Review: All’s Faire in Middle School

alls-faireBook: All’s Faire in Middle School (2017)
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Imogene and her family are part of the Renaissance Faire family. And this year, she’s been promoted to be her dad’s squire. Every weekend, they live in a world of knights and dragons; during the week, Imogene has to navigate middle school. After being homeschooled, this is her first taste of education in the classroom… and, well, she’s finding it difficult to figure out all the unwritten rules. This leads to her trying a few things that don’t exactly end up the way she intended, which includes a suspension from school and estrangement from her younger brother.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The Renaissance Faire setting is super fun. We get hermits and dragons and queens! It was interesting to learn about all the behind-the-scenes things that happen. I like how Imogene learns to make her “street” performance her own.

2) The odd friendship between Imogene and Anita is completely realistic… having your “school friends” and your “faire friends”. It happens, especially in middle school! And then, of course, there’s the rift. But I liked how Jamieson resolved everything by the end of the story.

3) At times, Felix drove me batty—I definitely saw why Imogene could lose her temper because of his antics. Still, there were other times when I thought he was a cute little brother. He adores Imogene, but… just as he’s fierce in his love, he’s also fierce in his unforgiveness.

4) I liked the relationship between Imogene and the “Princess” Violet, especially as she helps Imogene prepare her presentation for the dreaded Science class. One of my favourite moments is what Violet says to Imogene when Imogene dismisses the princess in the story of St. George and the Dragon. Violet brings up the princess’s courage and kindness as positive attributes, something to admire. I sometimes feel saddened at the backlash against the princess trope. (Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like a helpless princess who doesn’t have a thought in her head, but really, not all princesses are like that!) I like that Imogene, even if she herself doesn’t aspire to play the role of the princess, learns to respect that we all play different roles in life. And that’s a good thing.

5) Oh, those mean girls! The “friends” of Imogene. (Of course, there’s going to be a set in a story about middle school!) I love how Imogene is even warned by Anita about them. But, I also like how that whole story plays out.

6) I loved how the speech bubble for *Sigh* always seems to be dripping. I could just SEE the sigh!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wish that [SPOILER] Imogene hadn’t found Felix’s squirrel, Tiffany (the one she throws away in the water). I mean, it’s nice for Felix, but it felt a little unrealistic to me. I wish Felix and Imogene could have come to a point where he’s able to forgive her, even without Tiffany making a comeback. [End Spoiler]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A fun book that merges dragons with middle school… but all set in our world. I would recommend, especially to those who want a good graphic novel to read.


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: Sunny

Book: Sunny (2018)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

sunnyBasic Plot: Sunny runs the mile. Except, now he doesn’t want to anymore. So, he just stops running. He was only running to please his father and to fulfill his dead mother’s dream of running. But with his birthday looming, Sunny only feels guilt over the fact that he “killed” his mother (she died the day he was born). His home-school teacher, Aurelia, decides to teach Sunny dancing and that’s when he realizes that he’d rather dance than run. He tells Coach, who decides that maybe Sunny should give the discus a shot. Because, it’s as close to dancing as track and field gets.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a continuation of the series with Ghost and Patina. This one focuses on Sunny. Obviously. He’s an interesting character, with a love of rhythm that permeates his whole being, and translates well to his writing style. (This book is written in diary-format.)

2) I like the arc for the relationship of Sunny and Darryl (his father). The scene in the dad’s bedroom is quite touching. I love how Sunny describes his father as having a stone face, and how this changes and morphs during this section of the book.

3) We get another track meet at the end of the book. This time, it’s not a race, but the discus throw. And yes, as in all the other books, we don’t actually find out how it turns out. (But I’m sure we will in the next book… which I’m assuming will be about Lu.)

4) I do like how Ghost, Patty, and Lu are really good friends to Sunny. (Although, at one point, he tells them he doesn’t go to school—he’s home-schooled—and they’re all shocked. But I’m pretty sure they knew this already from the last book. Unfortunately, I don’t have that book with me, so I can’t check. If you’ve read this book and can correct me, please let me know in the comments.)

5) I really enjoyed the fact that Sunny was home-schooled, and Aurelia sounds like an awesome teacher.  I also like how Aurelia’s story merges with Sunny’s.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I mentioned earlier that I like the supportiveness of the newbies (aka Ghost, Patty, and Lu). This is also a BIT of a problem. It means there is very little conflict happening between these characters. And stories need conflict. Since these characters don’t present any conflict, they end up being not so relevant to the actual story. I wish they could be more central to the plot. But really, they’re just side characters that almost don’t matter. 😦

2) Note to Jason Reynolds: Please don’t mention that awful scene in the Chinese Restaurant from the first book. Argh! That brought back bad memories for me! Okay, I’m slightly kidding, but slightly serious as well. I didn’t find the scene (in this book) as cathartic as I think it was supposed to be. I felt like it was slightly unnecessary. Now maybe this is because of the call-back to the secrets scene in the first book (meaning I was distracted). But I think it may be because this scene just came AFTER a very similar scene (the one in the dad’s bedroom).

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Patina, but that is probably because I understand and relate to Patty better than I do to Sunny. I also really like track (running). But in this book, we veer over to the field part of track and field. Let’s just say that the field part of track and field has never truly excited me. Still, Sunny is a wonderful character and I did enjoy reading about him.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!