Monday, September 11, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (56): School Part 2

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. I had so many books for my last school-themed post that I decided to go ahead and do another!

And then I forgot about it for two years. Whoops.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Published: Originally published in 1968, this edition was released on March 19th, 2013
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 211 plus an excerpt from Ramona the Brave
Part of a series? Yes, there are eight Ramona books, and the Ramona series itself follows the 6-book Henry Huggins series.
Got via: This exact copy I borrowed from the library, but I own two others because I wanted to check out the new edition/new illustrations.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Ramona Quimby is excited to start kindergarten. No longer does she have to watch her older sister, Beezus, ride the bus to school with all the big kids. She's finally old enough to do it too!

Then she gets into trouble for pulling her classmate's boingy curls during recess. Even worse, her crush rejects her in front of everyone. Beezus says Ramona needs to quit being a pest, but how can she stop if she never was trying to be one in the first place?

Thoughts: I loved Ramona as a kid, although I don't think I read this exact one. This edition has updated illustrations, which are larger and more detailed. That was a pretty big adjustment, and kind of justifies keeping the other copies to compare in my mind (it doesn't take much justification, though, honestly), but I do think they make the book appeal more to today's young audience. They also have a lot of personality, are much more modern, and are very cute.

The books have aged well. Beyond a few slightly dated things (rubber boots over oxford shoes, jeans with only one hip pocket), they're good. There's still enough to appeal to kids today, and like my praise with Junie, many of the things Ramona fears or worries about are very true of kids. Ramona has a ton of personality, and she's really an individual. While this one will obviously be going back to the library (possibly to my Storytime kid who will be starting kindergarten in the fall!), my copies will be returning to my bookshelves.

Judy Moody Goes to College by Megan McDonald

Published: First published in 2008, my edition was released probably around 2010 by Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 131 plus a glossary.
Part of a series? Yes, this is the 8th book of 11 in the Judy Moody series, plus there's two companion series, Judy and Stink, and just the Stink series, plus a bunch of companion/side books and stuff related to the movie.
Got via: I think I bought this and a later book in this post at a sale at a school near here during a town-wide yard sale. They both have cards in the back, which is pretty much only done at schools now.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Judy Moody is in a mood. Not a good mood. And definitely NOT a math mood. The substitute teacher in Class 3T thinks Judy's math skills need improving. So Judy has to start meeting with a math tutor. Does this mean flash cards? Does this mean baby games? Does this mean school on weekends?

But when Judy meets her tutor — a sick-awesome college student with an uber-funky sense of style — and gets a glimpse of college life, Judy's bad math-i-tude turns into a radical glad-i-tude. Pretty soon, Judy's not only acing her math class; she's owning it. Time to say good-bye to Judy Moody, old skool third-grader, and say hello to Miss College! Small-tall upside-down backward non-fat capp with extra whip, anyone?

Thoughts: This series is pretty much past my time as a kid reader. (I was a really advanced reader.) I think I may have read one or two before now, but I'm not sure. I do kinda like the movie, though. It's kind of terrible and adorable, and I enjoy that. While there are references and context in this book that would make more sense had I read previous books, I think they can be read as standalones fairly easily.

Judy fits pretty well with Ramona and Junie B. Jones, although she's a bit older than either of them, as are the audience her books aim at. This book also has a lot of lingo and slang, although it's largely made-up to be unique to the world of the book, which is something that can be challenging for kids to read. I do think, though, that this kind of book would appeal to a lot of young readers. Judy's near hero-worship of her college-student math tutor is adorable, and I really liked the focus on making math seem awesome, especially using girls to do so.

This one isn't my favourite, but I'll be keeping it for the good points.

Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Published: Originally published in 1978, this edition was released in 2003 by HarperTrophy
Genre: I guess MG Fantasy?
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 124 plus a listing of some other books
Part of a series? Yes, there are three books of Wayside stories, plus some companion books like the arithmetic books.
Got via: I think I bought it at the same school sale as the Judy Moody book.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): There'd been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was supposed to be built with thirty classrooms all next to each other in a row. Instead, they built the classrooms one on top of the other ... thirty stories tall! (The builder said he was very sorry.)

That may be why all kinds of funny things happen at Wayside School ... especially on the thirtieth floor. You'll meet Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher of all, terrible Todd, who always getss sent home early, and John who can read only upside down - along with all the other kids in the crazy mixed-up school that came out sideways. But you'll never guess the truth about Sammy, the new kid ... or what's inside for Wayside School on Halloween!

Thoughts: If you're not familiar with Wayside, these are books of short stories. This book has 30, and the others probably do, too, for the 30 storeys of Wayside School. They're very silly, ridiculous stories, and they can be a lot of fun. They're very popular, and I can see why. I do caution that there's a mention of some animal violence in one of the stories in this one that very sensitive readers may find disturbing, and I really don't like the fat jokes regarding the three Erics. If I recommended this one to a kid, I'd make sure to talk about the jokes and how they're rather mean-spirited, but with that in mind, I probably will still keep this one, because I like these books, just not that part, and honestly, middle grade/YA was horrid to fat kids in this time period... and can still be... and I've seen way worse. Cautiously recommended.

Now, onto another collection of short stories that are pretty different!

Haunted Schools by Allan Zullo

Published: January 1st, 1996 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Horror (you know, for a loose definition of horror)
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 128
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a lot of these "Haunted So-and-So's" books, like Haunted Teachers, Haunted Baby-Sitters, Haunted Animals, etc.
Got via: I think a yard sale, or something like that. Maybe from a book order way back when I was actually in school, but I'm just not sure at this point.
AmazonIndiebound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Brynn is haunted by the moans of a burning man. Laurie attends her high school graduation, eleven years after her death. A young man who died in a steam explosion haunts and kisses girls at an academy. These and other true spooky stories make up this collection from the "True Ghost Stories" series.

Thoughts: Well, first of all, excuse the not amazing cover photo. I'm working with what I can find here, and the pickings were a little scarce. I actually do like this cover, though. I like the creepy apple, and the colours are very vibrant.

If you don't know what these are, there's collections of short stories to a specific theme. I own a couple, I believe. This particular one is obviously ghost/haunting themed, but I think I own a UFO one, too. They claim to be true stories, but I think the closest to true they are is that they're sort of urban legend type stories. Someone probably told them, I mean. Or maybe I'm just cynical. (Although frankly the dialogue is somewhat unrealistic at times, and how would one guy know all these conversations people had anyways?)

Anyways, they do have a lot of atmosphere, so kids who like scary stuff will enjoy how easily it is to freak themselves out. The stories aren't too creepy, so nobody should have awful nightmares or anything. Nobody is really hurt, and there's no gore or whatnot. They're kind of that middle ground for kids who want to read something scary things, but don't want to be too scared. I also think short stories can be great for reluctant readers, as you can skip stories you're not interested in, and there's a lot less commitment than with a longer novel. With this being a pretty slim volume as well, it will be keeping its spot on my shelf for the time being, for future kids in my care mostly. They're kind of silly, but they have definite appeal for the right audience.

Okay, hopefully you enjoyed this really old post! Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, September 4, 2017

MG Review: Patina

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Published: August 29th, 2017 by Antheneum Books for Young Readers/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, which are Simon and Schuster imprints.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 192
Part of a series? This is the second book in the Track series, but it's not like a direct sequel with the same narrator. I know there'll be at least one more released in 2018 and I'm betting there will be a fourth one. I wanted to read it without reading Ghost to see if how it worked, and I think it works just fine as a standalone. I really do want to read more of the series though!
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom.

She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this?

As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Review: I really liked this. It's such a good middle grade book. The art of building an amazing middle grade book is different than building a great young adult book, and this nails it. This is one of those books I just think about kids reading and know that it'll mean so much to them. The voice in this is absolutely amazing, there are so many amazing characters, and I enjoyed it so much. I had a couple small issues, but overall nothing major and I'm super excited about everyone else getting to read this one.

Plot Talk: This is pretty slice of life, and it does slice of life very well. The plot is basically Patty training for her next track meet after coming in second at the last one. It's not just about winning, though, obviously, as it's also about bonding with her teammates, and learning that her races aren't just about whether or not she wins. It's one of those plots that sounds like nothing when I say it because I'm terrible at describing plot, but it's very, very satisfying to read.

Characters: I swear, I'm going to make that list one day of girl characters who have the weight of the world (and their siblings) on their shoulders. Soledad Madrid, Dicey Tillerman, Delphine Gaither... I really like this type of character, and Patty is a great addition to my growing list. Seriously I'm gonna write a blog post or something one day. And one thing I especially liked about that is while she's very close to her sister, with her sister definitely looking to her for guidance, and Patty taking on some responsibilities that are a little more adult, she's not expected to actually be an adult. When things get really bad, the adults in her life step in and say, no, this isn't okay.

Those adult characters were really awesome. I really loved how much of the book took the time to flesh out how important the adults in Patty's life are, in the various roles they play. You know how sometimes in MG you get an adult character who's very much a "character" and they kind of take over the book? The adults in this book feel like people, and they're in the book to support the young characters, not to be the center of the splotlight.

One thing I thought was absolutely wonderful was how many women and girls are in this book. A lot of the book is about Patty's relationships with other female characters, be it girls at school, the girls on her track team, or the women in her family. It's something that's almost subtle, honestly, but it's really neat to see, especially from a male author.

PG-13 stuff: There's some talk of death, as Patty lost her father a few years ago and thinks about that while also worrying about her mom. Her aunt and sister are also in a car accident at one point, and her aunt is injured. I also think some of the diabetes stuff could be upsetting - I'll go more into that next.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: My biggest complaint is that there's not enough disctinction between "not managing your already existing diabetes is a bad thing" and "eating a lot of sugar can make you diabetic" and I think especially in a middle grade book that separation is incredibly important. The book basically says that after Patty's dad died, her mom started eating a lot, and then diabetes came and took her legs.

Eating a lot of sugar doesn't cause diabetes. This is a myth and a dangerous one. While Patty's mother's weight is never mentioned, this is a myth that especially hurts fat people especially because of the idea that a) all fat people are diabetic/will be diabetic, b) diabetes is something you did to yourself c) of course you're fat because you ate a lot of sugary stuff and d) diabetes is essentially a punishment for being fat/eating.

I'm going to link to one two three sources including a couple that actually say some things that I don't completely agree with because, you know, fairness or something, and also link to a couple posts I encourage you to read after those. One about fatness and diabetes, and one about poverty's link to diabetes. I'm linking to a blog instead of directly to the sources talked about as I want you to think about these things in relation to the people commenting, you know? Also I don't want to go through every comment and link, but there's a lot of good stuff being said.

I just really wish this had been handled a little better because I loved the rest of the book so much, and I also wonder how kids with diabetes will see that? Are they going to blame themselves for having a disease? Diabetes is very genetic also, and it's very all or nothing about getting it. There's no balanced talk about managing diabetes instead of it just being this thing to be afraid of. I think the reason this bugs me so much is that it's not nuanced. Patty's mother having Type I diabetes, say, and not managing it well in her grief could honestly have been a great subversion of this. And other than the book lacking queer people beyond a mention of some people having two moms and not really having fat people, this is literally my only complaint.

Everything else being so amazing really just made that stand out. (There was also a thing that made me wonder how much medical research had been done? Patty's aunt would probably not be eating right before going for a planned surgery with general anesthetic. You generally can't eat before surgery. ARC obviously, so things are subject to change, but I noticed it.)

Cover comments: I quite like the cover. It's simple without erasing what Patty looks like (because obviously that's so, so important). Since Ghost's cover is yellow, I'm kinda hoping the next one is red so that it keeps going as a rainbow... because I'm a dork and rainbow spines would be neat.

Conclusion: Seriously it looks like my entire review is complaint now, but honestly, I really, really liked this. There is so much depth and nuance to almost everything besides the diabetes representation and I think kids are going to love it. Something that was really interesting is that this isn't as heavy of a book as it could be. There's not a big tragic Newberry death or something. It's all about Patty and her growth. I highly recommend this one. Four out of five roses - half a star taken off solely for the diabetes thing.



Other notes:

- I'm writing this before it's out and I cannot find a single review from a black reviewer. Almost every single review I can find is from white people. I'm trying to give it away on twitter to an ownvoices reviewer! We'll see how that goes.

- But if you know any reviews from ownvoices reviewers, please let me know! I'll add links to them.

Okay, that's it for now!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, September 1, 2017

Reading Challenges Check In: August

This year I decided to do Diversity Bingo 2017, and the 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge. I'm also obviously doing Queer Summer Reading. Each month, that challenge has a mini theme, and August's theme was Non Western Setting. I decided to read:

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lại

Published: February 17th, 2015 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 260 plus a bunch of extras
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture.

But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

The part where I talk: This was lovely.

For Bingo, I read:

Want by Cindy Pon

Published: June 13th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 323 plus acknowledgements and an about the author.
Part of a series? No, standalone. Which is kinda neat, really.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

The part where I talk: This is actually a non-Western setting, too, as it's set in (futuristic) Taiwan.

The Traitor's Tunnel by C. M. Spivey

Published: June 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Binding: E-book
Part of a series? It's a prequel to From Under the Mountain, which is the first book in the Trident Chronicles series.
Got via: I bought it.
Amazon

Summary (from goodreads): Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she's not interested in the attention of the Thieves' Guild--and she's not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she's looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it's worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

The part where I talk: This was cool. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this was well-done.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Published: May 30th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 380 pages
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

The part where I talk: I think maybe this one got hyped up a little too much for me, but it was still fun.

And for QSR I read:

The One Hundred Nights of Hero

Published: September 1st, 2016 by Jonathan Cape
Genre: Fantasy Adult Graphic Novel
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: Goodreads say 224 and the pages aren't numbered so, that.
Part of a series? This can be read either as a standalone or as a follow-up to the author's previous book, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the author who brought you The Encyclopedia of Early Earth comes another Epic Tale of Derring-Do. Prepare to be dazzled once more by the overwhelming power of stories and see Love prevail in the face of Terrible Adversity! You will read of betrayal, loyalty, madness, bad husbands, lovers both faithful and unfaithful, wise old crones, moons who come out of the sky, musical instruments that won't stay quiet, friends and brothers and fathers and mothers and above all, many, many sisters.

The part where I talk: I actually already have the blog post with this in it scheduled and forgot to put it here. Apparently I can't count to four.

Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

Published: May 23rd, 2017 by HarperCollins
Genre: Non-Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 256 plus acknowledgements. The entries about people stop at 215 and the rest is a glossary and biblography.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them.

Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.

The part where I talk: I enjoyed this, but it's definitely not perfect. Blog post to come.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Published: February 8th, 2016 by Flux
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 273 plus the acknowledgements and about the author
Part of a series? This is the first in the Abyss Surrounds Us series with the second book released April 2017.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

The part where I talk: I liked this more than I thought I would! Sci-fi like this isn't really my thing, but this is really good.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Published: January 26th, 2016 by Katherine Tegan Books. The paperback comes out Septeber 5th, 2017
Genre: YA Paranormal
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 358 plus acknowledgements and such.
Part of a series? I WISH.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

The part where I talk: Wow, okay, I loved this. I'm not going to ramble too much here, but wow. This was awesome.

So, my bingo card looks like this now:


And my QSR T-shirt looks like this:


LOOK AT MY MAGESTIC QUEER MOOSE.

Just as a note, I may not have that many books next month. I'm waiting on a few that are pretty new/not out yet, and my library is kind of slow. We'll see! I'm super close anyways, so I'm not that worried.

How did you guys do this month?

Peace and cookies,
Laina