Blanca & Roja

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Maria McLemore is a magical-realism novel targeted toward young adults.

In the del Cisne family, every generation births two girls–one of which is destined to become a swan. Blanca, sweet and graceful, and Roja, feisty and wild, are as close as two sisters can be but they’ve also grown up as rivals. Together, they have kept the swans at bay longer than an of the del Cisne’s before them. But the swans will not wait forever and the game is about to begin.

When two boys, with troubles of their own, are drawn into the game, the rules change and the stakes are higher than ever. With four fates on the line, instead of two, will Blanca and Roja finally give in to their fate or will the fight a battle that no del Cisne has ever won before?

McLemore’s writing has always been magical and yet believable; this is why her body of work is such a great example of magical-realism. You see the magic, you feel it, and yet the world is still grounded in fiction, in reality. The genre makes the ordinary, extraordinary, which is why I love it so much.

This wasn’t my favorite book my McLemore but I liked it better than some of her others. A lot of what McLemore writes has the same themes and many of the characters have the same problems and personalities, with a few changes here. Sometimes it feels like only the “magical” element changes from book to book. So if you are looking for the familiar, then McLemore’s books are for you.

There’s a familiar fairy-tale aspect to this book. A combination of Snow White, Rose Red, Swan Lake and the Ugly Duckling. But there is also more to this book. We look at different stereotypes and the assumptions people make. Ultimately, this book is about finding the truth–the truth about oneself and understanding, accepting, other peoples the truths.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Dry

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is a YA fictional novel about what would happen is California literally ran out of water.

All the signs were there–rising prices, restrictions like being unable to water the lawn, take long showers or even throw water balloons–and yet no one could believe it when the State of California’s water ran dry. The “Tap-Out” wasn’t like other natural disasters, which get lots of new and media coverage, this was a slow, quiet beast that no one was prepared to handle.

When Alyssa and her family first noticed that their pipes had run dry, they did what most families did, they planned on stocking up and riding it out. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street turns into a warzone. Neighbor against neighbor. Friends against friends. No one is safe when on the hunt for water.

As the situation escalates and help is no where in sight, Alyssa must make impossible choices to save herself and her brother before they too, turn into water zombies or worse.

This was such a crazy read. It was baffling for me to think that an entire state could run out of water and no one really knew about it. Were the politicians that successful in hiding the issue that things could get this bad. That being said, I loved how we glimpsed the one reporter who made the connection that no one would take the tap-out seriously until the bodies started adding up and because the destruction isn’t immediate and in your face, it isn’t “hot” news. It’s scary to think of how true this is.

The narration was a little weird for me at times but not necessarily in a bad way. Although this was Alyssa and her groups story, we did get side narratives that were connected in the grand scheme of things. Some of them were dark and awful and some of them were never resolved. But, I think this was purposely done to show how bad things could get and the narrative that weren’t finished, weren’t finished for a reason.

Again, what a crazy read when you really think about it. I bet a lot of people are going to buy an extra case of water when they finish this one. This book gets a high 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Fuzzy

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th graders.

When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her schools newest student, a robot named Fuzzy, she totally did not know what she was getting herself into. Max has been recruited to help Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, by showing Fuzzy the ropes. Together they navigate hallways, eat lunch, attend class and all the usual middle school activities… including getting in trouble.

Little do Fuzzy and Max know but BARBARA, the school’s digital student evaluation system, has it out for them. The more Fuzzy learns, the more “human” he becomes and as he and Max become friends, Fuzzy realizes he has a more important mission then the robot integration program… Help Max.

Will Fuzzy and Max make it through sixth grade intact?

I really enjoyed this one. So much so, that I chose it as my November book for my 4th-6th grade STEM book club. This one was meant to be a little easier than our book last month. It was a quick read and I think one that you could pull morals and themes out of with it still being a lot of fun.

I think the kids will enjoy the futuristic aspects of the book and deciding just how much technology is a good/bad thing. Overall, this was a fun one that works perfectly with my STEM theme.

For this STEM club we have 10 discussion questions and then we are going to create our own paper circuits. We’ll see how it goes!

Discussion Questions:

1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

2. Fuzzy uses “fuzzy logic,” what is fuzzy logic and why does this make Fuzzy a good robot?

3. Fuzzy begins to act more and more “human” each day. What are two examples of Fuzzy’s humanity?

4. Fuzzy takes place in a technologically advanced future. Computers and robots are used for everything. Are there pros and cons to this?

5. If you could pick one “thing” for a robot to do for you what would it be and why?

6. What would you do if your school assigned dTags and required Constant Upgrading like Max’s school? How would this hurt and/or help your education?

7. Page 173 – <Max> I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… Let’s cheat! – What do you think of Max’s decision to cheat? Was she right, wrong? Can you think of another way they could have handled this situation?

8. Page 224 – That’s like killing him. The Fuzzy we know will die. – How did you feel when you found out the government was going to delete Fuzzy’s memory? Do you agree that it is the same as killing him even though he is a robot? Why?

9. Why was Barbara a better candidate for the exploration of Mars than Fuzzy?

10. Do you think you would make friends with a robot? What qualities of a good friend might a robot have?

Creating Paper Circuits

Supplies: Card stock paper; Copper tape, ¼ inch wide and double-sided conductive; Scissors; 3V lithium button battery; 5mm LEDs; Clear tape

Instructions:

  • Take your button battery and one of your LEDs. Find the positive and negative side of both by sliding the button battery between the prongs of the LED. Did it light up? Try flipping the battery. Once it lights up you will have found your positive and negative connections. Remember, positive connects to a negative, negative to a positive
  • Fold your card stock in half so it looks like a card. Put it aside
  • Take your smaller square of paper and using the copper tape, follow the template, lay down your circuit.
  • When you get to your light spread the prongs apart and make sure they are fully covered by the copper tape. Remember your +/-. If you attach the wrong connections your LED won’t light up. Use clear tape if needed.
  • Continue running the tape on the other side of the light following the template. You need to make this as smooth as possible without ripping.
  • Attach your button battery negative side down. When you fold over the corner and touch the beginning end of the tape to the top of the battery your LED should light up.

* **Note** You may need to be careful taping the button battery. If you cover the battery completely the connection is harder to make. Try just taping the edges.

  • Did it light up? Check your connections, do you have them the right way? Are there any gaps in your copper tape?
  • Once you have your light working, lay it inside of your cardstock to see where the light will shine through. Make a mark on the front of the cardstock.
  • Create your card/picture/etc. Remember where the light shines through and draw your picture incorporating the light.
  • Put it all together and see what you get!

Observations:

-What observations can you make about your circuits? What worked and didn’t work? Why?

The Science:

-Electricity is a type of energy that can build up in one place or flow from one place to another. For an electric current to happen, there must be a circuit. A circuit is a complete path around which electricity can flow. It must include a source of electricity, such as a battery. Materials that allow electric current to pass through them easily, called conductors, can be used to link the positive and negative ends of a battery, creating a circuit.

-In an open or broken circuit, there is a break along the line, and the current stops. In a closed or complete circuit, electric current can flow. When electric current flows, it can be used by electrical appliances, such as light bulbs.

**Adult supervision required**

https://sciencekiddo.com/paper-circuit-cards/ https://www.dkfindout.com/us/science/electricity/circuits/

*Safety Note* Button batteries are very dangerous if they are swallowed. Please be sure that the children making paper circuit art are old enough not to put objects into their mouths. After the paper circuit cards are complete, please instruct the children not to leave them in a location where a younger brother or sister can get to them.

How’d it go:

Well, we had to reschedule this one because of snow, so we had a much smaller crowd then we usually do. But that’s OK because we could have used 5 of me to help instruct the activity! The paper circuits definitely needed more than my allotted 30 minutes. We had a few successfully make circuits but most of them didn’t get it on their first try but by the time we left, they seemed confident that they could actually do it from home. And because we had such a small group, I let them all take home enough supplies to do a second paper circuit.

In terms of the discussion, I was floored when the majority of my group told me that deleting Fuzzy’s memory was NOT the same as killing him. We had a lot of discussion about this, which was neat.

Overall, I think it went well. Hopefully, no snow will get in the way of December!

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Fury

Fury by Rachel Vincent is the third and final book in the Menagerie series.

Pregnant and on the run with her fellow escapees, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and free. But the odds are against them as more and more cryptids are being caught and slaughtered. Delilah, her protector and the father of her child, Gallagher, the shifters, sirens and other cryptids with her must hide their identities or risk being separated or worse.

But the noose around them seems to be tightening as mass killings pop up closer and closer to where they are hiding and of course, they are being blamed. This rag-tag family must work together to stay safe and figure out what new evil it is they are actually up against.

Will Delilah be able to bring her child safely into the world? And if so, is it a world Delilah even wants her daughter to be a part of?

I really wish I could have read the un-edited version of this story. It felt like there might have been a few sections edited out because the ending really needed another 20 pages to really flush out the conflict and it’s solution. The part of the story we wanted, the answers to those questions we had, felt really rushed and I think so much more could have been done. There were also a few unfinished plot holes that could have been solved with just a sentence here or there. The whole thing just started slow and then ended quickly and could have used a better balance.

All that being said, I did really enjoy this series. It was unique and dark; it was a world you wanted to witness but never be part of. This series was really built up in three parts. The first book set the stage, the second gave you all the brutal injustice and conflict, and the third was the resolution.

I’m glad I stuck it out with this series even if the ending left me wanting. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Boy Bites Bug

Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck is a middle school juvenile fiction book for 4th-6th graders.

Will didn’t intend to eat a stinkbug, but when his friend Darryl calls the new kid, Eloy Herrera, a racial slur, he didn’t think he just acted. Now will is Bug Boy and he kind of likes it.

Intending to keep up his notoriety and title as Bug Boy, Will talks Eloy into helping him get his classmates to eat bugs. But the more Will learns about Eloy and entomophagy in general, the more sincere he becomes about his project. For Will, eating bugs is no longer just a joke but everyone sees it that way. And what’s worse, he really likes Eloy and is afraid he may have ruined this budding friendship.

What can Will do to make everyone understand his real intentions when all anyone can see if a joke?

I thought this was a really great read for middle schoolers about friendship and understanding and realizing that people change. This book is also about accepting peoples cultures and not treating them differently because of it.

One of the things I loved about Will was that he would get back feelings when he wasn’t entirely sure how he should act or behave. This was really great because a lot of the time people, especially kids, aren’t a 100% sure about what is OK to say and do and what isn’t. Because of this, I found Will to be a really realistic and relate-able character.

This book could be a really good book club book because it is filled with STEM-y goodness about entomophagy, the environment and bugs in general. If I were to use this one in my STEM book club, which I can’t because we don’t own enough copies, I would totally pair it with a Hexbug challenge. It would also be great because the themes are something that should really get the kids talking.

This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Iron Flower

The Iron Flower is the second book in the Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest.

Elloren Gardner and her friends were only trying to do what was right but what’s right has brought them head to head with the Gardnerian’s. The Gardnerian’s are quickly gaining power and every day it seems like a new law or rule is being enforced to pure the world of the “evil one”–non Gardnerian’s.

Elloren has found herself caught in the middle of a world on the brink of war. Her heritage as a Gardnerian and granddaughter to the Black Witch, may have bought her a certain amount of safety. But at what cost? Her friends are in danger, her family is being torn apart and her heart is weighed down by her powerlessness.

Will Elloren find the will to fight for what her heart tells her is right? Or will the brutal weight of her peoples might, suppress any hope she may have?

Wow this one was hard to summarize… with or without spoilers. Phew!

I’ve been sucked into this series. Despite the controversial reviews, I have to know what happens. So, I am here for the long haul. And I will admit, The Iron Flower sucked me in just as much as The Black Witch. I love the relationships that have been built or are building and I like that they are not easy–that there are major conflicts and hesitations. And not just the relationships between “lovers” but also the relationships between friends, enemies, allies, etc.

I’m still a little mehhh that this is a teen book. The characters feel very teen-y but boy, does a lot go down in this book. It is harsh in some respects. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, prejudices, arranged and forced marriages… those are just a few of the triggers this book will hit. But it also feels realistic to me, which is also very, very sad.

It’ll be interesting to see where this one is going. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash is the 7th and final book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

In this final book, we pick up where we left off. Our allies have been thrown to the four corners of this world, all working in their own ways, toward defeating Erawan and bringing about a better world. But with Aelin Maeve’s prisoner, the missing third key and an army sweeping the land, will there be anything left to save?

And we did it! We reached the end of this massive fantasy series. That in itself is an accomplishment. Way to go Maas! And double kudos for keeping to a deadline and not leaving us hanging forever.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. It wrapped up everything that I wanted to see and there were no glaring threads left hanging. The first 3-4 books will still be my favorite but I was impressed that these last books were able to keep everything straight and actually address each plotline, especially with so many characters. Because goodness, there were so many characters!

**Potentially spoiler-esq but not really** So many pairings and I didn’t know how Maas was going to be able to end this series with any, let along all of them intact. I swear, after the ending of the last ACOTAR book, which, lets be honest, was a magical ending where everyone lives happily ever after… I really, really thought we were in for a hell of a lot more heartbreak here. I also enjoyed the nod to ACOTAR toward the end there.

Did anyone else feel like the writing in this one, read a little different? Maybe it was just me but something read a little differently then the other books in the series. I can’t put my finger on it right now.

Many will be sad to see Aelin and her snarky spark go but I think Maas did a good job of ending this series and satisfying fans who stuck with it until the end. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-