Review: Sunny Rolls the Dice

sunny-rolls-diceBook: Sunny Rolls the Dice (2019)
Author: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Genre: MG, Near Historical/Graphic Novel [1970s]
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the third book in the Sunny series! Sunny is a middle-schooler in the late 1970s and she’s all about checking her Groovy-meter. How groovy is Sunny? Well… not very. She and her friend join the neighbourhood boys in learning to play D&D. But when her friend loses interest in the game, now Sunny isn’t sure if she should continue either.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I was glad to return to the world of Sunny with this book.

2) I like Sunny’s friendship with Deb and how things start to change between them. It’s good to talk about peer pressure; and I like how Sunny learns that friends don’t have to do everything together.

3) I’ve never really played D&D before (Dungeons and Dragons), so I did find that interesting. Although, it doesn’t seem like a game I would obsess about. I will say that the cover did confuse me, but once you understand the D&D connection, it makes more sense.

4) The nostalgia of the 1970s is definitely one of the best parts of this book.

5) I love it when Gramps shows up! I just wish he was in it more. (Him and Dale!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Sunny’s older brother Dale is missing from the plot of this story. (Note: He does make an appearance in this book, but it’s very peripheral.) While I’m glad for his sake, I think the conflict he brings to the other stories is what makes them a tiny bit better than this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked this book almost as much as I’ve liked the other books in the series. It’s lacking something. Maybe it’s the struggle and conflict that was always there in the form of the Dale plot line. Still a good read, even if just for the “groovy meter”.


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

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

Review: Because of the Rabbit

because-of-rabbitBook: Because of the Rabbit (2019)
Author: Cynthia Lord
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Emma entering school for the very first time in fifth grade (after being homeschooled). As the new kid, she finds it tough to know where to fit in. She tries to make friends, but sometimes they’re friendly, sometimes not. And then there’s Jack. He doesn’t really fit in with their classmates either, but Emma’s not quite sure if she wants to be friends with him. But things begin to change when they bond over the rabbit Emma’s rescued.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) As somebody who has been the “new kid” in various different schools, I completely got Emma! It’s hard when everybody else knows everybody and you just want a friend. I like how Emma reaches out. (One thing where we differ, she’s definitely not as shy as I was!) But she makes some errors, like the little lie about pickles. It was funny (for us as readers, not her as a character) how that comes back to bite her!

2) The rabbit part was interesting. I like how she and her dad rescue it at the beginning of the book, then it actually comes into the plot later on at school.

3) As Emma becomes more comfortable at the school, we get a good dilemma for her with regards to Jack. Jack’s definitely a little different from the other students. And Emma makes some not-so-kind decisions with regards to him (especially at the lunch table). But I like how Lord lets us see Emma’s struggle and eventually how Emma comes to embrace Jack as a friend.

4) Loved the little Monsieur Lapin stories. The grandfather’s voice came through, even though he’s not even a character in the book… And so it was.

5) I also really liked the relationship between Emma and her brother. In fact, it’s because of her brother that Emma decides she wants to go to school. I like how he helps her get her photos for her project with Jack.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The part about the search for the owners of the rabbit felt a little off to me. Maybe a bit too cliche? Especially with how it ended. I guessed that’s what would happen. But maybe that’s just the adult-reader coming out in me.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Another solid read from Cynthia Lord. I really enjoyed this one about rabbits and finding your place as the new kid in school. 🙂


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: Lucky Luna

lucky-luna.jpgBook: Lucky Luna (2018)
Author: Diana Lopez
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: When Luna plays a prank on her prima (cousin Claudia), she gets in big trouble. Not only does she have to face the consequences (of not being allowed to wear her favourite hats), but now Claudia is going to be attending school with Luna! Needless to say, Luna’s not happy about it, but she gets some wise advice from her abuela (drink plenty of water, Luna 😉 ) and that helps… a bit. But when the kids at school seem to be making fun of her prima, Luna decides that maybe she should stick up for Claudia.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Luna has a fun voice in this book. She’s so sure of herself, but she endears herself. What I think is really cool is Luna’s strip of white hair (due to poliosis). I have a childhood friend who has this same thing! (We always thought it was super cool.)

2) And I loved all her primas! What fun to have so many primas (cousins). It was great to see the connection even though there are age gaps. I love how they greet each other: “Prima!”

3) And then there’s Luna’s prima, Claudia. This is a classic relationship of sibling (prima?) rivalry. I like how the book works through their miscommunications. Both girls learn and grow.

4) One of my favourite parts was when Luna goes to visit her grandmother. Abuela has all these pithy sayings, except she says them in Spanish, but Luna only knows a little Spanish. So, she misses key things. (Like about drinking water!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wondered about the “no wearing hats” punishment fitting the crime of locking Claudia in the bathroom. Especially when the mom knows Luna’s a little self-conscious about her strip of white hair.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – What a fun read! I loved Luna and all her primas. And her abuela.


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: New Kid

new-kidBook: New Kid (2019)
Author: Jerry Craft
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Graphic Novel
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic plot: Jordan’s the new kid at his brand new prep school. What he really wants is to go to an arts school, but his mom insists on this academic prep school. And now that he finds himself away from the neighbourhood kids, he’s not always sure where he fits in. It’s hard being the new kid…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) There’s just something about prep school settings that are fun to read about. They’re kind of like boarding schools, without the boarding.

2) I really liked all the friendships in this book. I’m glad Liam turns out to be a real friend. When you first meet him, it seems like it’s going to go in the opposite direction. I also really liked Drew, especially with how he and Jordan are able to connect.

3) I found the subplot involving Alex and the puppet on her hand to be very interesting. At first, I thought it was odd and questioned why the author chose to put this character in the story. But, as the story progresses, I really like how it story-arcs… From how Jordan’s parents making the mistake of telling her parents that Jordan is her friend (when, at the time, he wants nothing to do with the “weird girl”) to how he digs deeper into the reason for the puppet and, finally, his solution.

4) Love the comic elements… the doodles. I thought it was a nice way to show Jordan’s love of art. And the moment when his teacher finds the doodles… A tense moment in the story.

5) I thought Jerry Craft did a nice job bringing out many of the issues that black students face in situations similar to Jordan’s. The one that really struck me was the book recommendations given to the black students were all gritty titles about kids in slums, belonging to gangs, etc… And then the same teacher turns around to recommend some fun fantasy to one of the white students.

6) My favourite line is at the end of the book. Jordan is hanging with his neighbourhood (non-prep school) pals when he starts explaining the meaning of the word metaphor. His  friend says: “Actually, Jordan, that’s a simile.”

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The zombie-school kids I found… weird. Just a preference on my part. Not a huge deal-breaker, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I liked the characters and the story arcs. A definite two thumbs up from me. 🙂


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: Finding Perfect

finding-perfect-1Book: Finding Perfect (2016)
Author: Elly Swartz
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Molly likes things perfect. So much so, that she arranges and rearranges everything with a ruler. And with her mom away for the year on a job in Toronto, she’s feeling a little lost. Her hope is to get Mom to come back if she wins the poetry slam contest at school. But, Molly starts to realize that something might be wrong with her, something called OCD…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I liked getting to know Molly. She’s really big into poetry… while poetry is not my favourite type of writing, even I found those parts interesting. I like how it all fits in with the plot.

2) In the book, Molly displays signs of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). As the book progresses, so does the OCD, and so did my empathy for Molly. I thought Swartz did a good job of getting us (the reader) into Molly’s head… her thoughts and struggles over whether or not to tell somebody and who to tell.

3) I thought the friendship between Molly and Hannah was nicely done. There are misunderstandings. And then there’s that scene where Hannah oversteps the bounds a bit, but not because she hates Molly. She wants to help, it’s just that her help betrayed some trust. Many times, in books like these, there’s a clear cut “we’re no longer friends”. What I liked about this book is that the girls remain friends throughout, even if there are periods of miscommunication.

4) The other friend (Bridgett) was interesting. She’s obsessed with reading obituaries. That was an interesting sub-plot that worked nicely with the main plot.

5) Love the cover, especially with the barely-noticeable numbers on the white background. I like how that fits into the story’s plot.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I’m still a little confused by the mom and dad and their “separation”. [**SPOILER] At times, they seem on the brink of divorce, and at other times, (going by what the mom says) the mom is just gone for a job for the year. But then, when she returns near the end of the book, she’s living somewhere else??? [End Spoiler] I’m still confused by what was going on there.

2) I found the middle of the book to be slightly repetitive. This is the part where Molly realizes there’s something wrong and is trying to hide it. (Should she tell somebody? Counting. Trying to hide this from her family. More counting.) For me, this slowed down the plot a bit. Not a huge problem, but I did start to want to skip in a few places.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book reminded me a little of a book I read last year about OCD: Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske (but that one was about the girl’s mom). I thought this was an interesting take on OCD in the kid herself. I like that she recognizes that she needs to get help…


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

Quick Pick Reviews #15

desirableDesirable // by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Genre: MG, Contemporary/Magical Realism (2008)

My Thoughts: This was a fun little book. And when I say little, I actually mean little. It was surprisingly short. Especially considering that the main character is in the eighth grade! I read it in a half-hour…

The story is about a boy named George who is anything but popular. He’s pretty much a loner and not even the other unpopular kids want to hang out with him. That is until his grandpa gives him a birthday gift of cologne called “Desirable”. Once he puts it on, suddenly everybody wants to be his best buddy… including the principal of his school.

I liked how it ended, but I didn’t quite see how it got to that place. [**SPOILER] With Danielle giving him the cologne. I didn’t see enough evidence that she even knew he had it in the first place. It would have been better if it had been a gift from his mum. [End Spoiler] That said, I still enjoyed this book! [3.5 Stars]


royal-giftA Royal Gift // by Marietta Moskin

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (1982)

My Thoughts: What an adorable book! This is the story of a Royal Wedding and two old ladies (sisters: Miss Agatha and Miss Prudence) who decide to give a gift to the prince and his bride. And the gift (with the twist at the end)… well, I won’t spoil it.

As a chapter book, there are gorgeous illustrations on every spread… some in black and white and others in colour. The whole book has a very old fashioned feeling to it. (Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is out of print! My copy came from my SIL and she got it from a library book sale. It’s a pity if it is out of print because the book and story are so beautiful.)

I really liked the author’s note at the end. She calls this story “one of those ‘it might be true’ type of stories.” Apparently, it made the rounds when the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and the Queen Mum) were married in 1923. [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

Review: The Thing About Georgie

thing-about-georgieBook: The Thing About Georgie (2006)
Author: Lisa Graff
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: The thing about Georgie is that he’s in fourth grade and he’s… short. And he’s just trying to navigate life by trying to avoid Jeannie the Meanie, the news that his parents are having a baby, and his best friend becoming his not-so-best friend.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed Georgie as a character. I liked his personality. It was also interesting to read about a kid with has to deal with the reality of being a dwarf in our world.

2) I found his friendship struggles to be one of the best parts of the book. From dealing with Jeannie the Meanie, and even his friend Andy. Lots of misunderstandings. I felt for Georgie as he was trying to figure it all out.

3) I loved the Presidential plotline where the class has to do a group report. Georgie and his nemesis, Jeannie, get Lincoln, when what Georgie really wanted was George Washington. (While I like Lincoln, I also wasn’t too sure about the choice of this president. See below.)

4) There are these little short “handwritten” passages, usually at the beginning of a chapter, telling us what Georgie can and cannot do because of his dwarfism. I liked learning about a topic I don’t know a lot about. But what I really liked was the arc of that little storyline!

5) Georgie has some really nice growth in this book. (No pun intended.) I enjoyed watching him learn about life and about his friends and about himself. I liked Jeannie’s character arc as well.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wish Georgie had gotten a more obscure president for his report. Maybe this is because I know too much about Lincoln. In my classroom experience, he’s definitely one of the more popular presidents. I don’t know why other kids didn’t argue about being left with John Adams or Woodrow Wilson. I would have loved to learn a little more about a less-popular president, especially if it could be tied into Georgie’s theme.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – The thing about this book… I liked it! A good solid read which makes you want to root for Georgie!


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: Brave

braveBook: Brave (2017)
Author: Svetlana Chmakov
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel/Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Jensen’s prepared for anything… especially a zombie apocalypse. But he’s finding middle school hard to navigate. His solution is to try to avoid the bullies at all costs. When the school newspaper wants to interview him about that very topic, he freezes up. He doesn’t think he’s being bullied. But then he starts seeing bullying around him everywhere, including from his own “friends”. That’s when he decides it’s time to be brave and do something about it.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Jensen is a very likable protagonist. Even with his little quirks about sun spots. I love seeing him grow throughout the book and seeing his thought process. For example, his hatred of math and the “evil” math teacher goes through a nice arc.

2) I thought it interesting that the bullying in this story is not just confined to the “bully” characters. Even Jensen’s own “friends” display bullying. Not that they necessarily trying to be mean, but they very thoughtless. I loved the phrase that about a true friend is somebody who will save you a seat. (*SPOILER: Peppi–from the first book in this series– does exactly that. And at the end, Jensen himself approaches one of the bullies–now without his cohort–to offer to sit with him during lunch.)

3) I really liked Jorge, the baseball dude who ends up being Jensen’s project partner. I can’t believe Jensen ended up with such an awesome partner!

4) I enjoyed the math tutoring sessions. I liked how the author brought in one of the bullies to these scenes. And I thought it was good that she showed that Jensen’s grades didn’t improve right away.

5) At the end, Chmakov gives us a little author’s notes about sun spots. I almost wished had put this into the story itself, especially giving Jensen the discovery moment that the sun spots are not as life-threatening as he suspects.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I felt like this book came across as being a little too didactic on the subject of bullying. It just felt forced at times.

2) I really didn’t like Jenny. She’s the one who does the report on bullying, but she herself is a bully! I don’t think this was really dealt with and I wanted it to be addressed. She definitely has some serious anger-management problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Really enjoyed Jensen’s voice in this book. I’d recommend for middle-schoolers, especially those who like graphic novels.


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: Every Shiny Thing

every-shiny-thingBook: Every Shiny Thing (2018)
Author: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Lauren feels lost when her autistic brother goes away to boarding school. When Lauren’s best friend doesn’t seem to understand, Lauren starts spending more and more time with the new girl, Sierra. Sierra’s a foster kid who just wants to go back with her mom. But she’s drawn to Lauren and soon becomes the only one who knows about Lauren’s little problem: shoplifting. But Lauren isn’t stealing things to be bad. Her plan is to help others. Sierra doesn’t know quite what to do…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The dual POVs work quite nicely in this book. Lauren’s POV is written in prose, while Sierra’s is written in blank verse. At first it was jarring, but I came to like it.

2) I liked how Lauren (the rich kid) is the one with the sticky fingers, rather than Sierra (the poor kid). I love how Lauren rationalizes everything! And Sierra’s struggle about what to do. I loved how complicated everything was.

3) I enjoyed watching Sierra’s growth in the book. I think I probably liked her more than I liked Lauren (who got on my nerves sometimes). I liked the development with the foster parents: Anne and Carl.

4) Ryan isn’t in the book much, but his presence is felt in the book. He’s the brother who’s away. He’s also the reason why Lauren’s starts her own little Robin Hood campaign.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) So I loved all the restitution at the end, but I almost think Lauren got off a little easier than if it had been Sierra.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Enjoyed this story, especially Sierra’s POV.


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