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.


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.


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!!


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. 🙂


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

A Valentine’s Story


I don’t often post twice in one day, but I am today.

This is a short story I wrote for a Valentine’s Day writing contest. The theme is “Oh, Guilty Heart!”


by Maria Antonia

Word Count 214

Kira had the best Grammy in the whole world. And she was here to visit!

Kira jumped out of bed and sprinted to Grammy’s room. She opened the door and made a flying leap…

“Goodness,” Grammy cried. “Don’t break the bed.”

Kira grinned. Grammy always said that.

The next morning, Kira waltzed to Grammy’s room. She opened the door and made a flying leap…

“Don’t break the bed!” Grammy cried, laughing.

The morning after that, Kira tiptoed to Grammy’s room. She opened the door and made a flying leap…

“Don’t break the—”

Rattle! Whomp! Clunk!

Kira’s mouth dropped open. She couldn’t look at Grammy.

She dashed from the room. Grammy always told her not to break the bed. And she had done it at last.

Kira slipped into her secret spot behind the couch. She swallowed. Grammy must hate her now.

“Kira?” It was Grammy.

As her face popped into view, Kira’s lip quivered. Grammy dropped something on Kira’s lap. It was a tiny candy heart.

“For my special Valentine,” Grammy said.

“But I broke the bed.”

“I know.”

Kira sniffed. “Can we fix it?”

Grammy smiled and held out her hand.

Kira climbed out and gave Grammy a big hug.

She always knew she had the best Grammy in the whole world.


Note: There’s a little backstory to this… This is something my own grandmother would always say to me when she would come to visit. And yes, I would wake up super early, take a flying leap, and land right next to my grandmother. I’m pretty sure she loved it.

Unlike Kira, I never did end up breaking the bed. But I always kind of wondered what would have happened if I did…

Love in Books


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.


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. 🙂


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. 😦 **)


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. 🙂


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

Are You an Emotional Reader?


I have a question for you… Do you get emotional when you read books? Do laugh out loud (or even silently) when you read a funny scene? Do you cry when something devastating happens to the main character? Do you blush when the protagonist ends up in an embarrassing situation?

I’m an emotional reader. To me, when a book can make me laugh or cry, that’s a good book. But I’ve heard others tell me they’re not emotional readers. It’s just the way they are.

So, that made me curious about you as readers. Which kind of reader are you?

Take the poll below…

And then talk to me in the comments! Let me know what kind of emotional reader you are…

Review: Cool Zone

cool-zoneBook: Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One (2008)
Author: Judy Blume
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: This is another story starring the Pain (younger brother Jake) and the Great One (older sister Abigail). Told in alternating chapters, we get their differing points of view. There’s a whole lot of sibling rivalry, but also a bunch of sibling-love at the heart of each story.


1) I love the sibling rivalry, but I’m glad that there’s more to it than that. Even if the kids don’t quite admit it, they love each other. 🙂

2) I don’t mind the episodic nature of this book. Not many books get published nowadays that are basically a collection of short stories. Judy Blume does a great job with this one. Each story is self-contained and fun.

3) Judy Blume’s characterization of the kids is perfect. Reminds me of her Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing series. I love how she starts out each of these books with how the Pain thinks their parents prefer the Great One, and the Great One thinks the Pain gets all the breaks in their family. Isn’t that how it always is?

4) This book is a quick read. I think my favourite story was the one about the lost tooth. (I could feel Abigail’s frustration!)


1) The only thing I didn’t really like was that the Pain (Jake) calls his teacher “Mary”. Every other teacher in the book is called Mr./Ms. This is just a personal preference of mine. In fact, I ended up just substituting Ms. Mary in my mind every time I saw her name in the book.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this book. Not sure whose POV I liked better. The POV of the Pain? Or that of the Great One? 🙂


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

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.