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

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Review: Love Double Dutch

love-double-dutchBook: Love Double Dutch (2018)
Author: Doreen Spicer-Dannelly
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Kayla can’t wait to go to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden with her Double Dutch team. But with her parents always fighting, she and her brother have to spend the summer in North Carolina while they work out their problems. That’s when Kayla joins up with her cousin to create their own Double Dutch squad. But they have some hefty competition. The cousin’s ex-best friends…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Kayla is Brooklyn-cool! Yep. She’s definitely got attitude. But in a good way. I used to teach girls like her, so it brought back good memories of some of my students. 🙂

2) The Double Dutch stuff was very interesting. I remember jumping rope when I was a kid, but we never really did Double Dutch. This book made me want to go to youtube to watch a few videos of the competitions. And wow! Pretty amazing stuff.

3) I liked how Kayla’s confidence just pushes her team forward. They’re the outcasts, but the girls work really hard to get where they need to be.

4) The story has a happy ending, which I always love. I enjoyed the friendship developed by Kayla and Sally and Melissa and Tina. I was definitely rooting for them.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The realism was a little lacking for me. At times, I kept saying… “Really? I’m not so sure that would happen.” Especially with rope-jumping novices like Melissa and Tina. Especially when nerves play a really big part in competitions like this.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – A fun story about kids who skip rope competitively. The book has some great messages about cooperation and working together. A good summertime read.


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!

Newbery Verdict: Ramona and her Father

Ramona and her Father // by Beverly Cleary (1977)

ramona-and-her-fatherNewbery Honor Book (1978)
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Ramona’s in second grade when her father suddenly loses his job. When she finds out they have to scrimp and save, Ramona starts coming up with her own ideas to help her family make some money. One of her ideas ends with her hair in snarls. Another of her ideas is aimed at getting her father to quit smoking.

MY THOUGHTS…

I love, love, love this book. I love the relationship that is shown between Ramona and her dad. This book deals with some tough issues like having a father who is out of work. And the depression he goes through. And then there’s the “no smoking” campaign headed up by Ramona and her sister Beezus. One of my favourite scenes is when Ramona comes home to a house to find that her dad has broken his promise. The moment where Mr. Quimby talks to Ramona about what happened is heart-breakingly precious.

As with most middle-grade books, this one has a happy ending. And I’m glad it does. I adore the Christmas scene at the end.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

One of the best of the best Ramona Quimby books there is. It’s easy to see why it was nominated for a Newbery. It didn’t win, but there was tough competition that year. (The winner was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) Still, this is a 5-star book for me!

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

Quick Pick Reviews #13

Clementine’s Letter // by Sara Pennypacker

clementines-letterGenre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2008)

My Thoughts: This is another super cute story about Clementine. And she’s ready to conquer the third grade! Especially with her Teacher at the helm of their class. But then comes the news that he’s a finalist in a contest where he might get to go on an archaeological dig in Egypt. But Clementine doesn’t want her Teacher to leave them!

This is where Clementine’s letter comes into the story. I really enjoyed Clementine’s journey in this book. And I liked how the letter is used at the end of the story. She reminds me so much of Ramona Quimby, although I do think I like Ramona just a tiny bit better. Not exactly sure why. [3.5 Stars]


The Moffats // by Eleanor Estes

moffatsGenre: MG, Historical Fiction (1941)

My Thoughts: Definitely is a little old-fashioned… but this book about the Moffat family is a fun read. Mrs. Moffat lives with her four children—Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus—in a yellow house. Their landlord is trying to sell it… to the great dismay of the Moffats.

My favourite episodes were: 1) about Joe at the dance recital; and 2) how the children end up losing the Salvation Army man out of the back of his own horse and wagon. I also liked how the story does come full-circle at the end with what happens to the yellow house. (I can’t stand those Murdocks… trying to buy the house from underneath the Moffats’ feet!) [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Newbery Verdict: The Year of Billy Miller

The Year of Billy Miller // by Kevin Henkes (2013)

year-billy-millerNewbery Honor Book (2014)
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Billy Miller is starting second grade. When he has a fall and gets a bump on his head, he begins to worry that he’s not quite smart enough for school. And so begins the year where Billy tries to figure out what makes him Billy…

MY THOUGHTS…

So this is the author of some wonderful picture book characters, like Lily (of purple plastic purse fame). Kevin Henkes does a really nice job with Billy Miller and his family. I love his family! He has such a creative and sympathetic Papa! (Although, Billy thinks that he’s getting a little too old to be calling his Papa and begins to call him “Dad”.) I really enjoyed how Billy inspires Papa when he’s feeling down about his work.

One of my favourite parts is when Billy and his sister try to stay up all night. 3-year-old Sal wants to play with her dolls. Billy has no interest in playing with the dolls, but he feels that if he wants Sal to stay awake, he better do what she suggests. THEN, he plays with the dolls by creating an explosion! (Typical boy!) Suffice it to say that Sal isn’t impressed. But the two of them end up working it all out. 🙂

NEWBERY VERDICT…

For a lower grade book, this story is fun with a lot of endearing characters. I can definitely see why they gave this book 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.

ARC Review: The Phoenix and the Carpet

phoenix-and-carpet

Book: The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
Author: E. Nesbit
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Rating: 5 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: The five children from Five Children and It are back! This time their magical adventures come in the form of a Phoenix and a flying carpet. And there may (or may not) be a special guest appearance by everybody’s favourite Psammead!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s not often that the sequel is as good as the original, but this book is the exception to the rule. We get more great magical adventures featuring Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Robert. And of course, the Lamb. How can you forget the Lamb!

2) I love the chatty Phoenix, so different from the grumpy Psammead from the first book. Also, the Carpet’s a nice, silent, companionable foil. Love how that works into the plot at the end of the story.

One of my favourite lines in the book:

“Then we’ve lost the treasure,” said Cyril.

And they had.

“But we’ve got the carpet and the Phoenix,” said Anthea.

“Excuse me,” said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, “I do so hate to seem to interfere, but surely you must mean the Phoenix and the carpet?”

(The Second Chapter)

3) E. Nesbit is the queen of magical realism. The magic always has a bit of a twist or causes some sort problem for the children. I love how that works. (Even though it’s rather frustrating to the children!) It makes for a great story.

4) I love how the kids work together and bicker and tease. I love their adventurous natures.

5) My favourite episode is probably the chapters that involve the Topless Tower. (Treasure. Towers. What more could you ask for?) Although the bit with the Burglar near the end is also hilarious!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Can’t think of anything to put here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – This is a wonderful, magical tale. And it still holds magic even though the story was originally published over 100 years ago. This makes a great re-aloud.

Review: Breakout

breakoutBook: Breakout (2018)
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Nora, Lizzie, and Elidee all live in a small town that houses a large prison. Their world is interrupted when two inmates escape and the entire town goes into lock-down mode. While Nora is determined to get the scoop, both Lizzie and Elidee have their own troubles. And then there’s the mad mile, an annual tradition that keeps getting cancelled because the grownups are freaking out about the escaped prisoners…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I enjoyed the format, which ranges from letters (for a time capsule) to text messages to newspaper articles. It’s nice to see the different perspectives of the different people in the story. Lizzie’s parody news segments are pretty amusing.

2) Nora and Lizzie have a great friendship. I liked the arc for the new girl, Elidee, and how she eventually fits into the story.

3) The manhunt is pretty exciting stuff. And, of course, it’s fun to know that our main characters [MINOR SPOILER] have a hand in the capture. But don’t worry. It’s actually quite realistic. And it’s based on history! And I love history… [END SPOILER]

4) I like the running sub-plot about the mad mile. I like books about running, so what can I say?

5) Love the cover of this book!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) It’s really quite a long book at 448 pages. Now, this is just my personal opinion, but I would have removed all the Hamilton references and the hip-hop battles and poetry. First, I’m not a huge fan of poetry. And second, I just don’t get why that musical is so popular. (I’ve heard the music, and I’m not impressed. I feel like my grandmother!) Okay, let’s just say that this wasn’t my favourite part of the book, I tended to skim those sections anyway. (I would have been more interested if Elidee was reading more about space/planets.) I think Messner could have cut it completely and saved a few trees in the process.

2) Why did Elidee and her mother move upstate about two weeks before school gets out? This just didn’t make sense. Especially since there was no super good reason for this to happen. Two weeks would not make a difference. And if absolutely necessary, I really think Elidee’s mom would have let her continue at her old school in New York City for a few more weeks (since she could have stayed with her aunt and cousins for that time.) So, my complaint here is that Elidee’s arrival felt like an obvious plot device.

3) I felt that the racial issues dealt with in the book were not really necessary to the actual story. It’s like Messner was trying to fit it in, and those parts came across as forced and preachy. (Not that you couldn’t have a book about these issues, but I think they’d deserve their own story. It just got lost in this story.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I found this book enjoyable for the most part. The girls were fun to read about, and the manhunt was quite suspenseful.


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: Becoming Naomi Leon

Book: Becoming Naomi Leon (2005)
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Becoming_Naomi_LeónBasic Plot: Naomi Outlaw lives with her great-grandmother and younger brother. But then one day her mother shows up, ready to come back into their lives. Except, she only wants Naomi. But the grandmother has a plan to save her little family… a plan that involves a road-trip down to Mexico to seek out Naomi and Owen’s long-lost father.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved how protective Naomi and the grandmother were of Owen. I like, too, how they give the mother a chance.

2) But boy oh boy, I did not like the mother! Not only did she abandon the children, but she’s also changed her name to… Skyla. (Oh, the fakeness of that mother!) But I think what really got to me was her treatment of Owen, her own son. Even the mother’s boyfriend treated Owen better. (And yes, this is in the What’s Cool section because her portrayal was that good!)

3) One of my favourite parts of the book is when Gram and their neighbour decide to skip their favourite television show (a show they haven’t missed in years). This is the clue to the children that the grown-ups are serious about helping to save Owen!

4) I loved the Mexican culture in this book. I really enjoyed the radish-carving competition!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I almost wished they had gone to Mexico earlier in the story. Once they were there, it somehow didn’t seem like the same story. This should have been my favourite part of the book!

2) Also, once they were in Mexico, the grown-ups didn’t seem to be doing much to locate the father. They left things up to… Naomi?? (who makes a lot of expensive telephone calls). In the end, [SPOILER] it didn’t seem too hard to find the father. [End SPOILER]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked Naomi and enjoyed this story. While its not my favourite book by Pam Munoz Ryan, it’s still worth the read.


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: Sunny

Book: Sunny (2018)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

sunnyBasic Plot: Sunny runs the mile. Except, now he doesn’t want to anymore. So, he just stops running. He was only running to please his father and to fulfill his dead mother’s dream of running. But with his birthday looming, Sunny only feels guilt over the fact that he “killed” his mother (she died the day he was born). His home-school teacher, Aurelia, decides to teach Sunny dancing and that’s when he realizes that he’d rather dance than run. He tells Coach, who decides that maybe Sunny should give the discus a shot. Because, it’s as close to dancing as track and field gets.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a continuation of the series with Ghost and Patina. This one focuses on Sunny. Obviously. He’s an interesting character, with a love of rhythm that permeates his whole being, and translates well to his writing style. (This book is written in diary-format.)

2) I like the arc for the relationship of Sunny and Darryl (his father). The scene in the dad’s bedroom is quite touching. I love how Sunny describes his father as having a stone face, and how this changes and morphs during this section of the book.

3) We get another track meet at the end of the book. This time, it’s not a race, but the discus throw. And yes, as in all the other books, we don’t actually find out how it turns out. (But I’m sure we will in the next book… which I’m assuming will be about Lu.)

4) I do like how Ghost, Patty, and Lu are really good friends to Sunny. (Although, at one point, he tells them he doesn’t go to school—he’s home-schooled—and they’re all shocked. But I’m pretty sure they knew this already from the last book. Unfortunately, I don’t have that book with me, so I can’t check. If you’ve read this book and can correct me, please let me know in the comments.)

5) I really enjoyed the fact that Sunny was home-schooled, and Aurelia sounds like an awesome teacher.  I also like how Aurelia’s story merges with Sunny’s.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I mentioned earlier that I like the supportiveness of the newbies (aka Ghost, Patty, and Lu). This is also a BIT of a problem. It means there is very little conflict happening between these characters. And stories need conflict. Since these characters don’t present any conflict, they end up being not so relevant to the actual story. I wish they could be more central to the plot. But really, they’re just side characters that almost don’t matter. 😦

2) Note to Jason Reynolds: Please don’t mention that awful scene in the Chinese Restaurant from the first book. Argh! That brought back bad memories for me! Okay, I’m slightly kidding, but slightly serious as well. I didn’t find the scene (in this book) as cathartic as I think it was supposed to be. I felt like it was slightly unnecessary. Now maybe this is because of the call-back to the secrets scene in the first book (meaning I was distracted). But I think it may be because this scene just came AFTER a very similar scene (the one in the dad’s bedroom).

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Patina, but that is probably because I understand and relate to Patty better than I do to Sunny. I also really like track (running). But in this book, we veer over to the field part of track and field. Let’s just say that the field part of track and field has never truly excited me. Still, Sunny is a wonderful character and I did enjoy reading about him.


YOUR TURN…

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