Review: Because of the Rabbit

because-of-rabbitBook: Because of the Rabbit (2019)
Author: Cynthia Lord
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Emma entering school for the very first time in fifth grade (after being homeschooled). As the new kid, she finds it tough to know where to fit in. She tries to make friends, but sometimes they’re friendly, sometimes not. And then there’s Jack. He doesn’t really fit in with their classmates either, but Emma’s not quite sure if she wants to be friends with him. But things begin to change when they bond over the rabbit Emma’s rescued.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) As somebody who has been the “new kid” in various different schools, I completely got Emma! It’s hard when everybody else knows everybody and you just want a friend. I like how Emma reaches out. (One thing where we differ, she’s definitely not as shy as I was!) But she makes some errors, like the little lie about pickles. It was funny (for us as readers, not her as a character) how that comes back to bite her!

2) The rabbit part was interesting. I like how she and her dad rescue it at the beginning of the book, then it actually comes into the plot later on at school.

3) As Emma becomes more comfortable at the school, we get a good dilemma for her with regards to Jack. Jack’s definitely a little different from the other students. And Emma makes some not-so-kind decisions with regards to him (especially at the lunch table). But I like how Lord lets us see Emma’s struggle and eventually how Emma comes to embrace Jack as a friend.

4) Loved the little Monsieur Lapin stories. The grandfather’s voice came through, even though he’s not even a character in the book… And so it was.

5) I also really liked the relationship between Emma and her brother. In fact, it’s because of her brother that Emma decides she wants to go to school. I like how he helps her get her photos for her project with Jack.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The part about the search for the owners of the rabbit felt a little off to me. Maybe a bit too cliche? Especially with how it ended. I guessed that’s what would happen. But maybe that’s just the adult-reader coming out in me.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Another solid read from Cynthia Lord. I really enjoyed this one about rabbits and finding your place as the new kid in school. 🙂


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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Review: Lucky Luna

lucky-luna.jpgBook: Lucky Luna (2018)
Author: Diana Lopez
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: When Luna plays a prank on her prima (cousin Claudia), she gets in big trouble. Not only does she have to face the consequences (of not being allowed to wear her favourite hats), but now Claudia is going to be attending school with Luna! Needless to say, Luna’s not happy about it, but she gets some wise advice from her abuela (drink plenty of water, Luna 😉 ) and that helps… a bit. But when the kids at school seem to be making fun of her prima, Luna decides that maybe she should stick up for Claudia.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Luna has a fun voice in this book. She’s so sure of herself, but she endears herself. What I think is really cool is Luna’s strip of white hair (due to poliosis). I have a childhood friend who has this same thing! (We always thought it was super cool.)

2) And I loved all her primas! What fun to have so many primas (cousins). It was great to see the connection even though there are age gaps. I love how they greet each other: “Prima!”

3) And then there’s Luna’s prima, Claudia. This is a classic relationship of sibling (prima?) rivalry. I like how the book works through their miscommunications. Both girls learn and grow.

4) One of my favourite parts was when Luna goes to visit her grandmother. Abuela has all these pithy sayings, except she says them in Spanish, but Luna only knows a little Spanish. So, she misses key things. (Like about drinking water!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wondered about the “no wearing hats” punishment fitting the crime of locking Claudia in the bathroom. Especially when the mom knows Luna’s a little self-conscious about her strip of white hair.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – What a fun read! I loved Luna and all her primas. And her abuela.


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: New Kid

new-kidBook: New Kid (2019)
Author: Jerry Craft
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Graphic Novel
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic plot: Jordan’s the new kid at his brand new prep school. What he really wants is to go to an arts school, but his mom insists on this academic prep school. And now that he finds himself away from the neighbourhood kids, he’s not always sure where he fits in. It’s hard being the new kid…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) There’s just something about prep school settings that are fun to read about. They’re kind of like boarding schools, without the boarding.

2) I really liked all the friendships in this book. I’m glad Liam turns out to be a real friend. When you first meet him, it seems like it’s going to go in the opposite direction. I also really liked Drew, especially with how he and Jordan are able to connect.

3) I found the subplot involving Alex and the puppet on her hand to be very interesting. At first, I thought it was odd and questioned why the author chose to put this character in the story. But, as the story progresses, I really like how it story-arcs… From how Jordan’s parents making the mistake of telling her parents that Jordan is her friend (when, at the time, he wants nothing to do with the “weird girl”) to how he digs deeper into the reason for the puppet and, finally, his solution.

4) Love the comic elements… the doodles. I thought it was a nice way to show Jordan’s love of art. And the moment when his teacher finds the doodles… A tense moment in the story.

5) I thought Jerry Craft did a nice job bringing out many of the issues that black students face in situations similar to Jordan’s. The one that really struck me was the book recommendations given to the black students were all gritty titles about kids in slums, belonging to gangs, etc… And then the same teacher turns around to recommend some fun fantasy to one of the white students.

6) My favourite line is at the end of the book. Jordan is hanging with his neighbourhood (non-prep school) pals when he starts explaining the meaning of the word metaphor. His  friend says: “Actually, Jordan, that’s a simile.”

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The zombie-school kids I found… weird. Just a preference on my part. Not a huge deal-breaker, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I liked the characters and the story arcs. A definite two thumbs up from me. 🙂


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: Finding Perfect

finding-perfect-1Book: Finding Perfect (2016)
Author: Elly Swartz
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Molly likes things perfect. So much so, that she arranges and rearranges everything with a ruler. And with her mom away for the year on a job in Toronto, she’s feeling a little lost. Her hope is to get Mom to come back if she wins the poetry slam contest at school. But, Molly starts to realize that something might be wrong with her, something called OCD…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I liked getting to know Molly. She’s really big into poetry… while poetry is not my favourite type of writing, even I found those parts interesting. I like how it all fits in with the plot.

2) In the book, Molly displays signs of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). As the book progresses, so does the OCD, and so did my empathy for Molly. I thought Swartz did a good job of getting us (the reader) into Molly’s head… her thoughts and struggles over whether or not to tell somebody and who to tell.

3) I thought the friendship between Molly and Hannah was nicely done. There are misunderstandings. And then there’s that scene where Hannah oversteps the bounds a bit, but not because she hates Molly. She wants to help, it’s just that her help betrayed some trust. Many times, in books like these, there’s a clear cut “we’re no longer friends”. What I liked about this book is that the girls remain friends throughout, even if there are periods of miscommunication.

4) The other friend (Bridgett) was interesting. She’s obsessed with reading obituaries. That was an interesting sub-plot that worked nicely with the main plot.

5) Love the cover, especially with the barely-noticeable numbers on the white background. I like how that fits into the story’s plot.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I’m still a little confused by the mom and dad and their “separation”. [**SPOILER] At times, they seem on the brink of divorce, and at other times, (going by what the mom says) the mom is just gone for a job for the year. But then, when she returns near the end of the book, she’s living somewhere else??? [End Spoiler] I’m still confused by what was going on there.

2) I found the middle of the book to be slightly repetitive. This is the part where Molly realizes there’s something wrong and is trying to hide it. (Should she tell somebody? Counting. Trying to hide this from her family. More counting.) For me, this slowed down the plot a bit. Not a huge problem, but I did start to want to skip in a few places.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book reminded me a little of a book I read last year about OCD: Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske (but that one was about the girl’s mom). I thought this was an interesting take on OCD in the kid herself. I like that she recognizes that she needs to get help…


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 Thing About Georgie

thing-about-georgieBook: The Thing About Georgie (2006)
Author: Lisa Graff
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: The thing about Georgie is that he’s in fourth grade and he’s… short. And he’s just trying to navigate life by trying to avoid Jeannie the Meanie, the news that his parents are having a baby, and his best friend becoming his not-so-best friend.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed Georgie as a character. I liked his personality. It was also interesting to read about a kid with has to deal with the reality of being a dwarf in our world.

2) I found his friendship struggles to be one of the best parts of the book. From dealing with Jeannie the Meanie, and even his friend Andy. Lots of misunderstandings. I felt for Georgie as he was trying to figure it all out.

3) I loved the Presidential plotline where the class has to do a group report. Georgie and his nemesis, Jeannie, get Lincoln, when what Georgie really wanted was George Washington. (While I like Lincoln, I also wasn’t too sure about the choice of this president. See below.)

4) There are these little short “handwritten” passages, usually at the beginning of a chapter, telling us what Georgie can and cannot do because of his dwarfism. I liked learning about a topic I don’t know a lot about. But what I really liked was the arc of that little storyline!

5) Georgie has some really nice growth in this book. (No pun intended.) I enjoyed watching him learn about life and about his friends and about himself. I liked Jeannie’s character arc as well.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wish Georgie had gotten a more obscure president for his report. Maybe this is because I know too much about Lincoln. In my classroom experience, he’s definitely one of the more popular presidents. I don’t know why other kids didn’t argue about being left with John Adams or Woodrow Wilson. I would have loved to learn a little more about a less-popular president, especially if it could be tied into Georgie’s theme.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – The thing about this book… I liked it! A good solid read which makes you want to root for Georgie!


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: Arcady’s Goal

archadys-goalBook: Arcady’s Goal (2014)
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Genre: MG, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: Arcady lives in an orphanage where his only hope lies in soccer and being the best. When Arcady is adopted by Ivan Ivanych, his new “father” starts coaching him and a bunch of other children for his soccer team… that is until the other fathers kick Ivan Ivanych off the team. Ivan Ivanych takes Arcady to get a letter to try out for the Red Army youth team. The problem lies in the fact that Arcady’s parents were declared “enemies of the state.”  Now it’s up to them to find a way to make Arcady’s goal…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Arcady is so hopeful in this! Always seeing the bright side of things. Which is interesting since the setting is the Soviet Union. Arcady could have been bitter about his parents being taken away, but he isn’t. As a trusting kid, he just accepts this happened and focuses on soccer.

2) Yelchin does a good job showing the confusion and betrayals that was the era of the Soviet Union. Arcady’s encounters a lot of things that should make him question what’s happening in his home country.

3) The story was a little slow in places. But it picked up for me with the re-introduction of a boy (Freckles) from Arcady’s soccer team. It was around this time that some of the other elements hinted at also became clearer.

4) I liked the little twist with Fireball, the guy in charge of getting Arcady a letter to try out for the Red Army youth team.

5) I do like the hopefulness that this story gives us. There’s was not a lot of hope in the Soviet Union during this time. But I like how this ending, although it is ambiguous, doesn’t end in despair.

6) One of my favourite lines is when Arcady asks (*SPOILER) Ivan Ivanych’s real name (End Spoiler). I thought that was a nice touch. Even if his new dad doesn’t give him the answer.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I didn’t like this book as much as Breaking Stalin’s Nose. (That book was a masterpiece! Which is why it got a Newbery Honor.) Maybe it was the slowness of this book? I’m not sure. I wasn’t as drawn to Arcady as I was to Sasha.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Kids who enjoy soccer will like this book. I like that the setting is the Soviet Union and applaud Yelchin for bringing to life a time period in history that isn’t often written about.


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: Brave

braveBook: Brave (2017)
Author: Svetlana Chmakov
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel/Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Jensen’s prepared for anything… especially a zombie apocalypse. But he’s finding middle school hard to navigate. His solution is to try to avoid the bullies at all costs. When the school newspaper wants to interview him about that very topic, he freezes up. He doesn’t think he’s being bullied. But then he starts seeing bullying around him everywhere, including from his own “friends”. That’s when he decides it’s time to be brave and do something about it.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Jensen is a very likable protagonist. Even with his little quirks about sun spots. I love seeing him grow throughout the book and seeing his thought process. For example, his hatred of math and the “evil” math teacher goes through a nice arc.

2) I thought it interesting that the bullying in this story is not just confined to the “bully” characters. Even Jensen’s own “friends” display bullying. Not that they necessarily trying to be mean, but they very thoughtless. I loved the phrase that about a true friend is somebody who will save you a seat. (*SPOILER: Peppi–from the first book in this series– does exactly that. And at the end, Jensen himself approaches one of the bullies–now without his cohort–to offer to sit with him during lunch.)

3) I really liked Jorge, the baseball dude who ends up being Jensen’s project partner. I can’t believe Jensen ended up with such an awesome partner!

4) I enjoyed the math tutoring sessions. I liked how the author brought in one of the bullies to these scenes. And I thought it was good that she showed that Jensen’s grades didn’t improve right away.

5) At the end, Chmakov gives us a little author’s notes about sun spots. I almost wished had put this into the story itself, especially giving Jensen the discovery moment that the sun spots are not as life-threatening as he suspects.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I felt like this book came across as being a little too didactic on the subject of bullying. It just felt forced at times.

2) I really didn’t like Jenny. She’s the one who does the report on bullying, but she herself is a bully! I don’t think this was really dealt with and I wanted it to be addressed. She definitely has some serious anger-management problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Really enjoyed Jensen’s voice in this book. I’d recommend for middle-schoolers, especially those who like graphic novels.


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: Elephant Secret

elephant-secretBook: Elephant Secret (2018)
Author: Eric Walters
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Sam and her dad run an elephant sanctuary where they care for a herd of misfit elephants. Just as one abused elephant arrives, another is born to an elephant of the herd. But the new baby elephant has a secret… one that Sam and her father have yet to find out. A secret they won’t know about until they  meet their mysterious benefactor… Or should we call him “partner”?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Sam (Samantha) is an elephant girl. She knows elephants better than anything. In fact, she has such as strong bond with the elephant herd that it’s fun to watch (i.e. read about) her doing her thing. I love how she ends up leaving her eighth grade dance (in full formal-dress mode) to go be with the elephants when the new baby is born.

2) I loved the elephants in this book! I thought Walters did an amazing job of letting us get to know the herd. This isn’t always an easy thing to do for authors since the elephants never talk. They act like… elephants. And yet, we as readers get to know them and their personalities. I loved the matriarch, Trixie. And the younger ones, Raja and, of course, Woolly (who is adorable). I think my favourite elephant is the rescue one: Burma.

3) Jimmy was an interesting character. He’s portrayed almost as if he were a kid who never grew up. He’s also one of those characters that you’re not sure if you like him or hate him.

4) I really liked Sam’s dad, especially with his relationship to his daughter and to the elephants. Joyce (the lawyer girlfriend) is an interesting addition to the cast of characters. It was nice to see her relationship grow with Samantha, especially toward the end when the “girls” stand together after Dad gets upset over the incident with Burma.

5) (**SPOILER) The scene where Burma gets out of the cage was probably the best scene in the book. I found this scene quite emotional. Sam is completely crazy in that scene, but it all makes sense since she’s the elephant girl. Every step she took with those apples was tense. (End Spoiler)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) We never find out what happens to Burma in the long run. I was really rooting for him so I want to know what happens!!

2) There is an element on cloning in this book. It’s actually the Elephant Secret. (**SPOILER) It all has to do with cloning animals. Think: Jurassic Park. Although, not with dinosaurs, but with woolly mammoths. I wasn’t too crazy about they concluded things. I don’t think cloning is a good thing. THAT was the lesson of Jurassic Park! (End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I loved the elephants in this book. And I enjoyed reading about the inner workings of an elephant sanctuary. This book has some great discussion points. I would definitely recommend this to animal lovers.


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 Impossible Journey

impossiblejourneyBook: The Impossible Journey (2004)
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: MG, Historical (Soviet Union 1934)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Marya and Georgi want nothing more than to be reunited with their parents who have been taken during one of Stalin’s purges. The two determined children set out on an impossible journey across Russia towards a remote village in Siberia with the slight hope that they will find their mother there. (A companion book to Angel on the Square.)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I read Angel on the Square a long time ago. (Hint: It’s about Marya’s and Georgi’s mother.) I didn’t know this book existed until now! I like that it’s not a direct “sequel”, but that it does give us another peek into the lives of the characters from the first book. (Note: You can also read this book without having read Angel.)

2) The sibling relationship between Marya and Georgi is both realistic and sweet. He’s the typical younger brother who frustrates Marya. And yet she can’t leave him behind!

3) I love the look at the different families in this book. The book is about two children seeking to reunite their own split-apart family. Then there’s the neighbor family (with the bear) who initially take them in…. The doctor’s family on the train… And the “big family” of the Samoyeds (nomadic tribe).

4) The history of the time period of this book has always fascinated me. I thought Whelan did a good job in depicting the hardships of living under Stalin. One of my favourite parts was when Marya meets the Government Man and is forced to sing the praises of Stalin. (And how Georgi almost sabotages her plan!)

5) I really enjoyed learning about the Samoyeds (nomads who lived in Russia/Siberia at this time). I liked the interaction they had with the children, especially with regards to Georgi’s snow globe. I really liked how Marya and Georgi are not only helped by them, but also end up helping them in return.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found it hard to understand Marya’s impulsive nature, especially with regard to showing off her mother’s locket. (I suppose you could argue that it’s still only 1934 and she doesn’t yet know the danger of such items. The height of Stalin’s purges doesn’t happen until 1938.) Not a major criticism as the episode does show how school was a place where information was gleaned about parents.

2) In the very end, there is (what I’d consider) an unnecessary death. Certainly it’s realistic, but it didn’t seem to be absolutely necessary to the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book gives a good sense of this oppressive time period in history. I’d definitely recommend for anybody who likes history as well as those who like plucky-children-who-take-impossible-journeys stories.


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: Skylar

skylarBook: Skylar (2008)
Author: Mary Cuffe-Perez
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (Animals)
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot:  Skylar and his friends are pond geese. They never migrate. That is until a heron shows up needing to find his way to Lost Pond. Now it’s up to Skylar and his ragtag band of geese to tap into their instinct and begin the journey…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I found this very interesting. Told from the perspective of the geese, it’s an interesting look into the migration of Canada geese. Plenty of goose facts, but in the format of a story.

2) I loved the quirks of all the geese! The boasting of Skylar and quiet wisdom of Esther. Roosevelt’s a bit of a know-it-all, too. And then Weedle and Loomis add a lot of fun to the story with their antics. Love the character arcs for all of them… Especially with how they band together (despite all their bickering).

3) And then there’s the Who-on (the name the geese give the heron). He’s so patient with them. Even when he finally gets angry at them for not knowing exactly where they’re going! I especially loved the part at the end when he speaks to Skylar and reveals some things. (I won’t spoil it here.)

4) The illustrations are a nice touch.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I found the story a little slow. (But it does pick up.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – A fun* story about Canada geese. It is lower MG, and I would definitely recommend for kids who like animals-can-talk books. Also, if you’re interested in learning about geese migration, this is a nice peek into that topic (from the POV of the geese).

(SPOILER Warning: *There is a sad event that does happen in the book involving a death. Nothing graphic, but it is sad in the vein of a book like Charlotte’s Web.)


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