ARC Review: The Phoenix and the Carpet

phoenix-and-carpet

Book: The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
Author: E. Nesbit
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Rating: 5 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: The five children from Five Children and It are back! This time their magical adventures come in the form of a Phoenix and a flying carpet. And there may (or may not) be a special guest appearance by everybody’s favourite Psammead!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s not often that the sequel is as good as the original, but this book is the exception to the rule. We get more great magical adventures featuring Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Robert. And of course, the Lamb. How can you forget the Lamb!

2) I love the chatty Phoenix, so different from the grumpy Psammead from the first book. Also, the Carpet’s a nice, silent, companionable foil. Love how that works into the plot at the end of the story.

One of my favourite lines in the book:

“Then we’ve lost the treasure,” said Cyril.

And they had.

“But we’ve got the carpet and the Phoenix,” said Anthea.

“Excuse me,” said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, “I do so hate to seem to interfere, but surely you must mean the Phoenix and the carpet?”

(The Second Chapter)

3) E. Nesbit is the queen of magical realism. The magic always has a bit of a twist or causes some sort problem for the children. I love how that works. (Even though it’s rather frustrating to the children!) It makes for a great story.

4) I love how the kids work together and bicker and tease. I love their adventurous natures.

5) My favourite episode is probably the chapters that involve the Topless Tower. (Treasure. Towers. What more could you ask for?) Although the bit with the Burglar near the end is also hilarious!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Can’t think of anything to put here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – This is a wonderful, magical tale. And it still holds magic even though the story was originally published over 100 years ago. This makes a great re-aloud.

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5 Reasons Why I Liked Winnie’s Great War

Here’s a book that I hoped I would like that actually lived up to expectations. While it’s written for the MG crowd, it’s definitely meant for more than just kids.

And yes, I think I’ll give this book 5 Stars!

Here are my 5 reasons why I loved this book…

Winnie’s Great War // by Lindsay Mattick & Josh Greenhut

Winnies-great-war#1 – Winnie!

What a delightful bear! She’s so curious and kind. I love how she’s able to speak to all the animals and how the authors relate this to the Great War itself. This could be heavy-handed, but it’s not. It’s just right.

The part of the book that describes her antics at sea is cute! And I especially liked the story when Harry makes a bet. He bets the general that Winnie can find a hidden sock at their training facilities in England. Does Winnie win Harry’s bet? I’m not telling!

#2 – The Illustrations

The illustrations by Sophie Blackall are enchanting. I wish there were more of them! Especially as this is a book I could see reading to kids. They’re all black and white sketches. There are some delightful full-page spreads… Of Winnie at the train station when she first meets Harry; of Winnie and Harry at Stonehenge; of Winnie when she first comes to the zoo.

#3 – The History

I love history. So, I loved all the history in this book. World War I has always fascinated me, so I definitely liked reading about that aspect of it. It’s not heavily about the war since Winnie doesn’t actually experience life in the trenches. (There’s a moment where Harry realizes what that would mean, and so he makes the very hard decision to leave Winnie in the care of the London Zoo.)

There’s also the history of Winnie, herself… and how she came to inspire one of the most famous fictional bears in history! There’s a section at the back of the book that has pictures of Harry and of the diary entry where he notes that he bought Winnie for $20. There’s also a photo of Christopher Robin Milne standing next to the real Winnie at the zoo! Oh, my… they really did let people into the enclosure with a bear!

Note: One of the authors (and the narrator of the story) is Lindsay Mattick who is Harry Colebourne’s great-granddaughter.

#4 – The Inter-Narrations

I really enjoyed when the mom (who’s telling the story to her son) gives us a little taste of what’s true in the story!

These little interjections are set apart in italics. Sometimes Cole (the son) will interrupt his mom’s story to ask about something. I liked how the book was able to deal with some of the tougher issues using this device.

#5 – The Literary Allusions to A.A. Milne’s Classic

Reading this book includes the wonderful experience of finding little Easter eggs that allude to A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! But I’m glad they’re not over-done. In fact, some people may not even notice them. If you love Pooh Bear, they’re subtle, but they’re there. (And yes, as soon as I finished this book, I just had re-read Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh!)


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? Did you love it as much as me? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Challenge #45 / Fall Colours

20181108ma_5979“Hanging on the Line to Dry” / Theme: Fall Colours

A little about this photo…

I’ve been puzzling over how to do this prompt. I’ve taken a bunch of photos of the colourful leaves on trees, but nothing stands out as Wow! So I started collecting some individual leaves. That’s when I got inspired by a pic I saw online and thought it had just the playful vibe I wanted. And it shows Fall Colours quite nicely.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Books About the First World War

20170527ma_1345

Did you know?

This year marks 100 years after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Wow! Has it really been that long ago?

I came across two books about World War I this year. I didn’t seek them out on purpose. But then somebody mentioned the anniversary was coming up. I started to think of all the World War I books I’ve read or studied. To be honest, there aren’t that many. I’m not even sure I’ve read All Quiet on the Western Front, which is probably one of the most famous books about World War I. I know I’ve seen the movie, and it’s been part of any discussion I’ve had when it comes to literature about the Great War.

So, here are some books that I’ve read this year…


The Button War // by Avi

button-warMG, Historical Fiction (2018)

This book deals with some very troubling aspects of war. It centers around a group of boys who are collecting buttons from the various soldiers coming through their village in Poland. Whoever finds the BEST button will be king! (One of the boys reminded me of Jack in Lord of the Flies. The main character was more of a Ralph character.)

The book is very interesting on the historical side of things, and I would recommend this to anybody who wants to read something something a little different about World War I. While it’s written for kids, it’s definitely meant for a more mature reader as it deals with death. Yes, there’s a lot of death in this book. [4 stars]

You can read my full review here.


Silent in an Evil Time: The Brave War of Edith Cavell // by Jack Batten

silent-in-an-evil-timeChildren’s Non-Fiction / Biography (2007)

Going into this book, all I really knew was Cavell’s famous quote: “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness to anyone.” That, and I knew she was a nurse. (Oh, and I also knew about how her story ends, but I won’t spoil this if you don’t know her story.)

First, let me say that when I was a child, I had a hyper-fascination with Florence Nightingale. This is the Florence Nightingale of Belgium (even though, like Nightingale, she’s actually British) and of the First World War. And then, she’s also a spy!

Yet, such an unassuming spy who hide British and French soldiers from the German invaders. Again, this book is also for more mature readers. [4 stars]


Winnie’s Great War // by Lindsay Mattick & Josh Greenhut

Winnies-great-warMG,  Historical Fiction (2018)

This book doesn’t have too much of what it was like in the trenches during the war. Rather, it focuses on Winnie, the black bear who became the mascot of the Canadian cavalry regiment as they trained for trench warfare. Since she doesn’t actually head over to France, we get to follow her to her new home at the London Zoo. And of course, we get to meet the famous Christopher Robin who calls his own bear after her: Winnie-the-Pooh. I loved this book!! [5 stars]

Full review coming soon!


tortoise-and-soldierThe Tortoise and the Soldier // by Michael Foreman

MG, Historical Fiction (2016)

This was an interesting book. It’s about an young, aspiring newspaper reporter who comes into contact with a World War I veteran named Henry and his pet tortoise, Ali Pasha. Every Sunday, Trevor gets more of Henry’s story… About how he joined the British Navy and eventually rescued the tortoise during a battle.

The book is told through diary entries, as well as through Henry telling his story. This is one book about World War I that doesn’t focus on the Western Front!

Bonus points to this book for being about a REAL guy named Henry and his REAL tortoise, Ali Pasha! [3.5 stars]


Rilla of Ingleside // by L.M. Montgomery

Rilla_of_InglesideYA, Coming of Age (1921)

This is one of my favourite novels, period. It’s set on the Canadian homefront during World War I. Part of what makes this book so wonderful is that it was written and published so close to the events of the war! (No historical anachronisms in this book!)

For fans of Anne of Green Gables, this is the story of Anne’s young daughter. She’s only 14 (almost 15!) at the beginning of the war. One by one, she and the ladies of the house watch brothers, sons, and friends go off to war. They’ll be home by Christmas! Of course, the war lasts a whole lot longer than that.

This book focuses on what it’s like to grow up and come of age under the shadow of wartime. Like all those who were on the Canadian homefront, Rilla must rally and find out what she can do help the war effort. This isn’t always easy, especially when she’s happens upon a poor orphaned war-baby… [5 stars!]


YOUR TURN…

Have you read any of these books? Are there other WWI books that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review: Squint

SquintSquint // by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: MG, Contemporary

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: Squint has problems with his eyesight… but he isn’t letting that stop him from creating a comic for a contest. Except then his former friend plants the seeds of doubt. When he meets McKell, he’s introduced to her brother’s challenges, which is something that just might give him that lift to finish what he started.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved Squint. I definitely felt for him and his insecurities as he navigated through the rough waters of middle school. I was rooting for him the entire book.

2) The Danny subplot was really good, and I liked how it merged with Squint’s story. The authors were able to capture the hurt and emotion necessary to make this work. And yes, I cried at several parts in the book! And there’s a twist with regards to Danny and Squint’s eyes that I didn’t see coming…

3) I loved all the discoveries and the twists. I saw some of them coming, but there were others that I didn’t anticipate. However, once I read those parts I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before!

4) I enjoyed how the comic (the story-within-a-story) worked with Squint’s real life. It was nice to see how Squint took the events of his world and worked them into his comic world.

5) The little “Rules” that Squint scattered throughout were a great addition to the story.

6) Also, what a roller coaster of emotions this book was! There’s a great scene with Squint and his grandfather. And then there’s McKell. There’s a stunning moment when Squint begins to wonder if he’s just an item for McKell to tick off her challenge-list. I liked how this book shows that friendship isn’t always easy.

7) And I liked how things don’t exactly work out in the most ideal way… that things aren’t perfect by the end of the book. And I think that is part of this book’s power. (Not that this story doesn’t have a satisfactory ending, but it’s more a realistic/happy ending.)

8) Love that book cover!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) While I liked the story-within-a-story, I did find was a skipping some of it a bit. I wonder if I would have liked it more IF it were actually the comic itself?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I don’t often give 5 starts. But this is probably one of the best MG reads I’ve read this year. Highly recommend it! 🙂

Photo Challenge #44 / Look Up

20180928ma_5331“Starry Sky” / Theme: Look Up

A little about this photo…

This is the Great Hall, located in Queens, NY. It was constructed for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Housed in the Hall of Science, its theme was Rendezvous in Space… hence the blue glass that makes up the walls of this giant room. And it really is a giant room (something you can’t quite grasp from the photo). During the World’s Fair, the exhibit featured Frank Capra’s final film projected onto a suspended screen. Apparently, when the film ended, two space modules performed a docking maneuver overhead!

I have two photos and I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. So I decided to put the second one below…

20180928ma_5335


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Autumn Reading Bingo Challenge / October

mgc-bingo-oct2018Once again Middle Grade Carousel hosted a Reading Bingo challenge. Again, I wasn’t sure if I’d participate this month. However, since I normally read MG anyway, I decided to try for a bingo. This month, I finished twelve middle grade books.

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.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  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 June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*The Second Book in a Series

12 Before 13 // by Lisa Greenwald

12-before-13MG, Contemporary (2018)

A cute story about these two friends who make a list of things to do before their thirteenth birthdays. I didn’t know it was a sequel to another book when I picked it up. The series is called The Friendship List. But I found this book worked well as a stand-alone. The author does reference the first book a bit (apparently they had a similar, but different, list of things to do before their twelfth birthdays.) [3.5 stars]


*Candy in the Title

Candy Bomber // by Michael O. Tunnell

candy-bomberMG, Non-fiction (2010)

This book is non-fiction. The subtitle is The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”. I found this very interesting since I haven’t read much about the Berlin Airlift. In addition to the food, fuel, and medical supplies that were flown into West Berlin in 1948-49, one pilot decided to bring candy for the children. Lt. Gail Halvorsen would wiggle his wings as he flew into the city. That was the signal for the children to look up. Packages of candy would float down with tiny white parachutes.

This book is for anybody who loves history, and WWII in particular. The book has lots of photos, plus copies of some of the many thank-you letters Halvorsen received from the German children.  [4 stars]


*A Book about Cryptids

Flight of the Phoenix // by R. L. LaFever

flight-of-phoenixLower MG, Magical Realism (2010)

This is Book One of a series called Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist. Poor Nate finds himself an orphan and in the care of a relative who has dodo birds living in the house! And then his aunt reveals the nature of their family business, which includes protecting a phoenix who’s about to be born from the ashes. However, when Aunt Phil is taken hostage by a Bedouin tribe, it’s up to the unadventurous Nate to make sure the phoenix will take flight. Cute story. Loved Nate and the gremlin, too! [3.5 stars]


*Historical

Winnie’s Great War // by Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut

Winnies-great-warMG, Historical Fiction (2018)

I loved this book! First of all, it’s the true story behind the real Winnie-the-Pooh. Named for the city of Winnipeg, Winnie was an orphan black bear that crossed the Atlantic with the Canadian troops during the First World War. Since she was just a baby, she became their mascot. This book chronicles her voyage, her shenanigans, and how she was eventually taken to live in the London Zoo… which is where, of course, a real little boy named Christopher Robin came to visit with his dad. [5 stars]

A full review is coming soon!


*A Book Recommended to You

Nerd Camp // by Elissa Brent Weissman

camp-nerdMG, Contemporary (2011)

I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended by a fellow book blogger. Yay for good recommendations! This is a fun little romp of a book that follows Gabe, a kid who struggles with the idea of being too nerdy, especially in the eyes of his new step-brother. [4 stars]

You can read my full review here.


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Title Starts with T // The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet // by Erin Dionne
    • A Book About Witches // The Land of Stories: Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales // by Chris Colfer
    • Magical Realism // Time Garden // by Edward Eager
    • Author Who is New to You // Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job // by Willo Davis Roberts
    • A Book Found at a Thrift Store // Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle // by Betty MacDonald
    • House on the Cover // The Spy Code Caper // by Susan Pearson
    • A Book About Heroes // Silent in an Evil Time // by Jack Batton

Final Thoughts…

October Bingo is complete!

Quick Pick Reviews #10

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle // by Betty MacDonald (1957)

Genre: MG, Magical Realism

hello-mrs.-piggle-wiggleMy Thoughts: I love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I love reading about her cures for unruly, unhappy, and unfortunate children. I just happened upon this book at a used book sale and picked it up for a bargain. This is the fourth book in the series and I don’t know if I’ve actually read this one before now. I don’t recall any of the stories.

I do think the stories in the first books are slightly better than these ones. There’s definitely a formula in MacDonald’s writing and I can imagine she was starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it came to writing this one. Still, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle at her worst is still worth the read!

It’s always fun to see the creativity for how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will solve the problem at hand. The final story is, I think, my favourite in the book. It ends with, not only the original child getting a change of attitude… but the whole family! [3.5 Stars]


The Land of Stories: Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales // by Chris Colfer (2016)

Genre: MG, Fairy Tales

treasury-classic-fairy-talesMy Thoughts: I’ve never read the Land of Stories series before. I’m guessing they’re books that retell fairy tales, which means they probably give their own spin to the original stories. One thing I’ve noticed with such books, they don’t mean much if you aren’t familiar with the original accounts. So, my guess is meant to remedy to that… By giving us the famous fairy tales and folk tales like: Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks, etc. (Each tale does mention whether it was based on the Grimm Brothers’ retelling or Hans Christian Andersen’s story or whatever.)

Most of the stories were exactly what I remember them to be, which was nice. However, there were a few little things that bothered me. I don’t understand why the author changed some strange details. Now, it’s possible that I don’t remember these details… like Rapunzel having a child during the time when she’s parted from the prince (before he finds her after he’s blinded). (What?! Why?! What is purpose of this baby?!) Or there are some little details that he got wrong, like when Snow White’s mother pricks her finger on a knitting needle. Does the author even know what a knitting needle is? No knitting needle I’ve ever seen is so sharp as to draw three drops of blood?

But those things weren’t major and overall I did enjoy the stories! [3.5 stars]


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

5 Reasons Why I Shouldn’t Like Nancy Drew… But I Do!

20181025ma_5554**WARNING: I do not recommend reading this blog post if you’re actually in the target audience for Nancy Drew. (Although, do kids age 10-12 even read blog posts like this?)**

I’m going to do a little twist on my 5 Reasons posts. Let me say this first: I love Nancy Drew! I devoured these books when I was a pre-teen. I loved Nancy’s confidence and independence. I loved the friendship of Bess and George and how they’re always there for Nancy. I love Ned and how he was able to add that little bit of romance to the stories. And I loved the mysteries.

But…

I’ve been rereading some of those mysteries and I realize that… well, they are not the great literature I once thought they were. Reading them through the eyes of an adult… well, if they weren’t filled with nostalgia, I’d probably DNF pretty quickly.

But…

I will still recommend these books to young people. And I have actually recommended these books to young people. Why? Because there’s something in Nancy Drew that transcends the “badness” of the books. So, before I go on, let me tell you what I mean about badness…

1) Nancy Drew, meet Mary Sue

(This point even rhymes!)

If you don’t know what a Mary Sue is… she’s basically perfect in every way. Wait! Take out the basically. Mary Sues are perfect. No flaws. Period.

“Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,” thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. “Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet – only fifteen and a half years old.”  This is from a parody of a Star Trek fanfic story. And it’s where we get the name Mary Sue. (This Mary Sue is so Mary Sue-ish that she manages to impress Spock with her flawless logic.)

But as you will see, the Mary Sue trope happened long before with another character. You got it: Nancy Drew.

Now, to be strictly true to the definition, a Mary Sue is also a character that wows canon characters that have come before her (or him, since a Mary Sue can also be male). Okay, so the Nancy Drew mysteries don’t quite do this. It’s not like Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple or Father Brown pop in to be impressed by Nancy’s sleuthing skills. (This isn’t fan fic!) But Mr. Carson Drew is a good stand-in. He’s always described as the best lawyer in River Heights… which is somehow connected to him solving mysteries himself (I guess, legal mysteries?) And yes, Mr. Drew is certainly impressed with the skills of his 18-year-old daughter.

Consider Book #10 – Password to Larkspur Lane – Nancy wins first prize for a flower arrangement. (Actually, this part of the plot is not necessary to the actual story!) Why does she have to WIN?

2) The Writing is Kind of… (Ahem) Bad

Yikes! I hate to say this, but the writing is actually quite bad. There is no subtext. No subtlety. And there are way too many adverbs. Here, I’ll give you an example:

Nancy did not reply immediately, but her chums noticed that she appeared to scan the woods searchingly.

“You don’t really think he might be hiding along this road, do you?” Bess demanded anxiously.

#7 – The Clue in the Diary (Chapter XIV, 1931 edition)

Talk about unnecessary adverbs: Searchingly? Really? How else would you scan the woods?? And Bess’s remark is already tinged with anxiety, you don’t need to tell us that!

3) Full of Coincidence

Nancy has more luck than a leprechaun. Clues just fall into her lap! Let’s go again with Book #10 – Password to Larkspur Lane. A homing pigeon JUST HAPPENS to fall into the yard at the Drews’ home. Nancy just happens to know that there’s a special organization that you call if a homing pigeon were ever to fall into your lap. She just happens to see Dr. Spire being “kidnapped”. Then Hannah Gruen just happens to have a fall going down the stairs so that they need to go to the doctor’s house to have her checked out. And while they’re there, Nancy just happens to take a phone call, which just happens to have a similar message to the message found on the homing pigeon. Need I go on?

That’s A LOT of coincidence. A little too much.

And here’s the thing that I love. The author knows this. I love how she (he, actually, since the ghostwriter on this book was Walter Karig) makes Nancy say: “This mystery just dropped into my lap.” 😉

4) Events Don’t Flow from One Book to the Next

In #16 – The Clue of the Tapping Heels, Nancy learns Morse code and tap dancing. But neither of these ever come into any of the other books… at least, not that I can remember.

It’s kind of like each book re-sets at the end. This is probably due to the many different writers who wrote under the pen name Carolyn Keene. Also, it means that the books can be read out of order. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing!)

However, the result of this is that there is no growth for Nancy or any of her pals from book to book.

(One slight exception to this rule may be the character Helen. She appears in the early books and her big change is the fact that she gets married. But she soon disappears from the books after this happens.)

5) Not Very Realistic

Nancy is 18 and she drives around in her convertible (or roadster, depending on when you read the books). She doesn’t have a job. She isn’t going to school.

And she’s ALWAYS 18! Meaning, she must solve at least one mystery a week for us to get to 52 books for the year. (And no, the series doesn’t stop at 52). Rarely do we ever (do we ever?) get holidays or winter or anything like that.

How is this even possible?!


Final Thoughts

So, yeah. There you have it. Five perfectly good reasons why I shouldn’t like Nancy Drew. And yet, I do. I love the Nancy Drew books in spite of these failings. (And even now, I love them for these failings.)

P.S. The photo that accompanies this blog post is of my first Nancy Drew book. #16! It was given to me by a friend for my eleventh birthday. It was my introduction to the world of Nancy Drew!