Review / The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh

20220828ma_1675Book: The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh (2018)
Author: Mac Barnett & Jory John
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series: The Terrible Two

Opening lines from the book …
For the last time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley! Or, if you’ve never read a book in this series before, for the first time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Two of our favorite pranksters, Niles and Miles, are entering their final year of middle school. And of course, you can expect a few pranks in this book.

2) I love the change in relationship between the boys and Principal Barkin! In the original books, Principal Barkin is the main baddy. But it’s nice to see how the principal has changed over the course of the books.

3) The humor in these books is delightful, especially the play of words. There’s Principal Barkin and then there’s Former Principal Barkin. And of course, you know the former principal is going to bring trouble, don’t you?

4) This book isn’t just about shenanigans! There are some nice heart moments, especially near the end with regard to Miles.

5) And I like how the final prank plays out. It’s a “quiet” prank.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a fun end to a fun series. I recommend the series for kids who like books about pranks!

 


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

Newbery Verdict: Wolf Hollow

20220306ma_0412Book: Wolf Hollow (2016)
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Newbery Honor Book (2017)

Opening Lines of the Book…

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie. I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears–things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

MY THOUGHTS…

This book is about bullies. And what a bully do we get to meet in Betty, the new girl at school! She is particularly nasty. Poor Annabelle! How I felt for her as Betty made her wicked threats.

And then there was the strange hermit-type, Toby. I think I read somewhere that he’s been compared to Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I would say that’s about right. It turns out that Betty plans to use him as her scapegoat. Let’s just say that a lot of the grown-ups in the book think Betty is a little angel.

When Betty goes missing, things really get serious. Annabelle wants to save Toby, but she also thinks she knows where Betty might be.

I liked the little connection to photography with Toby and his photos. As a photographer myself, I like books that feature cameras and such.

The ending is bittersweet. I won’t spoil it, but there are some good things that come out in the end. And there are also some sad things. It has a nice realism to it.

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I did enjoy this book overall. Although, not everything is pretty-pretty. And Betty is a hard villain to stomach. I can see why it was given a Newbery Honor!

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up. (Note: This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Award!)

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

20220306ma_0416Book: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (2016)
Author: Laura Shovan
Genre: MG, Novel in Verse

Opening lines from the book …
Yo, Notebook.
I am your poet.
I will fill you with words.
I don’t mind writing
a poem to our teacher,
some rhymes
Ms. Hill will feature
in our fifth-grade book.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This book is written poems. One poem for each day of the year. I found it very interesting that this book goes from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year, only skipping holidays and weekends.

2) I love how the students get to know their (old?) hippie teacher, Ms. Hill. How they draw inspiration from her days when she protested. Their protest is about the closing of their school.

3) The student that probably is the most memorable is George Washington Furst. And that’s not a surprise as he goes on to be a natural class leader. Maybe it’s also his name!

4) The illustrations at the beginning of the book is really helpful for keeping track of the 18 kids in the class. Most books about classrooms really feature only six or seven students in a classroom. (More on this later.)

5) I did like how there are different styles of poetry used throughout the book. AND the author has a key to the different types of poems used at the back. This would be great for a teacher who wanted to use this book in a poetry unit!

WHAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Back to the list of kids in the class. I think there’s a reason why authors usually only feature six or seven students. Many of the kids in this book were on the forgettable-side, and I had to keep reminding myself WHO they were. That said, I thought it was a worthy experiment!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book overall. I liked getting to know this class of gutsy kids and teacher. I highly recommend!

 


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 / Invisible Emmie

20211030ma_3683Book: Invisible Emmie (2017)
Author: Terri Libenson
Genre: MG, Contemporary (Illustrated)


Opening lines from the book …
This is me. You’re probably wondering how I became a puddle of slime. Eaily explained. It happened in a day. Okay, five hours, If you want to get technical. It also involved a really embarrassing incident. I’ll get to that.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This is the story of two girls. Katie’s life is perfect. She’s popular and everything goes her way, but she’s not nasty about it. On the other hand, Emmie is … well, she’s invisible. The main plotline follows Emmie as she tells her story. Then we get snippets of Katie’s perfect life. It’s a nice contrast.

2) I love that Emmie does have a good friend Brianna, even if she can be a little bossy toward Emmie. I like how their relationship plays out, especially with regards to the disaster of the letters they write.

3) And then there’s the boy. Tyler is the love-interest for both Katie and Emmie! (Of course, Emmie’s love is the quiet kind. Tyler doesn’t even seem to really remember that she exists.) What I like is that we do get to know him through Emmie’s chapters, especially when the whole disaster comes to a head.

4) Joe! Argh! What a troublemaker. He’s the guy responsible for all the turmoil in the book. Every book has to have a bad guy, right?

5) I loved the little twist at the end of the story. I won’t spoil this, but it was quite nice how everything fits into place.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The only tiny little thing is the joke about the dead rats at the school. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to think this is supposed to be real or just symbolism. In my schools, I’m sure there were mice (maybe even rats), but I never saw them, dead or otherwise. Maybe I just never noticed. OR maybe I’m just being too literal!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I LOVED this book. I think this might be one of the best books I’ve read this year. Definitely loved that little twist at the end.

 


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 / Dead Wednesday

20210926ma_3391Book: Dead Wednesday (2021)
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
No way … This is Worm’s first groggy thought even before he opens his eyes. He actually whispers it to his pillow: “No way.” Because the feeling he wakes up with—the same one he went to bed with—makes no sense: he wants to go to school.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Dead Wednesday is SUCH an interesting title. What in the world could it mean? Well, I’ll tell you. The eighth graders at Worm’s school get assigned the name of somebody who died in a preventable accident (like a texting and driving accident). And then they get to be that person for the day while the rest of the town/school completely ignore them. Like they’re already dead. (That’s the short explanation. You’ll have to read the book for the rest.)

2) I want to go to Worm’s house! His parents run a retreat for writers. I could definitely go there. 🙂 Worm doesn’t like hanging out too much with all the writers, but he used to sing them the tea pot song when he was little!

3) I like how Worm’s dead person comes into the story. He gets assigned a girl named Becca Finch. Now I won’t give any spoilers, but I do like how it all plays out.

4) And then there’s Worm’s arch enemy: Mean Monica. She really not that mean. But one day, she told Worm to “Get a life!” on the bus and he’s tried to avoid her ever since. It was fun to see them interact.

5) The book does extend beyond Dead Wednesday. It’s interesting how the day affects Worm and helps him discover his own life.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I really like the bottom half of the book cover. The top half has fire works in the shape of what I think is supposed to be Worm’s dead person. It’s just a little creepy/goofy for my taste.

2) I didn’t really get why Worm’s mom was so adamant that he come home directly after school. There’s a fight that he wants to go to, but I don’t think she knows about it. It was a plot point that didn’t really seem to matter one way or other.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Jerry Spinelli is always up for an interesting tale. I did enjoy this one. (It’s not quite as amazing as Maniac Mcgee, but it does have some insightful moments.

 


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 / 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.