Review / Sunny Makes a Splash

20220206ma_0229Book: Sunny Makes a Splash (2021)
Author: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Genre: MG, Near Historical [1970s]
Graphic Novel Series: Sunny Side Up

Opening lines from the book …
“Hi, Sunny! Will you sign my yearbook?”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love the Sunny books! And this one is a fun-in-the-sun summer one. Poor Sunny is bored, so she decides to go work at the local swimming pool.

2) In this book, all of Sunny’s friends are away on their own summer vacations. And she gets to know the boy who works at the snack bar (where she also works). At first, she’s not sure what her feelings are toward him. (Her mom’s a little suspicious.)

3) The setting of the late 1970s is great. All the little pop culture references are great. They really do add the flavor of the 70s.

4) And of course, Gramps makes an appearance with a visit! And he’s got a … girlfriend. 🙂

5) This book makes you want to go down to the local pool. A perfect read for summer.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this next installment of the Sunny series. This book does well as a graphic novel. Like I said, it’s a great way to soak in the final days of summer.

 


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: A Wish in the Dark

20220116ma_0175Book: A Wish in the Dark (2020)
Author: Christine Soontornvat
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Newbery Honor Book (2021)

Opening Lines of the Book…
A monster of a mango tree grew in the courtyard of Namwon Prison. Its fluffy green branches stretched across the cracked cement and hung over the soupy brown water of the Chattana River. The women inmates spent most of their days sheltered under the shade of this tree while the boats glided up and down and up again on the other side of the prison gate.

MY THOUGHTS…

So, this book is basically a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables … with children! And magical orbs that light up the Thai-inspired city. We get to follow the lives of two children born in a prison and marked for life because of crimes they didn’t commit. One of them (Pong) escapes, while the other one (Somkit) goes through the system and is released at the age of 13.

And those magical orbs play a big part in the story. I loved the symbolism they bring as well as how they work into the actual plot.

Then there is the mystery surrounding Nok and her family. (Her dad’s the prison warden.) Yes, she is the law-abiding Javert character. I really like how things play out with her.

And we can’t forget to mention the monk, Father Cham and the motherly Ampai who both take Pong under their wings. (Actually, it was what Father Cham does that tipped me off on the Les Miz retelling bit. I don’t tend to read book descriptions for fear of spoilers, so I was blissfully unaware of the connection until this part in the book.)

I’ll end with one of the quotes in the book… “Which was better: being safe or having freedom? And did you have to choose?” Love how it connected to the story. Love how it connects to our own world.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I’ve seen this one around and finally decided to pick it up. I wish I had read it sooner! I did NOT know the Les Miserables connection until the middle of the book when I was: “Hey, this reminds me of Victor Hugo…” Anyhow, I really enjoyed it, and I would even say I preferred this book to the book that won When You Trap a Tiger last year.

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 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

Newbery Verdict: Roller Girl

20211230ma_4237Book: Roller Girl (2015)
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Publisher: Dial
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Newbery Honor Book (2016)

Opening Lines of the Book…
If you really want to know, it all began back in fifth grade. Back when Nicole and I were still best friends.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is the story of two friends, Astrid and Nicole, who get to see a roller derby. I love how Astrid loves roller derby, but when she first puts on skates, she’s a disaster! Yet still, she’s determined to be like the roller derby champion: Rainbow Bite.

Speaking of Rainbow Bite… She’s not in the book much, but she still comes off as such an awesome role model. Astrid writes anonymous letters to her but hesitates to reveal her true identity. There’s a bit at the end that is very satisfying.

In a lot of ways, this book is a story about how two friends grow apart because of … reasons. And yet, it’s also a story of how they can still be friends and also friends with other people. I really like her new friend, Zoey. The hair-dyeing scene is fun (even though I’m not generally a fan of hair dye!) And I love the scene when they go outside to practice their roller derby!

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I’ve had many people recommend this book, saying I would really like it, and … they were right! Definitely, this book deserved its Honor status. I haven’t read the Last Stop on Market Street (which won that year), so I can’t comment on which book is better (in my humble opinion).

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

Quick Pick Reviews #16

NOTE: I did a review of Brave by Svetlana Chmakova… which is actually the middle book in the series! So, I decided to do a combined quick pick review of Book #1 and #3. 🙂


awkwardAwkward // by Svetlana Chmakova

Genre: MG, Contemporary Graphic Novel (2015)

My Thoughts: Liked this first book in the series. Peppi has an adorable name! And personality. Particularly funny were all her attempts to avoid Jaime. Of course, he ends up being her science tutor! Cue the awkwardness. (One of my absolute favourite parts was when Chmakova puts little definitions of the word “awkward” = “this” with an illustration similar to the one of the cover the book!)

There’s a fun geocaching section. And I really like how the art and science clubs come together for the fair. What they create is out of this world! 😉

One of my favourite parts of these books is the design gallery at the end. Here Chmakova shows us various sketches and talks about the “making of” process she goes through for each book. [4 Stars]


CrushCrush // by Svetlana Chmakova

Genre: Upper MG, Contemporary Graphic Novel (2018)

My Thoughts: This is Jorge’s story. As I mentioned in my review of Brave, I loved Jorge, so I was glad to get a book devoted to him.

In this book, we get how Jorge is secretly crushing on Jazmine. The cover does a beautiful job conveying this. But it’s about more than that. We also have Jorge’s two friends: Olivia and Garrett. I really liked (painful as it was) the storyline that follows Garrett’s attempts to join the popular crowd and how he [*SPOILER] betrays Jorge in the process. [End Spoiler]

The one thing about this book is that it almost seemed older than the other books. I kept thinking that they were in high school. I checked. No, it’s middle school. Maybe it was the dance that seemed a little like “Prom” to me. (Although, I know there are dances in middle school.) [4 Stars]


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

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Newbery Verdict: El Deafo

El Deafo // by Cece Bell (2014)

el-deafoNewbery Honor Book (2015)
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Cece loses most of her hearing at a young age due to illness… which means that now she needs to wear a special box to help her hear. The box makes her “different”. Who wants to be different? But as she grows up, she realizes that she has “superpowers” that other people don’t have. Introducing: El Deafo!

MY THOUGHTS…

Cece the rabbit captured my heart! I loved her. And I absolutely loved the fact that the characters in this book were rabbits! (Note: This book is based on the author’s real-life experiences.)

I found it fascinating to see the POV of this young girl who comes to terms with something that makes her so different from the other children in her school and neighborhood. How does she navigate friendships? And then there were all the little tricks she learned to cope with not being able to hear, like reading lips, etc. The book is set in the 1970s, and I thought it captured the flavour of the 1970s (and early 80s?) very nicely.

And can I just say that I love that they’re rabbits! (Yes, I do realize that I’ve told you this before. 🙂 )

NEWBERY VERDICT…

Yes! I’m so glad this book got a Newbery Honor award. I can’t compare it to the winner that year (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander) as I haven’t read that one.

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