Monday, March 30, 2020

Middle Grade Monday Review & Giveaway: Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis

Image: Candlewick Press
Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis. (Movie Tie-in Edition) Timmy Failure series #1. 293 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2020.  9781536209075. (Review of finished paperback courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis. Our narrator, Timmy Failure runs a detective agency, Total Failure, which he hopes will soon become a Fortune500 company. The only problem is, he's a clueless, inept detective. His partner, a polar bear named Total, is only interested in garbage and not much help to Timmy. Still, he soldiers on. School is a nuisance. He has no use for Scantron tests, except to create dot-to-dot pictures, which of course, causes him to fail, much to the consternation of his group. His single mom is caring but trying hard to stay afloat financially and probably doesn't pay enough attention to Timmy. Then, there's the new boyfriend.

There's a lot of humor in this illustrated novel/ hybrid graphic novel, some of it is kind of sad. There's depth too, along with the hijinks. One might believe that Timmy's delusions are a sign of mental instability. I submit that they are a survival mechanism. Thank goodness for the humor! Just as I would melt with sympathy, Pastis lightened the mood. I haven't felt this much emotional whiplash since... Hm, since watching Charlie Chaplin movies.

Adding to the appeal, there's plenty of visual humor in the copious spot art, featuring round-eyed characters. Mistakes were Made was originally published in 2013. My library's copy hasn't been checked out in a while. Perhaps the Disney movie will re-ignite interest in the series. I hope so. Timmy Failure endears.

Thanks to Candlewick Press, I am hosting a giveaway. Comment on this review by Wednesday morning, April 1 and you're entered for a chance at winning a movie tie-in edition of Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made! 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fact Friday: Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson.

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson. Photographs by Tom Uhlman. Scientists in the Field series. 76 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March, 2019. 9780544965829. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson. This entry in the Scientist in the Field series sure does wow. Meteorologist Robin Tanamachi got hooked on tornados when she seven-years-old and the local news showed film of a tornado ripping through a local park. She told author Carson, "That was when I knew I wanted to be a research meteorologist studying severe weather." Tanamachi is a storm-chaser dedicated to studying tornadoes. In this photo-filled book readers learn about the project she headed, all about the two tornado corridors in the U.S., the physics and life-cycle of a tornado and more. There's even a list of storm-chaser slang in addition to a glossary, which explains many of the acronyms associated with the field. Other back matter includes websites, books, source notes and photo credits.

If you're into weather, technology, science, or just the adrenaline rush of the chase, The Tornado Scientist is the book for you! This one might be my new favorite entry! Robin Tanamachi is bad-ass!

This book so would've appealed to my now adult son when he was young. He was obsessed with weather from an early age and began predicting it quite accurately without all the tools and gadgets that are available now. Even now, his interest in weather remains high and his his predictions (using the gadgets) are accurate! He did start college as a meteorology major but couldn't get past the second year of calculus.

Focus Friday - Elly Swartz

Clipart: OpenClipArt

Our very first "Friday Focus" author is a favorite of mine, Elly Swartz! I first met Elly at a debut party for the "Sweet Sixteens." Her debut novel, Finding Perfect was published in 2016. Get it? Sweet Sixteens?

She just bubbles with enthusiasm and generosity, as you will see when you explore the Padlet her young friend Olivia* created for her second book, Smart Cookie. Olivia's Padlet is called "Long Liv Books." There is a lot to explore here, so have fun! There are links to videos of Elly Swartz reading Smart Cookie aloud! If you are looking for a book to read, how about trying Smart Cookie

Here's a link to her website.
Be sure to check out her "Books in the Kitchen" videos too.

I have read all three of Ms. Swartz's books. Here are three mini-book talks:

Image: Macmillan


Molly Nathan likes things just so. Her cherished collection of glass animals has to be arranged perfectly. Her homework is not allowed to have one erasure. She's at odds with odd numbers. And that moment just before she recites her poetry in the slam, is perfect. Unfortunately, it's getting harder for Molly to achieve perfect. Her brother keeps disturbing her animals. The work is getting harder in school. The rituals she keeps to keep her anxiety down are starting to get in the way. She's terrified that her best friend might find out. She's also yearning for her mom to return to the family. She thinks that if she wins the poetry slam, her mom will have to come back.

Eleven-year-old Frankie Greene is a girl with a secret. She lives with her widowed dad and maternal grandmother in a bed and breakfast that distinguishes itself by being named for board games and serving homemade, fresh from the oven cookies at check-in. She has a lot of responsibility helping her dad run the B & B. She'd also like a mother so she has posted a profile for her dad on a dating site and is screening "possibles." Frankie is not the only family member with secrets. Gram has a locked shed in the backyard and maybe a secret boyfriend at the senior center. Dad is having whispered arguments with a sleazy developer who wants the B & B. Her best friend, Elliot is obsessed with finding ghosts and her former best friend, Jessica is just being vile.

Image: Scholastic

Image: Macmillan
You may remember this book talk from a "Middle Grade Monday" post earlier this month!

Change is hard! Children in particular, might have a hard time coping with change, especially when it brings sadness, as is Maggie's case. She's been hit by a triple-whammy of change. Maggie's beloved grandmother recently died, but before that, she suffered from dementia. One day, her grandmother just forgot who Maggie was. So Maggie began saving things in order not to forget anything in her life. Only these weren't just memorable objects. They were odd things, like gum wrappers and empty milk containers.

Then she finds out that her shooting coach father has invited a boy to join her all girl trap-shooting team! And, when her family temporarily fosters a newborn named Isabella, Maggie becomes attached. Even though her mother cautions that the situation is only temporary, Maggie hopes Izzy will stay. Her compulsion to save/ hoard gets out of control. And so does her anger. When her mother discovers her hoard of stuff.

* Apologies to Olivia for not realizing that it was she and not Elly who created the Padlet. Way to go Olivia!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

New Feature! Focus Friday Starts Tomorrow!

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you are quarantining well, washing hands, staying sane, getting exercise and reading! Our district is just completing its second full week of Virtual Learning. The feedback has been mostly positive. My colleagues in both the elementary and middle schools have jumped in and given their all - sharing ideas and resources freely. 

As I was trying to organize all these ideas into a more user-friendly document, I spied a link to this Padlet on author, Elly Swartz's FB page. We "Specials" have been asked to contribute to a "Fun Friday" internal website, where students will take a break from academics each week to participate in art, music, PE, etc. The academic teachers then get some time to prepare new lessons, answer emails, assess and the myriad of behind-the-scenes magic that all teachers do. As I was linking to Elly's site on my page for my fifth graders to explore, the idea for Focus Friday popped into my head thanks to her. I'm going to add Focus Friday here as well and will focus on a different author each week. For now, it will be middle grade authors since I have fifth graders for specials this trimester. Once we're back in school, or when summer vacation hits, I will expand the focus to include YA authors. 

Tune in tomorrow for the first "Friday Focus."

#tbt: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Image: Penguin Random House
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. 192 p. Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, August, 2000. 9780679886372. (Own.)

#tbt features Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Thanks to Zoe for the idea. Stargirl is the story of how "normal" Leo is captivated by Stargirl from the moment of her arrival at Mica High School, where her unique attire and penchant for singing "Happy Birthday" while strumming her ukulele in the cafeteria make her the object of scorn. Gradually, her unconventional style and sincerity wins over the students, though it is short-lived and kind of heartbreaking. Stargirl was published in 2000, so it'll be celebrating its 20th anniversary later this summer! Love, Stargirl, a sequel was published in 2007. Just this month, the movie adaptation started airing on Disney+. Here's a link to the trailer and below is the movie tie-in cover.

Image: Penguin Random House

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Arc Review: When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter

Image: LBYR
When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter. 216 p. Little, Brown and Company, March 24, 2020. 9780316535441. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher/ ALAMW)

Happy belated book birthday to When You Know What I Know. It released yesterday and I had really hoped to get this review up before its release date but most of my energy has been spent trying to switch to virtual teaching these past weeks. My reading for this month sure has taken a hit as well. My apologies.

When You Know What I Know is a tough book to talk about. It'll be tough a book talk to have if/ when we return to school. But we must. The topic cannot be relegated to YA because children are victimized. Sonja K. Solter's debut, written in blank verse, is Tori's first-person account that begins immediately after her Uncle Andy molests her when he's supposed to be babysitting her. 

It's enough to know it happened without having the details of what exactly happened. It's enough to understand that she's terrified. Then the terror of what happened is compounded when She. Isn't. Believed! Her mom doesn't initially believe it and Tori feels betrayed. Her grandmother refuses to believe it and takes her son's side, causing a rift in an already fragile family. 

She's terrified. She's embarrassed. What if someone finds out? Her best friend senses something is wrong but Tori can't confide and that jeopardizes the friendship. Tori can't learn anything at school. Activities she's previously enjoyed, such as chorus, become unbearable. Memories invade constantly. 

The verse format lends itself well to portraying all the turmoil that Tori is feeling. The delivery is age-appropriate and accessible. She is resilient and, with support, takes steps toward healing. An author's note and resources follow. When You Know What I Know belongs in every library collection. We need to be having these uncomfortable conversations and we need to leave our hearts and doors open for these kids. 

ETA: Here's a link to an SLJ interview of Ms. Solter and another debut author, Mary Cecilia Jackson.

Waiting on Wednesday: Star Wars Jedi Academy #9: At Last, Jedi by Jarrett J. Krososkza and Amy Ignatow

Image: Scholastic 

Star Wars Jedi Academy #9: At Last, Jedi by Jarrett J. Krososkza and Amy Ignatow. 176 p. Scholastic Inc., April 21, 2020. 9781338597516.

Publsiher synopsis: The epic conclusion to the Starspeeder saga in this 9th volume of Jedi Academy by Jarrett Krosoczka and Amy Ignatow!

As told through a mix of comics, doodles, and journal entries, Christina Starspeeder takes us on a new adventure at the advanced Jedi Academy campus! There are unfamiliar faces and old ones too, but one thing remains the same: Jedi Academy is full of laughs and warm moments that fans and readers discovering the series for the first time will love.

Well, learning about this made me realize that I dropped the ball with this series. I have just the first six and they are always out! I'm a bit surprised that one of my students didn't give me a heads up.