Monday, February 13, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (39): Valentine's Day Part 3

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.

Sometimes it's because I like themes! I've done two of these posts and I am all sad that I won't do anymore after this because by the time this posts, my Storytime kid will have graduated to full-time school! Now I'm going to be in denial, okay? See post one here, and post two here, and this will be the last part. Like part one, this is only going to have three books, because I don't want to order more Valentine's Day books.

Secret Admirer by Ron Roy

Published: December 22nd, 2015 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 127 plus listings for the author's various series, and praise from kids which is adorable.
Part of a series? It took me a while to figure this out! The A to Z Mysteries series has 26 books, one for each letter of the alphabet. Then, according to the author's website, the Super Edition series books have the same characters a year later, and are about 50 pages longer. This is the 8th book in that series, and the latest of it so far (I may need to update that). Then there is the Calender Mysteries series, which features these characters' younger siblings, and is aimed at a slightly younger audience. There are thirteen of those (one for each month, and a bonus book).
Got via: The library.
Amazon (and it's only 4 dollars!) / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It’s Valentine’s Day in Green Lawn! But Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose just aren’t feeling the love this year. Valentine’s Day was so much more fun when they were little. Then they each start getting messages and clues from a secret admirer! Can the kids figure out who wants to be their Valentine?

Thoughts: I love this kind of mystery as an adult. When I was a kid, I loved all the murder and crime solving and ones, but it is more realistic to have kids solving small mysteries like a secret admirer. I still think there's a place for the more out-there ones, but it's also nice to see ones like this, which are almost more about problem solving and critical thinking than a true mystery, while still retaining the spirit.

The characters are not the most fleshed out things ever, but they work well for carrying the story, and they do all seem to have some solid personality. It's also really sweet to see a book where kids are excited about Valentine's Day not because of crushes or anything, but just because they like the candy and partying and decorations and stuff. This is one that talks about the love between family and friends and pets instead of romantic love. I like that since the back of this puts the audience at ages 6-9 and I agree with that assessment.

It's a little predictable, but it's cute, and the searching for the letters thing? That is harder than you'd think. There are a few letters I still can't find! I enjoyed this one, and I can see why there are three series of this, because I can totally see how kids would love these. I've only read one of these before, from the regular series, and I think it was the vampire one when I was like twelve, but I would be fine reading more. This was just good-natured, you know? And they would probably be good for kids who don't like scary things, although I'd have to try a few more to decide that for sure.

I also see they've updated the covers, and I think that's cool - the new ones have a lot of personality and it does modernize them a bit, considering some of them are over a decade old. That's older than the kids reading them!

23 Ways to Mess Up Valentine's Day by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Published: November 1st, 2005 by Jump at the Sun which was an imprint of Hyperion.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 90 pages
Part of a series? Yes, this is the 5th book in the Willimena Rules series. It looks like Jump at the Sun closed, and the 7th book had a very limited print if it was printed at all (I honestly can't find an answer to that for sure) back in 2008. Then in 2015, there was a version published by Just Us Books, so it seems like the series will continue there along with Kindle copies.
Got via: The library, of course.

Summary (from goodreads): Of all the great holidays kids have to celebrate, you'd think at least Valentine's Day should be Willie-proof. You give some cards, you get some cards - what could be simpler, right? Wrong!! I, Willimena Thomas, managed to find a way to mess up even Valentine's Day - twenty-three ways, in fact.

See, the whole valentine thing always makes me worry. Every year I think, What if no one sends me a card? What if I'm the only one sitting at our class party with NO CARDS AT ALL on my desk? So this yeah, with a little help from my sister, Tina, I thought I had that roblem solved. Boy was I wrong!

At least I wasn't alone. You see, there was a new boy in our class who got Valentine's Day all wrong too....

Thoughts: Remember Valentine Frankenstein?? This is another book with kids worrying about not getting any valentines! This is why I'm in favour of not making something that's supposed to be fun for kids a popularity contest. Leave stressing about Valentine's Day for adults in bad sitcoms.

This was super cute. Willie is the sweetest little worrywort, and I think kids who struggle with worrying or even anxiety would relate to her. She does seem to have some interesting adventures, and I like the references to previous books in the story, even if I haven't read them, but some of her worries in this are proven to be unfounded in a really reassuring way.

This is my ninth Valentine book between these three posts, I believe, and it is the first one to mention that February is Black History Month. Willimena talks about several prospects for the project her class is working on, which is to pick their favourite black hero or heroine, and the one she eventually picks is (spoiler) Zora Neale Hurton, who I believe from my googling now that I can be sure but it fits inspired the name of this imprint. That's pretty darn awesome.

The illustrations showing Willimena and her sister Tina are absolutely beautiful, and I think she would be an amazing character for little girls to look up to and see themselves in. Her voice is engaging, and very funny, and I especially loved the relationship between Willie and her sister. I definitely recommend this one, and I would be happy to read more of the series!

The Valentine Cat by Ann Whitehead Nagda

Published: October 1st, 2008 by Holiday House
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 119 plus the about the author/illustrator
Part of a series? Yes, there five other books about the kids in this classroom, although they all seem to function as standalone books, too.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's not fair! Jenny has to give away her cat, Munchkin, because her little brother has asthma. Why can't they give away her brother instead? Jenny's friends offer to take Munchkin, but problems come up.

Then Jenny's teacher says the cat can stay in their classroom for a while. Munchkin loves school! But he keeps getting into trouble - and Jenny just nows he won't behave at the big pet party on Valentine's Day. Will Jenny ever find a home for her naughty cat?

Thoughts: This was really good. It's a bit more complex than some of the others in these posts, and I think the writing is probably a higher level. At the same time, I thought this class of fourth-graders was very realistic. The focus in this one for the Valentine's Day is basically just that they get to have a party, and they're excited about that. Nothing about crushes or romance, or anything like that. I know some fourth-graders totally have crushes, but some of them also aren't ready to read about that, and especially some kids who read up, so a variety is nice.

This has one of the most responsible examples of rehoming an animal I've seen in many types of media. Munchkin needs to find a new home because Jenny's brother has asthma, as said in the summary. They didn't go into scary levels of detail, but they do say that her brother wheezes and that Jenny finds it scary, so it's not just "we've having a baby so no more cat", or anything like that. Jenny tries several homes, and they talk about how cats and dogs can get along, and mentions that sometimes cats don't eat much when they're unhappy. It's responsible, it's well-thought out, and it's very clever.

Complaints: It's not as white as it could be, with several characters of colour, but it also could be more diverse both in that, and in other ways (ability, weight, etc.). There's a moment of fatshaming the author felt she had to throw in for some reason that stereotypes how fat kids eat (if fat kids ate more vegetables, they wouldn't be so fat), but at least it's only once.

Those things make me sigh, but other than those, it's good. I wish that wasn't that, but at least it was small enough that most kids would probably just skim over it since they're so used to getting that kind of stereotypical message anyways. The other messages in it about responsible rehoming of pets makes it work well enough for me to ignore that, and I liked the subtle Valentine's Day theme for kids who may not be in as into it as others.

And I think that's all we're going to do!

Thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you have a great one, whether you're snuggling up with someone you like, or, if you're like me, enjoying the pretty colours and readily available chocolate while being aromantic! :D

Peace and heart shaped cookies,

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