Review / The Friendship War

Book: The Friendship War (2019)
Author: Andrew Clements
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: When Grace visits her grandfather, she comes into the possession of a collection of old buttons. She brings the buttons to school and, bam! A fad of button-collecting is started. But soon she’s at odds with her so-called best friend, Ellie. This time, Grace doesn’t want to give in to her friend and so begins the Friendship War …

Opening lines from the book …
Flying from Chicago to Boston by myself hasn’t been as big a deal as my dad said it was going to be. But nothing ever is.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Let’s start with all the cool buttons! I’ve never thought too deeply about buttons, but I did very much enjoy learning about the different types of buttons, especially the vintage ones. I thought this information was handled nicely through the character of Hank, Grace’s new friend.

2) Since I love old things, I definitely felt a kinship to Grace as she wanted the buttons. I think, however, I might be a little more like Hank in wanting to know the history behind them. He does all the research.

3) This was an interesting study in how fads work. Grace has a very scientific approach to things, and this whole button thing is no different. I like the scene where she discusses the idea of supply and demand with her older brother. Which, of course, leads to the thing that gets her into trouble!

4) The war between the two friends was the focus of most of the book. I was definitely on Team Grace. But I do like what Andrew Clements did at the end to make Ellie a little more sympathetic. And how the friendship is eventually saved.

5) I liked the Grampa. (I like grandparents in stories like this.) I just wish there was more with him in the book!

6) Favourite Quote: “Of all the kids you knew back when you were in sixth grade, are any of them still your friends?” This is Grace talking to her mom about the trouble in her friendship with Ellie. If I were to ask the same question of myself, I can answer and say: “Why yes, yes I am!” 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) There were moments when I couldn’t fully believe in Grace’s motivation. One particular section is when she does decide to launch a full-out war against Ellie. I didn’t totally buy it. (I just had to remind myself to just keep reading.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I found this interesting, especially compared with The Button War by Avi. While that book is historic fiction, both books deal with button collections. I enjoyed this book by Andrew Clements. (I believe it was the final book published before his death in 2019.)

 


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 #15 / In the Wild

“Left Behind” / Theme: In the Wild

A little about this photo…

I saw this poor little guy on a recent walk. I have so many questions. How did he get there? Who does he belong to? Will he ever be reunited with his owner? How long has be been there? What’s his name? 

I really do hope that he does find his way home…

 


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Review / Henry and Beezus

Book: Henry and Beezus (1952)
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Henry Huggins wants a bicycle more than anything. And so, he sets out to figure out a way to make his dream possible which includes a scheme to sell bubble gum at school. But things aren’t easy when your nemesis (Scooter McCarthy) constantly asking about your progress. And then there’s Beezus. She’s okay, but her little sister Ramona just makes Henry’s life miserable …

Opening lines from the book …
Henry Huggins stood by the front window of his square white house on Klickitat Street and wondered why Sunday afternoon seemed so much longer than any other part of the week.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Henry Huggins is such a likable character. I love how he can’t really stand Ramona Quimby, and yet, he’s so nice that he just puts up with her. And THEN, she always seems to turn out to be the key to his success! (Although, in this book, she doesn’t come into the climax as she often does in the other books.)

2) I love Beezus! I love how she has all these games to help her deal with her sister. Like the “Waiting for the Bus” game, just to name one. In this book, she’s forever practicing with her baton in hopes of twirling it in the Rose parade. And of course, she becomes the key to Henry figuring out how to leverage his embarrassing win at the end of the book so he can get that bicycle.

3) Scooter McCarthy makes my blood boil! Which is good. Cleary was definitely able to make us feel for poor Henry in his every attempt to get that bike, only to have Scooter be the thorn in Henry’s flesh. I also like how Scooter isn’t necessarily “bad.” He’s just annoying.

4) Who doesn’t love the name Klickitat Street. I want to live on Klickitat Street!

5) The ending (like all the other Henry books) is quite satisfying. It will make you want to go out and ride around on a bike, whether it’s red or not. My bike is blue, by the way. 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS

I decided to read this book when the news that Beverly Cleary had died late last month. And since I did a blog post on all the Ramona Quimby books last year, I decided to read one of the Henry books this time. I really like how the Henry books are connected. We have Ribsy and Henry’s desire to have a bike and a paper route. And of course, there’s Ramona the Pest. It really is a delightful series. And while some parts may have aged a bit, overall this book (and the series as a whole) is still very much an enjoyable read. Thank you, Beverly Cleary!

 


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 #14 / Glass

“Easter Bunny ‘n Books” / Theme: Glass

A little about this photo…

I have a bit of a collection of bunnies. This is my tiny glass bunny, the one my grandmother bought me along the Spanish playa when I was sixteen. Some glassblower was selling all sorts of animals. Of course, I picked the bunny. And here, I decided to pose the bunny among some of my old books. (Another of my “collections.”)

 


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Writing Contest / Spring Fling 2021

It’s time for this year’s #SpringFlingKidlit Writing Contest, hosted by Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neal.

The rules are as follows. Stories must: 1) be 150 words or less; 2) have no illustration notes or illustrations apart from the gif; and 3) be written for children (12 and under).

For more information about the contest, or to read other entries, go to this link at Ciara O’Neal’s blog.

(Note: My gif is from http://gph.is/PeLoLF)


THE EASTER PENGUIN

by Maria Antonia
Word Count: 150

On Easter Eve, Pippa Penguin waddled up to Easter Bunny HQ.

She loved Easter. Everybody knew penguins were expert at hiding eggs.

Knock-knock.

Pippa peeked. Bunnykins wobbled under a tower of Easter baskets. She looked egg-hausted.

“Need help?” Pippa asked.

Whap! Jellybeans flew.

Big Bunny hopped over. “Can’t you read the sign? Easter bunnies only!”

When Big Bunny wasn’t looking, Pippa snatched a basket and …

“Hey!” Bunnykins called.

The chase was on.

Over the hill, Pippa waddled. Bunnykins hopped after her.

Under the bridge, Pippa wobbled. Bunnykins was slowing down.

Through the reeds, Pippa waded when—

Wham!

Right into Big Bunny. “That’s ours.”

“But I love Easter,” Pippa whispered.

“An Easter Penguin would be a wonderful help,” Bunnykins said.

Big Bunny frowned. “What about our sign?”

“I got an idea,” Pippa said.

Soon a new sign sparkled outside HQ: Easter Critters, Inc.

Knock-knock.

“You hiring?” asked the Easter Crocodile.

THE END

Review / One Last Shot

20210324ma_0820Book: One Last Shot (2020)
Author: John David Anderson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Malcolm’s dad is always trying to get him into some extra-curricular sport. When they discover that Malcolm is actually quite good at mini-golf, guess who gets signed up for a tournament, not to mention his own private golf lessons! In addition to all things golf, Malcolm has to deal with a new relationship with a girl he meets at the mini-putt as well as the increasing fighting between his parents. And that’s not to mention the voices of doubt inside his head …

Opening lines from the book …
It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where twenty-four talented young golfers are getting ready to tackle this monster of a course.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I think my favourite character in the whole book is Frank, the cranky coach! I love how he ends up connecting with Malcolm. By the end of the book, when he (*SPOILER) is in the hospital, I felt genuine concern! (End Spoiler) This book is worth it just for the character of Frank! He definitely added some spice. 🙂

2) I also enjoyed the friendship between Lex and Malcolm. I loved all of Lex’s little trivia facts. And how she brought in Pac-Man and the “One dot at a time.” And I especially like how she helps brings everything together by the end of the book.

3) The mini-golfing was fun. I don’t think I’ve read a book about mini-golf (or even, golf!) before. There was enough information to help me understand the scoring and such, but not so much that I grew frustrated. (Note: It’s been a while since I’ve play a game of mini-golf! Kind of made me want to try my hand at it. Although, I know I’m not nearly as talented as Malcolm.)

4) I thought it was interesting how Anderson brings in Malcolm’s big opponent: Jamie Tran. We don’t really get to know Jamie, other than that he has his own youtube channel and is serious about mini-golf. I think it’s an interesting decision on the part of the author to deal with Malcolm’s “nemesis” in this way. And Malcolm’s choice at the end of the game is particularly interesting to me.

5) Then there was the situation with the parents. I find “divorce stories” hard to read sometimes. In this book, Malcolm lives through the constant bickering of his parents. And, at one point, (*SPOILER) Dad even moves out. But then, while the end is not resolved about whether or not the parents will go through with a divorce, there does seem to be hope. And I like hopeful endings. (End Spoiler)

6) Of all the “voices” that Malcolm experiences (voices of doubt, etc.) my favourite ones were Bill and Jim, the fictional Sports Commentators who chatter about each golf move. It was a nice technique to bring some fun to how Malcolm sees the game unfolding before him. (Note: It’s Bill (or is it Jim) who speaking the opening lines of the book. See above.)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) This story begins with the big tournament, and throughout the book, the tournament is the anchor to all the flashback scenes. I liked that. What I had trouble with was knowing what was flashback and what was happening in real time. By the end of the book, I was getting it; but it took over half the book of me being slightly confused! I think there might have been a better way to do this.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this story, even though golfing is not really my thing. I particularly liked the ending and thought it fit in well with Malcolm’s character. Overall, it’s a fun book that also deals with some very real issues that kids face.

 


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 / Spring is in the Air

20210313ma_0690“Signs of Spring” / Theme: Spring is in the Air

A little about this photo…

One thing I look forward to every year are the little signs of spring. One of my favourite signs are the little green bits that start popping up through the dirt. And these are some of the clear winners …

Snowdrops. (I love how that name evokes both winter and spring at the same time!)

 


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Review / A Boy is Not a Bird

20210321ma_0807Book: A Boy is Not a Bird (2019)
Author: Edeet Ravel
Genre: MG, Historical [Soviet Union – 1940s]

Basic plot: Natt and his friend Max are the “two musketeers.” But war comes to his village, and so do the Russians. Suddenly, Natt’s no longer going to Hebrew classes and then his father is arrested. When his mother goes away, suddenly Natt is in the interrogator’s chair. He starts to wonder if Stalin really is the friend of children.

Opening lines from the book …
My best friend Max and I are playing a game called Life and Death on the High Seas. Max came up with both the game and the name. He gets all the good ideas. I’m more of a go-along type of guy.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I loved the friendship between Max and Natt. I think I was particularly drawn to Max because, while Natt buys into the lies being taught at school, Max seems to know something is a little odd about it. I love how Max comes up with various “illnesses” to get out of going to school!

2) I did like how the teachers are not necessarily “evil” in this book. Comrade Martha and Comrade Minsky are shown more in a complex light, especially Comrade Minsky (who we learn *slight spoiler* is also Jewish). While Comrade Martha pushes the Russian and Soviet agenda, she doesn’t vilify Natt, even after his father is arrested. She actually gives him Soviet prizes. I found this interesting and made me think she, like others, is just caught in Soviet web and just tries to do her best to survive.

3) I loved the theme of negative numbers which Comrade Minsky introduces during math class. I loved how it plays into the plot as Natt loses things, one by one… his dad, his house, etc. The book is even separated into sections labeled ‘Minus a House’ and ‘Minus a Town.’

4) I also enjoyed Mr. Elias, Natt’s Hebrew teacher. Later in the story, Natt becomes very close to his little daughter, Shainie (who seems about three or four years old). At one point, they are separated, and the little girls reaction shows how much she adores her big kid friend. I like how the author manages to incorporate her into the very end of the story.

5) The author’s note at the end of the book explains the true story behind this book.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) At times, I was confused by Natt’s age. There are spots where he seems to be twelve (I think that’s his age in the story), but there were other times when he seemed much, much younger. He seemed very naive, especially compared with Max. Since this book is based on true events, it’s possible that this is part of the real “Natt,” but I do think kids these days will have a hard time connecting with him at times.

2) The book also ended a tad abruptly. It seems like there is a lot more to Natt’s story. And in the author’s note, she does mention that it’s supposed to be a trilogy. That’s fine, but I did want just a little more at the end of this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think this story is such an important one. I love historical fiction, and I do have soft spot (if you can call it that) for stories about the Soviet Union since that is part of my heritage. I would recommend this to anybody who’s interested in history. I look forward to reading the next two books to find out what happens to Natt!


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 / True Beauty

20210313ma_0666“Snow-Covered Falls” / Theme: True Beauty

A little about this photo…

Niagara Falls is beautiful any time of the year, but there’s something special about the Falls in the winter. All those icy and snow-covered rocks. It’s like somebody took icing sugar and sifted it over top of everything. ⁠

And yes, I know it’s the first day of Spring!


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Four Years / Who Knew?

2021-bloganniversaryI got a little reminder from WordPress that today I reached the fourth anniversary of my blog.

Wow! Has it been four years already? And apparently it’s also St. Patrick’s Day… So, in honour of this, I’ll combine St. Patrick’s Day (green) with my blog anniversary (books) and …

We get a photo of green books!

20210316ma_0740