#MGTakesOnThursday / Bat and the Waiting Game

bat-waiting-gameBook: Bat and the Waiting Game (2018)
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary

Rating: 4 stars

This book in three words…

Siblings, Autism, Skunks

Favourite Sentence* from Page 11…

“I don’t talk about the audition nearly as much as you talk about Thor,” Janie said.

“How much can anyone say about an audition?” Bat said.

“How much can anyone say about a skunk?” Janie said.

(*Or Favourite Sentences?)

My thoughts on this book…

This is a lower middle-grade book about a boy who copes with autism. And he has a baby skunk that helps him out. What’s not to love about a baby skunk?! (Hmmm? I wonder.)

This is a nice quick read. It gives a nice glimpse into the mind of a child who has to deal with the sensory issues of autism. And he has a lot of little annoyances to navigate, especially when his big sister gets a part in the school play.

Apparently, this is a sequel to another book that I didn’t read. But, I didn’t find that to be a problem. Very cute story.

Did I mention the skunk?

This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/07/09/mg-takes-on-thursday-6/

How to take part…

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

#MGTakesOnThursday / Bad Girls

bad-girlsBook: Bad Girls (1996)
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Rating: 5 stars

This book in three words…

School, Friendship, Secrets

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“[Mikey] gave Margalo another look at her smile. See if Margalo scared off easy.”

(Yes, technically, I chose another two sentences, but the second one is a fragment and really belongs in the first sentence! I love how these girls are trying so hard to be “bad girls”.)

My thoughts on this book…

Mikey and Margalo… Are they friends yet?

I think one of my favourite threads in this story has to do with the teacher. She and Mikey go head to head over her (Mikey’s) name. Mrs. Chemsky will NOT use a nickname, but Mikey hates that her real name is Michelle. Of course, this whole name thing becomes very important later on.

And the whole “bad girl” thing? The girls aren’t necessarily bad in the true sense of the word. They see inconsistencies in the others around them. Like Rhonda. I think another favourite part has to do with the annoying Louis Caselli and how he gets kicked out the class, only for the girls to launch into a get-Louis-back campaign.

In many ways, this is not your typical middle-grade novel. It’s not light and fluffy. That’s not Voigt’s style of writing.

This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/05/14/mgtakesonthursday-5/

How to take part…

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

#MGTakesOnThursday / Breaking Stalin’s Nose

breaking stalins noseBook: Breaking Stalin’s Nose (2011)
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: MG, Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 stars

This book in three words…

Family, Brainwashing, Truth

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“Everyone in the kitchen stops talking when my dad comes in. They look like they are afraid, but I know they are just respectful.”

(Yes, technically, I chose two sentences, but I felt that you needed both to get the gist of the situation. Also, please note that Sasha’s dad is one of the secret police. So, yes, the people in the kitchen are terrified of him!)

My thoughts on this book…

I absolutely LOVE this book! The setting is the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and I find a lot of people don’t really know much about this time period in history. In my case, I grew up with these stories about the Soviet Union since my grandmother lived there. She lived through Stalin’s man-made famine in 1932-33 (the Holodomor, if you’re interested in knowing more.) It’s so important that we understand the ways a society can go wrong… that communism and socialism are not the answer.

In the story, young Sasha believes all the lies that have been handed to him in school and by his own dad. He can hardly wait to become a young pioneer to help bring in the great utopian future! So, when his dad is arrested, he thinks it’s all a mistake. Comrade Stalin will be able to set things right! Little by little, Sasha begins to see that things are not quite the way he’s been told. And yes, Stalin’s nose plays a very important part…

Very powerful book. It won a Newbery Honor in 2012.

This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/04/30/mgtakesonthursday-3/

How to take part…

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.


Re-read: The Ramona Books – Part 2

Part 2 of Ramona Week! In honour of Beverly Cleary’s 104th birthday…

(Read Part 1 here.)

Ramona and Her Mother (1979)

ramona-motherRamona’s still in second grade. She’s having trouble because everybody says that Beezus is her mother’s girl. Isn’t Ramona her mother’s girl as well? This is the book where Ramona and Howie use the bluing, where Beezus gets her forty-year-old haircut, and Ramona decides to see what it’s like to be a firefighter and wear her clothes over her pajamas!

And to top it all, there’s the big crock-pot debacle which leads Beezus and Ramona to fear that their parents might be getting… a divorce! Eventually, Ramona learns that while her family might have problems, they still love each other.

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“All her life she had wanted to squeeze the toothpaste really squeeze it, not just one little squirt…The paste coiled and swirled and mounded in the washbasin. Ramona decorated the mound with toothpaste roses as if it was a toothpaste birthday cake.”

*I don’t think I’d ever have done this, but it does sound super-fun!! (And I don’t think I ever will do it. Too much waste! But it’s fun to read about. 🙂

My Burning Question about this book…
Where is Henry Huggins?! His parents are at the brunch in the opening chapter, but this is the place wherePOOF!he disappears from Ramona’s world.

My Rating: 4 stars

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)

ramona-q-age8This book holds a special place in my world. Firstly, it was my first introduction to the Ramona books. And secondly, I taught this book to my third-graders!

Not only is Ramona in third grade, but she’s now going to a new school and riding a big yellow bus. This book also introduces us to Yard Ape! But Ramona’s biggest challenge is… Willa Jean. I just love how she figures out how to use her sustained silent reading to thwart Willa Jean’s demands. (Like Ramona, I do prefer the term “sustained silent reading” to “DEAR”!)

This book really gets into Ramona’s head. She’s come a long way from being the pest from the early books. I love it how she’s growing up and we get to see that.

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“At last it was time for the egg. There were a number of ways of cracking eggs. The most popular, and the real reason for bringing an egg to school, was knocking the egg against one’s head. There were two ways of doing so, by a lot of timid little raps or by one big whack. Sara was a rapper. Ramona, like Yard Ape, was a whacker. She took a firm hold on her egg, waited until everyone at her table was watching, and ​whack​—she found herself with a handful of crumbled shell and something cool and slimy running down her face…”

*The best scene in the book! (Note: As I mentioned, I used to teach this book when I taught 3rd grade. One year, one of my students brought in hard-boiled eggs for Easter JUST SO WE COULD DO THIS! Yes, it’s fun to whack a hard-boiled egg on your forehead. There’s always that moment when you think… what if it’s really a raw egg?)

My Rating: 5 stars

Ramona Forever (1984)

ramona-foreverGuess who’s coming to visit? Howie’s Uncle Hobart! And on top of that, Ramona is sick and tired of being the one responsible for Willa Jean! This is the book where, finally, the sisters convince their parents to let them stay home alone after school. Of course, you know that’s not going to be easy.

There’s also big news with regards to their Aunt Beatrice. Yes, she’s getting married! And then, their mother announces that she’s [SPOILER!] pregnant. [End Spoiler]. A lot of changes for Ramona as she finished up the third grade.

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“’He’s Howie’s father’s little brother, only now he’s big,’ explained Ramona.

‘Why, that must be Hobart Kemp,’ said Aunt Beatrice. “He was in my class in high school.’ … ‘All the girls said he was cute…. He used to chew licorice and spit on the grass to make the principal think he was chewing tobacco like a professional baseball player…’

‘Where’s this cute licorice-chewing uncle coming from, and how did he get so rich?’
asked Ramona’s father, beginning to be interested. ‘Playing baseball?’

‘He’s coming from—’ Ramona frowned. ‘I can’t remember the name, but it sounds like
a fairy tale and has camels.’ Narnia? Never-never-land? No, those names weren’t right.

‘Saudi Arabia,’ said Beezus, who also went to the Kemps’ after school. Being in junior high school, she could take her time getting there.

‘Yes, that’s it!’ Ramona wished she had remembered first.”

*I love this dialogue exchange between the family. Including Aunt Beatrice! We don’t actually often SEE Aunt Beatrice in the books until now.

My Burning Question about this book…
Where is Yard Ape?! (Hint: Don’t worry too much, he comes back in the next book…)

My Rating: 3 stars

Ramona’s World (1999)

ramona-worldThis is the final book in the series! There’s a new girl in the fourth grade and her name is  Daisy. Soon enough, Daisy and Ramona become best friends. Ramona is starting to notice boys (ahem! Daisy’s older brother!) and she gets her first chance to babysit… well, catsit. And best of all, Yard Ape (aka Danny) is back in the story. And so is Susan of the boing-boing curls! And Ramona is happy being Baby Roberta’s big sister…

This book really is the perfect end to the series. It brings pretty much every loose end of the series together. The only missing person? Henry Huggins. Whatever happened to him? (Please Beverly Cleary, just ONE MORE book?! Fifth Grade Ramona!)

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“’Weren’t you wearing trousers?’ [asked Beezus.]

Ramona said in her most dignified way, ‘Princesses don’t wear trousers.’ She paused and added, ‘Unless they are in disguise.’

The family found this funny. Beezus recovered enough to say, “You must have looked weird, just your bare legs hanging down from the ceiling.’

And my underpants, thought Ramona in horror, not having pictured the scene from below until this moment. Did I fall far enough for them to show? What if Jeremy saw them? She could never face him again.”

*Best scene in the book is when she falls through the ceiling!

My Rating: 4.5 stars


Have you read these books? What are your thoughts? Which one(s) do you like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Re-read: The Ramona Books – Part 1

So… Yesterday (apparently) was Beverly Cleary’s 104th birthday. And so to celebrate this truly awesome writer, I’m going to do some mini-reviews on one of her most memorable characters: Ramona Quimby!

Beezus and Ramona (1955)

beezus-ramonaWe are first introduced to little Ramona Quimby through the books about Henry Huggins. In some ways, this book almost fits in better with that series, but for some reason, it’s considered Book 1 of the Ramona books, even if it’s not from Ramona’s POV! (It focuses on the point of view of Beezus.) And like in the Henry Huggins books, Ramona is… well, she’s a pest!

Ramona ruins a library book! She locks the dog Ribsy in the bathroom! She takes a bite out of every apple in the storage. Poor Beezus. But still, it’s fun to see Beezus figure out various ways to handle that pesky Ramona.

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“’Mother, what am I going to do?’ Beezus demanded. ‘It’s checked out on my card and I’m responsible. They won’t let me take any more books out of the library, and I won’t have anything to read, and it will all be Ramona’s fault. She’s always spoiling my fun and it isn’t fair!’ Beezus didn’t know what she would do without her library card. She couldn’t get along without library books. She just couldn’t, that was all.”

*I 100% get where Beezus is coming from! The horror of having to turn in a ruined library book. :/

My Rating: 3 stars

Ramona the Pest (1968)

ramona-pestRamona Quimby is in kindergarten! This (in my opinion) is truly Ramona’s first book. We get to see the magic of her thought process… like when she sits patiently because her teacher told her to “wait for the present” (thinking she was going to get a gift of some sort on the first day of school). We also get to see Henry Huggins in action (poor Henry) as the crossing guard who has to rescue Ramona from the mud.

And finally, there are those oh-so-tempting curls belonging to Susan (i.e. Ramona’s nemesis). Those curls are Ramona’s downfall. Just one little tug… BOING! Ramona gets sent home. Oh, the devastation! Convinced her beloved teacher hates her, Ramona refuses to go back to school. Will Ramona Quimby a school drop out at age 5?!

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“Ramona could not understand why grown-ups always talked about how quickly children grew up. Ramona thought growing up was the slowest thing there was, slower even than waiting for Christmas to come. She had been waiting years just to get to kindergarten, and the last half hour was the slowest part of all.”

*I think this quote best demonstrates why Cleary’s books remain as good today as when she wrote them. She understands what it’s like to be a child!

My Rating: 3 stars

Ramona the Brave (1975)

ramona-braveRamona isn’t afraid of anything… Especially not the first grade! And what’s really exciting is that the Quimby family is building onto their house so that Ramona gets her own bedroom. But she soon finds out that maybe she isn’t quite as brave as she thought when she has to sleep in that new bedroom… alone. And then there’s the dog on the way to school…

One of my Favourite Quotes from the book*…
“Ramona stood inside her new closet, pretending she was in an elevator. She slid open the door and stepped out into her new room, which she pretended was on the tenth floor.”

*I loved doing this as a kid. We lived in various houses and not all of our houses had this style of closet door. But when my sister and I got to share a bedroom with one of these “elevator” doors, you bet we took the elevator!

My Burning Question about this book…
Mrs. Kemp (i.e. Howie’s grandmother) babysits Ramona and Beezus when Mr. and Mrs. Quimby go to Parents’ Night at school. So, WHO is babysitting Howie and Willa Jean?

My Rating: 4 stars

Ramona and Her Father (1977)


This is probably my favourite of the books!

Mr. Quimby loses his job, and Ramona (who is now in second grade) wants to help out… If only she can get a job like those “rich” kids who do commercials on television. She and Beezus also team up to try to get their dad to stop smoking.

And then there’s the church Christmas pageant! Ramona has the perfect idea to dress up as a little lamb, but her mother never gets around to making the right kind of costume. It’ll take a little encouragement for Ramona to bounce back.

One of my Favourite Scenes in the book…
Ramona wants so much to help her dad earn a million dollars like the kids do on TV. She finds burrs and decides to practice by making a crown, just like in the commercial. Of course, once the burrs hit her hair, oh boy! Now it’s up to Dad to cut it out with scissors. But Ramona is bound and determined never to let him know the TRUE reason why she put the burrs in her hair in the first place!

My Rating: 5 stars


Have you read these books? What are your thoughts? Which one(s) do you like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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

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


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!

Books About Photography + Giveaway


As a photographer, I’m always interested in reading about other photographers. So, this week’s post is a list of books about photography.

**NOTE ABOUT GIVEAWAY** I do have a giveaway with this post! For details, see the bottom of the page.

Hot Cocoa Hearts // by Suzanne Nelson

hot-cocoa-heartsMG, Contemporary (2015)

Ever since the death of her grandmother, Emery Mason has become a scrooge about Christmas. Problem is, Em’s family runs the Santa booth at the mall where she has to play the role of an elf. And then there’s Alex who runs the hot chocolate stand. He’s going to make it his goal to try to change her mind.

Photography Connection: Em loves to take photos with her mom’s old camera. She captures images at the mall to show the “unhappiness” that comes along with the Christmas season: crying children, unhappy babies, tired out old ladies. But in true Hallmark-fashion, by the end of the book, that all changes! [3 stars]

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.

Photography Connection: Of all the books on my list, this is probably the least photography-ish. Yes, 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]

Counting on Grace // by Elizabeth Wintrop

counting-on-graceMG, Historical – 1910 (2006)

When Grace gets yanked out of school to go work in the mill, her teacher is furious. How will these children ever get an education, especially when Grace is one of her best students… What’s this? Grace is one of the best students in the whole school? Suddenly, Grace wants to learn. She wants to be a teacher herself, but it won’t happen if she must work in the cotton mills for the rest of her life.

Photography Connection: This story is a fictional account of those haunting cotton mill photos taken by Lewis Hine in the early 20th century. About half-way through the book, Mr. Hines shows up at the mill with his camera to photograph Grace and the other children who work at the mill. The book also includes a scene where he shows Grace how he develops his glass slides! [4.5 stars]

Northern Exposures // by Eric Walters

northern-exposuresMG, Contemporary (2001)

This was a fun story about a boy who wins a photography contest by mistake! The prize? Photography the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. And because he’s not really a photographer, he has some madcap adventures. Not to mention, the other people in his group are a bunch of senior citizens! I enjoyed learning about polar bears and getting a little geography/history lesson (which I see as fun!) about Churchill. Plus, as a photographer, I would have loved to be on this trip with Kevin and all the senior citizens!

Photography Connection: The photography contest… Oh, and because the book was first published in 2001, I loved all the film-talk… digital photography wasn’t really a thing back then! So, it definitely brought me back to the days when I first started taking serious photos with my SLR camera. [3.5 stars]

Half a Chance // by Cynthia Lord

half-a-chanceMG, Contemporary (2014)

Lucy is the daughter of a professional photographer who is judging a competition for children photographers. She decides to covertly enter the contest. She enlists the help of the kid next door, Nate. This book also has a connection to loons and loon-watching. I loved that aspect of the book, as well as the plot that revolved around Nate’s grandmother (who suffers from dementia).

Photography Connection: I really liked the photography treasure hunt! My favourite shot was the one they take up on the mountain. I like how the competition turns out (won’t spoil it!). I felt that it was fairly realistic and also satisfying. [4.5 stars]


Have you read any of these books? Are there other books that feature photography you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!


Since this is a photography book and I’m a photographer, I’m giving away one of my 2020 Photography Calendars… **ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE**.

Note: Entries must have a valid U.S. or Canadian address. If, for some reason, you cannot use the form below, leave me a comment in the comment section below.

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

Why I Re-read Books


I’ve heard that a lot of people refuse (or just don’t) re-read books. I’ve never understood this. I agree that there ARE books I will never re-read.

Here are three reasons why I re-read books all the time.

Reason #1 – Books are Friends!

Books (to me) are kind of like friends. When I find a good book, just like when I find a good friend, I want to send time with that book. And yes, that means a re-read.

Reason #2 – Following the Clues

I get more out of the book each time I read it. There are things I miss the first, second, even third time I read a book. Sometimes it might have to do with my own age or situation (at the time when I am reading). But I often find new little insights when I re-read books. Perhaps it’s just a little in-joke put in by the author. Or set-up that later pays off in the climax. These are what make re-reading worth it.

Reason #3 – An Enjoyable Read

I know I’m going to enjoy the book. This is especially true if I’ve already read and re-read this book multiple times. I know this book will be a good one. I’m not going to want to throw the book across the room because the author didn’t live up to their promise of writing a good book. I already know it’s a good book!

Note: This post has been brought to you by the Swallows and Amazons series (by Arthur Ransome). I was first introduced to these books in a Children’s Literature course I took at university. And I loved them. There are some I love better than others. But I recently picked up Swallowdale and Winter Holiday to re-read. 🙂


Do you re-read books? Do you re-read often? What are your favourite books to re-read? Let me know in the comments!

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

We Interrupt Your Regular Programming

This is just a quick post to let you know that there is no blog post for today! (Which is a little ironic since this is actually a blog post to tell you that there is no blog post.)

If you’ve seen my most recent Saturday Photo Challenge pic, you may have surmised that I’ve taken to the skies and have flown away from home.

It’s true. (For the time being, at least.)

This means that I’ve definitely not been reading as much as I normally do. You may have even noticed that I’ve even dropped one or two of my Thursday posts already.

I still intend to keep up with my photo challenge on Saturdays. (I have my camera!) And I’ll post book reviews when I have a chance. I’m going to do my best to do the April Middle Grade Carousel Bingo Challenge, but I’m not sure how that will go this month.

So… until next Monday (hopefully!)

Middle Grade Books for Black History Month

Here are some of my favourite recent reads. I didn’t exactly plan them to be for Black History Month, but that’s how it turned out. These are books I’d recommend reading at any time of the year. Note: I read more than this, but I’ve limited my choices to three books that I really enjoyed.

Finding Langston // by Lesa Cline-Ransomefinding-langston

MG, Historical Fiction – 1940s (2018)

I loved this book! And yes, it contains poetry. (I’m not always too crazy about poetry in books.) So, when a book can get me excited about poetry, I consider that to be a well-written book.

I loved Langston! I felt for him as he attempts to navigate the big city of Chicago after coming north with his father. I love the library! I think as soon as the library made an appearance, I KNEW I was going to love this book. I love the character arcs in this book and the friendships that develop. I loved the discoveries made.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it’s only February. [5 stars]

Days of Jubilee // by Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack

days-of-jubileeMG Non-Fiction / Civil War (2003)

I really enjoyed this book that details the events that led up to the Civil War to the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment. The authors lay everything out in a clear, easy-to-read way. They also include little stories throughout. One of my favourites involved Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker. Wow! That dressmaker is one smart woman.

And history is not always neat and tidy. People and events are complicated. I liked how the authors didn’t steer away from the complication. But I also like that they didn’t dwell on the ugliness. Instead, they focused on hope for the future.  [5 stars]

Stella by Starlight // by Sharon M. Draper

stella-by-starlightMG,  Historical Fiction – 1930s (2015)

This book opens with a chilling scene of the main character (Stella) witnessing the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross. The main theme deals with fear and how the Klan was trying to intimidate the black families in the community so that they wouldn’t register to vote. The voting scenes were particularly amazing. And I like how Stella starts her own little newspaper (only to be read by one: her!)

I did feel there was a little cohesion lacking in bringing the story together as a whole, which is why I didn’t give the book 5 stars. But it’s an interesting read. And I really enjoyed Stella’s voice.   [4 stars]


Have you read any of these books? Do you have any books that you read for Black History Month? Tell me about them in the comments!

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