Stine, R. L. Young Scrooge: A Very Special Christmas Story
September 13th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Rick Scroogeman is an annoying idiot who takes great glee at splashing water on the front of his "friends'" pants, messing up their hair, and taking revenge on his classmates who don't want him to be in the Christmas play by infesting the costumes with ants. His single mother (yes, his father was killed in an accident) tries to keep him from also abusing his younger sister, but she is only marginally successful. Eventually, Rick gets locked in the attic and undergoes a Christmas Carol type visitation where he learns that schools in the past were rougher, children can be mean, and an R.L. Stine version of this story will involve attacks by creepy snow men. Eventually, he learns his lesson and just wants to go home, where the chances of him relapsing into buttheadedness are pretty good.
Strengths: R.L. Stine has experienced a resurgence in my library, and we have classes that study this Dickens tale. The teacher is very excited to use this to do a compare and contrast activity. I still think we need to hunt down the Six Million Dollar Man version.
Weaknesses: This is exactly what I expected. A Goosebumps Christmas Carol.
What I really think: Hooray. It's in a jacketed hardcover. I'll buy a copy, which will be read until it is nothing but shreds of paper held together with book tape, but it's not very good.
Prendergast, Gabrielle. Pandas on the Eastside
October 4th 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Copy provided by publisher
Cybils Publisher/author submission
Journey Song has a hard life in a poor neighborhood in Vancouver in the early 1970s. Her father didn't stick around after she was born, and her mother is an alcoholic. Journey's school has many students who don't show up, and her best friend Nancy is developmentally delayed. When her teacher's brother is killed in Vietnam, she and Nancy go to visit and meet Ms. Bickerstaff's live-in boyfriend. Since there are rumors that two pandas headed for the US have landed in a warehouse near Journey's home, she and Ms. Bickerstaff cut down bamboo and take it to the warehouse, with Ben's help. Journey's father shows up, and the two forge an uneasy relationship. Journey tries to get the pandas released with the help of her community.
Strengths: The details of life in the early 1970s are very good, and Journey's hard scrabble neighborhood is lovingly depicted. This is realistic fiction, but a "what if" story about what might have happened to Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the pandas given to the US by the Chinese government, if their transport hadn't gone according to plan.
Weaknesses: While this seems to be for elementary age children (the main character is 10), there are a lot of very blunt descriptions of people, such as this one on page 46: "My family doesn't like Ben, because, well, he's the wrong color and he doesn't want to fight in the war and we're not married..." Then she stopped. 'Gosh, I'm sorry. That's too grown up for you.' " If there were more discussion about the effect on Journey, this would have made more sense, but most are just thrown in. Also, since this isn't actually historical fiction, I think children would be very confused by it, even though there is a note in the back.
What I really think: Interesting book. The publisher's description says that this takes place in 1973, but I don't think it's stated in the book. Since the pandas arrived in the spring of 1972, I'm going to assume the book takes place then. I was in first grade and VIVIDLY remember their arrival because I lived in a suburb of Washington, D.C. at the time. My class took a field trip to the zoo.