Review / My Life as a Potato

20210228ma_0330Book: My Life as a Potato (2020)
Author: Arianne Costner
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: California Ben and his family have moved to Idaho. In order to fit in with the other students, he gets caught throwing a hot dog across the cafeteria and ends up in the principal’s office. His punishment? He gets to wear the costume for the school mascot, which happens to be … a potato! And that’s something Ben really doesn’t want the rest of the school to know about. And with the school dance fast approaching, he decides it’s time to keep his ‘life as a potato’ a secret.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Ben is a sympathetic narrator. He’s quite likable, and I was definitely rooting for him through all his trials and tribulations as he navigates the middle school halls of Idaho. (I don’t think I would have wanted to be dressed like a potato either! Although, in another way, it does sound kind of fun.)

2) I love Ellie and Hunter, the bickering cousins. I’m glad Ben has such good friends at the school, especially since he’s so new to the town (and state). The whole how-to-ask-somebody-out-to-the-dance part of the plot was quite amusing. I thought Hunter’s preoccupation with the bacon was cute. All the planning. Not sure I would survive in middle school these days if this is what it’s like.

3) Which brings me to Jayla! She’s Ben’s crush and happens to be one of the popular girls and a lead cheerleader. I love how Ben gets to see a different side of Jayla while he’s incognito as the potato. There are quite a few ups and downs with Jayla during the book.

4) And then there’s Mitch the Snitch. Poor guy. I do like how Ben befriends him, even though he does it imperfectly. And it’s fun how Mitch comes into the climax of the story. Which I won’t spoil… You will have to read about it for yourself.

5) The best part of the story, in my opinion, were the potato mascot scenes! Oh, the fun of Ben trying to figure out how to be the best potato dancer possible. And yet, also maintain the secret of his identity. And when things go wrong, well, that’s part of the enjoyment of reading about it, rather than living it in real life!

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) While I appreciated the creativity that went into the asking-people-out-to-the-dance, I do think it feels a little more high school to me. That is just way too much pressure for middle school kids! (Raises my adult hand. But I’m sure the kids wanting a little romance in their books will enjoy this one.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

You know with a title about potatoes, it’s got to be a fun book 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Class Act

20210212ma_0275Book: Class Act (2020)
Author: Jerry Craft
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Companion to: New Kid

Basic plot: Drew is in eighth grade this year. He’s got new hair and even a girlfriend. But he’s having trouble figuring out where he fits in. There’s his friends, Jordan and Liam. But after a visit to Liam’s amazing house, he’s not sure if he and Liam are really cut out to be friends. He definitely doesn’t think he can invite Liam to his own home. I mean, what would happen if his friends saw the little apartment he lives in with his grandmother? He’s not sure he’s ready to find out.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) While the first book was Jordan’s book, this one features Drew. Jordan and Liam are definitely part of Drew’s world, but the POV really focused on Drew this time. Drew and his new hair! I enjoyed seeing his perspective, especially over his uncertainty about where he belongs. (The ending works well, IMHO.)

2) One of my favourite scenes is when the kids go to Jordan’s house. I love this family! Loved seeing them in action, including as they interact with Jordan’s neighbourhood friends. It was a nice break from the school scenes.

3) I love it when the kids are at the assembly and the movie comes on: “Sad-Faced Pictures Presents: The Mean Streets of South Uptown.” This is a little nod to the first book (New Kid) that explores the idea that the Black experience is often summed up or portrayed in only one light: street life, gangs, trouble. What I love about THIS book is that we get to meet kids (two of them Black) who are living a different experience… even though that life isn’t always easy. I taught kids like Jordan and Drew. I would have loved to have put these books (New Kid and Class Act) into their hands.

4) There are some nice running jokes. One is about body odor (especially with regards to sweet-smelling Jordan)! And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I thought it was nicely done! (Although, I’m glad I didn’t have to actually smell it…) And the joke about everybody thinking Mr. Pierre was Liam’s dad (because he came to all his games) was a nice (if slightly sad) touch. 

5) I love the journey Drew goes on, especially with regards to Liam…  (SPOILER) to realize that maybe Liam isn’t his parents. Another great scene is when Drew finally invites Liam over to his house to meet his grandmother. And then they look out and admire the view. (End Spoiler)

6) Best Comic: “I Lost the Bet: Written by Chuck Banks (Dad) and art by Jordan Banks” wherein Dad explains that kids today are weirder than kids in his day… especially when it comes to social media. (But I’m biased since I’m probably Dad’s age!)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Alexandra and the nose thing! Argh! The book makes such a big deal about people touching Drew’s hair, but not so with Alexandra??? 

2) The title. I thought with a title like Class Act that it’d be about a talent show or theatre. Nope. And the juggling is just metaphorical!

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good sequel to the Newbery Winner, New Kid! Definitely recommend this one. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Three Keys

Book: Three Keys (2020)
Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: MG, Historical [1990s]
Sequel to: Front Desk

Basic plot: Mia and her parents are now running the Calivista Motel on their own. But California is headed for an election and on the ballot is a threatening new immigration law, a law that is making everybody in Mia’s world question who needs to be in America and who shouldn’t. While Mia has trouble with a new teacher at school, Jasonnow Mia’s friend—is having trouble with his parents. And then there’s Lupe and her family…

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Mia! Such a fun and enthusiastic voice. It was great to be back in her world as she navigates through new challenges. She still wants to be a writer, but her new teacher keeps giving her low grades! Oh, and she’s back to writing letters… of course! This time, she’s writing to VISA and letters to the editor.

2) I love her relationship with her BFF, Lupe. And I like how Jason is now a friend. But, as complications go, there’s a nice tension that exists between Lupe and Jason. Since the plot revolves around immigrants, it’s nice to see the three different types of immigrants side-by-side.

3) Lupe’s story is particularly interesting in this book. Seeing her navigate through some trying times, especially with what happens with her parents. I do like how Mia’s family (and Hank too!) take her under their wing. 

4) And then there’s Mia’s new teacher, Mrs. Welch. She is extremely unlikeable at the beginning of the story, especially when we see her give out those C’s to poor Mia. At first, I was a little worried that she was going to turn out to be a one-dimensional ‘bad guy’ character. But Kelly Yang had a trick up her sleeve. We do get to see her as a real person, more complex than young Mia realizes when they first meet.

5) And the motel setting is great. I love the weeklies (although, they don’t seem to be featured as much in this book). And Hank is definitely a star in Mia’s world! I love how the family and friends work so hard, banding together to save the motel.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Okay… the title. I was expecting something more prominent with this title. What are the three keys? Are they metaphorical? Are they real? I was intrigued, hoping for a little bit of both but… I kind of forgot about the title until near the end of the book. Then… BAM! (SPOILER!) It comes out of the blue in an off-comment by Hank (I think). It does come near the climax, however, I felt nothing when I read it. I don’t think it was set up well enough. (End Spoiler) *Sigh*

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good sequel to Front Desk! It was nice to be back in the world of Mia and her letter-writing. Definitely recommended for fans of the first book. And even if you haven’t read the first book! (Although, if you do read this one first, you will get some spoilers.)


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday