Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / March

mgc-bingo-mar2020

Once again, it’s time for another round of Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge! I finished SEVEN middle-grade books from the challenge this month! (Not bad.)

However, for the first time, I did NOT get a Bingo. 😦 Oh, well. At least I have the excuse that the libraries are closed.

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 #MGCarousel 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 this month.

Here are my results…


Middle-Grade Books I Finished this Month…

  • A Horse on the Cover // Riding Freedom // by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Blue Cover // The Whipping Boy // by Sid Fleischman
  • Graphic Novel // All’s Faire in Middle School // by Victoria Jamieson
  • Title has Five Words // As Simple as it Seems // by Sarah Weeks
  • Pick Your Prompt / A Bike on the Cover // Just My Luck // by Cammie McGovern
  • Set During a Holiday // The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue // by Karina Yan Glaser
  • Title has One Word // Notorious // by Gordon Korman

Final Thoughts…

March Bingo: So close! Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought of them.

For the next bingo challenge, go to https://elymnifoquent.com

Review: Notorious

notoriousBook: Notorious (2020)
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Keenan goes to recuperate from tuberculosis at his dad’s house on an island that is split between the United States and Canada. That’s when he meets ZeeBee (who lives on the Canadian side). She’s obsessed with the history of prohibition-era smuggling. She’s also convinced that her beloved dog, Barney, was murdered. At first, Keenan doesn’t know what to think about her and her suspicions. But then he starts to think she’s on to something…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the history about gangsters on the island! I’m not sure I’d want to be mixed up with real-life gangsters, but they’re fun to read about. And ZeeBee is a fount of knowledge.

(That said, from what I can tell, Centerlight Island isn’t a real place. There IS an island in the middle of the St. Clair River. However, Stag Island is a private island and belongs to Canada.)

2) Barney Two was adorable. This is the dog that ZeeBee’s parents get to replace the dead Barney. ZeeBee can’t stand him because he’s so different from her former pet. I do like how Barney Two works his way into the plot.

3) It was fun to see the little Canadian vs. American differences… including the name of the island. ZeeBee calls it Centrelight. Keenan calls it Centerlight. I do find it interesting that they both use the metric system for measuring, but that might be because Keenan was schooled overseas??

4) I liked how Keenan and ZeeBee’s friendship develops throughout the book. It was nice to see the ups and downs.

5) The mystery is also quite fun. There are enough clues to figure it out whodunit, but it’s not super obvious.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I will say I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know what was true/untrue in this book… especially with regards to the island. There’s no author’s note to explain anything, so I found that a bit annoying. Especially since there is history involved in the story.

2) I do not understand why Barney (the first dog who’s dead) was even allowed to terrorize the island in the first place. Just the realist in my raising my hand.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – If you like Gordon Korman books, you’re in for a treat. I really enjoyed 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 #13 / Construction

20200217ma_0167“Down at the Pier” / Theme: Construction

A little about this photo…

Construction has been going on for over a year at the pier by our local lighthouses. It’s supposed to be done this year, but I’m wondering… With the whole Covid-19 social/physical distancing going on, are they even doing any work now? (Note: This photo was taken before the whole coronavirus became a thing here in our neck of the woods.)

On a photography note, I do like how the shadow of the tree stretches out across the foreground. It’s a little bit like a spider, don’t you think?


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

Review: Just My Luck

just-my-luckBook: Just My Luck (2016)
Author: Cammie McGovern
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Benny’s in fourth grade, and he doesn’t have it easy. When his dad has an accident, Benny’s afraid it might be his fault. He also has to watch over his autistic older brother George. And on top of that, his teacher’s acting weird. That’s when his school comes up with a “footprints” project about helping others. But nobody seems to notice what Benny does. Why should Benny even try any more?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Benny was a sympathetic and interesting character. He’s not particularly good at, well, at anything… except well, when he is good at it. His super-power? Is being nice and kind. So, when all these bad things happen to him, you’re bound to feel bad.

2) I like how McGovern dealt with the school footprints subplot, especially with regards to Benny’s friend Jeremy. Jeremy keeps boasting about how easy it is to get his name on a footprint while Benny can’t get his name on a single one! Then [*Spoiler] when he does, he ends up giving it to Jeremy! And speaking of the friend Jeremy, I was glad to see how that subplot wound up with Benny’s discovery that he has been misjudging Jeremy’s motives and actions. It’s definitely a good reminder for all of us that we have to be careful how we read other people and their actions. [End Spoiler]

3) The mystery of what was up with Mr. Norris was well-played. It kept me guessing and interested. I didn’t exactly figure it out, but I came close.

4) The subplot with Lisa was interesting. What a complex situation! I liked how she was brought into the final scene. (But I’m glad the brother Martin has moved on from her!)

5) I liked the relationship between Benny and his brother George. I also enjoyed how they are connected with the whole bike-riding thing that keeps being brought back to the story. This is the shadow following Benny… its connection with the dad and the dad’s accident. Nicely done!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did find Benny to be a little young at times (and a bit of a crybaby). Maybe I keep thinking he’s older than he is. (He’d be around nine years old.) I don’t mind a little crying, especially at a cathartic moment in the plot. But I think there are lots of ways to show emotion without tears flowing. (Note: Maybe this was just me.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I found this to be an interesting read overall. I liked all the characters and how all they all intersected with one another. Benny’s a sympathetic character, just trying to find his place in the world.


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 #12 / It’s Time

20200318ma_0258“Time for Spring” / Theme: It’s Time

A little about this photo…

Technically, Spring is here. (As of Thursday, March 19th.) The flowers have been peeping up through the soil. We’ve had warm sunshine and rain. But then, there’s this: We get a frost. The frost is definitely pretty, but… just saying… It’s about time for the frost to go. We’re ready for Spring. It’s time for Spring!


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

Review: All’s Faire in Middle School

alls-faireBook: All’s Faire in Middle School (2017)
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Imogene and her family are part of the Renaissance Faire family. And this year, she’s been promoted to be her dad’s squire. Every weekend, they live in a world of knights and dragons; during the week, Imogene has to navigate middle school. After being homeschooled, this is her first taste of education in the classroom… and, well, she’s finding it difficult to figure out all the unwritten rules. This leads to her trying a few things that don’t exactly end up the way she intended, which includes a suspension from school and estrangement from her younger brother.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The Renaissance Faire setting is super fun. We get hermits and dragons and queens! It was interesting to learn about all the behind-the-scenes things that happen. I like how Imogene learns to make her “street” performance her own.

2) The odd friendship between Imogene and Anita is completely realistic… having your “school friends” and your “faire friends”. It happens, especially in middle school! And then, of course, there’s the rift. But I liked how Jamieson resolved everything by the end of the story.

3) At times, Felix drove me batty—I definitely saw why Imogene could lose her temper because of his antics. Still, there were other times when I thought he was a cute little brother. He adores Imogene, but… just as he’s fierce in his love, he’s also fierce in his unforgiveness.

4) I liked the relationship between Imogene and the “Princess” Violet, especially as she helps Imogene prepare her presentation for the dreaded Science class. One of my favourite moments is what Violet says to Imogene when Imogene dismisses the princess in the story of St. George and the Dragon. Violet brings up the princess’s courage and kindness as positive attributes, something to admire. I sometimes feel saddened at the backlash against the princess trope. (Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like a helpless princess who doesn’t have a thought in her head, but really, not all princesses are like that!) I like that Imogene, even if she herself doesn’t aspire to play the role of the princess, learns to respect that we all play different roles in life. And that’s a good thing.

5) Oh, those mean girls! The “friends” of Imogene. (Of course, there’s going to be a set in a story about middle school!) I love how Imogene is even warned by Anita about them. But, I also like how that whole story plays out.

6) I loved how the speech bubble for *Sigh* always seems to be dripping. I could just SEE the sigh!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wish that [SPOILER] Imogene hadn’t found Felix’s squirrel, Tiffany (the one she throws away in the water). I mean, it’s nice for Felix, but it felt a little unrealistic to me. I wish Felix and Imogene could have come to a point where he’s able to forgive her, even without Tiffany making a comeback. [End Spoiler]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A fun book that merges dragons with middle school… but all set in our world. I would recommend, especially to those who want a good graphic novel to read.


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 #11 / Sooner or Later

20200215ma_0154“Lost Mitten” / Theme: Sooner or Later

A little about this photo…

Saw this lonely little mitten that somebody had stuck up on this fence. No mitten partner in sight! This feels like the quintessential winter childhood dilemma… Sooner or later, you’re going to lose one of those mittens! (Which is why I’m sure my mom used that little string to attach my mittens to each other. I hated that string, but I probably didn’t lose any mittens that way.)

Note: I took this photo a couple of weeks ago… BEFORE all the craziness about coronavirus. Schools in our area have since been shut down until April. Somehow, this lost mitten takes on a bit of a different meaning from when I took the photo. The take-home message: Take care of your mittens! (And by mittens, I don’t actually mean just mittens.)


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

Review: I Love You, Michael Collins

I-love-you-Michael-CollinsBook: I Love You, Michael Collins (2017)
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Genre: MG, Historical (1969)
Rating: 5 stars

Basic plot: It’s 1969 and the Apollo 11 moon landing mission is taking the world by storm. Mamie’s fifth-grade class is given the assignment to write to one of the three astronauts. Everybody chooses Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, all except for Mamie. She decides to write to Michael Collins, the third astronaut on the mission. Somehow, she feels a kinship with him. Especially when her family all seem to abandon ship, leaving her to pilot the “ship” all by herself.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love a good epistolary novel. This one works quite nicely as Mamie writes to Michael Collins (who is in space for some of the time she is writing!)

2) I thought Baratz-Logsted was able to capture Mamie’s voice quite nicely. One of my favourite parts near the opening of the book (which then sets the tone of the story) is when she talks about her teacher (Mrs. Collins) and how she knew that it was not the same person as Michael Collins wife, even if they shared a name.

3) Buster was a such good friend for Mamie. I loved all the Tang he brought over for them to drink. It made me want to drink Tang! (You can even see the Tang on the cover of the book!)

4) The sisters and parents drove me crazy! How they leave Mamie. But it worked well for the story! One of my favourite lines is when Mamie writes: Doesn’t anybody stay with the ship anymore! (And the fact that she’s telling this to Michael Collins… well, he understands, right?)

5) What a fun little backstory of how the sisters in the story are all named for Presidents’ wives. Which, of course, is how Mamie gets her name, after Mamie Eisenhower. 🙂

6) I’m glad about [*slight SPOILER] the happy ending. I like happy endings! [end Spoiler]

7) One of the things I liked about this book is the focus on Michael Collins. I barely knew his name until this past summer, which was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. He was always just the “third astronaut” to me. I think it was Google who had Michael Collins narrate a piece about his experience aboard Apollo 11. He had such a down-to-earth kind of voice. And Mamie’s right… somebody has to stay with the ship. Here’s to all the Michael Collins types out there! (And yes, I’m a Michael Collins type of person!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Honestly, I actually can’t really think of anything to put here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book. I love the historical setting and letters Mamie writes to her hero. Such a quick and fun read, but also doesn’t shy away from some more difficult themes. I’d definitely recommend to anybody who’s interested in astronauts and space!


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 #10 / Surrounded

20200215ma_0116“Heading for the Falls” / Theme: Surrounded

A little about this photo…

This scow has been sitting not far from the brink of Niagara Falls for over 100 years! Back in 1918, it had broken loose from its tug upriver. Yes, there were men aboard. Two men… and they were heading straight for the falls!

However, the scow suddenly got caught on some rocks in the middle of the river. But they were safe yet! From this spot, you can see the mist rising from falls. They were THAT close. The rescue attempt took hours. It was not surprisingly fraught with danger. They did manage to rescue the two men by the next morning. On the other hand, the scow remained a more permanent part of the riverscape.

Although, how permanent? Just recently, it shifted… after 100 years!

Here’s a photo I took back in 2018.

20180203ma_0353

20200215ma_0121-2


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

Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / February

mgc-bingo-feb2020

Once again, it’s time for another round of Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge! I finished ELEVEN middle-grade books this month! (Not bad.)

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 #MGCarousel 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 this month.

Here are my results…


Orphans

reptile-roomThe Reptile Room // by Lemony Snicket

MG, Adventure (1999)

When I first read this book (over ten years ago now), I really liked it. The clever wordplay. The delightful asides. The three Baudelaire orphans are the kind of friends I’d like to have. (Well, I could do without Sunny biting everything!) And I really liked Uncle Monty… (Although, my favourite guardian, I think, is still Jerome Squalor. Or is it? I haven’t re-read that book yet!)

However, this time around, I felt very depressed while reading this book. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the whole series. (I was disappointed by The End.) Ultimately, I like happy endings. Hopeful endings. And Lemony Snicket just doesn’t even want to give us that. [3 stars]


White Cover

secrets-lies-algebraSecrets, Lies, and Algebra // by Wendy Lichtman

Upper MG, Contemporary/STEM (2007)

This is definitely for older kids. The story pretty much opens with a discussion about a suicide. The MC (eighth-grader Tess) overhears her mother talking about the fact that she’s worried that the guy she rents her art studio from has murdered his wife (… the wife’s the one who apparently died from suicide). So, Tess decides that she and her friends are going to investigate. (It works for Nancy Drew, right? Well, this book’s a little different.)

I do like how the math comes into the story, especially with the one teacher who never quite gets his math metaphors right. That was fun and quirky. The plot involving the cheating of some of her classmates felt a lot more realistic to me. [3 stars]


‘Garden’ in the Title

toms-midnight-gardenTom’s Midnight Garden // by Philippa Pearce

MG, Classic (1958)

Tom has been banished to his aunt’s flat because his younger brother has measles. This totally ruins Tom’s summer holiday plans… until he discovers a secret garden, one lost in time that nobody but he can see.

This is a re-read for me. I did enjoy it this time around, but it certainly is very old fashioned in many ways. I’m not sure kids today would get Tom’s obsession with gardens or Hattie, although they might like the magical/time elements. The clock striking thirteen, though, is still very wonderful… probably the best thing about the book! [3.5 stars]


Author’s First Name is ‘Kate’

greenglass-houseGreenglass House // by Kate Milford

MG, Mystery (2014)

Not a bad read for a winter’s eve when there’s snow all around! I didn’t really plan that, but it worked out that way 🙂

I did enjoy hanging out with Milo and Meddy as they tried to figure out the mystery behind why everybody’s convened at Greenglass House… but not as much as I thought I would. I’ve heard a lot about this book. The plot all has to do with an old smuggler named Doc Holystone. I will say there’s a twist at the end of the story which I didn’t see coming until just before it happened. (Although, I did keep asking myself why the author had done something… but I won’t spoil it here.)

For me, this book had the flavour of The Dark is Rising meets Clue! [3 stars]


A Book by Avi

catch-you-laterCatch You Later, Traitor // by Avi

MG, Historical – 1950s (2015)

This book is set in the Macarthy-era U.S. When Pete is accused by his teacher for being a “commie”, Pete decides to do a little detective work… just like his hero, Sam Spade. And there’s a little baseball thrown into the mix.

I liked the setting. Although, while I did find the teacher to be absolutely despicable, the paranoia of the era was well-depicted. Even Pete’s own paranoia. The one thing I didn’t really like was the catchphrase: Catch you later, traitor! (It’s spoken by Pete’s friend, Kat. I didn’t really find anything funny or cute about it. But that’s what it’s supposed to be. Cute.) All in all, I did enjoy the history behind this book. Not often that you see a kid’s book about the Red Scare. [4 stars]


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

  • Portal Fantasy // 100 Cupboards // by N.D. Wilson
  • Title Starts with ‘A’ // All of Me // by Chris Baron
  • ‘Cat’ or ‘Mouse’ in the Title // The Mouse and the Motorcycle // by Beverly Cleary
  • Pick Your Prompt / About Black History // Harriet Tubman // by George Sullivan
  • Published Before 2004 // Ramona’s World // by Beverly Cleary
  • A Girl on the Cover // I Love You, Michael Collins // by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Final Thoughts…

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

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

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