Review / Merci Suarez Can’t Dance

20210604ma_1213Book: Merci Suarez Can’t Dance (2021)
Author: Meg Medina
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Merci Suarez Changes Gear

Basic plot: Merci Suarez and her lovable family are back! This time, Merci’s in seventh grade. And with it being February, get ready for Valentine’s Day… which means dancing. But Merci can’t dance (or doesn’t want to). She also gets stuck with this boy named Wilson. She likes him, but isn’t sure if she likes likes him. Of course, nemesis Edna’s still around making all sorts of trouble for Merci…

Opening lines from the book …
It was Miss McDaniels’s idea for me and Wilson Bellevue to work together in the Ram Depot, a job that nobody wants. For the record, I applied for an anchor spot on the morning announcements with my best friend Lena. But wouldn’t you know it? Darius Ulmer’s parents decided it was time he addressed his “shyness issues,” so he got the job instead.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love Merci’s big extended family. This book does tend to focus more on Tia Inez and her love of dance. And on the mystery surrounding all her errands with her sweetheart Simon. Hmmm.

2) And how great is it when Merci and Wilson get creative in their advertising ideas for the Valentine’s Day dance. I do have a soft spot for corny jokes and puns, so THAT worked for me! And it also was nice to see them work together so well!

3) I do find Edna to be quite fascinating. In this book, she seems to have lost all her friends. (Which makes sense.) She’s still not a likeable character, but there were times when I did feel sorry for her. I love how Medina keeps bringing her into the story. Not necessarily as the “bully” but as someone who might need Merci’s friendship more than Merci might need hers.

4) The part about (minor spoiler) selling the bike is fun. Especially, how Wilson becomes involved and how he gets his mom to help try to get it back only to find that a young couple came to buy it already! Oh boy!

5) I really like Miss McDaniels, aka Stopwatch. She the secretary in charge of assigning all the different community service projects. And she runs her operation like clockwork. It was nice to see her in action again for this book. 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Lolo’s hardly in this book! I missed him.

2) I found it a little unrealistic for the school to (Spoiler!) want Tia Inez’s dance studio to perform when they have just barely been formed as a dance school and don’t really have any students yet! I just felt that part of the plot could have been handled a little differently.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a good sequel to Meg Medina’s first book. Like I said, it was good to have the Suarez family back in action.

 


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 Friendship War

Book: The Friendship War (2019)
Author: Andrew Clements
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: When Grace visits her grandfather, she comes into the possession of a collection of old buttons. She brings the buttons to school and, bam! A fad of button-collecting is started. But soon she’s at odds with her so-called best friend, Ellie. This time, Grace doesn’t want to give in to her friend and so begins the Friendship War …

Opening lines from the book …
Flying from Chicago to Boston by myself hasn’t been as big a deal as my dad said it was going to be. But nothing ever is.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Let’s start with all the cool buttons! I’ve never thought too deeply about buttons, but I did very much enjoy learning about the different types of buttons, especially the vintage ones. I thought this information was handled nicely through the character of Hank, Grace’s new friend.

2) Since I love old things, I definitely felt a kinship to Grace as she wanted the buttons. I think, however, I might be a little more like Hank in wanting to know the history behind them. He does all the research.

3) This was an interesting study in how fads work. Grace has a very scientific approach to things, and this whole button thing is no different. I like the scene where she discusses the idea of supply and demand with her older brother. Which, of course, leads to the thing that gets her into trouble!

4) The war between the two friends was the focus of most of the book. I was definitely on Team Grace. But I do like what Andrew Clements did at the end to make Ellie a little more sympathetic. And how the friendship is eventually saved.

5) I liked the Grampa. (I like grandparents in stories like this.) I just wish there was more with him in the book!

6) Favourite Quote: “Of all the kids you knew back when you were in sixth grade, are any of them still your friends?” This is Grace talking to her mom about the trouble in her friendship with Ellie. If I were to ask the same question of myself, I can answer and say: “Why yes, yes I am!” 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) There were moments when I couldn’t fully believe in Grace’s motivation. One particular section is when she does decide to launch a full-out war against Ellie. I didn’t totally buy it. (I just had to remind myself to just keep reading.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I found this interesting, especially compared with The Button War by Avi. While that book is historic fiction, both books deal with button collections. I enjoyed this book by Andrew Clements. (I believe it was the final book published before his death in 2019.)

 


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 / Henry and Beezus

Book: Henry and Beezus (1952)
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Henry Huggins wants a bicycle more than anything. And so, he sets out to figure out a way to make his dream possible which includes a scheme to sell bubble gum at school. But things aren’t easy when your nemesis (Scooter McCarthy) constantly asking about your progress. And then there’s Beezus. She’s okay, but her little sister Ramona just makes Henry’s life miserable …

Opening lines from the book …
Henry Huggins stood by the front window of his square white house on Klickitat Street and wondered why Sunday afternoon seemed so much longer than any other part of the week.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Henry Huggins is such a likable character. I love how he can’t really stand Ramona Quimby, and yet, he’s so nice that he just puts up with her. And THEN, she always seems to turn out to be the key to his success! (Although, in this book, she doesn’t come into the climax as she often does in the other books.)

2) I love Beezus! I love how she has all these games to help her deal with her sister. Like the “Waiting for the Bus” game, just to name one. In this book, she’s forever practicing with her baton in hopes of twirling it in the Rose parade. And of course, she becomes the key to Henry figuring out how to leverage his embarrassing win at the end of the book so he can get that bicycle.

3) Scooter McCarthy makes my blood boil! Which is good. Cleary was definitely able to make us feel for poor Henry in his every attempt to get that bike, only to have Scooter be the thorn in Henry’s flesh. I also like how Scooter isn’t necessarily “bad.” He’s just annoying.

4) Who doesn’t love the name Klickitat Street. I want to live on Klickitat Street!

5) The ending (like all the other Henry books) is quite satisfying. It will make you want to go out and ride around on a bike, whether it’s red or not. My bike is blue, by the way. 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS

I decided to read this book when the news that Beverly Cleary had died late last month. And since I did a blog post on all the Ramona Quimby books last year, I decided to read one of the Henry books this time. I really like how the Henry books are connected. We have Ribsy and Henry’s desire to have a bike and a paper route. And of course, there’s Ramona the Pest. It really is a delightful series. And while some parts may have aged a bit, overall this book (and the series as a whole) is still very much an enjoyable read. Thank you, Beverly Cleary!

 


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 One and Only Bob


20210103ma_0002Book: The One and Only Bob (2020)
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: MG, Animal

Companion Book to: The One and Only Ivan


This book in three words …
hurricane, family, spunk

Opening lines from the book …
“Look, nobody’s ever accused me of being a good dog.”

My thoughts on this book…

We’re back in the world of that famous mall gorilla, the One and Only Ivan! This time Ivan and Ruby (the elephant) are living in an animal sanctuary. And their friend Bob is a regular visitor. But with a hurricane coming, they’re in for an adventure.

Bob is the narrator. (He is voiced by Danny DeVito for the audiobook; that should give you a hint as to his personality.) And he really is full of spunk. He ends up in an animal shelter and meets his long lost sister, Boss. Then, he and Ivan and Ruby (can I say right here how much I like Ruby! I want a One and Only Ruby book!) head off on a rescue mission. One of the best scenes in the book is when the police come across the gorilla and the elephant and put them under arrest! (Of course, Bob manages to get away. Which is good. Because he needs to do a little rescuing.)

A must-read for animal lovers! And especially if you enjoyed The One and Only Ivan.


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2021/02/25/mg-takes-on-thursday-32/

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. (*Note: I’ve changed this slightly.*)
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

#MGTakesOnThursday / Prairie Lotus


20210217ma_0330Book: Prairie Lotus (2020)
Author: Linda Sue Park
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: MG, Historical


This book in three words …
pioneers, dressmaker, prejudice

Opening lines from the book …
“Should be our last day,” Papa said when they stopped to make camp. He unhitched the tired horses from the wagon, then led them down a little draw to water, while Hanna began clearing the ground for a fire.”

My thoughts on this book…

Hanna and her father are about to settle down in a brand new town in Dakota Territory. What Hanna really wants to do is graduate from school, but there’s a problem. The pioneering townsfolk don’t like that she’s half-Chinese. But Hanna’s determined. With the teacher on her side, and her new friend, Bess, Hanna gets her wish. But what’s next. Like her mother before her, she wants to be a dressmaker. How can she convince the town that she’s a person, just like them?

Set in the days of Little House on the Prairie, Linda Sue Park draws on her love of the Wilder novels. (I love this little tidbit from the author’s note!) Of course, Hanna’s world is a little different in that she has an extra obstacle to overcome regarding her Chinese heritage. But I love her pluck and determination. Her friendship with Bess made me smile (because I did notice the little nod to the author of the Little House books in the naming of this character!)

I highly recommend this book to anybody who likes historical fiction, and especially if you love the Little House books. While I’m not the best at sewing, reading books like this makes me want to pick up a needle and thread and try my hand at button holes! (Okay, maybe not button holes.)


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2021/01/28/mg-takes-on-thursday-30/

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. (*Note: I’ve changed this slightly.*)
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

#MGTakesOnThursday / Spy School Revolution


20210204ma_0253Book: Spy School Revolution (2020)
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster*
Genre: MG, Espionage/Adventure

*Note: I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Gibson Frazier. I always enjoy a good audiobook and this one did not disappoint!


This book in three words …
George Washington, traitors, sister

Opening sentence from the book …
“I’m afraid we have lied to you,” said Alexander Hale. “A lot.”

My thoughts on this book…

Another successful book about our favourite students at Spy School!

It was nice to read this book back-to-back with the previous book in the series. At this point, SPYDER is no more, but that doesn’t mean there are no more Bad Guys! Now we have a new threat, and it seems to be coming from … Erica Hale herself? But Ben’s certain she’s innocent.

Love how Erica and Ben’s friendship has been developing, especially Erica has learned to trust in his abilities. (She’s still the better “spy” of course, but she recognizes what he brings to the mission. There are hints at romance, which is fine with me. I just hope they don’t suddenly fall into the same pattern as Summer and Teddy of the FunJungle series.)

I was glad to be reunited with Catherine Hale, Cyrus and Alexander Hale, and Mike, etc. We also get to know Ben’s parents in this one. (Both have a great sense of humour!) Zoe’s character does some interesting twists (won’t spoil it here). And, well, if you read the last book, then you won’t be surprised when Ben, et al. meet up with Murray Hill.

I loved the historical elements that come into play with George Washington being the first spymaster during the Revolutionary War. We (as readers) get to visit Mount Vernon! (I miss visiting historic sites.) Of course, there’s destruction that happens… which I mentioned in my last review. And there are definitely some nice twists with Ben deciphering spy codes.

I’m looking forward to the next book. (Which apparently is set in either Nicaragua or Antarctica!)


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2021/01/28/mg-takes-on-thursday-30/

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. (*Note: I’ve changed this slightly.*)
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

#MGTakesOnThursday / The Well


the-wellBook: The Well (1995)
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: MG, Historical


This book in three words…

Hatred, Bullies, Water

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“I was kind of a quiet boy, and Hammer in his way was too, except he always spoke like a man, a man sure of himself. A man sure of himself even in front of white folks.”

My thoughts on this book…

Wow! Wow! Wow! This book… I went through a huge range of emotions while reading it. Mildred D. Taylor (author of the amazing Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry) weaves such a tale that I hardly have words to describe it. And such characters! The likable narrator, David. The hot-headed Hammer. The wise parents, Mama and Papa. Simple Joe McCalister. Ma Rachel, who has is getting so old that she doesn’t quite seem to be all there.

I love how Taylor weaves the plot in and around the drought and the well on the Logan family’s property. She also works in little family stories, like the one about Ma Rachel and how she had her name stolen from her. My heart went out to this woman, once a slave, now an old lady. The story is so powerful my blood boiled against the Simms family.

And yet, I also like how Taylor tells us that things are complicated. Take Mama and Papa. They’re exact opposite of their hot-headed son, Hammer. They have so much wisdom. They dispel the hatred and distrust in the community by freely sharing the water from their well. Yes, even with such awful people like Old Man McCalister Simms and his two boys. David, the narrator, can hold his head high having Mama and Papa for his family. And yet, there’s a scene where Mama makes the decision to whip the boys so that Mr. Simms (a white man) will be satisfied. (Like I said, it’s a complicated scene.)

Warning: This book is quite raw in spots. Mildred D. Taylor doesn’t hold back in using the N-word in dialogue. And while I don’t enjoy reading language like this, I admire her for this historical accuracy. There is also a lot of whipping that happens, and again, it’s not pleasant to read about. But I think it’s important to the history behind this story. It’s good to know that this type of thing happened. We need to know history so we don’t repeat it, folks! We need more people in the world like David Logan’s parents. And we also need brave (albeit hot-headed) people like Hammer who will stand up to injustice. And definitely, we need people like young David Logan (who is based on Mildred Taylor’s own father).


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/12/03/mg-takes-on-thursday-25/

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.

Review / Things Seen From Above

things-seen-from-aboveBook: Things Seen From Above (2020)
Author: Shelley Pearsall
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: When April volunteers to be a Buddy Bench helper for the 4th Grade recess, she’s unsure what to think about Joey Byrd. All he seems to do is shuffle around the playground. But her perspective changes with the janitor takes her up on the roof to see that Joey is making “tracings” in the woodchips.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Joey Byrd is such a sympathetic character. I love his (very) short POV chapters that gives us a peek into how he’s viewing events. And, interestingly, while it’s definitely his point of view, it’s written in third person, kind of like he’s viewing himself as a character.

2) Sixth-grader April narrates the rest of the book. I loved seeing her grow over the novel. And it was also nice to get a glimpse of her life in high school… to see how the various characters end up.

3) And then there’s Mr. Ulysses, the janitor. I loved Mr. Ulysses! Especially his rooftop perch. I love his wisdom and that the kids seek him out to get his opinion. And his prediction about the game at the end of the book… (I won’t say any more.)

4) I like the addition of Veena, the girl from India. It’s so important for kids to see books where other kids reach out to new kids at school, even if they (like April) aren’t sure they should do it. I loved seeing that friendship grow, especially when April hands over the reigns, so to speak.

5) The author’s note at the end is great. It tells you what (and who) inspired the story. I always enjoy a good author’s note!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wanted more with the older brother, Luke. We get a bit with him, but he almost seems like an after-thought.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I loved this book! Another recent book I’ve read that I enjoyed reading. I like Shelley Pearsall’s style. If you liked her other book, The Seventh Most Important Thing, I’d recommend you read this one as well!


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 / Lost and Found


lost-and-foundBook: Lost and Found (2008)
Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: Mark Elliott
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: MG, Contemporary


This book in three words…

Twins, Switch, Deception

Favourite Sentence from Page 11…

“The picture-taking frenzy started the moment the twins got home from the hospital.”

My thoughts on this book…

A fun book about identical twins who end up with an interesting proposition… what if they were only one person? What would it be like? When Jay goes to a brand new school alone (because his brother Ray is sick), he realizes that the school somehow mixed up their files and thinks there’s only one of them.

Of course, Ray goes along with the scheme, and we get a series of scenes where the boys trick their teachers, classmates, and even their parents. One of the best scenes is when the mom figures out that something is up (but she hasn’t figured out the truth yet) and she catches Jay pretending to be Ray, thwarting all of Jay’s plans to go skating.

And then there’s the scene where the one boy seems to have figured things out and confronts Jay (or is it Ray?) and, well, I won’t spoil it here.

Andrew Clements knew how to write school stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It almost made me want to try the experiment myself. Except, I don’t have a twin. Where do I apply for one of those?


This post is part of a challenge to celebrate middle-grade books. For more information, go to: https://bookcraic.blog/2020/11/12/mg-takes-on-thursday-23/

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.

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