Review / Gold Rush Girl

gold-rush-girl

Book: Gold Rush Girl (2020)
Author: Avi
Genre: MG, Historical
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Tory is determined not to be left behind when her father and brother set off to join the gold rush in San Francisco. Of course, things aren’t quite as “golden” once they arrive. Dad leaves the kids behind while he goes to strike it rich. Tory is supposed to watch Jacob, and when Jacob goes missing… it’s up to her to find him. With the help of some new friends, she’s determined to search high and low, even if it means searching every abandoned ship on Rotten Row.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This book has a great opening line: “Have you ever been struck by lightning? I have.” Of course, she’s not talking about actual lightning, but more about being struck by gold rush fever. Clever way to get us into the story!

2) At first, I thought the style was a little old-fashioned, but then I realized this was done on purpose. All the literary references warmed my heart! From Mr. Poe to Mr. Benjamin Franklin! The “fine new publications such as Oliver Twist, Wuthering Heights, and Vanity Fair…” Not sure how young kids will read this, but I liked it.

3) I loved the character of Senor Rosales! I love how he believes Tory about her missing brother. And even makes them his priority. (I liked him better than the dad.)

4) An interesting historical setting is always a bonus for me! I particularly enjoyed the author’s note at the end about Rotten Row…

5) Thad and Sam make for some good friendships for Tory. The end of the book is rather open-ended which leaves room for some more adventures for these three!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Gold Rush Girl, I expected a little more gold in the story. All the hunting for gold is done off-page. Instead, this book has a lot of ships…

2) I did find the middle of the book to drag a bit. However, it does pick up again when the brother goes missing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this book. It reminded me a lot of Avi’s True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is another rollicking sea-adventure. I would definitely recommend for kids interested in history, especially the era of the gold rush. Note that the style of writing is a little old fashioned.

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


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

#MGTakesOnThursday / Bad Girls

bad-girlsBook: Bad Girls (1996)
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Rating: 5 stars

This book in three words…

School, Friendship, Secrets

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“[Mikey] gave Margalo another look at her smile. See if Margalo scared off easy.”

(Yes, technically, I chose another two sentences, but the second one is a fragment and really belongs in the first sentence! I love how these girls are trying so hard to be “bad girls”.)

My thoughts on this book…

Mikey and Margalo… Are they friends yet?

I think one of my favourite threads in this story has to do with the teacher. She and Mikey go head to head over her (Mikey’s) name. Mrs. Chemsky will NOT use a nickname, but Mikey hates that her real name is Michelle. Of course, this whole name thing becomes very important later on.

And the whole “bad girl” thing? The girls aren’t necessarily bad in the true sense of the word. They see inconsistencies in the others around them. Like Rhonda. I think another favourite part has to do with the annoying Louis Caselli and how he gets kicked out the class, only for the girls to launch into a get-Louis-back campaign.

In many ways, this is not your typical middle-grade novel. It’s not light and fluffy. That’s not Voigt’s style of writing.


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/05/14/mgtakesonthursday-5/

How to take part…

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Review / As Simple as It Seems

as-simple-as-it-seemsBook: As Simple as It Seems (2010)
Author: Sarah Weeks
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Verbie (short for Verbena) is having a hard time. Her best friend, Annie, is suddenly no longer her friend. And then she learns a secret… about her parents and who they really are. This news is hard for Verbie, so when she meets the new neighbour boy, Pooch, she lets him think she’s the ghost of a girl who drowned years earlier.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really felt for Verbie as she struggles with learning some of the facts regarding her parents. I believe Sarah Weeks did an excellent job making us empathize with her. I like how we learn, along with Verbie, about her past… little by little.

2) Pooch is such a good friend. (We’ll talk about his name later!)

3) To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of ghost stories. I almost put this book back at the  when I read that it was a “ghost” story. Sure, Verbie “pretends” to be a ghost (or rather, she doesn’t correct Pooch’s misconception), but it’s definitely NOT a ghost story!

4) I do like how the nightgown fits into the story. At first, I was wondering WHY it’s mentioned that she’s wearing a nightgown. But then, when we meet Pooch, it all comes together. No wonder he thinks Verbie’s a ghost!

5) A lot of excitement in this book. And some of it has to do with… nuts!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Pooch’s name drove me batty. I mean, why would they call him “Pooch”? Especially considering it’s a nickname given to him by his mom’s old boyfriend (who’s no longer in the picture!) I wish Sarah Weeks had come up with a different backstory.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I liked this book. Be prepared to go on an emotional journey, though!


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: Notorious

notoriousBook: Notorious (2020)
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Keenan goes to recuperate from tuberculosis at his dad’s house on an island that is split between the United States and Canada. That’s when he meets ZeeBee (who lives on the Canadian side). She’s obsessed with the history of prohibition-era smuggling. She’s also convinced that her beloved dog, Barney, was murdered. At first, Keenan doesn’t know what to think about her and her suspicions. But then he starts to think she’s on to something…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the history about gangsters on the island! I’m not sure I’d want to be mixed up with real-life gangsters, but they’re fun to read about. And ZeeBee is a fount of knowledge.

(That said, from what I can tell, Centerlight Island isn’t a real place. There IS an island in the middle of the St. Clair River. However, Stag Island is a private island and belongs to Canada.)

2) Barney Two was adorable. This is the dog that ZeeBee’s parents get to replace the dead Barney. ZeeBee can’t stand him because he’s so different from her former pet. I do like how Barney Two works his way into the plot.

3) It was fun to see the little Canadian vs. American differences… including the name of the island. ZeeBee calls it Centrelight. Keenan calls it Centerlight. I do find it interesting that they both use the metric system for measuring, but that might be because Keenan was schooled overseas??

4) I liked how Keenan and ZeeBee’s friendship develops throughout the book. It was nice to see the ups and downs.

5) The mystery is also quite fun. There are enough clues to figure it out whodunit, but it’s not super obvious.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I will say I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know what was true/untrue in this book… especially with regards to the island. There’s no author’s note to explain anything, so I found that a bit annoying. Especially since there is history involved in the story.

2) I do not understand why Barney (the first dog who’s dead) was even allowed to terrorize the island in the first place. Just the realist in my raising my hand.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – If you like Gordon Korman books, you’re in for a treat. 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: I Love You, Michael Collins

I-love-you-Michael-CollinsBook: I Love You, Michael Collins (2017)
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Genre: MG, Historical (1969)
Rating: 5 stars

Basic plot: It’s 1969 and the Apollo 11 moon landing mission is taking the world by storm. Mamie’s fifth-grade class is given the assignment to write to one of the three astronauts. Everybody chooses Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, all except for Mamie. She decides to write to Michael Collins, the third astronaut on the mission. Somehow, she feels a kinship with him. Especially when her family all seem to abandon ship, leaving her to pilot the “ship” all by herself.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love a good epistolary novel. This one works quite nicely as Mamie writes to Michael Collins (who is in space for some of the time she is writing!)

2) I thought Baratz-Logsted was able to capture Mamie’s voice quite nicely. One of my favourite parts near the opening of the book (which then sets the tone of the story) is when she talks about her teacher (Mrs. Collins) and how she knew that it was not the same person as Michael Collins wife, even if they shared a name.

3) Buster was a such good friend for Mamie. I loved all the Tang he brought over for them to drink. It made me want to drink Tang! (You can even see the Tang on the cover of the book!)

4) The sisters and parents drove me crazy! How they leave Mamie. But it worked well for the story! One of my favourite lines is when Mamie writes: Doesn’t anybody stay with the ship anymore! (And the fact that she’s telling this to Michael Collins… well, he understands, right?)

5) What a fun little backstory of how the sisters in the story are all named for Presidents’ wives. Which, of course, is how Mamie gets her name, after Mamie Eisenhower. 🙂

6) I’m glad about [*slight SPOILER] the happy ending. I like happy endings! [end Spoiler]

7) One of the things I liked about this book is the focus on Michael Collins. I barely knew his name until this past summer, which was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. He was always just the “third astronaut” to me. I think it was Google who had Michael Collins narrate a piece about his experience aboard Apollo 11. He had such a down-to-earth kind of voice. And Mamie’s right… somebody has to stay with the ship. Here’s to all the Michael Collins types out there! (And yes, I’m a Michael Collins type of person!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Honestly, I actually can’t really think of anything to put here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book. I love the historical setting and letters Mamie writes to her hero. Such a quick and fun read, but also doesn’t shy away from some more difficult themes. I’d definitely recommend to anybody who’s interested in astronauts and space!


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: It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

Aint-So-Awful-FalafelBook: It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel (2016)
Author: Firoozeh Dumas
Genre: MG, Near Historical [1970s]
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Cindy’s family comes from Iran. Her real name is Zomorod, but she thinks she’d rather be called “Cindy” as she attempts to navigate middle school life in the U.S. But it’s the 1970s and things over in Iran aren’t going well. When news of the Iran Hostage Crisis hits, suddenly her dad loses his job and people are telling her to go back home to Iran. What can she and her family do?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a very relaxed book in many ways. It’s set in the late 1970s and there’s a lot of nostalgia here. It does take some time to get to the hostage crisis.

2) The relationship between Cindy and Brock is nicely developed. As her friend Carolyn points out, you can tell they “like” each other, but I’m glad it’s just kept at the mutual-crush stage. I really don’t like it when middle-grade books put in some kissing scene, and I’m happy this book doesn’t go there. It just remains sweet and awkward and… well, sweet.

3) The friendship between the girls is lovely! Even when others are telling her family to go home, the girls (Carolyn, Rachel, and Dewey) stick by Cindy. The Halloween scenes are especially fun.

4) The parents are hilarious. I love the bit about the mom and how she’s always trying to force-feed everybody. Like with Skip and the grape-leaves. And the father is a really good dad. I just love his support of his daughter.

5) The theme of kindness is much needed in our world today. I love how she quotes from A Streetcar Named Desire (about the kindness of strangers)… and that’s true when it comes to characters like Skip (one of my favourites! He’s also the guy who speaks the words of the book’s title…) But really it’s more the kindness of friends that help Cindy and her family out.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found the book a little long. We don’t get to the hostage part until over half-way through the book. It actually sat on my night table for quite a while before I decided to read it, and I think that may have been because of the page count.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I loved Cindy/Zomorod. She was a likable character. And reading this book was definitely meant to feature her character. I loved the historical setting and learned a lot about Iranian customs.


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: Every Shiny Thing

every-shiny-thingBook: Every Shiny Thing (2018)
Author: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Lauren feels lost when her autistic brother goes away to boarding school. When Lauren’s best friend doesn’t seem to understand, Lauren starts spending more and more time with the new girl, Sierra. Sierra’s a foster kid who just wants to go back with her mom. But she’s drawn to Lauren and soon becomes the only one who knows about Lauren’s little problem: shoplifting. But Lauren isn’t stealing things to be bad. Her plan is to help others. Sierra doesn’t know quite what to do…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The dual POVs work quite nicely in this book. Lauren’s POV is written in prose, while Sierra’s is written in blank verse. At first it was jarring, but I came to like it.

2) I liked how Lauren (the rich kid) is the one with the sticky fingers, rather than Sierra (the poor kid). I love how Lauren rationalizes everything! And Sierra’s struggle about what to do. I loved how complicated everything was.

3) I enjoyed watching Sierra’s growth in the book. I think I probably liked her more than I liked Lauren (who got on my nerves sometimes). I liked the development with the foster parents: Anne and Carl.

4) Ryan isn’t in the book much, but his presence is felt in the book. He’s the brother who’s away. He’s also the reason why Lauren’s starts her own little Robin Hood campaign.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) So I loved all the restitution at the end, but I almost think Lauren got off a little easier than if it had been Sierra.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Enjoyed this story, especially Sierra’s POV.


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: Copyboy

copyboyBook: Copyboy (2018)
Author: Vince Vawter
Genre: Upper MG**, Historical (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: This book almost defies categories. My library shelves it with the middle-grade books… even though Victor is seventeen (almost eighteen) and is getting ready for college. Is it really Lower YA??? Not sure. I guess I’ll go with my library and claim it as MG.

Basic Plot: The sequel to Paperboy… Picking up the story when Victor is seventeen years old. And he’s on a mission to fulfill a promise to his mentor, Mr. Spiro. That means taking a trip down to the mouth of the Mississippi River… except his parents aren’t sure about letting him go.

See my review of Paperboy here. (One of my favourite books, by the way!)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It was nice to be back with Victor for this book! The stuttering was not quite as front and center as in the last book, but it was there. And while it’s good to know that Victor has (in many ways) come to terms with the stuttering, it’s still a sensitive issue for him. And I think Vawter did a nice job bringing that into the story.

2) We get to meet a lot of new people in this book. I particularly liked the glimpse into the world of the newspaper business. It’s not a huge part of the actual plot, but it’s there. I liked the General. And the part about the pennies was cool!

3) I liked meeting Phil. She was a fun character, and it’s cute how Victor’s so smitten with her. I really liked how they bounce ideas off one another, especially with how they deal with their parents.

4) I loved how Mr. Spiro is in the story (and yet he’s not). Victor’s on a mission for Mr. Spiro and keeps referencing Mr. Spiro’s wisdom.

5) The Cajun setting of New Orleans was great to read about. I love how Victor is a bit of a fish-out-of-water… yet he also drinks in the whole experience.

6) The hurricane threat adds a nice element of danger. (As does Phil’s creepy boyfriend! Especially when both the hurricane and the creepy boyfriend collide.) With regards to the hurricane, apparently, it was a real storm that hit New Orleans in 1965… Hurricane Betsy.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did miss the actual Mr. Spiro. And I missed Mam! I’m not sure how she would have fit into this story, but I did miss her.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I did enjoy this sequel. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, it’s still a good book! And if you liked the first book, you should like this sequel.


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

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!)

Quick Pick Reviews #11

Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick // by Jennifer L. Holm

eighth-grade-making-me-sickGenre: MG, Contemporary (2012)

My Thoughts: This is the sequel to Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf. The subtitle pretty much sums up the style of this book: Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff. And it’s surprising how much plot we get from just reading report cards, notes from mom, bank statements, etc. This book picks up where the last one left off and Ginny’s life proves to be as interesting as ever.

I will say that the title of this book is actually quite plot relevant (as opposed to the Meatloaf title; I don’t remember meatloaf factoring into the plot of the first book.) [4 Stars]


Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job // by Willo Davis Roberts

baby-sitting-dangerous-jobGenre: MG, Contemporary (1985)

My Thoughts: A cute book about a teen named Darcy who gets a baby-sitting job for a family known to have three, rambunctious kids. That’s how she ends up being kidnapped along with the children. I like how she and the children bond and work together.

Is the book realistic? Not really, but it’s fairly entertaining. I do love the cover on this re-release. (I’ve seen the original 1980’s cover and, well, this one is so much better. Although I’m not exactly sure what the tree house has to do with the plot!) [3 Stars]


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