Review / Measuring Up

Book: Measuring Up (2020)
Author: Lily LaMotte
Illustrator: Ann Xu
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Graphic Novel

Basic plot: Cici misses her grandmother, A-má, who lives all the way in Taiwan. When she sees a kids’ cooking contest, she hopes she has what it takes to win because that prize money would be perfect to buy that plane ticket for A-má.  During the contest, she’s teamed up with a girl named Miranda. Soon, Cici begins to doubt her ability to cook and turns to learn from watching the great Julia Child on TV. As one contestant after another is eliminated, Cici soon realizes that she’ll soon be competing against her teammate.

Opening lines from the book …
My life in Taiwan is sweet. My favorite is mango flavor but Siu-Lian and Siu-Khing always get Lychee. We never get tired of watching the panda… or running on the Dragon Bridge… but A-má is the best part.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Cici is such a likable character! I love her connection to her grandmother and how she decides to do something about the fact that they live so far apart.

2) The cooking part of the story was really fun. Seeing Miranda and Cici come up with their amazing culinary delights made me hungry to do a taste test! And ditto for when Cici is experimenting with Julia Child’s recipes. 

3) I like the relationship that develops between Cici and Miranda. They don’t quite start off on the right foot. And, let’s face it, Miranda is a bit of a know-it-all. But Cici does take this as an opportunity to learn from her (because Miranda does actually know a lot about cooking). But in the end, Cici decides to take a risk that would go against some of Miranda’s “expertise”. I loved that Cici was able to see where her own “expertise” clicks in.

4) Now for the three judges! If you’ve seen any reality show that involves judges, you will know there’s always that one judge. In this case, it’s the bald one, Mr. Bonze. I loved his little snarky remarks, although I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of them. And nor did I want Cici to be criticized either! But as a reader, he did add a little spice and drama.

5) I loved how Cici’s mentor becomes TV’s Julia Child! The montage where Cici is trying to flip the potato pancakes is great. Courage and conviction!

6) Ultimately, I loved how Cici brings her A-má’s Taiwanese cooking into the story. While it’s nice to see Cici branch out with other foods, it was even nicer to see her embrace the simplicity of her heritage. And be able to come up with her own modifications to old recipes.

7) I thought the graphic novel format worked really well for this book.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Not much to report here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Such a fun book! I won it in a giveaway contest by Completely Full Bookshelf! Yay! I really did enjoy it and would recommend it for anybody who enjoys watching those cooking shows or competitions.

 


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 / All the Impossible Things

all-the-impossible-thingsBook: All the Impossible Things (2019)
Author: Lindsay Lackey
Genre: MG, Magical Realism

Basic plot: Red is a foster kid who’s been in and out of foster days. And her newest placement, with a family who owns a petting zoo of sorts, is just going to be temporary. That’s because Red’s mom will be released from prison, and she promised to stay off those white pills. But then Red meets a the tortoise named Tuck and she starts to fall in love with her new foster home. So, what can she do when she learns that her mom is getting out on good behaviour? 

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I felt the emotional struggle of poor Red through the ups and downs of being a foster kid. The magical realism kicks in with the fact that her emotions are somehow connected to wind. Red’s mood can cause horrible storms. It’s a neat little twist on a term called pathetic fallacy. (I love that term!) 

2) How great are Jackson and Celine! They’re the foster parents. At first, Red isn’t sure about them, but through the book, we see her becoming more and more comfortable around this couple. I love how they interact with Red, especially when they see her connection to their tortoise, Tuck! (All the animals on the farm have great bookish names… like Frodo and Gandalf and Bronte!)

3) And then, there’s Marvin. Love this kid! He instantly reaches out to Red and accepts her, even when she’s a little too quiet. I like how he works with her to get the video production to help at the end. And the Hawaii connection is interesting.

4) Even though Gamma (Red’s grandmother) is no longer alive in the book, we get little flashbacks to when she cared for Red. She’s the one who gets Red to write in a notebook about all the impossible things. Because a thing is only impossible until it is done. I love her wisdom and her love. And I like how the impossible things permeates throughout the narrative.

5) The scenes with Red’s mom were painful, but I liked the realism there. She really struggles with being a mom. And I like how Lindsay Lackey shows how complicated life can be.

6) The cover is beautiful!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I mentioned earlier that there’s a scene where Marvin is helping Red with producing a video. Right at the end (Spoiler!) he loses the footage. “Sorry, Red!” This scene is almost an afterthought, a throwaway. As somebody who does work with video, I’m not even sure how he lost the edit. Did he just erase the original videos… ALL of them? That’s pretty hard to do unless your drive fails or something. In any case, the part of the story felt like a cheap way out for the author. I would rather have seen this actually play out in real time with Marvin and Red reacting to what is happening… and not simply as a report from Marvin. (End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Loved this book! It’s really a contemporary novel with elements of magical realism. I would recommend it for readers who loved The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.


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 Paper House

paper-houseBook: The Paper House (2012)
Author: Lois Peterson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Ten-year-old Safiyah lives in a slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. She’s too poor to go to school, and it’s up to her to make a living for her and her grandmother. After a day of trash-picking at the local dump, she manages to find a bunch of magazines full of beautiful pictures. They inspire her to create a mural outside her house. And it’s this mural that starts something that will give her the chance at a better life.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The setting is Africa. I haven’t read too many books about this, so I found this to be fascinating. I loved how Lois Peterson was able to bring to life Safiyah’s world.

2) I love stories that involve grandmothers. And I love Cucu! She’s all Safiyah has and their relationship is so important.

3) And then there’s Blade, the older boy and leader of the local gang of thugs. Cucu warns Safiyah to stay away from him. He’s a bully and yet… he’s not? It’s confusing. I love how Peterson dealt with this complicated relationship.

4) The whole part about school and how Safiyah wants to go but can’t was one of the more interesting parts of the plot for me. I think kids in my part of the world can sometimes be unexcited by school. It’s good to see a kid who’s denied something we take for granted and how her attitude is so different.

5) Loved the angle on art and Safiyah’s artistic idea for the mural! Even better was the part where her friend tries to help but mangles it, causing a rift between the girls. I loved watching how their friendship goes through highs and lows.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) It’s a short book at only 108 pages. I wanted it to be longer! (And yet, the length in and of itself isn’t bad. The story is complete as is!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Loved reading Safiyah’s story about her struggles with living in poverty. But this is such a hopeful book. Don’t let the short length fool you into thinking it’s for the 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

Photo Challenge #37 / This is It

20200911ma_1546“It Came By Post” / Theme: This is It

A little about this photo…

Look what came in the mail! If you can’t see it, that’s my name in the byline. This is my first children’s story to be published. And to make it even more meaningful, it’s the story of my grandmother during WWII. That’s her photograph and her Red Cross brooch. (In the artwork, she’s the girl on the right. I think it’s pretty cool that they came pretty close to her correct hair colour!)

Note: In the story, she’s about 16 or 17 years old. However, in the photo, she was probably already in her twenties…


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2020picoftheweek

#MGTakesOnThursday / Ebb and Flow


ebb-and-flowBook: Ebb and Flow (2018)
Author: Heather Smith
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Blank Verse

This book in three words…

Fresh-Start, Secrets, Forgiveness

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

I was Jett the Incredible Shrinking Boy, small in her arms again.

My thoughts on this book…

Jett has come to live with his grandmother for the summer holidays. Written in blank verse, we know something’s wrong. Slowly, at the novel unfolds, the reason is revealed. We get to relive moments where Jett makes poor decisions.

And his Grandmother Jo is delightful. She’s the type to dye her hair the colour of her house (blue!) to match the colour of her house. 🙂 I love how she’s able to reach out to her hurting grandson as he works through issues like abandonment and betrayal. And the little stories they tell each other are wonderful.

Highly recommend!


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/07/30/mg-takes-on-thursday-9/

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.

ARC Review: Louisiana’s Way Home

Louisianas-Way-HomeLouisiana’s Way Home // by Kate DiCamillo
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: MG, Historical (1970s)
My Rating: 4 Stars

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

Basic Plot:Granny wakes Louisiana up in the middle of the night, and they set off on a journey to rid themselves of the family curse. But Louisiana soon discovers that there’s more to her history than she realized. Suddenly, she finds herself left to her own devices in a small town in Georgia. And all she really wants is to find her way home again.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Louisiana’s voice as narrator is amazing! I love how she uses big words (because her grandmother uses big words). And she talks non-stop… but in a very pleasing way. (Kind of like Anne of Green Gables. And comparing Louisiana to Anne is probably the highest praise I can give!)

2) There are some great scenes… varying from the delightfully comedic (involving driving and dentists) to more serious moments (involving funerals and fainting). And then there’s the cast of quirky characters: The Burke Allens (all 3 of them), Miss Lulu (who can’t quite play the organ), and the walrus-like Reverend Obertask, just to name a few.

3) My suspicions about Louisiana’s family are confirmed in this book. (Something I suspected back in the first book.) This, of course, is revealed just at the right spots in the plot.

4) I love Betty Allen (Burke’s mom) and her cakes. I drew a big breath of relief when she and Reverend Obertask finally figure out a few things.

5) This story really is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. DiCamillo hits all the right emotional chords just at the right moment. The ending brought tears to my eyes.

6) This is one book where I actually enjoyed the “sequel” more than the original. I liked the first book very much, but there’s something about Louisiana that is very compelling and endearing. She makes for a wonderful narrator and protagonist.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Some of the adults drove me crazy!! I wish they would take one look at Louisiana and realize that something is not right with her situation. (But I also understand that this is kind of important for plot reasons, so it not a major criticism.)

FINAL THOUGHTS
My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – For me, 4-stars means I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s worth the read just to hear Louisiana’s voice tell her story. She’s definitely a protagonist you will want to root for.