A little "wrapped neat with a pretty bow on top" for me, but a perfect read middle grade read for the boy-reader demographic. This book is a good hybr...moreA little "wrapped neat with a pretty bow on top" for me, but a perfect read middle grade read for the boy-reader demographic. This book is a good hybrid of sports fiction and realistic fiction that would appeal to a wide range of readers. Whether readers identify with the star athlete, or the "geek of the week", they'd find themselves enjoying this book about a set of twins who could not be more different; each struggling for find their niche and survive the middle school caste system.(less)
Welcome to a world where there are Talented People and Ordinary people. Whether it is making peanut butter, sensing and baking someone's favorite cake...moreWelcome to a world where there are Talented People and Ordinary people. Whether it is making peanut butter, sensing and baking someone's favorite cake, playing the oboe, getting lost, or chewing gum...., in this alternate reality, everything comes down to being Talented or Ordinary. Meet one girl who is Talented but lacks the one thing in life she wants most desperately, and meet another who has no talent (not for lack of searching!), but seems to "have it all" whether she knows it or not. This novel begs so many philosophical questions that I think kids will actually pick up on: questions like, Is is a blessing to not have a Talent, and therefore be free to do whatever you want? And, does everyone have a talent, and some discover theirs and others don't.
I think children will connect with the concept of wanting to find one's talent or niche, especially during their late elementary and middle school years. I can't help but think about the over-scheduled, overburdened children whose parents place so much emphasis on this matter. And realistically, not all talents are created equal. Children that are exceptionally good gamers, will not garner the same attention that a musical prodigy will, for example. This inequity of talent is an inevitable discovery for all adolescents and therefore a worthwhile theme for a novel!
My concern for readability, though, is that many kids might have trouble following the surprising twists and "knots" of the plot. (less)
After being bopped around to different foster homes and being dubbed a pyromaniac (even though he is innocent), Max finally lands in an orphanage. At...moreAfter being bopped around to different foster homes and being dubbed a pyromaniac (even though he is innocent), Max finally lands in an orphanage. At least what he believes to be an orphanage! He has actually been inducted into "spy school". He also receives a cryptic message on his first night that reads "Your father is alive!" Is he really not an orphan, after all? Is it possible that he will be reunited with his father? And who exactly was his mysterious father? This books holds plenty of intrigue for older middle grade readers.
There is also multiculturalism aplenty, so it would fulfill our committee's quest for more inherently multicultural titles. The spy students are of so many different ethnicities, and Max himself is half Thai.
A high-interest middle grade novel, overall. I preferred Stuart Gibb's "Spy School", published in 2012. It had an extremely similar plot line, but was a bit better written, in my opinion.(less)
Arlene has CMT (Charcot Marie Tooth), a neurological disease that progressively destroys a person's nerves, leaving them extremely disabled. She inher...moreArlene has CMT (Charcot Marie Tooth), a neurological disease that progressively destroys a person's nerves, leaving them extremely disabled. She inherited it from her mother, who is now wheelchair bound. Amidst her hardships, Arlene undertakes the noble cause of reforming the recycling in her school. A budding environmentalist, Arlene discovers that her disability does not prevent her from making noteworthy contributions to the world around her.
I vote to drop this from our final list, as I think it is the weaker of the realistic fiction novels that we have read this year. It comes off as overly didactic at points, which is entirely unappealing to me and (presumably)children. (less)