Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills

The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants 
by Claudia Mills

Expected publication: Sept. 22nd 2015 
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
179 Pages
Realistic Fiction
Middle Grade
Review copy is an advanced readers copy provided by Blueslip Media.

Goodreads Summary
Science-obsessed fourth grader Nora has ants all figured out—now she just has to try to understand her fellow humans!

The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?

Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).

Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?

With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.

My Thoughts
Claudia Mills writes many fabulous books for early middle grades. I have read and enjoyed several in her Franklin School Friends series. Like that series, The Trouble with Ants (and likely the entire upcoming series) contains characters the reader gets to know well through their interactions and the author's descriptions. The characters are diverse and complement each other well. Readers may recognize Mason from Mills' Mason Dixon series. This book is a bit longer and "meatier" that the Franklin School series for student who are ready for a bit more of a challenge. 
Nora is an intelligent and delightfully quirky girl who is not afraid to proudly and publicly like what she likes. She loves science, but currently thinks ants are the most fascinating creatures and wants others to feel the same. She is a multifaceted character who also enjoys sports and is a great basketball player. This shows readers how it is possible to like something, but also have other talents and interests. 
Nora is also a bit socially awkward and is navigating the increasingly complex world of friendship. She is not what one would call "girly" and struggles to see the allure of cute cat videos and tea parties that seem to be capturing the interest of the clique of girls at school.  I think many middle graders will identify with Nora's difficulty with the confusing and increasingly strange social world of upper elementary school. 
When looking at the title, I thought that The Nora Notebooks would be "notebook style" books that are all written as though the character has written them. That is not the case. While there are a few interesting pieces of Nora's ant notebook scattered throughout, the book is written in third-person narration in a font size that will be comfortable to many readers.
Katie Kath's adorable black and white illustrations give the reader occasional images of the action. This will help readers who are beginning to read longer prose. The pictures are adorable and compliment the text beautifully. 
I would recommend The Nora Notebooks for students ready for a challenge in grade 2, but mostly for grades 3-5. 

Read what others are saying about The Nora Notebooks: Trouble with Ants.


  1. Thanks for the generous review, Gigi, and for all you do to connect books with readers!