Review: The Impossible Journey

impossiblejourneyBook: The Impossible Journey (2004)
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: MG, Historical (Soviet Union 1934)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Marya and Georgi want nothing more than to be reunited with their parents who have been taken during one of Stalin’s purges. The two determined children set out on an impossible journey across Russia towards a remote village in Siberia with the slight hope that they will find their mother there. (A companion book to Angel on the Square.)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I read Angel on the Square a long time ago. (Hint: It’s about Marya’s and Georgi’s mother.) I didn’t know this book existed until now! I like that it’s not a direct “sequel”, but that it does give us another peek into the lives of the characters from the first book. (Note: You can also read this book without having read Angel.)

2) The sibling relationship between Marya and Georgi is both realistic and sweet. He’s the typical younger brother who frustrates Marya. And yet she can’t leave him behind!

3) I love the look at the different families in this book. The book is about two children seeking to reunite their own split-apart family. Then there’s the neighbor family (with the bear) who initially take them in…. The doctor’s family on the train… And the “big family” of the Samoyeds (nomadic tribe).

4) The history of the time period of this book has always fascinated me. I thought Whelan did a good job in depicting the hardships of living under Stalin. One of my favourite parts was when Marya meets the Government Man and is forced to sing the praises of Stalin. (And how Georgi almost sabotages her plan!)

5) I really enjoyed learning about the Samoyeds (nomads who lived in Russia/Siberia at this time). I liked the interaction they had with the children, especially with regards to Georgi’s snow globe. I really liked how Marya and Georgi are not only helped by them, but also end up helping them in return.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found it hard to understand Marya’s impulsive nature, especially with regard to showing off her mother’s locket. (I suppose you could argue that it’s still only 1934 and she doesn’t yet know the danger of such items. The height of Stalin’s purges doesn’t happen until 1938.) Not a major criticism as the episode does show how school was a place where information was gleaned about parents.

2) In the very end, there is (what I’d consider) an unnecessary death. Certainly it’s realistic, but it didn’t seem to be absolutely necessary to the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book gives a good sense of this oppressive time period in history. I’d definitely recommend for anybody who likes history as well as those who like plucky-children-who-take-impossible-journeys stories.


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 #30 / More Please!

IMG_0423“Have Your Cake…” / Theme: More Please!

A little about this photo…

I love how photography allows you to have your cake and eat it, too!

When my niece was asked what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she replied “any cake with whipped cream.” So this is the cake we made for her. And… it was delicious! Can I have another piece of cake?


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

Review: Skylar

skylarBook: Skylar (2008)
Author: Mary Cuffe-Perez
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (Animals)
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot:  Skylar and his friends are pond geese. They never migrate. That is until a heron shows up needing to find his way to Lost Pond. Now it’s up to Skylar and his ragtag band of geese to tap into their instinct and begin the journey…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I found this very interesting. Told from the perspective of the geese, it’s an interesting look into the migration of Canada geese. Plenty of goose facts, but in the format of a story.

2) I loved the quirks of all the geese! The boasting of Skylar and quiet wisdom of Esther. Roosevelt’s a bit of a know-it-all, too. And then Weedle and Loomis add a lot of fun to the story with their antics. Love the character arcs for all of them… Especially with how they band together (despite all their bickering).

3) And then there’s the Who-on (the name the geese give the heron). He’s so patient with them. Even when he finally gets angry at them for not knowing exactly where they’re going! I especially loved the part at the end when he speaks to Skylar and reveals some things. (I won’t spoil it here.)

4) The illustrations are a nice touch.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I found the story a little slow. (But it does pick up.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – A fun* story about Canada geese. It is lower MG, and I would definitely recommend for kids who like animals-can-talk books. Also, if you’re interested in learning about geese migration, this is a nice peek into that topic (from the POV of the geese).

(SPOILER Warning: *There is a sad event that does happen in the book involving a death. Nothing graphic, but it is sad in the vein of a book like Charlotte’s Web.)


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 #29 / Sunset

IMG_9562“Painted Sky” / Theme: Sunset

A little about this photo…

The colour of the sunset was stunning a few nights ago. I grabbed my camera and practically ran out of the house to get this shot. Got two random houses, but I love how their silhouettes are juxtaposed against that amazing painted sky!


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

Review: Island War

island-warBook: Island War (2018)
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Izzy and Matt arrive on an Alaskan island around the same time–Izzy with her mother, and Matt with his father. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, it isn’t long before Japanese soldiers land and the islanders are evacuated to camps in Japan. However, Izzy and Matt find themselves left behind. Now they have to survive on their own, making sure nobody knows they’re even on the island.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved this from a historical perspective. I didn’t know the U.S. was “invaded”. So, this part of history really grabbed me.

2) The beginning of the novel (when Izzy and Matt both get used to life on the island) was very pleasant and interesting to read. I particularly liked Maria, the island girl that befriends Izzy. (She also has a super cool name. Just saying.)

3) Then half-way through the book, the plot takes a turn… to more of an Island of the Blue Dolphins vibe. Once the kids are on their own it becomes a survival story. Not only do they have to find food, but they also have to hide from the enemy. (And I love that one particular soldier may not be such a bad guy after all.)

4) The story is told through alternating chapters and POVs of Matt and Izzy. I loved their rivalry and how Giff portrays their mutual dislike of one another. It makes it even better when they have to put their differences behind them in order to survive. I liked how both characters have arcs.

5) I really like the muted colour on the cover of this book. I think it works very nicely for the story inside.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Some of the backstories were a little confusing to me. Especially with what happened to Izzy’s dad. I think he’s dead (but I’m not sure… Did I somehow miss that part?)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is for anybody who is interested in a lesser-known story about World War II. And also for people who enjoy a good survival story.


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 #28 / Here I Stand

IMG_9242“Dress Form” / Theme: Here I Stand

A little about this photo…

There was this old board game we used to play as kids called “Scavenger Hunt”. It had a dress form as one of the items you had to find. When I saw this, it made me think of that game!

I’ve decided to go with the “Here I Stand” prompt for this week. 🙂


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

Review: Love Double Dutch

love-double-dutchBook: Love Double Dutch (2018)
Author: Doreen Spicer-Dannelly
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Kayla can’t wait to go to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden with her Double Dutch team. But with her parents always fighting, she and her brother have to spend the summer in North Carolina while they work out their problems. That’s when Kayla joins up with her cousin to create their own Double Dutch squad. But they have some hefty competition. The cousin’s ex-best friends…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Kayla is Brooklyn-cool! Yep. She’s definitely got attitude. But in a good way. I used to teach girls like her, so it brought back good memories of some of my students. 🙂

2) The Double Dutch stuff was very interesting. I remember jumping rope when I was a kid, but we never really did Double Dutch. This book made me want to go to youtube to watch a few videos of the competitions. And wow! Pretty amazing stuff.

3) I liked how Kayla’s confidence just pushes her team forward. They’re the outcasts, but the girls work really hard to get where they need to be.

4) The story has a happy ending, which I always love. I enjoyed the friendship developed by Kayla and Sally and Melissa and Tina. I was definitely rooting for them.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The realism was a little lacking for me. At times, I kept saying… “Really? I’m not so sure that would happen.” Especially with rope-jumping novices like Melissa and Tina. Especially when nerves play a really big part in competitions like this.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – A fun story about kids who skip rope competitively. The book has some great messages about cooperation and working together. A good summertime 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 #27 / Nighttime

IMG_9645“Lighting Up the Night Sky” / Theme: Nighttime

A little about this photo…

It’s fireworks-time in my part of the world. I chose this photo for my “Nighttime” prompt. Who doesn’t like fireworks?

(Actually, I do know people who don’t like fireworks. A family friend, for one. When I asked her why, she said they bring back memories of the bombs that fell in her city when she was a kid during World War II. Makes complete sense.)


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