Thursday, September 13, 2012

Marty Mcguire Digs Worms (bk. 2) by Kate Messner

Meet 5th grader Kayla. She didn't like to read, until she met Marty Mcguire.

Here's the routine:
"Have you got the new Marty book?" Kayla asks. The staff is greeted every morning before school with this question.

"No Kayla, it is on a boat in the ocean," One of us replies. She hollers from the circulation desk into my office, "You'll give it to me when it comes, right?"

"Yes, your name is first on the list," I reassure her and she giggles and prances to class.

Last week my reply changed to: "It's getting closer Kayla. The book is in Taiwan customs." 

Four weeks later she comes to the library and starts, "Have you got... Oh!"  I put the book in her hands before she can finish her sentence and she does a happy dance at my feet with a grin the size of a watermelon slice. Where's that video camera when you need it?

Marty Mcguire may be in third grade but she appeals to all ages with her spunk and energy. She loves science and struggles with sharing her best friend, Annie, who gets along with Veronica, a frilly girl who is quite the opposite of tomboy Marty.  This book has Marty and Annie planning a science project together that involves worms. Things don't go quite as planned when Annie decides to help Veronica, as well as work with Marty; plus, the worms seem kind of boring because they won't eat all the leftovers from the kids. Marty has to learn to deal with her discouragement over the project to save the earth and realize that it is small steps that make a difference in making change.

Another terrific story with great pacing, word choices, and characters. The focus is more on science in this book than relationships. Lovers of nonfiction books will like the facts sprinkled throughout with an engaging story. The beginning information on poison dart frogs is a funny reference to the frog fiasco in the first Marty book and her love of frogs while giving facts about why they are called, poison dart frogs, and what is happening to their habitat. Worms are surprisingly interesting and kids will love the "worm poop" facts and the clever advertising the girls use to get Veronica to use it on her plants.

The adults at Marty's home and her school create a community of support for her from Grandma Barb to the janitor to the teacher. They give guidance and wisdom as Marty learns from her mistakes and grows in understanding. The wonderful imaginations that children have is captured by Messner and I was transported several times back to my own childhood and the escapades my best friend and me had while growing up in Minnesota. 

There's plenty of fodder for adults to laugh at in this story. When we have a character education assembly in the auditorium I secretly sit by the little 4 to 6 year-olds because it is so funny when one gets crocodile-snapped in the chair. Messner catches the hilarity of this as Marty mentions it throughout the book. When Marty puts paper in the food processor it reminded me of when my friend and I chiseled a hole in their oak door because we wanted a peephole (we were acting out a book and were on a ship), and the kind janitor who helps Marty reminded me of the time my best friend and I climbed the church's steeple tower only to be caught on the way out by the janitor who was very kind to us (we were acting out Nancy Drew that time).

Dear Ms. Messner,
You are very prolific. Please crank out another Marty book so we can all do our happy dances!
Thank you!

4 out of 5 Smileys
Reading Level 3.8

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