Review / Leaving Lymon

20210814ma_2840Book: Leaving Lymon (2020)
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Genre: MG, Historical [1940s]
Companion to: Finding Langston

Basic plot: Lymon doesn’t have it easy. With his daddy in prison and his momma gone, he’s being raised by his grandparents. But when Grandpops dies, he and Ma are transported to the world of Milwaukee. Ma isn’t well herself, and soon enough, Lymon ends up with his momma and her new family in Chicago. Meanwhile, Daddy keeps promising to be there for Lymon, but he keeps leaving. The only thing that seems constant is Lymon’s love of music, but even that’s in danger of being taken away from him.

Opening lines from the book …
Ma and Grandpops didn’t tell me nothing ‘cept we were going on a train.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I felt for Lymon! It’s been a while since I read Finding Langston, so I didn’t actually remember this character. (Although, it did come back to me once the two stories merge.)

2) Loved Mr. Eugene, the barber! After Lymon leaves Milwaukee, the person I missed the most was Mr. Eugene. I enjoyed being in his barber shop with Lymon. One of my greatest hopes as I was reading the Chicago parts was that somehow Mr. Eugene would come back in the story.

3) The musical elements of this book was nicely done. While Langston was into poetry, Lymon is definitely drawn to music. His grandfather’s guitar plays a nice role in the story. And when something happens to that guitar… I felt for poor Lymon. But I like how he is drawn to all sorts of instruments, from the trumpet to the piano. You just knew that if he could just have half a chance that music would be a great help in his life.

4) I waited a long time for Langston to come into the story. He isn’t in it for very long. I love his introduction as “country boy”. It was a nice bringing of the two books together.

5) I loved the ending with Daddy and Ma. I won’t spoil it here, but I like seeing hope at the end of a book.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The story is set through the war years (early 1940s) and yet I didn’t have ANY notion that a war was going on. There were no men walking around in khaki. No mention that the war was over in 1945. Lymon does have a radio, so I’m surprised that he seems completely obvious to this. I’m not saying that he needed to be super aware or anything, but a few references might have help ground me in the early 1940s.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did not love this book as much as I loved Finding Langston. (That book is a gem!) But I did find Lymon to be quite sympathetic, and I really wanted him to be understood and succeed. Would definitely recommend for anybody who did enjoy the first book.


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 / Vanderbeekers #4

20210627ma_1378Book: The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found (2020)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

Basic plot: The Vanderbeekers are out to help their friend, Orlando. His mom has disappeared and they want him to come live permanently with their upstairs neighbour Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie (who happen to be his uncle and aunt). Orlando isn’t sure and thinks maybe he should move back to Georgia but promises to stay at least until the New York City marathon.

Opening lines from the book …
Bright morning sunshine drifted through the windows of the red brownstone on 141st Street, filling the kitchen with a soft glow.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love this family. I like that it’s a big family and that they treat this like it isn’t all that unusual. But I also like how the whole building (with Mr. B and Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie) are also part of the “family”. 🙂

2) There’s a new character, Jessie’s friend Orlando. He brings in the whole “lost and found” aspect of the story. I like the little mystery involving him and how they figure it out. And while the kids are trying to help him with his situation, I like how he maintains a love for his own mother, even when she can’t look after him. There’s a nice moment when he explains this to the other kids.

3) There are some touching scenes with Lanie and Mr. Jeet. His health is declining, but she faithfully visits him every day, bringing one of the pets to bring him some joy (much to the chagrin of one of the mean nurses on duty).

4) I love the New York City marathon part of the story. Mr. Beiderman (their old nemesis) is training with Orlando for the race. It’s hilarious when one of the kids (I think it’s Lanie?) gives him his sparkly purple shirt with his name on it so people know to cheer him on. If I were Mr. B, I would have refused to wear that in public. But, he’s an old softy!

5) I think Hyacinth is my favourite character. So, I really did sympathize with her over trying to make friends at school. I understood her “solution” to arrive at school just in time for the bell. No sooner. No later. So when she all of a sudden has to go to school well before the bell rings… Yeah, I feel for you, Hyacinth. Her siblings don’t quite get this about her, but they also know that it’s important to push her to reach to make new friends.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The rooftop is featured on the book cover. I kind of thought it’d play more of an important role in the story. But it didn’t. (Cool cover, though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this latest installment of the Vanderbeeker saga. I like the new characters and look forward to the next book. Yes, there’s a new book on the horizon…

 


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 Light Jar

Book: The Light Jar (2019)
Author: Lisa Thompson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Nate and his mum are running away from her scary boyfriend. They end up in the middle of nowhere at the cottage of an old friend who recently died. When the mum goes to get food, Nate discovers his old imaginary friend turns up. He hasn’t seen Sam in years. But Sam doesn’t seem to stick around when Nate finds Kitty, the girl who lives in the big house. Kitty’s on a treasure hunt and Nate decides to help her. But then she starts to get a little noisy about his situation and he isn’t sure who he can trust.

Opening lines from the book …
I love Mum’s tunnel-singing trick. She always did it when she drove us to Grandma’s for one of her Sunday lunches.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I found this book to be quite compelling. It had just enough mystery that I wanted to keep reading. Little by little, Nate’s situation is revealed.

2) Sam was an interesting character. He’s Nate’s old imaginary friend and becomes a literary device of sorts. It’s a way for us to get to know the events that led up to the escape from the crazy boyfriend Gary. And for Nate, it’s a good way for him to process the events he’s living.

3) I loved the treasure hunt. It’s an old game that was set up for Kitty’s aunt, who tragically died before she could follow all the clues. So, now it’s up to Kitty and Nate to figure things out. And there are hedge mazes involved. Who doesn’t love a hedge maze?

4) The place where Nate and his mum are hiding is a cottage on the property of an old estate in England. Since friend who used to live there has died, the place is in disrepair. Which, of course, makes for an interesting setting.

5) I did figure out one of the twists in the story. I suspected early on and so I wasn’t surprised. But there was another part of the twist that I did not guess, so that’s good. (No spoilers.)

6) This book talks about some tough subjects, but I felt it was done in a good way. It wasn’t too graphic, but it did show the danger of how domestic abuse (even if it’s just verbal/mental abuse) can develop. And how important it is for people like Nate and his mother to get out of that. 

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The cheese scone. I’m not going to say much about it except, where did it come from?

FINAL THOUGHTS

I found this book quite compelling. The setting is great and so is the treasure hunt. Or rather, solving the clues was the fun part!


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 / The Wedding Planner’s Daughter


wedding-planner-daughterBook: The Wedding Planner’s Daughter (2005)

Author: Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: MG, Contemporary

This book in three words…

Cherry-pits, Weddings, Cape Cod

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“Billy was jogging through Poet’s Park on his lunch hour when the wind whooshed, wait, and he turned just in time to see this beautiful woman strolling toward him through a fog of pink and white.”

My thoughts on this book…

I loved all the literary nods in this book… like Ms. Havisham is the wedding planner? (Don’t worry, she does wear an old wedding dress.) And her name is Stella (Estelle, anybody?) and she has great expectations for her daughter (Willa, the protagonist) that doesn’t include weddings! Oh boy. I’m afraid every single one of those allusions will be lost on the young reader, but I enjoyed them!

The little quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch. They included real quotes from people ranging from L.M. Montgomery to Robert Frost; and then, there are quotes from the characters in the book!

Willa is a likable protagonist. I also liked the information about living on Cape Cod. This book definitely had that rom-com feel to it, with a nod to some classic literature.


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/10/08/mg-takes-on-thursday-19/

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.

Photo Challenge #19 / Blue Skies

20200505ma_0331“Flower and Sky” / Theme: Blue Skies

A little about this photo…

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, so I’m posting this flower in honour of all the mothers in my life. (Of course, I only have one mother. But there’s also my grandma and aunt, my sister and sisters-in-law, and friends galore!)

The sky was a particularly beautiful shade of blue the day I shot this. Happy Mother’s Day!


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

Review: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

mystery-black-hollow-laneBook: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019)
Author: Julia Nobel
Genre: MG, Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

Basic plot: Emmy gets sent over to England to attend a boarding school while her mother travels for work. But before she leaves, Emmy discovers a mysterious box and note. It all has something to do with the death of her father, something that Mom refuses to discuss. At the new school, Emmy makes friends with two outcasts… she also makes plenty of enemies. Not to mention the fact that the mystery of her father remains out of her grasp until it’s might be too late. That’s when Emmy discovers a secret that might just lead to her own demise.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Boarding schools! What is it about the magic of boarding schools. I’m not sure I’d actually want to live at one, but I sure like to read about them. Not to mention there are secret passages and underground lairs.

2) Emmy outcast friends are the kind of friends I’d love to have. Jack and Lola really do have her back. They make quite a team.

3) I liked the little twist about who Emmy could and could not trust. I thought it was set up nicely.

4) I liked the bit about the priest. It was a nice memorable scene. I suspected something, but it turned out to be a little different than I thought.

5) The door is left open for a sequel, but it is a stand-alone novel.

6) The cover of the novel fits in very well with the style and “flavour” of this book.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I thought Julia Nobel missed an opportunity with the different words “soccer” vs. “football”. In the book, Emmy’s American mom makes her promises not to play soccer. I was convinced she’d somehow get past this by saying she was playing “football” not “soccer”. But, that didn’t happen. Not a huge deal…

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – If you like dark secrets and mysteries, then this is the book for you! Emmy’s a likeable protagonist along with her new friends at the school. And she’s up against some shady dealings.


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