2003 (hardcover); 2011 (paperback) | 112 pages | Grades 3-4
*I received an e-ARC from Albert Whitman & Company via NetGalley.
Thanksgiving is coming, and Katie Jordan is worried. Her neighbor, Claire, whose mother passed away, has informed Katie, whose own mother is a traveling country singer, that girls without mothers are pitied when they don't have "normal" holiday celebrations. Claire's dad is having 40 people over and decorating the house and the porch will all kinds of fancy things. Katie's dad, on the other hand, has a work deadline on the day before the holiday, and he wants to stay in pajamas and eat pizza for dinner. Claire says this will never do, and encourages Katie to change her dad's mind. Mr. Jordan won't budge, however, and the only thing Katie is allowed to do is make a few traditional side dishes and some homemade decorations. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when Katie accidentally invites her teacher for dinner, and she accepts! Side plots include her father's interactions with his boss, and three-year-old Tyler's fear and fascination regarding a giant turkey on display across the street at Claire's house.
I really enjoyed this book because it dealt with a familiar subject in a new way. We have seen a lot of children's books characters dealing with an absent parent, and many kids can relate to competition with friends and neighbors to be the best at something. But the different approaches that Claire and Katie take to their mothers' absence, and the differences between their two loving single-dad families made this book stand out from others. I liked that both dads are perfectly competent, but in their own ways, and I enjoyed watching Katie come to understand that her family is every bit as good as anyone else's, even if it doesn't have the perfect Thanksgiving. Definitely a great holiday story, but also an excellent lesson in accepting yourself and your family, no matter what the neighbors say.
This book was originally published in hardcover in 2003, and is currently available from Amazon.com. It was nominated for a 2006 Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award. A new paperback edition, with an updated cover, will be released on August 1, 2011. A sequel, called Tails of Spring Break
was published in 2005, and the author's website
says that a third book, Bittersweet Summer
, is in the works.
Hosted by Breaking the Spine
, Waiting on Wednesday
is a weekly meme where bloggers share books they can’t wait to read. I reviewed Turkey Monster Thanksgiving
from a digital Advanced Reading Copy I received from Albert Whitman & Company via NetGalley.
2011 | 112 pages | Young Adult
*I received an e-ARC of this book from Graphia via NetGalley.
This fast-paced YA read for young teens is the story of how fourteen-year-old Alex went from a self conscious nobody to a talented bass guitar player. The book is divided into chapters or "stories", each telling of a step Alex takes on the road to stardom. We see her humble beginnings as her brother teaches her to play bass, her heartbreaking relationships with a couple of two-timing musicians, the excitement of playing her first show, and the thrill of finding a close female friend who shares her passion for music. We also see the way a dream can come crashing down when her parents eventually pull the plug on her growing celebrity.
The emotional turbulence of any teen novel is clearly present here, but it's channeled into the unique world of music, skating, and straight-edge culture. Alex's self-deprecating sense of humor, and her different brand of femininity made me really interested in her story, even if the subject matter was foreign to me. Some of the supporting characters felt somewhat cartoonish, but Alex was very real, and her story, though unlikely for most teens, felt plausible.
Author Joyce Raskin is herself a musician who writes songs and performs with a band called Scarce, and this book was inspired by many of her own experiences. The book includes some really wonderful author's notes in the back that level with aspiring girl guitarists and explain what's required to learn guitar, and to begin writing and performing songs. Though I don't know much about playing guitar myself, the information seems really useful, and it's presented in a clear but conversational tone that will definitely appeal to its audience.
This book is a great alternative for girls who don't want to read about the same old themes, or who want to read about them from a different perspective. Its quick pace and short chapters will make it a great pick for reluctant readers, but I think kids who love to read will love it just as well.
Joyce Raskin is on Twitter at @scarcerocks
. She was also interviewed here
and you can listen to music by Scarce here
on MySpace.My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star
will be published on June 13, 2011.
Hosted by Breaking the Spine
, Waiting on Wednesday
is a weekly meme where bloggers share books they can’t wait to read. I reviewed My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star
from a digital Advanced Reading Copy I received from Graphia via NetGalley.
Blog: Secrets & Sharing Soda
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, 2011 challenges: ya contemporary
, young adult
, meme: waiting on wednesday
, genre: realistic fiction
, 2011 challenges: 100+ reading challenge
, Add a tag
by Anna HumphreyMission (Un)popular
2011 | 416 pages | Disney- Hyperion | Young Adult (Ages 10-14)
*Reviewed from an e-ARC received from NetGalley.
by Anna Humphrey is the story of Margot Button, a twelve-year-old Canadian-Indian seventh grader living with her tarot-card reading mother, her stepfather Bald Boring Bryan, and identical triplet half-sisters who are two years old. At the start of the book, Margot's best friend, Erika, learns that she is being sent to Catholic school, and Margot is forced to face the first day of seventh grade alone. Desperate for friendship, she links up with a new girl named Em, who is from New York City and the daughter of a soap opera actress. She also claims to be a model, and makes it her personal mission to make Margot popular. At first, it seems like no big deal. Em teaches Margot how to dress, and encourages her to talk to her crush, Gorgeous George. But as time goes on, Em becomes more and more daring, and Margot gets pulled into schemes that include ignoring Erika, torturing Sarah J., the ringleader of the popular group, sneaking out of the house, and eventually getting seriously injured. Then Margot starts to wonder whether Em has been completely truthful about who she is, and whether she can even be trusted.
This book has everything a tween reader could want - a mysterious, slightly dangerous friend, comeuppance for a nasty bully, romance with cute boys, and honest commentary on family conflicts. The book starts off a bit slow, and gives us a ton of backstory, but once it gets into the main action, the pacing is perfect, and the reader is kept in a steady sense of suspense as the truth about Em slowly and deliciously unfolds. Margot's Indian culture, which she inherits from her dad, isn't really the central focus of the book, but there are still enough references to her race to strongly establish her identity as a character. A few weeks ago, one of the list-servs I follow mentioned a need for more books featuring characters of color that are not explicitly about racial issues, and Mission (Un)popular
definitely fits that bill.
There are a lot of books about middle school out there, but this is one of the few I've read that so perfectly bridges the gap between middle grade and YA. The book isn't as explicit as some of the YA books being written for older teens, but it's also more sophisticated than a lot of school stories and friendship stories written for third through sixth graders. Fans of Lisi Harrison's Clique
series, and Lauren Myracle's Eleven
, and Thirteen Plus One
, will also enjoy Margot's tumultuous seventh grade year. The events of Mission (Un)popular
are far more dramatic than the lives of most seventh-graders I have known, but I think the drama is exactly what will appeal to that age group.
I was surprised by how much I truly enjoyed this book, and I hope to read more from Anna Humphrey in the future. Visit the author's website and blog at www.annahumphrey.com
. Mission (Un)popular
will be published on June 14, 2011.