Sunday, June 30, 2013

Nonfiction Monday Round Up and tons of announcements!

It's Nonfiction Monday right here this week! Add the link to your specific Nonfiction post on the Mr. Linky below, then do try to get around and see some of the great nonfiction reviews out there! Common Core or not, it's fun to pair fiction and nonfiction books. I especially like the one I'm reviewing today, which actually listed a couple of good space themed books in the back!


Jacqueline WilsonAlso, have a question for Loyal Readers-- have any middle grade people read Jacqueline Wilson? She's my daughter's favorite author, and her UK publisher has approached me about the possibility of putting together a blog tour to try to get some interest raised in publishing more of her books for the US market. She's got a huge number of books (usually realistic fiction with some family problems, but other things as well) in the UK, but very few in the US. Please e mail me if you would be interested in this-- the publisher is willing to send out some books.


Summer Reading Throwdown has started! Hop over to The Brain Lair to sign up. Librarians only, of course! (Oh, okay. No competition if teachers don't sign up, too!) No way I'm reading more than last July-- read 54 books!


How Do You Burp in Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to KnowGoodman, Susan E. and Slack, Michael. How Do You Burp in Space?: And other Tips Space Tourists Need to Know.
9 July 2013, Bloomsbury USA
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Will space tourism really catch on? Maybe not, but this fun collection of information about what it is like to be in space will whet kids' appetites for it! I learned a lot of things that I didn't know, such as the fact that carbonated beverages in zero gravity are a bad thing, despite the fact that Coca Cola tried really hard to formulate a good version for astronauts, the fact that Sunita Williams ran a marathon in space, and lots of technical tidbits about food, walking outside of the ship, and details of every day life aboard a spacecraft. Of course, the science fiction books never address these little issues, but it's fun to think about them.
Strengths: Sidebars with quotes from astronauts, lots of photographs, and fun illustrations add a lot to the already good information in the text. Complete bibliography is an excellent resource for further reading.
Weaknesses: When space tourism takes off, this will have to be weeded, just like the books I got rid of entitled things like "Space Exploration TODAY!" that claimed that someday man WOULD walk on the moon!

The Menagerie (Menagerie, #1)Sutherland, Tui and Kari. The Menagerie.
12 March 2013, HarperCollins

Logan has moved to a small town in Wyoming with his father after his mother has left the family. One morning, a creature is in his room… and turns out to be a griffin that has escaped from the collection of Zoe’s family. Zoe is descended from Kublai Khan, and her family has kept magical creatures safe for years. Now, however, they have five baby griffins loose in the community, eating everything in sight and looking for “treasure”. Oddly, Logan can communicate with the animals, so Zoe’s family reluctantly agrees to let him help and decide NOT to wipe his memory clean! Along with Squorp, Logan manages to track down Flurp, Chink and eventually Yump, the one that has been eating so much! The school librarian, Ms. Sameera, is aware of the magical creatures, and the kids aren’t quite sure what side she is on, especially after events come to light that explain why Logan can communicate with the creatures. At the end of the book, the goose that laid the golden egg is found murdered, leading into the next book in the series... (Dragon on Trail, due 11 March 2013)
Strengths: Tui Sutherland is one of the authors who write as Erin Hunter, and her prose is smooth and engaging. The setting of this was perfect, and the creatures amusing. Students who like Mull’s Fablehaven  books will find this a good series to read. Enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.
Weaknesses: Zoe’s family has a lot of people in it, and there were times when I was overwhelmed by either those characters or new creatures. Still fewer characters to keep straight than Warriors, though!

My New Teacher and Me!Yankovic, Al. My New Teacher and Me.
25 June 2013, HarperCollins

When Billy show up on the first day of school with dirt all over his shirt, his new teacher, Mr. Booth, wants to know what happened. Billy spins a long string of improbable tales that get him sent to the principal's office, but when proof of one of his exploits falls out of his notebook on the way out of class, Mr. Booth softens. This rhyming picture book is full of all sorts of silly things that young children will adore, and the language and rhyming are quite good. This type of writing is a natural extension of what Mr. Yankovic has done for the last 30 years, and should be adored by young fans and newcomers alike.


It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader.

Catch Rider

Catch RiderLyne, Jennifer H. Catch Rider
4 June 2013, Clarion Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Sid has a hard life. Her father is dead, her mother is dysfunctional, and her mother's boyfriend is not a nice guy. Her uncle Wayne is the most supportive adult in her life, so when he suggests that she come work with him at the riding stable that employs him, she agrees. Unfortunately, a lot of the snotty girls that go to her school work through this stable, and are not nice to Sid at all. She tries not to let this hold her back-- school is not her favorite thing, and she really hopes that she can use her training and skills to become a "catch rider"; someone hired to ride people's horses in shows so that the horses look good and win. With Wayne's help, can she make this dream come true?
Strengths: Lots of details about the care and maintenance of horses, although with information about how they are shown. I don't know anything about how the rich in Virginia go about showing horses, but the drama between Sid and the other girls adds considerable interest (here in Ohio, teens who have horses seem to do a lot more of their own work, at least from what I've seen). Clearly, Lyne writes what she knows, and this book will be a huge hit with girls who are interested in horses.
Weaknesses: This was a bit coarse, and the girls I've had who liked horse books have been a bit on the naive side. It wasn't bad (chickensh**, etc.), but the language did give me pause.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yesterday in History

For some reason, I've read a lot of books about 1969 this summer, so it is of note that the Stonewall riots started yesterday, 28 June, in 1969. It's amazing to me how far we have come as a society in our accepting of LGBTQ individuals; when I was in high school a teacher lost his job on just the vaguest suspicion that he might be gay.

There are lots of great resources out there for LGBTQ literature, including I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? I'm still struggling to find middle grade appropriate titles that meet the same criteria to which I hold other books-- circumspect activity and language, which is just not often in the books, which tend to be more YA. That's okay-- but they are more for high school and public libraries.

For a more adult view of the history of LGBTQ literature, check out Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989, which is very informative but also funny.

Openly StraightKonigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight.
28 May 2013, Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Rafe is tired of being more "gay" than "Rafe". While his Colorado liberal, Oberlin educated parents are completely understanding of his sexual identification,  he is so tired of labels that he is willing to leave his best friend, Claire Olivia, and enroll in an east coast boarding school, Natick, so that he can reinvent himself. This goes well at first-- he does fairly well in soccer and starts hanging out with the jocks. His roommate is a bit quirky, and his friend turns out to be gay, but the students at Natick are grudginly accepting. A teacher to whom his mother has talked encourages him to write about his journey. Rafe's ruse goes well, but his parents are not happy about his decision to "go back into the closet". Things get confusing, though, when he falls in love with a friend, he has to reassess his intentions.
Strengths: This was a very intriguing look at how labels affect people, and how even the most accepting environments are not always enough to make dealing with being different easy. Rafe is a well-developed character with a strong sense of self. The whole boys' boarding school setting was intriguing. The adults were supportive but not overly intrusive. Cover is fantastic. I would definitely buy this for a high school library. Just excellent and thought provoking.
Weaknesses: This was not a middle grade novel. There was way too much drinking, an instance where a girl was referred to as a "f-ing slut", and a more in-depth and confusing romantic relationship than most middle schoolers are ready for. I'd love to see a middle grade novel more like Federle's Better Nate Than Ever that addressed how middle schoolers who are gay deal with everyday situations. (That book was good, but included too much New York stuff for my Ohio readers!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Weird Al" Yankovic on librarians: "You do good work!"

 The Joseph-Beth Bookstore in Cincinnati had an enormous crowd of strangely attired but very polite fans assembled yesterday for the My New Teacher and Me book signing. I felt bad about meeting Mr. Yankovic, in a way-- he was so patient and kind to everyone, but it must be difficult to smile and be nice to total strangers for so long.

I gave him some books for his daughter, who is just about old enough to be in my demographic. This is why he is shaking my hand and thanking me in the first picture. When I said "No, thank you! I'm a librarian, and we couldn't do our job without people who write books!"

He then shook my hand AGAIN and said

"You do good work."

What a nice man. I hope that he has thirty more successful years doing a job he loves.

He certainly does good work!


Guy Friday- Student Council Smackdown

The Classroom Student Council Smackdown! Mellom, Robin. Student Council Smackdown: The Classroom #2 
25 June 2013, Disney Hyperion
Copy provided by Deb Shapiro and Company.

Libby and Cindy are facing off for seventh grade student council president. They have always gone against each other, although Libby lost last year due to her campaign platform of no white board markers, but the rules are different in middle school. There are application letters, debates, and THREE people must run, or there is no position. Since no one will go up against the two (especially since Team Cindy! Has customized shirts for every day), Trevor agrees to run… and lose. He knows he can lose, since after his extremely brief stint of popularity for pouring pop on Corey’s head, he has been unpopular. A couple of incidents have led everyone to believe that he is behind the vile scent wafting through the school. The election heats up, Trevor’s life becomes more complicated, and a dark side of Westside Middle School is revealed--- and captured by the documentary film crew on assignment there.
Strengths: The writing is briskly paced yet understandable. The characters are believable but slightly exaggerated for successful comic effect. The pictures make this a notebook novel, and those are always popular. The first one is on my list to order for fall.
Weaknesses: There is a lot of pondering of popularity—what it means to be popular, how to get popular, how to stay popular. I don’t know that middle school students are so deliberate in their pursuit of popularity. Also, our student council has about ten members, and there are so few people that ANYONE can be in it. So this is hard for me to understand!


Meet Molly Decker, 7th Grader!
 
Here are some fun facts about Molly:
 
* Molly has blue highlights in her hair --- currently Chunky Cobalt Number 7, to be exact
* “Get on with it, already” is Molly’s life motto
* Molly hates glitter and pep
* Molly is the daughter of Westside Middle School’s Vice Principal
 
Read more about Molly and the rest of the Westside Middle School gang in The Classroom: Student Council Smackdown! by Robin Mellom, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My New Teacher and Me

My New Teacher and Me! Yankovic, Al. My New Teacher and Me
25 June 2013, HarperCollins

I'll have the review up later for this book, because my entire family is driving to Cincinnati to MEET MR. YANKOVIC at a book signing.

I've been a huge fan since 1984, and have been to four concerts, three with my children, who are also exceedingly fond of Mr. Yankovic's work.

I know that MotherReader is against celebrity authors, but this is WEIRD AL. I liked When I Grow Up, and am really, really looking forward to reading this new book.

Ardent fans also really, really need:

Weird Al: The Book Rabin, Nathan and Yankovic, Al. Weird Al: The Book
1 October 2012, Harry Abrams.

This was a very brilliantly done biography that covered more of Mr. Yankovic's working life than personal life. Mr. Rabin's prose is snappy and fun to read, and the inclusion of random tweets and lists from Mr. Yankovic himself are fun. The photographs alone make this book worth purchasing for any ardent Yankovic fan. My entire family enjoyed this, and we all learned a lot that we didn't know previously, which took some doing, since Picky Reader and Surly Teen Boy can both tell you which song came from which album, etc.

Vertical (Finally! Skateboarding!)

VerticalBerend, Janet Eoff. Vertical 
28 August 2012, Breakaway Books
Copy received from author.

Josh is not a huge fan of school because it takes up time he could spend skateboarding with his friend Brendon. High school is complicated, though, and several things get in the way of his skateboarding. For one, he sees Lenny, a local skater thug, steal a woman's wallet. Lenny also roughs up younger skaters and shakes them down for money. Josh is struggling with is classes, so his parents limit his skating time and make him go for tutoring, even as Brendon is in danger of flunking out of school completely. Erin, a former girlfriend of Brendon's, seems interested in Josh, and as they work on several language arts projects together, she shows Josh that literature can be interesting as well as applicable to his own life. His tutor makes the connection between skateboarding and math, which also helps Josh see that school has some value. Just when things are looking a little brighter for Josh, he runs afoul of Lenny, with disastrous consequences.
Strengths: I have lamented frequently about the dearth of skateboarding books that are NOT about kids banding together to build a skate park-- this book is EXACTLY what my students want to read! There was a lot of skateboarding lingo and descriptions which I didn't quite grasp, even though there was a helpful glossary of terms, so readers who want to replicate the skating experience in a story will be pleased. The highlight of this is the voice-- Josh is snarky and disaffected, and even though he comes around to school a little, it's not an out-of-place epiphany. Even the bullying by Lenny is realistically described, which is very hard to pull off. While this is set in high school, it would be fine for middle school. The 120 page length is perfect.
Weaknesses: The high school librarian is shown reading the newspaper! With students in the library! Can't imagine that ever happening in my library!* While Berend strikes a good balance between Josh's hatred of school and his parents' insistence that it's important, it was a little uncomfortable for me to read his rants about how useless he thought it was. Students, however, will keep reading because of this. This is available in paperback from Follett-- having it available in prebind would be even better.

*Ms. Berend, who is an English teacher in California, says that this depiction was her way of showing her anger at her district cutting certified library staff. While the library aide in her building is wonderful, she says, it doesn't make up for  lacking the skills that a professional librarian brings to the position!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

World Wednesday-- Playing With Fire

Playing with Fire (SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. Book#1)Hale, Bruce. Playing with Fire (SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. #1)
25 June 2013, Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Max has an unfortunate habit of setting fire to things, but maintains that he did not burn down his last foster home. Doesn't matter; his track record lands him at the Merry Sunshine Orphanage under the care of Hantai Annie. While there, he gets a coded message that indicates the father he never met is still alive, and further investigation reveals that he is involved in spying. Making friends with Wyatt while learning lock picking and other spy skills at the orphanage, Max tries to get more information, and is sent to Mr. Plato, who turns out to be one one Max's first foster fathers. It turns out that the evil LOTUS has found the school and kidnapped some of the students so that the organization can get its hands on an invention that the orphanage is trying to hind. Max is sent next to find Tully, who says that Max's father has been kidnapped by LOTUS. When Max gets assigned to an elite group of students to thwart this evil organization and break by breaking into their headquarters, he's excited because he thinks it will help him find his father. But will Max double cross the school? Will someone else double cross him? And even if he finds his father, will it be worth it?
Strengths: Fans of the N.E.R.D.S., H.I.V.E., S.T.O.R.M., and Evil Genius series will like this, with its action, spy training, and ensemble cast. Of especial note-- Max is half Thai, Hantai Annie is Chinese, and many of the children are described as being of various ethnicities. Charlotte's Library is always looking for multicultural fantasies, and this one certainly qualifies.
Weaknesses: There are so many series like this that it didn't feel fresh. Also, Hantai Annie talks in pidgin English even though she is described as speaking seven languages-- there was something about her portrayal that felt very dated and not culturally aware. This is also a very British book, with lots of words students might not understand.

http://oldcomputers.net/trs80i.html
On the Technology Front, read this article on Barnes and Noble's fortunes.  This would be why those of us who are digital immigrants will always buy books we want to keep in paper format. Sure, they may get damaged in a basement flood, but that's entirely different from them just evaporating because something went wrong on the internet. And I may be wrong here, but at some point, wasn't Barnes and Noble the evil usurper who was ruining independent bookstores? I can't keep track.

What? Your computer doesn't look like the 1977 Tandy TRS-80? You don't even remember this computer that hooked up to your television? You weren't even born then?

***Waving cane.*** Get off my yard, young whippersnappers!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt and Craz.

The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & CrazSilberberg, Alan. The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt and Craz.
23 April 2013, Aladdin

Matt Worfle and Larry "Craz" Crazinski have their problems. Matt's workaholic father has moved out, and his overworked single mom is having trouble controlling Matt's older brother, Ricky. Craz's family of five children leaves him with cold showers and a lot of babysitting. The two both love to draw and create cartoons, but can't get past the editor, Skip Turkle, of the school newspaper, who prefers the insipid strips drawn by Diesel. When the two decide to invest in some quality drawing equipment for Matt, they happen upon a weird web site run by Boyd T. Boone. It causes Matt's computer to crash just as they are ordering the new pen and ink for the low, low price of $10, so Matt is very surprised when the supplies arrive at his door. The first picture the boys create is of them drawing their way to fame and fortune, and after they make a copy of it, the picture comes true. Boyd T. Boone appears as they are spending their money, and guides them in their endeavors. Soon the boys are wreaking all kind of havoc in their attempts to make better lives for themselves-- Matt arranges a date with his crush, Cindy, which ends poorly; Craz inadvertently makes his brothers and sisters disappear; Matt has his father move back home; and the boys send their language arts teacher to an island so they have extra time to turn in a term paper.... Treasure Island, where she has to live among the pirates she's been reading about for the class! When the boys start to realize that changing their lives hasn't ended well, they also realize that they have run out of ink, and have to find a way to restore things.
Strengths: This book, like the Charlie Joe Jackson series, looks like it's a notebook novel, but really has much more meat on its cartoon bones. This is definitely a fantasy book; the pen is left in the newspaper office and Diesel turns the student council candidates into weird space aliens! Like Milo, Sticky Notes, and Brain Freeze, this addresses deeper issues of middle grade existence in a funny way. This moved quickly, had lots of action, covered items of real concern that middle graders have about their families and school, and was very enjoyable to read. Bravo, Mr. Silberberg.
Weaknesses: Flirting with "too weird" on the names but didn't quite step over the line into annoying. Unflattering depiction of language arts teacher, but necessary to the plot. Nothing horrible objectionable. Will look forward to having this to recommend in the fall!

The Kirkus Review included this comment: "It’s like “The Monkey’s Paw” produced by Sid and Marty Krofft." I thought it was a compliment because I ADORE Lidsville. And H.R. Pufnstuf



My Life as a CartoonistTashjian, Janet. My Life as a Cartoonist. 
30 April 2013, Henry Holt and Company

Derek and Matt meet a new student, Umberto, who is in a wheelchair. Derek immediately finds himself at odds with Umberto, who steals his cartoon ideas and gives him a really hard time. Derek, whose mother is a vet, is raising an assistance monkey, and thinks that Umberto could benefit from one, but doesn’t understand why Umberto hates him so much. Derek puts together a cartoon club at school, and several of his friends come, but so does Umberto. Everyone else likes him, and the teachers always take his side. Eventually, the two are able to work together in a critical situation, and are able to comes to terms with each other.
Strengths: I really liked this one. It’s hard to describe how cleverly Umberto is portrayed as a bully, but it’s quite brilliant. I even like how the situation is handled by Derek’s parents. Also, Derek’s dog DOES NOT die. Whew. Nothing makes me cry like a dog dying in a book. The first two books in this series are popular, and I think this one may be the most intriguing of the lot!
Weaknesses: The critical situation is a little hackneyed, but still well done. Same could be said of how the two become friends, but I think it is realistic that they might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but can be friends because they are really very similar.

Monday, June 24, 2013

MMGM--Sidekicked

Phoning it in? Um, yeah. Have been. I'm fine during the school year with spending time on the computer, but I really don't enjoy it when I'm at home. I went to Put-In-Bay for a couple of days last week (no electronic devices at all, and lots of biking and walking), so that didn't help. I do have at least one book a day scheduled through the whole summer and have definitely been reading. I also look for new titles through Feedly. But commenting? Not doing so well. Summer blogger blues, I guess.

Thank YOU for still making the rounds! Here are some more blogs to look at:

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Playing by the Book.
 


SidekickedAnderson, John David. Sidekicked.
25 June 2013, Walden Pond Press
ARC provided by the publisher

Andrew possesses super powers-- but only when it comes to sensing things. He's supersensitive to anything he can taste, smell, feel or hear, which is only marginally useful. Luckily, he has Mr. Masters, who has started a H.E.R.O. group at the middle school for students with powers, thinking that if it's so obvious, no one will figure it out. Mr. Masters trains the kids, and also sets them up with Supers as their mentors. Drew's is the Titan, who took down a particularly nasty criminal, The Dealer, several years ago, and has retired from public life. When people keep attacking Drew, he suspects that it's really the Titan that everyone is after. The Dealer has escaped from prison and is back with three of his four Jacks-- the Jack of Hearts being the one killed the Titan. When Mr. Masters is kidnapped by the Jack of Clubs, Drew knows that he needs to do something. Jenna, whose Super, the Fox, is the only one who seems to be able to take care of the Dealer, helps him, and there is a bit of a romance between the two. No time for that, though, when The Dealer takes most of the Supers out of commission, and the Sidekicks are really the only ones who can save the day. Not everyone with super powers is fighting on the side of good, however, and Drew finds a surprising enemy while trying to save the day.
Strengths: Super hero books have been very popular, and students who like comic books often beg for more, so this will definitely fill that niche. Drew is a character to whom they can relate-- he's part of the crowd, but less powerful than everyone else. Good romance and ensemble cast adds depth to the story, and auxiliary characters like Mr. Masters are finely drawn. Lots of good descriptions and some funny turns of phrase highlight the good writing, and the cover is just the right shade of "grown-up" cartoon to appeal to middle grade readers.
Weaknesses: At over 370 pages, this was awfully long. I think the story could have been tightened up a great deal, especially when the target demographic is taken into consideration.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Emma Emmetts: Playground Matchmaker

Emma Emmets, Playground MatchmakerDevillers, Julia. Emma Emmets: Playground Matchmaker
27 June 2013, Razorbill
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Emma has high hopes for fourth grade until she realizes that Isla is in her class-- the same Isla who compared her to a "poopy brown M&M" in kindergarten. She also has to deal with the insufferable Daniel, who was moved up from third grade because he is so brilliant. Luckily, Emma fixed one of her friends up with a boyfriend at summer camp, and her classmates are clamoring for her to use her "superpower" on them. Emma manages to pair up Otto and Leah, who both like fantasy books, and manages to rope Kevin into a "playground wedding" with her best friend, Claire. When Isla demands to be paired up with lacrosse playing soccer, Emma is at a lost... because Parker is in the 6th grade and doesn't even go to their school! She does her best, and while frantically trying to pair up everyone before the fall festival, finds a crush of her own (aside from superstar Jake LaDrake!).
Strengths: I really like this author's other series, Take Two and Liberty Porter. DeVillers is sort of a Carolyn Heywood of the new millenium. She must have a grade school age daughter, since she hits all the minutiae of 4th grade right on the head. Square dancing in gym with a boy who was a good foot taller than I was... had a bad flashback while reading this, it was so vivid.
Weaknesses: I found this disturbing. Even if fourth graders ARE this interested in romance, should we be encouraging them? There are some vague attempts to redirect girls, but a playground wedding? A ten year old writing "Emma LaDrake" in her notebook? Just made my skin crawl on a very personal level. If it were 7th graders, it would still be a bit uncomfortable. That said, I do remember trying to maneuver on the school bus so I could sit next to Shawn Bunger every morning...I just don't know. Any thoughts from people who deal with actual fourth graders?



The Popularity Papers: Book Five: The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldbltatt and Julie Graham-ChangIgnatow, Amy. The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang ( The Popularity Papers #5)
5 March 2013, Amulet

After their cross country summer trip, Lydia and Julie are back home. For their birthdays, they want musical instruments so they can form a band—not because it’s a cool thing to do, but because they like music. Lydia gets a guitar, and Julie gets a drum set, and they both sign up for lessons and start to practice. When school starts, they reconnect with their friends, and reluctantly let Jane into their band so that she will stop talking about her break up with Chuck. Roland is in the bad as well, and the group gets a gig—at a six year old’s birthday party. It doesn’t go well, but they persevere. They go to one of Melody’s parties to figure out what “cool teenagers” would do, only to find that it’s one of Melody’s new project meetings, not a party. Eventually, the band decides to have their own party and have the Macrame Owls perform at that, where they are a success. Jane and Chuck get back together, and Julie and Roland start dating.
Strengths: Good family relationships, realistically drawn middle school incidents, and a nice mix of pictures and hand drawn text make these books really popular.
Weaknesses: Still can’t get over the fact that while most of the characters are drawn realistically, Julie’s nose takes up her entire face. Seriously. Whose nose goes all the way out to the outside  corners of her eyes? That seems odd, but it’s bothered me through all the books!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Series Books for Girls



Katie's New Recipe
Simon, Coco. Katie’s New Recipe. (Cupcake Diaries #13
2 April 2013, Simon Spotlight
Katie has always lived alone with her mother, a dentist, but things start to change quickly. Her mother has started to spruce herself up, getting new clothes and a haircut, and is dating someone. Her father, whom she has not seen in years, e mails her and wants to meet up. He lives in a nearby town, runs a restaurant, and has a new family. The Cupcake Club is still making cupcakes for events, but are trying to branch out into children’s birthday parties, which Katie doesn’t enjoy quite as much. Change is always hard, but Katie has her good friends to help her deal with it.
Strengths: I love how smoothly written these are. They are effortless to read, and I have really enjoyed all 13, which is a rare event! These are popular with girls who go through a book or two every day, and a good investment in a prebind.
Weaknesses: Nothing at all with the story, which is just so nicely done, but a 13 book series is quite an investment; if I hadn’t started with the first, I don’t know that I could bring myself to go back and purchase them all. Looking into Zoe Evans’ Cheer! Series


Dear Dumb Diary Year Two #3: Nobody's Perfect. I'm As Close As It Gets.Benton, Jim. Nobody’s Perfect, I’m As Close as it Gets. (Dear Dumb Diary, Year Two)
1 January 2013, Scholastic Press
Jamie is inadvertently blamed for a substitute teacher being hit in the backside by a tennis ball because her best friend, Isabelle, is trying to frame Yolanda for dismissing her remarks about keeping a kangaroo. After an interview with the assistant principal (and also her new uncle), Jamie is exonerated of the crime, but made to feel bad that there are no extracurricular activities in her permanent record. She and Isabelle sign up for everything under the sun—chess club, gamers’ club, and even running club. After one sweaty morning with them, Isabelle steals fancy coffee from the teachers’ lounge and the two perfume themselves with it, which gets them positive attention from the staff, who are all strangely addicted to coffee. But why is there expensive coffee in the teachers’ lounge, and what does it have to do with the fact that noxious meatloaf is served to the students every week?
Strengths: These are super quick reads, complete with pictures, and get a little snarky with friend drama and students being mean to each other. Very popular with reluctant middle school readers.
Weaknesses: Rather unrealistic, and I’m not a fan of the pictures, which are often sort of gross (Jamie is shown drooling or making zombie faces a lot.) Rather a The Fourth Stall for girls, it’s just something I don’t understand because I am out of middle school, and know that the only way we have coffee is that the PTO pays for it.