Review: Checked

checkedBook: Checked (2018)
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Conor MacRae is really into hockey. Just like his dad. But then Conor’s dog Sinbad gets sick. So sick that he’s going to need chemotherapy, which will cost $7000. It will mean sacrificing some of his training, but Conor is determined to do whatever it takes to save his dog. But then there’s his dad…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I’m not really a hockey person, but I did enjoy that aspect of the story. I felt Kadohata dealt with all the hockey details in such a way that you don’t necessarily have to know the game.

2) I liked the bond between Conor and his dog Sinbad. I thought that was developed quite nicely. I really liked how responsible Conor was with regards to his dog.

3) Mr. Reynolds, the neighbour, was one of my favourite character. I almost felt he was under-utilized in the story. I loved all the interactions with Conor.

4) And then there are Conor’s friends: Jae-Won and Lucas especially. His hockey buddies.

5) And finally… Conor and his dad. What a great relationship! Conor’s dad is police officer, and I liked how that impacted the story.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I felt I was swimming in alphabet soup! Sometimes, Conor would bring up people that didn’t seem to really matter to the story. It was really hard to keep track of all the hockey kids and their parents. And the coaches. I wish she had combined some of these characters. Yes, I know that it’s probably more authentic to have all these people… but in a book? We need to be able to know who’s who.

2) I felt the plot slow at times. There is actually very little conflict in the story. Conor mentions his “frenemy” Ethan, but nothing ever really happens between the two. Actually, come to think of it, there’s a lot of telling (vs. showing) in this book!

3)At the beginning of the story, there’s this great fire evacuation scene. I somehow expected [SPOILER] that this story line would carry through the book. And especially affect the climax. It did not. Which made the beginning seem like it was… unnecessary.[END SPOILER]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – Conor’s voice made this book. And, overall, I did enjoy it. Probably will never be my favourite story. I would definitely recommend it to readers who enjoy reading about sports.


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

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Spring Reading Bingo Challenge / March

mgc-bingo-mar2019

Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge.

In all, I finished eight middle grade books that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. And yes, I got my bingo!

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 Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads. Find out more about Middle Grade books here.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during this month.

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


*A Book About Basketball

Basketball (or Something Like It) // by Nora Raleigh Baskin

basketballMG, Contemporary (2007)

Honestly, I found this book a tad confusing. It’s told through four different POVs, and I was forever getting them mixed up. Which kid is this again?? By the end, I think I had it figured out.

The one thing that did bother me was the foul language. I don’t mind it if it’s for a reason. (The Great Gilly Hopkins? Yes. I would even argue that it worked in Front Desk.) But you don’t normally see this in a middle-grade novel. So, it felt out of place. And again, there really was no real reason to include it. [2.5 stars]


*A Rabbit on the Cover

El Deafo // by Cece Bell

el-deafoMG Graphic Novel, Near-Historical (2014)

I loved this story! 🙂 I’m not always crazy about graphic novels since I usually want more words. But I thought this whole book worked beautifully as is.

I loved that Cece Bell told her story with rabbits as the characters. I loved learning about the subject matter. I loved Rabbit-Cece. I loved how she took the challenge handed her and didn’t let it stop her.

I loved this book! (Can you tell?) [5 stars]

Read my full review here.


*Pick Your Prompt / A Sequel

Copyboy // by Vince Vawter

copyboyUpper MG, Historical (2018)

I was pretty excited when I saw this among the new books at the library. I wasn’t even it existed! And I wasn’t disappointed. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as its predecessor, it’s still a good book. 🙂 [4 stars]

Read my full review here.


*A Book About a Curse

ella-enchanted Enchanted // by Gail Carson Levine

MG, Fairy Tale (1997)

Having recently read Ogre Enchanted, I wanted to go back to the original book. I really enjoyed my re-read. And yes, it still holds up after all these years. THIS is Gail Carson Levine’s masterpiece. There’s a reason why it got a Newbery Honor. [5 stars]


*Author’s First Name is Ben

Zita the Spacegirl // by Ben Hatke

zita-spacegirl.jpgMG, Graphic Novel, Sci-fi (2011)

This book is about Zita and her friend Joseph who gets sucked into another world. Zita quickly follows him… because it’s all her fault. She meets up with a ragtag band of misfits and they all go on the quest.

I generally liked this book. But this is the type of graphic novel that reminds me how much I love words. And I miss words when they’re, well… missing. I didn’t really resonate with the end of the book. Won’t spoil it, but I kind of understand WHY he did it. [3 stars]


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Blue Cover // The Benefits of Being an Octopus // by Ann Braden
    • A Book from the Library // Number the Stars // by Lois Lowry
    • ‘Lion’ in the Title // The Mystery of the Missing Lion // by Alexander McCall Smith

Final Thoughts…

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

Check out the next Middle Grade Carousel challenge at their website: https://elymnifoquent.com

Newbery Verdict: El Deafo

El Deafo // by Cece Bell (2014)

el-deafoNewbery Honor Book (2015)
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Cece loses most of her hearing at a young age due to illness… which means that now she needs to wear a special box to help her hear. The box makes her “different”. Who wants to be different? But as she grows up, she realizes that she has “superpowers” that other people don’t have. Introducing: El Deafo!

MY THOUGHTS…

Cece the rabbit captured my heart! I loved her. And I absolutely loved the fact that the characters in this book were rabbits! (Note: This book is based on the author’s real-life experiences.)

I found it fascinating to see the POV of this young girl who comes to terms with something that makes her so different from the other children in her school and neighborhood. How does she navigate friendships? And then there were all the little tricks she learned to cope with not being able to hear, like reading lips, etc. The book is set in the 1970s, and I thought it captured the flavour of the 1970s (and early 80s?) very nicely.

And can I just say that I love that they’re rabbits! (Yes, I do realize that I’ve told you this before. 🙂 )

NEWBERY VERDICT…

Yes! I’m so glad this book got a Newbery Honor award. I can’t compare it to the winner that year (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander) as I haven’t read that 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

Review: Copyboy

copyboyBook: Copyboy (2018)
Author: Vince Vawter
Genre: Upper MG**, Historical (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: This book almost defies categories. My library shelves it with the middle-grade books… even though Victor is seventeen (almost eighteen) and is getting ready for college. Is it really Lower YA??? Not sure. I guess I’ll go with my library and claim it as MG.

Basic Plot: The sequel to Paperboy… Picking up the story when Victor is seventeen years old. And he’s on a mission to fulfill a promise to his mentor, Mr. Spiro. That means taking a trip down to the mouth of the Mississippi River… except his parents aren’t sure about letting him go.

See my review of Paperboy here. (One of my favourite books, by the way!)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It was nice to be back with Victor for this book! The stuttering was not quite as front and center as in the last book, but it was there. And while it’s good to know that Victor has (in many ways) come to terms with the stuttering, it’s still a sensitive issue for him. And I think Vawter did a nice job bringing that into the story.

2) We get to meet a lot of new people in this book. I particularly liked the glimpse into the world of the newspaper business. It’s not a huge part of the actual plot, but it’s there. I liked the General. And the part about the pennies was cool!

3) I liked meeting Phil. She was a fun character, and it’s cute how Victor’s so smitten with her. I really liked how they bounce ideas off one another, especially with how they deal with their parents.

4) I loved how Mr. Spiro is in the story (and yet he’s not). Victor’s on a mission for Mr. Spiro and keeps referencing Mr. Spiro’s wisdom.

5) The Cajun setting of New Orleans was great to read about. I love how Victor is a bit of a fish-out-of-water… yet he also drinks in the whole experience.

6) The hurricane threat adds a nice element of danger. (As does Phil’s creepy boyfriend! Especially when both the hurricane and the creepy boyfriend collide.) With regards to the hurricane, apparently, it was a real storm that hit New Orleans in 1965… Hurricane Betsy.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did miss the actual Mr. Spiro. And I missed Mam! I’m not sure how she would have fit into this story, but I did miss her.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I did enjoy this sequel. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, it’s still a good book! And if you liked the first book, you should like this sequel.


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: The Benefits of Being an Octopus

benefits-of-being-octopusBook: The Benefits of Being an Octopus (2018)
Author: Ann Braden
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Zoey has a lot of responsibility. She has to take care of her younger siblings while her mom’s at work. They are living with her mom’s boyfriend who’s so neat and tidy, and it’s up to Zoey to keep the little kids out of his hair. Zoey’s goal in life is to be invisible. But Zoey begins to see things that might just force her to speak up. Not just for herself, but for those she deeply cares about.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I liked that Zoey was so responsible for her younger siblings. And they had such a nice relationship!

2) I enjoyed all the little details about octopuses. (Although, it doesn’t really figure into the resolution of the story. Wish it did.)

3) Matt and Silas were some of my favourite minor characters. Matt actually has a bit of an arc, and I wish we could have seen a tiny bit more of that. The silence of Silas intrigued me, but as a minor character, it wasn’t fully examined.

4) Fuchsia was a complex character. A little over-dramatic for me, but she played nicely into the story. I liked how her story and Zoey’s story are on parallel lines that then converge near the end. Nicely done!

5) Debates are NOT my favourite topic… I did not like them when I was a kid and I don’t really care for them now. That said, I did think this part of the book was fairly well done. When it came to the gun debate, I appreciated that both sides of the issue were shown.

6) I liked the teacher. But I like books that have teachers like her in them. 🙂

7) I love the cover of this book. I think I could look at it all day!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I didn’t like the fact that there were no good fathers in this story. At all. Zoey’s family has three fathers (hers, the middle kids’ father, and the baby’s father). And they’re all such jerks. I guess Silas’s father is okay, but he’s such a peripheral father (we never meet him). I wish Frank (Lenny’s father) could have been the one to stand up and give his son a talking to. (*SPOILER) Or at least help Zoey and her family with the get-away. (End Spoiler) Oh, and the solution at the end of the story? Truthfully, I don’t see that working for very long.

2) I’m not sure I really connected with Zoey. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t really love her either.

3) (*SPOILER) One thing I don’t get about the bullets that were fired at the school. If they were fired from a truck in the parking lot, wouldn’t somebody have noticed the breaking of the glass and the truck eventually speeding away? Something like, we’re looking for a white pickup?? (End Spoiler)

4) Zoey keeps mentioning in the book about how strong her mom is (until Lenny starts putting her down). And yet, I didn’t really see that in the back story. All I know is that the mom has a lousy taste in boyfriends. And that she can’t seem to be the adult in her own life.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I really liked that this book dealt with some hard topics. I didn’t quite love it as much as I’d hoped, but I’d still recommend it.


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: The Exact Location of Home

Book: The Exact Location of Home (2014)
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

exact-location-of-homeBasic Plot: Zig wants nothing more than to hang out with his dad. But his mom says his dad isn’t coming. That’s when Zig comes across a GPS unit at a yard sale. And he remembers that his dad used to love geocaching! When Zig discovers somebody who uses the name “Senior Searcher”, he is convinced it’s his dad. Now Zig is following the clues from one geocache to another. Which is way better than the real-life trouble he and his mom find themselves in. When they can’t pay the rent, they end up in a homeless shelter.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This book deals with some great topics, especially with regards to homelessness. One of the best scenes (for me) was when Zig’s teacher “explains” to the class about some (mythological) kids who are homeless… Not realizing that she has such a kid right in her own classroom! And, their upcoming field trip? To visit the homeless shelter. I thought Kate Messner captured this whole sequence quite nicely… Zig’s realization that he knows more than the teacher about this. And the fear at being discovered to be “one of those kids.”

2) I enjoyed the interaction and relationship that develops between Zig and the little kid at the homeless shelter, Scoop.

3) The other friendships in the book were fine. Nothing super special, but I’m glad Zig had friends. He hides a lot from his friends, but that made sense to me.

4) The geocaching adventures were a fun touch. And it was a great way to bring the dad into the story.

5) I really like the cover for this book. And inside… I love the little bicycle at the header of each chapter. What a cute idea 🙂

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The secret with the dad was a little predictable, at least to my eyes (as an adult. Would it be clear to kids? I’m not sure.) This wasn’t necessarily a horrible thing, but it wasn’t a big surprise either that it was supposed to be. Worse was why Zig didn’t figure the truth out for himself… like why didn’t he google his dad’s name? Especially when he was trying to find the dad.

2) The herons seemed to be a boring part of the plot. [*Slight SPOILER] They turn out to be connected to Zig’s dad, i.e. a little important. But they don’t connect in any real personal way to Zig. It’s not like he gets to know the herons. Therefore WE don’t get to know the herons. [End Spoiler]

3) I wish the final revelation of who is under the water tower would have been done a little better. The payoff was weak because there was no great setup. And therefore, it lacked a punch. I didn’t feel any sense of catharsis or homecoming for Zig.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I’m glad Messner wrote this book. I’m glad she deals with some hard topics. This wasn’t a perfect book, but it wasn’t bad either. The geocaching treasure hunt was fun.


YOUR TURN…

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

Newbery Verdict: The Dark is Rising

The Dark is Rising // by Susan Cooper (1973)

dark-is-risingNewbery Honor Book (1974)
Genre: MG, Low Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Will Stanton turns eleven, only to discover that he’s one of the Old Ones. As the sign-seeker, he must set out on a quest to bring together six great signs of the Light in order to keep the Dark from rising. Things get complicated and Will doesn’t always know who to trust.

MY THOUGHTS…

I read this book back when I was a kid. I remember liking it, but I actually don’t recall anything about the book… other than the Dark was rising (ahem). So, re-reading this book was like reading it for the first time. And I must say, I really enjoyed it. This book takes place over Christmas, and it involves a lot of snow. Which makes it a very cold read! But that just added to the suspense.

I particularly loved Will and Merriman. And I liked the twist with the Walker near the end. I found it very interesting that the book pretty much takes place in and around Will’s house, with the odd little time-travel sequence. His quest takes place in our world! Basically, it’s up to Will (the last of the Old Ones) to find the six Signs that will keep the Dark from rising.

I did expect more to come of the mask that brother Stephen sent Will. (But maybe the mask becomes important in a later book? See, I remember nothing about this series!)

NEWBERY VERDICT…

This book definitely deserved its Newbery Honor award. It’s well-written and has a host of engaging characters. (Note: The Newbery winner that year was Slave Dancer by Paula Fox; which I haven’t read, so I can’t really say which was better.)

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

Winter Reading Bingo Challenge / February

mgc-bingo-jan2019

Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge. This month, I got TWO bingos! Yay!

In all, I finished 14 middle grade books that fit the descriptions on the bingo card.

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 Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads. Find out more about Middle Grade books here.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during this month.

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


*Red Cover

Just So Stories // by Rudyard Kipling

just-so-storiesClassic, Short Stories (1902)

I listened to an audiobook for this one. And it’s narrated by Boris Karloff!

Kipling has such a way with words! It’s really quite delightful to read. I think my favourite stories include the one about the Elephant’s child, and how the leopard got its spots. [4 stars]


*Title Starts with an “F”

Front Desk // by Kelly Yang

front-deskMG, Near-Historical (2018)

I loved this book about Mia (a recent immigrant in the 1990s) and her adventures at the Calivista Motel. It was a fun read, but it was more than just that. I enjoyed the themes of courage and never giving up.

My favourite part is when Mia thinks she’s going to get an A on a school paper, but (SPOILER!) she doesn’t. Even though she’s discouraged, she keeps trying. And it’s the fact that she does try that she ends up succeeding. I highly recommend this book. 🙂 [4.5 stars]

You can read my full review here.


*A Book About Twins

11 Birthdays // by Wendy Mass

11-birthdaysMG, Magical Realism (2009)

Okay, so they are NOT biological twins, but the two main characters (Amanda and Leo) share a birthday. And this is quite important to the plot.

If you like the movie Groundhog Day, then this is the book for you. The story is told through the eyes of Amanda. It’s about her feud with her former best friend Leo. These two characters definitely make the book! I loved the character growth and how they figure things out together.

Note: This was also a re-read for me. I enjoyed it just as much as the first time around 🙂  [4 stars]


*Set During the Civil War

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

days-of-jubileeMG, Non-Fiction (2003)

This book takes a look at the Civil War, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment. I really enjoyed all the stories as well as their clear and concise way of handling different events during the war. The part about Gettysburg was quite moving.

I also liked how the authors didn’t steer away from the complication found in history. BUT that they didn’t dwell on the ugliness. Instead, they focused on hope for the future.  [5 stars]


*’Sugar’ in the Title

Sugar and Spice // by Sarah Mlynowski

sugar-and-spiceLower MG, Fantasy/Fairy Tale (2016)

This is actually a series of books where a sister and brother get to travel to various fairy tales. As you can probably guess from the cover, this one feature Hansel and Gretel.

I did not know this was a series when I picked this up, but that wasn’t a problem. To be perfectly honest, this isn’t really my cup of tea when it comes to books. (I’m probably being kind when I give it three stars.) I DO love fairy tale retellings, but this one didn’t quite do it for me. It does have a cute premise. I would possibly recommend this book for younger readers. [3 stars]


*Character with a Place Name

One-Third Nerd // by Gennifer Choldenko

one-third-nerdMG, Contemporary (2019)

Okay, so the character with a place name is Dakota. (Aside: this was the one character that drove me batty!)

While I liked this book, I didn’t love it. It’s basically about saving a dog from a nasty landlord. But, to tell the truth, I didn’t really care about the dog. I wish I did. I love fictional dogs. (Shiloh? Ribsy? Old Yeller? Winn-Dixie? Yep. I love those dogs.)

Still, the book was entertaining. I really liked the whole “one-third nerd” thing. And the friendship that springs up between the main character Liam and Moses. And Izzy the sister. She was one of the best things about this book! [3.5 stars]

You can read my full review here.


*Pink Cover

Almost Identical // by Lin Oliver

almost-identicalMG, Contemporary (2012)

This story follows Sammie and Charley Diamond. They are twins and tennis players. But when as they get older, Sammie begins to see something: she and her twin are entirely identical. They like (and want) different things.

I love this coming-of-age novel. It’s told from Sammie’s POV. I definitely felt for Sammie, and at times, was furious with Charley! (Although, Sammie makes her own gaffes.) I loved how the tennis was incorporated into the book. This book gets a definite recommendation from me.

Note: This was a re-read for me. Just as good as the first time around 🙂  [4 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt / Book for Black History Month

Finding Langston // by Lesa Cline-Ransomefinding-langston

MG, Historical Fiction – 1940s (2018)

This book got 5 stars from me! Yeah, I enjoyed it that much. It’s probably the library in the book that did it. For me, you almost can’t go wrong if you have a library. (That’s probably not true, but for this book, it IS true!)

It’s short, but it’s beautiful. I loved Langston’s voice. And I liked watching how the characters developed from the beginning to the end. One of the best books I’ve read this year. Yeah, I know it’s only February. [5 stars]


*Seashells on the Cover

Daisy Dawson at the Beach // by Steve Voake

daisy-dawson-at-beachLower MG, Contemporary/Magical Realism (2011)

Daisy Dawson can speak to animals. In this book, she makes all sorts of friends when she and her parents take a vacation at the beach. She dances with the crabs and even saves a… well, I won’t spoil it.

One weird thing that sort of puzzled me was that her parents seem to be unaware of her special ability. And I’m not sure if she really can speak to animals or if it’s all in her imagination.

If you are looking for in-depth character growth, this book is NOT for you. But it’d be a fun read for younger kids who love, love, love animals. (Also to note: each page has some sort of illustration which is a bonus for those kids just learning to read.) [3 stars]


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Second Book in a Series // Finally // by Wendy Mass
    • Title Starts with an “R” // Rules // by Cynthia Lord
    • Hands on the Cover // Thirteen Gifts // by Wendy Mass
    • Talking Animals // The Cricket in Times Square // by George Selden
    • Dog on the Cover // Swindle // by Gordon Korman

Final Thoughts…

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

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]


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: Front Desk

front-deskBook: Front Desk (2018)
Author: Kelly Yank
Genre: MG, Near-Historical (1990s)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Mia is determined to help her parents, recent immigrants from China, and they run the Calivista Motel in California. But with a boss like Mr. Yao, it’s not easy. Especially when he cheats them. And comes an opportunity of a lifetime… to own the motel in their own right. But it’s not going to be easy to come up the money.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Mia. What a go-getter! I loved the letter-writing aspect of the story, complete with mistakes crossed out. That was a nice touch. I thought it was good how it’s all inspired by a poor grade. Does the poor grade get her down? Not Mia!

2) I loved all the friends that Mia makes… with the weeklies (especially Hank) and her friend at school: Lupe. (I love how both she and Lupe have “golden retrievers”.)

3) This book does a good job showing the real struggle immigrants have. My grandparents were immigrants and struggled to make ends meet. Reading this book brought back a lot of my grandmother’s stories–and even my dad’s stories–of being in a country where you don’t know the language… yet.

4) I loved the complications surrounding Jason, the son of Mr. Yao. Jason is your classic bully, but I’m glad there was a twist there. (I love redemption arcs for characters. I don’t think all characters need a redemption arc, but I love it when there is one.)

5) I liked the arc of her relationship with her mom. Mia wants to write. Mom wants her to study math. Friction ensues.

6) Finally, I thought Kelly Yang did a nice job with the themes of racism in the book. I like that it wasn’t just confined to one race, and that it showed how complicated this topic can be. I love how Mia stands up for Hank, and how Hank tries to help and protect Mia’s mother. There was some good imagery… of rollercoasters and bicycles. And I like how Mia wasn’t going to take those metaphors as the only way things have to be.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I had a hard time suspending disbelief. While I like the letters she wrote, there were a few that had me scratching my head. How did this letter even work?? And (**SPOILER: The fact that they are able to raise so much money to buy the motel seemed unrealistic. I know this is based on the author’s experience. So, perhaps that really is part of her story. I don’t know, but somehow it feels a little too Disney of an ending to be true.**)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – Reading about Mia and her motel was certainly fun. But it’s more than that. There are some great themes written into this book. I highly recommend it. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

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