Wednesday, July 29, 2015

As if Being 12 3/4 isn't Enough, My Mother is Running for President by Donna Gephart

As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!Vanessa Rothrock is a typical seventh grader, except that her mother is governor of Florida and is running for president. Vanessa makes it to the regional spelling bee, and she's very upset when her mother doesn't show up. It seems like her mother is more concerned with becoming president than she is about caring for her daughter. Vanessa feels a little bit of sunshine when she starts receiving sweet notes from a secret admirer, but then something frightening happens. She starts getting notes threatening to kill her mother and her! The notes warn her not to tell anyone, but they also say July is a good month to die. July is when the Democratic National Convention will be held, and her mother will officially be chosen as the Democratic candidate for president. It's also the month Vanessa lost her father, and she doesn't want to lose her mother too.

This book probably has more appeal for girl readers. Vanessa deals with issues experienced by all middle grade girls. She's embarrassed by her slow physical development, except for her over-sized feet, and she's wants the cutest boy in class to like her, except that he's a jerk. She also has less common problems, such as having a bodyguard follow her everywhere and having to worry about being on the national news. The early part of the plot deals with Vanessa's obsession with spelling and boys, but it becomes much more serious once the threats appear. After that, the plot becomes more of a mystery as readers anticipate an attack on her mother.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Classroom #4: When Nature Calls, Hang Up by Robin Mellom

The Classroom When Nature Calls, Hang Up!It's the last week of the school year, and all of the students at Westside Middle School are heading into the woods for a camping trip. Trevor is very nervous about the trip and does all he can to get out of it. After he finally decides to give it a chance, he's paired with the class bully who's been tormenting him for a year. The bully has plans for some epic pranks that all have Trevor as their target. Also, Trevor's best friend, a fanatically organized girl, is in charge of the last day's social event, and her lack of ideas has her very anxious. To top things off, Molly, a girl Trevor likes, will be moving away after the school year ends, and she can't find a good time to tell him.

The book is told from the points of view of several students and staff members, and it's written like a documentary. Different characters are able to share their thoughts and feelings about the events in their own chapters, while the plot is told in the other chapters. The feelings and insecurities are typical for middle school students, and the author is able to share them in amusing ways. Several of the bully's pranks backfire, and one of the characters smuggles her finicky pet cat into the camp. This book is the fourth in the series. I feel like I've read one of the earlier books, but it didn't seem necessary to enjoy this one.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

Catch You Later, TraitorThe setting is in the 1950's, and the fear of Communism is spreading across the country. Pete is living a normal life in Brooklyn, until the day after open house. The teacher announces to the class that Pete's dad is a Communist, so everyone starts to ignore Pete or treats him like an enemy. His best friend, Kat, is being spied on by another student, so her father can make sure they aren't talking anymore. The FBI is even investigating Pete's dad, and he could be put in prison if the government thinks he's Communist. His crime? He told the teacher that schools should teach more about the history of black people and the common man. However, Pete thinks there's more to it. Is his father a Communist? Did his father or grandfather do something that could get the family in trouble? How could an innocent young boy's life go so wrong, so quickly?

I hope young readers give this book a chance. Although, the fear of Communism isn't as rampant today, an analogy can be made to way some Muslims were treated after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Pete's character battles huge internal and external conflicts. The teacher's verbal attacks and being shunned by kids who were his best buddies the day before present challenges. Pete is confused by things his father said, and he's not sure what to do about an FBI agent. Kat is challenged by the whole situation too, because she doesn't want to abandon her best friend. Pete treats the whole situation like it's a mystery, and he's the detective who will solve it. Sections of the book are written in italics to mimic the tone of old, old mystery novels and movies.