The #MMGM LINKS for March 19, 2018
It’s National Let’s Laugh Day!
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*ALWAYS in the MIDDLE* is your home for…
I’M CURRENTLY READING:
WHATSHISFACE by Gordon Korman
WELCOME TO MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!
I missed out on the first four books in the MOGI FRANKLIN MYSTERIES, but had no problem jumping into the series with number five. Mogi has a knack for solving the unknown. It’s told in third person and begins in 1963 then flashes forward to present day.
Mogi is at a camp with his sister in northern New Mexico. He’s fourteen, which might be considered old for a main character in an MG book, but the tale has none of the expected extras you might find in YA. Also, most young readers enjoy reading about someone older.
The mystery is engaging (Just what did happen to the airplane filled with suitcases of plutonium?), and you’ll feel right in the middle of a dangerous fire interrupting the search for clues. There’s a lot of backstory to sift through but it is all written with a nice mix of present and past. The antagonist is Phil, an older teen who works as an assistant at the facility. He’s obnoxious and in real life would have been fired after his first infraction. Other than this minor objection, the story had me hooked and I’m sure it will do the same for other readers. Mogi is a winner.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017 PAGE COUNT: 172
THE OFFICIAL WORD ON THE PLOT (From Terra Nova Books):
Mogi Franklin and his sister Jennifer are delighted to be attending a high school science conference in New Mexico amidst a hundred thousand acres of meadows, mountains, rivers, and volcanoes far older than recorded time. But their focus quickly changes when they learn of the disappearance fifty years ago of a plane with two hundred pounds of plutonium—and of the terrorist nations vying today to find it in those same mountains.
Soon, they are engulfed in a complex web of Russian spies, government lies and deceit, an old box full of clues, and the real possibility that the shipment bound decades ago for nearby Los Alamos national laboratory is indeed hidden tantalizingly close to their conference center. Puzzling over the mystery, Mogi sets out with some friends on a backpacking trip to a remote lake. Too late they realize their mistake, as a minor forest fire suddenly explodes into the most dangerous blaze in the state’s history, trapping Mogi and the others right in its path.
They’re fighting for their lives in this fifth book of the Mogi Franklin Mysteries, and if he’s going to come up with a way out, he’d better do it fast!
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE LAKE OF FIRE
Watching the scenery as it went by, he tried to recall more of the orientation talk, but his mind kept wandering back to the woman beside him.
The biggest theft of plutonium in history and I’m sitting next to the crook’s daughter.
Why did she think everyone was wrong?
AUTHOR Biography (From Don’s author website):
After earning a degree in physics from Midwestern State University in Texas and a master’s in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico, he worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory for almost three decades. During his career there, Willerton was a supercomputer programmer for a number of years and a manager after that for “way too long,” and also worked on information policy and cyber-security.
He finds focusing on only one thing very difficult among such varied interests as home building, climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks, and rafting the rivers of the Southwest (including the Colorado through Grand Canyon). Willerton also has owned a handyman business for a number of years, rebuilt old cars, and made furniture in his woodshop.
He is a wanderer in both mind and body, fascinated with history and its landscape, varied peoples and their cultures, good mysteries, secrets, and seeking out treasure. Most of all, he loves the outdoors and the places he finds in the Southwest where spirits live and ghosts dance. Weaving it all together to share with readers has been the driving force of Willerton’s writing over the past twenty years.
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.
Science lovers beware. You are going to have a blast with this book. Filled with 50 experiments you can try out at home or school, be prepared to learn in a fun hands-on way.
The experiments are grouped under seven categories:
They each begin with a safety check (Simple, Tricky, or Difficult) and letting young scientist know who you need to assist with the experiment. Many of the experiments can be done without an adult hovering too close, but the author recommends adult supervision for all, especially with those marked with “Grab a Grown-Up.” Parents can begin by reading the Safety Tips and Guidelines in the front pages that sets the stage for safe practices throughout.
Clearly stated for each experiment are science concepts covered, how long it takes to complete, materials needed, and what to do. I tried out several (Ice Candle, Elephant Toothpaste, and Make a Groovy Lava Lamp). I was not always successful on the first try, but that’s how science works. The book was created with the help of three dozen kids, several adults, and one dog. You’ll see them trying out the experiments with the colorful pictures on each page.
Also included are STEM connections for every project and valuable advice for anyone pursuing a successful science fair project.
Whoops, that’s all for now. I have to get back to another experiment, p. 136, and my new biodegradable, edible water bottle!
IT”S ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!
Are more PG-13 type words creeping into Middle Grade books? I believe so. Except for the big F-bomb, I’ve seen just about ever other swear word in stories for 8-13 year-olds the past year. Is this something we should have concern over or is it a who cares?
Authors have several options when a cuss word pops up in their writing. The original method to insert a few punctuation marks (!?#!*!) is not too popular.
A second strategy is one used often in MG. A main character will say someone cussed or I’m thinking of a bad word. Another more interesting and often funny route is to disguise the inappropriate word with another less feared word (DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos comes to mind—”Oh-cheeze-us-crust!”). We know what the real word is without seeing the actual word. There’s even a web site listing at least a hundred more like:
Son of a Biscuit!
The final writing strategy is to use the cuss word as is. Kids on the cusp of leaving their childhood will most likely have heard the so-called bad words, and some will begin to use them in their thoughts or with friends. Saying a zinger around teachers or parents is usually avoided. Authors who use the word in print feel their writing should mimic what occurs in real life with preteens so they include them.
I’m sure this could be a massive debate as to the direction swear words should have in MG literature.
Instead, let me dive into SNOW LANE where 10-year-old Annie uses cuss words in her thoughts and sometimes out loud with her friends. Damn, hell and crap are her favorites, though she sneaks in a few stronger ones. It’s not excessive, maybe a dozen occurrences. A Catholic upbringing has her assigning Hail Mary penance after using an offensive word.
I don’t want this sidelight to overshadow what the story is about: a heartbreaking tale of being the youngest of nine children. It’s 1985 and not much happens in the first half of the book except you learn about each of the sisters and one brother. There are only tidbits of information about the parents. Annie is also dyslexic and has a trusted friend at school with the endearing, Jordan.
The secrets Annie and the rest of her family keep inside Snow Lane surface through events in the second half. The realities are handled in an appropriate way and would be fully understandable to middle graders. I wanted the story to continue but also felt fine with an ending that was more of a new beginning.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018 PAGE COUNT: 208
THE PLOT (from AMAZON):
Fifth grader Annie is just like every other girl in her small suburban town. Except she’s starting to realize that she isn’t.
Annie is the youngest of nine children. Instead of being condemned to the bottom of the pecking order, she wants to carve out place for herself in the world. But it’s hard to find your destiny when the only thing you’re good at is being cheerful. Annie is learning that it’s difficult to be Annie, period, and not just because her clothes are worn-out hand-me-downs, and she suffers from a crippling case of dyslexia, but also because there are secrets in her life no one in her family is willing to face.
In Snow Lane, Josie Angelini presents a story about a resilient girl who, in spite of many hardships, can still find light in the darkest of places.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: SNOW LANE
A couple of years ago my dad let us watch this special on PBS. Normally we don’t get to watch TV because the Solid Gold Dancers are pornographic, but my dad made an exception for Carl Sagan, probably because he doesn’t do any dancing at all on his show Cosmos.
Snow Lane is a work a fiction. It didn’t happen this way. But it’s all true. This is the most honest book I’ve ever written, not because the plot is a faithful recounting of my childhood. But because if you read it you’ll understand why my sisters and I can laugh at tragedy.
For more visit Josie’s website.
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.
Whether you know a lot or a little about our solar system, this new title is sure to send you into an orbit of adventure and learning. Author Dr. Bethany Ehlmann changes into her alter superhero disguise, Dr. E, to present fascinating facts and journeys about the world beyond. Each of the ten chapters begin with a paneled cartoon where Dr. E and her six-wheel sidekick, Rover, prepare readers for what lies ahead.
Each of the chapter titles also give a hint of the content:
The facts will astound you, like…
I’m barely scratching the surface as to what you will discover by reading the subtopics in each chapter. I also loved two other features: Real Scientist profiles are scattered throughout giving young readers a reason to say “I want to do that.” There are also frequent ‘Try This’ sections, taking you through how to set up simple experiments, giving a hands-on component kids will enjoy (Okay, I did too).
Perfect for research or to enjoy in your spare time. Dr. E delivers a well balanced and entertaining ride into the solar system.
For more information and to order your own copy, head on over to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STORE.
Coming up next week is another MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the next day.
Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and for spreading the middle grade love!
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.