Heldring, Thatcher. The League.
10 September 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Wyatt has a good best friend, Francis; an awesome friend who is a girl, Evan; involved parents, and a pretty good life. But he is also dealing with Spencer Randle, who steals his lunch money and threatens to beat him up, and the fact that Evan finds older football player Brian to be brain-bendingly cute. When Wyatt's parents sign him up for a summer golf camp, he complains to his older brother, Aaron, and the two come up with a plan. Aaron is claiming to do volunteer work in a local park for the summer, but is really involved in a series of pick up football games that he and his friends call "the league of pain". Wyatt learns the game, and also becomes adept at lying to his parents for the first time.
Strengths: I love Heldring's other books (Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, Toby Wheeler, Eighth Grade Bench Warmer), so was really glad to see another book. This lives up to the high standards set by Heldring's first two books. Wyatt is flawed but likeable, and it's great to see him grow, even if it means lying to his parents in order to follow his own path. I adored his relationship with Evan-- pitch perfect for middle school. His friendship with Francis was well portrayed-- Wyatt wants to stay friends, but doesn't want to keep being the same kind of person that Francis is. Even Spencer is a bit sympathetic as a character. Great cover, good length-- really should buy two copies right now!
Weaknesses: Sigh. More bullying. I'm so very tired of the stereotypical stealing-lunch-money bullying in middle grade books that the inclusion of this did drop the book from five stars to four, even though the resolution of the bullying was somewhat innovative.
Listen up, middle grade authors! No more bullying and no more school elections! It's been done!
This week is the Scholastic Book Fair at my school. There are a lot of good titles in it that I will be recommending to students, especially this one!
Osborne, William. Hitler's Secret.
September 24th 2013, Chicken House
Copy provided by Scholastic Book Fairs
Two German teenage refugees are recruited by the British secret service to travel back to Germany to retrieve a young girl. "Otto" is glad to get away from the British boarding school where he has been put by a friend of his father's, after his entire family is taken from his home in Munich because of his father's communist background. "Leni" has been working on a bloodmobile after her mother and sisters have come to London, and is up for the adventure, but mostly wants to avenge the suspected death of her father and brothers. The two are trained briefly and then dropped behind enemy lines. They must travel to a convent on an island, find Angelika, and get her to Switzerland. They don't know who she is or why the British want her, but as their adventure continues, things become more and more clear, and they realize they won't be able to turn her over to the government.
Strengths: Wow. This was an excellent war/spy adventure. It could almost be categorized as an "alternate reality" fiction book, because the whole reason for finding and removing the girl from Germany is based on something that didn't actually happen, but it made for an excellent story. Very gripping from start to finish, and very sad as well. Tiny bit of romance.
Weaknesses: Perhaps a little violent for younger students, and there are several deaths, but I can't wait to get a copy for my library. Don't know that it can be used for the Holocaust unit, though, because of the fictional premise mentioned previously. Probably work out well as long as students understand it is definitely fiction!
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts
and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday
at Abby the Librarian.