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

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

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

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

Review / The Elephant Thief

20220123ma_0196Book: The Elephant Thief (2018)
Author: Jane Kerr
Genre: MG, Historical [1870s]


Opening lines from the book …
He couldn’t breathe. His lungs were pumping. His lips were open. But there still wasn’t enough air. The sack covering his head blocked everything. His nose. His eyes. His mouth. Fear burnt in his stomach, sharp and acidic.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I liked our introduction to Boy (later named Danny). He’s an orphan who doesn’t remember his parents, so it made sense to me that he wouldn’t necessarily have a name. (I’ll talk more about the name Danny later on.)

2) And then there’s Maharajah, the elephant! There’s something about elephants that people (read: me) love in books. And I particularly loved the connection between Boy/Danny and Maharajah.

3) Then there’s the man who buys Maharajah. He’s a very P.T. Barnum-like character… quite the showman. I wasn’t sure whether or not to like him, or trust him, all the time. But then, I noticed how he treats Danny. And even ultimately how he treats Maharajah. And then there’s his wife. I like that she’s able to temper some of the flamboyance. 

4) There’s a good antagonist in the rival zookeeper. It was nice to see the juxtoposition between the P.T. Barnum character (Mr. Jameson) and the other man (who also runs a different zoo and wanted Maharajah for himself). As the story progresses, we see that the rival doesn’t really care about the animals.

5) While this story is fiction, there is fact and history behind it! There really was an elephant named Maharajah who had to walk across the country.

6) I liked the element of therace. And especially, the mystery of who was trying to sabotage said race … It kept me reading. 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

The only thing I thought that could have improved this book was for narrator to keep calling the protagonist ‘Boy’ rather than ‘Danny’. At least for most of the book. The other characters could still call him ‘Danny’, but I think there should have been a moment, a big moment, when boy takes the name Danny for himself. And that should have come at the end of the book!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed reading this book. I’d recommend for anyone who likes historical fiction, or elephants!

 


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 / Truly Tyler

20220113ma_0115Book: Truly Tyler (2021)
Author: Terri Libenson
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Graphic Novel
Companion Book to: Invisible Emmie


Opening lines from the book …
Sometimes I look around the cafeteria at lunch and wonder why everything is set the way it is. Why the jocks sit near the front. And the Science Club kids sit in back. And the manga kids sit near the ice cream freezer. Why the volleyball team sits near the windows and the orchestra kids sit near the tray conveyor belt. Which, by the way, is kinda unfortunate.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) While Tyler is definitely the main POV in this book, there’s always another POV. And this time it’s … Emmie! I loved being back with Emmie!

2) I also enjoyed some resolution to the Brianna/Sarah jealousy (mostly on Brianna’s part). And of course, it gets complicated because suddenly Emmie starts to question her friendship with Sarah. Sarah might be just a little bit too unique for the middle school crowd. But don’t worry, it works itself out.

3) Again, since this book is mainly in Tyler’s POV, we do get to meet Tyler’s family. He feels like he’s being left out from his older brother’s life, but they eventually connect. I really like how the brother helps Tyler see beyond the basketball. And then there’s the dad. And his dad new wife who is always cutting in on their phone time! I like how, by the end of the book, even a clueless dad gets some redemption.

4) There’s a fun double story with the graphic novel that Emmie and Tyler are working on. It’s neat to see how that comes together.

5) And finally, we have to talk about Joe Luongo. If you remember from the first book, he’s Tyler’s friend who made all that trouble over Emmie’s letter! What a troublemaker. But I like how this book deals with such a character. We get to see a little more into the mind of Joe through Tyler and even with Joe’s lame interactions with Sarah. I actually felt a little sympathy for this character with this book!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this latest book in the Invisible Emmie series. I particularly liked having Emmie’s POV once more. And it’s fun to know more and more of the characters. It’s like being back in middle school again! 😉

 


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 / Birdie’s Bargain

20211218ma_4059Book: Birdie’s Bargain (2021)
Author: Katherine Paterson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
It wasn’t until the volunteers from the Lions Club had left and they stood in the empty apartment looking at nothing that Birdie realized her bicycle was gone. The sofa, the kitchen table and chairs, all the beds—even the TV—had been carried to the truck. Daddy had finished stuffing the trunk of the Subaru and the tiny U-Haul trailer with all the boxes and baby furniture when she thought of it.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Birdie is such an introspective girl. I love how we get right into her worries for her daddy who is being shipped out overseas (he’s in the Army).

2) Birdie’s grandmother is just the right amount of grown-up for this story. She’s involved in Birdie’s life, but also encourages her to go out and make friends in her new home. There’s also Mr. Goldberg, the teacher. Like the grandmother, he’s there as a grown-up influence, yet he’s not a helicopter-type who ruins the kid’s agency in the story.

3) And then we come to Alicia Marie. Oh boy, what a character! She’s one of those characters that you can’t stand. She’s so bossy toward Birdie, and yet there’s something about her that makes you feel sorry for her.

4) Finally, there’s Daddy. We don’t really get to meet him too much as a character. But we do get to know him quite well through Birdie’s memories and thoughts.

5) I love when books reference other books. This one talks about Charlotte’s Web and Anne Frank’s Diary and Because of Winn Dixie. I love how it all affects Birdie’s experience.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) If you’re looking for a book that wraps everything up neatly with a bow, Katherine Paterson isn’t your author. There were a few things, especially about Alicia Marie, that I wanted to know more about. It wasn’t anything horribly wrong with the book, but I would have liked a tiny bit of closure there.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am so thankful for another book by Katherine Paterson! She is such a thought-provoking author. And I really enjoyed this 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 / The Children’s Blizzard, 1888

20211218ma_4061Book: The Children’s Blizzard, 1888 (2018)
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Genre: MG, Historical Fiction
Series: I Survived


Opening lines from the book …
A deadly blizzard raged across the prairie, and eleven-year-old John Hale was trapped in a frozen nightmare. The wind screamed in his ears as he staggered through the blinding snow. His whole body was numb.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) That opening is pretty exciting! The first chapter (which feels like a prologue) drops us right in the middle of things. Of course, the second chapter will take us back a few months to let us get to know the characters before letting us know what happens next.

2) I liked the story about the boys hunting King Rattler. As the newcomer to the prairie, John feels outside the friendship circle. But then they invite him along. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a good thing, but I’m glad it was the start of their friendship.

3) There’s some nice foreshadowing going on when John thinks he’s lost his sister Frannie in the long grass at the beginning of the story. I like how that comes into play during the blizzard later on.

4) I love the story trope of the strict teacher that the kids don’t quite understand but learn to trust. This teacher is sort of like that.  

5) This book reminded me so much of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I later found out that this was a different blizzard (her book was set in 1880-1 rather than 1888).

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) At the end of the book, the author has a list of other books about blizzards, etc. And the one book that is missing is The Long Winter. While the blizzard years are different, they do both take place in Dakota Territory. And that book is arguably one of the BEST of the Little House books, and even was given a Newbery Honor book. In fact, I had to go to the internet to find this info out. It’s like talking about the best fantasy books and forgetting to mention The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is the first book I’ve read from the I Survived series. They’re short and quick to read. It had a lot of exciting parts and I’m glad to see historical fiction that isn’t a time-travel 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