Review / Operation Do-Over

20220401ma_0499Book: Operation Do-Over (2022)
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: MG, Time-Travel

Opening lines from the book …
I’m standing next to the bumper cars when the first bolt of lightning splits the sky and strikes the main transformer. The explosion is like a bomb blast. I almost jump out of my skin.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I usually enjoy a Gordon Korman book, but I’ve found that a lot of his more recent books blend together. It’s always multiple POV and the main character tends to be a loveable rake. THIS book is a little different! Yay! It’s just one POV and the main character, Mason, is a science nerd.

2) Really, this is a story of a lost friendship. All because of a new girl that shows up. It’s interesting when we leave 12-year-old Mason for 17-year-old Mason. And things are NOT going well for the future Mason. (This part made me really hate zero-tolerance policies because there is no nuance. You always need to allow for nuance!) And that’s where the time-travel comes in.

3) I enjoyed the friendship between Mason and Ty. I really did think this book worked really well … all from Mason’s POV.

4) The time-travel bit is never explained, but it certainly makes for a good story! There are some fun bits before Mason realizes what exactly has happened to him. And then we get into the parts where he actively tries to change what is going to happen in the future.

5) The opening with the fair is pretty exciting. And this being a time-travel book, this is where we start and kind of where we end.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I didn’t connect as much with Ava as I would have liked. I didn’t feel she was REAL. In fact, Clarisse was more real to me. But this might have just been me!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think this is the best Gordon Korman book I’ve read since Restart. I’m glad he switched some things up. It still definitely has his general stamp on it! Highly recommend.

 


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

Newbery Verdict: Wolf Hollow

20220306ma_0412Book: Wolf Hollow (2016)
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Newbery Honor Book (2017)

Opening Lines of the Book…

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie. I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears–things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

MY THOUGHTS…

This book is about bullies. And what a bully do we get to meet in Betty, the new girl at school! She is particularly nasty. Poor Annabelle! How I felt for her as Betty made her wicked threats.

And then there was the strange hermit-type, Toby. I think I read somewhere that he’s been compared to Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I would say that’s about right. It turns out that Betty plans to use him as her scapegoat. Let’s just say that a lot of the grown-ups in the book think Betty is a little angel.

When Betty goes missing, things really get serious. Annabelle wants to save Toby, but she also thinks she knows where Betty might be.

I liked the little connection to photography with Toby and his photos. As a photographer myself, I like books that feature cameras and such.

The ending is bittersweet. I won’t spoil it, but there are some good things that come out in the end. And there are also some sad things. It has a nice realism to it.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I did enjoy this book overall. Although, not everything is pretty-pretty. And Betty is a hard villain to stomach. I can see why it was given a Newbery Honor!

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: This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Award!)

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

Review / The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

20220306ma_0416Book: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (2016)
Author: Laura Shovan
Genre: MG, Novel in Verse

Opening lines from the book …
Yo, Notebook.
I am your poet.
I will fill you with words.
I don’t mind writing
a poem to our teacher,
some rhymes
Ms. Hill will feature
in our fifth-grade book.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This book is written poems. One poem for each day of the year. I found it very interesting that this book goes from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year, only skipping holidays and weekends.

2) I love how the students get to know their (old?) hippie teacher, Ms. Hill. How they draw inspiration from her days when she protested. Their protest is about the closing of their school.

3) The student that probably is the most memorable is George Washington Furst. And that’s not a surprise as he goes on to be a natural class leader. Maybe it’s also his name!

4) The illustrations at the beginning of the book is really helpful for keeping track of the 18 kids in the class. Most books about classrooms really feature only six or seven students in a classroom. (More on this later.)

5) I did like how there are different styles of poetry used throughout the book. AND the author has a key to the different types of poems used at the back. This would be great for a teacher who wanted to use this book in a poetry unit!

WHAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Back to the list of kids in the class. I think there’s a reason why authors usually only feature six or seven students. Many of the kids in this book were on the forgettable-side, and I had to keep reminding myself WHO they were. That said, I thought it was a worthy experiment!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book overall. I liked getting to know this class of gutsy kids and teacher. I highly recommend!

 


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 / Kid Spy: Mac Saves the World

20220205ma_0222Book: Kid Spy: Mac Saves the World (2021)
Author: Mac Barnett
Genre: Lower MG, Espionage/Historical
Series: Kid Spy #6

Opening lines from the book …
This is my dad’s house. It is on the top of a hill in a town called Oakland, California. That a real place. You can look it up. When I was a kid, every other weekend I went to my dad’s house. This was one of those weekends.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) We finally get to meet Mac’s dad in this one. I love how he dealt with the comparison between the different homes (Mom’s house vs. Dad’s house) and then connected it to the split-city of Berlin. The story takes place in 1989, by the way! Which brings me to…

2) I always love the historical tidbits in these books. This one deals with the Berlin Wall and how it came to be. And also the story behind the mistake that led to its fall! (I hope that’s not a spoiler!)

3) There are some funny nods to mistakes in language, and how Mac thinks he knows the meaning of a word, only to find out that it means something completely different! (While I’m not fluent in German, I do know enough to pick up on the mixup before it happens! However, it isn’t necessary to speak German as the book nicely explains it all.)

4) The Queen! Okay, she is my favorite recurring character in the book. I love her. And I hope the real Queen reads these books. I think she might appreciate the humor 🙂 And of course, you gotta love Freddie the corgi.

5) I liked the ending with … wait, I won’t spoil it. But it has to do the the gift given by the Queen to Mac. And yes, the ending makes the most sense if you’ve read the other books!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this latest installment of Kid Spy! In fact, I might venture to say it’s the best (or one of the best) of the books. Although, I do think it’s a good idea to read the series as a whole, you can read it as a stand-alone. Looking forward to the next one. (While this one does wrap up the series nicely, the door is left open a crack for a new 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 / When Stars are Scattered

20220219ma_0327Book: When Stars are Scattered (2020)
Author: Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel

Opening lines from the book …
Now, in a place as crowded as this, I’m afraid we’ll never be found.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I loved how Omar looks after his younger brother, Hassan. The connection and loyalty they have for each other is wonderful to see in a book.

2) It was nice to see Omar finally get to go to school. I liked how they portrayed his struggles with leaving his brother behind, and that things are not suddenly all easy either.

3) I also liked how we got to see various refugee kids dealing with various scenarios. Like Jeri who limps. Or Maryam whose parents have an arranged marriage for her. 

4) The story begins in the refugee camp, so we don’t get to see what led to the boys’ escape. At least, not until later in the book. And when we get to that part (about what happened in Somalia), it was very powerful, but was also treated in a way that is suitable for young readers.

5) I really liked the authors’ notes at the back. They give some closure to some of the questions raised in the story. I found this story (mostly true, although I understand that some of the secondary characters are composites of different people the real Omar knew) very an eye-opening and compelling read.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a wonderful look into what a refugee camp was all about. My grandparents were both refugees (from different countries). I’ve heard their stories. And while it was a little different (World War II was in full swing), this book did give me a little incite into their experiences. Highly recommend this book!

 


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

Newbery Verdict: Long Way Down

Book: Long Way Down (2017)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Upper MG / YA, Novel in Verse
Newbery Honor Book (2018)

Opening Lines of the Book…

DON’T NOBODY
believe nothing
these days

which is why I haven’t
told nobody the story
I’m about to tell you.

MY THOUGHTS…

The opening did a good job in making me feel the connection between Will and his older brother Shawn. We immediately get into the story of Shawn’s death. Very emotional. The book pretty much takes place within a 24 hour time period. And most of the book is about the elevator ride (it’s a “long way down”) that Will takes.

In the elevator, Will meets several others going down. I won’t spoil it here, but there’s a very neat connection between all of them. What I will say is that I really liked how the cigarette smoke and the cigarettes in general are connected to the L button. There is so much wonderful symbolism in this book!

I thought the blank verse and poetry worked well. The ending is quite open-ended… It really made me think about what it meant, and I liked that. (I think this book really would be an excellent discussion piece for a classroom. And I assume it is used as such.)

Regarding the cover of the book… I am more and more impressed every time I see it. At first, I didn’t notice the boy’s face in the upper right-hand corner! Love it.

NOTE: This book does contain some language that is not found in most MG works, which is probably why it’s often categorized as YA. But I still think this book is important for Upper MG readers. This isn’t a book where the characters are swearing every other line. It’s only maybe three instances that help lend to the reality of the story.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

This is one of those books where I’m not sure if it’s quite YA. The protagonist seemed younger to me (he’s 15 in the book, but he seemed more like he was 12 or 13 to me). The topic and some of the language was definitely edging into YA, but I would definitely recommend this for upper middle school. What an amazing conversation starter. Definitely deserved being awarded a Newbery Honor!

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: This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Award!)

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

Review / The Graveyard Riddle

20220220ma_0335Book: The Graveyard Riddle (2021)
Author: Lisa Thompson
Genre: MG, Contempory
Companion Novel to: Goldfish Boy

Opening lines from the book …
Frankie is a conker-brown dachshund and a very wise little dog. For example, I take him for a walk every day after school and at weekends and he always turns left out of the driveway. He knows exactly which way to go: the graveyard.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Riddles and spies! This book has it all. In the story, Melody Bird (what a great name!) meets Hal, a spy with the super secret organization: MI8. Lots of intrigue involved with Hal’s mission and his recruitment of Melody.

2) Graveyard setting is both a little spooky and a lot interesting. Melody first comes across the mysterious Plague House, hidden away behind vines, thanks to Frankie her dog. It’s where she meets Hal. And then there’s the mysterious guy that keeps putting the riddles as clues on one particular tombstone.

3) Melody Bird is such a likeable main character. She has a complicated friendship with Matthew and Jake, which is going to add some good tension to the story!

4) And then there’s the mystery of what happened with Melody’s dad. We get bits and pieces of it. About the disappearing act and the circus.

5) I really was kept guessing about how the story was going to play out. At one point, I wondered if this was going to have a magical element to it, but it didn’t. And I’m glad. I really enjoyed the story!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Really liked this one. It’s actually a sequel (or companion novel) to Goldfish Boy. I haven’t read that book yet, but I found this book works well as a stand-alone. (Although, it does seem to give away some of the plot of the first book.)

 


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

Newbery Verdict: A Wish in the Dark

20220116ma_0175Book: A Wish in the Dark (2020)
Author: Christine Soontornvat
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Newbery Honor Book (2021)

Opening Lines of the Book…
A monster of a mango tree grew in the courtyard of Namwon Prison. Its fluffy green branches stretched across the cracked cement and hung over the soupy brown water of the Chattana River. The women inmates spent most of their days sheltered under the shade of this tree while the boats glided up and down and up again on the other side of the prison gate.

MY THOUGHTS…

So, this book is basically a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables … with children! And magical orbs that light up the Thai-inspired city. We get to follow the lives of two children born in a prison and marked for life because of crimes they didn’t commit. One of them (Pong) escapes, while the other one (Somkit) goes through the system and is released at the age of 13.

And those magical orbs play a big part in the story. I loved the symbolism they bring as well as how they work into the actual plot.

Then there is the mystery surrounding Nok and her family. (Her dad’s the prison warden.) Yes, she is the law-abiding Javert character. I really like how things play out with her.

And we can’t forget to mention the monk, Father Cham and the motherly Ampai who both take Pong under their wings. (Actually, it was what Father Cham does that tipped me off on the Les Miz retelling bit. I don’t tend to read book descriptions for fear of spoilers, so I was blissfully unaware of the connection until this part in the book.)

I’ll end with one of the quotes in the book… “Which was better: being safe or having freedom? And did you have to choose?” Love how it connected to the story. Love how it connects to our own world.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I’ve seen this one around and finally decided to pick it up. I wish I had read it sooner! I did NOT know the Les Miserables connection until the middle of the book when I was: “Hey, this reminds me of Victor Hugo…” Anyhow, I really enjoyed it, and I would even say I preferred this book to the book that won When You Trap a Tiger last year.

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: This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Award!)

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

Review / A Soft Place to Land

20220206ma_0227Book: A Soft Place to Land (2021)
Author: Janae Marks
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
I may only be twelve, but I’ve already fallen in love once—with music. With film scores, to be exact.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I really enjoyed the main character, Joy. I loved her enthusiasm and her protective nature when it comes to her younger sister. And it was a fun touch to put in her love of music and her desire to be a film composer.

2) The most awesome thing about this book is that it has a building with a secret room! I mean, a real secret-nobody-knows-about-it room! How cool is that? I want to live in a building with a secret room!!! And I love the camaraderie between the kids (all joint “owners” of said room) in the apartment building.

3) You gotta love the dog Ziggy and her owner, Mae. I like how the dog walking fits into the plot and Joy’s goal of trying to make money for her piano lessons. And of course, it also fits in nicely with Joy’s friendship with Nora.

4) This book deals with the topic of when parents fight. (Spoiler: I felt for Joy over the news that her dad is moving out to get some space. 😦 But, even bigger Spoiler Alert: I like how the parents are working things out by the end of the book. End Spoiler.)

5) I like the mystery of the poem and notes on the wall. I like how Joy wants to help this person. (On a side note: I wasn’t too surprised to find out the identity of the person, but I know Joy wasn’t expecting it!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book! I’d recommend it for anybody who wants a secret room. And that’s just about everybody, right?

 


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 Secret Valentine

20220205ma_0221Book: The Secret Valentine (2020)
Author: Melody Reed
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Series: The Major Eights

Opening lines from the book …
Sweat dripped down my neck. It was freezing outside, but in here, my heavy coat made me hot. I swung my legs as Tyson and I waited.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I really enjoyed the friendship between the four girls (the Major Eights). While I have not read the books leading up to this one, I could definitely see the bond they have in this one. And it made me want to be their friend, too!

2) There’s a fun competition with a battle-of-the-bands type event. A great goal for the story and our protagonists.

3) The big competition turns out to be a new rival musical act: Cassie and her sister and friend. Cassie, especially, is your classic mean girl. The girls you don’t want to triumph!

4) And then there’s Cassie’s sister. You see the struggle she has with being loyal to Cassie, but also wanting to reach out to the Major Eights.

5) I enjoyed the mystery of the valentines. There are a few nice misleads for Scarlet and the reader, and it was fun to guess!

 

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I didn’t really like the confrontation part at the end, especially with how (Spoiler!) everybody gangs up on Cassie. I felt bad for her that they did this in such a public way, especially Cassie’s own dad! (end spoiler)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

A fun Valentine book. This one is definitely for a younger crowd!

 


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