Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, Possible Trumans 2021-22, ProjectLitBookClub

Maybe He Just Likes You – Review

Goodreads Summary

I’m just going to jump right in to this one. I finished the book about 3 hours ago, and I am still having a hard time putting words to why it just doesn’t work for me.

I will start with all the positives. The writing is perfect for a middle grade novel. The chapters are short, and there is a good balance of dialogue and description. The main character, Mila, is good, although there are times when I wanted to shake her. She grows a lot throughout the book and learns a few valuable lessons about friendship along the way. Her friends’ group is diverse, so that is appreciated.

Problems start for Mila almost immediately when she’s involved in an awkward group hug that involves a group of boys from the basketball team. Comments, random “accidental” touches, getting too close, and among a couple other things start happening with this group of basketball students and Mila. At first she brushes it off, but it doesn’t take long for her to notice that they’re singling her out.

THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS BELOW

Okay, so here goes my attempt to say why I didn’t like the book as a whole. Before I go on, I definitely appreciate Barbara Dee taking the #MeToo movement and shining light on the fact that this does happen in middle school. Sexual harassment is not just teasing or flirting or done because he likes you. We need to stop excusing bad behavior because “boys will be boys” or “boys are just immature.” Honestly, it needs to be addressed in elementary as well.

My problem is this. There is not enough punishment (rehabilitation???) for the boys. They basically get a slap on the wrist after 250+ pages of harassment; they get 3 weeks of detention and get kicked off the basketball team (but just until the spring if they can prove they’ve changed their ways). AND THEN, it seems like Mila and one of the boys involved in the harassment are going to start liking each other in the last two chapters. I don’t know if this is the intent or not, but reading it really makes it seem like there is this romance brewing (it gives all the subtle hints of other middle grade novels when two characters like each other…so….???)

I think I am reading this as a mother of a 7th grader. If this behavior was happening to my daughter, I would be LIVID. Mila’s mom is really flippant about it. Like she offers to go to school and talk to the principal, but Mila asks her not to, and so it’s basically dropped. I don’t know any of my friends with daughters who would let this just drop.

I do think that I’ll get this book for my classroom. I think it will be helpful for students to have it as a conversation starter about what is appropriate and what is not.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, Possible Trumans 2021-22, ProjectLitBookClub

New Kid – Review

This was a very quick read. I believe I finished it in under 2 hours, and I consider myself a slow reader. Graphic novels have become super popular over the last few years, and I am really glad about it. My struggling students are more willing to pick up a book with pictures, especially at the beginning of the year when they are about 99.9% against reading. (By the end of the year, we have turned most of them into at least willing-to-read readers, if not *fingers crossed* lifelong readers!)

Quick Summary: This book follows 7th grader Jordan Banks as he (if you couldn’t guess by the title) goes to a new school. His new school is a private school of some sort. It isn’t a religious private school, but a highly academic one that encourages *mandates* student after school participation in sports or theater. From the very beginning, Jordan and his dad worry that the school is lacking in diversity. And…it definitely is. There are a handful of minority students, but definitely not what Jordan was used to. He faces microaggression from fellow students and teachers and has to decide whether or not he is going to point out this “subtle” racism or not make waves.

I know this book is written for middle schoolers, but whew…I think there are plenty of adults who could learn a thing or two from these pages. This will definitely be a book I add to my classroom library, and I can even see us doing it in a small group or maybe even the whole class.

I’m definitely looking forward to Jerry Craft’s next graphic novel 🙂

Posted in 2020 Books, ProjectLitBookClub

Let Me Hear a Rhyme Review

I Loved This Book! With the current state of our country, I feel like who cares about a book review? But then I know that I start teaching again in a couple months, and my students know to come to me with book recommendations. Given the amount of books that I read, this blog helps me keep my thoughts straight and helps me remember why I would (or would not) recommend it to my kids.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been using quarantine as a way to learn more. I started following a handful of authors which then turned into a (what’s the next biggest thing after a handful?) well, a lot more authors. I found this book and Tiffany Jackson through that. She is also on the Project Lit Book list 3 times…and she has 3 books out! (Fourth one Grown coming out in September!) Her books have also made it on the Missouri Gateway Nominee list. So, while these aren’t the ultimate authorities for great books, it says a lot about an author when they make these lists.

Now for a quick summary since you can read much better ones all over the internet. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is a young adult fiction book that follows three youths (Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell) who are dealing with the death (murder) of their brother (Jasmine’s) and best friend, Steph. It is set in Brooklyn in the late 1990s. The day of the funeral, the trio come across some music that Steph had recorded, and a few days later the boys develop an idea to let the world hear Steph’s music. They have to get Jasmine involved, but the only way she will join in with the scheme is if the boys help her find out who killed her brother.

Like I said above, I LOVED this book. For one, it is set in the late 1990s and the late 90s hip hop references made me super nostalgic for my last few years of high school. I can remember watching the news (probably on MTV) when Tupac and Biggie were killed. I even found myself pulling up the Lauryn Hill album that is referenced a couple times throughout the book and reliving hearing that for the first time. Yes, this extremely sheltered white girl from the midwest loved hip-hop.

My students, even though they weren’t even born until 2006, still talk about a lot of the artists mentioned throughout the book, and I think that will draw some of them in.

Now, that is really just a tiny part of the book. The story is so well-written. I pride myself on being about to figure out YA books within the first couple chapters. And while I was completely right about the romance, there are a couple things I did not see coming, and one of them made me cry. (I actually audibly said, Oh NO! and then started crying.)

The chapters aren’t too long either, and as weird as that sounds, a lot of my students get discouraged when a chapter (or book) is really long.

(I have probably mentioned this before, but my reading class is for students who are struggling readers and scoring at least 2 grade levels below the 8th grade. It takes a lot to get them to read on their own, so finding little things like short chapters helps.)

I highly recommend this book. There’s a mystery to solve, a sweet romance, lots of music references, drama, girl power…

Now to get Jackson’s other books and preorder Grown!

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Clean Getaway review

Quarantine has given me a lot of free time. Even while I was teaching from home, I found myself with time where I was just waiting around to answer students’ questions, so I started looking for people to follow on social media.

First person I started following was Jason Reynolds. I have a serious author crush on him, and I love everything that I’ve read that he has written. From his page, I found Nic Stone. At this point, I had only read Dear Martin which I loved, so I decided to follow her. If you’re looking for people to follow that will make you love life and want to be a better person, follow her. She’s friends with so many other awesome authors, and I have been introduced to many people and things from following her.

One thing was Project Lit (click the link to learn more, especially if you’re a teacher!). The basic gist is this English teacher decided to start having his students read books that better represented them, and over the years it has turned into a multi-country book club for students. I’m late to this party since it’s been going on since 2017, but I signed up to be a Project Lit leader, and I am looking forward to starting a book club in our school whenever we can go back.

Okay, alllllll that to say, I found Clean Getaway from following Project Lit and Nic Stone on social media 🙂

Now to the review. This book is great. I didn’t expect anything less from Nic Stone since I loved Dear Martin so much. From my understanding, this is her first middle grade novel (but definitely not her last). The book is everything a middle grade book needs to be: accessible, funny, fast-paced, easy-to-read, interesting characters, and adventure.

The book begins with Scoob (nickname – real name is William Lamar) and his grandma in an RV heading on an adventure. The reader finds out pretty quickly that Scoob was supposed to be on spring break, but had gotten in trouble at school and was on punishment with his father. No fun spring break for him. However, this all changes when his grandma shows up with an Winnebago and a promise of adventure if Scoob wants to go. Of course he goes, who would choose punishment over adventure? Scoob conveniently leaves his phone at home so his dad wouldn’t call him, and Grandma doesn’t tell him much about the adventure, just that they have a long way to go.

What I loved about this book is that it definitely talks about racism in a way that will allow teachers to talk to younger students. William is black, and his grandmother is white. We see early on some subtle racism (is there such a thing???) on their first stop to get food. Lots of strange and disapproving looks from the other customers. The book also talks about The Green Book. This book allowed Black Americans to navigate the country by highlighting Black-friendly businesses. I can definitely see using this as a talking point with my students. I also loved the relationship between Scoob and his grandma.

There is definitely more to the book than what I have written, but too much more will give away some of the surprising aspects to the book. I would recommend this to any lower-middle school grade kids, and probably 4th and 5th graders as well.