Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Catch up on U.S. History with NatGeo Kids

Weird But True! (Know-It-All) U.S. Presidents, by Brianna Dumont, (July 2017, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327964

Recommended for readers 8-12

I love these NatGeo Kids’ facts-at-a-glance books. I learn something new every time, and I have a good time reading them. I’m pretty sure my library kids agree with me, because these books fly off the shelves. In this latest Weird But True, NatGeo gives readers a quick rundown of the U.S. Presidency: fun facts, a renovation timeline, an overview of the three branches of government and the powers of the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President; from there, we get a profile of each President, from Washington through to 45. Profiles run between 2 and 8 pages, outlining high points (Oval Awesome), low points (Oval Awful), and fun facts (Why He’s Weird!). It’s a fun read, loaded with caricature art and photos. Also a nice little supplement for reports and projects down the line.


Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends, by K.M. Kostyal/Illustrated by Fred Harper, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-4263-2699-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Think of this as a “Life’s Little Instruction Book” for middle grade history fans. Ben Franklin’s sage advice is organized into quotes on tranqulity, industry, order, humility, resolution, sincerity, and moderation. Readers may be surprised at how many sayings they’re familiar with: “there are no pains without gains”, “haste makes waste”, and “honesty is the best policy”. There are 50 of Franklin’s quotes in this book, each with an accompanying caricature illustration with loads of physical comedy to appeal to middle graders. Quotes receive a more modern, accessible translation and a story about Franklin’s life, which may cause a disconnect to anyone who expects the story to illustrate the quote. It’s a fun look at one of U.S. history’s more fascinating characters, but unless you have a dedicated Franklin fan or two, it’s a supplemental or secondary add to your collection.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School

Pen Pals across time? Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My…

ben franklinBenjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My…, by Adam Mansbach & Alan Zweibel (Sept. 2015, Hyperion), $12.99, ISBN: 9781484713044

Recommended for ages 8-12

Thirteen year-old Franklin Isaac Saturday (call him Ike) has a really obnoxious writing assignment. He has to write a letter to a person from history, so he chooses Benjamin Franklin, his namesake. He rants and raves about the dumb assignment, the struggle of being in middle school, his jerk of a stepfather, and his crush on classmate Claire Wanzandae. He inadvertently sticks the letter in a mailbox as part of a joke, but here’s the surprise: he gets a response back. From Ben Franklin, who’s got stuff of his own to complain about! He hates his hair, Thomas Jefferson gets on his nerves, and he’s sensitive about his weight. Will these pen pals out of time somehow help one another through their rough patches, or will they cause the entire timestream to become out of whack?

Written in the first person through Ike’s eyes and through letters between Ike and Ben Franklin, this is a good middle grade read, especially for those reluctant readers. It didn’t really grow on me like I thought it would – the thought of Ben Franklin being that concerned about his stringy hair and feelings of not measuring up didn’t work for me – but I think middle graders will get a kick out of this one. The writing is conversational and witty, with plenty of snark and sarcasm. The time travel aspect of the story is a little far-fetched, but go with it.

This is a good addition to collections (both home and library) that cater to kids who are a hard sell for reading. Humor is always a good thing to have on your shelves, especially for those kids who don’t want to read, but need a book for school. I tend to fall back on humor and adventure for these kids, so this will be a helpful one to have on hand.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Remember The Time Warp Trio? Now, meet the Left Behinds!

left behindsThe Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington, by David Potter (Jan. 2015, Random House) $16.99, ISBN: 9780385390569

Recommended for ages 10-14

Mel and his schoolmates, Brandon and Bev, are the Left-Behinds: children of wealthy and/or famous parents who make little time for them, they’re shipped off to boarding school and spend the holidays there. On a holiday school trip, the three find themselves transported through time, ending up in Colonial America – just in time to save the life of one General George Washington right before the historic crossing of the Delaware. Armed with just his iPhone, Mel must figure out how to save his friends, save George Washington, and save America! Oh, and he’s on, like, 8 percent battery.

The story is the next step for fans of Jon Sciezska’s Time Warp Trio series, who are on a higher reading level and ready for a more challenging novel. The book looks like it’s the first in a promising new series, with likable characters, a rogue iPhone app, Benjamin Franklin (who makes anything in which he appears even better) and a mysterious nemesis. There’s solid history here: the author did his research and his love for American history is clear here. This would be a great book to have students read alongside a unit on American history.

The author’s website offers information about the book, a bio on the author, and transcripts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, along with a section on where to catch historical re-enactments. For now, there’s only the Washington Historic Crossing available; I hope we’ll get some more as the author writes more!

The Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington releases next week, on January 5th.