Quick Pick Reviews #15

desirableDesirable // by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Genre: MG, Contemporary/Magical Realism (2008)

My Thoughts: This was a fun little book. And when I say little, I actually mean little. It was surprisingly short. Especially considering that the main character is in the eighth grade! I read it in a half-hour…

The story is about a boy named George who is anything but popular. He’s pretty much a loner and not even the other unpopular kids want to hang out with him. That is until his grandpa gives him a birthday gift of cologne called “Desirable”. Once he puts it on, suddenly everybody wants to be his best buddy… including the principal of his school.

I liked how it ended, but I didn’t quite see how it got to that place. [**SPOILER] With Danielle giving him the cologne. I didn’t see enough evidence that she even knew he had it in the first place. It would have been better if it had been a gift from his mum. [End Spoiler] That said, I still enjoyed this book! [3.5 Stars]


royal-giftA Royal Gift // by Marietta Moskin

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (1982)

My Thoughts: What an adorable book! This is the story of a Royal Wedding and two old ladies (sisters: Miss Agatha and Miss Prudence) who decide to give a gift to the prince and his bride. And the gift (with the twist at the end)… well, I won’t spoil it.

As a chapter book, there are gorgeous illustrations on every spread… some in black and white and others in colour. The whole book has a very old fashioned feeling to it. (Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is out of print! My copy came from my SIL and she got it from a library book sale. It’s a pity if it is out of print because the book and story are so beautiful.)

I really liked the author’s note at the end. She calls this story “one of those ‘it might be true’ type of stories.” Apparently, it made the rounds when the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and the Queen Mum) were married in 1923. [4 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

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

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Photo Challenge #37 / Sunshine

20190818ma_1542“Peeping Through the Cornstalks” / Theme: Sunshine

A little about this photo…

Wandering about in a corn maze, I looked up to see this… the sun peeping through.

You can tell this is the edge of the corn maze since you can see the trees on the other side. Fortunately, we had a “map” of sorts to help us through the maze. I’m glad it was day, though. I wouldn’t want to be there at night!


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: The Thing About Georgie

thing-about-georgieBook: The Thing About Georgie (2006)
Author: Lisa Graff
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: The thing about Georgie is that he’s in fourth grade and he’s… short. And he’s just trying to navigate life by trying to avoid Jeannie the Meanie, the news that his parents are having a baby, and his best friend becoming his not-so-best friend.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed Georgie as a character. I liked his personality. It was also interesting to read about a kid with has to deal with the reality of being a dwarf in our world.

2) I found his friendship struggles to be one of the best parts of the book. From dealing with Jeannie the Meanie, and even his friend Andy. Lots of misunderstandings. I felt for Georgie as he was trying to figure it all out.

3) I loved the Presidential plotline where the class has to do a group report. Georgie and his nemesis, Jeannie, get Lincoln, when what Georgie really wanted was George Washington. (While I like Lincoln, I also wasn’t too sure about the choice of this president. See below.)

4) There are these little short “handwritten” passages, usually at the beginning of a chapter, telling us what Georgie can and cannot do because of his dwarfism. I liked learning about a topic I don’t know a lot about. But what I really liked was the arc of that little storyline!

5) Georgie has some really nice growth in this book. (No pun intended.) I enjoyed watching him learn about life and about his friends and about himself. I liked Jeannie’s character arc as well.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wish Georgie had gotten a more obscure president for his report. Maybe this is because I know too much about Lincoln. In my classroom experience, he’s definitely one of the more popular presidents. I don’t know why other kids didn’t argue about being left with John Adams or Woodrow Wilson. I would have loved to learn a little more about a less-popular president, especially if it could be tied into Georgie’s theme.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – The thing about this book… I liked it! A good solid read which makes you want to root for Georgie!


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 #36 / Macro

20190813ma_1445“Ready for My Close-up” / Theme: Macro

A little about this photo…

There’s something about flowers that just beg you to get out the camera. “Take my picture!”.  A couple things caught my eye as I was taking this photo. First, there were the almost translucent petals. I love how the light is almost shining through them. And second, I love the little detail you see when doing macro photography. We don’t often pay attention to those tiny details.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Arcady’s Goal

archadys-goalBook: Arcady’s Goal (2014)
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Genre: MG, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: Arcady lives in an orphanage where his only hope lies in soccer and being the best. When Arcady is adopted by Ivan Ivanych, his new “father” starts coaching him and a bunch of other children for his soccer team… that is until the other fathers kick Ivan Ivanych off the team. Ivan Ivanych takes Arcady to get a letter to try out for the Red Army youth team. The problem lies in the fact that Arcady’s parents were declared “enemies of the state.”  Now it’s up to them to find a way to make Arcady’s goal…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Arcady is so hopeful in this! Always seeing the bright side of things. Which is interesting since the setting is the Soviet Union. Arcady could have been bitter about his parents being taken away, but he isn’t. As a trusting kid, he just accepts this happened and focuses on soccer.

2) Yelchin does a good job showing the confusion and betrayals that was the era of the Soviet Union. Arcady’s encounters a lot of things that should make him question what’s happening in his home country.

3) The story was a little slow in places. But it picked up for me with the re-introduction of a boy (Freckles) from Arcady’s soccer team. It was around this time that some of the other elements hinted at also became clearer.

4) I liked the little twist with Fireball, the guy in charge of getting Arcady a letter to try out for the Red Army youth team.

5) I do like the hopefulness that this story gives us. There’s was not a lot of hope in the Soviet Union during this time. But I like how this ending, although it is ambiguous, doesn’t end in despair.

6) One of my favourite lines is when Arcady asks (*SPOILER) Ivan Ivanych’s real name (End Spoiler). I thought that was a nice touch. Even if his new dad doesn’t give him the answer.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I didn’t like this book as much as Breaking Stalin’s Nose. (That book was a masterpiece! Which is why it got a Newbery Honor.) Maybe it was the slowness of this book? I’m not sure. I wasn’t as drawn to Arcady as I was to Sasha.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Kids who enjoy soccer will like this book. I like that the setting is the Soviet Union and applaud Yelchin for bringing to life a time period in history that isn’t often written about.


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 #35 / Hidden

20190822ma_2177“Peeking Through Trees” / Theme: Hidden

A little about this photo…

This is a shot from my recent cross-country train trip which included a route through Northern Ontario (north of Lake Superior). The view was gorgeous! Especially all these pockets of little lakes that we would glimpse through the trees as we zipped on by. I love how this one tree is hiding that tiny island in the background, and that there’s another island off to the right!


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Brave

braveBook: Brave (2017)
Author: Svetlana Chmakov
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel/Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Jensen’s prepared for anything… especially a zombie apocalypse. But he’s finding middle school hard to navigate. His solution is to try to avoid the bullies at all costs. When the school newspaper wants to interview him about that very topic, he freezes up. He doesn’t think he’s being bullied. But then he starts seeing bullying around him everywhere, including from his own “friends”. That’s when he decides it’s time to be brave and do something about it.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Jensen is a very likable protagonist. Even with his little quirks about sun spots. I love seeing him grow throughout the book and seeing his thought process. For example, his hatred of math and the “evil” math teacher goes through a nice arc.

2) I thought it interesting that the bullying in this story is not just confined to the “bully” characters. Even Jensen’s own “friends” display bullying. Not that they necessarily trying to be mean, but they very thoughtless. I loved the phrase that about a true friend is somebody who will save you a seat. (*SPOILER: Peppi–from the first book in this series– does exactly that. And at the end, Jensen himself approaches one of the bullies–now without his cohort–to offer to sit with him during lunch.)

3) I really liked Jorge, the baseball dude who ends up being Jensen’s project partner. I can’t believe Jensen ended up with such an awesome partner!

4) I enjoyed the math tutoring sessions. I liked how the author brought in one of the bullies to these scenes. And I thought it was good that she showed that Jensen’s grades didn’t improve right away.

5) At the end, Chmakov gives us a little author’s notes about sun spots. I almost wished had put this into the story itself, especially giving Jensen the discovery moment that the sun spots are not as life-threatening as he suspects.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I felt like this book came across as being a little too didactic on the subject of bullying. It just felt forced at times.

2) I really didn’t like Jenny. She’s the one who does the report on bullying, but she herself is a bully! I don’t think this was really dealt with and I wanted it to be addressed. She definitely has some serious anger-management problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Really enjoyed Jensen’s voice in this book. I’d recommend for middle-schoolers, especially those who like graphic novels.


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 #34 / Legacy

IMG_0291“Blue Skies on the Prairie” / Theme: Legacy

A little about this photo…

This is a grain elevator, an iconic symbol of the Canadian prairies. Not sure if this one is used or not. It still looks pretty good, so I’m assuming it is? I like how the red just pops out from the field of yellow (canola flowers) and that blue sky.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Photo Challenge #33 / The Great Outdoors

IMG_0387“Salt Lake at Sunset” / Theme: The Great Outdoors

A little about this photo…

This photo was taken at Manitou Beach in Saskatchewan. Little Manitou Lake is a salt lake. We didn’t actually go swimming in it on this visit since, when we arrived, because of the winds. We practically were blown away. This photo was taken in the calm after the storm.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Photo Challenge #32 / It’s Hot

IMG_0234“Tug-a-War” / Theme: It’s Hot

A little about this photo…

I saw these sculptures in a park. (This is just one in a series.) I absolutely loved the playful tone! I’m choosing “It’s Hot” for my prompt because, well, isn’t a game of tug-a-war perfect for a beautiful, hot summer day?


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek