Autumn Reading Bingo Challenge / November

mgc-bingo-11nov2018

Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge. This month, I finished only eight middle grade books. Well, eight titles that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. (I actually read more than eight books, including a few books for adults.)

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*A Book of Short Stories

Funny Business // by Jon Scieszka, ed.

MG, Contemporary (2010)

funny-businessThis is a Guys Read book. I’ve seen these around for quite awhile, but this is the first time I’ve ever picked one up. And I’m glad I did. While I’ve read many of the authors before, there were some that were new to me. It was nice to get a hint of what they write. It was also nice to read new-to-me short stories by authors I already knew.

I particularly enjoyed the story “Artemis Begins” by Eoin Colfer. From what I can tell, this is a true story about his brother being the inspiration for his character Artemis Fowl. And then there was a story called “Your Question for Author Here” by Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka. It’s about a boy who has to write an author for a school assignment, and he gets a little more than he bargained for! [4 stars – Most stories were 3 stars, but there were a couple really good ones!]


*Red Cover

public-school-superheroPublic School Superhero // by James Patterson

MG, Contemporary (2015)

This book is about Kenny, who has been labelled by the school bullies as a “Grandma’s Boy”. But he’s invented an superhero alter-ego: Stainlezz Steel. After an incident, he (the victim) ends up with the same detention as the boys who pick on him. This eventually leads to him having to teach chess to one of the bullies: Ray-Ray.

This was an interesting book. I really like the story arc with Ray-Ray. And I love the principal. And the grandma. And of course, Kenny, himself. [4 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt / Based on a Classic

pinocchioPinocchio // by Michael Morpurgo

MG, Fantasy (2013)

I’ve never read the original classic written by Carlo Collodi, but I have seen the Disney movie LOTS of times. (I always hated the part about the donkeys!) So, when I read this, I could see some of the differences, especially the changes Walt Disney made. (And to tell the truth, I thought his changes were pretty decent. For example: In the end, Pinocchio is [SPOILER] swallowed by a shark. Disney changed this to a whale, which generally makes more sense to me. Wouldn’t a shark just rip both him and Geppetto to pieces? Whales, on the other hand, swallow their food whole.) [END SPOILER]

I enjoyed this book, which is told through the voice of Pinocchio, himself. Although, I will say that Pinocchio drove me crazy with all his stupid decisions! Just go home to Geppetto, Pinocchio. And apparently Morpurgo departs from both the Collodi and the Disney ending slightly with regards to Pinocchio becoming a real boy.

And the part about the donkeys? Yeah, it still bothers me. [4 stars]


*A Disabled Character

al-capone-throw-me-a-curveAl Capone Throws Me a Curve // by Gennifer Choldenko

MG, Historical Fiction (2018)

The disabled character is Natalie (she has a form of autism). Choldenko based her on her own sister. I love how this book (series) tells of the challenges and rewards of living with somebody like Natalie. I love how Moose struggles with this, but how their dad (especially) remains so positive and loving towards his daughter.

This is the fourth book in this series. While it’s not the best in the series, it’s still worth the read. (I absolutely love the first two books.) [4 stars]


*A Best-Selling Author

spy-school-goes-southSpy School Goes South // by Stuart Gibbs

MG, Espionage (2018)

I do love this series. However… the past few books aren’t quite as stellar as the first books. (I hate to make the joke, but they really have started to go south. Yikes!)

There are still things I like about this book, though. Erica Hale, for one. And her mother! And Ben still remains our likeable protagonist. (I’m not crazy about Mike being in Spy School. And I’m not sure what I think about Zoe.) The Farkles Family Reunion is a cute part of the plot. And I’m glad Murray is part of the plot from the beginning and does not just swoop in with the bad guys at the end of the story like he has in the past. [3 stars]

P.S. I feel like this might need a more in-depth review in the near future.


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Color in the Title // Diary of a Mad Brownie // by Bruce Covill
    • Case in the Title // Case of the Purloined Parrot // by E.W. Hildick
    • Author’s Last Name Starts with “B” // Freckle Juice // by Judy Blume

Final Thoughts…

November Bingo is complete! Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought of them.

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Autumn Reading Bingo Challenge / October

mgc-bingo-oct2018Once again Middle Grade Carousel hosted a Reading Bingo challenge. Again, I wasn’t sure if I’d participate this month. However, since I normally read MG anyway, I decided to try for a bingo. This month, I finished twelve middle grade books.

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*The Second Book in a Series

12 Before 13 // by Lisa Greenwald

12-before-13MG, Contemporary (2018)

A cute story about these two friends who make a list of things to do before their thirteenth birthdays. I didn’t know it was a sequel to another book when I picked it up. The series is called The Friendship List. But I found this book worked well as a stand-alone. The author does reference the first book a bit (apparently they had a similar, but different, list of things to do before their twelfth birthdays.) [3.5 stars]


*Candy in the Title

Candy Bomber // by Michael O. Tunnell

candy-bomberMG, Non-fiction (2010)

This book is non-fiction. The subtitle is The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”. I found this very interesting since I haven’t read much about the Berlin Airlift. In addition to the food, fuel, and medical supplies that were flown into West Berlin in 1948-49, one pilot decided to bring candy for the children. Lt. Gail Halvorsen would wiggle his wings as he flew into the city. That was the signal for the children to look up. Packages of candy would float down with tiny white parachutes.

This book is for anybody who loves history, and WWII in particular. The book has lots of photos, plus copies of some of the many thank-you letters Halvorsen received from the German children.  [4 stars]


*A Book about Cryptids

Flight of the Phoenix // by R. L. LaFever

flight-of-phoenixLower MG, Magical Realism (2010)

This is Book One of a series called Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist. Poor Nate finds himself an orphan and in the care of a relative who has dodo birds living in the house! And then his aunt reveals the nature of their family business, which includes protecting a phoenix who’s about to be born from the ashes. However, when Aunt Phil is taken hostage by a Bedouin tribe, it’s up to the unadventurous Nate to make sure the phoenix will take flight. Cute story. Loved Nate and the gremlin, too! [3.5 stars]


*Historical

Winnie’s Great War // by Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut

Winnies-great-warMG, Historical Fiction (2018)

I loved this book! First of all, it’s the true story behind the real Winnie-the-Pooh. Named for the city of Winnipeg, Winnie was an orphan black bear that crossed the Atlantic with the Canadian troops during the First World War. Since she was just a baby, she became their mascot. This book chronicles her voyage, her shenanigans, and how she was eventually taken to live in the London Zoo… which is where, of course, a real little boy named Christopher Robin came to visit with his dad. [5 stars]

A full review is coming soon!


*A Book Recommended to You

Nerd Camp // by Elissa Brent Weissman

camp-nerdMG, Contemporary (2011)

I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended by a fellow book blogger. Yay for good recommendations! This is a fun little romp of a book that follows Gabe, a kid who struggles with the idea of being too nerdy, especially in the eyes of his new step-brother. [4 stars]

You can read my full review here.


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Title Starts with T // The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet // by Erin Dionne
    • A Book About Witches // The Land of Stories: Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales // by Chris Colfer
    • Magical Realism // Time Garden // by Edward Eager
    • Author Who is New to You // Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job // by Willo Davis Roberts
    • A Book Found at a Thrift Store // Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle // by Betty MacDonald
    • House on the Cover // The Spy Code Caper // by Susan Pearson
    • A Book About Heroes // Silent in an Evil Time // by Jack Batton

Final Thoughts…

October Bingo is complete!

Autumn Reading Bingo Challenge / September

mgc-bingo-sept2018

Middle Grade Carousel is hosting another Reading Bingo challenge. I wasn’t sure if I’d participate this month, but since I normally ready MG anyway, I figured I’d at least try to get a bingo.

And I did! This month, I finished nine middle grade books.

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*A Book About Puzzles

You Go First // by Erin Entrada Kelly

You-go-firstI’m claiming puzzles on this one, even though it’s about Scrabble. I figure that Scrabble is about word puzzles, right?

This book has two protagonists: Charlotte and Ben. I liked both of them and enjoyed reading both their stories. Their only connection is through online Scrabble. Although, at one point, they actually speak to each other on the phone.

This book is about the masks we wear. And about how one friend can change things for us, for the better. Interestingly our two main characters never meet. And they never do get the full picture of what the other’s life is really like. Basically because neither of them will “go first”. However, both kids find their one friend among the kids they already know at school… Kids they have overlooked in the past.

I keep vacillating between 3.5 and 4 stars for this book. I think I’ll go with the higher rating. [4 stars]


*Time Travel

no-wifi-on-the-prairieThere’s No Wifi on the Prairie // by Nicholas O. Time

I wish I liked this book better. I did like the premise about how the girl needs to learn that you can’t always depend on doing a Google-search in life. I probably would have liked this book as a kid, though.

I think the random cows that kept cropping up at the school was a little weird for me. [3 stars]


*’Princess’ in the Title

true-princessA True Princess // by Diane Zahler

This is a delightful retelling of one of my favourite fairy tales. I won’t say which one, because it’s more fun that way. The main character is Liliana* and she’s a spunky one. I loved how the chapter titles connected with the story.

If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, I’d definitely recommend this. I found this one have enough surprises to make me happy, while keeping to its inspiration. [3.5 stars]


*A Boy and His Dog

kindred-soulsKindred Souls // by Patricia MacLachlan

This one is more like a book about a grandfather and his dog! But there’s a boy, too…

This was interesting, especially with the dog. Billy (the grandfather) just happens to come across the dog, Lucy. He’s growing old, and he’s hoping that his grandson, Jake, will build him a sod house (like he had when he was younger). And when he lands in the hospital, Jake decides to do what he can.

I really like how the family comes together in this book to make Billy’s dream come true. And, of course, Lucy the dog is there for it all. [4 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt // Historical Fiction

Fences-Between-Us.jpgThe Fences Between Us // by Kirby Larson

I’ve read quite a few books about the internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II, but this is the first book that talks about it from the perspective of a non-Japanese protagonist. But what’s cool about this book is that it’s based on a real person.

In the story, Piper’s father is a minister to a Japanese congregation in Seattle. So, when his church is shut down (because all the congregants are interned), he [SPOILER] takes Piper and moves with them. Piper’s not too happy to leave her friends and school behind, just because of her father’s convictions. [END SPOILER] A good, solid historical novel. [4 stars]


A Window on the Cover

cody-mysteries-of-the-universeCody and the Mysteries of the Universe // by Tricia Springstubb

A cute book about a girl (Cody) who welcomes a friend (Spencer) to the neighbourhood. he’s not the only new kid on the block. There’s about the Meen girls: Molly and Maxie. And let’s just point out that Molly and Maxie live up to their last name.

I enjoyed Cody’s imaginative outlook on life… how she tries to protect the younger Spencer. I also like how she also gets things wrong! [4 stars]


Character Shares Your Name

anna-maria-giftAnna Maria’s Gift // by Janice Shefelman

The protagonist in this one is an orphan by the name of Anna Maria. (I don’t share the Anna-part, but my name is Maria!) It’s a cute story of her and her special violin. (As an adult, I don’t know how realistic the plot is, but a kid would probably like it!)

I did love the historical setting in Venice. And I learned a little about Vivaldi. I didn’t know he was a priest who taught violin to orphans! Definitely a story for lower-MG readers. [3 stars]


A Book About Photography

northern-exposuresNorthern Exposures // by Eric Walters

This was a fun story about a boy who wins a photography contest by accident. The prize? Photography the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. And because he’s not really a photographer, he has some madcap adventures. Not to mention, the other people in his group are a bunch of senior citizens!

I enjoyed learning about polar bears and getting a little geography/history lesson (which I see as fun!) about Churchill. Plus, as a photographer, I would have loved to be on this trip with Kevin and all the senior citizens! (Oh, and because the book was first published in 2001, I loved all the film-talk. It brought me back to the days when I first started taking pictures.) [3.5 stars]


A Book You Borrowed

middle-school-worse-than-meatloaf.jpgMiddle School is Worse than Meatloaf // by Jennifer L. Holm

This is a story told through “stuff”: Report cards, notes, homework, etc. The protagonist is Ginny and she’s having former-friend trouble, brother trouble, and school trouble. In fact, this book reminded me of Kate Messner’s Breakout in its style.

Actually, I’m guessing this story led to Holm’s graphic novel Sunny Side Up. Many of the plot elements are the same. The one exception is that this story is contemporary whereas the other is set in the 1970s. [4 stars]


Final Thoughts…

September Bingo is complete!

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / August

mgc-summerbingo-08aug2018

Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I enjoyed doing it in June and July, so I decided to finish off the summer with the August challenge.

This month, I finished ten middle grade books. Not as many as last month… but I was busy. The irony is that 3 out of my 5 bingo books were books I actually did NOT enjoy reading! 😦 (Fortunately, at least 2 of the books were good!)

I also came so close to a double-bingo. I just never got around to reading a book on mermaids!

Once again, thank-you to Elza Kinde for first putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*A 2018 Release

Sunny // by Jason Reynolds

sunnyThe third book in the Ghost / Patina series. This one focuses on Sunny who is a long-distance runner. Except he doesn’t want to do that anymore. It was his mom’s dream to run the marathon, but his mom is dead. And so, he just stops running. When he tells Coach, he gets pulled into the field part of track and field.

Sunny’s a great character. I love his home-schooling teacher. And the subplot with his dad is really what makes the book good. [3.5 stars]

Read my full review here.


*Green Cover

whatshisfaceWhatshisface // by Gordon Korman

I wish I liked this book better. I liked the main character Cooper Vega (otherwise known as Whatshisface). But that’s where I stopped liking this book. The story is about the ghost of a Shakespearean boy who lives in Cooper’s phone. And to top it all, he claims that that vagabond Shakespeare stole his masterpiece: Romeo and Juliet (otherwise known as Barnabus and Ursula). I don’t always like alternative histories, and this is one of the ones I didn’t like. [2.5 stars] 😦


*A Book about Twins

Astrotwins: Project Blastoff // by Mark Kelly

astrotwins-project-blastoffThere are many reasons why I should have liked this book. I love stories about the space race. I love middle grade books. This book is by a real astronaut, so the science should be A-Okay!

But, but, but… I probably would have DNFed this book. I only kept reading because it fulfilled the “twin” prompt. (See above.) I can’t even put my finger on what was “wrong” with this book. It was realistic, and yet SO NOT realistic at all. It had some good STEM elements, and yet there were too many STEM elements. [2.5 stars] 😦

(If the premise of this book sounds good to you, I’d recommend Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce instead. Not written by an astronaut, but hey!)


*Middle Book of a Series

Heidi Grows Up // by Charles Tritten

heidi-grows-upSo, I read this book when I was a kid. It’s the “sequel” to Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. This book was written by the man who translated the book into English. It is followed by a book called Heidi’s Children (also by Tritten).

I remember really enjoying this book as a kid. So, I decided to pick it up to see how it holds up. Sadly, it doesn’t. The plot is all over the place. The “bad guys” hardly get any page-time to create any meaningful conflict. I basically had to force myself to finish this book! But, I can see WHY I liked it as a kid. It does indeed tell us what happened to Heidi, and Peter, and the Alm-Uncle. [2.5 stars] 😦


*Wish in the Title

The Well-Wishers // by Edward Eager

well-wishersThis is the sequel to Magic or Not? In this one, the magic wishing well is up to its old tricks. The children make wishes, but they’re not sure if the well is actually doing anything. This book, oddly enough, is written in first person, from multiple perspectives of the children. (I don’t think any of the other Eager books are written this way.) My favourite chapter is the “Anonymous” one that gives several clues as to the identity of the character. Of course, it’s easy to figure out who the character is!

The “magic” in these two books are not as prominent as in the earlier books. I do love the story about the new family moving in which caused within the community. Eager doesn’t ever say exactly what the “problem” is, but it becomes clear (at least to an adult) that this is a black family moving into the neighbourhood. (The book was written in the 1960s.) I love how little Deborah puts it when she first meets the family: “Oh, that’s what the fuss is all about.” And I love the friendship that develops between her and the little boy, Hannibal. [4 stars]


A Book about Sports

Patina // by Jason Reynolds

patinaA companion book to Ghost. If you like track and field (at least track), you should read this book. This is Patty’s story. How she’s training to be on the 4×800 relay team. On top of that, she has to juggle a never-ending to-do list: her ma’s on dialysis, her sister needs her hair braided, she’s the only one in her group project doing any of the research. And then there’s Momly.

I hesitated about reading this book, but I really enjoyed it. You can read my review here. [4 stars]

Read my full review here.


A Book About School

Kat Greene Comes Clean // by Melissa Roske

kat-greene-comes-cleanThis book was a little hard for me to read. It’s about a mother who has OCD who’s always cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. But her daughter, Kat, doesn’t want to tell anybody. I felt for Kat and for the mother. I just wanted to reach out and give this girl a hug. And get that mom some help!

There are Harriet the Spy connections, which were fun. Kat gets assigned to portray the character of the Boy with the Purple Socks, which (and she’s right) has absolutely no character growth in the book. Kat’s best friend, Halle, drove me bonkers! I was ready to give that girl a talking-to. Oh, and that school. That school would have driven me bonkers! [3 stars]


Orange Cover

seven-wondersThe Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs // by Betty G. Birney

I love the title of this book! And I love the premise. The story wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped, but it was cute. And full of wacky and quirky characters.

Eben goes from neighbour to neighbour to search of seven wonders. I really like the character, the pesky Rae Ellen. Eben wants nothing to do with her or her “wonderful”. I really wished that her story had been part of the climax of the book. Or that after agreeing that she actually does have a wonder, that Eben would have agreed to team up in search of the final wonders. A missed opportunity, IMHO. [3 stars]


A Classic

thimble-summerThimble Summer // by Elizabeth Enright

My first time reading this book! I enjoyed it. Garnet has some wonderful summer adventures on her family’s farm. I love her adventure in the library! And when she decides to take off for the day, without telling anybody in her family… Would not happen these days.

While, I still love Enright’s The Saturdays better, this book is certainly a fun read. I just wish the thimble actually made it into the plot a little more often. [3.5 stars]

Read my full review here.


A Book on the Cover

things-that-surprise-youThings That Surprise You // by Jennifer Maschari

Em Murphy is starting Middle School. And it seems that’s when her problems start. Her parents are divorced. Her sister has an eating disorder. Her best friend is turning to other friends. And then her teacher pairs her up to do a project with the weird kid in the class: Hector.

Although, I did not find this book to be a fast read, I did enjoy it. My favourite parts were with Em and her sister, Mina. I really felt for the family as they try to cope with such a delicate and difficult situation.  [3.5 stars]


Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for August with regards to Middle Grade books. I again thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / July

mgc-summerbingo-07jul2018

Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I enjoyed the June challenge, so I went back for the July one!

So, I finished thirteen middle grade books this month. I have to say that I found that this month it was harder to get my BINGO. I started off on one track, but then fell short on one title. I finally did it at the very end of the month, thanks to finding two books; one about Tia Lola and the other about Granny Torrelli. I love those two women!

And thank-you to Elza Kinde for first putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*Snow on the Cover

How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay // by Julia Alvarez

how-tia-lola-came-to-visitFirst let me say how much I love Tia Lola! I also understand Miguel’s reluctance and mixed emotions about having her stay with them. Having a family member do things differently because they come from a different culture is hard for a child, especially one that craves to fit in with friends. And I think Alvarez was able to capture this very nicely. *He loves his tia, but…

Footnote: I’m a little weirded out by the “Visit Stay” of the title. First, it kind of gives away the ending. And it’s just awkward. Like what do I put as the title of this book?? I like the idea in theory, but in reality, I just wasted too much time on this unnecessary conundrum.  [3 stars]


*A Book About Food

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup // by Sharon Creech

granny-torrelli-makes-soupI love how everything comes together in this book. It’s almost like two short stories, but they do interconnect.

I have my suspicions regarding Granny Torrelli’s tales about the old country. They seem to match up perfectly with the situation at hand, so I suspect they may not be 100% true. (Although Sharon Creech doesn’t tell us one way or another.) I just think Granny Torrelli is quick-witted enough to be able to come up with her own granny-style fables to help out the youngsters in her life.

And can I say that this book made me hungry for soup? Yes, it did. (And I think this cover is adorable.) [3.5 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt // A Book About Immigrants

A House of Tailors // by Patricia Reilly Giff

house-of-tailorsI really enjoyed this one. It’s a historical novel, so what can I say… That’s always a bonus in my book!

The story is about German immigrants coming to New York City in the 1870s. I love how Dina and “the Uncle” fight all the time, and yet are so similar in their personalities. I love Barbara and little baby Maria, who are able to soften the Uncle’s harsh edges. And my favourite part of the book has to do with how Dina deals with the small pox epidemic. What’s doubly cool is that this part of the story is actually based on a true event in the author’s family history! [4 stars]


*Yellow Cover

Ghost // by Jason Reynolds

ghostThe potential for this book was so great. I wish I could give it a higher rating. The beginning was amazing. I loved the character of Ghost (Castle). I loved the storyline: the running, the training, the coach, the need for the right kind of shoes.

But then, somewhere in the middle of the book, it seems to lose momentum. Maybe it’s all the secrets that get told… way too early in the plot. There’s no lead up. The end isn’t as cathartic as it could have been. I felt this book could have used another round of revisions because the story definitely deserves it. (There are several sequels. I’m intrigued by these, but I’m also a little gun-shy now. Is this just how Jason Reynolds rolls? Or will the next books be better than the first?)

I do LOVE that cover. I love how Ghost is running so fast, he’s off the page 🙂 [3 stars]

*Note: I will be publishing a full review of this book soon.


*Talking Animals

The One and Only Ivan // by Katherine Applegate

one-and-only-ivanThis is a story narrated by Ivan, a gorilla who spent years on display at a mall where he’s billed as: The One and Only Ivan. Soon after the story begins, we meet the newest animal to the mall’s exotic collection, a baby elephant named Ruby. Seeing Ruby struggle, Ivan decides he wants to save her from his own fate.

I read this book after reading Wishtree by the same author. There are a lot of similarities. I wasn’t as enamoured with this story, however. I’m not sure why. It was good, but I’m not sure that it’s a Newbery winner. (It won the Newbery in 2013.) [3 stars]


‘Diary’ in the Title

The Clue in the Diary // by Carolyn Keene

clue-in-diaryThis is Book #7 in the Nancy Drew mystery series! I used to devour these books when I was a kid, so it was fun to go back and solve a mystery with Nancy, Bess, and George. And this is the book where we’re introduced to Ned Nickerson!

The version I read this time around is a reprinting of the original edition from the 1930s. This is the first time (that I am aware of) that I’ve read the original version of any of these stories. The versions I grew up with were the yellow hard-back copies with the revised text. So, in essence, I was reading this book for the first time! (Actually, truth be told, I don’t actually recall reading this title when I was a kid, so it’s possible I’ve never read it before, revised or otherwise.) [4 stars, for the nostalgia]


A Bike on the Cover

The Way to Bea // by Kat Yeh

way-to-beaThis is a book about a girl who used to have friends, but now that she’s in seventh grade, she doesn’t. She does meet some kids on the school newspaper staff, but she’s reluctant to respond to their overtures of friendship. And then she meets Will, a kid obsessed with labyrinths.

While I did understand some of the loneliness she feels, overall I found I had a hard time connecting to Bea. She was just so fearful. I also had a hard time understanding why they felt the need to break into a stranger’s labyrinth, a place they have no business being. Although the maze/labyrinth was pretty neat. I love the title, though… a nice play on words on her name! [3 stars]


A Novel

Dave at Night // by Gail Carson Levine

dave-at-nightSo, I remember reading this shortly after it first came out. It’s certainly different from Levine’s fairy tale stories, but it still has her touch.

Dave’s a mischievous boy, but at heart, all he wants is to be wanted. After the death of his dad, his step-mother doesn’t want to keep him. His uncle doesn’t want him. And his older brother doesn’t even really stick up for him. So, he ends up at HHB, the Hebrew Home for Boys. But for Dave, he’s not going to let a few walls and gates keep him from exploring New York City during the Roaring 20s.

A good book. Not as good as I remember it being. But I felt for Dave, and I really like his “Grandpa”. And I enjoyed the historical setting. [3.5 stars]


Set in the U.S.A.

Raymie Nightingale // by Kate DiCamillo

raymie-nightingaleThis book is set in Florida in 1975. Raymie’s goal is to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. The reason? To get her dad to come home again. She thinks the best way to win is to learn how to twirl a baton. And that’s where she meets two of the other contestants: Louisiana and Beverly. Together, they become the Three Rancheros.

Florence Nightingale makes an appearance in the story—sort of. Although, I found that part of the story line didn’t seem to pan out in a meaningful way. But the three girls really are delightful. [3.5 stars]


A Book with Pirates

Magic by the Lake // by Edward Eager

magic-by-the-lakeThe four children from Half Magic are back. This time it’s summer vacation and they’re at the lake where they meet a wishing turtle. And they end up getting magic by the lake. Not by the pound. By the lake.

While, not as good as Eager’s first book (Half Magic) or some of his later books (Knight’s Castle comes to mind), it’s still a fun read. I particularly liked the adventure in Ali Baba’s cave where the children succeed in reforming the thieves, only to… well, I won’t spoil it for you.

And there’s also a wonderful tie-in to a later book called The Time Garden. You won’t get the reference unless you read both books! [3.5 stars]


A Bug on the Cover

The Penderwicks at Last // by Jeanne Birdsall

penderwicks5I’m maybe stretching this, but there are lightning bugs on the cover of this book. But this also might be because of my true feelings for this book. I really hate to say it, but I DID NOT LIKE this book.

There, I said it. This is basically like one of those episodes on TV where they try to bring back every character into the story for some big event and everybody just says: remember this and remember that? I will probably have to review this book at some point to try to figure out why I didn’t like it. We’ll see. On the other hand, I might just try to forget it ever existed. [2 stars, yikes!] 😦


Black Cover

Wild Girl // by Patricia Reilly Giff

wild-girlI really enjoyed this book about an immigrant family from Brazil. The father and brother have come to New York State five years prior. And, finally, they send for 12-year-old Liddie to join them.

The book is a “horse book”. The father has found a job as a horse trainer and the brother is a jockey. The title Wild Girl refers to both the name of a new horse, and to Liddie herself (a nickname given to her by her now-dead mother).

This book definitely brought me back to my days of reading The Black Stallion. [4 stars]


Crown on the Cover

Kristina: The Girl King // by Carolyn Meyer

kristina

It’s been a while since I’ve read one of the Royal Diaries. This one was about a Swedish King (Queen?) named Kristina. She called herself a King because she was her father’s heir. At first, he thought she had been born a boy, but when the truth was revealed to him, he declared that she should be raised as a Prince. She inherited the throne at the age of six! (Although, she did have regents until she was of legal age.)

I found this Royal Diary sad, especially with regards to Kristina’s mother. Although, she does have a kind aunt who raises her, and (apparently) gave Kristina the diary. Not my favourite of the Royal Diaries, but I did find it interesting to learn a little about Swedish royal history.

And while she’s not actually wearing a crown in the picture, there is a crown at the top with The Royal Diaries printed over it! [3 stars]


Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for July with regards to Middle Grade books. I again thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Your Turn…

If you want to do this for the month of August, there’s a fresh Bingo Challenge. Check it out at #MGCarousel

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / June

mgc-summerbingo-06jun2018

Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I decided to give it a shot for their June challenge. And I did it! While I didn’t get a full card, I did get a BINGO.

Thank-you to Elza Kinde for putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results…


One Word Title

Wishtree // by Katherine Applegate

wishtree.jpgThe first few chapters, while charming, almost led me to a DNF. This plot of this book really doesn’t get underway until Chapter 10! And by this time I wasn’t sure about this book.

But I’m so glad I stuck with it. This is an absolutely beautiful story of friendship and sacrifice. Much in the vein of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (although this book is a much happier book). I particularly  loved the friendship between the the crow and the tree and how they worked together on their plots and plans.

This book actually made me cry near the end. [4.5 stars]


Title Starts with U

Under the Watsons’ Porch // by Susan Shreve

under-watsons-porchI had a hard time liking Ellie, the MC of this book. She tends lie (stretching truth is a kind way of putting it). For example, they start this “day camp” under the neighbours’ porch. When her mom asks if they got permission from the Watson sisters, Ellie lies. And then brushes it off with “Well, the Watson sisters are really old and deaf, so it doesn’t matter” attitude.)

I did like the rebel, Tommy. Although he has his faults as well. He pushes a lot of boundaries. I felt for him being labelled the “bad kid” and was glad when Ellie’s parents finally figure this out. [3 stars]


White Cover

Magic or Not? // by Edward Eager

Magic-or-Not1I love Edward Eager’s books. This is the story of twins, Laura and James, who move with their family to the country. On the train ride up, a strange girl (Lydia) tells them that the well in their yard is really a magic wishing well. Laura tries it out and her wish comes true! This leads to the children having some magical adventures for the summer. Or maybe it’s all a coincidence… Magic or not, this book is definitely a fun romp 🙂 [4 stars]


A Book of Poetry

The Hunting of the Snark // by Lewis Carroll

the_hunting_of_the_snarkThe version I read was illustrated by Chris Riddell, whose illustrations are amazing.

I will preface this by saying that I’m not big on poetry. The kind of poetry that I can tolerate is the stuff that comes in rhymes. So, Lewis Carroll’s poetry is right up my alley. This poem is full of nonsense, but also has some wonderful moments… I especially liked the bit between the Butcher and the Beaver!

A real treat for fans of Alice in Wonderland. [4 stars]


A Book about Dragons

Dragon Boy // by Dick King-Smith

dragon-boyI really enjoyed this book! I haven’t read a Dick King-Smith book in awhile, and this book reminded me how much I like his cheeky writing style. Especially the family dynamics of the Bunsen-Burner family!

I loved the literary allusions, like to the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. And the hint at why King-Smith named his boy protagonist “John”. [4 stars]


Title Starts with E

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk // by Sid Fleischman

entertainer-and-dybbukI’m almost surprised that this is a kid’s book. It has some pretty heavy themes. Especially with how children were hunted and killed during the Holocaust. It also focuses heavily on revenge.

Not that I don’t think this book shouldn’t exist. I found it very interesting history-wise and I would definitely recommend this to adults or teens. [3 stars]


Reread an Old Favourite

The Magician’s Nephew // by C.S. Lewis

TheMagiciansNephewAh, Narnia! This is the book (while first chronologically, I think should not be read until later in the series) that gives us the back story to the whole world of Narnia. (It’s a prequel before the word prequel existed!) And it’s a wonderful story… Of Digory and Polly. Of a friendship that goes through ups and downs. Of a mother who is dying and a son whose greatest wish is to find the land of youth so she won’t die.

I particularly love the exchange over Digory’s name:

“I say, what a funny name!” said Polly.

“It isn’t half so funny as Polly,” said Digory.

(Chapter 1)

I picked up this book because I just saw a play (on which it was based). I was pleasantly surprised to see HOW much the play resembled the book. (Kudos to the playwright! It’s currently at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada.) What a wonderful book to revisit. [5 stars]


Pick Your Prompt // A Book About New York City

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street // by Karina Yan Glaser

vanderbeekers1This book is a contemporary read in the same vein as The Saturdays (Elizabeth Enright) and the All-of-a-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor) which were both written in the 1940/50s. So, this book has that nostalgic feel, even though the Vanderbeekers live in our modern world. (Actually, come to think of it, they’re a little like the Penderwicks.)

I love the family (there are five kids!) and how they are trying to save their home from the mean, cranky landlord who lives on the top floor of their brownstone. (Full review coming soon!) [4 stars]


Graphic Novel

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder // by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

norwood-builder-graphic-novelI enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes mystery in graphic novel format. I thought they did a pretty good job. It actually made me go out and get the original story to read… just to make comparisons. 😉

My thoughts overall is that this is a great way to introduce middle graders to Sherlock Holmes! Of course, at some point I think it’s a good idea to graduate to the original. [3.5 stars]


First Book in a Series

The Saturdays // by Elizabeth Enright

saturdaysThis is the book that begins the Melendy Quartet. My mom read this book to me when I was a kid and I loved it. I haven’t read it since (simply because our library, for some reason, decided to discard this book. WHY?). But I was finally able to find a copy. I was a little afraid that I would find that maybe it isn’t as good as I remember.

Can I just say that this book is a masterpiece? Yes, it is. A minor masterpiece, but it is beautifully written. The characters (Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver) come to life so amazingly. I love their Saturday adventures in New York City. There’s a reason why I loved this book as a child. And I love it as an adult. The magic is still there! [5 stars]


Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for June with regards to Middle Grade books. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It was fun to sift through books at the library, trying to pick titles to go with the prompts.

This challenge also forced me to read books I might never have picked up. Like poetry. (I’m glad I did!) I look forward to this month’s challenge 🙂

Your Turn…

If you want to do this for the month of July, there’s a fresh Bingo Challenge. Check it out at #MGCarousel