Saturday, June 17, 2023

Saturday Morning Cartoons- The Love Report

BeKa and Maya. The Love Report (#1)
June 13, 2023 by Astra Publishing House
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Lola and Grace are best friends who have very different family lives; while Lola lives with just her mother, Grace has siblings and parents whom Lola thinks are close. The girls are obsessed with crushes, and are trying to understand the dynamics of how romance works among their peers, so start a scientific study. Why is Felicity Sunshine the object of all the boys' desires? Why is it so hard for Lola to talk to Noah? Why does gossipy Charlie know what all of the other girls are doing? Watching those around them and talking to new people at school, Lola and Grace try to find out how romance works through anecdotal evidence. While they are doing this, Lola finally talks to Noah, and the two start going out and kissing. Meanwhile, Grace's parents fight more and more, and she fears that they might get divorced. The girls grow apart, and make new friends. Lola finds herself talking more to Felicity, who isn't interested in all of the attention that she gets but would rather study astrophysics. Grace finds herself confiding in Adele, who is so prickly because she had a bad experience with a boy who went too far (he put his hand under her shirt, which is shown discreetly in a panel) and was afterwards labeled a "bimbo" and a "slut". When Noah breaks up with Lola because he is trying to befriend the "cool kids" at school and they tell him to drop her, Lola is heartbroken. She misses Grace and realizes that she hasn't been there for her friend. Will the two be able to start to understand both the nature of friendship and the nature of love as they try to survive their tween years?

I vividly remember having a crush on a boy in 7th grade and watching with fascination as he "dated" just about every girl in my class except me! Lola is an appealing Every Girl who is a bit quiet and mousy (she is portrayed with a bit of hair in her face that made me want to brush it back!) and thrilled to have a boyfriend. Noah is sweet until he gives in to peer pressure. Felicity is an interesting popular girl who isn't pleased with the superficial reasons that boys like her. There is some mention of romance beyond the heteronormative binary, but this is mostly boy-girl romance. 

The issue of reputation is dealt with, and Lola and Grace discuss talking to Felicity in terms of meeting a "bimbo". Adele's problems include someone writing the word "slut" on her backpack. This does have a particularly French feel to it, similar to Tessier's Chloe series and Simonson and Mason's Junior High Drama, that won't resonate with all US readers, since judging girls and women are their choices is no longer acceptable. 

Romance certainly is a very appealing topic to middle school students, and this book portrays the frenetic pace of breakups and makeups very well. The idea of studying classmates and trying to qualify and quantify emtions is an intriguing one. Graphic novel readers go through a lot of books, so this is one to have on hand for readers who have worked their way through other titles with lots of drama like Miller's Besties: Work it Out, Holms' Real Friends, Jamieson's Roller Girl, and the works of Raina Telgemeier. 

Melleby, Nicole. Sam Makes a Splash (Sunrise Lagoon #1)
May 9, 2023 by Algonquin Young Readers
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central 

The Ali-O'Connors live in New Jersey on a lagoon near the seaside. Mom repairs boats and takes people out in her boat, and Mama teaches and helps with the business' bookkeeping. Sam was adopted after being fostered by the family, and joins siblings Marina (who is also adopted and has Mexican heritage) and Harbor, as well as seven year old twins Cordelia and Lir who have Mama's Syrian ancestry. The children know that summer has started when the Badger brothers arrive to stay with their grandparents, and the summer activities begin. This is hard for Sam, because she hasn't learned to swim well, which is a problem given where they live. She is also concerned that she has caused the family financial difficulty, since her adoption was expensive, and the boat business isn't doing well. She is saving her  money from doing chores to help, especially when Mom sells boats to Joe Koch, and Sam thinks that Mom might sell the business and go work for him. Cordelia and Lir get involved and ask everyone in their community for help, which wasn't exactly what the grownups wanted! The Badger brothers entice the siblings into taking some risky chances, but things work out. Sam really wants to take over the boat business when she grows up, because it makes her feel like she is part of the family, but will the business still be there?

Children worry more about family finances than parents realize, so it was interesting that Sam was worried for the family. The mix of biological and adopted children is discussed freely, which is a bit of a change from a few years ago, and Sam visits her grandmother in an assisted living facility, and Marina talks about visiting with her father. The desire to be part of a large family still persists today, even though there are not nearly as many large families in the 2020s-- the suggested power of The Brady Bunch lingering on, perhaps?

I have noticed that many of my students don't know how to swim, and this seems particularly dangerous. Sam's attempts to learn, even though fraught with difficulty, were an especially good conclusion. I have to admit that I don't quite understand the topography of the New Jersey lagoon, but anyone living near water should certainly have this skill. 

The blurb for this compared it to Birdsall's The Penderwicks or Glaser's The Vanderbeekers, but this seems more like Levy's Misadventures of The Family Fletcher, especially The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, and has a bit in common with Donoghue's The Lotterys

Melleby, Nicole. Marina in the  Middle (Sunrise Lagoon #2)
May 9, 2023 by Algonquin Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central 

Marina was adopted into the Ali-O'Connor family when she was very young, and lives with her two mothers in Sunrise Lagoon, New  Jersey. She gets along with sisters Harbor and the recently adopted Sam, as well as younger twin siblings Cordelia and Lir, but she is struggling with Mama. Marina doesn't like boats, and doesn't want to ride on the family one for the annual Parade of Lights before school starts. Mama says that if Marina doesn't improve her attitude, she will need to talk to a counselor to work through her issues with boats which are, after all, the family business. Marina doesn't feel that boats or the ocean are safe, and when the family goes to the beach and Cordelia wanders off even though the family specifically talks through a lot of safety issues, Marina is determined that she will not ride on the boat. She comes up with some schemes to disable the boat with her new friend Bernadette (called "Boom") that are decidedly NOT safe, and Mama talks to her about her own personal anxiety about a number of issues. Can Marina make peace with her fears and feel secure within her family?

Family structres have changed a lot in the last 30 years, and it's always good to see families with a blend of biological and adopted children. Both Mama and Mom are actively involved with the raising of the children, and the squabbles that the sisters (and Lir!) have are true to life. 

I especially enjoyed that the children's origins were all respected and considered. Marina is a bit troubled by the fact that Sam was adopted as an older child and is close to her own age; she was expecting her moms to adopt a baby. Because of the different levels of stress the children feel, talking to a counselor is always an option. In the previous book, Sam Makes a Splash, Sam was seeing a professional to work through her issues, and Marina is also given this opportunity. 

This is more lighthearted than Melleby's The Science of Being Angry, but shows similar sibling interactions. Smith's Code Name Serendipity has a similar family structure, and Callaghan's Saltwater Secrets has a similar setting. It's interesting to see that there has been a bit of progress made with the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ families: the whole plot of Gennari's 2012 My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer revolved around the fact that the family with two mothers is not accepted. Things aren't perfect, but there has been incremental progress. 

Because I was not familiar with the Jersey Shore, I admit to looking up some of the street views on Google Earth. Let me tell you: Marina has more to worry about than boats. Like the Florida Keys, the lagoons in New Jersey seem like a very bad place to live. One good storm, and the family would be up to its ears in water. However, having spent a great deal of her life living in a community that thinks it's a good idea to build roads over water, you would have thought she would have realized that with proper training and safety measures, a boat would be a decently safe option. (Apologies to people who think that living close to water is a good idea. Clearly, I have a fear of this!)
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I was just thinking the one by Nicole Melleby reminded me of THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY. I definitely want to check out that series. Also, yep, I worry about kids who don't learn how to swim. I live near the FL coast, so water is a big part of recreational activities here. How great that the book addresses it and shows Sam learning despite the difficulty. Thanks for sharing these books!