A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of scientific information about the Arctic environment and climate change, plus the culture of the people native to the area.
Positive Role Models
Dr. Deerwin, Rafe's mom, and the adults living in the research community in the Arctic are all supportive and kind, and really want to help Rafe and Penelope do the work they're interested in. They forgive the kids' mistakes and focus on their intentions.
Rafe and Penelope, who are White, go on adventures with the Inuit kids they find in charge of the outpost. Inuit culture is a big focus here. Rafe's last name is Khatchadorian, so it seems he's of Armenian heritage, but that's not mentioned. Penelope's stutter is acknowledged but not something to dwell on.
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Violence & Scariness
Rafe and friends are sometimes in danger, but it's all lighthearted and doesn't seem serious.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Middle School Winter Blunderland, by James Patterson and Brian Sitts, is a slapstick, fast-paced tween adventure with strong messages about the effects of climate change. The premise -- a couple of middle schoolers and a scientist parent get a free trip to check in on an Arctic research center -- is a bit of a stretch, but then so are most of the adventures young Rafe, Penelope, and the Inuit kids they find in charge of the outpost go on, and it's still a lot of fun. Between tracking polar bears and trying to keep a whaling boat away, the kids learn a lot about climate science, Inuit culture, and basic survival. There are mentions of other books and series by Patterson, which feels a little unnecessary given the author's success, but the adventure is a fun, funny, and occasionally freezing read.
Is It Any Good?
James Patterson has found a working formula for tween adventures, and in this Arctic setting includes just the right mix of humor, heart, insecurity, danger, science, and luck. Middle School: Winter Blunderland puts climate change front and center, with lots of information about how it affects the wildlife and people in impacted regions. Rafe can't seem to do anything right on this trip, but his brain and heart are in the right place, and his adventures are gleefully fun to read. The mention of other Patterson books within the first few pages is distracting and feels too much like a sales pitch, but illustrations are delightful, the story moves fast, and the adventure is freezing fun.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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