Monday, August 15, 2016

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 13

Title: Skink No Surrender
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Genre: Mystery
Read If You Like...: Courageous rule-breakers, absurdist plots, the rest of the Skink series (apparently it's not just YA!)
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Fourteen-year-old Richard knows there's more to the story when his cousin Malley runs away (yet again), so he decides to take matters into his own hands and find her (or save her?) and bring her home. As the mystery carries him across rural Florida, he finds a partner in a weird eccentric old guy named Skink whose background is questionable, to say the least. Apparently Skink is a well-known Hiaasen character with his own entire mystery series, but for young readers, this will serve as its own self-contained humorous kooky mystery adventure just fine.

Title: The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read If You Like...: World War II era, underdog stories, Number the Stars
Three-Sentence Thoughts: In all of her nine years, Ada has never left her one-room apartment because she's got a club foot of which her mother is cruelly ashamed. When London's children begin to flee to the country because of the encroaching war, Ada recognizes an opportunity to escape with her brother Jamie and find a better life. I almost feel you need an adult-level understanding of emotion to get the full impact of Ada's story, but middle schoolers should also recognize the pathos and lend empathy and support to Ada and Jamie's struggle for survival.

Title: Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
Author: Gail Jarrow
Genre: Nonfiction
Read If You Like...: Science mysteries, New York City history, epidemic thrillers
Three-Sentence Thoughts: In the early years of the 20th century, a fatal fever swept communities in New York City and state, but its origin was a total mystery until a team of groundbreaking scientists and health officials pinpointed the source—a lone woman, an innocent cook named Mary Mallon. Chronicling the outbreak and spread of an epidemic in a society that suffered from the the lack of modern scientific knowledge, Fatal Fever paints a fascinatingly vivid picture of a world that young readers will find entirely foreign and extremely eye-opening. Jarrow has penned a work of nonfiction with plenty of companion images and primary sources to satisfy reader curiosity, and the narrative is marvelously organized to provide a thorough history told in wonderfully complete context. (Note: The Bowery Boys did a podcast episode on Typhoid Mary, and I thought Jarrow's narrative structure in this book was SOOOOOOOOO much better!)

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