Today, I’m reviewing a MG contemporary, a kid’s chapter book, a MG non-fiction book, and a MG humorous contemporary series. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
New from Here by Kelly Yang
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Maike Plenzke
My content rating: MG (Explores issues of racism)
An Asian American boy fights to keep his family together and stand up to racism during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.
When the coronavirus hits Hong Kong, ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe. Suddenly, Knox has two days to prepare for an international move—and for leaving his dad, who has to stay for work.
At his new school in California, Knox struggles with being the new kid. His classmates think that because he’s from Asia, he must have brought over the virus. At home, Mom just got fired and is panicking over the loss of health insurance, and Dad doesn’t even know when he’ll see them again, since the flights have been cancelled. And everyone struggles with Knox’s blurting-things-out problem.
As racism skyrockets during COVID-19, Knox tries to stand up to hate, while finding his place in his new country. Can you belong if you’re feared; can you protect if you’re new? And how do you keep a family together when you’re oceans apart? Sometimes when the world is spinning out of control, the best way to get through it is to embrace our own lovable uniqueness.
Set at the beginning of 2020, this book highlights the extra stresses of being an Asian American family at the start of the pandemic. Most kids will relate to the confusion and fears portrayed in the book, but the themes will especially hit home for kids of Asian descent. Knox’s family is dealing with a lot when COVID hits. They decide to go back to the US from Hong Kong, but Knox’s dad has to stay behind for work, and his mom is soon unemployed as well. Finding new friends and adjusting to new routines is hard enough in normal times, but the circumstances make it even more difficult. Add to that the myriad of small hostilities aimed toward the family because they’re Chinese, and you have a pressure cooker situation. I’ll confess that I had to suspend disbelief a bit at some of the crazy schemes that the kids get themselves into (and, even more so, the way the parents deal with them), but middle grade readers probably won’t care about that. And this book teaches some great concrete lessons about how to stand up for others when you see racism or injustices, and those are invaluable.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Published by Candlewick on December 22, 2009
Genres: Picture Book
Source: Little Free Library
It’s the best thing since buttered toast — Mercy Watson in paperback!
To Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Mercy is not just a pig — she’s a porcine wonder. And to the good-natured Mercy, the Watsons are an excellent source of buttered toast, not to mention that buttery-toasty feeling she gets when she snuggles into bed with them. This is not, however, so good for the Watsons’ bed. BOOM! CRACK!
This book is utterly adorable and clever! Follow the saga of Mercy the pig, hailed as a hero, even though she really just wants a snack. I absolutely love the humor in this story as Mercy’s antics “save” her family from certain disaster. And the exaggerated art style serves to enhance the extended joke. Kids will be caught up in Mercy’s capers and they will be giggling once they realize that Mercy is just one hungry pig!
Breaking the News: What's Real, What's Not, and Why the Difference Matters by Robin Terry Brown
Published by National Geographic Kids on October 13, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
Source: The Publisher
Headlines leap out at us from mobile phones, TV screens, computers, newspapers, and everywhere we turn. Technology has opened up exciting new ways to tell interesting stories, but how much of it is news ... and how much is just noise? This refreshing and up-to-date media literacy book gives kids the tools they need to distinguish what is fact from what is fiction so that they can make smart choices about what to believe.Topics cover a broad range, from defining freedom of speech, the journalists' code of ethics, the dangers of propaganda, and the future of news.Packed with profiles of influential journalists, fun facts, and iconic photographs, this ultimate guide to the information age will get kids thinking about their relationship and responsibility to media.
Breaking the News teaches kids how to use discernment when it comes to reading about what’s going on in the world. In today’s social media-focused world, we’re exposed to many “news” stories that are either completely made up or misconstrued. The book teaches kids what news sources to trust and how to spot doctored photos. It also talks about the differences between true newscasting with as little bias as possible and the opinion shows that have become so popular. In addition to all that, the book gives a bit of history and background about journalism in general, highlighting journalists who have made a difference in the world with their reporting. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but nonetheless, I found this book to be quite engaging. It would be a great book to have in a classroom where kids could page through it at their leisure!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Media Masters Publicity for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein
Illustrator: Brooke A. Allen
Series: Welcome to Wonderland #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on October 4, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Source: Library, The Publisher
Eleven-year-old P.T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland! BONUS: Includes fun extras like P. T. Wilkie’s outrageous (and sometimes useful) things you learn living in a motel. Installment 1: How to say “Help! The toilet is clogged!” in over twenty languages!
This hilariously silly series tells the tale of a boy determined to save his family’s motel, which also happens to be his home. P.T. has lived his entire life at the Wonderland Motel, which was a popular destination in its heyday but has had a hard time keeping up with its modern counterparts. In the first book in the series, P.T. and his new friend Gloria (who is also temporarily living at the motel) come up with all sorts of crazy schemes to raise money so that P.T.’s family can pay off their mortgage before the bank takes over the mortgage. Lots of hijinks (and a bit of crime-fighting) ensue. In the subsequent books, P.T. and Gloria have to keep finding new ways to keep the motel afloat, including convincing movie executives to film a movie there, solving more crimes, and attempting to win a tourism contest.
The series’ greatest strength is its madcap humor. Kids will get a kick out of all the crazy antics involved with saving the motel. The author weaves in a bit of a mystery surrounding the identity of P.T.’s father throughout the series, which adds a thread of continuity between the different books (though they could easily each be read on their own). Gloria’s intelligence and ingenuity are also a major plus. She’s a business whiz, and is always spouting random business terms that P.T. doesn’t understand. Middle grade readers can actually soak in a few of the fundamentals of business in these books, but they definitely won’t feel like they’re learning. Plus, the whole idea of living in a motel is just plain fun!
***Disclosure: I received the third and fourth book in this series from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***