Newbery Verdict: When You Trap a Tiger

20210218ma_0325

Book: When You Trap a Tiger (2020)
Author: Tae Keller
Publisher: Random House
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Winner (2021)

Opening Lines of the Book…
“I can turn invisible. It’s a superpower, or at least a secret power. But it’s not like in the movies, and I’m not a superhero, so don’t start thing that. Heroes are the stars who save the day. I justdisappear.”

MY THOUGHTS…

This book won the Newbery this year (2021). I was pretty excited when it was announced since I had the book sitting on my nightstand! I was ready to dive right in.

This is a story about a shy, quiet girl named Lily. She and her mother and sister come to live with their Korean grandmother (Halmoni). Halmoni has always had a special bond with the girls, regaling them with stories from Korean folklore about a tiger that walks around like a man. But Lily soon discovers that something’s wrong with her usually-so-vibrant Halmoni. She confides to Lily that she has stolen the stories and now the tiger wants them back. When Lily starts seeing the tiger, she knows she has to do something to trap it to save the life of her beloved grandmother.

Okay, first off, I like imagination in books. This book, however, crossed a line for my suspension of disbelief. I like the idea, but the tiger conversations bothered me. (Maybe it was my adult-brain kicking in!) I found Lily’s conversations with the tiger slightly worrisome. I know it was all metaphorical, and I liked that to a certain extent. I liked how it connected to the grandmother’s stories. And I even liked reading the stories the tiger tells (I found them very interesting). But the whole thing made me concerned for Lily’s mental health. Maybe it was supposed to be magical realism? If it was, it just felt off to me.

And yet, I loved how Lily and her new friend (the boy she meets at the library) work together to do something to try to help the grandmother (i.e. trapping the tiger). And how the whole grandmother plot unfolds is very compelling and engaging with some wonderful emotional beats.

So, what did I think about the book as a whole?

NEWBERY VERDICT…

Ultimately, I will say that I have mixed feelings about this book. I did like all the Korean folklore stories, but the parts about the tiger did bother me enough. (And I really did not like the sister.) While I liked this book, I didn’t love it. Now, I haven’t read all the Newbery contenders for the year, but I did read We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly. Personally, I would have voted for that book over this one.

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

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

#MGTakesOnThursday / Prairie Lotus


20210217ma_0330Book: Prairie Lotus (2020)
Author: Linda Sue Park
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: MG, Historical


This book in three words …
pioneers, dressmaker, prejudice

Opening lines from the book …
“Should be our last day,” Papa said when they stopped to make camp. He unhitched the tired horses from the wagon, then led them down a little draw to water, while Hanna began clearing the ground for a fire.”

My thoughts on this book…

Hanna and her father are about to settle down in a brand new town in Dakota Territory. What Hanna really wants to do is graduate from school, but there’s a problem. The pioneering townsfolk don’t like that she’s half-Chinese. But Hanna’s determined. With the teacher on her side, and her new friend, Bess, Hanna gets her wish. But what’s next. Like her mother before her, she wants to be a dressmaker. How can she convince the town that she’s a person, just like them?

Set in the days of Little House on the Prairie, Linda Sue Park draws on her love of the Wilder novels. (I love this little tidbit from the author’s note!) Of course, Hanna’s world is a little different in that she has an extra obstacle to overcome regarding her Chinese heritage. But I love her pluck and determination. Her friendship with Bess made me smile (because I did notice the little nod to the author of the Little House books in the naming of this character!)

I highly recommend this book to anybody who likes historical fiction, and especially if you love the Little House books. While I’m not the best at sewing, reading books like this makes me want to pick up a needle and thread and try my hand at button holes! (Okay, maybe not button holes.)


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2021/01/28/mg-takes-on-thursday-30/

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. (*Note: I’ve changed this slightly.*)
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Review / Class Act

20210212ma_0275Book: Class Act (2020)
Author: Jerry Craft
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Companion to: New Kid

Basic plot: Drew is in eighth grade this year. He’s got new hair and even a girlfriend. But he’s having trouble figuring out where he fits in. There’s his friends, Jordan and Liam. But after a visit to Liam’s amazing house, he’s not sure if he and Liam are really cut out to be friends. He definitely doesn’t think he can invite Liam to his own home. I mean, what would happen if his friends saw the little apartment he lives in with his grandmother? He’s not sure he’s ready to find out.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) While the first book was Jordan’s book, this one features Drew. Jordan and Liam are definitely part of Drew’s world, but the POV really focused on Drew this time. Drew and his new hair! I enjoyed seeing his perspective, especially over his uncertainty about where he belongs. (The ending works well, IMHO.)

2) One of my favourite scenes is when the kids go to Jordan’s house. I love this family! Loved seeing them in action, including as they interact with Jordan’s neighbourhood friends. It was a nice break from the school scenes.

3) I love it when the kids are at the assembly and the movie comes on: “Sad-Faced Pictures Presents: The Mean Streets of South Uptown.” This is a little nod to the first book (New Kid) that explores the idea that the Black experience is often summed up or portrayed in only one light: street life, gangs, trouble. What I love about THIS book is that we get to meet kids (two of them Black) who are living a different experience… even though that life isn’t always easy. I taught kids like Jordan and Drew. I would have loved to have put these books (New Kid and Class Act) into their hands.

4) There are some nice running jokes. One is about body odor (especially with regards to sweet-smelling Jordan)! And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I thought it was nicely done! (Although, I’m glad I didn’t have to actually smell it…) And the joke about everybody thinking Mr. Pierre was Liam’s dad (because he came to all his games) was a nice (if slightly sad) touch. 

5) I love the journey Drew goes on, especially with regards to Liam…  (SPOILER) to realize that maybe Liam isn’t his parents. Another great scene is when Drew finally invites Liam over to his house to meet his grandmother. And then they look out and admire the view. (End Spoiler)

6) Best Comic: “I Lost the Bet: Written by Chuck Banks (Dad) and art by Jordan Banks” wherein Dad explains that kids today are weirder than kids in his day… especially when it comes to social media. (But I’m biased since I’m probably Dad’s age!)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Alexandra and the nose thing! Argh! The book makes such a big deal about people touching Drew’s hair, but not so with Alexandra??? 

2) The title. I thought with a title like Class Act that it’d be about a talent show or theatre. Nope. And the juggling is just metaphorical!

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good sequel to the Newbery Winner, New Kid! Definitely recommend this one. 🙂


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

Review / Three Keys

Book: Three Keys (2020)
Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: MG, Historical [1990s]
Sequel to: Front Desk

Basic plot: Mia and her parents are now running the Calivista Motel on their own. But California is headed for an election and on the ballot is a threatening new immigration law, a law that is making everybody in Mia’s world question who needs to be in America and who shouldn’t. While Mia has trouble with a new teacher at school, Jasonnow Mia’s friend—is having trouble with his parents. And then there’s Lupe and her family…

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Mia! Such a fun and enthusiastic voice. It was great to be back in her world as she navigates through new challenges. She still wants to be a writer, but her new teacher keeps giving her low grades! Oh, and she’s back to writing letters… of course! This time, she’s writing to VISA and letters to the editor.

2) I love her relationship with her BFF, Lupe. And I like how Jason is now a friend. But, as complications go, there’s a nice tension that exists between Lupe and Jason. Since the plot revolves around immigrants, it’s nice to see the three different types of immigrants side-by-side.

3) Lupe’s story is particularly interesting in this book. Seeing her navigate through some trying times, especially with what happens with her parents. I do like how Mia’s family (and Hank too!) take her under their wing. 

4) And then there’s Mia’s new teacher, Mrs. Welch. She is extremely unlikeable at the beginning of the story, especially when we see her give out those C’s to poor Mia. At first, I was a little worried that she was going to turn out to be a one-dimensional ‘bad guy’ character. But Kelly Yang had a trick up her sleeve. We do get to see her as a real person, more complex than young Mia realizes when they first meet.

5) And the motel setting is great. I love the weeklies (although, they don’t seem to be featured as much in this book). And Hank is definitely a star in Mia’s world! I love how the family and friends work so hard, banding together to save the motel.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Okay… the title. I was expecting something more prominent with this title. What are the three keys? Are they metaphorical? Are they real? I was intrigued, hoping for a little bit of both but… I kind of forgot about the title until near the end of the book. Then… BAM! (SPOILER!) It comes out of the blue in an off-comment by Hank (I think). It does come near the climax, however, I felt nothing when I read it. I don’t think it was set up well enough. (End Spoiler) *Sigh*

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good sequel to Front Desk! It was nice to be back in the world of Mia and her letter-writing. Definitely recommended for fans of the first book. And even if you haven’t read the first book! (Although, if you do read this one first, you will get some spoilers.)


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

#MGTakesOnThursday / Spy School Revolution


20210204ma_0253Book: Spy School Revolution (2020)
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster*
Genre: MG, Espionage/Adventure

*Note: I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Gibson Frazier. I always enjoy a good audiobook and this one did not disappoint!


This book in three words …
George Washington, traitors, sister

Opening sentence from the book …
“I’m afraid we have lied to you,” said Alexander Hale. “A lot.”

My thoughts on this book…

Another successful book about our favourite students at Spy School!

It was nice to read this book back-to-back with the previous book in the series. At this point, SPYDER is no more, but that doesn’t mean there are no more Bad Guys! Now we have a new threat, and it seems to be coming from … Erica Hale herself? But Ben’s certain she’s innocent.

Love how Erica and Ben’s friendship has been developing, especially Erica has learned to trust in his abilities. (She’s still the better “spy” of course, but she recognizes what he brings to the mission. There are hints at romance, which is fine with me. I just hope they don’t suddenly fall into the same pattern as Summer and Teddy of the FunJungle series.)

I was glad to be reunited with Catherine Hale, Cyrus and Alexander Hale, and Mike, etc. We also get to know Ben’s parents in this one. (Both have a great sense of humour!) Zoe’s character does some interesting twists (won’t spoil it here). And, well, if you read the last book, then you won’t be surprised when Ben, et al. meet up with Murray Hill.

I loved the historical elements that come into play with George Washington being the first spymaster during the Revolutionary War. We (as readers) get to visit Mount Vernon! (I miss visiting historic sites.) Of course, there’s destruction that happens… which I mentioned in my last review. And there are definitely some nice twists with Ben deciphering spy codes.

I’m looking forward to the next book. (Which apparently is set in either Nicaragua or Antarctica!)


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2021/01/28/mg-takes-on-thursday-30/

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. (*Note: I’ve changed this slightly.*)
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Review / The Science of Breakable Things

20210120ma_0200Book: The Science of Breakable Things (2018)
Author: Tai Keller
Genre: MG, Contemporary [STEM]

Basic plot: Natalie’s botanist mom is locked away in her room, dealing with depression, and Natalie doesn’t know what to do about it. Then she hits on a way that might bring Mom back. If only she can win the money from an egg drop contest, she and her mom can travel to see the blue orchids that survived against impossible odds. With some good friends helping her, they’re sure to win, right? 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I was definitely rooting for Natalie in this book. When we meet her, she’s already dealing with a mom who’s gone into a severe depression. And her dad’s doing the best he can but slips into counselor-mode (his job). Sometimes, it’s hard to read about people with depression. But this is very much a reality in our world, and it’s also good to know that other kids are dealing with this type of thing as well. 

2) Natalie, of course, has a quirky friend named Twig. And even though I’m usually averse to names like that, in this case, it works for me. (She’s actually named after Twiggy, the model from the 60s.) Anyhow, Twig is a bright spot in Natalie’s world. And like how Keller also brings in (Slight Spoiler) Dari, the nerdy kid they team up with. (End Spoiler)

3) And then there’s the teacher, Mr. Neely! I love this guy. With all his enthusiasm and hashtags, he’s a memorable character. (More on the hashtags later.) I love how he gets Natalie to work on the Egg Drop.

4) And on to the Egg Drop! Okay, this was definitely the fun part of the book. Seeing the designs sketched out in illustration was great. To me, this seemed like it should have been the climax, but it wasn’t quite.

5) I did already briefly mention the illustrations, but I’m going to bring them up again. I think illustrations worked particularly well in this book due to the scientific process being highlighted.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) (SPOILER!) MC finds out that the blue orchid she and her mother were growing (the one that her mom let die) is really a blue iris. As the daughter of a botanist, she didn’t notice? In my limited gardening experience, orchids can, well, live practically forever, but irises die quite quickly (within a few days at best). This whole depression thing has been going on for a while, so the timeline doesn’t make sense to me. (End Spoiler)

2) The waste of perfectly good eggs was hard for my frugal-non-food-wasting brain to read about!

3) Another teeny-tiny thing that bothered me was that Mr. Neely would sometimes put the letter ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ at the end of his hashtags. I’m fine with the hashtags. But I do like correct spelling, especially when it comes to #teacherz … (It pained me to write that!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I love the idea of a book about an egg drop. I never did one myself, but when I taught school, the sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade science classes did one. They dropped the eggs from the roof of our three-story building. (I can’t remember if any of their eggs survived or not!) Anyhow, if you can handle the sad parts of Natalie’s mom (i.e. a mom dealing with depression), and want to read about egg drops, then I’d recommend this book for you.


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

Review / We Dream of Space

20210103ma_0014Book: We Dream of Space (2020)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Genre: MG, Historical [1986]

Basic plot: It’s January 1986. The whole school is preparing to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Cash, Fitch, and Bird are three siblings, each with their own troubles. Cash breaks his wrist and has to deal with being held back due to his poor grades. Fitch struggles with the teasing of his friends and trying to avoid a certain girl who keeps calling him by his real name, Henry. And then there’s Bird, the good student who wants to be an astronaut herself but begins to doubt she has what it takes. As the days count down to the shuttle launch, the lives of the three kids seem as doomed as the tragedy that’s about to happen… 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Rocket launch. Shuttle launch. Pretty much anything to do with the history of NASA and you got my attention. This book reminded me of Planet Earth is Blue, but it’s also so different. Yes, they’re both set during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, but their focus is different. I enjoyed both very much.

2) I probably identified mostly with Bird, and not just because she’s the only girl in the sibling trio. I got her interest in the topic of the day and her big dreams. I loved her “conversations” her hero, astronaut Judith Resnik. Of course, she not really speaking with the astronaut, but it’s Bird’s way working out what’s true about her own life and situation. Particularly poignant is a quote from near the end of the book after the (Spoiler!) the space shuttle explodes and Resnik, as well as the other astronauts, die. “Is it okay to cry for people you don’t know?” Bird didn’t know Judith Resnik, but that’s how close she felt to the astronaut. (End Spoiler) 

3) I absolutely loved Cash’s character arc in this book. He’s the one who loves basketball but realizes he’s not very good at the game. So, he tries other things, like cooking… until, finally, he figures something out. (I won’t spoil it here.) I loved the scene with his coach near the end of the book.

4) And then, there’s Fitch. He’s Bird’s twin brother (more on that later). He was the hardest of the three (for me at least) to like and understand. And yet, I still enjoyed seeing him develop and grow over the course of the book. In some ways, he has the most courageous arc of the three.

5) My favourite scene (early on in the book) was when the teacher, Ms. Salonga, has the class imagine they are going through the steps of a shuttle launch; that they are the astronauts taking a last minute simulation. This particular chapter is told through Bird’s POV, so we get her imagination full-on. Wonderful scene. Which is, of course, interrupted by one of Bird’s classmates (Dani) bringing her straight back to Earth. My other favourite scene (from near the end of the book) is the picnic. Which I won’t spoil.

6) I though Erin Entrada Kelly did an amazing job of bringing out the era of 1986. Everything about the story (from the basketball references to the video games to the music, etc.) let us know that this was happening in a decade gone-by. 

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Okay, two little things. Fitch and Bird are twins. But I didn’t figure this out until page 77 when we’re told this. And prior to that, they didn’t feel at all like twins. Granted, I’m not a twin myself, but I have taught several sets of twins, and there’s one thing I’ve noticed. There is this bond that happens between twins. A protectiveness. I didn’t see that in Fitch and Bird, at least not in the first part of the book. It’s hinted at a little maybe in some of the car scenes, but those scenes came rather late in the book. Not a huge thing, but a little thing that bothered me.

2) The parents. Oh, boy! I had a hard time with these parents. By the end, I was hoping for some redemption for Mom and Dad, but there was none. The parents just made me really sad.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book and the historical journey it took us on! Overall, it’s a hopeful book, and I’m glad about that (especially in light of the historical events). I highly recommend this book, especially to anybody who likes NASA stories or even just historical fiction. 

*Note: This week (January 28th) marks the 35th anniversary of what happened to the Challenger. I have vivid memories of seeing the footage play out on the TV. I don’t remember if we watched in it real time or not, but that image certainly seared itself on my young brain.


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

Review / Spy School: British Invasion

Spy School British InvasionBook: Spy School: British Invasion (2019)
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Genre: MG, Adventure/Espionage

Basic plot: The Spy School kids are on yet another secret mission, this time to London. Their job? To bring down SPYDER. Their only clue is a key. But because they don’t know who to trust, they must go rogue from CIA, and even MI6. And then there’s Murray Hill who’s helping them. Or is he? 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This is Book 7 in the series, and while I felt disappointed in the last couple of books, this one brought be right back to the excitement of the first books! Yay! Ben and his friends are back, and to tell you the truth, I’m even okay with Mike being in the mix now. (Note: You’ll see from this review that I initially didn’t like Mike. I mean, I was fine with him as a character, I just preferred it when he wasn’t a spy.)

2) I love Catherine Hale! And, I even really like what Gibbs did with Alexander Hale in this one! (I’m not crazy about bumbling adults that have no redeeming qualities. And that’s the brush Alexander Hale’s been painted with for the last ten books… Yes, I know there haven’t been ten books yet. I’m slightly exaggerating. Anyway, just saying, that I’m glad part of this book was about seeing that everybody brings something to the table, even if we don’t always see it at first.

3) I love the friendship and trust that’s developed between Ben and Erica. And of course, the underlying romantic tension that remains underlying. And I am okay with Zoe misinterpreting a few things. (Like the hand-holding bit. Not what it sounds like.)

4) I loved the setting of this one. London and Paris! The British Museum. Tower Bridge. The Eiffel Tower. Even the Catacombs. All good.

5) This book was quite action-packed. It comes directly on the heels of the book that comes before it. The only breather seems to be the times they’re in the air, flying to their next destination. The climax at the Eiffel Tower was great! I’ve never been to the Eiffel Tower, so I found that part very fun. I’m guessing a lot of the descriptions are true. (Now I want to climb up the Eiffel Tour!)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The destruction of museum property and artifacts was slightly (no, very) hard to read about. I was somewhat surprised that Catherine Hale (a museum curator) didn’t cringe a little more often!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The kids from Spy School are back in this rip-roaring adventure. Everything you love about Spy School is here in this one. If you haven’t read the first books in the series, please do. And while, I think some of the middle ones sag a bit, they are kind of necessary to read before you pick this one up.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review / Clutch

FITZ_Clutch_Cover.FNL

Book: Clutch (2017)
Author: Heather Camlot
Genre: MG, Historical [Post-WWII]

Basic plot: With his father dead and his mother struggling to keep her store afloat, Joey tries to come up with ways to make money. And guess what? He’s pretty good at it! But then comes the dad of his best friend Ben; Mr. Wolfe promises to help Joey outwink, wink. (Not even Ben trusts his father-of-shady-repute. Don’t trust him, Joey!)

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Joey is such a little entrepreneur! I love all his plans. And he’s a pretty good brother to young David (a kid obsessed with Jackie Robinson). Every time Ben’s bad dad showed up, I wanted to chase him away and protect Joey.

2) I always love learning a bit of history I never knew before. This book sort of revolves around the time that baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, was playing in the minor leagues in Montreal, Canada. (Who knew he played in Montreal???) However, note that Jackie Robinson isn’t really a character in the story. Instead, the little brother David is the one obsessed with baseball.

3) There’s a sweet little romance between Joey and his “crush” Shelly. They’re both studying for their bar mitzvah (bat mitzvah for Shelly). I’m not super crazy about middle school romance, but this was handle just about right!

4) I like the different characters that Joey has to learn to trust (or not trust). Especially with regards to Mr. Wolfe and Dr. Richter.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Interestingly, with the baseball on the front cover, I expected a little more about the game. Fact: There isn’t a huge amount of baseball in this book. I think some readers who expect a lot about sports may be disappointed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

An interesting look at life in 1940s Montreal… A true coming-of-age story, you will be rooting for Joey… future businessman of the world. As long as he learns to stay away from trouble.


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

 

Review / Keep it Together, Keiko Carter

Keep it Together Keiko CarterBook: Keep it Together, Keiko Carter (2020)
Author: Debbi Michiko Florence
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Keiko is best friends with Audrey and Jenna. They decide to make it the goal of the new school year by getting boyfriends. But things become complicated when Jenna and Audrey fall for the same boy. And then Keiko has to deal with her first crush; the confusing behaviour of Audrey’s brother, Conner; her mom being perpetually gone; and just all-around trying to keep everything together…

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Keiko is best friends with two girls: Jenna and Audrey. I love this dynamic. Seeing the three girls interact at the beginning is wonderful. Of course, because it’s a book, there’s got to be some conflict to appear and it certainly does.

2) I loved the dog connection in this book! Conner’s dog, Lumpy, is such a fun addition. I just wish there had been more to the animal shelter part of the book. It might have been nice to have Keiko volunteer at the shelter, only to discover that Conner volunteered there as well! (And make it more awkward.)

3) The chocolate references throughout the book are fun. I like how Keiko makes her special spicy hot chocolate (such weird ingredients! I do wonder how it tastes) and how that fits in with the plot. Especially with regards to Audrey and Conner.

4) There was some great tension with the mom being gone all the time. And then, tying that into Jenna’s parents who just got a divorce. I liked how that all came to a head and got resolved.

5) I liked the scenes with the sister, Macy. Especially with her little secret that she’s keeping from Keiko. (Slight Spoiler) It’s theatre-related. (End Spoiler)

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I didn’t really like the ending with regards to Audrey. I wanted a better, more satisfying ending. (Spoiler Alert!) Keiko ends up as Conner’s girlfriend, and I don’t see why Audrey doesn’t think this is a good thing. Keiko and Conner could get married and they’d be sisters!! Instead, Keiko chooses Conner over Audrey. I would have liked it if Audrey figured out that choosing doesn’t have to be a part of her world. (End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

A cute book about middle school dating. I’m not usually crazy about these types of books (I’d rather keep it at first crushes in middle school and save the dating for YA), but this one worked. I would recommend to young people who are looking for a little sweet romance!


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