Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / January


Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge. This month, I finished nine middle grade books. Well, eight titles that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. (I actually read more than nine books, including a few books for adults.)

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 Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads. Find out more about Middle Grade books 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… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)

*Graphic Novel

The Little Mermaid // by Metaphrog

little-mermaidMG, Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale (2017)

So, this is the Hans Christian Anderson version of the fairy tale. (But it does borrow some elements from the Disney version!) The illustrations did not blow me away, but I did like a few of them. Particularly when the sea witch bargains for the little mermaid’s voice. They did the whole thing in pink and it is striking!

The one thing I didn’t like was the ending. They got it wrong. 😦 She doesn’t turn into sea foam! She joins the daughters of the air. [4 stars]

*A Book by a Favourite Author

Ramona and her Father // by Beverly Cleary

ramona-and-her-fatherMG, Contemporary (1977)

This is perhaps the most perfect of the Ramona books! Okay, I love them all, but this one is extra special. And it definitely earned the Newbery Honor.

I love how it tackles her dad’s job loss and his smoking. Ramona has come a long way from her days as Henry Huggins’ nemesis. I think that’s what I really like about these books. Ramona still does things her own way, except now we get to see it through her POV. And, frankly, that makes all the difference.

The scene with the burrs? Wonderful! [5 stars]

*First in the Title

Jacob Two-Two’s First Spy Case // by Mordecai Richler

jacob-two-two-first-spy-caseMG, Contemporary (1997)

This was a fun read in the same sort of vein as The Phantom Tollbooth. Jacob Two-Two breaks into espionage when his neighbour turns out to be a Master Spy.

Lots of fun word-play. (The villains are Mr. I.M. Greedyguts and the Perfectly Loathsome Leo Louse.) And lots of little Canadian jokes 🙂  [4 stars]

*A Tail on the Cover

The Unteachables  // by Gordon Korman

unteachablesMG, Contemporary (2019)

Gordon Korman’s back on top of his game for this book! Hooray 🙂 As for the tail… yes, there is a tail on the cover of the book. See the little lizard sitting on the desk?

I enjoyed getting to know the group of kids nicknamed the Unteachables. As in many of Korman’s books, we get to see things through several differing viewpoints… including the teacher Mr. Kermit, and even the principal. [4 stars]

*Author’s First Name is Jonathan

Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training // by Jonathan Bernstein

bridget-wilder.jpgMG, Contemporary/Espionage (2015)

This book reminded me of the Spy School books. But it’s a little weirder than that. There were some nice twists and turns, but I wasn’t crazy about a few of the things that happen in the book. Mainly with regards to the big brother Ryan, who is constantly in trouble. But this all seems to be part of a running joke in the book. Maybe I was taking it too seriously. Anyhow, this book was okay, but nothing to get excited about. [3 stars]

Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Double O’s in the Title // Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One // by Judy Blume
    • A Book that was Recommended // The Moffats // by Eleanor Estes
    • Pick Your Prompt / A Mystery // Room One // by Andrew Clements
    • A Quest // The Dark is Rising // by Susan Cooper

Final Thoughts…

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

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #12


In response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #12

Crimsonprose posted a photo: “Two (almost identical) bulls stand guard on the entrance to Blickling Hall, (Nr Aylsham, Norfolk), both hold a shield to display the family’s heraldic devices. The family? The Boleyns.”

My response: A photo from my archives. This is one of the two lions that stand guard at the entrance of the New York Public Library (on 5th Avenue in Manhattan). The lions even have names. I believe this one is called Fortitude. (His twin is Patience.)

Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

Newbery Verdict: Ramona and her Father

Ramona and her Father // by Beverly Cleary (1977)

ramona-and-her-fatherNewbery Honor Book (1978)
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Ramona’s in second grade when her father suddenly loses his job. When she finds out they have to scrimp and save, Ramona starts coming up with her own ideas to help her family make some money. One of her ideas ends with her hair in snarls. Another of her ideas is aimed at getting her father to quit smoking.


I love, love, love this book. I love the relationship that is shown between Ramona and her dad. This book deals with some tough issues like having a father who is out of work. And the depression he goes through. And then there’s the “no smoking” campaign headed up by Ramona and her sister Beezus. One of my favourite scenes is when Ramona comes home to a house to find that her dad has broken his promise. The moment where Mr. Quimby talks to Ramona about what happened is heart-breakingly precious.

As with most middle-grade books, this one has a happy ending. And I’m glad it does. I adore the Christmas scene at the end.


One of the best of the best Ramona Quimby books there is. It’s easy to see why it was nominated for a Newbery. It didn’t win, but there was tough competition that year. (The winner was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) Still, this is a 5-star book for me!


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal, or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

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

Liebster Award

What is the Liebster Award?

Picture113It’s an award that exists only on the internet. It’s given to bloggers by other bloggers. (Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.) A blogger nominates you, introducing you to the world and then you, in turn, nominate other new bloggers so that the blogging community expands.

I was nominated back in December by Mel at Decor Craft Design. Now I get to answer Mel’s questions for me.

What would you be like or do if…

  1. You are a superhero? I’d be Wonder Woman! I even have the glasses. 🙂 And I know how to twirl. (I’ve been practicing since I was 3 or 4.)
  2. You are a dog? I would live a carefree life. I’d chase cats off the property and dance like Snoopy.
  3. You can fly? Hmm. I guess I’d save a lot of money, that’s for sure! I go visiting places. (I wonder if I can take friends with me?)
  4. You are a celebrity? I’d probably be one of those recluses. I like my privacy too much to enjoy celebrity.
  5. You are an alien? I’d probably be trying to fit in so that people wouldn’t think I was an alien. But I’m sure I’d be curious and want to know more about these earthlings and their strange customs.
  6. You can travel time? I’d definitely go back and experience some of my favourite time periods in history. I’d go back and see a Shakespearean play. I’d attend Queen Victoria’s coronation. I’d go play with Laura and Mary on the banks of Plum Creek. Oh, there is so much I’d want to do!

Technically, I think I’m supposed to nominate other people at this time. However, the last time I did a tag, pretty much nobody answered my questions. So, I don’t really want to pressure anybody.

All my followers, I do think you have some great blogs out there! Keep it up 🙂 And if you want to answer my questions, feel free to do so. Consider yourself tagged!

My Questions

    1. What is your idea of the perfect Sunday afternoon?
    2. Would you rather have your favourite character in a book killed off… or have to live in the same house with your bookish archenemy for a year?
    3. You are set to go on a quest with the main characters of the book you are currently reading (or have just finished). Who are they?
    4. Do you prefer Twitter or Instagram? Why?
    5. Would you rather write a famous poem or a best-selling novel?
    6. If you could attend any bookish event, what would it be? (Think: a fictional event that happens in a book.)


Two Different Books, Same Topic

I recently read two middle-grade books that take place during Hurricane Katrina. What an interesting experience to read these books back-to-back.

finding-someplaceFinding Someplace // by Denise Lewis Patrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2015)

My Thoughts: This one had a lot of potential, but it got mixed up with too many characters and too many themes. It’s a book that doesn’t quite know what it is. The main character is Reesie, the only daughter in an African-American family living in New Orleans. It’s her goal in life to be a fashion designer. And guess what? It’s her birthday!

That’s when Hurricane Katrina strikes. So far, so good. We soon learn that she’s terrified of water! (Backstory: She almost drowned in a swimming pool once.) But here’s where things start to go downhill. When there’s water all around her, does she freak out? Does she have a panic attack? No and no. The only other time this fear is mentioned (that I recall) is when her neighbour says something about it toward the end of the book. Like “I noticed you were afraid, Reesie.”

Also, there was also too many characters. So many people came and went. They were developed, then BAM! They were gone. (And don’t get me started on the kiss that was not set up properly.) What I really wanted was to spend more time in the book as she connected with (and possibly have conflict with) Miss Martine!

That said, I did like Reesie! Perhaps they rushed publication on this one? The book needed to be longer in order to deal with everything Denise Lewis Patrick introduced to us. [3 Stars]

zane-and-hurricaneZane and the Hurricane // by Rodman Philbrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2014)

My Thoughts: I read this book after the one above. But this book was so much tighter. In a lot of ways, it was very similar. But there are differences. Zane is half-black and comes from New Hampshire. But guess what? His mom sends him down to visit his great-grandma in New Orleans. And it just happens that this happens right before Hurricane Katrina strikes.

There is an old neighbour character (Tru), and there’s conflict with the sassy girl (Malvina). This book stays pretty much within the time-frame of the hurricane and the day or so after. (Unlike the other book which jumps us to Christmas in New Jersey and then back to New Orleans in the spring. Not necessarily bad in and of itself; but like I said, that book tried to cram too much into not enough pages.)

I really enjoyed the character dynamics between Tru, Malvina, and Zane. We got to know them and care about them. We wanted them to survive! [4 Stars]

So, if you have to pick between these two books? I’d definitely go with the second one by Rodman Philbrick. The one by Denise Lewis Patrick had potential, but (unfortunately) it did not live up to that potential. I wish it was so much more! Zane, on the other hand, was well-written and knew what it was going for.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

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

Photo Challenge #3 / Natural Beauty

20190102ma_0145“Water Falling” / Theme: Natural Beauty

A little about this photo…

This photo makes me feel cold! (Maybe I’m just remembering how cold my hands were when I took this shot. It was the one day I forgot to bring gloves. Not a smart thing to do in January!) This “waterfall” is part of the old Welland Canal system. It’s no longer in use for its intended purpose. The “new” canal was moved years ago.

I love how that one leaf makes such a pretty pattern in the water. Natural beauty!

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

Quick Pick Reviews #13

Clementine’s Letter // by Sara Pennypacker

clementines-letterGenre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2008)

My Thoughts: This is another super cute story about Clementine. And she’s ready to conquer the third grade! Especially with her Teacher at the helm of their class. But then comes the news that he’s a finalist in a contest where he might get to go on an archaeological dig in Egypt. But Clementine doesn’t want her Teacher to leave them!

This is where Clementine’s letter comes into the story. I really enjoyed Clementine’s journey in this book. And I liked how the letter is used at the end of the story. She reminds me so much of Ramona Quimby, although I do think I like Ramona just a tiny bit better. Not exactly sure why. [3.5 Stars]

The Moffats // by Eleanor Estes

moffatsGenre: MG, Historical Fiction (1941)

My Thoughts: Definitely is a little old-fashioned… but this book about the Moffat family is a fun read. Mrs. Moffat lives with her four children—Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus—in a yellow house. Their landlord is trying to sell it… to the great dismay of the Moffats.

My favourite episodes were: 1) about Joe at the dance recital; and 2) how the children end up losing the Salvation Army man out of the back of his own horse and wagon. I also liked how the story does come full-circle at the end with what happens to the yellow house. (I can’t stand those Murdocks… trying to buy the house from underneath the Moffats’ feet!) [3 Stars]

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

Review: Towers Falling

towers-fallingBook: Towers Falling (2016)
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Deja lives with her family in what can only be described as a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. She’s at a new school, and she’s hoping to stay here. One day, Miss Garcia points out the difference in the Manhattan skyline–namely the absence of the Twin Towers. Deja is intrigued. She doesn’t know anything about those towers. However, when she brings them up to her father, his dark reaction surprises her. And now she’s afraid he’s going to take her away, not just from her new school, but from her new set of friends as well.


1) I really enjoyed watching the friendship blossom between Deja, Ben, and Sabeen. We get to see it from the very beginning, which is nice.

2) I like how the teachers were dealing with the tragedy for a generation that was born after the towers fell. As a teacher in Queens in 2001, I taught the kids who lived through it. So, I was indeed fascinated by this. What blew my mind was that Miss Garcia (the teacher) was in 5th grade during 9/11!

3) The scene at the site of the World Trade Center… The author captured this memorial in a really wonderful way. I was just there, so it was all fresh in my mind. The water fall footprints of the towers. The white roses. The names. This part was possibly the best scene for me.

4) The storyline with the father was nicely done. (Although, I will say, when he finally speaks, he almost says too much. Which I felt was a little out of character for him.) This was a very emotional and cathartic scene.

5) I loved Deja’s dedication to her family. She helps her parents out with her two younger siblings. I loved her for that!

6) I really like what they did with the cover art… how the Freedom Tower stands where the Twin Towers once stood. And how things are upsidedown and topsy-turvy.


1) Deja was a little too introspective for me at times. Especially when you consider that she’s only ten years old. In some ways, she seems like a teenager.

2) When Deja goes to visit her friend Sabeen for the first time–Sabeen is Muslim–the family makes a comment that Deja would make a good Muslim. I found that a REALLY WEIRD thing to say to a child the first time you meet them. Especially a non-Muslim child. It felt like they were trying to convert her??

3) At one point in the book, Deja brings her dad to the school. He seems to walk right in, down the halls, and enters her classroom. Ahem. I taught school in NYC and NO PARENT (and certainly no adult, unless they were a teacher) was able to enter the school at all. Doors are locked. The only way in is through the school office. (The student entrances are locked or manned by a teacher.) So, I had a really hard time with this part of the plot.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is about the events of 9/11, but 15 years after the fact. Since I lived and worked in New York City during September 11, 2001, I feel a close connection. However, I don’t like watching the footage. But this book hit the right notes for me. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s worth the read.


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