Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / July


Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I enjoyed the June challenge, so I went back for the July one!

So, I finished thirteen middle grade books this month. I have to say that I found that this month it was harder to get my BINGO. I started off on one track, but then fell short on one title. I finally did it at the very end of the month, thanks to finding two books; one about Tia Lola and the other about Granny Torrelli. I love those two women!

And thank-you to Elza Kinde for first putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

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.
  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 June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)

*Snow on the Cover

How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay // by Julia Alvarez

how-tia-lola-came-to-visitFirst let me say how much I love Tia Lola! I also understand Miguel’s reluctance and mixed emotions about having her stay with them. Having a family member do things differently because they come from a different culture is hard for a child, especially one that craves to fit in with friends. And I think Alvarez was able to capture this very nicely. *He loves his tia, but…

Footnote: I’m a little weirded out by the “Visit Stay” of the title. First, it kind of gives away the ending. And it’s just awkward. Like what do I put as the title of this book?? I like the idea in theory, but in reality, I just wasted too much time on this unnecessary conundrum.  [3 stars]

*A Book About Food

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup // by Sharon Creech

granny-torrelli-makes-soupI love how everything comes together in this book. It’s almost like two short stories, but they do interconnect.

I have my suspicions regarding Granny Torrelli’s tales about the old country. They seem to match up perfectly with the situation at hand, so I suspect they may not be 100% true. (Although Sharon Creech doesn’t tell us one way or another.) I just think Granny Torrelli is quick-witted enough to be able to come up with her own granny-style fables to help out the youngsters in her life.

And can I say that this book made me hungry for soup? Yes, it did. (And I think this cover is adorable.) [3.5 stars]

*Pick Your Prompt // A Book About Immigrants

A House of Tailors // by Patricia Reilly Giff

house-of-tailorsI really enjoyed this one. It’s a historical novel, so what can I say… That’s always a bonus in my book!

The story is about German immigrants coming to New York City in the 1870s. I love how Dina and “the Uncle” fight all the time, and yet are so similar in their personalities. I love Barbara and little baby Maria, who are able to soften the Uncle’s harsh edges. And my favourite part of the book has to do with how Dina deals with the small pox epidemic. What’s doubly cool is that this part of the story is actually based on a true event in the author’s family history! [4 stars]

*Yellow Cover

Ghost // by Jason Reynolds

ghostThe potential for this book was so great. I wish I could give it a higher rating. The beginning was amazing. I loved the character of Ghost (Castle). I loved the storyline: the running, the training, the coach, the need for the right kind of shoes.

But then, somewhere in the middle of the book, it seems to lose momentum. Maybe it’s all the secrets that get told… way too early in the plot. There’s no lead up. The end isn’t as cathartic as it could have been. I felt this book could have used another round of revisions because the story definitely deserves it. (There are several sequels. I’m intrigued by these, but I’m also a little gun-shy now. Is this just how Jason Reynolds rolls? Or will the next books be better than the first?)

I do LOVE that cover. I love how Ghost is running so fast, he’s off the page 🙂 [3 stars]

*Note: I will be publishing a full review of this book soon.

*Talking Animals

The One and Only Ivan // by Katherine Applegate

one-and-only-ivanThis is a story narrated by Ivan, a gorilla who spent years on display at a mall where he’s billed as: The One and Only Ivan. Soon after the story begins, we meet the newest animal to the mall’s exotic collection, a baby elephant named Ruby. Seeing Ruby struggle, Ivan decides he wants to save her from his own fate.

I read this book after reading Wishtree by the same author. There are a lot of similarities. I wasn’t as enamoured with this story, however. I’m not sure why. It was good, but I’m not sure that it’s a Newbery winner. (It won the Newbery in 2013.) [3 stars]

‘Diary’ in the Title

The Clue in the Diary // by Carolyn Keene

clue-in-diaryThis is Book #7 in the Nancy Drew mystery series! I used to devour these books when I was a kid, so it was fun to go back and solve a mystery with Nancy, Bess, and George. And this is the book where we’re introduced to Ned Nickerson!

The version I read this time around is a reprinting of the original edition from the 1930s. This is the first time (that I am aware of) that I’ve read the original version of any of these stories. The versions I grew up with were the yellow hard-back copies with the revised text. So, in essence, I was reading this book for the first time! (Actually, truth be told, I don’t actually recall reading this title when I was a kid, so it’s possible I’ve never read it before, revised or otherwise.) [4 stars, for the nostalgia]

A Bike on the Cover

The Way to Bea // by Kat Yeh

way-to-beaThis is a book about a girl who used to have friends, but now that she’s in seventh grade, she doesn’t. She does meet some kids on the school newspaper staff, but she’s reluctant to respond to their overtures of friendship. And then she meets Will, a kid obsessed with labyrinths.

While I did understand some of the loneliness she feels, overall I found I had a hard time connecting to Bea. She was just so fearful. I also had a hard time understanding why they felt the need to break into a stranger’s labyrinth, a place they have no business being. Although the maze/labyrinth was pretty neat. I love the title, though… a nice play on words on her name! [3 stars]

A Novel

Dave at Night // by Gail Carson Levine

dave-at-nightSo, I remember reading this shortly after it first came out. It’s certainly different from Levine’s fairy tale stories, but it still has her touch.

Dave’s a mischievous boy, but at heart, all he wants is to be wanted. After the death of his dad, his step-mother doesn’t want to keep him. His uncle doesn’t want him. And his older brother doesn’t even really stick up for him. So, he ends up at HHB, the Hebrew Home for Boys. But for Dave, he’s not going to let a few walls and gates keep him from exploring New York City during the Roaring 20s.

A good book. Not as good as I remember it being. But I felt for Dave, and I really like his “Grandpa”. And I enjoyed the historical setting. [3.5 stars]

Set in the U.S.A.

Raymie Nightingale // by Kate DiCamillo

raymie-nightingaleThis book is set in Florida in 1975. Raymie’s goal is to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. The reason? To get her dad to come home again. She thinks the best way to win is to learn how to twirl a baton. And that’s where she meets two of the other contestants: Louisiana and Beverly. Together, they become the Three Rancheros.

Florence Nightingale makes an appearance in the story—sort of. Although, I found that part of the story line didn’t seem to pan out in a meaningful way. But the three girls really are delightful. [3.5 stars]

A Book with Pirates

Magic by the Lake // by Edward Eager

magic-by-the-lakeThe four children from Half Magic are back. This time it’s summer vacation and they’re at the lake where they meet a wishing turtle. And they end up getting magic by the lake. Not by the pound. By the lake.

While, not as good as Eager’s first book (Half Magic) or some of his later books (Knight’s Castle comes to mind), it’s still a fun read. I particularly liked the adventure in Ali Baba’s cave where the children succeed in reforming the thieves, only to… well, I won’t spoil it for you.

And there’s also a wonderful tie-in to a later book called The Time Garden. You won’t get the reference unless you read both books! [3.5 stars]

A Bug on the Cover

The Penderwicks at Last // by Jeanne Birdsall

penderwicks5I’m maybe stretching this, but there are lightning bugs on the cover of this book. But this also might be because of my true feelings for this book. I really hate to say it, but I DID NOT LIKE this book.

There, I said it. This is basically like one of those episodes on TV where they try to bring back every character into the story for some big event and everybody just says: remember this and remember that? I will probably have to review this book at some point to try to figure out why I didn’t like it. We’ll see. On the other hand, I might just try to forget it ever existed. [2 stars, yikes!] 😦

Black Cover

Wild Girl // by Patricia Reilly Giff

wild-girlI really enjoyed this book about an immigrant family from Brazil. The father and brother have come to New York State five years prior. And, finally, they send for 12-year-old Liddie to join them.

The book is a “horse book”. The father has found a job as a horse trainer and the brother is a jockey. The title Wild Girl refers to both the name of a new horse, and to Liddie herself (a nickname given to her by her now-dead mother).

This book definitely brought me back to my days of reading The Black Stallion. [4 stars]

Crown on the Cover

Kristina: The Girl King // by Carolyn Meyer


It’s been a while since I’ve read one of the Royal Diaries. This one was about a Swedish King (Queen?) named Kristina. She called herself a King because she was her father’s heir. At first, he thought she had been born a boy, but when the truth was revealed to him, he declared that she should be raised as a Prince. She inherited the throne at the age of six! (Although, she did have regents until she was of legal age.)

I found this Royal Diary sad, especially with regards to Kristina’s mother. Although, she does have a kind aunt who raises her, and (apparently) gave Kristina the diary. Not my favourite of the Royal Diaries, but I did find it interesting to learn a little about Swedish royal history.

And while she’s not actually wearing a crown in the picture, there is a crown at the top with The Royal Diaries printed over it! [3 stars]

Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for July with regards to Middle Grade books. I again thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Your Turn…

If you want to do this for the month of August, there’s a fresh Bingo Challenge. Check it out at #MGCarousel


Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / June


Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I decided to give it a shot for their June challenge. And I did it! While I didn’t get a full card, I did get a BINGO.

Thank-you to Elza Kinde for putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

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.
  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 June.

Here are my results…

One Word Title

Wishtree // by Katherine Applegate

wishtree.jpgThe first few chapters, while charming, almost led me to a DNF. This plot of this book really doesn’t get underway until Chapter 10! And by this time I wasn’t sure about this book.

But I’m so glad I stuck with it. This is an absolutely beautiful story of friendship and sacrifice. Much in the vein of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (although this book is a much happier book). I particularly  loved the friendship between the the crow and the tree and how they worked together on their plots and plans.

This book actually made me cry near the end. [4.5 stars]

Title Starts with U

Under the Watsons’ Porch // by Susan Shreve

under-watsons-porchI had a hard time liking Ellie, the MC of this book. She tends lie (stretching truth is a kind way of putting it). For example, they start this “day camp” under the neighbours’ porch. When her mom asks if they got permission from the Watson sisters, Ellie lies. And then brushes it off with “Well, the Watson sisters are really old and deaf, so it doesn’t matter” attitude.)

I did like the rebel, Tommy. Although he has his faults as well. He pushes a lot of boundaries. I felt for him being labelled the “bad kid” and was glad when Ellie’s parents finally figure this out. [3 stars]

White Cover

Magic or Not? // by Edward Eager

Magic-or-Not1I love Edward Eager’s books. This is the story of twins, Laura and James, who move with their family to the country. On the train ride up, a strange girl (Lydia) tells them that the well in their yard is really a magic wishing well. Laura tries it out and her wish comes true! This leads to the children having some magical adventures for the summer. Or maybe it’s all a coincidence… Magic or not, this book is definitely a fun romp 🙂 [4 stars]

A Book of Poetry

The Hunting of the Snark // by Lewis Carroll

the_hunting_of_the_snarkThe version I read was illustrated by Chris Riddell, whose illustrations are amazing.

I will preface this by saying that I’m not big on poetry. The kind of poetry that I can tolerate is the stuff that comes in rhymes. So, Lewis Carroll’s poetry is right up my alley. This poem is full of nonsense, but also has some wonderful moments… I especially liked the bit between the Butcher and the Beaver!

A real treat for fans of Alice in Wonderland. [4 stars]

A Book about Dragons

Dragon Boy // by Dick King-Smith

dragon-boyI really enjoyed this book! I haven’t read a Dick King-Smith book in awhile, and this book reminded me how much I like his cheeky writing style. Especially the family dynamics of the Bunsen-Burner family!

I loved the literary allusions, like to the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. And the hint at why King-Smith named his boy protagonist “John”. [4 stars]

Title Starts with E

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk // by Sid Fleischman

entertainer-and-dybbukI’m almost surprised that this is a kid’s book. It has some pretty heavy themes. Especially with how children were hunted and killed during the Holocaust. It also focuses heavily on revenge.

Not that I don’t think this book shouldn’t exist. I found it very interesting history-wise and I would definitely recommend this to adults or teens. [3 stars]

Reread an Old Favourite

The Magician’s Nephew // by C.S. Lewis

TheMagiciansNephewAh, Narnia! This is the book (while first chronologically, I think should not be read until later in the series) that gives us the back story to the whole world of Narnia. (It’s a prequel before the word prequel existed!) And it’s a wonderful story… Of Digory and Polly. Of a friendship that goes through ups and downs. Of a mother who is dying and a son whose greatest wish is to find the land of youth so she won’t die.

I particularly love the exchange over Digory’s name:

“I say, what a funny name!” said Polly.

“It isn’t half so funny as Polly,” said Digory.

(Chapter 1)

I picked up this book because I just saw a play (on which it was based). I was pleasantly surprised to see HOW much the play resembled the book. (Kudos to the playwright! It’s currently at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada.) What a wonderful book to revisit. [5 stars]

Pick Your Prompt // A Book About New York City

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street // by Karina Yan Glaser

vanderbeekers1This book is a contemporary read in the same vein as The Saturdays (Elizabeth Enright) and the All-of-a-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor) which were both written in the 1940/50s. So, this book has that nostalgic feel, even though the Vanderbeekers live in our modern world. (Actually, come to think of it, they’re a little like the Penderwicks.)

I love the family (there are five kids!) and how they are trying to save their home from the mean, cranky landlord who lives on the top floor of their brownstone. (Full review coming soon!) [4 stars]

Graphic Novel

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder // by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

norwood-builder-graphic-novelI enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes mystery in graphic novel format. I thought they did a pretty good job. It actually made me go out and get the original story to read… just to make comparisons. 😉

My thoughts overall is that this is a great way to introduce middle graders to Sherlock Holmes! Of course, at some point I think it’s a good idea to graduate to the original. [3.5 stars]

First Book in a Series

The Saturdays // by Elizabeth Enright

saturdaysThis is the book that begins the Melendy Quartet. My mom read this book to me when I was a kid and I loved it. I haven’t read it since (simply because our library, for some reason, decided to discard this book. WHY?). But I was finally able to find a copy. I was a little afraid that I would find that maybe it isn’t as good as I remember.

Can I just say that this book is a masterpiece? Yes, it is. A minor masterpiece, but it is beautifully written. The characters (Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver) come to life so amazingly. I love their Saturday adventures in New York City. There’s a reason why I loved this book as a child. And I love it as an adult. The magic is still there! [5 stars]

Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for June with regards to Middle Grade books. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It was fun to sift through books at the library, trying to pick titles to go with the prompts.

This challenge also forced me to read books I might never have picked up. Like poetry. (I’m glad I did!) I look forward to this month’s challenge 🙂

Your Turn…

If you want to do this for the month of July, there’s a fresh Bingo Challenge. Check it out at #MGCarousel