Review / Clutch

FITZ_Clutch_Cover.FNL

Book: Clutch (2017)
Author: Heather Camlot
Genre: MG, Historical [Post-WWII]

Basic plot: With his father dead and his mother struggling to keep her store afloat, Joey tries to come up with ways to make money. And guess what? He’s pretty good at it! But then comes the dad of his best friend Ben; Mr. Wolfe promises to help Joey outwink, wink. (Not even Ben trusts his father-of-shady-repute. Don’t trust him, Joey!)

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Joey is such a little entrepreneur! I love all his plans. And he’s a pretty good brother to young David (a kid obsessed with Jackie Robinson). Every time Ben’s bad dad showed up, I wanted to chase him away and protect Joey.

2) I always love learning a bit of history I never knew before. This book sort of revolves around the time that baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, was playing in the minor leagues in Montreal, Canada. (Who knew he played in Montreal???) However, note that Jackie Robinson isn’t really a character in the story. Instead, the little brother David is the one obsessed with baseball.

3) There’s a sweet little romance between Joey and his “crush” Shelly. They’re both studying for their bar mitzvah (bat mitzvah for Shelly). I’m not super crazy about middle school romance, but this was handle just about right!

4) I like the different characters that Joey has to learn to trust (or not trust). Especially with regards to Mr. Wolfe and Dr. Richter.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Interestingly, with the baseball on the front cover, I expected a little more about the game. Fact: There isn’t a huge amount of baseball in this book. I think some readers who expect a lot about sports may be disappointed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

An interesting look at life in 1940s Montreal… A true coming-of-age story, you will be rooting for Joey… future businessman of the world. As long as he learns to stay away from trouble.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

 

Photo Challenge #3 / Wait Up

20201227ma_2317“Runaway Sled” / Theme: Wait Up⁠

A little about this photo…

You probably can’t quite tell, but that sled is running away and the chase is on! It was rather funny to watch. She did manage to catch up, eventually.⁠


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Review / Keep it Together, Keiko Carter

Keep it Together Keiko CarterBook: Keep it Together, Keiko Carter (2020)
Author: Debbi Michiko Florence
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Keiko is best friends with Audrey and Jenna. They decide to make it the goal of the new school year by getting boyfriends. But things become complicated when Jenna and Audrey fall for the same boy. And then Keiko has to deal with her first crush; the confusing behaviour of Audrey’s brother, Conner; her mom being perpetually gone; and just all-around trying to keep everything together…

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Keiko is best friends with two girls: Jenna and Audrey. I love this dynamic. Seeing the three girls interact at the beginning is wonderful. Of course, because it’s a book, there’s got to be some conflict to appear and it certainly does.

2) I loved the dog connection in this book! Conner’s dog, Lumpy, is such a fun addition. I just wish there had been more to the animal shelter part of the book. It might have been nice to have Keiko volunteer at the shelter, only to discover that Conner volunteered there as well! (And make it more awkward.)

3) The chocolate references throughout the book are fun. I like how Keiko makes her special spicy hot chocolate (such weird ingredients! I do wonder how it tastes) and how that fits in with the plot. Especially with regards to Audrey and Conner.

4) There was some great tension with the mom being gone all the time. And then, tying that into Jenna’s parents who just got a divorce. I liked how that all came to a head and got resolved.

5) I liked the scenes with the sister, Macy. Especially with her little secret that she’s keeping from Keiko. (Slight Spoiler) It’s theatre-related. (End Spoiler)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I didn’t really like the ending with regards to Audrey. I wanted a better, more satisfying ending. (Spoiler Alert!) Keiko ends up as Conner’s girlfriend, and I don’t see why Audrey doesn’t think this is a good thing. Keiko and Conner could get married and they’d be sisters!! Instead, Keiko chooses Conner over Audrey. I would have liked it if Audrey figured out that choosing doesn’t have to be a part of her world. (End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

A cute book about middle school dating. I’m not usually crazy about these types of books (I’d rather keep it at first crushes in middle school and save the dating for YA), but this one worked. I would recommend to young people who are looking for a little sweet romance!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

#MGTakesOnThursday / Lupe Wong Won’t Dance


Lupe Wong Won't DanceBook: Lupe Wong Won’t Dance (2020)
Author: Donna Barba Higuera
Publisher: Levine Querido
Genre: MG, Contemporary


This book in three words…

Baseball, Square Dancing, Determination

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“When the halls come into view, Andy, Niles and I exchange a glance. Extra crammed halls mean extra danger.”

My thoughts on this book…

This book is about a young “social justice warrior”, Lupe Wong. She loves baseball above all things, and when her uncle promises to let her meet the star pitcher of her favourite baseball team, she’s all in. Except, she’s got to get all A’s or else. No problem. But when her teacher sneaks in a square dancing unit in Phys.Ed, Lupe is in trouble. Square dancing isn’t even a sport, is it?

First, let’s talk about Lupe’s love of baseball. I loved the connection Lupe had with her dad (who’s dead). How she hears his voice in her head, giving advice on baseball, etc. It definitely helped me sympathize with her. Lupe’s such a firebrand that she is (at times) hard to like.

Now to the square dancing… I loved the scenes where (slight spoiler) she dances with an invisible partner! I am glad that she does give it a try, even after she tries so hard to get out of the whole thing at the beginning.

Personally, I kind of enjoyed our square dancing unit in middle school, and I’m not one for dancing, per se. I remember doing the Virginia Reel, which was pretty fun (and later reminded me of all the Jane Austen style dances). We also learned to line-dance! (Note: I don’t dance these days, but I also don’t really play sports either. Looking back, I’m glad I had to do both in school, even if wasn’t really my thing.)

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I’d recommend it for readers who like sports (especially baseball).

Please note: This book has a fair amount of potty-humour which I, personally, don’t need; but I can understand there are readers who enjoy that sort of thing!


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/12/31/mg-takes-on-thursday-27/

How to take part…

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Review / Real Friends and Best Friends

Real & Best FriendsBook: Real Friends (2017) & Best Friends (2019)
Author: Shannon Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel/Memoir

Basic plot: This is author Shannon Hale’s memoir about her awkward middle grade years. Set in the 1980s, Little Shannon struggles with growing up, and especially with the complicated nature of friendships. These two follow her life journey as she finds her place in the world… and the discovery that she’s a writer at heart. 

*Note: I’m reviewing two books for the price of one in this blogpost!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Normally, I save this for last, but I wanted to bring up the Author Notes at the end of the book. I really enjoy reading what’s true and what’s been changed for the story. (Note: Most character names have been changed!) As a memoir, the plot revolves around her memories of that time, which she stresses are from her POV. I love how she mentions a few things she wishes were different (like how she could have become friends with the younger girl in the hedge). Also, in the second book, it was fun to see that the fantasy-writing by Little Shannon are based on her real writing at that time!

2) The complicated nature of friendship in middle school is portrayed in all its awkward glory. Poor Little Shannon! Such a yo-yo ride where she’s friends sometimes and other times, not.

3) I loved how the sixth graders (Zara and Veronica) make friends with Shannon (in the first book). I think it’s so important to show that friendships can span different years. It was also great to see the older girls embrace Shannon’s creativity as they join in her imaginary-play games… Yes, even though as sixth-graders, they’re too cool for school.

4) The relationship with Wendy (the sister) is pretty intense at times. I’m glad that it gets worked out in the course of the books. And to know that things became much better in their adult years (via the Author Note). 

5) And that scene depicted on the cover of the second book! I felt for Shannon with regards to her fear of roller coasters. I too had a bad experience on a roller coaster. (Nobody told me I could close my eyes. At five years old, I did the whole ride with my eyes open! Note: Like Shannon, due to peer-pressure, I did go on roller coasters I was in high school (with eyes closed, because I learned that it’s okay to close your eyes!). However, in my 20s and 30s, I learned that I don’t need to put myself under such stress anymore for fear of trying to fit in with the crowd! Let others enjoy the roller coasters!)

6) I liked the little “notes” in front of each chapter. “Do you want to be best friends? (check one) Yes! No Maybe”. Cute! (And very middle-school.)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Since these books take place in the 1980s, there were a few historical references that popped in. And then they kind of popped out again because they didn’t really go anywhere. This felt a bit disjointed to me. For example: the reference to the Challenger tragedy. Perhaps this could have been better dealt with in a regular novel, but it seemed stilted in this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really did enjoy these two graphic novels! And I do think the graphic novel was the right way to go for this memoir. I would recommend the books to fans of Shannon Hale, but they’re also good to get a glimpse at how hard middle school can be… to know that you can get through those years.

Note: In many ways, this book reminded me of the Sunny graphic novel series by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Photo Challenge #1 / Letting Go

20201225ma_2218“Snowy Boots” / Theme: Letting Go

A little about this photo…

These boots got left outside overnight and ended getting a little bit… snowy. Somehow, this photo speaks to me of 2020 turning into 2021. The boots look like they’ve had quite the year, with the fresh snow representing a fresh start. As I was searching for the right prompt, I found the “Letting Go” prompt. Not that it’s hard to let go of 2020! I think we’re all ready to welcome the New Year!


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

My Top Reads… from 2020

I’ve decided to do two lists this year. My top ten favourite reads from this past year, plus the top ten book reviews I posted. You can click on the blue links to read my review from the year. (Please note: there are three books on this list that didn’t actually get reviews. But I had to include them since they deserve to be on the list.)

Which brings us to 20 Books for 2020!

My Favourite Books of 2020…

1) Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green // I think this is the book that surprised me the most. It’s gets the Number 1 position on my list!

2) Hope in the Mail by Wendelin Van Draanen // I don’t think I did a book review on this one, but I loved it! Number 2! I really need to do a book review. This one’s for writers.

3) The Well by Mildred D. Taylor // Very powerful book.

4) Treasures from the Attic by Mirjam Pressler // Another book that I need to write a review for. This is the story that surrounds Anne Frank’s story. Not necessarily for kids. I found this book fascinating.

5) I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted // Historical fiction set during the time of the Apollo 11 Moonlanding.

6) Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien // This one was written for adults. It’s a non-fiction book about the first women pilots, including, but not limited to Amelia Earhart. (I think Louise Thaden is my favourite!)

7) On the Horizon by Lois Lowry // Written in verse and set among the backdrop of World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

8) Until Niagara Falls by Jennifer Maruno // Historical fiction set in Niagara Falls!

9) Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar // I was glad to return to the classroom with Mrs. Jewls.

10) Ebb and Flow by Heather Smith // Another book that caught me by surprise. I really enjoyed this one. 

Top Book Reviews of 2020…

1) Notorious by Gordon Korman // A story about two kids who are trying to solve a mystery surrounding a dog with a “notorious” reputation.

2) Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer and Matthew Holm // Book Three in the graphic novel series about Sunny!

3) All of Me by Chris Baron // Very good book about body image; but also doing something about achieving a healthier weight.

4) The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart // I wasn’t sure this would be any good, but it’s a credit to the series!

5) The Ramona Books by Beverly Cleary // These books are still that good!

6) The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman // Wonderful book with a prince and pauper vibe to it.

7) It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas // Historical fiction set during the Iran Hostage Crisis.

8) Chloe in India by Kate Darnton // American transplant learns about living in India.

9) Mananaland by Pam Munoz Ryan // Fairy tale like quality with a Spanish flair.

10) Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green // This book snuck onto this list, making it the only book that gets a double listing!

I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge!

good-reads2020I always set my Goodreads Goal for 100 books, and it was no different for 2020. However, there was a time when I didn’t think I’d make it due to the library being closed for the pandemic in the spring. But I did it. 101 books for 2020. (Note: I don’t count picture books.)


What was your favourite book from 2020? Your favourite blogpost? Feel free to share links from your own blog, or somebody else’s… Let me know in the comments!

Review / Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

tyrannasaurus-wrecksBook: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (2020)
Series: FunJungle #6
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Genre: MG, Mystery

Basic plot: Teddy is back for another mystery, this time involving dinosaur bones discovered on a friend’s ranch. When the enormous T-Rex skull goes missing, Teddy’s friend turns to him. And of course, Summer. On top of a disappearing skull, there’s a new competitor for FunJungle called Snakes Alive! Teddy and Summer team up once more to figure out who’s legit and who’s shady. And things are never easy when Summer’s dad is one of the suspects. 

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved how Stuart Gibbs worked a T-Rex into this story! FunJungle is a series about a zoo-like amusement park. Who would have thought to bring in dinosaur bones? Summer’s dad, that’s who! Which gives us an archaeological dig! And also, the mystery when the skull goes missing…

2) Speaking of mysteries, there were some nice red herrings and misleads. But, when I think back, the clues are all there.

3) As always, Teddy remains a very likeable main character. And Summer, too. I like how they work together. In this book, they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. (More on that later.)

4) Another enjoyable part was the subplot… the angle on exotic pets. I am slightly horrified by people wanting to own snakes. *Shivers*. I will say that I particularly enjoyed reading the author’s note at the back about what’s legal and what’s not about owning exotic pets. *Shivers again*

5) It’s been awhile since I’ve read a FunJungle book. Actually, I think I’ve only read #1 and #2 of the series. (Which means I missed #3-5???) But, I didn’t find it too hard to pick up where I left off. The only major change was Teddy’s relationship to Summer. I recall it being an antagonistic partnership in the first books, something that’s now missing from the series now that they are boyfriend and girlfriend. (More on that later.)

6) Stuart Gibbs knows how to give us an exciting climax! The chase at the end is full of action and is completely centred on Teddy, our hero. (He even gets to drive! Every kid’s dream, right?)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Okay, about Teddy and Summer. I did not care for the fact that they are now boyfriend and girlfriend. (Could you guess that from my hints above?) I do like the enemies-to-lovers trope, but you can’t make them lovers if you’re going to continue the series! Where is the banter? The bickering? The tension between the two? All missing! (And Stuart Gibbs does that type of tension-filled banter quite well, especially in his Spy School books.)

2) There were some random characters that didn’t do much for the story… namely, some of Teddy’s friends from school. Not a huge deal, but I found them to be superfluous and actually ended up distracting me from the story itself. I had to go back and re-read some parts because of them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Another fun book from Stuart Gibbs to end off the year of 2020. Loved the dinosaur and snake angle on this one!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Photo Challenge #52 / By Candlelight

20201224ma_2192“Time for Bed” / Theme: By Candlelight

A little about this photo…

I’ve been saving this “By Candlelight” prompt for the end of the year. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I came up with this on Christmas Eve… I’m really happy with how it turned out. Even better than I expected!

P.S. Curious as to the book in my hand? Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. I just grabbed it from the shelf as I wanted something green to contrast with the red shawl. (Not sure you can tell it’s a green cover, but it is.) Happy Christmas! See you next year…


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek