Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Benny Ramírez and the Nearly Departed

Iriarte, José Pablo. Benny Ramírez and the Nearly Departed
April 30, 2024 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

The Ramírez family moves from Los Angeles, where the father is a movie producer, to Miami, after Benny's abuelo, the famous Latin Grammy winning trumpet player Ignacio Ramírez, dies of a heart attack. Benny's siblings, dancer Cristina and actor Manny, are glad to be attending the South Miami Performing Arts School, where both parents will be working, but Benny is not artistically inclined, and worried about what he will do there. The family inherits the mansion where Ignacio lived, which is filled with memorabilia celebrating his career. Not only there, but the house also has... Ignacio himself, who was turned away from an intriguing party after his death and told that he had to spend more time on Earth. Ignacio encourages Benny to make questionable fashion choices, and even inhabits his body long enough to earn Benny a place in the band at school, playing trumpet, after he showed no talent on his own. Cristina and Manny are struggling a bit at the new school, but the parents seem to be doing okay even though they need to clean out the house. To help, Benny's abuela Gloria comes with her food truck. Ignacio isn't thrilled about this, since the two were divorced because Ignacio spent more time on his work than with his family. Benny discovers that he has quite a knack for cooking. He doesn't do too badly at school, even after wearing his grandfather's clothes, and makes friends with Andrea, a budding playwright, who is interested in ghosts and tries to help him figure out why his grandfather is a ghost. When the Ramírez family decides to hold a New Year's Eve party in the house, a tradition the grandfather ignored, everyone must work together to plan the celebration. Will Benny and his abuelo be able to figure out what is keeping Ignacio tethered to the house and his family?
Strengths: The family dynamics in this book, even without the grandfather, were interesting. Benny thinks his father was fired, and that's why they moved, when his father really quit because he was worried he wasn't spending enough time with his family. Manny wants Benny's attention, but Benny is so involved with trying to learn to play the trumpet that he ignores his younger sibling. Abuela Gloria isn't fond of Ignacio, but is glad to see the rest of her family. Everyone gets along, and the tension comes from other areas, which gave this a very nice feel. The Miami setting is interesting, and Ignacio's mansion is something else. I also enjoyed Benny's sequined wardrobe! This was a well constructed novel with some enticing cooking thrown in. 
Weaknesses: For some reason, the idea of dead grandparents coming back as ghosts creeps me out more than it should, maybe because I have a recurring nightmare that my grandparents are still alive and living in a small house in the country, and I have just... forgotten about them for the last fifty years. Never mind that they would both be over 130 years old. This is completely a me problem. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoy visiting with grandparents who are visiting from beyond the grave in books like Jones' Sauerkraut, Meriano's A Sprinkle of Spirits, or Badua's Freddie vs. The Family Curse

Monday, April 29, 2024

MMGM-- Tree. Table. Book. and Kid-Ventors

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Lowry, Lois. Tree. Table. Book.
April 23, 2024 by Clarion Books 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sophia Winslow lives on a street of older homes in New Hampshire, and her busy parents operate a real estate company out of their breezeway. Her good friend Ralphie Mariani lives across the street with his five brothers and sisters, his doctor father and mother who is a really good cook, and Oliver Vorhees, who is slightly younger, lives down the street with his hardworking single mother. Next door to Sophia is her best friend, 88-year-old Sophie Gershowitz, who came to the US from Poland after World War II and has lived in her house for 68 years. When Sophia overhears that Sophie's son Aaron is coming for a visit and plans to have his mother underrgo cognitive testing because she's slipping more and more, Sophia knows she must spring into action before her best friend is spirited away to live in an old folks' home in Akron, Ohio. She borrows a Merck manual from Ralphie and tries to give Sophia her own version of cognitive tests. It's clear from other occurrences that Sophie is having some problems; she leaves a tea kettle on the stove, and it burns, and when she and Sophia drive to WalMart to get a new one, they get lost coming back. While Sophie has great long term memories and can tell Sophia things that happened in 1961, she can't pass a three word retention test, no matter what Sophia does. Hoping that practice will help, Sophia tries again and again. During one of these sessions, she gives her friend three words; tree, table, and book. These three words spark deep memories of Sophie's life in Poland as a child, and she relates three stories that she hasn't told anyone, not even her son. Sophia feels that someone who has suffered so much shouldn't have to leave her best friend and go into "an old people institution", and she thinks vaguely about setting Sophie up in the abandoned house that's for sale across the street, but when she, Ralphie, and Oliver sneak in to check it out, Oliver, whose description seems to place him on the autism spectrum, opines that trying to do this would not constitute TLC (tender loving care). As sad as she is to lose her friend, Sophia knows that this is true, and prepares to say goodbye to Sophie as her son and parents work to clean out the house and put it on the market. At least Sophia's parents allow her to have a cell phone so that she can talk to her friend once a week for as long as it is possible. 

Strengths: There's no good way to adequately describe this book; it's a simple story, but in Lowry's hands turns into something profound and heartwrenching. Having seen my mother struggle with Parkinson's dementia and watched my father painfully try to "make her better" by quizzing her on the date and various other things, I could definitely understand Sophia's pain. I was also glad that Sophia's son was able to step in, get her tested, and take her to be near him in a setting that would keep her safe, and that while Sophie didn't like it, she, too, saw the necessity of the move. The stories, which I won't even synopsize because I can't do them justice, were poignant and telling, and I almost wish we had heard more about Sophia's time in Poland, or her life in the US as a young mother. Somehow the saddest part of the book, for me, was the description of Sophia's house and furnishings, including her worn out Formica table. Time runs roughshod over everything, doesn't it? 
Weaknesses: The young Sophia is quirky in the same way that Anastasia Krupnik was, with her obsessions with nutrition and grammar, and I'm not sure how much that will resonate with modern young readers. I also was not a huge fan of the cover. 
What I really think: I'll have to purchase this one, because it will resonate with the right reader. Middle school is definitely a time when many students have to deal with the decline of their grandparents, and this is an accessible look at how this might unfold. This hit painfully close to home, as I have many friends and relatives in their 80s. Lowry is herself 86, with an almost fifty year career of writing intriguing books for young readers. 

Pew, Kailie and Wright, Shannon (illus.). 
Kid-ventors: 35 Real Kids and their Amazing Inventions
April 23, 2024 by Feiwel & Friends 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Does your school participate in the Invention Convention? You might want to have this book on hand to motivate students by having them read about children who had good ideas. The chapters are divided into different categories of innovations, including Solving Daily Problems, Helping Others, Technology, The Environment, and Fun Inventions. There are some inventors that are well known, like Benjamin Franklin and Steve Wozniak, but most are ordinary kids who just had good ideas, like KK Gregory and her 1990s Wristies. The brief bios are listed in chronological order and discuss the product as well as the inventor, and I enjoyed hearing what happened the people went on to do later in life. At the end of the chapters, there are more topics discussed, like prototypes, production and marketing, and STEM communities. The book ends with information on how to be an inventor, a glossary, and source list. The book is illustrated with pictures in the style seen on the cover, and might be black and white; I've recently switched from a tablet e reader to a digital paper one, so will have to look at a finished copy. There's a wide range of products, from ones we all know, like Braille, to ones I have never heard of, like Le Glue and a prosthetic arm that shoots glitter!
Strengths: Invention Convention was always rather stressful for my children, and seeing examples of needs that young people felt need to be met would have been inspiring. There's a nice assortment of time periods, and places in the world where people lived, as well as a variety of different inventions. 
Weaknesses: I'm always a fan of seeing photographs when they exist, although there are no doubt copyright issues that are hard to work out. The illustrations were charming, however. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Temporelli, Gozzi, and Innocente's When Everything Went Wrong: 10 Real Stories of Inventors Who Didn't Give Up! , or Nelson, MacIssac, and Ritchie's See It, Dream It, Do It: How 25 People Just Like You Found Their Dream Jobs.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Where Was Goodbye?

Mather, Janice Lynn. Where Was Goodbye?
April 30, 2024 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Karmen's family is reeling in the wake of the death by suicide of her older brother, Julian six weeks ago. Julian was living at home, and enrolled in the local college in Nassau, The Bahamas, that their father is also attending. Her father is coping by working extra hard and being away from home, but her mother, who is a therapist, is rarely getting out of bed and isn't consulting with any of her patience. Karmen has to start her senior year of high school, and can't make sense of what has happened. Going back the first day, she is glad to see her friend Layla, but has a panic attack. It doesn't help that a teacher announces to her whole class what has happened, and calls on them to support her. The students seem to do just the opposite, asking intrusive questions, and in one instance, wanting her to be interviewed for a local news show. News crews still hang out by the school, further intruding into her grief. Karmen does see Dr. Rhonda to process her grief, but is not helped by the fact that Julian's room is kept as a shrine and his shoes are still left on the shoe rack in the hallway. Karmen becomes obsessed with finding out why her brother did what he did, and starts to interview people at the college, as well as people with whom he skateboarded. It's interesting that the police blamed his death on his involvement with the "counter culture" of skateboarding, but realistic that they don't really investigate much. At the college, the professors tell her that they can't divulge personal information, although she knows that her brother was on academic probation. The students are warned against talking to her. As her obsession deepens, Karmen starts wearing Julian's clothing, skateboarding, and twice in one day takes off and doesn't let her worried parents know where she will be. The only steadying influence in her life is Layla's brother, Isaiah, who helps here investigate but also watches out for her and tries to get her to go back to being involved in her previous activities, like attending the church youth group. When Karmen discovers that her mother had been keeping notes on Julian's mental state for five years, she starts to realize that there were a lot of clues to Julian's mental state that she missed. How will she find a way to go on without her beloved brother, or without the answers she so desperately craves?

Karmen's need for answers is understandable, and she is haunted by the phrase she hears after an unpleasant incident "At least no one died." Her family's reactions read like a textbook description of the various ways to cope with this kind of loss. The father throws himself into work, the mother descends into an immovable depression herself, and Karmen exhibits alarming behaviors that endanger herself as she acts out in reaction. It was good to see that Karmen had a therapist and is encouraged to attend a group; it would have been interesting to see if the parents did as well. 

Perhaps things are different in The Bahamas, but in the US it would have seemed unusual for such attention to be paid to Karmen in school. Even with the increased attention on suicide prevention (with organizations like The Hope Squad), students who suffer this kind of loss are usually largely ignored by school staff, and fellow classmates would think it rude to ask anything more than "Are you doing okay today"?

There are no shortages of Young Adult Books about suicide, and readers can find many popular titles including Green's 2005 Looking for Alaska, Vizzini's 2006 It's Kind of a Funny Story, Asher's 2007 Thirteen Reasons Why, Niven's 2015 All the Bright Places, Belanger's 2018 The History of Jane Doe, and Lawson's 2020 The Lucky Ones. Where Was Goodbye stands out because of the Bahamian setting. 

I'm not sure how much research Mather did before writing this, but most of the situations seem to be derived from the common perceptions of suicides. I still think it is insulting to portray parents as unable to get out of bed, and as failing to care for remaining children. Instead of the phrase "At least nobody died", I think more survivors of suicides in families say to themselves "People die every day". 

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday Morning Cartoon Marathon

So many graphic novels this month! I'll buy as many as I can. They are super expensive and fall apart easily. Here are some to consider some for your school library. 

Raymundo, Peter. Lucky Scramble
April 23, 2024 by Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Tyler (shown here) does well in the regional speed cubing championships, but can't afford to go to the national ones with cubers like champion Dirk Speedman, twins Izzy and Lizzy, prodigy Eli Newton, and 60-something almost champ Miles Wizzinski. Wen he is sponsored by Vincent Chan of CubeMania, he and his mother head to Las Vegas. Tyler does well, but at a critical moment, his cube breaks, but he gets help from an unexpected source. Lots of good information about this pursuit in a hybrid notebook novel/graphic novel style. Can't think of any other books on this topic, so I will buy. 

Tsong, Jing Jing. Fake Chinese Sounds
April 30th 2024 by Kokila
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mei Ying Lin lives in a small college town with her professor mother and is friends with Kirra, who is on her soccer team, and who calls her "SparK", a name bestowed by Kirra's grandmother, Coach Gran. When Mei Ying's grandmother visits from Taiwan, the two bond even though they don't speak the same language. The do tai chi, cook, and enjoy each other's company. After her grandmother returns home and the new school year starts, Mei Ying finds that one of her new classmates, Sid, is cruel and racist, but passes everything off as a joke, so her classmates, including Kirra, brush off Mei Ying's concerns. She eventually tells him off, and after a class International Day, he apologizes. I loved the relationship with the grandmother, and the dealings with the classmates are timely. 

Fantaskey, Beth and ONeillJones, Erin (Illustrator). 
Wires Crossed
April 30, 2024 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mia has gotten her interest in science and engineering from her grandmother, who lives with the family, and loved being at a tech camp with Tariq. When his family moves to town and he has gotten more social and attractive, Mia worries that with her braces, glasses, and difficult hair, he won't want to hang out with her. When he spends time with the soccer team, and Mia's friend Addy who is hanging with a more popular crowd seems interested in him, Mia is not happy. She does make a new friend in Kinsey, who loves to draw. When the science class starts on a project, Tariq, Mia, Kinsey, and Evan all work on a robotic snake. There are some miscommunications as the children use their creativity and imagination on the project, but in the end, Mia is able to reconnect with Tariq and clear up misunderstandings. The science and the tween drama in this, along with Fantaskey's writing, make this one I will buy. 

Zayid, Maysoon and Amin, Shadia (Illustrator). 
Shiny Misfits.
April 16, 2024 by Graphix
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bay Ann enjoys tap dancing, and splits her time between her father, who is a caterer, and her mother, who is a college professor. When her school has a talent show, she arranges a production of a zombie bride dance with good friend Michelle, but popular Alyee Maq takes a video that goes viral in a horrible way. Bay Ann has cerebral palsy, and Alyee paints her as "ill" and someone in need of pity. This rubs her the wrong way and increased their competition, especially over social media likes. This follows events through the school year. Bay Ann is an Arab American Muslim. 

LaMotte, Lily and Xu, Ann. Unhappy Camper. 
April 23, 2024 by HarperAlley
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Claire and Michelle are close as sisters, but when they enter middle school, Michelle cares more about popularity and wants the approval of Jess and her friends. When Claire takes a position as a junior counselor at a Taiwanese cultural summer camp, Michelle is bitter about having to go and spends much of the camp time trying to text Jess before seeing a little of the point of the camp. Sort of a mix of Sweet Valley Twins and Brosgol's Be Prepared and Wang's Summer at Squee. 

Cooke, Pan. Puzzled: A Memoir about Growing Up with OCD
April 16, 2024 by Rocky Pond Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Starting at age ten, we see Pan struggling with all sorts of troubling thoughts about mistakes he might have made and worries that keep him up at night. He has some rituals, like brushing his teeth, that reassure him when they go well, but force him into repetitive behavior when they don't. Some of his friends understand, but as he gets older, the thoughts become more and more intrusive. Interesting memoir showing one struggle with OCD. I was glad to see therapy portrayed, especially the struggles with finding something that helped. Pair this with Sattin and Hickman's Buzzing and Button Pusher for a good portrayal of students trying to find a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Guy Friday- Keeper

Gibbons, Alan. Keeper
April 2, 2024 by Union Square Kids
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this very short, dyslexic-friendly novel, we meet Shane Logan, a kid from Leeds who comes to a new school. Mrs Ali, his teacher, is very kind despite his angry attitude, and gives him supplies so he can participate in class. Peter, an avid soccer player, thinks that maybe Shane will calm down if they ask him to play soccer, but is as explosive on the field, kicking the subpar soccer ball angrily. There is a Sunday league, the North Park Juniors, and Peter and his friends ask Shane to be a part of that, because he has decent soccer skills. When Shane's father Mick brings him, it's easy to see where Shane gets his attitude, as Mick yells and abuses Coach Gary. At one point, the two have to be sent home because of their outbursts. It turns out that Mick isn't Shane's dad, but rather his mother's boyfriend, and after throwing a chair through a window, Mick has been taken away by the police. Shane continues to play soccer, and the team helps him. There are also short chapters of nonfictional information interspersed throughout, with information on Great Goalies, Over the Top Goalies, Bloopers, and the like.
Strengths: Like Fabbri's Back of the Net series, this book includes plenty of on field action combined with young adult social problems like anger management. This is fast paced, and short, so students who lose interest quickly will be done with the book by the time they are tired of it.
Weaknesses: This is a British title, so I wasn't quite sure why it was so notable that Shane was from Leeds. It's not that important to the story, and readers who are very interested in soccer will be familiar with the international players in the nonfiction section. The writing was on par with other high interest, low level readers.
What I really think: This is a great choice for readers who are successful with titles like Robinson's Carter High or Saddleback Publishing's District 13 books. There's an older feel to it, so readers who think the Jake Maddox books are too young, but who need easier text, will enjoy these. I have a lot of ELL students who enjoy soccer, and this will be perfect for them.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Night War

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The Night War
April 9, 2024 by Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Miriam's family has moved from Germany to Paris, and she misses their nice house in the countryside. It's 1942, and there is a lot to be anxious about. She feels responsible for the arrest of Monsieur Rosenbloom, a neighbor who has a wife and a young daughter, Nora, of whom she is very fond. Her father works at a newspaper, and Miriam's mother prefers that her daughter go to do the marketing because she speaks better French, not that there is much food. Jewish people are made to wear yellow stars on their clothes, and the gentile concierges of the apartment buildings keep the resident's identification cards. When there is a round up of Jewis citizens, Miriam manages to warn her father and some of her friends, but comes home to find the door to her apartment open. She hears what she thinks is a gun shot, and sees a pot of red geraniums broken on the ground, and thinks that the worst might have happened to her mother. Mrs. Rosenbloom pulls her aside and tells the Nazis she is her daughter when the two are rounded up. Mrs. Rosenbloom throws away Miriam's identification card and makes sure she is not wearing a yellow star, and tells her to take Nora and run away, head to the unoccupied Vichy district and then Switzerland. Miriam doesn't think she can do it, but Mrs. Rosenbloom tells her that this choice could save both girls. She takes Nora, but is luckily found by a nun, who tells a Nazi that the Miriam has run away from a Catholic school. Nora is dropped off with another family, and Miriam, who is told to go by Marie, is sent to a convent school just across the river from Vichy. Sister Dominique is working to transport people to safety along with Sister Annunciata, whom the girls call Sister Anchovy because of the unfortunate medical condition the sister has that gives her a constant odor of fish. When Sister Dominique breaks her leg, Sister Anchovy asks Marie to help with their work. This involves going to the Castle Chenonceau and working in the gardens with several of the other schoolgirls after the gardener dies. Bette, who lives at the castle, is also a passeur, helping Jews to escape, and she counts on Marie's help. Marie learns a lot of history about the location and about the treatment of Jews through history, and meets the ghost of Catherine deMedici, who says that Marie must work for her now. Marie finds Nora living with a nearby family, and eventually manages to take her and get across to Vichy with two other classmates who are also Jewish. End notes tell more about the real history of the castle and the plight of the Jewis people in France during the war. 
Strengths: This had very interesting discussions that Marie had with gentiles who very calmly told her what a problem Jewish people were in France, and how much better off the country would be without them. While this is in no way portrayed as a good or realistic way to think, it's important that it be explained, because how else would so much devastation have happened? This is a unique perspective that I haven't seen addressed in other books set during this era. Marie knows that these people aren't evil; they are just believing what they have been told. The epilogue gives the fates of the characters, and it was nice to see that Miriam was reunited with her parents. There is a lot of history in this that I hadn't read before. Bradley's The War That Saved My Life is very popular in my library. 
Weaknesses: This really lost me when Marie started talking to Catherine deMedici. She was a good choice for a slightly but not entirely evil ghost, but I had trouble wrapping my mind around her part of the story. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who want a little bit of fantasy mixed in with their World War II story, like Cohen's The Lost Ryū , Presley and Polder's A Whale in Paris, or Zafon's The Prince of Mist. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Capstone Graphic Biographies

Library collections are always changing. Twenty years ago, I needed 100+ page biographies for students who were assigned biography projects. Today, I need shorter biographies on a wider variety of people. It's still a challenge; for Black History Month, there are a million different biographies of Rosa Parks or Mae Jemison, and for Women's History Month, so many versions of the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt or Susan B. Anthony. One teacher now assigns three minute presentations on activists, politicians, journalists, and other very specific types of careers, and it's been hard to find. 

When I Tweeted about this, Capstone reached out with several of their new series, including their Barrier Breakers and First But Forgotten series. I definitely have lots of these on order for next year! 

Still hoping for my Flemmie Pansy Kittrell biography! 

Turner, Myra Faye and Jenai, Markia (illus.)
In Disguise on the Underground Railroad: A Graphic Novel Biography of Anna Maria Weems
January 1, 2024 by Picture Window Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Weems' family, including her parents and eight siblings, were enslaved in Maryland in th emid 1800s. Her father had an understanding with his enslaver, and paid him so that his family could stay together. He was saving up to purchase his family when the man died, and the family was sold away by the inheritors. Anna's new enslaver would not sell her, hoping for more money. The family had help from lawyer Jacob Bigelow, and there was even a Weems ransom fund to try to raise money to reunite the family. Eventually, an escape was planned, and Anna, disguised as a young man, took a harrowing journey to Ontario, Canada, where she was reunited with her family. Not much is known about her life after that, although it is likely that she was educated at the Buxton Mission School. 

The graphic novel format moves this story along very quickly, and the pictures will give young readers a better idea of what the world looked like in the 1800s. There is a nice glossary at the end of the book, as well as lists of resources. 

Lukidis, Lydia and Sotirovski, Aleksandar (Illustrator).
Hiding from the Nazis in Plain Sight: A Graphic Novel Biography of Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya
January 1, 2024 by Picture Window Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Even at a young age, Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya were reknowned pianists, playing for audiences as well as on the radio. When the Germans invaded Kharkiv in 1941, the family was captured and sent on a death march. Once at the camp, the father bribed a guard to look the other way while the girls ran away. Zhanna managed to stay with friends, always on the move. She was eventually reunited with Frina, and the two managed to stay safe by leaving Ukraine and eventually moving to the US. There, they continued their musical careers. 

It was interesting that Zhanna's son was involved in the writing of this book, and believes that his mother and aunt may have been the only two Jewish survivors from Kharkiv. The notes about the rest of the women's lives, the bibliography, and the glossary round out this excellent short book. 

This was a different Holocaust story, and would be a good nonfiction companion to Zail's Playing for the Commandant Ross, Susan L. Searching for Lottie or  Ross' Searching for Lottie

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Bard and the Book and Not-So-Simple Question

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare! We don't know the exact day, but it's frequently given as April 23. What better way to celebrate than to pick up this new book about him? 

Bausum, Ann and Sevilla, Marta. The Bard and the Book: How the First Folio Saved the Plays of William Shakespeare from Oblivion 
April 2, 2024 by Peachtree
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

How DID the plays of Shakespeare get saved, when the practice four hundred years ago was not necessarily to print out the entire play? Actors might get just their own parts, and there were some quartos for sale, but plays were meant to be performed, and not necessarily read, so not everything got written down. ey are carrying around a book about The Bard. Over the years in middle school, I've seen a LOT of these students; I finally deaccessioned the thirty pound Collected Works because while it wasn't getting read very much, it was being hauled about. This book is perfect for those readers, but despite the snark is highly informative!

With easy to follow overviews of various historical facts and book processes (Wouldn't it be cool to put your OWN binding on books? Why isn't this still a thing?) made even more engaging by lovely illustrations by Sevilla and top notch book design, this book told me everything I needed to know about Shakespeare's world and work, and how it was preserved. Of course, now I need a similar treatment of Homer, and possibly Virgil. I especially enjoyed the photographs of various print versions, and Bausum's notes at the end about why she chose this topic. 

Have to say that I'm not personally a fan of Shakespeare, especially as something for middle school students to read (That unit a long term sub did with 8th graders? So painful!), but this was a fascinating book along the lines of Bryant and Sweet's Roget and His Thesaurus. I will purchase it because it is an appealing, small book along the lines of Schanzer's 2011 Witches! that my students will pick up for fun, OR to look smart because they are reading about Shakespeare. I would also buy this for high school because of the extensive source notes, which I could see be very helpful for research. 

Matula, Christina. The Not-So-Simple Question (Holly-Mei #3)
April 23, 2024 by Inkyard Press
Copy provided by the publisher

In this final book in the series (The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly Mei and The Not-So-Perfect Plan), we return to Hong Kong. Holly-Mei has settled in to life at Tai Tam Prep, and has gotten used to having a housekeeper and driver, something the family did not have back in Toronto. She misses Ah-Ma, her grandmother, who has stayed behind while Holly's mother has her new job. Millie, Holly's younger sister, is still obsessed with social media and fashion, while Holly just wants to hang out with her friends. Now that Gemma is planning a couple's party for her thirteenth birthday, the friend group is obsessed with dating and boyfriends. Rosie, Holly's cousin, is devastated when Henry breaks up with her because his parents think he is too young to date. Holly agrees, and does NOT want to have to think about asking a boy to Gemma's party. There are plenty of other things to keep her occupied, like practicing her rowing for the dragon boat races and going to Taiwan for her Experience Week Trip. She is interested to travel to Ah-Ma's childhood home, which has been turned into a museum, but comments from people like Jenny, who is also going to Taiwan, make her question her identity. While her mother's side of the family is Taiwanese, her father is from England, and Holly doesn't speak any subgroup of Chinese very well. Jenny is critical of the fact that Holly is only "half", and Holly worries about this. The trip is interesting, with the Tai Tam students going to a school and traveling to different locations. Holly gets to meet cousins, who make comments about her grasp of the language and her appearance. It's helpful to talk to her parents when she gets home, and they help her process her feelings about her heritage. With Gemma's party coming up, Holly and her friends debate whether or not they really have to take dates. Snowy is especially pushy about this, but it turns out that she is just trying to deflect attention from the fact that she likes girls, since she feels that this admission might ruin her social media presence. Millie, who has been struggling with acne and who also has to get glasses, is very concerned about losing Instagram followers because of the changes in her appearance, but Holly helps her see that if people don't like the real her, they aren't worth Millie's attention. In the end, Holly and her friends are able to enjoy Gemma's party and feel good about embracing their true selves. 
Strengths: I didn't get to travel anywhere for spring break, so reading this was a great vicarious trip! There are so many details about places to visit in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and LOTS of descriptions of snacks and food! Of course, Holly is not on vacation; even the trip to Taiwan requires her to write a paper about what she has learned. The friend and boy drama will appeal to many middle grade readers, and the idea of having birthday parties at Disneyland (like Holly does) or other upscale venues will be mind blowing to my students. Of course, there are serious issues to be faced as well, and Holly struggles with her identity, feeling torn between her Taiwanese and British heritage, and never feeling enough of either. Matula does a great job of bringing her own background to a middle grade novel and making all of Holly's experiences very vivid and exciting. I'm curious to see what she will write next now that this series is complete. 
Weaknesses: My students might have a hard time believing all of the details about what would be considered a VERY posh life here in Ohio, but this is a great way for them to broaden their horizons! 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like all of the private school drama of Russell's Dork Diaries, or who want a good look at what it is like to attend school in a different country. I'm always on the lookout for books set in other countries, written by authors who can include all of the details about daily life, travels, and local cuisine!

Ms. Yingling

Monday, April 22, 2024

MMGM- Isabel in Bloom and Made in Asian America

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Respicio, Mae. Isabel in Bloom
April 9, 2024 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Isabel has been living with her lolo and lola in the Philippines in 1999, helping them garden so they can earn a living by selling their produce in the market. Her mother has been in the US for five years, working as a nanny to three children in a wealthy family while studying nursing. Now, she is doing well enough to send for Isabel. It's hard to levae her grandparents and her best friends, Cristina and Rosamie, but there's no choice. Soon, she is on a plane to San Francisco, where she is greeted by her aunt and uncle, with whom she and her mother will live for a while, because her mother in job hunting. Her lolo has told Isabel that if she is sad in her new home, she should look for familiar things, and she tries her best to do this. The apartment is nice, and she stays in her cousins' room, since they are at college. There are a large number of family members in the Bay area, some having come to the US in the 1960s and 70s. Some, like her cousin Joss, don't even speak Tagalog, and Isabel worries about her accent. She is glad to pick out new clothes at the mall to wear to Bayview Middle school. Her first day doesn't go particularly well, but she makes some progress as the weeks go on. She is forced into a friendship with Melissa' whose father is her aunt's boss at a senior facility. Isabel rather enjoys visiting with the older people, who remind her of her grandparents, especially since there is even a garden there. She missing the Jasmine Sampaguita that was growing in her grandparents' garden, and when she finds out that her school has a long abandoned garden, she is glad to find the same plant there. She joins the cooking club at school, and some of the members are glad to help her out. When one of the men at the senior facility is robbed, Isabel talks her classmates into doing a fund raiser for the center, which might also help save the school garden from being turned into a location for portable school units. It's hard to reconnect with her mother, especially since Nicollette, a girl her mother helped raise, keeps calling, and Isabel worries that her mother might want to move them to New York. Isabel tries very hard to "bloom where you are planted", and while making a home with her mother in the US isn't easy, in the end, she is glad that the two can be together again. 
Strengths: Respicio always has such wonderful grandparents, even if the characters have to part from them. Even though Isabel wasn't keen on coming to the US, I appreciated that she tried to have a good attitude and tried her best to get along with people and overcome bad days. I was prepared for Melissa to be a horrible character and was rather relieved when she was not! The details of 1999 are good, including all of the fashions and teen magazines that Isabel enjoys. The gardening is a fun inclusion, and tweens are definitely fans of baking as well. There's plenty of Filipino culture, the practice of coming to the US to earn money to send back home is an interesting topic I haven't seen covered much in middle grade literature. The practice of sending Balikbayan boxes to relatives in the Philippines was very interesting; I know my mother loved to send me packages when I lived away from her, even mailing me cooked macaroni and cheese in the dead of winter when I was in college. I love the sunny cover on this one. 
Weaknesses: While this is a well done novel in verse, if this were prose we might have been able to get more information about Filipino history that is lightly touched on. I'm not quite sure why this was set in 1999, other than to feature the very cool hamburger phone, let the girls spend time at the mall, and have the man at the senior center be a veteran of the Bataan Death March during WWII. 
What I really think: Readers who enjoyed LaRocca's Red, White and Whole will find this a much more upbeat look at the immigrant experience, and fans of Respicio's How to Win a Slime War, The House That Lou Built, and Any Day With You will enjoy seeing this author try a different format. 

 Lee, Erika and Soontornvat, Christinas. Made in Asian America: A History for Young People 
April 30, 2024 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

There is so much Asian American history that I don't know, and this new book is a great way to learn about topics that have been previously ignored in US history textbooks. Going from the days of Columbus' bad navigational skills up to the present, this covers history in an interesting way, by telling the stories of individuals affected by history right along with the history. It's one thing to read about the fact that Chinese Americans weren't allowed to go to public school in 1885; it's quite another to have the face of one little girl, Mamie Tape. The history is well laid out, there are lots of intriguing pictures, and the systemic racism of US culture is shown against dozens of historic examples. To synopsize this would be like writing a synopsis of a history textbook, so I'll just say this: buy a copy for your library, because it fills in a lot of gaps that those history textbooks don't address. We need more books like this to go along with Yang's Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country and Goldstone's Days of Infamy: How a Century of Bigotry Led to Japanese American Internment.

From the publisher:

From three-time Newbery Honoree Christina Soontornvat and award-winning historian Erika Lee comes a middle grade nonfiction that shines a light on the generations of Asian Americans who have transformed the United States and who continue to shape what it means to be American. Asian American history is not made up of one single story. It’s many. And it’s a story that too often goes untold.  It begins centuries before America even exists as a nation. It is connected to the histories of Western conquest and colonialism. It’s a story of migration; of people and families crossing the Pacific Ocean in search of escape, opportunity, and new beginnings. It is also the story of race and racism. Of being labeled an immigrant invasion, unfit to become citizens, and being banned, deported, and incarcerated. Of being blamed for bringing diseases into the country. It is also a story of bravery and hope. It is the story of heroes who fought for equality in the courts, on the streets, and in the schools, and who continue to fight in solidarity with others doing the same. This book is a stirring account of the ordinary people and extraordinary acts that made Asian America and the young people who are remaking America today.

Khan, Hena. The Door Is Open: Stories of Celebration and Community by 11 Desi Voices
April 23, 2024 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I love short story collections that highlight authors who share some aspects of cultural backgrounds, like Ali and Saeed's Once Upon an Eid, because it helps me to introduce a variety of new authors to my students. Like Oh's You Are Here collection of interconnected short stories set at the Chicago O'Hare Airport, The Door is Open is centered around the community center in Maple Grove, New Jersey and follows the adventures of a variety of children there. The teachers in my school are assigning more and more short story collections to students, which is a great idea, and this one will be a great addition to my growing collection of culturally connected short stories. 

From the Publisher:

Discover stories of fear, triumph, and spectacular celebration in this warm-hearted novel of interconnected stories that celebrates the diversity of South Asian American experiences in a local community center.

Discover stories of fear, triumph, and spectacular celebration in the fictional town of Maple Grove, New Jersey, where the local kids gather at the community center to discover new crushes, fight against ignorance, and even save a life. Cheer for Chaya as she wins chess tournaments (unlike Andrew, she knows stupid sugary soda won't make you better at chess), and follow as Jeevan learns how to cook traditional food (it turns out he can cook sabji-- he just can't eat it).

These stories, edited by bestselling and award-winning Pakistani-American author Hena Khan, are filled with humor, warmth, and possibility. They showcase a diverse array of talented authors with heritage from the Indian subcontinent, including beloved favorites and rising stars, who each highlight the beauty and necessity of a community center that everyone calls home.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Operation: Happy and Trajectory

Walsh, Jenni L. Operation: Happy
April 2, 2024 by Zonderkidz
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jody Zuber is used to moving around to be with her father, who is based in San Diego with the Marines in 1938. For Christmas, she gets a Shirley Temple doll, a Monopoly game, a Nancy Drew book... and her most desired gift, a dog. Happy is a retired Marine dog, a German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix, and is large enough to take up half of Jody's bed, which is just what she wants. When the family moves to Ford Island near Honolulu in 1940, Jody and Happy have all manner of adventures. While Jody and her older sister Peggy are happy to be in the warm weather of Hawaii, their mother is constantly apprehensive and worried. She learns first aid, and is vigilant about the drills, and wants to send the girls to live with their Aunt Maude stateside. When Jody sees smoke on a Sunday morning in December of 1941, she can't get the attention of her family because no alarms have sounded, but of course the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. The father reports for duty and the rest of the family hastily don bathrobes and go to the shelter, where the robes are eventually used to help injured soldiers. When the family goes back to their house, they realize that the blast has driven all of the nails through the walls. They relocate to Honolulu, but eventually are evacuated to San Francisco. The mother refuses the help of the Navy and the Red Cross, and finds a run down, furnished apartment for them to live in while the father is off fighting. The girls start school, and Jody has to deal with the nosy Mary, the traumatized Sarah, and the shadow left by students like Mei, who was sent off to a Japanese relocation camp. The mother stops going to the store, and can barely get out of bed, and Peggy and Jody have to fend for themselves. Sarah notices this because she is living in an orphanage while her father is at war, and she knows the signs of children who don't have a mother to iron their clothes or comb their hair. After Peggy is almost attacked in the lobby of the apartment building but saved by Happy, the girls decide to find another place to live. They find one, but there mother can't even sign the lease. This leads Jody to contact her father, and soon the Marines are helping them move into a new place and her mother gets the medical attention that she needs. 
Strengths: This is an intriguing look at a military family in a pivotal place and time at the beginning of World War II. This has more details about moving and daily life during that time, and the inclusion of a former service dog is interesting. The depiction of the bombing comes about a third of the way into the book, so there's just enough build up, and the evacuation of civilians is not something I've read about. I love Jody's generally positive attitude, as well as the agency and motivation she and Peggy embrace when their mother isn't doing well in San Francisco. There are so many WWII stories out there, but there are still so many that haven't been told. 
Weaknesses: Since this is partially based on Joan Zuber Earle's 2001 memoir, Children of Battleship Row, I guess I can't quibble with the mother's depression, but it seemed very out of place for the wartime years. I can't imagine either of my grandmothers complaining about anything, especially when they knew there were men out on the frontlines fighting. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who want home front WWII books like Albus' Nothing Else But Miracles , Cushman's The War and Millie McGonigle, or Elliott's Louisa June and the Nazi's in the Waves, and has some marked similarities of setting to Alan Gratz' 2/6/24 Heroes. 

Gordon, Cambria. Trajectory.
April 2, 2024 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Saturday, April 20, 2024


Todd, Jonathan. Timid
April 2, 2024 by Graphix
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1988, Cecil's family moves from Florida to Boston for his father's work. He's apprehensive, especially since he attended a small, private church school at his old home. The family, which includes his mother and sister Leah, has friends in the area, and stays with them before finding their own home. They settle in fairly well. They find a church home, and Cecil finds friends in Chris, who is somewhat jerky, and Ruthie, who is also religious. Leah suggests that Cecil befriend more of the Black kids in school, but this doesn't go very well. Cecil is worried about being an "Oreo", a Black person who "acts white", but finds it difficult to connect to the Black community at his school. He does better with other artists, since he loves to draw. He makes some charicatures of people and tries to get people to like him through his art, for which he was known in his previous school. This occasionally backfires, and he also has a problem with Ruthie, who calls him "Fuzzy" and rubs his head. She eventually apologizes. Will Cecil be able to embrace his art and find people with whom he can connect in his new environment?
Strengths: While I am patiently waiting for Robb Armstrong to write a Big Nate style novel about Jojo Cobb, I've been looking for graphic or notebook novels with Black, male characters. There are not too many, so I'm glad to see this one. Like many graphic novels, it's memoir-esque and set in a historical time period. The illustration style is innovative and very simple, and the parts that I've seen in color have an interesting tan, turquoise, and muted electric blue palette which did add to the retro feel. 
Weaknesses: To show the 80s setting, more pastels or bright primary colors should have been employed; think United Colors of Benetton or Swatches. I would have appreciated a plot in addition to the moving and fitting in, but my students won't necessarily care. 
What I really think: Clearly, Craft's New Kid has done very well, but this has not lead to an increase in graphic novels with Black, male protagonists. I would also still like to see more graphic novels about football and basketball; my quiet, artistic students are not necessarily the one who gravitate the most towards the graphic novel format. It's the sports kids. Buy this for fans of Robinson, Mansbach and Knight's Jake the Fake, Rodriguez and Bell's Doodles from the Boogie Down, or Grimes' and Taylor's Garvey's Choice

Friday, April 19, 2024

Poetry Friday- Deep Water

Sumner, Jamie. Deep Water
April 9, 2024 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in verse, we see Tully preparing to make a 12.1 swim across Lake Tahoe, accompanied only by her good friend Arch in a kayak, who will offer support, bananas, and an emergency plan if something goes wrong. The water is cold, but she is determined, and has trained hard for this. Her mother is a physical therapist and also an avid swimmer who has supported Tully, but has also decided to leave Tully and her father. If Tully is the youngest person ever to make this swim, her mother will have to come home. There are lots of rules for the swim, and Tully and Arch are careful to follow all of them but one: getting parental permission. It's not as easy task, and Tully worries about getting an infection in a paper cut, developing a cramp, and dealing with parents who might eventually figure out where the kids are and try to stop them. In flashbacks, as the miles go by, we find out about the complicated reasons that the mother left, and how it has impacted Tully and her father. When a storm approaches, Tully doesn't want to give up, although Arch, who is a very supportive friend but not necessarily a fan of adventure for himself, contacts the parents. Will Tully be able to complete her swim, not because it will bring her mother home, but because it will help her find herself? 
Strengths:Swimming, in my mind, is the hardest sport of all, and there are very few books about it, especially open water endurance swimming. This book would be a perfect opportunity to introduce young readers to the accomplishments of Diana Nyad! This starts out quickly, and quietly unfolds a lot of information about Tully's family dynamics that I don't want to spoil. There is a good balance between the details of the physical sensation of being in the cold water and having to exert so much energy, and Tully's introspective inner turmoil. There's a satisfying plot arc as well as just enough parent involvement. Fans of Sumner's Tune It Out, Roll with It, Summer of June, Maid for It, and One Kid's Trash will be eager to get their hands on this. 
Weaknesses: While writing this, I realized that I wanted to know a little bit more about Arch. Tully's description of him makes it seem like she doesn't really respect his personality, but she trusts him enough to put her life in his hands. He's certainly very secondary to the plot, but I found myself thinking a lot about what was going through HIS mind during this journey. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed reading about the mental health challenges of the protagonist in Baron's The Grayor the mother's problems in medina's The One Who Loves You Most or Trowbridge Road, the swimming in Morrison's Up for Airor the combination of swimming and problems with the mother in Fipps' Starfish. Also, add this adventurous title from a popular author to the growing list of middle grade literature showing children coping with the effects of mental health challenges that includes Keller's The Science of Unbreakable Things, Jones' Silhouetted by the Blue , Hiranandani's The Whole Story of Half a GirlMelleby's Hurricane Season, Van Otterloo's  The Beautiful Something Else, Greenwald's Absolutely, Positively Natty, Strout's Next Door to Happy, Walters's The King of Jam Sandwiches, Rushby's The Mulberry Tree, and Kalmar's Stealing Mt Rushmore.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sunny Parker is Here to Stay

Finnegan, Margaret. Sunny Parker is Here to Stay
April 23, 2024 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sunny loves living at the Del Mar Gardens affordable housing community in Monroe Heights, where her father is a manager. Her friend Haley Michaels, who is Black, lives close by, and she spends a lot of time with Mrs. Garcia and her children, who include AJ, who is developmentally disabled. Mrs. Garcia often goes with Sunny on Neighborhood Favor walks to pick tomatoes or berries that people post on the app, and always introduces her son to any new police officers like Officer Edwards. Sunny's not as fond of Sourpus Scanlon, an elderly woman whom the children say curses them if she talks to them. This "Scanlon Curse" means they can't speak until someone says "paprika, paprika, paprika" to them or they'll be dead in 24 hours,  and they will have seven years of bad luck if they tell an adult! The neighborhood is changing, and the smaller houses are being torn down, and rich people are building larger homes. There is an abandoned school nearby, and there is talk about using the land to add more affordable housing. At a birthday party for classmates Lark and Chase, Sunny hears adults talking about how such a development would negatively affect the community by bringing in poorer people; they would rather have a park that would benefit everyone. Sunny (rightly so) takes this to mean that people in her neighborhood don't want her there. She and her friends go around Del Mar Gardens getting signatures on a petition to take to the local council. There's also some concern that there is a ghost boy in the area, but this is later found to be a woman who is moaning because her partner has beaten her. Sunny wants to help the woman, and puts her in contact with Officer Edwards. Will Sunny be able to change the minds of the people in the neighborhood and get them to support more affordable housing?
Strengths: Neighborhoods are often so isolated and fragmented that young readers enjoy seeing apartment houses or neighborhoods were there is a sense of community. I'm fortunate to live on a circle of about 25 houses where I know every family and am in charge of printing up a map with everyone's contact information every year, and even I like to read about even closer communities! Sunny's world is nicely diverse, and has a wide variety of characters with whom to interact. I also enjoyed that it was safe enough for her to wander around and have adventures. The neighbors at Del Mar Gardens are all supportive, even Mrs. Scanlon at the end, and Sunny manages to convince at least one of the rich people to support Del Mar Gardens. A note at the end discusses the author's own upbringing in a similar community that lends a nice nice of authenticity to the book. 
Weaknesses: Like this author's Susie B. Won't Back Down and New Kids and Underdogs, this is best suited to slightly younger readers. The "Scanlon Curse", as well as the cover, will appeal more to them. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed other books about communities affected by gentrification, like Nelson's The Umbrella House, Vivat's Meet Me on Mercer Street, McDunn's Trouble at the Tangerine, or LaCoer and Albert's The Apartment House on Poppy Hill.

Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A Variety of Realistic Fiction

April is PACKED with titles! I know that people have opined that I should only post one book a day, but since I have so many titles, I will do slightly shorter reviews! 

Mancilla, Monica. Sing it Like Celia
April 2, 2024 by Penguin Workshop
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Salva Sanchez' parents divorced when she was very young, and it's been just her and her mother, who is a nurse. When her mother doesn't come home, she ends up calling her father, who picks her up, won't tell her what happened, and take her to a trailer park where they are staying while he investigates a case of a woman being deported. He's an investigative journalist and moves around quite a bit. Salva is understandably upset by everything, but soon settles in to a new life at the Lonely Pines campground, run by the very  nice Betty. Not so nice is her granddaughter, Darcy, who has a singing group called "The Darcy Experience". When Salva meets the members, she likes being with them, and they have her sing with them. She prefers a salsa style similar to famous singer Celia Cruz, which Darcy says very mean things about. To help the woman her father is investigating, the kids plan a benefit concert, and Salva learns some hard truths about her mother. 

This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Siddiqui's, Barakah Beats, Pla's The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, or Winston's Braid Girls, since there is a similar feel of young people making friends and banding together for good causes.  

Miller, Kalena. South of Somewhere
April 4, 2024 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mavis has a very nice life. Her family, included retired French professor Mike, wealth manager Julie, and older siblings Camille and Andre, live in a very nice Chicago neighborhood. When they return from a fancy vacation on Maui, they find police officers swarming around their home. It turns out that there mother, who took another car home from the airport, is wanted for embezzlement. With no money and no options, the family take off to a small town where Mike's sister Melissa lives. The two are estranged over an incident concerning Julie, but Melissa takes them in to live in her basement while they sort things out. Mavis watches Lily, her young cousin, and does a good job at it. Melissa even pays her, which leads Maivs to contact neighbor Emma to set up a babysitting business to earn money. The two not only start a successful business, but investigate the mysterious postcards from Mavis' mother that seem to have coded messages. The family struggles to find employment, and Mavis tries to locate her mother. But even if she does, will she get the closure she needs. 

This is a good choice for readers who liked the details of dealing with a parent who has committed a white collar crime like Sheinmel's 2011 All The Things You Are and Morrison's 2022 Coming Up Short, mixed with some of the excitement of Galante's 2017 Stealing Our Way Home

Oakes, Colleen. The Second Favorite Daughters Club 1: Sister Sabotage
April 2, 2024 by Pixel+Ink
E ARC Provided by Netgalley

Santana has a problem with her sister Victoria; all of the family's attention is directed to the older girls' ballet career. Casey also has a problem with hers; young Sage and her father are two peas in a pod, and Casey feels excluded ever since her mother abandoned the family. The girls meet at school and bond over their sibling woes. The decide to create a Second Favorite Daughters club and even have meetings in a treehouse, since neither have a cell phone. When Cai, a cute boy in Santana's class, asks her to set him up with Victoria, Santana declares an all out war. Both girls put plans into place to make their sisters look bad, and make them look like model children. This includes wreaking havoc with Victoria's schedule by reprogramming phones and blaming Sage when Casey purposefully kills all of her father's plants. When Santana tells Cai about this plan, which she promised she would keep secret, Casey is angry. Of course, Victoria eventually finds out. After Casey's mother visits for a while but then leaves because she just can't handle being with them, Casey is angry and done with her mother, but this leads her to be more understanding of her father. Santana, on the other hand, runs away to New York City. Will the girls ever be able to figure out their place in their families? 

This is a good choice for readers who like to investigate family dynamics with books like Willis' Smaller Sister, Howland's Forget-Me-Not Summer, or Palmer's Love You Like a Sister or who really like the mean spiritedness of Andelfinger's graphic novel adaptations of Pascal's Sweet Valley Twins books or Harrison's The Clique.