Crimson’s Creative Challenge #63

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In response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #63

Crispina Kemp posted a photo… of an alpaca. “For an increasing number of British farmers the alpaca has become the go-to for wool production. The alpaca’s fibres fetch a much higher price than common old sheep. But its still a rare sight in our countryside.”

My response: To Crispina’s alpaca… Greetings from your BFF in Canada! (This one lives in a zoo.)


Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

Review: Mo Wren, Lost and Found

mo-wren-2Book: Mo Wren, Lost and Found (2011)
Author: Tricia Springstubb
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars

Basic plot: Mo Wren and her family are moving away from Fox Street. Her dad wants to start his own restaurant. Mo feels more lost than found in this whole new neighbourhood, while Dottie seems to have no trouble at all in fitting in. But when their dad has difficulty securing a loan, Mo’s new “friends” at the laundromat step in and get things rolling.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed the sisterly bond between Mo and Dottie. I like the one scene where Dottie just takes off and Mo’s like: “Fine! Go. I don’t care.” But then she goes off to find her because she is her sister after all. I really loved how that fits in later on in the book with Carmella.

2) Da! Man, I love this old lady. (I’m a sucker for books about kids making friends with old people!) I was really scared that the author was going to kill her off, especially when Mo’s dad gets a “certain phone call”. But, fortunately, that didn’t happen. (Not sure why this old lady is called “Da”, but she is.)

3) At the beginning, there’s a nice little bit about how Mo’s dad chooses a poorer family to buy their old house instead of selling it to the rich people. I loved how that comes back into the story in a way that helps Mr. Wren out.

4) The theme of moving and moving on was knit into the fabric of this story. I loved how the different threads all came together. I’ve had to move from homes and neighbourhoods I’ve loved dearly, so I really did identify well with this part of the story. I think Tricia Springstubb was able to capture the bittersweetness of this topic very well.

5) The part featuring Handsome (the lizard) was quite cute. I like how Dottie chooses a lizard for a pet!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) This did have a slow start for me. I wasn’t really invested in the story until later in the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This is actually the second book about Mo Wren. I have never read the first, but that didn’t seem to matter too much. Although, perhaps that accounts for the slow start for me. Hmmm. This book would be good for fans of the Penderwicks!


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 #3 / U Are Here

20200116ma_0060“A Pawn in the Game” / Theme: U Are Here

A little about this photo…

I had no idea what I’d actually do with this prompt when I created it, but here I am… using it for a photo of a game of chess.

To be honest, I’m not terribly good at playing chess. I know the rules. I can play (and potentially win against) children. I actually like the logic of the game. My problem is that to really OWN the game, you have to think ahead, like 50 moves.

If I were any piece on the board? I’d probably be that pawn. Lowly. Insignificant. But the cool thing about pawns (and I tell this to anybody just learning to play the game)… is that they can turn into queens.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

Review: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

mystery-black-hollow-laneBook: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019)
Author: Julia Nobel
Genre: MG, Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Emmy gets sent over to England to attend a boarding school while her mother travels for work. But before she leaves, Emmy discovers a mysterious box and note. It all has something to do with the death of her father, something that Mom refuses to discuss. At the new school, Emmy makes friends with two outcasts… she also makes plenty of enemies. Not to mention the fact that the mystery of her father remains out of her grasp until it’s might be too late. That’s when Emmy discovers a secret that might just lead to her own demise.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Boarding schools! What is it about the magic of boarding schools. I’m not sure I’d actually want to live at one, but I sure like to read about them. Not to mention there are secret passages and underground lairs.

2) Emmy outcast friends are the kind of friends I’d love to have. Jack and Lola really do have her back. They make quite a team.

3) I liked the little twist about who Emmy could and could not trust. I thought it was set up nicely.

4) I liked the bit about the priest. It was a nice memorable scene. I suspected something, but it turned out to be a little different than I thought.

5) The door is left open for a sequel, but it is a stand-alone novel.

6) The cover of the novel fits in very well with the style and “flavour” of this book.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I thought Julia Nobel missed an opportunity with the different words “soccer” vs. “football”. In the book, Emmy’s American mom makes her promises not to play soccer. I was convinced she’d somehow get past this by saying she was playing “football” not “soccer”. But, that didn’t happen. Not a huge deal…

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – If you like dark secrets and mysteries, then this is the book for you! Emmy’s a likeable protagonist along with her new friends at the school. And she’s up against some shady dealings.


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 #2 / Tucked Away

20200110ma_0051“Tiny Elephant Likes to Read” / Theme: Tucked Away

A little about this photo…

Tucked away on my bookshelf is this tiny little elephant. I hope you can figure how tiny she is from the scale of the books (they’re novels… the brown one is actually Little House in the Big Woods). I don’t actually know where I got this adorable little animal, but she’s been hanging around my bookshelf for quite a few years now. I figure she must be a reading elephant… Secretly, late at night, she reads all my books.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / December

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It’s time again for another round of Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge!

This month, I finished nine middle-grade books that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. (I got an arrow!!)

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 #MGCarousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  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…


Books on the Cover

Words on Fire // by Jennifer A. Nielsen

words-on-fireMG, Historical (2019)

When her parents are taken by the Cossacks, Audra is thrust into their life of book smuggling. She learns that people like her parents risk their lives in order to keep the Lithuanian culture alive, even in the face of Russian occupation.

I liked Audra’s spunk. And I really liked Lukas and his determination. They played nicely off each other! I should have expected some of the twists Nielsen often brings to her stories, but I really didn’t see them until they were about to be revealed.

I did find the story a bit slow in spots, otherwise, I would have given it a higher rating. [3.5 stars]


Natural Disasters

The Pompeii Disaster // by Dan Gutman

pompeii-disasterMG, Contemporary/Time Travel (2018)

Note: This book is technically the third book in a series. The Flashback Four are a group of kids that time travel to various important events in history to… get this… take a photograph of said event. This book’s focus: Pompeii. And as you can probably guess, things won’t go smoothly with a volcano about to erupt.

The kids have to take a picture of the historical event, but that’s about it. But, I’ve included it in my list because it is kind of neat to think of having a photograph of Mount Vesuvius about to bury the city of Pompeii in ash. Wow, just wow! [3 stars]


Pick Your Prompt / A Book About Grief

The Elephant // by Peter Carnavas

elephantLower MG, Contemporary (2017)

This is a sweet book about a girl who just wants her dad to fix her bike. But that is even a little too simplistic. Really, what she wants is her dad to be a dad. The elephant, of course, is a metaphor. Something that continually follows around after her dad. It’s invisible and only Olive can see it.

Ultimately, this book is a story about grief and how we deal with grief. It’s an interesting choice to show the grief felt by the father and others in the story. Told in short, easy-to-read chapters. The illustrations add a nice touch. This book is definitely intended for younger readers. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult. [4 stars]


‘Guide’ in the Title

Wildlife Watcher Guide // by Michael Leach and Meriel Lland

wildlife-watcher-guideMG, Non-Fiction (2016)

This was a nice little how-to guide for beginner photographers. It focuses on how to get the shots of wildlife.

I especially enjoyed the little interviews with the authors (photographers themselves) sprinkled throughout the book. Many of the photos are stunning, although I doubt any child will be able to travel to get such shots. But it is inspiring. They also do give tips on how to take photos in your own backyard.   [3 stars]


Three Words in the Title

A Little Princess // by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

a-little-princessMG, Classic (1890)

A re-read for me. The riches to rags back to riches story always holds some magic in it. In many ways, Sara Crewe is a more modern (in you can call 1890 modern) version of Cinderella. She has the kindness and sweetness and optimism of Cinderella. And Miss Minchin plays a wonderful evil stepmother-type character.

While I still like The Secret Garden better, this book comes in a close second. (And to tell the truth, I do think I’d prefer Sara as a friend a little more than Mary Lennox. At least, the Mary at the beginning of the story!) [4.5 stars]


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

  • Book About Siblings // Planet Earth is Blue // by Nicole Panteleakos
  • Purple Cover // Counting on Grace // by Elizabeth Wintrop
  • Author’s Name is Chris // Elijah of Buxton // by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Piano on the Cover // Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart // by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Final Thoughts…

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

For January’s challenge, go to https://elymnifoquent.com

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

Review: Sunny Rolls the Dice

sunny-rolls-diceBook: Sunny Rolls the Dice (2019)
Author: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Genre: MG, Near Historical/Graphic Novel [1970s]
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the third book in the Sunny series! Sunny is a middle-schooler in the late 1970s and she’s all about checking her Groovy-meter. How groovy is Sunny? Well… not very. She and her friend join the neighbourhood boys in learning to play D&D. But when her friend loses interest in the game, now Sunny isn’t sure if she should continue either.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I was glad to return to the world of Sunny with this book.

2) I like Sunny’s friendship with Deb and how things start to change between them. It’s good to talk about peer pressure; and I like how Sunny learns that friends don’t have to do everything together.

3) I’ve never really played D&D before (Dungeons and Dragons), so I did find that interesting. Although, it doesn’t seem like a game I would obsess about. I will say that the cover did confuse me, but once you understand the D&D connection, it makes more sense.

4) The nostalgia of the 1970s is definitely one of the best parts of this book.

5) I love it when Gramps shows up! I just wish he was in it more. (Him and Dale!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Sunny’s older brother Dale is missing from the plot of this story. (Note: He does make an appearance in this book, but it’s very peripheral.) While I’m glad for his sake, I think the conflict he brings to the other stories is what makes them a tiny bit better than this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked this book almost as much as I’ve liked the other books in the series. It’s lacking something. Maybe it’s the struggle and conflict that was always there in the form of the Dale plot line. Still a good read, even if just for the “groovy meter”.


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 #1 / Point of View

20200101ma_0005“A Dusting of Snow” / Theme: Point of View

A little about this photo…

The first snow of the year! It was just a dusting and filled in the cracks in the driveway. As you can see from the next (birdseye view), you can see the pattern that came out. It caught my eye and I decided… “Here is my first point-of-view shot of the year!”

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THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

My Top Ten Reads… from 2019

So many good books read in 2019! It was hard to pick only ten. But I did it. Click on any of the titles below to read my reviews…

The Strangers* | The Best Christmas Pageant Ever | Brave | Birdie | Planet Earth is Blue | El Deafo | Pay Attention, Carter Jones | Front DeskFinding Langston | Arcady’s Goal

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I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge! 100 books for 2019. Once again, I actually read over my goal with 108… Not bad, eh?

This year, I didn’t do as many discussion posts… but I did manage to squeak in a few. As always, I loved hearing what other people bring to a topic. Here are the top three posts that you (my blog readers) liked 🙂


What was your favourite post from 2019? Your favourite book? Feel free to share links from your own blog, or somebody else’s… Let me know in the comments!

Review: Planet Earth is Blue

planet-earth-blueBook: Planet Earth is Blue (2019)
Author: Nicole Panteleakos
Genre: MG, Near Historical [1986]
Rating: 4.5 stars

Basic plot: Nova is autistic and pretty much nonverbal. She loves all things “space” and is excited about the upcoming launch of the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle. She knows that older sister Bridget promised to watch it with her, and Bridget is the one person in Nova’s world that is always there for her.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) So, I love near historical novels… Not surprised that this one (that takes place in 1986) interested me. Of course, knowing that this book is centered around the Challenger was bittersweet. I loved how the author was able to incorporate that into the story. (One of the scenes that takes place prior to the launch is the incident where Nova is playing with her toy astronauts in the attic.)

2) The relationship between Nova and her sister Bridget is told mostly from Nova’s “letters” to Bridget. This is a very clever way to give us Nova’s thoughts when she rarely speaks in the story. It was also a great way to get to know (and love) Bridget the way Nova knew (and loved) her.

3) I loved Nova’s foster family. (The one she’s with, not the ones from her past.) It’s nice to see a family that knows how to work with Nova and accept her for a person. Both parents are great, and so is Joanie the college-aged daughter.

4) All the pop-culture references were spot on with their thematic significance, even ones that don’t seem to be at first. (I’m looking at you, Bridge to Terabithia poster!) I wasn’t too familiar with David Bowie’s song Space Oddity (which is quoted from extensively in the book, even lending a lyric to the title of the book!), but the other references were fun throwbacks to childhood in the 1980s.

5) I do like the cover. Nicely done. 🙂

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did NOT like how she did the Neil Armstrong quote in the book: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” In 1986, we did NOT use the word “a”, and nobody I knew ever made fun of Armstrong for saying it that way. Of course, it does make more sense with the “a”, but if we want to be historical, Nova would not have known the quote with the “a”. That really, truly bothered me!!!! (Okay, I’m calm again. Rant over.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I know it’s written for kids, but this is the type of book that may be more interesting to the adult reader. That said, I really did enjoy it. It does have some sadness in it, so be warned (but if you know what happens to the Challenger, you should already know that).


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