunky. There are typical camp shenanigans, and characters like a suspicious looking maintenance man, but Hudi manages to have a decent time at camp. 
Strengths: Graphic novel memoirs are a good way to show different points of time, and the experiences of authors and illustrators. I'm a big fan of Tattuli's Short and Skinny and Copeland's Cub, since the pictures make these books more appealing to young readers who might not otherwise want to read historical fiction. The summer camp experience is something kids like to read about even if they don't get to experience it. It's an interesting time to reinvent oneself, and since Hudi's experiences in the first book centered about self identity, this is a perfect chance for him to try other versions of himself. It's also fun that he meets Pepe, who has such a similar background, and there's even a note from the REAL Pepe at the back of the book. A humorous and entertaining read. 
Weaknesses: Still not a huge fan of Chunky, especially since he has such a small role in this book. He is a little more interesting when Pepe can also see him. 
What I really think: The first book has been really popular with my students, so I suspect this second book will be as well. I was surprised to see a picture of Mercado as a tween at the back of the book; he didn't really look very overweight, so the illustrations with the protruding tummy don't seem true-to-life!

Ms. Yingling

Friday, December 30, 2022

Farewell Friday- Light a Single Candle

Butler, Beverly. Light a Single Candle
January 1, 1962 by Dodd Mead & Company
Personal copy, Library copy
Kathy celebrates her 14th birthday by going to the eye doctor, hoping that she will get a new pair of glasses that will allow her to continue drawing, and to use the new pastels she has gotten as a gift. Instead, a specialist examines her, and she overhears her doctor suggesting to her father that she learn Braille. Glaucoma has damaged the nerves in her eyes, but the doctors are hopeful that an operation might help. Afterwards, Kathy can't see, and is sent home to rest and see if the blood clots in her eyes clear up. While resting under doctor's orders, she is visited by an administrator from the state school for the blind, Mrs. Creel. Mrs. Creel thinks taht Kathy shouldn't be pampered and "lazing around" and scoffs that she will be able to start her local high school. Kathy's mother is very firm and advocates for Kathy, and sends Mrs. Creel packing. Kathy starts school, but the classes are very basic, and she decides to start at the school for the blind after winter break. There, she rooms with several other girls, and there is a lot of drama. The food isn't good, the education isn't great, and the attitude of the teachers is also lacking. Kathy is lucky enough to be able to go home on weekends, and she and her parents decide to apply for a guide dog and have her return to the local high school. Mrs. Creel sends her with dire warnings, but things go fairly well. She is hampered a bit by a well meaning classmate, Joan, who doesn't want her to bring her guide dog, Trudy, and who is overly involved in helping her with classwork. There are tough moments, like dealing with a strict teacher, but good ones as well, like catching the attention of school announcer and news writer Steve. In the end, Kathy does better than she expects with the support of her family and her school. 
Strengths: This book is based on Butler's own experiences, and I read and loved this when I was in middle school, not realizing that Butler was just my mother's age. I feel like I met this book around the same time I read Killilea's Karen. The details of what it was like to lose one's sight and have to cope were fascinating to me, and I especially loved the fact that Kathy didn't feel sorry for herself for very long, and she was determined to succeed and to prove people like Mrs. Creel wrong. Reading it now, I am glad that there is boarding school drama (and even a little romance), and the books follows the general layout of other 1960s realistic fiction books. Kathy does well in school, her family is supportive, and no one "makes fun" of her for her blindness. Still a very interesting and enjoyable book. 
Weaknesses: Things have changed dramatically in the last 60 years as far as the technology available to help blind students, so modern readers might find the mailing of book records back and forth unusual. There are also a few dated attitudes toward dating and marriage, as well as some spectacular 1960s style dresses. Of course, this just made me love it even more. 
What I really think: I think the time has come for this book to leave my school collection and to be replaced with books like Vrabel's A Blind Guide to Stinkville, but I also think that it will be coming to live at my house now! I am sad to report that Butler passed away in 2007, but glad that she was a prolific author who lead a very successful life. 

Butler, Beverly. The Gift of Gold
September 28, 1972 by Dodd Mead
Library Copy

Kathy is now enrolled in the speech pathology program at St. Chystosome College, and having to deal with a new department hear, Dr. Paulus, who has replaced Sister Bernard. Dr. Paulus doesn't think that Kathy should pursue working with children on their speech, but, because she is blind, should stick to working with blind students. Kathy, who has excelled academically, is rather angry, and determined to prove Dr. Paulus wrong. When one of her students is withdrawn from her caseload because the mother doesn't want him to work with a blind therapist, Leonard, a five year old boy who doesn't speak, is added to her caseload. Kathy is dating Greg, who is a bit self centered, and is asked to be in the wedding of Joan, whom she knew in high school. Joan is no better at dealing with Kathy's blindness than she was in high school, and the wedding planning is one debacle after another. Kathy makes some strides with Leonard's speech, and is able to deal with Dr. Paulus. She is glad to reconnect with Steve, whom she knew in high school and who is also in Joan's wedding. How will things work out as she progresses through college?
Strengths: Kathy continues to make good progress and to stand up to people who think that her blindness is holding her back. I didn't remember a lot of this book except for the Braille watch that Kathy wore, but I was glad to see that she still had a good group of friends and classmates who were supportive. I was also glad to see Steve back. While Kathy's blindness is certainly mentioned frequently, the book is not about her being blind, but more about her progress through school and her struggles with her clients, especially Leonard. Why is it that mid century young adult books often depicted girls getting married but were read by middle school students? Now, when I see characters applying for college, their experiences seem so far off from middle school concerns. 
Weaknesses: Leonard is repeatedly referred to as "retarded", which would have been the terminology at the time but is not used now. This was written ten years after Light a Single Candle, and those ten years saw a lot of change. There was a slight air of the book not completely reflecting 1972, but that might just be me. It's a little alarming to think that I read this when it was fairly new!
What I really think: This one is also being deaccessioned; I'm not sure I will keep it forever because it's not quite as interesting as the first book. 

 Ms. Yingling

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Mr. Lincoln Sits for his Portrait

Marcus, Leonard. Mr. Lincoln Sits for his Portrait
January 3, 2023 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr) 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In the same way that John F. Kennedy was the first president to harness the power of television to further his political aims (brilliantly depicted in Sandler's 2011 Kennedy Through the Lens), Lincoln was the first politician to fully utilize the power of the relatively new medium of still photography. At a time when most people would have one or two images of themselves, Lincoln had hundreds done, by prominent artists of the time, like Matthew Brady, Anthony Berger, and Francis Bicknell Carpenter. 

Marcus introduces us to Lincoln's career, humor, and self deprecating views of his own attractiveness, or lack thereof, and uses this information to scaffold Lincoln's rise to power. Since there are innumerable treatments of Lincoln, this is a new and innovative way to deliver this information. Of course, the inclusion of photographs not only of Lincoln but of his world make this worth purchasing. 

Interspersed between discussions of what was going on in Lincoln's life, the evolution of photography, and the state of the world in general are helpful timelines that recap things nicely. I found the overview of photgraphic history particulary interesting; it almost makes me want to find a book about the history of photography as it relates to how people curate their own history. If you have enough family photos going back into the late 1890s, you can pretty much tell exactly when a member of your family first obtained a camera and didn't have to rely on a local photographer!

There are many aspects of Lincoln's life covered, from political to family, and the struggles of Mary Lincoln are briefly mentioned. There is a lot of coverage of the cover portrait, which was hugely influential at the time, and reproduced in myriad ways after Lincoln's death to engender pathos and to paint him as a pious family man. I must say that I wouldn't have identified this particular picture as the most pivotal, but Marcus does a good job of making this point. I love that it is often passed off as a Bible or religious text when in fact the actual book was a photographer's catalog. 

Marcus is an excellent scholar of children's literature; in an ideal world, I would have been able to have a similar career, so I am rather jealous of his work! His Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way (2007) is nothing short of genius. It's interesting to see him change gears, and he clearly has some affection for his topic. This is a great title to have for National History Day research or for an updated look at Lincoln's life. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Marika Marches for Equality

Alikhan, Salima. Marika Marches for Equality
January 1, 2022 by Stone Arch Books 
Library copy

Marika is 13 in 1970, and starting to argue with her parents about a lot of things. Her father is an accountant, and Marika loves to secretly read a history of economics that he has, but she has to hide it from him because he and her mother believe in "traditional values". Marika's mother is Indian, so her parents were very forward thinking for marrying in the 1950s, but they now think that Marika should have a more "family friendly" major in college, and that she should give up her dream of attending Harvard. When her father hears on the news that there is a women's march going on, he's angry that it might disrupt things, but Marika is intrigued. Her best friend Beth's family is thinking of going to the march, but when Marika makes some signs for it, her parents find out and ground her. She lies to Beth's family and goes with them, and is of course and interviewed on television, and her parents are angry. They change their minds a little when they hear how positively the news and the people at the march react to Marika, and have some good conversations. 
Strengths: There are so few fictional books about women's rights, and this is a great starting point for elementary school readers. It seems odd, but I've been looking for years, and about all I've found is Starting from Seneca Falls (2020) and The Hope Chest (2008), both by Karen Schwabach. Oh, and Bolton's 1971 Never Jam Today which I had to get rid of because it smelled really bad. Marika's drive to go to Harvard and major in economics is admirable, and I'm sure that a lot of women born in 1957 faced pushback from their families. Marching in protest is not covered in many books, although Nell in Klein's 1974 Taking Sides does go to a protest with her mother; they wear nice skirts so that people take them seriously. Betty Friedan and some leaders of the women's movement are mentioned, and there is a glossary and notes about becoming an activist at the end of the book. This is very short, and there are pictures throughout, making this a good choices for elementary school students. It feels a little like the Pleasant Company's American Girl books. 
Weaknesses: While there are some good details of Marika's room that are historically accurate, I got the feeling that the author is younger and did not live through this time. There are a few things just half a bubble off, like the skirt on the cover. In 1970, just about all skirts were well above the knee. Will younger readers pick up on this? Absolutely not. 
What I really think: This was disappointing for me personally, since I have vague memories of this year. My cousins are Marika's age, and all became professional women. Perhaps this needed an older sensitivity reader! I did look up pictures of the marches and was a little surprised that so many of the women were wearing slacks. It's a fine book, but just didn't offer the nuances that I wanted. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Two-Headed Chicken

Angleberger, Tom. Two-Headed Chicken
September 6, 2022 by Walker Books US

The two-headed chicken is a brother and sister team, where the brother admits to not being that bright, and the sister is so smart that she invented the Astrocap time travel device. This is helpful in navigating the plethora of alternative universes, which all have goofy properties, and in escaping Kernal Antlers, an enraged green  moose who is bound and determined to catch the chicken, fry them and eat them up! The chickens are as determined to escape as Antlers is to catch them, and the whole book is mainly the back and forth between the adversaries. There are a few other characters, like a fish with a mustache who suffers from an inferiority complex, and Granny Goosefoot, who pops in to tell stories. This frenetic romps takes our intrepid chickens to Olde London, outerspace, and into a monster movie universe, barely escaping being fried each time. Will they ever be able to make peace with Kernal Antlers?

Angleberger is known best for his slightly quirky Origami Yoda series, but a decade ago also published such goofy titles as Fake Mustache and Horton Halfpott, or The Fiedish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset. This graphic novel aims at a slightly younger audience who might enjoy the enthusiastic colors and exaggerated humor. This is certainly a story where lots of things happen right away, even though there isn't as much plot as one might expect. At one point, the "reader of this lousy book" tells the chickens "But it better be good, or I'm reading Stuntboy instead!" The chickens panic. "Oh, no! That book has an actual plot! And the pictures are 100 times better!" The pell mell style of the storyline is definitely reinforced by the chaotic pictorial style. 

Thematically, this goes right along with Pilkey's Dog Man books, and will appeal to the same readers. Dog Man is fighting whatever evil he finds, but the two-headed chicken is concentrating on Kernal Antlers. Readalikes also include Trine's Melvin Beederman books and Eaton's Flying Beaver Brothers. I can see this being a popular choice among the elementary school crowd that appreciates a good fart reference as well as never ending knock knock jokes. 

I may send this on to an elementary school. Handing this to a middle school student feels sort of like letting them sit down to a breakfast where I just put the sugar bowl on the table and give them a spoon, even with the gentle pokes against reading comphrehension testing. 

Grabenstein, Chris. Dog Squad 2: Cat Crew
October 1, 2022 by Random House Children's Book
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Fred has enjoyed being an actor playing Duke on the TV show Dog Squad, and is glad to have a home with trainers Jenny and Abby. After filming in Paris, Jenny comes up with the idea to start a new show called Cat Crew to compete with the program currently trouncing them, Seal Team Seven Starring Kevin. Getting cats to act is a bit of a challenge, since the cats currently at the Second Chance Ranch (Clarence, Barney, and Mr. Cookiepants) are more interested in sleeping, and Jenny doesn't like to force animals to do things they don't like. Fortunately, there is a new kitten, named Squeak, who has escaped from the property next door owned by Kitty Bitterridge. Kitty is training a team of Siamese cats to dance with great precision, but her training methods are suspect and the conditions under which the cats are kept are less than ideal. In addition to Squeak, we meet Yakster and Mehitabel, who are trying to break their friend Einstein out of Kitty's facility. Since those three cats are motivated, and consider filming Cat Crew to be practice for breaking Einstein out, they do a great job at filming. Kitty's team manages to win at America's Most Amazingly Talented Animals competition, so her quest for fame and renown is partially satisfied, but Fred and Squeak manage to steal the show, making her angry. Mr. Cookie Pants is a turncoat, running off to join Kitty's team because she has salmon, but the other cats, as well as the Dog Squad, are firm in their resolve to rescue the animals suffering under Kitty's claws. When Kitty starts another show, called Feline Force Five, the future of Cat Crew, as well as the ranch, looks bleak. Will Fred be able to uncover the truth about Kitty and save his comfortable and productive place at Jenny's ranch?

Like the first book in this series, Cat Crew is fast paced, with lots of descriptions of the television show's scenes, which are few of drama and danger... although certified by an expert NOT to endanger any pets at all! There is an emotional buy in with the fate of the ranch hanging on the success of the television franchise. The competing television shows are quite funny, and seeing how all of the programs play against each other is rather amusing. 

The characters are a fun mix of Scooby Doo style villains like Kitty and her chauffeur, Dimitri and the very real and lovable Fred who has overcome a difficult past and just wants a loving home with Jenny and Abby, even if it means he has to work on the television show. The original Duke isn't very nice, and the Second Chance Ranch cats aren't very invested, but Yakster, Mehitabel and Squeak embody the idea of found family and are stalwart in their attempts to rescue the cats. 

While there are lots of dog adventure books, there aren't as many cat ones. This is no doubt because real life cats generally emulate Mr. Cookie Pants and would rather spend their days napping and eating salmon thatn chasing villains up the Eiffel Tower! Watson's Stick Cat is somewhat similar, with some reluctant adventure, and there is always Hunter's lengthy Warrior Cats series for more true-to-life cat adventures. If feline fans can be convinced to read the first book in this series, they will find that cats are able to save the day just as well as Fred and his Dog Crew! 

Monday, December 26, 2022

MMGM- This is How I Roll and Very Asian

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Florence, Debbi Michiko. This is How I Roll
January 3, 2023 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sana (Susanna) Mikami moves from the city with her parents when her father's sushi restaurant starts to become very popular. Piper Bay, where her uncle and cousin Charli live, is okay, and Sana is not overly concerned about making friends. Her mother isn't working long hours for a big hotel any more. For the summer, Sana is hanging out with Charli, who loves crafts as much as Sana likes to cook. Sana's dad, however, doesn't seem thrilled that she wants to take after him, and after a disastrous experience in the kitchen, seems determined to keep her from being in the kitchen with him. He's especially busy, since he is being filmed for a documentary. When Sana pops by the restaurant, she meets Koji Yamada, a boy working for the landscaping business that keeps up the restaurant's yard. Charli says that Koji is bad news, and that he was expelled after hitting a friend of hers, but Sana thinks he is cute and nice. He takes her home to meet his mother, and she and Sana start to cook together. Koji's older sister makes a comment about Mikami Sushi, saying that the restaurant was why her mother lost her job, because Sana's father's place made the other business close. Sana doesn't want to stop her cooking lessons with Koji's mother, so keeps her identity secret. This is a little harder, since Koji has made a couple of cooking videos with Sana making kawaii sushi in the shape of penguins and other animals. Even though he has the videos set to private and only shows Sana's hands, she's concerned that her parents will find out and make her stop cooking. Charli gets into an arts summer camp at the last minute, so Sana has more time to spend with Koji. This is great, but his best friend Harley feels threatened. Sana's mother is busy renovating their rental home, and her father works long hours at the restaurant, so Sana has plenty of time to spend cooking and hanging out with Koji. When Harley tells Koji about Sana's identity, will she be able to keep up with these fun summer activities?
Strengths: This was a delightful, light romance with lots of cooking. There aren't enough novels that delve into what tweens do in the summer, and Piper Bay was a fun setting for Sana's exploits. There's just enough tension with her parents, there's a lot of food that is described, and there's even a little bit of social media exploration. Sana also has friends in the city who text message her, which seems a very realistic way of dealing with friends after a move; it's so much easier that writing letters! Koji is a nice guy, but Charli imbues him with just a tiny  bit of bad boy reputation that he doesn't really merit. Like this author's Sweet and Sour, this combined family drama, friend drama, and romance and served it all up in a great Bento box of a story. I love the cover as well. 
Weaknesses: Some people won't be happy that Sana lies to her parents, but since she's lying about hanging out with a boy's mother, it seems pretty innocuous to me. This is absolutely on point with how tweens interact with their parents. Sana is very concerned about safety, but she just doesn't want to let her parents in on what she is doing quite yet. 
What I really think: The WISH novels are super popular in my library, and I would have loved these when I was in middle school. I went through a candy making phase in middle school; I think adults forget how much fun cooking is when you don't have to do it every  night! I'll be looking forward to more light romances like Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai and Keep it Together, Keiko Carter from Florence! 

Li, Michelle and Choi, Sunnu Rebecca (illus.) 
A Very Asian Guide to Korean Food
Published October 22nd 2022 by Gloo Books
Copy provided by the author

This picture book isn't a cookbook, but rather an introduction to Korean dishes meant to introduce the different types of traditional meals. Each two page spread starts with "Very"... shareable, slippery, colorful, etc., and then explains what the food consists of, how is it prepared, and the occasions when it is served. Some of the dishes, like kimchi, have been around for hundreds of years, while others, like Korean corn dogs, utilize more modern foods and put a Korean twist on them. While most are main dishes, like bibimbap, tteobokki, or Korean Fried Chicken, there are even a couple of desserts. 

The illustrations are full of bright colors and wonderful details of the food; this book made me hungry! Young readers will gain a better understanding of what Korean food is like, so if they get an opportunity to eat it, or see a classmate with one of the dishes in their lunch box, it won't seem so unusual. 

There is one recipe in the back, for mandu (dumplings), but this book is more about the experience of Korean food and the ingredients that make up the delicious looking dishes. As one of the blurbs on the back states "Forget 'stinky lunchbox' moments." This is a great book for broadening the food horizons of readers whose milieu is more mac and cheese than bulgogi. I'd love to see similar books about other food traditions!

I like to read cookbooks, but I am not a fan of cooking. When I was looking up this book, I came across Lee's Yummy Kawaii Bento (2015), which looks like something I would read but would never, ever cook from! That's a lot of cutting and molding for something that is just going to be eaten. I was lucky that my children are old enough that I was still able to get away with sending them to school with fat and sugar on carbs. (Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Nina Soni, Snow Spy (#5)

Sheth, Kashmira. Nina Soni, Snow Spy (#5)
Published October 18, 2022 by Peachtree
Public library copy

Nina and Kavita are very excited that it is a long weekend and their parents' friends are visiting with their children, Priya and Nayan, who are the same ages as the Soni children. Nina hopes to play in the snow, and also use the opportunity to spy on their neighborhood. Of especial interest is the Crumps' house, where a Mystery Person has been picking up the Crumps mail even though the Sonis thought that they would have it forwarded during their absence. Since Priya and Nayan haven't lived in Wisconsin very long, they are excited to see the snow, and want to make snow men, snow forts, snow angels, and do other winter activities. Of course, there's plenty of good food, and plenty of time getting warm inside. Jay, Nina's best friend and next door neighbor, and his cousins Jeff and Nora get brought into the spying the next day. Nina is making lots of lists, and has her own theories about who the Mystery Person might be. The spying doesn't go particularly well, because there is also snow ball fights and tobogganing to be done. When there is a mysterious call from the Crumps house, will Nina be able to solve the mystery?
Strengths: I love that Nina and Kavita don't have any qualms about playing with new friends, and that they often spend time outside doing fairly active and creative play. Sheth does a great job at depicting a supportive family and neighborhood life. Nina likes the Crumps, and is a little worried about their house, even though she is mainly interested in spying. One of my favorite parts of the book was the mother's lesson in keeping a room clean: spend five minutes every day. I make sure my house is clean every night before I go to bed, and my children learned to do this early on as well. Nina's lists help keep her focused. I also enjoy the fact that she likes to be around Kavita even though she is three years younger. Nothing big and exciting happens, but the book moves along quickly as Nina looks forward to visiting with new friends. 
Weaknesses: Highly suggestible children will want to build snow forts and spy on the neighbors, which could get annoying. Do children really want to spy on people? I don't remember this phase at all. 
What I really think: This series is a must purchase for elementary school libraries, and I have the first couple at my middle school for emerging readers. I'd love to see Sheth do a similar series for older readers.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Captain America: The Ghost Army

Gratz, Alan and Schoonover, Brent (illus.)
Captain America: The Ghost Army
January 3, 2023 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's World War II, and our heroes are fighting the Nazis in Lateria. Steve Rogers was a 98 pound weakling having sand kicked in his face before he participated in an Army program that treated him with Vita-Rays and Super Soldier Serum and became Captain America. Bucky Barnes, his sidekick, was a ward of the state and raised by soldiers at an army camp after the death of his parents. During a particularly heated battle, while Capt. America soldiered on in his tights, and Bucky faced the enemy armed with just a knife, they are saved by Jim Morita, who arrives with his unit, which is dedicated to keeping the enemy at bay by creating false troops to scare them away. However, there is an even graver threat than living Germans-- dead Nazis who come back as ghosts! Baron Mordo and his grandfather Viscount Krowler are based at Wundagore Castle, where they have a Ghost Machine that is bringing back the ghosts of people who died violently and is turning them into mindless killing machines. As one does. Mordo is angry with his grandfather for killing his father, but has an evil plan to tear a hole in reality and free Dormammu from imprisonment in the Dark Dimension. Dormammu will then make Mordo the "prince of what survives". Add to the mix Dugan, a soldier from Boston who is fighting with the British, and Sir Anthony Baskerville, who has lost a hand and makes a deal with Mordo to get it back if he helps out. When Capt. America and Bucky go to a local village to try to figure out how to thwart Mordo, they meet Mosha, a Romany man, and his granddaughter, Sofia. Sofia is an intrepid fighter with a keen knowledge of science, and she and Bucky become fond of each other while uncovering secrets about the murderous ghost Nazis. When Mosha is killed in fighting, this only firms Sofia's resolve to bring down Mordo. Will Captain America's powers, Bucky's knife wielding, Batman's Robin-type presence, and Jim Morita's theatrics be enough to turn the tide and save the world from evil?
N.B. I had to edit out a TON of snark out of this review. Sorry about what remains. Gratz's story, which is absolutely true to the comics of the 1940s and 50s, is great, but about the whole evil villain and ghost Nazi premise made me roll my eyes. I am not a comic book reader, but I can appreciate that Gratz, who also wrote The League of Seven based on what he wanted to read as a child, wanted to memorialize this style of comic book. 

Strengths: I have a very soft spot in my heart for the late Paul Janeczko's Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis, and I love that Gratz headed up his own fictional special troops with a Japanese American soldier. For those unfamiliar with Capt. America and Bucky, we get enough background to understand their roles in the war. There's plenty of fighting to interest those who like battlefield tales, albeit against ghost soldiers. Baron Mordo is definitely an archetypal evil villain; there's not way releasing Dormammu will end well for him. There are some clever bits, like the various ways people avoid the ghosts by using running water, and I adored Sofia, whose skills were much better than Bucky's! It's evident that Gratz put a lot of thought into his story, and Schoonover's illustrations are a great tribute to the style of the original comics. Young readers who are actually familiar with Captain America will be thrilled to see this. 
Weaknesses: I'm not entirely sure how young readers will react to the depiction of the Nazis-- it is much kinder that the actual 1940s depiction, and there is even some discussion on how not everyone who isn't fighting the Nazi is not necessarily a Nazi sympathizer, but for those too young to have seen Hogan's Heroes or Arte Johnson's Wolfgang on Laugh-In, the depiction may seem odd. Also, I wasn't quite sure who Dugan was and why he was around. (Okay. Officer of S.H.I.E.L.D.; I knew I was missing some Marvel backstory!)
What I really think: I'll definitely have to purchase this, since Gratz has legions of fans in my library, and the ones who love graphic novels might be coerced to pick up The League of Seven after reading this. Interesting combination of Marvel and Scholastic, which we've also seen in Miles Morales: Shock Waves

Ms. Yingling

Friday, December 23, 2022

Jet (Rescue Dogs #3)

Mason, Jane B. and Stephens, Sarah Hines. Jet (Rescue Dogs #3)
January 5, 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
Library Copy

Continuing the story of the Sterling Center that started with Ember and continued with Dusty (Gem follows this one), we meet a young dog being raised in very poor circumstances. The boy's mother doesn't want a dog, and after picking one up, is horrified when the scared animals throws up on the car ride home and banishes him to an outside existence. Tethered to a small patch of dirt in a collar that starts to rub when it gets too small, the dog isn't shown much warmth and is constantly hungry and uncomfortable. When the boys and his mother are evicted, they leave the dog chained up, and he almost dies. When a man investigating abandoned houses finds him, the dog goes to a shelter to recuperate. When Morgan comes with her mother to the shelter looking for dogs to train as rescue dogs, she thinks the dog has potential, even though he growls a tiny bit, which is a bad sign. The dog goes home with them, and is named Jet because he loves to run after balls so much. He has good instincts, but hates leashes intensely. Morgan works with the dog to try to gain his trust so that he will be able to work with a handler. Morgan's sister is still trying to train cats, so there are moments of levity. Eventually, Jet makes enough progress that he is able to train with Molly, and successfully completes a rescue operation with her. 
Strengths: There is something strangely appealing about reading about dogs or children in horrible circumstances, but then get put into better ones. Jet is a sweet dog who tries his best, and who is rightly scared of leashes! Morgan is a patient trainer who understands dogs. She gets plenty of support from her large family, and the glimpse of the Sterling Center will delight readers who might want to work with animals when they grow up. There are lots of good tips and tricks for working with animals, as well as some excitement when Jet has his first mission. This is a highly addictive series that will enthrall tween readers who love dog adventure books. 
Weaknesses: We don't see a lot of the family, so I occasionally got confused about Morgan's siblings, since there are five children in the family. 
What I really think: I bought these only having read Ember but don't regret it! I still need to read Dusty, but handed it to a student the minute I got it from the publisher, since he had been waiting for more books! (Look at the little boots on Dusty!)

Mason, Jane B. and Stephens, Sarah Hines. Dusty (Rescue Dogs #2)
June 2, 2020 by Scholastic Inc.
Library Copy

Dusty is a six pound chihuahua who is scavenging for food with his family in Mexico. A bus hits his mother and two siblings, and a woman on the bus makes the driver stop. When she finds Dusty, she smuggles him onto the bus in her sweatshirt.  After getting appropriate documents from a local vet, she brings him to the US, where her uncle Pedro works for the Sterling Center training rescue dogs. Pedro and the family that runs the center don't have pets, but Shelby becomes very fond of Dusty while they are nursing him back to health. Dusty has digestive problems due to malnutrition and burnt foot pads, but he is very sweet and enjoys the comfort humans provide. Even though he is so tiny, he trains to be a rescue worker, and serves an essential role when a team travels to Mexico after an earthquake and his small size helps him get into places that larger dogs couldn't in order to rescue people. This follows the same formula that Ember and Jet do, and reading this out of order didn't seem to hurt. Follett has these available in prebind.  

Mason, Jane B. and Stephens, Sarah Hines. Gem (Rescue Dogs #4)
January 5, 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
Library Copy

Well, I either didn't write a review, or it was lost in the Great Goodreads Debacle where I managed to delete all of my reviews. All 9,000+. 

And, oddly, there were no giant flashing warnings, and I'm not ever sure how I managed to do this. Something when I was trying to import a book.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Brave Bird at Wounded Knee: A Story of Protest on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Bithell, Rachel and Freeberg, Eric (illus.)
Brave Bird at Wounded Knee: A Story of Protest on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
December 31, 2022 by North Star Editions
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Patsy Antoine lives in Denver with her expectant mother and father, who are hoping to buy a house before her new sibling is born. Her father is originally from South Dakota, but took advantage of a 1950s program that awarded money to Native Americans who wanted to do to school and relocate away from reservations. While he had hoped to return to Pine Ridge, he met Patsy's mother, who was training to be a nurse along with his sister, and he stayed in the Denver area. As her teacher is having students talk about current events in 1973, Patsy is hurt when people say unkind and untrue things about the AIM (American Indian Movement) protests at Wounded Knee. Since her grandmother, aunt, and cousin still live very near the protests, she is concerned, and her teacher encourages her to research what is going on. She also talks to her father about this, and realizes that she doesn't know very much about her Lakora culture. When her aunt asks her father to return home to repair the electrical system that runs their indoor plumbing, Patsy goes along with him, since it is her spring break. She learns a lot about what is happening with the protests, and realizes that Native interests have long been ignored by the federal government. She enjoys spending time with her grandmother and learning some traditional dishes and needlework. When she overhears her father being asked to drop supplies off for the protestors, she is worried, and hides in his truck before he heads out. When her father is shot, she is able to help him drive back to her aunt's house. The two finally return home to find out what has happened at Wounded Knee, and her experiences encourage her to share these experiences with her classmates. 
Strengths: This was very carefully researched, and the details about ordinary life (food, clothing, means of communication) were very solid. There is a consultant listed on the title page: Royal Lost His Blanket-Stone, Jr., Director of Lakota Studies at Sinte Gleska University. There are good notes about the names used in 1973, compared to the names preferred today, as well as the advice to ask individuals and groups which names they prefer. I thought it was very helpful that Patsy's classmates opinions about the AIM protest are shared, and their teacher instructs them to back up their opinions with facts. She is very sensitive about dealing with Patsy's feelings about the protests and her classmates' comments, and doesn't push her to identify as part Native American. Patsy does confide in a supportive friend about her relatives. Her grandmother's house is depicted as having amenities different from the ones Patsy is used to in Denver, but these are not treated as "less than", other than a comment about how cold it is to go to the outhouse first thing in the morning. There is a wealth of detail about the AIM protest; details are laid out in a very clear way, and backed up by facts. One common complaint about Native American books is that inaccurate tropes are used, and this very carefully steers clear of these. I learned a lot reading this, and found it particularly interesting that the author wanted to write this book because her son is half Lakots. 
Weaknesses: This felt a little deliberate at times, but the story did move along quite nicely and was very enjoyable. I thought that there might be one historical point that was a bit off, but "cool beans" apparently came into the vernacular earlier than I thought. I'm okay with deliberate when I can feel that every detail has been checked and double checked. 
What I really think: I'm a big fan of this Jolly Fish Press I am America series; it's a good replacement for the Scholastic My Name is America Series. This new series covers a lot of important but often uncovered history of marginalized people. They are also short, and have great notes about the events covered. I buy them in prebind from Follett, since the library bindings are very expensive. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Who Was

Labreque, Ellen. Who Was Che Guevara?
June 4th 2019 by Penguin Workshop
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Born to a well to do family in Argentina in 1928, Ernesto Guevara was a sickly child, but did well in school. After the death of his grandmother, he became interested in medicine and hoped to help people in his country. When on a motorcyle trip with a friend while in medical school, he saw how bad things were for the rural poor, and tried his best to help others when he could. Seeing leper colonies in particular made him question the help that the government provided to people in need. In school, he met Hilda Gadea, whom he later married, and she introduced him to Communist revolutionaries. This sparked an interest in social justice, especially in Guatemala, where many food companies owned by US companies exploited local workers. He had plans to plot an overthrow, but these were discovered,and he went to Mexico. He decided to pursue being a revolutionary, and got entangled with Fidel Castro's politics in Cuba. After Castro came to power, Guevara, now know as Che, was the Minister of Industry for years. He eventually left that position and went to Bolivia, where he was killed. 

Also included in this book was interesting information about the famous photograph of Guevara that can still be found on t shirts. Knowing this history was interesting, especially since I had a friend in college who bore a striking resemblance to Guevara during this time period!

It's difficult to write biographies for children of controversial figures, but Labrecque strikes a good balance. She mentions in the beginning that not everyone agreed with Guevara's politics or methods, but also does a good job at showing how, at least in the beginning, Guevara was motivated by his desire to help others. I still struggle to understand Castro's position in Cuba; he certainly did many bad things to many, many people, but he was in power for so long that there must have been some backing for his regime. By focusing on the individual, this Who Was book gives an overview of a problematic but influential figure that doesn't paint him as all good or all evil, which I think is true of most people. 

Vegara Little People, Big Dreams, Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World, and Clinton's She Persisted biography series are all popular with young readers, and biographies are a great way to learn history while focusing on the contribution of individuals. 

Pollack, Pam. Who Was Celia Cruz? 
August 4th 2020 by Penguin Workshop
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Born to a poor family in Cuba in 1925, Cruz was surrounded by the love and support of her Afrocuban family, who made sure that she had everything she needed. Interested in singing from a young age, she sang lullabies at home and eventually entered contests and sang in public. She went to school to become a teacher, but after she finished college, found work touring with a variety of bands. During the tumultuous time when Castro was cementing his power in the 1960s, Cruz went to Mexico City on tour with a band, and was informed by the leader that they would not be returning to Cuba. Devastated because of the ill health of her parents, Cruz wanted to return, but her mother told her not to. She continued to work in the music industry for years, collaborating with young people like Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine in the 1990s. She was married to band leader Tito Puente, and completed 76 albums before her death in 2003. 

I had never heard of Celia Cruz and am not familiar with her music, but her story of perseverance and resilience is one that young readers will find inspiring. One of my frequent complaints is that there are 100 different biographies on some people, like Frida Kahlo, when it would be far more interesting to read biographies about less covered individuals. This is a great example of an influential and accomplished person who hasn't been written about very much. I only saw three other books on Cruz when I checked my library supplier's catalog. 

The who was series makes biographies accessible, and the somewhat silly covers (the big heads on the little bodies) appeal to readers, who ask for the books by that description! The books are a good length (about 100 pages), have appealing line illustrations, and include a timelines at the back of both the individual's life and world events, which is very helpful. 

Reading biographies is a great way to learn about history, so hand this WhoHG book from Penguin Workshop to readers who can't get enough of the Vegara Little People, Big Dreams, Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World, or Clinton's She Persisted biography series.

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, December 20, 2022


Krovatin, Christopher. Ablaze.
January 3, 2023 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Aly struggles a bit in middle school, unlike her more confident and well dressed older sister Rachael. Aly has braces, and is made fun of by some of the kids in her class. On several occasions, fires start when she gets angry, and when she manages to burn up her math homework on her desk at home, she can no longer deny that something strange is going on. He uncle has a few clues that this might be a family trait, and even claims that Aly's father can move things iwth his mind. Aly confides in Rachael, who counsels her to think about some anger management techniques like breathing and meditation in order to get her emotions under control. It's not enough, and soon Aly is melting the tennis shoes of a boy who is tormenting her younger brother Simon. Or is Aly really pyrokinetic? She does some online research, but there are some clues that the fires might not be her doing. Simon also seems to have some strange abilities of his own. When things heat up, literally, at school, will Aly be able to douse the flames before it is too late?
Strengths: This had some good twists and turns that I don't want to spoil, so the short review is not reflective of the quality of the book. This had a lot of nice details about the fire, some psychological intrigue, and a really interesting sibling bond. Rachael was nicely unhinged, Aly tormented, and Simon the unlikely hero in many ways. Solid creepy read, and this cover will make it fly off the shelves. 
Weaknesses: Do people really make fun of other children for braces these days? Seems unlikely, since so many people wear them. Back in the '70s, when fewer people had them and children made fun of everyone for everything, this would have been more prevalent. Can't say anyone makes fun of people for wearing glasses, either. 
What I really think: I have four copies of this author's Red Rover, so will buy at least two copies of Ablaze. Is it as scary as Red Rover? Hmmm. Not really, but there was something oddly captivating about it. I'm sure that pyrokinesis has been done before (a friend mentioned that King's Carrie could set things on fire, but it's been so long since I read it that I don't remember), but it's probably not something most middle grade readers have seen. I remember being slightly disappointed by this author's Gravediggers series, but he is really on a roll how with Darkness and several other titles! 

Ms. Yingling

Monday, December 19, 2022

MMGM- 100 Disasters That Shaped History

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Mattern, Joanne. 100 Disasters that Shaped World History
November 4th 2022 by Sourcebooks Explore
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Middle grade readers are fond of disaster books, and many of them have an interest in particular occurrences; there are always Titanic fans, and last year I had two readers who couldn't get enough shipwreck books. I personally find the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire fascinating. This book will appeal to those readers, but I can think of a lot of uses for this well done overview of historical tragedies.

The events in this book are arranged chronilogically, which is a big help. The events that you would expect to see, like Vesuvius, the Great Chicago Fire, Exxon Valdez, and Chernobyl are all there, as well some that are lesser known like the Halifax explosion and the Hartford Circus fire. There are natural disasters, plane crashes, building collapses, and even The Who concert disaster, but nothing about wars or mass shootings, which was a good call. Many different places in the world are covered. 

Each event gets a page that describes general conditions that led up the the disaster, what happened and how many people were affected, and what the impact of the disaster was, if any. The change in labor practices after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is one of the reasons I find it so interesting. 

This would be a great book to spark history projects as well. The articles on each event are short enough for a student to page through the book until something speaks, and there's enough information to start researching. It looks like this, along with Felder's 100 Women Who Shaped American History, might be the start of a new 31 book set from Sourcebooks. It was difficult to find too much information about the series, so perhaps this is just the start. I'll definitely being exploring more of these titles. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sincerely Sicily

Burgess, Tamika. Sincerely Sicily
January 3, 2023 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
When the new Shirley Chisholm Middle School opens in her neighborhood, Sicily is dismayed that she will have to attend, especially since her best friends will be attending Ravenwood Middle School. She even tries to get her parents to open enroll her, but they can't swing driving her twenty minutes across town, and don't think it's a good idea for her abuela to do it, either. Sicily is even angrier when she finds out she has to wear an ugly khaki and orange uniform, and doesn't like the new, modern gray building. She is lucky that she meets Reyna early on, and gets along with her. When her teacher assigns a family culture project, Sicily is proud to tell her classmates about her Black Panamanian ancestry. She brings in food as well as her pollera, which unfortunately gets ruined by red punch. Her classmates are very confused about how she can be from Panama since she is Black, something her brother Enrique also mentions. While Sicily is hurting from this fallout, her abuela says very unkind things about Sicily's braids, calling them "ghetto" and "low class". Sicily's mother tells her father that his mother is no longer welcome in the house, even though she is dealing with the death of her husband and worsening arthritis. Sicily also misses her abuelo, and has not been journaling since his death. She is trying to get on the school literary magazine, which is run by the evil Erin Masterson, who doesn't seem to like Sicily. Reyna's cousin Michael, who is staying with her family while his parents and sister are in the Philippines for a year for work, is also interested in writing, and Sicily thinks he is kind of cute. Sicily feels bad that her grandmother can't acceppt her braids, and starts to write an article for the magazine about Black Panamanians in order to educate her classmates. She learns a lot about the Afro-Latinx community, but will she be able to share it with her abuela and repair their relationship?
Strengths: Sicily attends a very diverse school, and her teacher gives a lot of leeway with the family culture project; luckily, this was NOT a family tree endeavor! I appreciated that even though she didn't want to leave her friends, she was able to keep in touch with them and also make a new friend in Reyna. The family dynamics were interesting, and just go to show that the generation gap happens in many cultures. The writing about Black Panamanians was interesting; the only other book I can think of that involves Panama at all is Engle's 2014 Silver People, or maybe Krishnaswami's 2017 Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh (which talks a bit about Indians who left India after the Partition and went to build the canal).
Weaknesses: I had about as much sympathy for Sicily's objection to being at a new school as her parents did, but younger readers will be more sympathetic. I would have liked a bit more information about how the abuela got the punch stain out of the pollera!
What I really think: This was an interesting book that will be a hit with readers who enjoy books that have a lot of friend and family drama, and also some cultural connections.

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Squad Up! (Power Up #2)

Nisson, Sam and Johnson, Darnell (illustrations) Squad Up! (Power Up #2)
August 23, 2022 by Etch/Clarion Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In the sequel to Power Up!, we find that Miles and Rhys have overcome their past problems and have revived a tentative friendship. They've won a videogame tournament and have a modicum of notoriety because of this. They like to play Mech Melee, a game that features giant robots that have a variety of battles. Rhys' dad tries to keep up with his son's progress in the game, and even has an app on his phone that lists the front runners! When a video gets sent to the students at their North Mesa middle school by a person calling themselves "Honest Narwhal", listing the popular kids in the school, they are on it because of their gaming notoriety, but the kids on the list soon become targets of someone trying to discredit them. A quiet, shy girl named Verna is interested in the game, but there is something suspicious about her. When Miles' family goes on a screen free vacation, things start to get out of hand with the Honest Narwhal posts. Will Rhys and Miles be able to control their own publicity, or will the Honest Narwhal get the better of them?

Young readers who enjoy video games will love the lengthy parts of this book that detail the Mech Melee battles, but I struggled to understand a lot of them! I found it easier to focus on the subplot with Honest Narwhal's identity, although I knew fairly early on who that would be. There's enough going on to engage readers who are interested in either thread. 

The illustration style made me think of an early computer game, Kate's Farm, that  my daughter played. This gave it a fun, retro video game feel, and the Mech Melee robots reminded me a bit of the Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em toy of my youth. There's a good mix of action and adventure and a bit of philosophical thought about middle school relationships that works well. 

Video game books are always a popular choice, and I always feel happy to find a new one, since my students can't be playing video games as long as they are reading about them. This graphic novel series is a great addition to books like Chang's Tournament Trouble series, Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson, Brown's Josh Baxter Levels Up, Korman's Slacker, or the Minecraft chapter books published by Tor. 

Ms. Yingling

Friday, December 16, 2022

Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day

Baptist, Kelly J. Isaiah Dunn Saves ths Day
August 2, 2022 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Library Copy

Now that his family life is a little more stable, since his mother's stint in rehab after hs father's death in Isaiah Dunn is My Hero, Isaiah is able to concentrate more on his writing and his own life. Miz Rita is a huge help, watching his younger sister Charlie and doing the cooking so his mother, who is now in college and working as a TA, doesn't have to. Sneaky still has his candy resale business, but the two don't spend as much time together since Isaiah is working with Angel in a mentorship program. He's been pared with Kobe, who is not at all interested in reading, which shocks Isaiah, since he wants to be a writer when he grows up. Isaiah has a good role model in Rock at the New Growth barbershop who is trying to mentor Sneaky's older brother Antwan who is running with a problematic crowd. At first, dealing with Kobe seems like too much, so Isaiah drops out briefly, but playing football isn't as interesting as he thought. He goes back to mentoring, and makes some progress with Kobe, especially when he starts to make picture books starring a super hero character based on Kobe, the way his father told him stories when he was young. This takes a lot of time, thought, and makes Angel less than happy, since he's not able to work as much on the greeting cards that the two sell. Will Isaiah be able to balance all of the activities in his life?
Strengths: There are not a lot of books that deal with children balancing school and activities, but that is such an enormous part of middle school. Teachers will adore all of Isaiah's poetry, and his love of writing. His relationships with his friends and family interested me the most, and Miz Rita is a fascinating character, although we don't see quite as much of her. I've had a number of students with parents who have gone back to school, so that was a good inclusion. The mentorship program, with sixth graders pairing with third graders, is something I've seen in our district from time to time, but haven't read about as much. This was a worthy sequel to the first book. The cover is great. 
Weaknesses: This seemed a bit younger and slower than I would have liked, but I have some 8th grade boys who kept asking when this book would arrive, so it certainly has a lot of appeal!
What I really think: This is a really good length, and an appealingly complex story that has some funny moments along with the deeper issues. My students have a lot of book projects where they can pick any chapter book they want, and I think that this would lend itself well to this purpose, especially since Isaiah is such a well rounded character. 
 Ms. Yingling

Thursday, December 15, 2022


Rud, Jeff. Centerville
Published April 12th 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Library Copy

Jake is a good basketball player, but not getting the attention he needs for college scholarships in his small town. When a scout from the prestigious Centerville Prep recruits him, his parents are glad to pay the $11,000 tuition to have him go to a private school, live in nice dorms, and have a better chance at being recruited. He flies to the town where the school is, but no one is there to meet him. He has to take a bus, and the coach meets him and drops him off at a decrepit house where some of his new teammates seem to be living. There isn't much food, but the coach drops off cheap, carb heavy groceries the next morning. Jake isn't too thrilled with the classes, either, but the boys are allowed to end their day early so they can practice basketball. Some of the boys have been with Coach Stone for a while, and acknowledge that he lied about the facilities. Instead of having a dedicated campus, the coach makes deals with local schools to "host" his basketball program. Since he's a senior and needs a certain number of credits to graduate, Jake hunts down a guidance counselor and adds two classes, but the coach isn't happy that they run into practice. The basketball is great, but the players often make the coach angry, and he retaliates by cutting their playing time. Another player, Billy, is short a couple of credits and isn't going to graduate, and his parents paid even more tuition. When he takes some desperate action, Jake knows he needs to talk to the board of education representative he met on the plane, who has been e mailing him about Centerville Prep. Will Jake be able to still make his basketball dreams come true?
Strengths: This was just weirdly fun, and I think will be very appealing to my reluctant 8th grade readers. The dreams of making it big in basketball, living unsupervised in a house with other players, and a lot of descriptions of what happens on the court all merge into an intriguing tale. There's even some quickly resolved trauma with Billy. This is a short book, but brilliantly sneaky-- it's 161pages, but only 4 Accelerated Reader points (Wimpy Kid books are 3), because the Orca sports books are 7"x 4 and 1/4". I also enjoyed Rud's Paralyzed and In the Paint.
Weaknesses: This might seem impossible that a sports school would get away with charging high tuition and mistreating players, but there was an incident in Columbus not too long ago where there was a very similiar school! I never followed up with what happened to Bishop Sycamore, but it certainly made the news! (And even the name reeked of something made up.)
What I really think: Glad I purchased them. These would be great for classroom libraries, because they are available in paperback. I splurge and get the prebinds. 

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Pippa Park Crush at First Sight

Yun, Erica. Pippa Park Crush at First Sight
September 13th 2022 by Fabled Films Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After her transition to her new private school because of a basketball scholarship, Pippa finds herself a bit adrift at Christmastime when she finds that her mother, who was in a very bad car accident in South Korea at the end of the first book, will not be able to travel to the US for the holiday. Her older sister, Mina, is still struggling to keep the laudromat open, so money is tight. When the Royals don't have another place to have their annual party, Caroline goads Pippa into having it at her small family apartment. This poses a problem, especially when neighbor Mrs. Lee falls, breaks a hip, and moves into Pippa's room. While she is still being tutored by Elliott and has a crush on him, she is connecting more with her old friend, Marvel, with whom she watches children at her church. As the party nears and things conspire against her, will Pippa be able to get a dress, get a date, and fit 34 people into her home for a festive afternoon?

The draw of the first book for me was the basketball; even though so many middle school girls play the sport, there are few books about it. Elena delle Donne's Elle of the Ball, Robert's Nikki on the Line, and Mackel's Boost are some of the few titles out there. There is a little bit here about Pippa's involvement on the team, but the majority of the plot centers around the party.

Pippa's disbelief that her sister won't let her have the party despite the family's circumstances will ring true for young readers whose life view is narrow and focused on what they want, rather than what is possible for their caregivers. Pippa does obtain an expensive dress by borrowing money from a friend, after Mina has to borrow babysitting money Pippa has earned to buy medicine for Mrs. Lee. Mina's husband is always supportive, and he is a delightful character.

The private school and the mean girls will appeal to fans of Russell's Dork Diaries and Harrison's The Clique, and Pippa's desire to impress her friends is understandable. The possible romances with Elliott or Marvel will leave readers turning the pages to find out whom she takes to the party, if she's able to pull it off!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Legend of the Lost Boy

Sedita, Francesco, Seraydarian, Prescott, and Hamaker, Steve (illustrations)
The Legend of the Lost Boy
August 23, 2022 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this final book in the Pathfinders Society trilogy (after The Mystery of the Moon Tower and The Curse of the Crystal Cavern), we catch up with the intrepid Pathfinders as they try to figure out why the Fairly family is trying to destroy Windrose. They are traveling back and forth in time, and meeting a number of historic figures who help them on their path to save Camp Pathfinder and the Merriweather Castle. Kyle, Vic, Harry, Beth, and Nate are transported back to the camp in 1962, where they meet Mildred and revel in the cool retro uniforms they have to wear. As interesting as it is, though, they have to find their way back to the present. The historical society was renovating, and this provided them with some clues, like a ribbon map indicating that the singing rocks might hold the key to the mystery. These are off limits, so getting to them is difficult. When they travel further in time and meet Captain Merriweather, will he be able to help them on their journey and give them assistance in finding a better path for Windrose?

The children are on a fateful mission, and the color palette of the book reflects the darkness into which they are thrown. While the vintage camp settings are rendered in greens, browns, and yellows, a lot of the book has the evocative blues and purples of the covers that make the place in the universe and in time seem very fluid and dangerous. I'm not a fan of the eyes (there's always one thing about illustrations in graphic novels that bothers me, often the rendering of noses or eyes!), but they are certainly expressive and captivating! I also have to agree with the Pathfinders; the retro uniforms are very cool. 

The ability to travel in time is a fascinating idea, and is used to good effect throughout this series. Finding clues is one thing, but being able to talk to characters from the past makes the mission seem even more immediate and fraught. Windrose is a very atmospheric setting, and the addition of a summer camp amidst the intrigue will appeal to fans of paranormal novels like Condie's The Darkdeep or Berk and Mitchell's Camp Murderface, or the television show Stranger Things

Graphic novels have become much more sophisticated in the last ten years, and it is good to finally see the format venturing into different genres. A trilogy is just the right size for a series; it's easy enough for readers to complete without becoming tired of the storyline, and easier to manage than manga series with dozens of books! Hand this to readers who enjoyed Quinn's Kingdom of Wrenly, Liu's Wingbearer, or Yogis' The Awakening Storm