Saturday, February 04, 2023

Nat for Nothing (Nat Enough #4) and Terry's Crew

Scrivan, Maria. Nat for Nothing(Nat Enough #4)
February 7, 2023 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

While Nat is still struggling to maintain a relationship with Lily, (in Forget Me Nat and Nat for Nothing), she has good friends in Zoe and Flo. Her school year gets off to a rocky start, though, when she sleeps in late and ends up biking to school in her bunny slippers. She also has a literal run in with new student Luca, and later has to show him around the school. There is a new principal who is big on rules and short on fun, and everyone is required to participate in a school club. This is hard for Nat, since all she wants to do is draw comics, and hasn't vibrated to any of the activities offered, even finding art club judgey and boring. When Zoe takes up Volleyball and Flo throws herself (and her sock puppet Argyle) into raising money for a buddy bench, Nat finds herself at loose ends after school. Her parents find plenty of chores for her to do, but that's not as much fun as hanging out with her friends. When Luca suggests starting a comic book club, she isn't quite sure it will work, and the proposal is shot down twice by the principal. Still, the two try to gather members, and even use the club to help Flo raise money for her buddy bench. Luca also helps Nat with her ever present anxiety, labeling her negative thoughts "doubt gremlins" and telling her not to listen to them. Eventually, their efforts pay off, and they have an official club!
Strengths: My students love this series, and since so many of them struggle with their own "doubt gremlins", they will be especially fond of this installment. Friendships often fall apart in middle school, and Nat's on again, off again relationship with Lily is very realistic. My favorite part was Nat's parents making sure she was productive when she was bored, but I'm sure younger readers will prefer the rock painting, club founding, and Luca! 
Weaknesses: I didn't quite understand how the clubs were working. The librarian lets the comic book club meet in the library but then throws them out when the group is larger and too loud; if this is after school, the noise wouldn't be a problem, but it didn't seem like the librarian was the official sponsor. Young readers won't care, but I got stuck on that detail. 
What I really think: I'd like to see a little romance thrown into this series, since middle schoolers have that on their mind a lot. These brightly colored books are a big hit with fans of all of the realistic graphic novels with nervous or struggling main characters, like Chmakova's Berrybrook Middle School series, Libenson's Emmie and Friends books, and Telgemeier's work. 

Do feel I have to note that while buddy benches might be a big hit at elementary schools, I have never heard a middle school student do anything but make fun of these. Of course, Flo is rather quirky and unique, so it's right in character for her to champion this idea. 

Crews, Terry and Thomas, Cory (illus.). Terry's Crew
November 8th 2022 by Little, Brown Ink
Library copy

In this graphic novel, young Terry is excited to attend Rock City Academy, an elite private school is his town. He's planning on studying art, playing sports, and generally being a success at everything he does. He has some trouble fitting into the school. He thinks that his student guide, Rani, has befriended him, but then she is absent for days. A popular jock wants Terry to help his group with the talent show, but only if Terry is willing to knock Zander's books to the ground. Terry immediately regrets doing that, and soon apologizes, and Xander, Rani, and Terry form their own group for the talent show. When Terry's grades aren't as high as his mother wants, she bans him from performing in the talent show, but he approaches the teacher and asks if he can be the emcee. There are some bumps along the way, but Terry eventually has a good friend group, and is happy enough in his new school. 
Strengths: The art style is a little different than most graphic novels, which is refreshing, but it's not so dissimilar that students won't pick it up. Terry is a likeable character with admirable goals, and his behavior is very typical of middle school students. The talent show preparations help propel the plot forward, and the minor characters add some depth to the story. 
Weaknesses: Some of the characters were a little over the top; one teacher is particularly evil, and Xander reminded me very strongly of Richie Rich. 
What I really think: This seemed a lot like Jerry Craft's New Kid, but is apparently based on Crews' own life. I apparently haven't followed popular culture for 30 years, because I have never heard ot the author. Not sure if the celebrity aspect will appeal to my students, but since they will read just about any graphic novel, it doesn't really matter. 

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