Review / Remarkably Ruby

20221016ma_1865Book: Remarkably Ruby (2022)
Author: Terri Libenson
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Opening lines from the book …
I’m not what you would call a people person. It’s not that I don’t try. I do. But most of the time, making friends in middle school is a huge chore. I don’t have the greatest social skills.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Baked Bean Girl! Yes, this is her story. I like that we get to know her as a real person and not just the butt of a joke from the other books. And yes, I think Libenson does a nice explanation of how she’s portrayed in the past books, bringing her to the point of this book.

2) And Ruby’s a poet! This book introduces a poetry club where Ruby and one of her new (shy) friends have to go out to the greater student body to find other poets. It’s not going to be easy, but that gives us some interesting conflict to make up this book.

3) The story also deals with the election of the school’s Student Body President. We get to meet a brand new character: Mia. She’s a real go-getter, almost too much so (as her friends and boyfriend could tell you). And it’s nice to see how her story intersects with Ruby’s. We know they are (were) friends from before middle school, but there’s been a falling out.

4) I enjoyed seeing the parents in this one. They’re dorky and embarrassing, sure, yet it’s nice to witness their relationship with the kids. We mostly get to see Ruby with her mom, and Mia with her dad. (Bonus: The book even ends with a nice little montage.)

5) And finally, I’ll mention that there IS a twist at the end of this book, just as in the other books. It makes you do a quick re-read to see where all the clues are!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Another good book in the series Emmie and Friends! I especially like that these graphic novels are a bit of a hybrid between a graphic novel and a novel itself.

 


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 / Last in a Long Line of Rebels

20221002ma_1713Book: Last in a Long Line of Rebels (2015)
Author: Lisa Lewis Tyre
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Historical (Civil War)
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Opening lines from the book …
Being the junkman’s daughter isn’t always as cool as it might sound. Sure, I get first dibs on all kinds of good stuff—I now have three perfectly good ten-speed bikes—but it comes with a price. As soon as I saw Daddy’s dump truck sitting in the car line, shaking and rattling like it was about to throw a rod, I knew Sally Martin would have something snide to say.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) The story in the modern world with Lou as our protagonist. She lives in a rambling old house in a small town in Tennessee. Her father has a junkyard that goes with the house, and Lou often helps him find treasures to resell.

2) This is pretty much a what-I-did-last-summer book. Although, it’s told from the point of view of the beginning of summer vacation. Lou tells one of her mean-girl classmates, Sally, that she has great plans for the summer (because Sally is making fun of the junkyard). So Lou and Benzer are trying their best to find a way to spice up their lazy plans for the summer…

3) What’s really cool about the house are the secret hiding spots! Some of which the family thinks date back to the days of the Civil War! Lou and her friend Benzer are hiding one one such place when she discovers that her parents are worried that the town is trying to get rid of the house! Lou loves this house, so she and Benzer launch a campaign to save it (without letting the grownups know because, well, they didn’t know Lou could hear them.)

4) I loved the connection to the Civil War. Each chapter begins with a portion of the diary of Lou’s great-great-grandmother Louise. Later, Lou and Benzer do find the diary, which isn’t too much of a spoiler, I don’t think. It’s neat how it all connects in the end.

5) There’s some fun shenanigans that Lou and her friends get involved in. Plus, Lou also decides to stand up for her family friend to help him get a scholarship to play football. He’s been overlooked by his particularly racist high coach.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I told you I’ve been on an American Civil War kick of late! This one isn’t set in the 1860s, but there is a very nice connection. I really enjoyed hanging out with Lou and her friends as they work to save her house!


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 Terrible Two’s Last Laugh

20220828ma_1675Book: The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh (2018)
Author: Mac Barnett & Jory John
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series: The Terrible Two

Opening lines from the book …
For the last time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley! Or, if you’ve never read a book in this series before, for the first time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Two of our favorite pranksters, Niles and Miles, are entering their final year of middle school. And of course, you can expect a few pranks in this book.

2) I love the change in relationship between the boys and Principal Barkin! In the original books, Principal Barkin is the main baddy. But it’s nice to see how the principal has changed over the course of the books.

3) The humor in these books is delightful, especially the play of words. There’s Principal Barkin and then there’s Former Principal Barkin. And of course, you know the former principal is going to bring trouble, don’t you?

4) This book isn’t just about shenanigans! There are some nice heart moments, especially near the end with regard to Miles.

5) And I like how the final prank plays out. It’s a “quiet” prank.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a fun end to a fun series. I recommend the series for kids who like books about pranks!

 


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: The Great Gilly Hopkins

IMG_0428Book: The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978)
Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Honor Book (1979)

Opening Lines of the Book…

“Gilly,” said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. “I need to feel that you are willing to make some effort.”

MY THOUGHTS…

Gilly is such a tough girl who’s been hurt by the system. She’s been in and out of foster care and really just wants to be with her mother. But she gets sent to Trotter instead. And what a character Trotter is! Not to mention the shy foster brother, William Ernest, and the neighbor Trotter treats like a member of the household, Mr. Randolph. Gilly has a hard time with all these “misfits.” But little by little, these people break their way into Gilly’s hardened heart.

There’s also the teacher. She tries to connect with Gilly over Gilly’s name: Galadriel. And finally, we meet the grandmother. This is Gilly’s key to her mom, the elusive Courtney. Gilly wants nothing more than to connect with Courtney, and suddenly there’s an opportunity to go to her grandmother’s. She has high hopes of a happily ever after. But … well, things don’t turn out quite as she expects. However, Trotter has some wonderful words for Gilly.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

This book truly is one of Katherine Paterson’s masterpieces. It only got the Newbery Honor. The Westing Game won for this year. Also a good book, but I (personally) like this one a tiny bit better. Yes, it’s that good. Gilly’s character arc in this story is stunning.

P.S. A side note: Gilly is NOT the kindest person in this book! I think that’s what makes this book seem so real. She’s had a tough life. She uses rough language (although, by today’s standards, it’s pretty tame); Paterson writes it like Gilly would say it. But I think it works to the credit of the book as we see the character growth beneath the words.

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 / Dream, Annie, Dream

20220615ma_0810Book: Dream, Annie, Dream (2022)
Author: Waka T. Brown
Genre: MG, Near-Historical (1987)

Opening lines from the book …
You can be anything you want to be. My sixth-grade teacher’s parting words to the graduating class of Iron Hills Elementary ran in my ears, even over the deafening roar of the rocket motors.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Annie was such a great protagonist! I loved her enthusiasm. And she has a special spot in her heart for the Alice in Wonderland story.

2) I loved her dad especially! And I liked her mom too. (I probably identified more with the mom then the dad.) I loved how her mom had her own little story arc in this book. But it’s her dad’s positivity that was such a good thing to see. (I also liked the little brother, Tak.)

3) The friendships in this book were interesting, to say the least. I loved how loyal Annie is. Really, it came down to how much I liked how Annie handled herself, even when she saw her best friend always getting the roles she wanted.

4) This book is about theatre. I thought it was a nice touch that it was divided into three acts with three musicals/plays!

5) The director Sam is definitely an interesting character! She’s so blunt. But I like how she connects with Annie, especially near the end of the book.

6) The story is also set in 1987, so that was a fun little trip back down memory lane. 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS

I don’t always like the “you can be whatever you want to be” line, but I thought this book handled it quite well. The truth is, we can’t always be what we want, but that doesn’t mean we should give up and never try. And I thought that was the ultimate take-away for 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

Review / Falling Short

20220615ma_0804Book: Falling Short (2022)
Author: Ernesto Cisneros
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
Marco’s repeated tapping on my window sounds like Morse code—really, really loud Morse code. I try to open my eyes, but my left one is being stubborn and refuses to obey. “Go away, Marco!” I say, almost pleading. “Five more minutes.”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I really enjoyed the two protagonists in this book: Isaac and Marco. They are so different and yet have this wonderful friendship. (Marco’s the really short one, by the way.)

2) I was worried about this book being your typical bully-book. What I liked is that it didn’t turn out exactly how I thought it would. Yes, there’s a bully, but Marco isn’t forsaken throughout the book, dealing with the awful bully on his own.

3) This book is for basketball lovers! (A lot of the basketball stuff flew over my head. Get it?) I love how Marco is determined to get on his Muggsy Bogues! (Even when he … well, he doesn’t really know how to play basketball.)

4) I really liked the teacher Mr. Slaughter! I really wanted more of him from this book. The set-up when we meet him is great!

5) The side plot with Isaac’s dad drinking too much is good. I felt for Isaac and his family.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like I said before, this one is definitely for the sports’ enthusiasts. But even I enjoyed the friendship between these two boys.

 


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: Hello, Universe

20220527ma_0718Book: Hello, Universe (2017)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Winner (2018)

Opening Lines of the Book…

Eleven-year-old Virgil Salinas already regretted the rest of middle school, and he’d only just finished sixth grade. He imagined all those years stretching ahead of him like a long line of hurdles, each of them getting taller, thicker, and heavier, and him standing in front of them on his weak and skinny legs. He was no good at hurdles.

MY THOUGHTS…

This was an interesting story about two shy kids (Virgil and Valencia) and how they are brought together into a friendship, with the help of another friend (Kaori). And there’s the bully (Chet). Valencia is a character who can’t hear, something that fits in quite nicely into the plot. When the moment at the well came, I was like … Wow! This is genius.

I particularly liked the little sister (Gen) and her jump rope. I’m not sure why I was drawn to this character, but I was. I was a little surprised that the bully doesn’t get in trouble for his part in the story, but that’s sometimes how real life goes. (Kind of reminds me of old Mr. Potter in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. He never gets “punished” for the trouble he causes George Bailey. All except to see George succeed despite his meddling. Which is a punishment in its own way, isn’t it. And that’s how I see Chet.)

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I quite enjoyed this book. It won the Newbery in 2018. That was the same year that Long Way Down was also up for a Newbery. I would have had a hard time voting between these two books.

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 Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

20220527ma_0713Book: The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei (2022)
Author: Christina Matula
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
Somewhere out in the world there must be kids who don’t mind eating lunch alone. But not here, not me. I wrap my fingers tightly around my glass container, grip my book with the other hand, and step into the cafeteria of Maple Grove Elementary. The summer-school session is buzzing with freshly finish Grade 6 kids. I’m doing a mixed STEM/field hockey camp with girls from my school team.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love the settings of this book! First, we start in Canada, where Holly-Mei is having friend trouble. But then comes the news that they’re moving…

2) To Hong Kong! Great, now Holly-Mei can ditch those old friendships and find new friends in a new place, right? Holly-Mei is ready to go. Once they move, it was a lot of fun to get to know Hong Kong as she and her sister discover it themselves.

3) I loved Ah-ma, Holly-Mei’s grandmother. She stays in Canada but still remains a wonderful influence on Holly-Mei through video chats and phone calls.

4) It was fun to get to know Holly-Mei’s cousins (Rhys and Rosie, who already live in Hong Kong) and how she does make new friends. And then there’s the special gala school presentation. On Holly-Mei’s team is…

5) The “bully” of the class! Yikes. What I liked about Gemma is that she’s not your typical “flat” bully. She has nuance. Yes, she does something quite mean to Holly-Mei, but then we get to see them struggle to work together on their project.

6) And of course, on the topic of friendship, Holly-Mei does reach out to her friend from back home in Canada. But how that turns out … well, you’ll have to read the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book by a fellow Canadian. I liked reading about Hong Kong. I was definitely rooting for Holly-Mei and her new friends.

 


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 / 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

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