Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner

Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner. February 1, 2012. Scholastic. 176 pages. ISBN: 9780545142458 

Marty McGuire’s class has an assignment. Each team of students must come up with a plan to save the planet. With the help of her quirky and hip Grandma Barb, Marty puts together a great project where worms will turn leftover cafeteria food into fertilizer. Marty doesn’t realize how long this process will take, though, and she makes a bunch of promises to her classmates that she quickly realizes she cannot keep. When the class starts getting angry at Marty for the way things are going, she tries to speed things along, resulting in a worm escape! Marty must find a way to save the Earth and save her friendships with her classmates.

I thought Marty McGuire was a pretty solid chapter book despite its heavy-handed treatment of gender issues, but this sequel definitely impressed me more. Marty isn't like most other chapter book heroines, and this story does a wonderful job of highlighting that fact without actively reminding the reader of it all the time. Marty is science-minded and loves to get her hands dirty, which is great, and I think kids are certainly drawn to her impatience and her desire to do the right thing, even if she doesn’t always manage to do it. Kids will also love the interesting way that Marty and her friends recycle their cafeteria garbage, and the idea is simple enough that they might just be able to implement it in their own communities.

Veronica Grace continues to be a bit of a walking “mean girl” stereotype, which is too bad, since that stereotype seems inescapable in children’s books these days, but the other characters are pretty fairly balanced portraits of average kids. Aside from the characterization, there are also a lot of great details describing objects and situations in Marty’s day to day life. I loved the line about kids being “crocodile-snapped” in auditorium chairs, and I thought it was great when Marty speculates that her teacher might be looking forward to lunch just so she can feed her lettuce to the worms.

This series is a great alternative for girls who don’t relate to themes like fashion and boys, and who are interested in recycling, going green, and improving our planet. Marty McGuire Digs Worms is a great second installment to a well-written and entertaining series.

I borrowed Marty McGuire Digs Worms from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat

NOTE ADDED 10/9/12: This book was nominated by Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE) for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks! 

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