Photo Challenge #13 / Decay

20190314ma_0529“Your Ad HERE” / Theme: Decay

A little about this photo…

Here’s an old, unused billboard in the middle of a field. Seems like it hasn’t been used for its intended purpose in quite a while.

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

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #20


In response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #20

Crimsonprose posted a photo of… Level crossing on outskirts of Wymondham, part of the Wymondham to Dereham Steam Railway.

My response: I thought I’d post an old steam engine! This is a (non-working) train that lives at Doon Heritage Village in Kitchener, Ontario (Canada). What a beast!

Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

Newbery Verdict: El Deafo

El Deafo // by Cece Bell (2014)

el-deafoNewbery Honor Book (2015)
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Cece loses most of her hearing at a young age due to illness… which means that now she needs to wear a special box to help her hear. The box makes her “different”. Who wants to be different? But as she grows up, she realizes that she has “superpowers” that other people don’t have. Introducing: El Deafo!


Cece the rabbit captured my heart! I loved her. And I absolutely loved the fact that the characters in this book were rabbits! (Note: This book is based on the author’s real-life experiences.)

I found it fascinating to see the POV of this young girl who comes to terms with something that makes her so different from the other children in her school and neighborhood. How does she navigate friendships? And then there were all the little tricks she learned to cope with not being able to hear, like reading lips, etc. The book is set in the 1970s, and I thought it captured the flavour of the 1970s (and early 80s?) very nicely.

And can I just say that I love that they’re rabbits! (Yes, I do realize that I’ve told you this before. 🙂 )


Yes! I’m so glad this book got a Newbery Honor award. I can’t compare it to the winner that year (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander) as I haven’t read that one.


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

Photo Challenge #12 / Hello!

20190307ma_0471“First Robin” / Theme: Hello!

A little about this photo…

This is seriously the first robin I spotted this year. And I managed to capture this shot of him in flight! It’s always nice to see the robins return… because it means Spring is that much closer. (And in actual fact, Spring is here since the first day of Spring was on Wednesday!) 🙂

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

Review: Copyboy

copyboyBook: Copyboy (2018)
Author: Vince Vawter
Genre: Upper MG**, Historical (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: This book almost defies categories. My library shelves it with the middle-grade books… even though Victor is seventeen (almost eighteen) and is getting ready for college. Is it really Lower YA??? Not sure. I guess I’ll go with my library and claim it as MG.

Basic Plot: The sequel to Paperboy… Picking up the story when Victor is seventeen years old. And he’s on a mission to fulfill a promise to his mentor, Mr. Spiro. That means taking a trip down to the mouth of the Mississippi River… except his parents aren’t sure about letting him go.

See my review of Paperboy here. (One of my favourite books, by the way!)


1) It was nice to be back with Victor for this book! The stuttering was not quite as front and center as in the last book, but it was there. And while it’s good to know that Victor has (in many ways) come to terms with the stuttering, it’s still a sensitive issue for him. And I think Vawter did a nice job bringing that into the story.

2) We get to meet a lot of new people in this book. I particularly liked the glimpse into the world of the newspaper business. It’s not a huge part of the actual plot, but it’s there. I liked the General. And the part about the pennies was cool!

3) I liked meeting Phil. She was a fun character, and it’s cute how Victor’s so smitten with her. I really liked how they bounce ideas off one another, especially with how they deal with their parents.

4) I loved how Mr. Spiro is in the story (and yet he’s not). Victor’s on a mission for Mr. Spiro and keeps referencing Mr. Spiro’s wisdom.

5) The Cajun setting of New Orleans was great to read about. I love how Victor is a bit of a fish-out-of-water… yet he also drinks in the whole experience.

6) The hurricane threat adds a nice element of danger. (As does Phil’s creepy boyfriend! Especially when both the hurricane and the creepy boyfriend collide.) With regards to the hurricane, apparently, it was a real storm that hit New Orleans in 1965… Hurricane Betsy.


1) I did miss the actual Mr. Spiro. And I missed Mam! I’m not sure how she would have fit into this story, but I did miss her.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I did enjoy this sequel. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, it’s still a good book! And if you liked the first book, you should like this sequel.


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 / Bridge

20190307ma_0518“We’ll Cross that Bridge” / Theme: Bridge

A little about this photo…

Here’s a footbridge that leads from one park to another. It’s a nice little hike. Usually, we only go about halfway across before turning back. This time we crossed the whole thing. And now it’s time to go back.

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

Review: The Benefits of Being an Octopus

benefits-of-being-octopusBook: The Benefits of Being an Octopus (2018)
Author: Ann Braden
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Zoey has a lot of responsibility. She has to take care of her younger siblings while her mom’s at work. They are living with her mom’s boyfriend who’s so neat and tidy, and it’s up to Zoey to keep the little kids out of his hair. Zoey’s goal in life is to be invisible. But Zoey begins to see things that might just force her to speak up. Not just for herself, but for those she deeply cares about.


1) I liked that Zoey was so responsible for her younger siblings. And they had such a nice relationship!

2) I enjoyed all the little details about octopuses. (Although, it doesn’t really figure into the resolution of the story. Wish it did.)

3) Matt and Silas were some of my favourite minor characters. Matt actually has a bit of an arc, and I wish we could have seen a tiny bit more of that. The silence of Silas intrigued me, but as a minor character, it wasn’t fully examined.

4) Fuchsia was a complex character. A little over-dramatic for me, but she played nicely into the story. I liked how her story and Zoey’s story are on parallel lines that then converge near the end. Nicely done!

5) Debates are NOT my favourite topic… I did not like them when I was a kid and I don’t really care for them now. That said, I did think this part of the book was fairly well done. When it came to the gun debate, I appreciated that both sides of the issue were shown.

6) I liked the teacher. But I like books that have teachers like her in them. 🙂

7) I love the cover of this book. I think I could look at it all day!


1) I didn’t like the fact that there were no good fathers in this story. At all. Zoey’s family has three fathers (hers, the middle kids’ father, and the baby’s father). And they’re all such jerks. I guess Silas’s father is okay, but he’s such a peripheral father (we never meet him). I wish Frank (Lenny’s father) could have been the one to stand up and give his son a talking to. (*SPOILER) Or at least help Zoey and her family with the get-away. (End Spoiler) Oh, and the solution at the end of the story? Truthfully, I don’t see that working for very long.

2) I’m not sure I really connected with Zoey. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t really love her either.

3) (*SPOILER) One thing I don’t get about the bullets that were fired at the school. If they were fired from a truck in the parking lot, wouldn’t somebody have noticed the breaking of the glass and the truck eventually speeding away? Something like, we’re looking for a white pickup?? (End Spoiler)

4) Zoey keeps mentioning in the book about how strong her mom is (until Lenny starts putting her down). And yet, I didn’t really see that in the back story. All I know is that the mom has a lousy taste in boyfriends. And that she can’t seem to be the adult in her own life.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I really liked that this book dealt with some hard topics. I didn’t quite love it as much as I’d hoped, but I’d still recommend it.


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

Photo Challenge #10 / Peek-a-boo

20190307ma_0509“Peeking Through” / Theme: Peek-a-boo

A little about this photo…

I took this photo this week. See all that snow? That’s Lake Ontario. And yes, it was cold. Sunny, but cold!

I took all sorts of photos, but I like this one that’s peeking at the lighthouse through the bare branches of this tree. Not your standard shot. But I think that’s why I like it.

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

Review: The Exact Location of Home

Book: The Exact Location of Home (2014)
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

exact-location-of-homeBasic Plot: Zig wants nothing more than to hang out with his dad. But his mom says his dad isn’t coming. That’s when Zig comes across a GPS unit at a yard sale. And he remembers that his dad used to love geocaching! When Zig discovers somebody who uses the name “Senior Searcher”, he is convinced it’s his dad. Now Zig is following the clues from one geocache to another. Which is way better than the real-life trouble he and his mom find themselves in. When they can’t pay the rent, they end up in a homeless shelter.


1) This book deals with some great topics, especially with regards to homelessness. One of the best scenes (for me) was when Zig’s teacher “explains” to the class about some (mythological) kids who are homeless… Not realizing that she has such a kid right in her own classroom! And, their upcoming field trip? To visit the homeless shelter. I thought Kate Messner captured this whole sequence quite nicely… Zig’s realization that he knows more than the teacher about this. And the fear at being discovered to be “one of those kids.”

2) I enjoyed the interaction and relationship that develops between Zig and the little kid at the homeless shelter, Scoop.

3) The other friendships in the book were fine. Nothing super special, but I’m glad Zig had friends. He hides a lot from his friends, but that made sense to me.

4) The geocaching adventures were a fun touch. And it was a great way to bring the dad into the story.

5) I really like the cover for this book. And inside… I love the little bicycle at the header of each chapter. What a cute idea 🙂


1) The secret with the dad was a little predictable, at least to my eyes (as an adult. Would it be clear to kids? I’m not sure.) This wasn’t necessarily a horrible thing, but it wasn’t a big surprise either that it was supposed to be. Worse was why Zig didn’t figure the truth out for himself… like why didn’t he google his dad’s name? Especially when he was trying to find the dad.

2) The herons seemed to be a boring part of the plot. [*Slight SPOILER] They turn out to be connected to Zig’s dad, i.e. a little important. But they don’t connect in any real personal way to Zig. It’s not like he gets to know the herons. Therefore WE don’t get to know the herons. [End Spoiler]

3) I wish the final revelation of who is under the water tower would have been done a little better. The payoff was weak because there was no great setup. And therefore, it lacked a punch. I didn’t feel any sense of catharsis or homecoming for Zig.


My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I’m glad Messner wrote this book. I’m glad she deals with some hard topics. This wasn’t a perfect book, but it wasn’t bad either. The geocaching treasure hunt was fun.


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