Reviews

Mermaids! Aquamarine

Hoffman, Alice. Aquamarine. Scholastic, 2001. 105 pages. Tr. $5.99, ISBN  978-0-439-09864-9; PLB $12.41, ISBN  978-1-41552-455-8

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes.

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Claire and Hailey (a timid girl and her fearless best friend) are drawing out summer as long as they can, for at the end of the month, their favorite summer spot will be closing forever, and Claire will be moving away to Florida. They are afraid of what the future holds and sad about the upcoming changes. What does it mean when, in the last week of the Capri’s last season, a mermaid is washed into the swimming pool? Will Aquamarine get to meet the human teen who works at the Capri snack bar? Will Claire and Hailey help her?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a very short book, but it had a sweet story. This is a great pick for the reluctant reader as there’s plenty of white space on the page. One downside (also noted in Publishers Weekly) is that this book is so short that we are left with some questions (What? Mermaids? Who else is out there? What’s Aquamarine up to usually? What are the “rules” of being a mermaid?) that it could leave a reader used to the depth of other fantasy books (i.e., Land of Stories) wishing for more and feeling like they haven’t had much of a read. Readers who are looking for a nice short read, however, will enjoy this book about friendship and the magic of belief.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This novel has a movie adaptation  which may sweeten the reading deal; we could read the book as a group (or alone!), and I can recommend the film version to students looking to get to know Claire and Hailey a bit more. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

Reviews referenced:

Anonymous (screen name). (n. d.). Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman (Review of the book Aquamarine). Teen Ink. Retrieved from http://www.teenink.com/reviews/book_reviews/article/763617/Aquamarine-by-Alice-Hoffman/

Kirkus Reviews. (2001, Feb. 15). Aquamarine (Review of the book Aquamarine). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alice-hoffman/aquamarine-2/

Publishers Weekly. (2001, Feb. 19). Aquamarine (Review of the book Aquamarine). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-439-09863-2

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Reviews

Rock and Roll! Roller Girl

Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015. 239 pages. Hardcover $17.89, ISBN 978-0-525-42967-8; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-8037-4016-7; PLB $17.06, ISBN 978-1-48988-662-0

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES ABSOLUTELY

 

Genre: Sports story (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Once again, I find myself wishing that I could do roller derby (alas, I am terrified of falling over and breaking my glasses, and my balance on skates of any kind is laughable). Jamieson’s protagonist Astrid discovers roller derby one night when her mother takes her and her best friend Nicole out for an Enlightening Cultural Experience (ECE). Unlike previous ECEs when Astrid has been forced to watch an opera, go to a modern art museum, or otherwise improve herself, Astrid instead gets to watch women on roller skates slam into each other to win points. She immediately plans to attend the Rose Bud roller derby summer boot camp with her best friend Nicole … until Nicole’s dance class friend (and Astrid’s number one enemy) Rachel starts talking about plans for dance camp. Confident in the knowledge that Nicole won’t desert her for Rachel, Astrid is shocked when Nicole ditches her and roller derby for a summer of dancing on pointe. Astrid’s summer doesn’t get much better when she finds out that roller derby is HARD … falling more often than she actually skates, Astrid feels lost, until her favorite jammer Rainbow Bite replies to her anonymous notes asking for advice. Could Astrid make new friends? Can she become a superstar roller derby girl? Or is she just a Rose Dud?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I could not put this graphic novel down. I raced through it, eager to read more roller derby names, follow more plays, and get to know Astrid and Zoe (her musical-obsessed roller derby friend) better. I further appreciated Jamieson’s nod to the intense athleticism required for ballet, too. While it is awkward that Nicole chose Rachel and dance over Astrid and roller derby, Nicole’s preferred activity is not painted with the “girly girl” brush that her other choices are. Instead, Jamieson shows the painful side effects of dancing on pointe — bloody toes and bandaged feet, not unlike Astrid’s roller derby injuries. While Nicole’s interest in boys and shopping are more typically feminine than Astrid’s pursuits, their sports are not as different as one might assume. Readers will also appreciate the diversity on the page and the excitement of the sport.

 

Note: This didn’t affect my reading of the graphic novel, but one parent reviewer on Common Sense Media was appalled by the use of profanity in the rude nickname Astrid is given by the school bully (who refers to her as “Ass-Turd.”) While I didn’t find this to be a huge problem, it might be for some folks, so I should remain aware of the potential reactions to the nickname.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A fun book club activity for this book could be designing a roller derby team — names for players, team names, and a logo. We could also potentially watch clips on YouTube from a roller derby bout, after I’ve had a chance to preview some to ensure there aren’t any inappropriate signs in the crowd or language caught on the microphones. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 4/1/15

Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/15

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 12/15/14

Newbery Honor 2016

Publishers Weekly starred 1/26/15

School Library Journal starred 12/1/14

 

Reviews referenced:

Beach, A. (n. d.) Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl

Natsmom22 (screen name). (2016, Feb. 12). Profane and inappropriate for its target audience (blog comment). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl

Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Dec. 6). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/victoria-jamieson/roller-girl/

Publishers Weekly. (2015, Jan. 26). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl.) Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-4016-7

 

Reviews

Super Adventures: The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse Books, 2013. 106 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-61655-084-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older kids (6th-8th)

Genre: Superhero (Comic Strip Compilation)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Plot Summary:

This book appears to be a compilation of comic strips into a “trade” paperback. I had gone into this one anticipating a graphic novel, so I was a little bit disappointed to lack a cohesive storyline, but Superhero Girl is readable enough that I wasn’t too badly upset. (I would love to follow her in a long-form arc, though!)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Superhero Girl definitely skews on the older side; I was surprised that it was so readable and that it’s picked up by young kids due to Superhero Girl’s focus on finding a job, leaving college, and trying to attend parties or date. I don’t think it’s kid-unfriendly, but it does include things such as alcohol, dating, and the like.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

If a superhero unit was already in place, I would add this in as recommended reading. Otherwise, I would perhaps have students study a few panels of Hicks’s work and create a comic imitating her style in terms of art and tone. This way, Superhero Girl could be a library-only unit or get incorporated into an art class. (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Reviews

Catch-up Post: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Oh wow! I had heard great things about Raina Telgemeier, but I had not yet had a chance to read any of her books. I fixed that this August!

Smile is delightfully relatable. Having had braces, a retainer, spacers, headgear, braces again, and new retainers (which I still wear!), I was VERY familiar with an adolescence spent in the orthodontist’s chair. 🙂 Poor Raina, though; her story is a bit more frightening than mine!

Kids with orthodontics will agree with many of the miseries Telgemeier presents, and kids without will still get a fun, relatable story. Deftly woven in are also storylines about when kids outgrow friends, find new ones, and blossom into their own people.

Genre:

  • Graphic Novel

Major Things:

  • Orthodontics
  • Growing up
  • Friendships

**Some blood on the page!