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Season 1, Episode 2

Moon Murder Investigations and Fiery Food Stuffs

January 21, 2021

On this episode, Emily welcomes guests Heather and Jeannine as they recommend books about a mystery on a lunar colony and a teen mother with a passion for cooking. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Emily 0:00 Welcome to the Planet Book Podcast where we explore middle grade and young adult books. My name is Emily and I work in youth services at the Willard Branch of the Springfield Greene County Library District. Join me each episode, as I welcome guests to book talk their latest favorite tween and teen reads. Thank you for joining me on this podcasting adventure.


Emily 0:17 For this episode, I'm joined by Heather Cottle Dillon, the Reference Manager at the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch library. Welcome, Heather.

Heather 0:23 Thank you, Emily. I'm excited to be here to talk with you all.

Emily 0:26 Also joining us today is Jeannine Birkenfeld, the Youth Services manager at the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch library. Hello, Jeannine.

Jeannine 0:32 Hi guys, so glad to be here today.

Emily 0:35 Thank you both for joining us for this episode of the Planet Book Podcast. Both of you always have such great book suggestions whenever I ask. So I'm so excited to hear what books you're going to be sharing with us today. We were going to start with our middle grade novel. So Heather, what have you got for us today?

Middle Grade Book Recommendation

Heather 0:49 Well, the book that I'm talking about today is Space Case by Stuart Gibbs. And this is the first in a trilogy called the Moonbase Alpha trilogy. It's a murder mystery that takes place on the moon. So the narrator is a 12 year old named Dash. And he lives on the first moon base with his parents who are scientists and his younger sister. So they live there with, I think about 100 people, and then someone is killed on the moon. And everyone thinks that's just, it's an accident. But Dash thinks that someone killed this person, and he sets out to figure out who it was. And so it's really, really funny. Of course, it's, you know, it's kind of a thriller, it's got the murder. But it also is really funny. And it's, I mean, I totally enjoyed it as an adult. I'm sort of biased to books about space because I love space. And I think it's just really interesting and I liked the descriptions of how they live on the moon and how they how they do things, but it's also just really fun getting that from a kid's perspective, because, like, I think the first chapter he starts out and is like, Oh my gosh, you guys listen to how you go to the bathroom, like this is crazy. And so it really feels like it was kind of written by a kid. And so you get an interesting perspective. So I think it's one that definitely, kids will like. It has a really good tone, but also adults can enjoy as well. There also is another really interesting aspect, kind of a sci fi aspect to it that comes in at the end. And I don't want to talk about that too much to give it away. I totally did not see it coming at all. And it adds just like an extra layer of interest to the story. AndI thought it was super, super enjoyable. And pretty unique. It felt like the author did do a lot of research. As far as like what it would be like to live on the moon, if, if that were happening in real life. So that was interesting. So there's a lot of interesting, interesting elements to the story. And there are two more books. It's a trilogy. The second book is called waste of space. And that one has a missing person, which is super interesting because you know, they're on such, they're in such a location that's so isolated, there's not really a lot of places someone could go. And then the third book has another accident, that could be a murder and they're not quite sure what happened. So I really enjoyed all three of them. What books that I would recommend, I think they'd be really good for some reluctant readers, some kids who haven't found a series that they like, but if they're interested in science at all, or in mysteries, it's I feel like a pretty good mystery. I think this would be a good pick for them.

Emily 3:36 So you mentioned that he describes a lot about living on the moon. Is there a lot of like, heavy science stuff in there or is it explained really well and doesn't feel like it breaks up the flow of the story?

Heather 3:46 I definitely don't think it breaks up the story at all. There is, it is, there's a little bit, but it's really not very heavy. It totally is definitely at like you feel like the level that a kid would be interested in. Which I think is a good for a lot of adults to like, you want to hear a little bit about it, but you don't want to have like, you're like I don't need all the details and especially like if you're just looking for a quick like, kind of escape type of read, so I mean definitely probably what he goes into most is the toilets. Definitely like from the beginning you're like, Oh yeah, this is middle grade. But other things are sort of mentioned, like casually, but they're not, it's definitely not bogged down with too much detail at all, I think. And I, I like, personally, I like kind of a mid level amount of detail and this is I'd say a lower on the end of the scientific detail but it's it's really fun for me just kind of don't want to have to you just want to enjoy the story. But you still get like a little bit of it where it feels real, if that makes sense. Like it feels like enough to make it credible.

Emily 4:50 If you don't read the first one. It's not like a continuing mystery through all three of the books. Could you read them independently or is it really important to read them in order?Heather 4:59I think, I think you could read them independently. He does that, he does kind of a little recap, if I remember correctly, like at the beginning, and yeah, the mystery sort of stands on its own. And he kind of does a little recap as far as, like, who they are, who all the characters are and who this big thing that he discovered in the first one. He does like a little recap, so I think that you could, but I would recommend reading them in order, because the characters are so like, they all, they all are living together in such a closed space. And so like their personalities, you really start to affect the story, sort of you're like, in the second mystery you're kind of making you might be made, I was sort of making guesses about who might be involved based on like, what I learned about them in the first book, if that makes sense. So I think that there is value in reading them in order but I don't think you necessarily would have to they all each story sort of stands by itself as well.

Middle Grade Read-alikes

Emily 5:56 So Heather, do you have any read-alikes that you would suggest to go along with this book, in this book series?Heather 6:02I think anyone who enjoyed the series would definitely like Carl Hiaasen, middle grade books like Chomp and Scat. They have a very similar tone. Like they're the sort of funny and the characters are really well done and and quirky and fun, and sort of has a focus on well, while this one sort of has a little bit of a science focus and his have an environmental type focus. But I definitely think that people who like Carl Hiaasen books would like the series and vice versa.Emily 6:37All right, well, thank you so much for sharing that book with us, Heather. It sounds like a really great series. And, and I've always meant to read Stuart Gibbs' Space Case series, so I'll have to move it up on my list. Thank you.Heather 6:48Well, thank you for having me.Emily 6:50So now that we've had our middle grade book suggestion, we're going to move on to our YA suggestion and so Jeannine, what book Have you decided to share with us today?

Young Adult Book Recommendation

Jeannine 6:58 Well I want to talk about a book by Elizabeth Acevedo called With the Fire on High. And I, this is probably my favorite, one of my favorite teen books that I've read this year so far. It is about a 17 year old Afro Latina girl. Her name is Emoni Santiago, and she's a teen mom. She had her daughter Emma, who she calls Baby Girl at 14. And she was in a relationship with the father at the time, but they've since broken up and they do co-parent somewhat effectively. Emoni lives with her grandmother, and she's finishing high school. It's her senior year when the story takes place. And she's raising her three year old daughter and she works at a burger place after school. So she's really really busy all the time. And she's very, very tough. I love this book because Emoni is such an appealing, fleshed out character. She's, She's very strong. She's very determined yet Acevedo shows her, her vulnerable sides. It shows how difficult her life is. She does have a lot of support from her grandmother. She also has a supportive father who kind of comes in and out of the picture. He lived with them, but her mother died. So she doesn't have a mother. And she's just very, very determined to be the best mother she can to her daughter. And so I think Acevedo just really accurately portrays teen motherhood. And she doesn't, it's, she's not written as a cautionary figure. She's, She's written as a very, you know, real person who's really trying her best to do the right thing. So I just think she's a wonderful, wonderful teen girl character. This book is definitely for a teen audience. You know it has some serious subject matter, you know mature subject matter about sex. But Acevedo manages to weave in some LGBQ characters. Emoni's best friends, Angelica is is gay and Acevedo portrays that in a very positive light. Angelica is very supportive of Emoni. But one of the wonderful things about Emoni is, you know, she's so bogged down by her life, but she has aspirations of someday becoming a chef. And she's a wonderful cook. Everybody who eats her cooking is amazed by her talent. So when she gets the opportunity to join a brand new culinary course at her high school, she's very excited at once but also thinking this is just a dream. This is pie in the sky because the course is an elective, and it's her senior year and she's trying to get through. But also that the course culminates on a trip to Spain. And it costs money, which she doesn't have. But she decides to go for it. And her life is kind of transformed. So it's a very uplifting story, but also real.Emily 10:37The author, I know she writes some of her books in free verse poetry form. Is this told in verse or is it told through prose?Jeannine 10:45It is told through prose, and actually I listened to the audio book when we were on quarantine and it's a wonderful audio book. And the library has it available in so many different platforms. It's, we have the print copies of the book, you can also listen to the audio on Hoopla. We have audio book CDs of this book at the library and you can also access it as an audiobook through Overdrive.Emily 11:12So you said that, there aspect of, her dream is to become a chef. And so she does a lot of cooking. So are the descriptions of food good? I always think whenever you're reading a book and somebody's cooking a lot, I want them to describe the food well.Jeannine 11:27Oh, I know. Yeah. Um, yes. So. So she kind of, um, Emoni has this gift of being able to take a recipe and she adds her own kind of flair to it, she, you know, adds different spices and different ingredients to kind of make it you know, a signature dish. And everybody just loves her cooking and thinks that she's such a talent. One thing that she has to deal with is when she takes this culinary course it's taught by a chef, you know, he's kind of more concerned with technique and her getting the technique aspect of cooking, you know, professional cooking up to speed and so that's a little discouraging to her because it kind of, you know, she thinks, well, I guess he doesn't appreciate my creativity. But you know, that's just, that's part of it. When you're a professional chef, you have to master technique. So I think that's good for her kind of knocks her down to size. And it doesn't she does kind of start skipping school a little bit and she gets discouraged, but then she gets back on track.Emily 12:29So Jeannine, you, You said that you listened to it on audiobook, who is the audiobook narrator?Jeannine 12:33The author, Elizabeth Acevedo, also reads the audiobook and of course, I love it when an author reads the audio book because they're able to, you know, add nuance and meaning to the narrative, which is so nice. So great.Emily 12:51I agree. I think it's so interesting when the author is the one who does the narrating of their own story. It just adds something I think to it.Jeannine 12:58Yes. And I believe that Elizabeth Acevedo is kind of a, she's a poet. First and foremost, she wrote the Poet X, which I believe won the National Book Award, as well as I think it won the Prince a year or two ago. And she just has a lilting poetic voice. Oh, it just it really. It's a great listen.Emily 13:28So what kind of readers do you think would like this book?Jeannine 13:31Oh, you know, I think actually, I think it has wide appeal for both teens and adults. I love that it really realistically addresses teen motherhood, it doesn't put it in a, you know, an insurmountable light. You know, it doesn't make it seem like whoa, this is a terrible life. You know, I mean Emoni really loves her daughter and there are so many moments of joy and love between them. And she's just, she's very mature and her desire to want to be the best mother she can be. I think that it has wide appeal because Emoni is a strong female character. And the book addresses, I think, many trials and tribulations that teens and just humans have, as we grow up. I would, I would call this book a coming of age story for sure, with a strong female lead. And I love that Emoni she's an afro Latina character, so it explores Latino culture. And some of the issues that arise with a character that has two, you know, two racial identities.

Young Adult Read-alikes

Emily 14:50 Do you have any read-alikes that you would suggest for this book?Jeannine 14:54Well, you know, I mean, there's so many focuses on the story that I love the teen motherhood. The cooking aspects, the culinary aspect if you like to read about food and cooking, and just the relationships and Emoni's tribe of friends and family is interesting. But I think that in terms of teen motherhood, one of my favorite books, now it's not quite as upbeat as With the Fire on High, but it's by Gary Schmidt. It's called Orbiting Jupiter. And it portrays the male point of view. The protagonist in that story, the main character is a boy, a 14 year old boy, whose girlfriend gets pregnant and it's very sad but very well written. And so I, if you're interested in teen parenthood and reading about that, and the struggles and triumphs that go along with that I think Orbiting Jupiter is an excellent YA novel that explores those things. I also like Princess X, it's another young adult book about a strong female character. It's a mystery. It's written in both prose and graphic novel format. So it's a unique format. And the lead and that's a mystery and the lead in that story is a strong female character.Emily 16:20Awesome. Those are some really great suggestions Jeannine. So thank you so much for sharing With the Fire on High with us. I, that book has been on my to read list forever. And so I am really excited to get the chance to read it or maybe listen to it. The audiobook sounds amazing. So thank you so much for sharing that with us.Jeannine 16:39Oh, yes, yes, please read it. I want to talk books with you about it.Emily 16:42It's one of my favorite things to do, talk books with you. So I'm so and thank you. So thank you, Janine for sharing that. And thank you also, Heather, for being here and sharing Space Case with us. I'm so glad that both of you were able to come on the podcast and share books with me. Thank you so much.Heather 16:57Thank you for having us.Jeannine 16:58Thank you, Emily. It was fun.


Emily 17:01 And to our listeners thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Planet Book Podcast. Look for links to all the books that are mentioned in this episode on the library website, While you're there, check out some of our kids and teen pages to look for booklists for more reading recommendations and some of our other resources. If you would like a personalized reading recommendation, click on the Your Next Read banner on the library website and fill out our questionnaire. We will email you or call you with a list of books specifically chosen for you. Look for a new episode next week. And thank you for listening to the Planet Book Podcast.

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