Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner

It’s appropriate that I am publishing this review today, as I watch severe weather warnings scroll across the bottom of my TV.  Kate Messner’s Eye of the Storm is a science novel (a term coined by Betsy Bird) about a dark future where storms have taken over the weather pattern and have pushed people out of their homes and into planned communities.

I loved this novel.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a weak spot for the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre.  But I am also a huge science geek.  I struggled to choose a major in college, because I loved biology and English.  I went to a pre-engineering academy for high school.  And even today, I still raise monarch butterflies and subscribe to too many science blogs to list.  I was excited when I read that Kate was writing a book heavily based on meteorological science and I begged an ARC off the publicist at NCTE.

Jaden’s dad is a meteorological engineer and he invites her to the middle of storm country to attend a camp for gifted and talented middle schoolers.  She is happy to spend time with her father and his family and as a science geek, she looks forward to camp.  But when she gets to Oklahoma, she realizes that everything is not as it seems.  Her father’s planned, engineered stormsafe community seems to be going above and beyond in order to keep the residents safe from harm. But by avoiding the storms, they may be putting those outside the community in danger.  Once Jaden starts camp, she befriends some of the farm kids from outside the community and they all begin to dig a bit deeper into the storms.

Eye of the Storm  is recommended for middle graders, but I think it will appeal to high school readers, too.  Jaden is a great heroine who is smart, geeky, and fun.  The science in the book is top-notch and Messner keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The teens/tweens read as real kids and as a teacher of gifted students, I recognized a lot of my own students in her characters.  One warning: Be sure to have some meteorology books on hand because when kids finish this one they are going to want to read a lot about storm systems!

Highly recommended for middle school and high school libraries.  A great read for upper elementary students, too!

*ARC courtesy of the publisher at NCTE

Dessert First by Hallie Durand

Hallie Durand’s Dessert First is an adorable early middle grade novel about a spunky third-grader named Dessert. Now, who among us hasn’t been tempted to eat dessert first when sitting down for a meal? When Dessert’s new teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody tells her class to march to the beat of their own drummer, Dessert decides that she will eat dessert first from now on. She is even able to convince her family to join her in her new endeavor. But when she succumbs to temptation and secretly eats an entire box of her mother’s Double-decker Chocolate Bars, she is overcome with guilt. Even worse, it turns out that those rare treats were made to celebrate the life and birthday of her grandmother, who has passed away.

Dessert reminded me a lot of another fun early middle grade character- Clementine. She’s spunky, spirited, happy, and even a little “fresh” at times. Even better? She’s real! She reminded me a lot of the 3rd graders I student taught a few years ago- smarter than most adults give them credit for. Plus, readers will identify with her. Who among us hasn’t tried to be unique and only ended up getting in trouble in the process?

Oh, and I love, love, love the cover! The bakery string is a wonderful detail and has me craving some treats.

Highly recommended for elementary libraries.
*ARC copy courtesy of Kathi Appelt

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