Thursday, January 29, 2015

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 3

Here's my last round of middle grade speed dating for a bit; I've played catch-up, and it's about time to get back into the adult world of literature! If last round's three titles seemed similar, this round's are everything but!

It's been interesting to see how my own opinions on certain books have changed as I consider a new perspective—that of an 11- or 12-year-old. The hardest thing to realize is that your personal adolescence is by no means representative of Adolescence. Every kid is in a different place with different emotions, different interests, and different experiences. That makes the job both motivating and disappointing as you introduce your students to new things. I can understand how long-time librarians have a tough time weeding their collection that they so meticulously curated; if you love something, you want your readers to love it too, and sometimes that just doesn't happen! [The number of check-outs on our new, hand-picked-by-me DVD copy of Harriet the Spy is just disappointingly low.]

Title: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers edition)
Author: Malala Yousafzai
Genre: Memoir
Read If You Like...: True stories, inspiring figures, and world politics
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Malala Yousafzai is a figure that should be a household name—she is the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Prize for her work in human rights advocacy and women's education, after all. Here, she tells her story as she saw her home country of Pakistan change with Taliban rule in the early 2000s, as she defied their ban on education for women, and as she survived a gunshot to the head from an attempt on her life by a Taliban soldier. Malala's story is an exceptionally moving and inspiring one that young readers should encounter, but it's also a frightening one as you realize exactly how easily the freedoms we take for granted can disappear and (for adult readers) how this moment in history happened in our lifetime right under our noses.

Title: Gone Away Lake
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Genre: Classic, Adventure
Read If You Like...: Summer stories, nostalgia, and quaint adventures
Three-Sentence Thoughts: It's summer vacation and cousins Portia and Julian find an adventure when they discover a ghost town in the woods where remnants include decadent old houses, long-forgotten antiques...and two of the town's former residents still living in their deserted home! The jacket flap blurb led me to believe this was going to be much more of an adventure-mystery than it actually was, as the actual plot was pretty dated and not very exciting. Nostalgic adults may delight in this old-fashioned adventure, but now, with my middle school librarian perspective, all I could think was how my kids would be bored out of their minds with this.

Title: Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice
Author: Mike Maihack
Genre: Graphic novel, Fantasy
Read If You Like...: Historical figures, time travel, and Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century [anyone? anyone??]
Three-Sentence Thoughts: In this time-traveling adventure, a young Cleopatra finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her from ancient Egypt to the far, far future where she learns of a prophecy that she will save the galaxy from an evil ruler. She enrolls in school with a typical course-load of math, biology, and combat training and is put to the test to find out if she does, in fact, have the potential to be a hero. I breezed through this one, and it's fun but will definitely be more satisfying as the rest of the series is written and released.

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