Monday, February 20, 2023

MMGM- It Happened on Saturday and Madame C.J. Walker

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Dunlap, Sydney. It Happened on Saturday
February 21, 2023 by Jolly Fish Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

**Some spoilers, but nothing more than is in the book description.**

Julia is starting 8th grade, and things are a bit rocky. Her best friend, Nori, has a boyfriend and has little time to volunteer at the riding stables where Julia likes to hang out. Her older sister Danielle is also busy with her own boyfriend, and her parents are caught up in their own work. When school starts, she doesn't even have lunch with Nori, and struggles to find a friend group. At one point, Danielle gives Julia a makeover when they are spending some sisterly time together, and when Julia posts a picture of herself on social media, she gets some good responses. One of these is from Tyler, and even though she knows she isn't supposed to engage with people she meets online, she warms to Tyler. He's in tenth grade at a private school, and the two chat a bit. Eventually, he suggests meeting at the mall. This sounds safe enough, and Julia is feeling estranged from everyone in her life, so she says yes. It's a great meeting, and they go to a fancy restaurant. They continue to chat, as Julia's friends and family seem further and further from her. During another meeting at the mall with Tyler, he talks about a friend he's just met, Alex, and says that he's staying at the hotel. Tyler forgets his keys in the room and asks if Julia would mind if they go get them. This seems innocent enough, but once she gets to the room, things go badly wrong. Julia keeps her wits about her and is able to escape. This is still traumatic, and her parents buckle down on keeping an eye on her. They pick her up from school, tell teachers about what happened, and are leery of her going riding, since the area near the stables is exposed. For all of these protections, and despite being in group therapy for the trauma, Julia is still uncomfortable telling her friends what happened. Even when one of her friends mentions talking to a boy online, she's not able to share her experiences with her friends. This further estranges her from Nori and other friends at the stables, but she eventually feels compelled to give them details  in order to keep them safe. She was afraid that her friends would judge her harshly, but they understand how someone could be lured in by people who benefit from deceiving young people and are very practiced at their techniques. 
Strengths: This was a well constructed, cautionary tale that is very important for middle school students to read, especially if they are active on social media. Julia's feelings about her friends and family are very true to life, and Tyler is very wiley when it comes to playing on her emotions, making her feel wanted, and adding a veneer of safety concerns to their interactions. What could be safer than meeting at the mall? Julia had plenty of people around her who cared about her,  but the problems that lead her to seek out Tyler because he made her feel better about herself were pitch perfect. Along with Feldman's Ezra Exposed, this is a great book to have to inform readers about how to stay safe on social media. I really appreciated all of the notes and discussion questions at the end as well. 
Weaknesses: The cover does not reflect the social media aspect of the story, which means I will have to hand sell this and tell readers it is not all about horses. (The cover has been updated so that the horse doesn't appear, but I still wanted a Joan Lowery Nixon 90s style photo cover featuring the mall!) I wasn't sure I liked having the big event happen so early on in the book, but as I read I realized that it was really important to portray how Julia dealt with the aftermath of the event. I'm not sure why I thought this wouldn't be addressed. 
What I really think: This is a great, updated book that reminded me of Vaught's 2008 Exposed, which is probably really dated at this point. I'm surprised that we aren't seeing more books like this, considering how much time young people spend on their phones. 

Millner, Denene. Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business
17 January 2023 Rebel Girls
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867 and was the first in her family to attend school, where she flourished. When she was 8, however, her parents passed away and she had to live with an older sister who was more interested in having her help with household chores. She married young, and had a baby, Leila, but faced another challenge when her husband was lynched. She moved to St. Louis andmanaged to earn a living, but when a door to door saleswoman, Annie Turnbo, came to her door selling hair products, her life was changed. Sarah's hair had always been fragile, and she didn't have a lot of time or energy to put into caring for it, but Annie's products made such a difference that Sarah decided to work for her. She sold her products, but eventually branched out on her own. Annie then accused her of stealing her recipes, even though Sarah had changed them quite a bit. This rivalry led to Sarah moving around quite a bit to steer clear of competition. She married again, and her business became very successful. She was passionate about her products, and also about opportunities for women. She was not happy when Booker T. Washington of the National Negro Business League did not take her seriously as a business person just because she was a woman. Her daughter eventually worked with her, and Sarah, who took on the professional name of Madame C.J. Walker, became the first Black, female millionaire. Sadly, she died at the age of 52, but her legacy as an entrepreneur and civil rights advocate is impressive. 
Strengths: I was a huge fan of biographies as a child, and learned so much from reading the Childhodd of Famous Americans series. This was a fast-paced, highly readable book that reminded me a bit of those biographies, but which did a better job at looking at Walker's whole life, and well as her legacy. The illustrations are in full color and are beautifully rendered; I always like a few photographs when they exist, but loved the bright colors and attractive design of these illustrations. I've liked other Rebel Girls books, like Favilli's Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World , but this series is a little more like a fictional chapter book, perfect for readers who have to be persuaded to read nonfiction. 
Weaknesses: The activities at the end are interesting, but I would also have liked to see a time line included. 
What I really think: This is a great series for middle schoolers who liked the Penguin Who Was biography series but want to branch out with some lesser known women historical figures. These are a little longer and include more in depth information than Clinton's She Persisted series. I'm definitely looking into buying some of these! I don't know anything about Junko Tabei!


  1. Both books sound very interesting. Have a lovely week.

  2. It Happened On Saturday is so important for naive teens. Wouldn't want to be a parent with the strong social media influence today. This sounds like an important classroom read. Glad my kids are grown.
    I haven't read the book about Madame C.J. Walker, but I saw Self-Made on Netflex. Octavia Spencer played the role of Madame C.J. Walker.

  3. These both sound amazing. It Happened on Saturday is particularly interesting to me. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for your very thorough reviews.