Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / February

mgc-bingo-jan2019

Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge. This month, I got TWO bingos! Yay!

In all, I finished 14 middle grade books that fit the descriptions on the bingo card.

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. 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!)


*Red Cover

Just So Stories // by Rudyard Kipling

just-so-storiesClassic, Short Stories (1902)

I listened to an audiobook for this one. And it’s narrated by Boris Karloff!

Kipling has such a way with words! It’s really quite delightful to read. I think my favourite stories include the one about the Elephant’s child, and how the leopard got its spots. [4 stars]


*Title Starts with an “F”

Front Desk // by Kelly Yang

front-deskMG, Near-Historical (2018)

I loved this book about Mia (a recent immigrant in the 1990s) and her adventures at the Calivista Motel. It was a fun read, but it was more than just that. I enjoyed the themes of courage and never giving up.

My favourite part is when Mia thinks she’s going to get an A on a school paper, but (SPOILER!) she doesn’t. Even though she’s discouraged, she keeps trying. And it’s the fact that she does try that she ends up succeeding. I highly recommend this book. 🙂 [4.5 stars]

You can read my full review here.


*A Book About Twins

11 Birthdays // by Wendy Mass

11-birthdaysMG, Magical Realism (2009)

Okay, so they are NOT biological twins, but the two main characters (Amanda and Leo) share a birthday. And this is quite important to the plot.

If you like the movie Groundhog Day, then this is the book for you. The story is told through the eyes of Amanda. It’s about her feud with her former best friend Leo. These two characters definitely make the book! I loved the character growth and how they figure things out together.

Note: This was also a re-read for me. I enjoyed it just as much as the first time around 🙂  [4 stars]


*Set During the Civil War

Days of Jubilee // by Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack

days-of-jubileeMG, Non-Fiction (2003)

This book takes a look at the Civil War, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment. I really enjoyed all the stories as well as their clear and concise way of handling different events during the war. The part about Gettysburg was quite moving.

I also liked how the authors didn’t steer away from the complication found in history. BUT that they didn’t dwell on the ugliness. Instead, they focused on hope for the future.  [5 stars]


*’Sugar’ in the Title

Sugar and Spice // by Sarah Mlynowski

sugar-and-spiceLower MG, Fantasy/Fairy Tale (2016)

This is actually a series of books where a sister and brother get to travel to various fairy tales. As you can probably guess from the cover, this one feature Hansel and Gretel.

I did not know this was a series when I picked this up, but that wasn’t a problem. To be perfectly honest, this isn’t really my cup of tea when it comes to books. (I’m probably being kind when I give it three stars.) I DO love fairy tale retellings, but this one didn’t quite do it for me. It does have a cute premise. I would possibly recommend this book for younger readers. [3 stars]


*Character with a Place Name

One-Third Nerd // by Gennifer Choldenko

one-third-nerdMG, Contemporary (2019)

Okay, so the character with a place name is Dakota. (Aside: this was the one character that drove me batty!)

While I liked this book, I didn’t love it. It’s basically about saving a dog from a nasty landlord. But, to tell the truth, I didn’t really care about the dog. I wish I did. I love fictional dogs. (Shiloh? Ribsy? Old Yeller? Winn-Dixie? Yep. I love those dogs.)

Still, the book was entertaining. I really liked the whole “one-third nerd” thing. And the friendship that springs up between the main character Liam and Moses. And Izzy the sister. She was one of the best things about this book! [3.5 stars]

You can read my full review here.


*Pink Cover

Almost Identical // by Lin Oliver

almost-identicalMG, Contemporary (2012)

This story follows Sammie and Charley Diamond. They are twins and tennis players. But when as they get older, Sammie begins to see something: she and her twin are entirely identical. They like (and want) different things.

I love this coming-of-age novel. It’s told from Sammie’s POV. I definitely felt for Sammie, and at times, was furious with Charley! (Although, Sammie makes her own gaffes.) I loved how the tennis was incorporated into the book. This book gets a definite recommendation from me.

Note: This was a re-read for me. Just as good as the first time around 🙂  [4 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt / Book for Black History Month

Finding Langston // by Lesa Cline-Ransomefinding-langston

MG, Historical Fiction – 1940s (2018)

This book got 5 stars from me! Yeah, I enjoyed it that much. It’s probably the library in the book that did it. For me, you almost can’t go wrong if you have a library. (That’s probably not true, but for this book, it IS true!)

It’s short, but it’s beautiful. I loved Langston’s voice. And I liked watching how the characters developed from the beginning to the end. One of the best books I’ve read this year. Yeah, I know it’s only February. [5 stars]


*Seashells on the Cover

Daisy Dawson at the Beach // by Steve Voake

daisy-dawson-at-beachLower MG, Contemporary/Magical Realism (2011)

Daisy Dawson can speak to animals. In this book, she makes all sorts of friends when she and her parents take a vacation at the beach. She dances with the crabs and even saves a… well, I won’t spoil it.

One weird thing that sort of puzzled me was that her parents seem to be unaware of her special ability. And I’m not sure if she really can speak to animals or if it’s all in her imagination.

If you are looking for in-depth character growth, this book is NOT for you. But it’d be a fun read for younger kids who love, love, love animals. (Also to note: each page has some sort of illustration which is a bonus for those kids just learning to read.) [3 stars]


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Second Book in a Series // Finally // by Wendy Mass
    • Title Starts with an “R” // Rules // by Cynthia Lord
    • Hands on the Cover // Thirteen Gifts // by Wendy Mass
    • Talking Animals // The Cricket in Times Square // by George Selden
    • Dog on the Cover // Swindle // by Gordon Korman

Final Thoughts…

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

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Middle Grade Books for Black History Month

Here are some of my favourite recent reads. I didn’t exactly plan them to be for Black History Month, but that’s how it turned out. These are books I’d recommend reading at any time of the year. Note: I read more than this, but I’ve limited my choices to three books that I really enjoyed.


Finding Langston // by Lesa Cline-Ransomefinding-langston

MG, Historical Fiction – 1940s (2018)

I loved this book! And yes, it contains poetry. (I’m not always too crazy about poetry in books.) So, when a book can get me excited about poetry, I consider that to be a well-written book.

I loved Langston! I felt for him as he attempts to navigate the big city of Chicago after coming north with his father. I love the library! I think as soon as the library made an appearance, I KNEW I was going to love this book. I love the character arcs in this book and the friendships that develop. I loved the discoveries made.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it’s only February. [5 stars]


Days of Jubilee // by Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack

days-of-jubileeMG Non-Fiction / Civil War (2003)

I really enjoyed this book that details the events that led up to the Civil War to the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment. The authors lay everything out in a clear, easy-to-read way. They also include little stories throughout. One of my favourites involved Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker. Wow! That dressmaker is one smart woman.

And history is not always neat and tidy. People and events are complicated. I liked how the authors didn’t steer away from the complication. But I also like that they didn’t dwell on the ugliness. Instead, they focused on hope for the future.  [5 stars]


Stella by Starlight // by Sharon M. Draper

stella-by-starlightMG,  Historical Fiction – 1930s (2015)

This book opens with a chilling scene of the main character (Stella) witnessing the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross. The main theme deals with fear and how the Klan was trying to intimidate the black families in the community so that they wouldn’t register to vote. The voting scenes were particularly amazing. And I like how Stella starts her own little newspaper (only to be read by one: her!)

I did feel there was a little cohesion lacking in bringing the story together as a whole, which is why I didn’t give the book 5 stars. But it’s an interesting read. And I really enjoyed Stella’s voice.   [4 stars]


YOUR TURN…

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any books that you read for Black History Month? Tell me about them in the comments!

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

Photo Challenge #8 / Road Worthy

20190214ma_0336“Tires for Sale” / Theme: Road Worthy

A little about this photo…

I’ve been keeping my eye out for something “Road Worthy” and decided to go with this photo. I happened upon these tires during a photo walk. I’m not sure they’re actually road-worthy. I’m not even sure they’re for sale (even though I used that in my “title”). But they could be, right?

I love how they’re just peeking out between the slats of this fence.


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

Review: Front Desk

front-deskBook: Front Desk (2018)
Author: Kelly Yank
Genre: MG, Near-Historical (1990s)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Mia is determined to help her parents, recent immigrants from China, and they run the Calivista Motel in California. But with a boss like Mr. Yao, it’s not easy. Especially when he cheats them. And comes an opportunity of a lifetime… to own the motel in their own right. But it’s not going to be easy to come up the money.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Mia. What a go-getter! I loved the letter-writing aspect of the story, complete with mistakes crossed out. That was a nice touch. I thought it was good how it’s all inspired by a poor grade. Does the poor grade get her down? Not Mia!

2) I loved all the friends that Mia makes… with the weeklies (especially Hank) and her friend at school: Lupe. (I love how both she and Lupe have “golden retrievers”.)

3) This book does a good job showing the real struggle immigrants have. My grandparents were immigrants and struggled to make ends meet. Reading this book brought back a lot of my grandmother’s stories–and even my dad’s stories–of being in a country where you don’t know the language… yet.

4) I loved the complications surrounding Jason, the son of Mr. Yao. Jason is your classic bully, but I’m glad there was a twist there. (I love redemption arcs for characters. I don’t think all characters need a redemption arc, but I love it when there is one.)

5) I liked the arc of her relationship with her mom. Mia wants to write. Mom wants her to study math. Friction ensues.

6) Finally, I thought Kelly Yang did a nice job with the themes of racism in the book. I like that it wasn’t just confined to one race, and that it showed how complicated this topic can be. I love how Mia stands up for Hank, and how Hank tries to help and protect Mia’s mother. There was some good imagery… of rollercoasters and bicycles. And I like how Mia wasn’t going to take those metaphors as the only way things have to be.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I had a hard time suspending disbelief. While I like the letters she wrote, there were a few that had me scratching my head. How did this letter even work?? And (**SPOILER: The fact that they are able to raise so much money to buy the motel seemed unrealistic. I know this is based on the author’s experience. So, perhaps that really is part of her story. I don’t know, but somehow it feels a little too Disney of an ending to be true.**)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – Reading about Mia and her motel was certainly fun. But it’s more than that. There are some great themes written into this book. I highly recommend it. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: Pay Attention, Carter Jones

pay-attention-carter-jones.jpgBook: Pay Attention, Carter Jones (2019)
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: It’s a rainy morning when the Butler shows up at the front door. A Butler! And he’s about to change the lives of Carter Jones and his family. From his “Remember who you are, Young Master Jones” to how he introduces Carter to the world of cricket… the Butler helps Carter work through one of the toughest experiences of his young life.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The Butler. Man, I liked this guy! He was kind of like the male version of Mary Poppins. Although not quite as vain (at least about his looks). Seriously, this book made me wish we could all have a butler in our lives.

2) I love all the Britishisms. (Yeah, that’s probably not a real word.) The tea. The cricket. (Somehow Mr. Schmidt managed to make the cricket match have suspense.) The fact that the Butler calls Carter “Young Master Jones.” I love how Carter decides to take the Butler’s suggestion to look at the “Tory” POV with regards to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. (And, boy, does he get it at school!)

3) I like that Carter’s family is quite big. It’s not often that you get big families in books these days. Three sisters. Not to mention the brother.

4) I also like the friendships that develop in the book. Of course, there’s Billy Colt, but later on, there are the eighth-grade boys… the cricketers. Especially Krebs.

5) The emotional journey Carter takes through the book is also very nicely done. I like this little reveals, just enough at just the right time. The moment when Carter’s sister asks him the big question while they are out walking the dog… that was heartbreaking. (Moments like these are what I’ve come to expect when reading a Gary D. Schmidt book.)

6) I like the cover for this one… All the little hints as to what’s in the book are right there in the book cover.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) (**Slight SPOILER here) The fact that Carter drives the Eggplant… (i.e. the Butler’s car.) I just couldn’t believe that. I just don’t see how a twelve-year-old would NOT get in trouble for driving! On the road. In 2019. (End spoiler.) This seriously is THE reason why I think I cannot give this book 5 stars!!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I loved this book! I loved Carter and the Butler and the tea and everything. And weirdly enough, I even liked the stuff about cricket. 🙂


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 #7 / Pop of Colour

20190212ma_0302“Pretty in Pink” / Theme: Pop of Colour

A little about this photo…

There’s not a lot of colour this time of year. So, when the Christmas cactus decided to show off some coral pink blooms for Valentine’s Day, I decided this would fit nicely with the “Pop of Colour” prompt. (I guess it’s a Valentine cactus this year!)


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

Love in Books

20190213ma_0307

It’s Valentine’s Day! And hearts abound… So, today I’m going to post about some of my favourite books under the theme of L-O-V-E!

*Note: There are so many books I could have listed here. The ones below are really just scratching the surface of this topic.


Love Between Friends

Anne of Green Gables // by L.M. Montgomery
Frog and Toad are Friends // by Arnold Lobel
Bridge to Terabithia // by Katherine Paterson
Charlotte’s Web // by E.B. White
Maniac Magee // by Jerry Spinelli


Sibling Love

Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott
The Penderwicks // by Jeanne Birdsall
Till We Have Faces // by C.S. Lewis
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry // by Mildred D. Taylor
A Wrinkle in Time // by Madeleine L’Engle


Romantic Love

The Blue Castle // by L.M. Montgomery
Jane Eyre // by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice // by Jane Austen


YOUR TURN… What are your favourite books about love? Whether it’s brotherly love, romantic love, or true friendship… Let me know in the comments.

 

Review: One-Third Nerd

one-third-nerdBook: One-Third Nerd (2019)
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Liam lives with his mom and sisters, Dakota and Izzy. Oh, and their dog Cupcake. But Cupcake has a problem with controlling her, ahem, bladder. And that isn’t good news when the landlord is a grouch and is threatening to evict the family because of it.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really liked the main character, Liam. I especially love his relationship with his sisters… even the one that gives him the most grief. (Dakota. We’ll talk more about her later.)

2) And then there’s Izzy, the youngest of the three siblings. I love Izzy! She has down-syndrome, and I really enjoyed reading about her family-interactions. I like how she and Liam have a shared love of Bigfoot! And I thought it was nice how she fits into the plot… (**MINOR SPOILER: with regards to finding the solution to their problems… both with Cupcake and with the landlord’s daughter.**)

3) The tennis part of the book was pretty neat. (Although, I’m not sure how super necessary it was to the plot.)

4) Crash is Liam’s friend’s awesome grandpa! He also happens to be the kids’ babysitter. I wish there was more of Crash in the book. He didn’t get enough page-time for my taste.

5) I also enjoyed the character of Moses. Because Moses is one of those “rich kids”, it added a nice layer when Liam is trying to hide where he lives, etc. I particularly loved the scene near the end with Moses and the “lawyer” mom! I love this kid. 🙂

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I didn’t fall in love with the dog Cupcake. Which means I wasn’t 100% rooting for them to keep the dog. Frankly, I just didn’t care. (Not that I don’t care about pets in general. I know what it’s like love a pet.) But I was more drawn to the humans in this story. Particularly Izzy.

2) Dakota drove me batty! Half-way through the book, I realized that I did NOT actually like her as a character. (**SPOILER: She sells Liam’s Bigfoot collection on eBay without asking Liam’s permission to do so! She also does the same with Izzy’s horse collection. I was furious and felt oh so betrayed.**)

3) I absolutely hated it when she started calling her mother: Kimberly. And her mom, not really okay with this, does nothing. Nothing!

4) I was waiting for some redemption arc for the landlord. (**SPOILER: Doesn’t happen. 😦 **)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – The book was good but not as good as what I’ve come to expect from Choldenko. I think the main culprit is this: I didn’t really care about the dog. And that’s pretty much the goal of the story. To save the dog. That said, the book is a fun read. I like the whole “one-third nerd” thing. And I really like the friendship that springs up between Liam and Moses. And Izzy. 🙂


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 #6 / Rainy Day

20190206ma_0269“Coated in Ice” / Theme: Rainy Day

A little about this photo…

This is what happens on a rainy day in February… The temperature drops and the rain turns to ice. It’s certainly pretty! However, I’m glad I don’t have to be out on the roads in this weather. Just walking to take this photo was a slippery adventure.


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