Sunday, August 20, 2017

Things That Surprise You

32711711Maschari, Jennifer. Things That Surprise You
August 22nd 2017 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Emily and Hazel have been best friends for years, but now that they are about to start middle school, things are changing. Hazel has been spending the summer hanging out with the girls on the field hockey team, and they've all started to dress alike. Emily loves a book series called The Unicorn Chronicles, but after she and Hazel go to a launch party for the newest book, Emily fears that Hazel has moved on to other things. She's embarassed by Em's costume, and tells her that twins they meet at the bookstore, Anita and Hector, are made fun of by the other students and should be avoided. Since Hazel's table at lunch is filled with her team mates, Em struggles to find her own place. Luckily, her language arts teacher, Ms. Arnold, is also a Unicorn fan and invites her to a before school group called the Bagel Bunch, which Anita and Hector attend. She doesn't because of Hazel's censure of the group, but could use some new friends to help her get through some family problems. Her mother is working long hours and getting used to being divorced, and her sister Mina is in a residential center for treatment of her anorexia. Em just wants everything to be like it was before. Even though this is impossible, will Em figure out a way to make her life more enjoyable?
Strengths: THESE are the sort of problems that middle schoolers actually face and like to read about. Friends changing. Families going through rough spots. School projects and working with other students. Not knowing what to wear. Picture day disasters. New friends who make everything seem not so horrible. The tween voice in this is perfect. Emily wanting to be Em, wanting to wear her unicorn costume and make clothes for her dog, being a bit disgusted at her friends boy crazy ways-- perfect. The addition of a sibling struggling with a serious disorder worked well. Enjoyed this tremendously.
Weaknesses: I'm going back and forth on the cover. On the one hand, I think readers who are like Em will pick it up, but I really want readers like Hazel to read this, and they might think the cover is too young.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this one, and excited to hand it to many different readers. "Friend drama" is always something that circulates well!
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Just Dance

34228284MacLachlan, Patricia. Just Dance
September 12th 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sylvie lives on a farm near a small farm in Nebraska. Before meeting her father, her mother, Min, was a famous singer who toured the world. Now, she gets to sing opera to the cows, and Sylvie is very concerned that she and her brother are not enough to keep her mother "down on the farm". Sylvie herself wants to see  more of the world, and she gets the opportunity when her teacher, Mrs. Ludolf, asks her to help Sheriff Ludolf (who learned English as an adult) write his law enforcement blog. Sylvie goes out with her father on horseback the first day, and then spends a lot of time on ride alongs with the Sheriff. Her blog posts get a lot of favorable feedback, and her haiku are especially praised. When there is a concert nearby with a former costar of her mother's, Sylvie is very concerned that her mother will rejoin him and give up her life on the farm.
Strengths: Fans who like this author's The Truth of Me, Kindred Souls,White Fur Flying, or The Poet's Dog will  be glad to add this sweet and simple tale of how love can bring the most unlikely souls together. Anyone who encourages children to write poetry will appreciate Sylvie's efforts.
Weaknesses: I had an immediate and visceral hatred of this book. For one thing, doing ANYTHING for love is an enormous mistake. It will only bite you in the bum. Sylvie was so whiny about how her mother had to be unhappy in Nebraska after touring the world that I just wanted to slap her and say "Yes! Your whining is going to make her leave you!" I don't think a ten-year-old would have a concept this sophisticated. So, perfectly fine book, very touching, and I just did NOT like it.
What I really think: This is on the young side for my readers, and aside from Sarah, Plain and Tall, none of this author's work has circulated well in my library. I will pass. It would just collect dust.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, August 18, 2017

Guy Friday

33544812Moore, Steve. Control Freak: King of the Bench #2
September 12th 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In No Fear, Steve warms the bench for baseball, he gets roped into being on the football team. He has no athletic ability, but he does have something that may benefit the team and help them make the championships-- he has an old video game controller that he suspects might be magic, and he uses it to control his teammates on the field when things get bleak. He's not entirely sure, mind you, but it seems like the controller does work on people. Steve manages to get a position as "place kick holder", mainly because Becky O'Callahan is the place kicker, and Steve has an enormous crush on her. The Mighty Plumbers struggle through their season, but Steve becomes increasingly worried about using the controller-- whenever he does, it might win points, but it seems to result in an injury to a team member. By the end of the season, things are so desperate that Steve is sent in. He begs a friend to get the controller out of his closet, injuries be damned, and manages to do quite well. Was it the controller, or his own skill?
Strengths: Steve is realistically goofy, and the story progresses in a logical fashion with lots of non sequitur asides that are meant just to be funny. The coach and Steve's team mates are goofy, as are the teams they play against. The controller is handled in a way that makes sense-- it doesn't really control people, does it? Or... can it? Steve know better, yet had his reasons for believing. Goofy, yes, but in a way that I think middle grade readers can appreciate. If Timmy Failure is popular in your library, this is a must read!
Weaknesses: This was a bit on the goofy side for me-- the names irritated me. Coach Earwax? The Enron Middle School Screaming Bulls? Sigh.
What I really think: We need a lot more books like this-- notebook novels about sports that actually have a plot, no matter how slight. Every elementary library and most middle school libraries need this title.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Call for Cybils Judges

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Would you like to work with a great group of people, read tons of middle grade realistic fiction, and discuss it with like minded readers? You might want to consider becoming a first or second round judge for Middle Grade Fiction, which I chair. If  MGFic isn't your thing, there are lots of other divisions.

Check out:

More information on applying to be a judge will be available later today.

I will be off at work! Hooray!

Super Max AND Olive Mysteries

34228259Vaught, Susan. Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge.
August 29th 2017 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Max lives with her grandfather, Toppy, who is the chief of police. She loves figuring out how things work and how to make them work better, He allows her to tinker with her wheelchair, since he considers it as much a part of her body as her legs. However, if she tinkers with other things around the house and sets things on fire, she is punished by having to watch and review sappy movies! From her window, Max can see the creepy Thornwood mansion, which has been derelict for as long as anyone can remember. Her best friend Lavender's mother gave tours of the building for a while, but the building has become increasingly fragile. There's also the curse that Thornwood left, so his family has never been successful enough to repair the place, and no one else wants to live in it. When someone posts a fake Facebook page about Toppy and gets him in a lot of trouble with the town and the mayor, it looks like the curse is back in action. The devastation doesn't stop at Toppy's reputation-- soon things are being set on fire, bank accounts are being hacked, and Toppy may lose his job if he can't stop the perpetrator. Can Lavender and Max, with the help of the owner of the local electrical supply store and his foster son, figure out the culprit? Is it Junior Thornwood? Max's mother, who lives in California? The answer surprises and shocks Max.
Strengths: This was a fun mystery-- a mix of haunted house and hackers that was intriguing. Max's disability is certainly part of the story but not the whole story, which I loved. Toppy is fantastic-- I'm just sad I don't have anyone to punish with writing reviews of sappy movies. That's brilliant. The writing was really good as well. Bonus points for not being as super sad as Footer Davis.
Weaknesses: There was a lot going on in this story, but it was too long for most of my readers (352 pages). It started to drag quite a bit in the middle, which is a shame. Tighter editing would have made this a top notch choice for middle school readers, who really, truly like books to wrap up in 200 pages. I'm a little conflicted about this-- certainly, they should have the patience for a longer book, but there is something about being able to tell the entire story in 200 pages that is not a bad thing for economy of words. Also, errors in Latin phrase that I hope can be fixed.
What I really think: Will purchase. I've only had one student in a wheelchair, but that is certainly a bit of diversity lacking in middle grade literature. Vaught's son is in a wheelchair, so she hits the right notes.

25488892Schusterman, Michelle. Olive and the Backstage Ghost
August 15th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Olive is okay with going to auditions and attending a theater camp, but has a history of being stricken with stage fright in the presence of her mother. Her mother was a child star and did quite well until she lost her ability to sing, and she is bound and determined to have Olive achieve her level of success. Ever since her father's passing a year ago, the two have struggled financially even though they have kept their posh city apartment, and Olive has noticed that more and more of their possessions have been sold. After blowing a summer camp audition, Olive runs away and happens upon a beautiful old theater. She goes onto the stage and sings the piece that she wanted to sing before her mother pushed her to do something else. The owner of the theater, Maude, comes out and tells Olive that she has won the main role in the newest production, Eidola. As Olive spends more and more time in the theater, she meets others , like Juliana, who are in the production, and Felix, who warns her to stay away from the theater. She also meets a number of ghosts, but since they seem benign, she's not too worried. Eventually, Olive and her mother have a falling out, and Olive goes to live in the theater, although her mother does make the news about her disappearance. Things are not as they seem, and the theater offers the occasional creepy glimpse that something is not right. Will Olive, Juliana, and Felix be able to figure out Maude's plans before the production, and all of the cast, is doomed?
Strengths: Olive's relationship with her mother is interesting. Middle grade parents who want to live vicariously through their children are not often covered, but it is an intriguing struggle. Maudeville is atmospherically creepy, and this put me in mind a bit of Funke's The Thief Lord for some reason. The characters of Felix, Finley, and Juliana are particularly well done.
Weaknesses: Olive's relationship with her mother never really improves, and there is a very brief and unexamined statement that Olive's father did not fall to his death but rather jumped. Both of these threads could be upsetting to middle grade readers, and I wish they had been explained and resolved.
What I really think: Readers who enjoy creepy stories and theater settings will read this avidly, but I preferred this author's Kat Sinclair series, since there was more action.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Karma Khullar's Mustache

27277199Wientge, Kristi. Karma Khullar's Mustache
August 15th 2017 by Simon and Schuster
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Karma and Sara have been friends for years, but as the two are making plans for their sixth grade year, Karma starts to be concerned that Sara is much more interested in clothes, make up and boys. To make matters worse, a new girl moves into the house across the street from Sara. Lacey is pretty, from California, and offers Karma "beauty tips" about dealing with the beginnings of a mustache on her upper lip. When they are all hanging out at the pool, Lacey is even meaner. She and some boys start the phrase "'Stache Attack", complete with a finger over their lip gesture, and Sara doesn't even stand up for Karma! The first day of 6th grade is not great; Karma's lunch spills and others make fun of her, and she finds herself in the company of the two most unpopular kids in her grade... who happen to be the only ones who are nice to her. Things aren't great at home, either. Her father's position at the university has been cut, so he's a stay-at-home dad, and her mother has increased her hours and is rarely home. Karma also misses her grandmother, who lived with the family but recently passed away. She tries to remember what Dadima would have told her to do when things get bad, and even talks her father into taking her to a talk on karma at the family's Sikh house of worship, but there's no easy answer. Karma even tries to go along with her math teacher's idea to tutor Lacey, but this just gets her into even more misunderstandings. Finally, Karma is able to talk to her parents and get some help navigating the choppy waters of middle school.
Strengths: Everyone has a mustache. Karma's mother says it, and it's SO true! I was a definitely more like Karma's mother in middle school (blonde and Methodist), but there were many times that I felt uncomfortable or fought with my friends. Karma's reactions are spot on; I even liked that she thought religion and relying on God could help, mainly because her grandmother had told her this. I think middle school is a prime time for putting a lot of credence in religious help. Sara's reactions to things are accurate as well, and I was very relieved that the two were able to work things out. Lacey was realistically evil; she had her motivations, but I still hated her! I would have loved seeing the details of Karma's every day life and her approach to problems when I was in middle school. Great book!
Weaknesses: The scene where Karma decided to shave seemed a bit overly dramatic, and I was surprised that the tiffin spilled so frequently. I thought the whole point was that tiffins had leak proof seals so they could be transported. Also, if my lunch spilled so often, I think I would take something else, so matter how much I liked daal!
What I really think: This needs a cover like the Aladdin M!X books and a punchier title. I loved the story, but doubt that readers will pick this one up without a bit of prompting.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Twintuition: Double Dare

31448967Mowry, Tia and Tamera. Twintuition: Double Dare (#3)
May 9th 2017 by HarperCollins
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central

Cassie and Caitlyn are still getting used to having magical powers, and it seems like they may be splitting the gift of reading other's thoughts-- one sees mainly happy thoughts while the other sees mainly sad ones. When their father's mother, Verity Lockwood, arrives from England to meet with the girls, their mother isn't very happy. Did the magic have something to do with their father's death? Since their mother is trying so hard to keep them from their grandmother, they only learn the family secrets and information about their burgeoning powers a bit at a time. They also have to deal with their friends at school, who are involved in a Truth of Dare craze. When the girls have a vision that one of their friends is going to be badly injured, will they be able to stop it from happening?

Magical realism is in great demand-- who doesn't want to have some sort of magical power? The girls are shown dealing with the problems that their new found skills are causing in a constructive and realistic way.

While I have a little bit of a hard time telling the twins apart, the supporting characters are tremendously appealing. The British grandmother is caring and yet enigmatic, and the twins no-nonsense police woman mother is great. There's a lot more to the family story, and I'm curious to see if there will be more about this, as well as the girls' father, in further books.

Books about twins are always popular (I really want to go reread DuJardin's Pam and Penny Howard series right now!), and these books are appealing to reluctant older readers who want shorter, easier books that still address the intricacies of middle school relationship dramas. The covers of these are a bit reminiscent of Devillers and Roy's Trading Faces and Payton's It Takes Two series, which have been very popular with my students.

Mowry, Tia and Tamera. Twintuition: Double Dare (#2)
May 10th 2016 by HarperCollins

I somehow missed the second book in the series, but I'll definitely order it. One of my very reluctant readers who would ONLY read nonfiction True Books loved this book. It might have been the only somewhat lengthy fiction book she read in three years! When I looked at Double Dare, I thought "The next should be teal", and by golly, book 2 was! Clearly, the next book will have to be pink, then green!

  Ms. Yingling

Monday, August 14, 2017

MMGM- All the running books!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger's Blog and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

34106336Asher, Diana Harmon. SidetrackedAugust 22nd 2017 by Amulet Books
E ARC from

Joseph is having a tough time in middle school. He's small for his age and suffers from ADHD enough that he spends time each day in the resource room. When his teacher there, Mrs. T., suggests that he run cross country, he is skeptical, but when he sees Heather doing well at running, he thinks it might be okay. This is the first year for the team, so it's very small, but Mrs. T. is the coach. Joseph isn't fast, but he keeps running, and keeps thinking about his personal best. He becomes friends with Heather, whose mother is off in Hawaii studying flowers and doesn't want to come home. The two make an unlikely pair but look out for each other. When Heather is elbowed in the woods, Joseph makes sure that the boy who did it is eventually found out. Joseph also makes peace with another runner who has given him a hard time, Charlie, which is a good thing, since they will be together for indoor winter track and track in the spring. There is an interesting side story involving Joseph's grandfather, who lives with the family, and the quirky, older librarian.
Strengths: This was a good debut effort and showed a decent knowledge of cross country. There were lots of good details (Yep, the boys pee in the woods! We call it "I dropped my watch.") and it was nice to see a strong female character. Good length, no major flaws.
Weaknesses: The editor's note at the beginning was extremely offputting. It's 2017. "A boy cannot be small weak and terrible at track... A girl cannot be big, tough, and lightning fast like Heather." Since when? While I am glad that Heather is the fastest runner, her description as a very tall, larger girl doesn't make much sense. The fastest girls in middle and high school are usually very small. Our girls' team is hugely better than the boys, and it's not an issue. It 1982, maybe, it would be an issue. Joseph is identified as having ADHD, but many of his behaviors make me wonder if his issues arise more from being on the autism spectrum.There was also a weird scene in the book where Joseph sees a teammate being stared at by the other runners, and the teammate says that it's because he's black and the others think he will be fast. That just seemed odd. These are small quibbles with a good story. I suspect that Asher watched her children run rather than coaching a team.
What I Really think: Will definitely purchase.

34007206Odhiambo Eucabeth A. Auma's Long Run 
September 1st 2017 by Carolrhoda Books

E ARC from

Auma has a very fortunate life in her Kenyan village. Her father works in Nairobi, but comes home from time to time, bringing presents and encouraging Auma in her dream to be a doctor. Because he earns a good income, she is able to afford to go to school. When he comes home this time, however, he stays for longer, and is suffering from an undisclosed illness. Is it malaria? Many people have been dying in Auma's village, which makes her want to pursue medical studies even more, especially when Mama Karen tells her about a new disease that seems to be striking many people, especially those who work in large cities, like Auma's father. It is the "slim disease" or AIDS, and weakens people so much that they die from a number of unrealated causes. When her mother also becomes ill, Auma tries to locate a treatment for her, but ends up with her grandmother after her mother's death. Her grandmother wants her to marry, but Auma is not willing to give up her dream of being educated. Thanks to her athletic ability, she is granted a scholarship to high school. She is sad to leave her younger sister and grandmother, but knows that getting an education is the only way to make her life better.
Strengths: Excellent #ownvoices look at Kenya at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. This is something that students today hear very little about. I also think it is important for my students to understand that in other places in the world, people have to pay to go to school. The details of every day life are also exquisite; we need more books set in other parts of the world that talk about how other tweens live. Great cover. Pair this with Jan Michael's City Boy (2009), about AIDS in Malawi and how it affects families there.
Weaknesses: The running isn't talked about as much as the cover and title would indicate.
What I really think: Well written, engaging, a great length. I hope to see more books by this author!

Knight, Phil. Shoe Dog: Young Readers' Edition
Paula Wiseman Books, September 26, 2017.
(Actually, read the adult version from the public library.)

I am going to assume that the Young Readers' Edition is somewhat shorter and takes out the one or two cuss words. Probably a little kinder in the descriptions of Knight's coworkers as well. As it is, the adult version was not too bad-- I would probably buy it for a high school library.

Why do we care about Knight? Mainly because of his connections to big names in distance running. When Bill Bowerman coowns your company and designs your shoes and Steve Prefontaine is the first athlete associated with them, you know you're in the big leagues. Not surprisingly for someone who has found so much success in life, Knight does a good job explaining why he was interested in bringing Japanese running shoes to the US in the early 1960s, and how he slowly and painfully built his company to be what it is today. It took a good 20 years for the company to get on solid ground, and another ten before it became the major player that it is. I found the descriptions of Knight's dealings with the Japanese in the days when telephoning and mail were the only methods of contact to be very interesting, his associations with others in the running business engaging, and his stick-to-it-tiveness to be a good lesson for many young people. The history of running as a sport that we get along the way is also good.

A must purchase for any school with a healthy running program. Distance runners are usually also devoted readers!

34460612Leonard, Dion. Finding Gobi: Young Reader's Edition: The True Story of One Little Dog's Big Journey
Published August 29th 2017 by Thomas Nelson

While running a 155 mile, multistage ultramarathon in the Gobi desert, Dion Leonard was repeatedly accompanied by a small dog who would run right along with him despite temperatures of over 120 degrees! At first, Leonard mainly ignored the dog, concentrating instead on being able to finish the race and place well, since he was back after recovering from an injury. After a while, however, the dog's devotion wins him over, and he finds himself curled up with the dog at night, feeding her his precious food, and carrying her over streams. When the conditions are particularly brutal, he does leave her with race organizers. His friends suggest he name her, and she ends up with the handle Gobi. Gobi's enthusiasm at seeing him motivates Leonard to run even when he suffers greatly from the heat, and he finishes second in the race.  Gobi becomes an international phenomenon. Not wanting to leave the dog behind, he starts investigating how he could bring the dog to his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. With the help of his wife, and international animal rescue operation, and a network of Chinese citizens, Leonard spends quite a bit of time and money to clear the path for Gobi to come home with him. Delightful pictures of the two can be found on Twitter @findinggobi, and a movie of the book is in the works.
Strengths: The first part of the book has a lot of fantastic details about running, and the second half is concerned with finding Gobi after she has run away from her caretakers. I appreciated that Leonard discusses how most Chinese do not want to keep dogs as pets, but very clearly shows how this is a cultural difference that we should respect. The book moves quickly, and even though we know there will be a happy ending, the process of getting Gobi "home" is very interesting.
Weaknesses: Sometimes the prose seems a bit overly simplistic. I'm curious to see the adult version. There is even a picture book!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Dogs AND running. What a fantastic combination!

34218224Reynolds, Jason. Patina (Track #2)
August 29th 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Patty loves to run, but even more than that, she loves winning races. This is understandable, since there is a lot in her life that hasn't worked out. Her father passed away before her younger sister Maddy was born, and a few years after that, her mother lost her legs to diabetes. The girls are fortunate in that their father's brother and his wife (whom they call Momly) are caring for the girls, but they do get to see their mother once a week when they take her to church. The girls attend a fancy charter school, where Patty doesn't feel she quite fits in. She misses her best friend, Cotton, from her old neighborhood. Patty takes very good care of her sister, but is difficult on the track team and at school. When she is assigned a group project in history, she is not excited to work with the other girls, even though they do pick her topic, Frida Kahlo. Patty's event is the 800, so she's not excited to run a relay, either, especially when one of the other girls in the group upsets her with a comment about Momly. When a car accident injures members of her family, Patty learns that she occasionally has to rely on the help of others, and it makes her appreciate the help she has been getting more.
Strengths: Ghost has been wildly popular in my school, so I'm hoping that readers will pick up this second book. The character development really shines in this story, and is very well layered and nuanced-- the whole concept of learning to work in a group is huge, yet rarely discussed in middle grade literature. The details about how Patty and Maddy ended up with their aunt and uncle, as well as their aunt's back story, were realistic and compelling. There is a lot of good track information as well; if I worked with runners doing relays, I'd definitely make them waltz together! The inclusion of the health consequences of diabetes is handled deftly as well.
Weaknesses: I really disliked Patty at the beginning of the book, so I was glad to see her character develop. I wish the coaches were nicer and more helpful. And this is personal-- I was VERY confused by Momly serving turkey legs for dinner every night. I can't say that in 30 years of grocery shopping, I've ever even seen a turkey leg in the store!
What I really think: This is a title that is growing on me. I do love the covers, and can't wait to read the next one!

Books for Back to School!

National Geographic. Weird But True Daily Planner
Published June 13th 2017 by National Geographic Society

As someone who cannot function without a paper planner, I looked at this one with great interest. One the upside, it's tremendously amusing, with lots of goofy pictures and fun facts. There is a decent amount of space for kids to write down things they need to do, not tiny lines like some adult planners have. The writing prompts would definitely have been something that my own daughters would have appreciated.

I'm a bit conflicted about the four days per two page spread format. Each day has all of the days of the week listed under the date, which is fantastic if you have purchased the planner and then forgotten it in the cupboard for a year! This could be used during any calendar year because of the format, but I need to see a week at a time. There is also a definite lack of monthly calendars, so it is hard to use for long term assignments and for seeing the big picture.

This is also very heavy, because of the excellent quality of the paper. I see this being used avidly by elementary students who aren't necessarily having to carry it around in a back pack all day. Remembering my calendar criteria at this age, I would say that this could be greatly improved with the addition of LOTS of stickers!

From the Publisher: "Prepare to be amazed each day with weird-but-true facts that will impress your friends and stump your parents. Turn the page and record your school work, keep track of activities, and plan your social life, all while learning wild and wacky things about the world around you!

Fun prompts invite you to celebrate weirdness. Plus there are homework help sections and tons of space to write or doodle your daily schedule any way you wish. With beautiful full-color artwork and engaging information and activities, this is the must-have planner. It's a great way to stand out from the crowd!"

National Geographic. United States Atlas for Kids (Fifth Edition)
Published July 11th 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

This large format atlas has two page spreads on every state. There are the standard statistics listed along the side, a brief discussion of the highlights of the state, and terrific full color maps with economy symbols, which was probably my favorite part! There is an extensive index of places (although the town I use to gauge completeness is not included in this atlas!), a glossary, and other supplementary information. Atlases make great reading during rainy recesses and after homework is done, especially for fourth graders who are studying the United States. This would make a great gift for a fact-driven elementary school student or classroom teacher!

From the publisher:
"Kids will have fun learning about every U.S. state in this amazing atlas, packed with maps, stats, facts, and pictures. National Geographic's world-renowned cartographers have paired up with education experts to create maps of the 50 states, U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C., that pinpoint the physical features, capitals, and towns and cities of each state. Discover the latest data and trends along with colorful photography of each state and the people who live there.

Key points reflect the latest information about land and water, people, and places. Lively essays cover each region of the country. Eight specially themed maps on nature, population, energy, climate, and more, delve deeper into key issues. State birds and state flags add to the high visual interest. This is a great reference for home and school with all the basics kids need to know to succeed in middle school, high school, and beyond."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Westerville Educators Day!

And we're off! My district starts the year with a professional development day, and I am presenting the following about new books. This presentation also has the Warriors Read-a-likes slides.

Hope you enjoy this!

Ms. Yingling

Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things

32827188Aldredge, Betsy and DuBois-Shaw, Carrie. Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
August 8th 2017 by Simon Pulse
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Samantha  Berger isn't thrilled that her father has managed to get the family accepted for competition on the Myth Gnomers reality show, but when she finds out that the prize money will help her go to college, as well as reduce other family debts, she is willing to leave Ohio and travel to the Pacific Northwest. Her sister Lyssa treats this opportunity like one of the pageants she entered, and shows off her short shorts and highlighted hair to the best advantage. Sophie just tries to do what she can to help her family while trying to ignore her interest in a boy who is on the other team. Samantha also finds herself drawn to Devan, who is a member of the elite prep school team that gets to stay in a posh cabin while the Bergers hunker down in a tent. The Bergers do fairly well in the competition, even though everything seems stacked against them. When Sophie gets a bad case of the flu and has to stay in better house with the competition, Samantha worries that things will get out of hand, but also is glad that having to visit her sister gets her closer to Devan. Is there a Bigfoot in the woods in the Pacific Northwest, and can the Bergers manage to prove so and improve their lot in life?
Strengths: This reminds me a bit of Bears, Boys, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Books (2010) or the 2007 Black Sheep. It was fun, fast paced, and had some great romance in it. I liked Samantha-- she was irritated with her parents, but loved them and understood why they were showcasing their family and interest in cryptozoology. The father being a middle school science teacher and explaining things to the film crews the same way he would to his classes was a hoot!
Weaknesses: I was just thinking about getting rid of Black Sheep. I love the paint-by-number inspired cover, but it's not a great look for a romance book.
What I really think: I haven't found a lot of good, middle school appropriate romances lately, so I may buy this one and hand sell it.
Ms. Yingling

Saturday, August 12, 2017


32333319Cronin, Doreen. Cyclone.
May 16th 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Digital copy borrowed from The Ohio E Book Project

Nora really wants to ride on the Cyclone at the amusement park she and her family have traveled to visit, and blackmails her cousin Riley into going on it with her. Riley is scared of it, but Nora has found out that the "Georgina" on Riley's phone contacts is really an older man, and threatens to tell her aunt. When the girls get off the ride, Riley collapses and has to be rushed to the hospital. It turns out that Riley has had a stroke, most likely precipitated by an undiagnosed heart problem. Nora's parents and Riley's mom stay at the hospital, but eventually Nora and her parents go back to the hotel to be with Riley's dog. Another aunt comes in from California, but seems to make matters worse by adding sister drama to the situation. Nora makes friends with a boy whose brother is in the hospital battling cancer, and gets very tired of being in the hospital instead of being able to go out running. She slowly figures out who "Georgina" really is, and is able to work through her guilt at making Riley go on the roller coaster. Riley's progress is very slow, since her speech and movement are effected, but eventually the families are able to return home to adjust to "the new normal".
Strengths: This was definitely original-- I can't think of another book where a child has a stroke and ends up in intensive care. (Although Falling Over Sideways involves a stroke, and Alexander's Booked involves a lengthy hospital stay.) There are lots of details about families staying around hospitals and what recuperating from a stroke looks like. The writing is intriguing, and the tension between the cousins is very realistic. Kept me turning the pages.
Weaknesses: The drama between the aunts didn't really add much to the story for me.
What I really think: I am not quite sure what to think. On the one hand, I read through this quickly, but on the other, it might be a hard sell to students, especially with the nondescript cover. Debating.

Ms. Yingling

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bones of the Sun God

32333314Vegas, Peter. Bones of the Sun God (Pyramid Hunters#2)
August 1st 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Sam is pulled out of his private boarding school because he has won a scholarship to study opera in Switzerland, he knows that something is up. After his adventures in Pyramid Hunters, his uncle is in trouble, but Mary gets in touch with him and arranges for him to travel to Belize, where there was a ship found that has a strong connection to the Ark of the Covenant. Sam's parents (whom have been presumed dead, although Sam is sure they are alive) had gone down to investigate, and Sam hopes that he can pick up their trail. He does find some clues, but more importantly, he finds a boy who worked for them, Elio, who is able to give him some insight into the fight between the Keepers of the Light and the Committee. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of criminals who want the gold that was one the ship and who assume that Sam is there to take it from them. Because of this, Sam spends a lot of time running from bad guys who are trying to get him or from the crocodiles they try to get to kill him. Mary comes to help (have left a complicated electronic trail to keep her father out of the loop), and between her, Sam and Elio, someone is always needing rescued. In the end, the children manage to dispatch the criminals, get help from an unlikely source, and learn a secret that will make finding Sam's parents even more difficult.
Strengths: This had LOTS of action, bunches of ferocious crocodiles, good descriptions of Belize, interesting connections to the Maya and Olmec civilizations, and was quite the page turner. This was important, since it was over 400 pages long. It did not feel that long at all.
Weaknesses: The book started with Sam being bullied, which didn't add a lot to the story.
What I really think: I think I'm not warming to these because I'm having trouble believing that the children are traveling around the world on their own. If one of them were a magical unicorn, I would have no problem believing that, but this is realistic. Mary especially has endless money and the ability to go anywhere. Despite this, they are suspenseful and have entertaining characters, so I'm definitely purchasing them.

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Horses! The Whole Sky and Shadow of a Doubt

Henson, Heather. The Whole Sky
August 22nd 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Sky and her father travel to different horse farms around the country to work, depending on the time of year. With foaling season approaching, they return to the MacIntyre's farm, one that Sky loves because her favorite horse, Poppy is there. She helps her father out a good deal, especially since her homeschooling has suffered after the death of her mother from cancer. She and the owner's grandson, nature-obsessed Archie, are intrigued by the seasonal plague of tent caterpillar's, although Sky is concerned that accidentally ingesting them while grazing might hurt the horses. Sky can understand what the horses are feeling, and they indicate that eating the caterpillars makes their mouths sore. This isn't a big concern until foals begin to arrive, and many of them die. Archie and Sky investigate and are able to help the vets determine the cause of the foals' deaths, and are able to save Poppy's foal. The story was inspired by a real event that occurred on horse farms in 2001, although the author indicates it took much longer to determine the cause in real life.
Strengths: There are lots of good details about taking care of horses, and the medical mystery is interesting. I like to purchase a few horse books every year; although they don't necessarily check out frequenly, there are always a few students interested in horses who want to read a lot of stories about them.
Weaknesses: Not only does Sky's father struggle with the death of the mother, he drinks so heavily dealing with the stress that he has to be hospitalized. Luckily, Sky has a lot of support at the MacIntyre's. I was slightly uncomfortable with assigning psychic, horse-whispering powers to Sky and her father that were related to their cultural background as Irish Pavees. I don't know enough about that culture to tell whether or not this might offend them.
What I really think: This is a solid purchase to add to my fiction collection for fans of Platt's Wind Dancer, Lyne's Catch Rider and Hapka's Horse Diaries series.

James, Skylar. Shadow of a Doubt
April 21st 2015 by Adaptive Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Fyfe lives on a struggling farm near Churchill Downs with her father, the famous jockey Roscoe Flynn, She sells peanuts at the racetrack and her father usually rides for their neighbor, Colonel Epsom. When the Flynn's have a mare die the same night that Epsom's Gilda loses her foal, their animal (named Shadow) stays with Gilda until Epsom flings the horse back at them. Living with the prize winning Gilda, however, has imbued Shadow with the strong desire to race. This comes in handy after Roscoe has a terrible accident during a race. When he is told that he will never ride again, the Colonel not only fires him, but refuses to take him on as an assistant to his trainer AND blackballs him in the racing community so he cannot find a job. Fyfe and her father struggle to make ends meet by farming, but the crops can only come in so fast. When they realize that Shadow is a great racer, they work on training him. Epsom, of course, makes a feeble attempt to take the animal from them, which only strengthens their resolve to make Shadow the best. Things rarely go smoothly, however, and even though Shadow wins a race, Fyfe's attempts at riding end badly twice. How can the Flynns, as well as Shadow, hold on to their dreams of winning the Derby?

There will always be middle grade readers, especially girls, who love a good horse story. Marguerite Henry has always been my go-to writer for these tales, but after 70 years, her books don't hold up as well as they used to. There are some good horse stories that have come out more recently-- Macadoo of the Maury River by Amateau, The Georges and the Jewels series by Smiley, and The outside of a horse by Rorby.

The small line drawings that accompany some of the chapters are rather charming, although I was a bit surprised when the horses started conversing among themselves. This is still a realistic fiction book, since the horses didn't talk to people, and they only discussed topics that horses would discuss.

Epsom reminded me of Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life in his single minded devotion to squashing the Flynn's for no apparently good reason. I definitely envisioned him as Lionel Barrymore in a stuffy suit, complete with bowler hat!

There are lots of details about racing and life at the track, and this seems to be set during a time around the Great Depression. It's not explicitly stated, but Fyfe wears wool pants and has to masquerade as a boy so she isn't disqualified, but there are automobiles. The struggles the small family face are realistic and met with a can-do attitude as well as some ingenuity.

This would definitely be an optional purchase. It uses every trope found in horse books-- dying mares and foals, jockeys unable to ride, bad betting schemes, and then throws in several unlikely reasons for Fyfe to be in bed for protracted periods of time. Not my favorite horse book. Buy a copy of Henson's The Whole Sky instead. I liked the caterpillars in that, and the whole mystery element.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Best. Night. Ever.: A Story Told From Seven Points of View

28899855Best. Night. Ever.: A Story Told From Seven Points of View
Malone, Jen. (Editor) with Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito
August 15th 2017 by Aladdin
Copy graciously provided by publisher

It's the night of the middle school dance, and the members of Heart Grenade are excited. They won the local battle of the bands, so get to perform at the dance. Unfortunately, Carmen has to go to a stupid family wedding, so the very nervous Genevieve will sing in her place. Other middle school students from whom we hear are Ellie, who is thrilled that Kevin has asked her; Ellie's stepsister Ashlyn, who's irritated that she has to pick up Ellie's babysitting gig; Ryan, who gets caught up with his best friend Mariah's romantic triangle with Leif and Tess, and Jade, who is upset her band didn't win and is planning some sabotage. Things don't go very smoothly for anyone. Carmen ends up in an ugly dress, stuck at the children's table. Ellie learns a hard lesson about what idiots boys this age can be. Ryan learns to move beyond his infatuation with Mariah. Ashlyn makes some incredibly bad babysitting choices! There's all the drama of a dance night, rolled up with some interesting band information and a lot of humor.
Strengths: This was a lot of fun, and will hopefully entice readers to pick up books by all of these authors. Many of my readers ask for books about drama, and this has a lot of it! There is an impressive amount of diversity, and all of the middle school voices ring true.
Weaknesses: I did not personally like most of the characters, and I have never seen a middle school dance where girls wore formal dresses or had student bands.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. This will be popular!

Burns, Catherine Lloyd. Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen.
August 22nd 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Cricket has odd interests and has alienated all of her classmates by embellishing the truth, but she's looking forward to summer, even though her mother has signed her up for a surfing camp. When Cricket turns in a personal narrative essay that is all lies, she gets called on the carpet and has to redo it. Her parents are fund raisers who try to get money from New York's wealthy elite, even though they are not wealthy themselves. Cricket's grandmother, Dodo, has moved from California to be near Cricket's family (her parents are very busy!), and has a live in helper named Abby from who she is always trying to escape. When the parents have to go to Long Island, they decide it's okay for Cricket to stay with Dodo, even though she is becoming increasingly forgetful and has caused Abby to quit because she is so difficult. Things go quickly south, with Cricket and Dodo running away and eventually being detained by the police for shoplifting.
Strengths: I'd like to see more stories of children are their grandparents that explore that bond and also talk about a variety of challenges that come with aging. This had a strong sense of place, and wasn't overly sad. There was a lot of support for Cricket, even if it didn't really come from her parents.
Weaknesses: This struck me as an Eloise at the Plaza sort of book-- poor little rich girl. Okay, maybe not rich, but definitely privileged. Cricket is unlikable, and her parents' lack of interest in keeping their daughter and her grandmother safe because they were too busy was horrible.
What I really think: Maybe this will be more popular with people who actually live in New York City. It must be very different there, and I just don't understand.
Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Countdown Conspiracy

26102519Slivensky, Katie. The Countdown Conspiracy
August 1st 2017 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Miranda has been chosen as one of six tweens to be trained for a world wide Mars mission. She deserves it-- she's super smart, has made her own robot, and has always wanted to participate in the space program-- but feels that perhaps she shouldn't have been chosen over her friend Sasha, who is Russian. Because there has been a global conflict, Miranda's position on the team comes under scrutiny, and before long she suffers through several attacks that imperil the mission. It doesn't help that Anna, from Austria, is rather nasty to her. The other members of the globally diverse team are Najma, Esteban, Rahim and Matsuo. Training to be an astronaut involves lots of physics, mechanics, and team building activities, and the group tries to work together despite the growing political unrest. When they are running a training mission, the group is sabotaged and lift off for Mars. The systems are all locked down, and a team of adults trying to save them has already perished. Can Miranda figure out a way to get everyone back to Earth, and figure out who is behind all of the unpleasantness?
Strengths: Lots of great details about space travel, and the political intrigue was interesting as well. Miranda and the girls are great at science, and we certainly need to encourage more young women to go into those fields. The plot moves along nicely-- very impressive science fiction book!
Weaknesses: I wish that Miranda hadn't doubted herself so much, or been so attached to her robot!
What I really think: This has a lot of heavy-duty science and space details, so it will be a popular book. I enjoyed the author's note about how she tried to write about space convincingly even though she's never been an astronaut!
Ms. Yingling

Monday, August 07, 2017

Nonfiction Monday- Sports!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

My father's running joke is that he hasn't missed a football game in fifty years-- he hasn't watched a football game, but he hasn't missed them! This pretty much sums up my own relationship with sports. The fact that I am moderating a panel discussion on sports at Kidlitcon is nothing short of miraculous.

33232263Gramling, Gary. The Football Book
August 8th 2017 by Sports Illustrated
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

The tag line on this is "Everything you need to become a gridion know-it-all: Lingo, trivia, stats, skills". The stats part of this covers a whole lot. I appreciated most that there were overviews of all of the teams, including the year they were founded, notable players and coaches, and highlights of different seasons. There are also lots of pages about different players that include their statistics as well. This makes me wonder why no one talks about Morten Anderson, who had most career points and seems very impressive, but I've never heard of him. The other important thing I learned was that the Cleveland Browns have never been to a Super Bowl. Now, I want this to happen! (I grew up equidistant between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, although my brother was a Steelers fan.)

In addition to the various statistics, there is a lot of information on how to perform different plays. My favorite was how to "dress appropriately when you're going to a game"-- as someone who once went to a football game in November wearing tennis shoes with no socks, it would have been useful. There's even a page on how to make a queso dip!

This is a great book for dipping into during study halls, on car trips, or even during lunch. I'd rather see kids reading from something like this at lunch than playing games on their phones! This will be a popular book with my readers who are fond of both sports at Guinness Book of World Records type compilations of facts.

My only objection to the book is some of the formatting-- the paper-over-board cover didn't even hold up well to being mailed in a padded envelope, so a lot of tape will be involved in processing it for library use. The full color illustrations give the book the same sort of odd smell that graphic novels have. Also, the pages are designed so that some of them look like the corner is folded over or someone has spilled something on the page, which made me a little twitchy! Readers will not even notice these things, except for the excessive amount of tape on my library copy!

33785413Sports Illustrated Kids. Hockey Then to Wow!
September 26th 2017 by Sports Illustrated
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Like it's predecessors about baseball and footballHockey Then to Wow! provides a great overview about the sport. Considering that I knew absolutely nothing about hockey, it really did cover all of the bases. I always love the random facts (for years, helmets were not required, and when they finally were, players who started playing without them didn't have to wear them. That's just weird!), but I know my readers are more interested in the statistics and team overviews. I'm not usually fond of oversized books, but in this case, the extra wide layouts are essential for showing the evolution of uniforms (pictured on the cover), teams, masks, and a variety of other interesting specifics.

The photo illustrations are fantastic, and the page layouts are a lot of fun. The range of information presented is impressive, and there is even a brief section about women in hockey.

Not only is this book fun to read, but it would be a great resource for a student researching hockey at a specific period of time. It would be a good starting point for a History Day project, and I know we've used the other volumes when the 7th grade researches the 1960s in preparation for reading The Outsiders. There are some books Sports Illustrated could work on--- football in the 1960s, 1970s, etc. Or Sports in the 1960s. These books work; they just require a bit more sifting!

MMGM- The Real Us

31145015Greenwald, Tommy. The Real Us.
August 8th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

I'm not entirely sure that the person who wrote the publisher's description actually read the book. The book is much more nuanced.

Calista Getz is that girl. Not only is she pretty, but she's super nice and loves to play soccer. She has found herself saddled with two friends she doesn't particularly like, Ella and Ellie, and while she enjoys being popular a little bit, she would much rather hang out with her friend Laura. Laura, meanwhile, has made a new friend in Rachel, who is very bubbly and who supports Laura when she is feeling less than positive about herself, which is a fairly rare occurrence, but does happen. When middle school starts up again, Calista finds herself being pushed toward Patrick, who is the boy equivalent of her-- attractive, smart, and polite. He's okay, but she doesn't want to like him just because he's good looking, no matter what Ella and Ellie say. She's actually more intrigued by the quiet Damien, a tall kid with a penchant for wearing a red jacket all of the time.

Calista has a bad day. She gets a zit on her nose, panics, pops it, and covers it with concealer. The concealer makes her break out in hives all over her face. To top it off, she goes to talk to Patrick, and he accidentally elbows her in the face, making her nose bleed and her eyes turn black! She is not surprised at all when Patrick doesn't want to go to the dance with her. Ella and Ellie turn on her and talk behind her back, but Laura is supportive. I loved how the adults around her made Calista continue with her regular activities-- the sympathetic school nurse tells her she has to go back to class because the last time she checked, she was "still a student", and her mother makes her go dress shopping! There's a bit of a misunderstanding with Damien and Laura-- they arrange to meet at the dance, but Calista asks him to the dance afterwards and he freezes. Luckily, all of the children involved are level headed and figure things out without the situation devolving into too much drama.

That's what I loved the most about this book. Middle school DOES have a lot of drama, but middle grade literature seems to report it in stereotypical, boring ways. The pretty girl is always mean. The sports loving best friend never gets the boy. People have misunderstandings and don't work them out until pages later. For example, after Damien says yes to Calista, Laura asks him why. He replies that he likes her. When she asks why Damien also said yes to her, he replies that he likes her, too. Her reply to that? "Correct answer." As I read the book, I was constantly pleasantly surprised by the characters' reactions, because they were fresh and yet I could completely see some of my students acting the same way.

This book is told from the points of view of several characters, and while I'm not the biggest fan of this format, it worked in this case. We understand the artistic Damian's struggles with hyperhydrosis (he sweats a LOT and takes medication to try to control it), we witness Patrick's confusion, and we are privy to Laura's sadness that Calista is friends with nitwits and wants to stop playing soccer. We also get wonderful moments with Calista when she practices writing HER OWN NAME over and over in a notebook, and when her language arts teacher tells her that it's a good thing she wants to drop soccer, because girls shouldn't play sports. It's sarcasm, of course, but it does the job and gets Calista back on the field.

I've been a huge fan of Greenwald's work since the very first Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide, but this book takes his work to another level. The voices are authentic but unusually fresh, the school situations realistic and moving, and the characters' interactions with each other perfect examples of the type of behavior and attitude that we try to teach children. Showing by example and making kids laugh-- it's what I want from every middle grade novel I read. Greenwald delivers all of this perfectly.
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8 August Maria’sMelange -Guest Post
9 August Log Cabin Library Review
10 August- Diary of a Happy Librarian - Review
11 August Always in the Middle - Guest Post

14 August- Randomly Reading- Review
15 August One Great BookReview
16  August-Unleashing Readers - Giveaway
17  August Mr. D. ReadsInterview

18  August Tommy Greenwald- Grand Finale and Giveaway

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3)

31145040Cabot, Meg. Royal Crush ((From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3)
August 1st 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Olivia is very exciting that her sister Mia, the queen of Genovia, is having twins! She is especially excited that staying at home to wait for them gets her out of having to travel to a school competition in the country of Prince Gunther, a classmate who has a bit of a crush on her. When the trip is canceled because not enough people have turned in permission slips and because of widespread flu, that's okay with her. However, when the twins are born and the royal physician wants Olivia and Frank away from them, Grandmere ends up chaperoning the trip. Olivia doesn't understand why her crush, Prince Khalil (whom her friend from the states always wants pictures of) is suddenly cool to her, but blames it on the fact that his uncle has taken over his country and Khalil and his parents are seeking asylum in Genovia. There's another reason having to do with mix-ups in the royal mail, but things are worked out, the twins are named, and life in the palace continues.
Strengths: Libraries everywhere invested in the ten book Princess Diaries series, so I hoped that this new series would introduce younger readers to those books and get them moving off the shelf. It's interesting to see more diversity, and older readers will be interested in following Mia's career.
Weaknesses: There is a ridiculous amount of privilege in this, and it just rubbed me the wrong way, especially the way with which Khalil's difficulties were dealt. I think it's just time to move on from this series. The Princess Diaries was published in 2000; it's dated.
What I really think: The first two books have not been picked up in my library, so I'm not going to purchase this third volume.  I love Cabot's writing and wish she would move on to new characters.
  Ms. Yingling