Monday, June 19, 2023

MMGM- North of Supernova

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Leavitt, Lindsey. North of Supernova 
June 6, 2023 by Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Co.)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Stella North has finally broken into the big time, with an invitation to the popular Talia's birthday party, where only five of her friends can go to a cake decorating shop. Things have been hard for Stella and her brother Ridge since their mother became addicted to pain killers and has left the family after unsuccessful attempts at rehab. Their father often has to work away from home, and they are lucky to have their mom's sister Maggie to watch out for them. Stella has a lot of anxiety, but sees a therapist and has several coping strategies including therapy dog Pog and a "panic room" with a weighted blanket. When her father comes home from his latest trip, he has big news-- he's getting married to his college girlfried, Whitney, whom he has run into in Las Vegas. Since she and her daughter Vivian live there, and his job is requiring him to stay in that town for a while, Stella and Ridge find themselves whisked away from their home in Tacoma for two weeks. This is devastating to Stella, who had planned to hang out with Talia and her friends. Whitney is nice, if overly upbeat and energetic, and even high school sophomore Vivian doesn't seem to begrudge sharing her room. Stella panicks a bit, however, at the thought of her father remarrying, and when she and Vivian talk, they decide to form a plan to break their parents up. Stella has met a local pyschic and convenience store clerk, gotten her palm read, and has a great idea; she and Vivian will use astrology, crystals, and even a consultation with a phone psychic to come up with a plan to break their parents apart. They call this porject "Supernova" and put a lot of effort into researching different things from tea leaves to zodiac signs. Whitney is planning a wedding, even though she and Stella's father haven't quite worked out whether they will all live in Tacoma or in Las Vegas. The adults have a couple of arguments, and Stella thinks her plan is working, but then she feels bad. She's actually enjoying Las Vegas, where she hangs out not only with Vivian but with some of her friends, including the very cute 8th grade Cooper, with whom she has a nascent romance. Complicating matters is a visit from her mother and Aunt Maggie. How will Stella find a way to figure out what is best for everyone involved?
Strengths: This was definitely on trend for so many things we are seeing in middle grade students; parents with opioid addiction who are doing their best to recover, parents who are getting remarried to people with children of their own, navigating moving to a new community, and dealing with the daily stress of feeling anxious. There's a good dose of friend drama, but most of the relationships are positive. Talia is kind even long distance, taking a call and giving Stella advice about Cooper. Vivian really enjoys thinking of Stella as a sister, even though the two are working together to stop their parents from marrying. Aunt Maggie is a steady presence, and Stella's mother is trying to repair her relationship and acknowledges her past  mistakes. Even the quirky fortune tellers and convenience store clerks have fun interactions. Not only that, but I now know that I never want to live in Las Vegas! I like being outside in the summer, and it's not a good idea to live in the desert. 
Weaknesses: I have to admit that all of the tarot card readings and crystals weren't quite my cup of loose leaf tea now, but when I was twelve, I would have LOVED these details. There was a book of "magic" at the public library that I had constantly checked out, and I really thought I could eventually get something to work. Did some palm reading as well, so I would have thought this was great. I feel like I need to find a book of magic to go along with this, but have looked before and not found anything that would really be right. 
What I really think: This is a great title about blended families that will please fans of Burke's An Occasionally Happy Family, Torres' The Do-Over, Zarr's A Song Called Home, Arlow's Almost Flying, or Draper's Blended, and is much more positive than Knisley's Stepping Stones. The ending was a bit of a surprise, but a very pleasant one. Enjoyed this a lot!

Regas, Dean. 1,000 Facts About Space
December 6, 2022 by National Geographic Kids
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

There are kids like me, who love novels and don't really want to read things with pictures, and there are kids like my brother, who made it pretty much all the way to high school having only read the Guinness Book of World Records. This book literally has 1,000 facts about space, numbered and arranged by topics. There are facts about the first humans on the moon (#21- Alan Shepard played golf there!), 75 facts about twinking stars, and pages about weather in space, living in space, telescopes on earth and even information about UFOs and urban legends. If that isn't enough, there is even a timeline of space missions and a glossary in case one of the facts needs further explanation. Luckily, there is also a complete index in case you find a really cool fact and need help going back to it later to tell your friends! 

Illustrated with National Geographics rich collection of photographs, this is a well laid out book that organizes the facts visually with different colors of text boxes arranged on light or dark backgrounds. There are a lot of diffferent font styles and sizes used, but the text boxes help keep this from being overwhelming. Each two page spread has larger text giving the theme of the information on the page. I really liked the yellow, orange, and shades of blue color palette, which is shown on the cover as well.

While I personally would prefer a more narrative work, this is the perfect gift for a fact monster about to go on a car trip, as long as you can listen to several hours of having the book quoted to you! Like almanacs or the National Geographic collections of fun facts like Brain Candy: 500 Sweet Facts to Satisfy Your Curiosity, 1,000 Facts About Space has plenty of trivia to keep the most space obsessed reader gobbling up the pages. I would much rather give a book like this or Can't Get Enough Shark Stuff to readers who gravitate toward Ripley's Believe It Or Not books.


  1. North of Supernova sounds like an intriguing read, Karen, and I'm sure tons of kids will love 1,000 Facts About Space too! And it's sort of wild that you and your brother have such opposite reading tastes—siblings can truly be so different in some ways! 😁 Thanks so much for the thoughtful reviews!

  2. North of Supernova sounds intriguing. Certainly curious about the tarot reading. Happy MMGM to you, hope you have a wonderful week.

  3. I once had a summer teaching job in Las Vegas and the weather was miserable. The constant air conditioning when indoors left you freezing. I had not heard of this book and will be sure to give it a go as the plot and characters have me sold.

  4. It is always interesting what middle-graders will cook up & it seems that the girls trying to break up a coming marriage could be true. I remember many sessions with an Ouija board! Thanks for sharing North of Supernova and the space book, too, which I'm sure will be loved by some.

  5. North of Supernova sounds great. I can't imagine all that packed into one, book, but it sounds fun. NatGeo books are so beautiful. I'll bet this one is no exception. Thanks for the reviews.

  6. North of Supernova sounds great. I can't imagine all that packed into one book, but it sounds fun. NatGeo books are always beautiful. This sounds like no exception. Thanks for the reviews.