Quick Pick Reviews #16

NOTE: I did a review of Brave by Svetlana Chmakova… which is actually the middle book in the series! So, I decided to do a combined quick pick review of Book #1 and #3. 🙂

awkwardAwkward // by Svetlana Chmakova

Genre: MG, Contemporary Graphic Novel (2015)

My Thoughts: Liked this first book in the series. Peppi has an adorable name! And personality. Particularly funny were all her attempts to avoid Jaime. Of course, he ends up being her science tutor! Cue the awkwardness. (One of my absolute favourite parts was when Chmakova puts little definitions of the word “awkward” = “this” with an illustration similar to the one of the cover the book!)

There’s a fun geocaching section. And I really like how the art and science clubs come together for the fair. What they create is out of this world! 😉

One of my favourite parts of these books is the design gallery at the end. Here Chmakova shows us various sketches and talks about the “making of” process she goes through for each book. [4 Stars]

CrushCrush // by Svetlana Chmakova

Genre: Upper MG, Contemporary Graphic Novel (2018)

My Thoughts: This is Jorge’s story. As I mentioned in my review of Brave, I loved Jorge, so I was glad to get a book devoted to him.

In this book, we get how Jorge is secretly crushing on Jazmine. The cover does a beautiful job conveying this. But it’s about more than that. We also have Jorge’s two friends: Olivia and Garrett. I really liked (painful as it was) the storyline that follows Garrett’s attempts to join the popular crowd and how he [*SPOILER] betrays Jorge in the process. [End Spoiler]

The one thing about this book is that it almost seemed older than the other books. I kept thinking that they were in high school. I checked. No, it’s middle school. Maybe it was the dance that seemed a little like “Prom” to me. (Although, I know there are dances in middle school.) [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

Photo Challenge #46 / Round

20190214ma_0308“Fence Detail” / Theme: Round

A little about this photo…

On one of my photo walks, I came across this fence. I immediately thought of the “Round” prompt on my list. Click! Got it.

I did take a few different angles, but I ended liking this one with the little dried berries framed in the one circle. I do like the reddish  tones that also somehow bring out the reddish rust in the fence.

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

Review: The Frightful First World War

Book: The Frightful First World War (1998)
Author: Terry Deary and Martin Brown
Genre: MG, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

frightful-first-world-warBasic plot: This is one of the books in the Horrible Histories series. The introduction puts it this way: “History can be horrible. So horrible that some boring old fogies think young people should not be told the whole, terrible truth… Of all the history in the world, the story of the First World War… is perhaps the most horrible… But it’s also a story of courage and craziness, brave people and batty people, friendships and fierce hatreds, love… and lice.”


1) The book gives the history of World War I in bite-sized chunks. Each year of the war (from 1914-1918) has its own little timeline.

2) It includes little games/quizzes. For example, in the 1915 section, they ask which of the following is true:

  1. British spies used girl guides to carry their messages (as long as the girls promised not to read said messages).
  2. An American spy (for the Germans) was arrested after his socks were tested and shown to have invisible ink on them.
  3. A German spy put up a poster offering £5 to anybody giving him info about the warships in Portsmouth.
  4. British spies were told that (when they were in Germany) if anybody took an interest in them, they would end up having to kill that person. “So don’t waste time. Do it.”

(The answer is of course provided in the book.)

3) The book is peppered with lots of cartoons to illustrate various events during the war. This is definitely one of the highlights… and will definitely appeal to the reluctant readers. (And non-reluctant readers like myself!)

4) I thought that the explanation about the causes of World War I was particularly easy to understand. Usually, all you get is that the Archduke was shot and thus began the war. But this book explains the whole history behind the assassination… beginning with the failed attempts and the final one that ended the Archduke’s life.


1) Some of the jokes are groaners! (But maybe you’ll think that’s cool.)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is definitely a fun read! I’d recommend it for anybody who has an interest in history; but it will also appeal to those who don’t. (And for those who don’t, they just might learn something about history!)


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 #45 / Under Water

20191108ma_2715“On the Creek Bed” / Theme: Under Water

A little about this photo…

I like how you can see under the water to the bottom of the creek. But I also like how you can also see all the reflections on the water… the leaves and even the sky peeking through. It all mingles so nicely together with the rocks and sand and dirt on the creek bed. And of course, the leaves floating on top of the water add their own little contribution to complete the photo.

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

Fall Reading Bingo Challenge / October


I’m back to Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge!

This month, I finished ten middle-grade books that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. And yes, I get to call out “Bingo!”

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.


  1. Because this is a #MGCarousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads. Find out more about #MGCarousel here.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during this month.

Here are my results…

‘Truth’ or ‘Dare’ in the Title

Double Dog Dare // by Lisa Graff

MG, Contemporary (2012)

double-dog-dareThis was a cute story about a girl (Francine) and a boy (Kansas) who get into a dare contest to see WHO will be the new anchorperson for the school announcements. She really wants; he doesn’t but is the kind of boy who can’t turn down a dare.

Most of the book was pretty silly. I really like how both kids are each struggling with their newly divorced parental situation. This is at the heart of the story and what makes the story worth the read. Most of the dares are pretty fun, but the solution was a little too obvious for me.  [3.5 stars]

Title Starts with ‘O’

The Other Half of my Heart // by Sundee T. Frazier

MG, Contemporary (2010)

other-half-heartThis book is about bi-racial twins. One of them is black and the other is white. And when their grandmother enters them in the Miss Black Pearl beauty pageant… cue the drama.

For the most part, the story is told through Minni’s eyes (the white twin). I loved how the author dealt with how she portrayed the two sisters, the love and connection they have with each other. As tensions in the book rise, Minni starts to question her place in the world. Is she black? Is she white? She has some good conversations with her grandmother’s neighbour, Dr. Oliphant (probably one of my favourite characters in the book!) [4 stars]

A Book You Own

A Bear Called Paddington // by Michael Bond

MG, Classic (1958)

paddington-bookOne of my favourite books from my childhood. Paddington is adorable. I like how he just fits right in with the Brown family. And I love his relationship with Mr. Gruber! How they share elevensies together. And Mr. Curry! Arrgh! The ultimate mean next-door neighbour.

I remember as a kid not even questioning the fact that a bear could come and live in a family.  [5 stars]


Fairy Mom and Me // by Sophie Kinsella

MG, Magical Realism (2018)

fairy-momCute story about a girl and her mom who is a great mom, but she’s not very good at being a fairy. The book is very episodic. In one of their adventures, Ella wants to bake cupcakes, but Fairy Mom’s Computawand doesn’t quite work the way she intends. Enter Zoe, the next-door neighbour who gives Ella trouble. But, don’t worry, all ends well. And Ella ends up with a delicious batch of cupcakes. (I just won’t tell you how that happens.)  [3 stars]

Secret in the Title

The Perfect Secret // by Rob Buyea

MG, Contemporary

perfect-secretFrom the author of Because of Mr. Terupt… Here’s another group of middle-school kids, each of them telling their version of the events in their lives. I did not realize that this was a sequel to another book, so I didn’t already know the characters. This left me a wee bit confused over what was happening, especially at the beginning of the book.

This book did have some good parts. I particularly liked the storyline belonging to Scott, aka “Junior, the stats man” and Coach (who isn’t really their coach but lives at the Senior Center). And the relationship between Gavin and his little sister is sweet.  [3 stars]

Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • An Only Child // Absolutely Almost // by Lisa Graff
    • Magicians // Nothing Up My Sleeve // by Diana Lopez
    • Pick Your Prompt / A 5-Star Book // Birdie // by Eileen Spinelli
    • Gate on the Cover // Mysterious Benedict Society // by Trenton Lee Stewart
    • A Retelling // Once Upon a Toad // by Heather Vogel Frederick

Final Thoughts…

October Bingo: Complete! Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought of them.

For November’s challenge, go to https://elymnifoquent.com

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

Photo Challenge #44 / Feet

20191020ma_2570“Octoberfest Dancing Feet” / Theme: Feet

A little about this photo…

I know it’s November, so I’m going back a week or so with this photo from Octoberfest. These feet belong to the children’s dance group. Here they are performing a dance called The Miller’s Dance (Mühlradl)… which is why the boys have these white sheets around their middle covering up their lederhosen. The kids dance a series of circles that (I think) are supposed to mimic the big wheel at a grist mill.

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

Halloweensie Contest

Another writing contest… This one is for Halloween and is put on by Susanna Hill. The rules for this one are: 1) stories must be 100 words or less; and 2) stories must include the words potion, cobweb, and trick.

My story is called “Not That House” and comes in at just 99 words. (Note: The photo below is mine. I took this photo back in 2016 and thought it evoked the house in the story.)



by Maria Antonia

Word Count: 99

See that house? Let’s never going there for trick or treat.

A witch lives there.

See the cobwebs? That means she has spiders for pets. And rats, too, I’ll bet.

I just know she spends all day making potions in a deep, dark cauldron. Even if we can’t see her. That’s ‘cause she likes to walk around… invisible.

Wait! What are you doing? Don’t press that—

Ding dong.

“Why, Amanda Barnes! What a nice surprise.”

“Oh! Hi, Mrs. Webster.”

“Aren’t you and your little friend adorable. Here. Take some nice tasty treats.”

“Um, thanks.”

“See you in class tomorrow!”


Review: Nothing Up My Sleeve

nothing-up-sleeveBook: Nothing Up My Sleeve (2016)
Author: Diana Lopez
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Three boysZ, Dominic, and Loop—enter the world of competitive magicians when they happen upon a Magic Shop.  Naturally competitive, the three friends start to turn on each other when their various magic props get sabotaged. On top of everything, each boy has to deal with some sort of trouble at home, whether it’s dealing with divorce or the fact that their parents don’t have the money to pay the entry fee to the competition to a perceived betrayal by a parent. It’s only when they realize that they need to band together and help each other out to succeed.


1) The magic tricks were pretty cool in this book. Lopez gives us enough of a taste of the tricks each boy learns without revealing too much of how it’s done. (A magician never reveals his/her secrets!)

2) I liked the arc for Ariel… How she gets the boys to compete against each other. Her part got even better once we met Stewart as the guy to beat! I’m not sure how she would have done it, but I felt Lopez almost needed to introduce that kid sooner.

3) Mr. Garza (aka Senor Surprise) hands out a lot of wisdom, but not in a way that’s intrusive. I like how he uses tricks to help the boys with their problems at home. And even though he gives advice, each boy comes up with his own solution to fix the problem.

4) This book made me go google some of the magic tricks it talked about! The French Drop, among others! Fun to see the tricks in action. 🙂

5) I enjoyed reading the little definitions of “magic” terms that precede each chapter. Most terms I already knew, but some were new to me.

6) I’m glad that the boys [*SPOILER] did not win the big competition, considering that they were still pretty green. I’m also glad that Stewart did not win either! [End Spoiler]


1) I kept getting confused with which boy was which! We were following three of them, and even by the end of the book, I was getting confused with Loop vs. Dominic vs. Z.


My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – Definitely would recommend this book to any kids who want to learn magic tricks. I do have an interest in it, but I am pretty hopeless when it comes to performing these sorts of trick. But maybe that’s because I don’t practice enough! 🙂


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 #43 / Pick a Colour

20191025ma_2659“Autumn Colours” / Theme: Pick a Colour

A little about this photo…

Every year, the leaves lose their green and turn different shades. This year, it seems like pretty much every tree has decided unanimously to pick the colour yellow. I’m always hoping for oranges and reds to mix things up a bit. But alas… it’s yellow.

Still, yellow is a pretty colour, don’t you think?

(By the way, that spire belongs to a church in my neck of the woods. You may recognize it from the photo I chose to go with the announcement of this year’s prompts. I think it’s so pretty. Like it belongs in a fairy tale!)

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

Review: Birdie

BirdieBook: Birdie (2019)
Author: Eileen Spinelli
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic plot: Birdie and her mom are living with Birdie’s grandmother Maymee after the death of Birdie’s dad. But suddenly, love birds are everywhere: Maymee, her mom, and even her best friends. Birdie is having all sorts of trouble, yet when she embraces some of this change, she finds that maybe it’s not as bad as she feared.


1) I loved Birdie! I loved her voice, her character arc, everything about this book.

2) Birdie’s Maymee is adorable. At first, she’s obsessed with dying (picking out her coffin and all that). But then, that all turns around when a certain somebody shows up in town. I love how this whole Romeo and Juliet scene happens in church as the pastor is reading from the Bible. Everything halts and the “chapter” ends with: “Pastor Carey smiles. ‘May I resume the reading now?'”

3) I like the themes of this book… of loss and death and even the changing relationships of friends. We have the love stories of the grown-ups mirroring those of the young middle-schoolers. Spinelli weaves all this together.

4) The resolution with the relationship between Birdie and Officer Downey was particularly poignant. I love how she goes from completely rejecting him to the scene at the cemetery.

5) The cover is adorable.


1) Nada.


My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I absolutely loved this book. I’m not always a fan of books written in poetry, but Eileen Spinelli (in addition to Sharon Creech) is one author where this works for me.


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