Sasquatch Award 2019 part 2
If you missed part one you can find it here. So far the nominees this year haven’t been too bad. Some have been pretty good. They also have all been pretty different from each other, which is good, it makes it easier to find one or two that all of my students will enjoy. The students have to read at least two of them to vote and although it is not a requirement for all of my students to participate I do try to encourage them to do so.
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger
When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!
I first read this one when it came out and it was just as good as this second time around. It has been hit or miss for me with this author’s books, so it is nice to have a book of his on the list that I can get behind. There are a lot of themes involved in this story and all are handled well, such as what makes a robot more than a robot, how schools focus too much on testing to the detriment of the students, how technology can be bad to name just a few. But it is all done in a way that the kids will get and even agree with and with a lot of humor as well. I really liked Max, a girl who really wants to help and is pretty smart and able to stand up for herself. Fuzzy is a hoot from the start, just quirky enough at the start, but grows into an adorable teenage AI that you find yourself rooting for. There are some bad guys and computerized Vice-principle that adds to the excitement and adventure of being a student in middle school.
Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.
Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.
Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.
Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
This one ended up being quite different than what I expected and it was in a good way. I really liked both the main characters, Ravi and Joe and felt that they had pretty authentic voices. I listened to the audio book and both Josh Hurley (Joe) and Vikas Adam (Ravi) did an excellent job with it. The book alternates between the two boys and sometimes we even get different perspectives on the same incidents which was very well done. It was also interesting to see that the boys both had the same issues at home communicating with their parents, but you could definitely see the love that they all had for each other. The book only had one small thing that I didn’t like and that was the portrayal of the two teachers that the kids both interact with. Neither teacher was very realistic in the way they dealt with both kids but especially Ravi. This seems to be an issue in middle grade books especially, teachers are either incompetent or mean or just too perfect. Ms Beam does get better through out the book, but still it was pretty cringe worthy some of the things she says to Ravi in front of the class. One other thing to mention is there are two glossaries at the end, one from Ravi explaining some of the Indian words and one from Joe explaining some of the American words. It was a nice touch.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?
This isn’t usually the type of book that I will like, but this one was quite good. I think it will have a lot of kid appeal too. Ghost is such a great character, he has so much stacked against him but he really wants to do better. I was really glad that he met coach, who saw something in him and wanted to give him a chance. Sometimes that is all it takes, one adult to be in a child’s life at the right moment. I also enjoyed all of the other kids on the track team as well. This is the first in a planned four books series. Each book will focus on one of the other kids from the team. Nice diversity with the team as well. There is a black girl adopted by a white couple, and albino (not sure when or if I ever seen that before), kids with out a mom or dad for various reasons. It was also interesting to see how even though Ghost is naturally gifted in running, he realizes that he will have to work hard to really bring his A game to the team. Will definitely be getting the rest of this series for my school library.
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.
A realistic portrayal of growing up as an immigrant middle-schooler. Full of funny and poignant moments and also some sad ones. Many children will be able to relate to Zomorod even if they are not immigrants, because many of her experiences of being the new kid dealing with friends and bullies and having parents that embarrass you is very common at that age. Zomorod’s voice was very realistic and authentic to her age level, she had just the right amount of smarts and attitude about life. I also liked the short chapters that were like little snippets of her life in America during a time period when it was hard to be an Iranian here. A realistic portrayal of the hostage situation as seen through a child’s eyes and as related in the news at the time. Although I felt the book was a little long, it makes a good historical read for the events at that time.
One more of these will be coming your way in a couple of weeks, maybe longer as I will be on vacation this weekend and I don’t know how much reading time I will get.