Review: Patina

Book: Patina (2017)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

patinaBasic Plot: Patty hates losing a race. Or even coming in second. She also has a to-do list longer than your arm. She’s starting to find it hard to juggle her sister, her mom, her mother/aunt, school, and, of course, track. When Coach puts her on the relay team, she comes nose-to-nose with some unhappy teammates. Couple that with a group project where Patty is doing all the work while her partners take it easy. And then comes a family emergency that Patty never even anticipated. Something that might just threaten to keep her off the track for awhile.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a continuation of the series with Ghost. In this book, Ghost is only a minor character. The MC is his newbie teammate: Patty (Patina). (And yes, we do find out in this one what happened in the race at the end of the first book!)

2) I was nervous about reading this book. Partly because Patty had the potential to be a Mary-Sue character. In the previous book, she doesn’t seem to have any flaws. But that worry melted away immediately. Maybe she was perfect in Ghost’s eyes, but once Patty starts telling her story, we get to see her faults… just enough to make her a human being we can relate to.

3) I loved the relationship between Patty and her little sister, Maddie. Actually, I love her whole family. Her ma, who no longer has her legs due to diabetes. And her uncle and aunt (Momly) who have legal custody of her. I enjoyed getting to know them.

4) The Coach was awesome yet again. He’s not in the book as much as he was in the last. But he has some great moments. I love the part where Coach Whit is teaching the girls to dance and Ghost and Lu? are laughing at them… along with Coach. Then, what Coach does next is priceless.

5) Jason Reynolds has talent for capturing voice. Patty’s voice in this book is unique to Patty, just as Ghost’s voice is unique to Ghost. (And I’ve already started reading the next book: Sunny. Ditto.)

6) The story of the dad is good. I like the cupcakes. And I like the scene near the end with the uncle and the cupcakes.

7) Another race at the end, but Reynolds does things a little differently this time. But I won’t spoil it.

8) Whoever does those book covers… I’m liking them. I like how each one is geared to each character. (Although, Patty really should have a baton in her hand.)

9) Finally, I like that you don’t technically have to read Ghost to enjoy this book. It really is Patty’s story and a stand-alone.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I don’t get why Momly thinks it’s okay to serve turkey wings every night for supper. Don’t they get sick of them?

2) The Momly-janitor story was a little odd. Not sure exactly if this backstory was needed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I liked this book better than Ghost and I’m trying to figure out why. Premise-wise, I think Ghost is a stronger story, but the pacing was off. (Ghost could have been a 5-star book, which is saying something.) Patina’s story is good, and the pacing and emotional beats are right on. I’m glad I gave it a chance!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Quick Pick Reviews #8

Clementine // by Sara Pennypacker (2006)

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporaryclementine

My Thoughts: A cute story about an ants-in-her-pants girl named Clementine. She gets in trouble for helping her school friend cut her hair. And she’s always being sent to the principal’s office.

But Clementine has a big heart. I love how she tries to help out her dad and mom. This book is definitely meant for a younger audience. I loved the illustrations! [4 Stars]


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing // by Judy Blume (1972)

Genre: MG, Contemporaryfourth-grade-nothing

My Thoughts: I can’t believe I haven’t read this book until now. Peter is in fourth grade, and his nemesis is his little brother: Fudge. In some ways, this book reminds me a lot of the characters of Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary). Fudge is definitely a Ramona character, and (from what I can tell) goes on to having his own books.

I loved the story of the turtle and how that plays into the plot. And the visit by the dad’s client and his wife. The birthday story is also pretty funny, especially the kid that doesn’t want to stay, but then doesn’t want to leave. [4 Stars]


Raymie Nightingale // by Kate DiCamillo (2016)

Genre: MG, Historical (1975)

raymie-nightingaleMy Thoughts: This is the story of three girls: Raymie, Beverly, and Louisiana. As Louisiana likes to say, they are the Three Rancheros. They are all preparing to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. I love the idea of incorporating Florence Nightingale into the story (I loved Florence Nightingale when I was a kid. In fact, all my dolls were named Florence.) Although, that part of the story didn’t pan out in any way that I felt was very meaningful. It somehow lacked something.

Overall, though, the three girls are delightful. I love their chemistry and antics. And Louisiana’s grandmother is adorable. (Just saying!) [3.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Newbery Verdict: The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars // by Gary D. Schmidt

wednesday-warsNewbery Honor Book (2008)
Genre: Upper MG, Historical Fiction (1960s)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Holling Hoodhood is the only kid in class who doesn’t have catechism or bar mitzvah lessons on Wednesdays. This means he’s stuck in school with his teacher. And guess what? She’s not exactly keen on having Holling there, and he’s convinced that she’s out to get him. This is confirmed when she assigns him the task of reading Shakespeare. And so begin the Wednesday Wars.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is the story of a boy and his teacher and how their relationship blossoms. One of the best scenes is when Holling suggests they come up with a code so that he knows he’s doing something right. Her response is to basically roll her eyes.

I love all the Shakespeare references. It’s fun how this extends to Holling’s life beyond the classroom, when he finds himself in the theatrical production of The Tempest. Of course, this fact gives us no shortage of conflict involving the school bully and yellow feathers.

The title of this book is spot on. The Wednesday Wars brings out the themes of the war between Holling and his teacher; the war between Holling and his sister; between Holling and his dad; between the dad and the rival architect; and of course, the Vietnam War itself since this is a book set in the 1960s.

FAVOURITE QUOTE…

“No teacher jokes,” I said. “No one ever laughs at teacher jokes.”

“All right… No teacher jokes.” …

“And no rolling your eyes, even if someone says something really stupid.”

“I never roll my eyes,” said Mrs. Baker.

I looked at her.

“All right,” she said. “No rolling eyes. Anything else, coach?”

“When someone does something good, I think you should let them know, with some sort of code.”

“I think you mean that when someone does something well–as in obeying the rules of proper diction–we should use a code. What do you suggest?”

“Well, maybe ‘Azalea’ for something good, and ‘Chrysanthemum’ for something really good.”

“Thank you, Mr. Hoodhood. We’ll dispense with the code, and I’ll simply use the unvarnished English language to tell you when you’ve done something well. But as to teacher jokes, folding of arms, and rolling of eyes, I’ll consider your advice.”

(Chapter – March)

NEWBERY VERDICT…

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – When I first read this book about 10 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never read anything by this author before. And I loved it! The Newbery Winner that year (2008) was Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz. I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment. But another Newbery Honor for 2008 was Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (which I have read; and also love). If I had been one of the Newbery decision-makers that year, I’d have had a hard time choosing between those two books!

By the way, there’s a companion book to this one called Okay for Now, which features Holling’s friend: Doug Swieteck. You can read my review here.

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.

Quick Pick Reviews #7

The Ravenmaster’s Secret // by Elvira Woodruff

ravenmasters-secretGenre: MG, Historical Fiction

My Thoughts: Set in the Tower of London in the 1700s… the best part of this book were the little historical tidbits about living in the Tower with the ravens. Forrest Harper is the son of the Ravenmaster. For those unfamiliar with ravens at the Tower, there’s a legend that the Tower (and by extension, the Crown) will fall into enemy hands if ever the ravens were to leave.

The story itself is about Forrest and how he (and his young rat-catching ally, named Rat) befriends a Jacobite (Scottish) prisoner. I won’t spoil the prisoner’s name as this is an important part of the plot. But I will say that this book includes a raven who can perform tricks, covert messages, and a plot for a daring prison escape. [3 Stars]


The Girl with 500 Middle Names // by Margaret Peterson Haddix

436283-M

Genre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: I picked this title up because it intrigued me. What kind of girl has 500 middle names? I was curious. Well, I’m glad I did. The story is about a girl named Janie. Her mother is determined to get her out of the run-down, poorly-funded school she attends. Now she goes to a new school… where she has no friends. And to top it, her mother loses her job.

I enjoy how Janie takes her situation and decides to do something about it. Hence the 500 middle names. She’s feisty. And she’s ultimately willing to learn. Especially when it comes to Kimberly, the rich girl. [3.5 Stars]


Let’s Pretend We Never Met // by Melissa Walker

Let's pretendGenre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: Mattie suddenly moves with her parents to Philadelphia to be closer to her ageing grandmother. She meets her next door neighbour, Agnes, who acts a little strange sometimes. And Mattie soon finds out that if she wants to make friends at school, she needs to keep her distance from Agnes.

I loved how this book deals with befriending the “weird” people in our lives. Mattie learns the value of Agnes, even with her quirks. I love how the teacher (and the door-people at the apartment) play a supportive role for Agnes in this story, helping Mattie see Agnes’ value in the world. The grandmother, Maeve, is an enjoyable character. I felt they dealt well with her onset of dementia, especially as Mattie starts to figure out that that’s what’s going on.

Love the cover on this one. The two girls standing with their backs to one another, with Agnes focused on her birds. And Mattie, not quite sure what she wants to do about Agnes. [3.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Review: The Losers Club

losersclubBook: The Losers Club
Author: Andrew Clements
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Alec loves to read. This year, he has to stay in the after-school program and so he starts a reading club… which he calls it the Losers Club, so that everybody will just leave him alone to read. But then other kids start joining the Losers Club, including his former-friend-turned-bully.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Alec loves to read. Hello? I’m hooked.

2) I love all (or at least most) of the books Alec loves. I completely understand his desire to just sit and read. To get lost in a book. When we were in grade 6, my friends and I would have fit right in with this club!

3) The younger brother, Luke, was a neat character. I like his Yoda impersonations. I also like how Clements connects the two brothers story-wise through the bully, Kent: The Losers and the Mini-Losers.

4) I love WHY Alec lets the younger Lily join the club. Especially what he says to her about how she identifies herself as a loser. (But I won’t spoil it here.)

5) Lots of wonderful reading quotes in this book. For example this passage about the value of old books:

Nina looked at the book. “It’s really old—actually, a lot of your books are old, practically antiques. Like that copy of Treasure Island in your backpack? That book is ancient.”

“So what?” he said. “And anyway, books aren’t like that. A book is either good or not. And if it’s good, it never gets old.”

6) Kent’s character arc was well-done. He doesn’t seem quite like the caricature of the school bully. He’s a little more complex.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) A bully named Kent?? Really? This seemed very strange to me.

2) While I like the brother Luke’s Yoda impersonation, I thought it was a little weird to have the mom do it. Why have two characters have the same quirk?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This has become one of my favourite Andrew Clement books. Probably because of all the reading that is done in the book.

Quick Pick Reviews #1

Here are my Quick Pick books from the past few weeks or so…

Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

hqdefaultBook: Speechless
Author: Jennifer Mook-Sang

Basic Plot: An avid video-gamer, Jelly really wants to win his very own video game unit… And all he has to do is write the award-winning speech. But he’s got some tough competition from a classmate who doesn’t care about video games, but wants to win by any means possible.

My Thoughts: Jelly was a fun and likeable character. I like how he gets involved in the food bank and this becomes key to the speech-part of the plot (later on in the book). At times I thought Victoria a little over-the-top in her meanness, but the quick scene at the end with her parents was telling. A fun book about that dreaded time in school… giving speeches! (But, as an adult, I am forever grateful that I was forced to give those speeches. Because learning to speak in front of an audience is actually a life skill I use.) Bonus: I LOVE the cover of this book!


pagesbetweenusBook: The Pages Between Us
Authors: Lindsey Leavitt & Robin Mellom

Basic Plot: When two best friends find out that they don’t have any classes together, they decide to share a notebook to communicate with one another. However, their friendship is tested when suddenly when different priorities crop up.

My Thoughts: I loved the dynamic duo of this book… Olivia and Piper are both likeable girls and their devotion to each other is beautiful. I like how they navigate through the different school clubs! From LARPing to Lego Club and Chess Club. It’s fun to go back and forth between their separate viewpoints. (Although, at times I did find it a tiny bit confusing about which girl I was reading at any given point. Since, I’m assuming each author took a particular character as “her” character, it’s not like I can blame this on the author not being able to distinguish between two voices. I’m not sure what would have fixed this.) The lead up to the big “breakup” between the friends worked well, I thought. As did the resolution.


deadpossumsBook: Dead Possums Are Fair Game
Authors: Taryn Souders

Basic Plot: Ella is a control freak. That is going to give her some serious problems when her Aunt Willa comes to stay with her family and share her bedroom. On top of this, Ella has to deal with a MATH FAIR, and she hates math!

My Thoughts: This one certainly has a fun, clever title! I liked Ella, although I don’t quite understand her anxiety (losing control?) over sharing her room with her aunt. As a photographer/aunt myself, I understand Aunt Willa! (I find it interesting that she doesn’t do digital photography in this day and age.) I think Ella, like so many, don’t like math just because nobody is “supposed to like math” except maybe nerds. Ella, with help from the math fair and Aunt Willa, comes to realize that math isn’t all that bad!

Review: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

27064348._UY630_SR1200,630_Book: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
Author: John David Anderson
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: When Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she’ll be leaving her class before the year is up, three of her students hatch a plan to give their teacher the last day she deserves.

WHAT’S COOL

1) Ms. Bixby seems like a great teacher. I would have loved to have had her. (Bonus: She’s reading The Hobbit to her class as a read-aloud! How cool is that?)

2) I love how we get glimpses throughout the story of how Ms. Bixby has influenced the boys, each separately and also together. Little by little, we see why the boys are willing to skip school to say their last good-byes. Or non-good-byes. Whatever.

3) The shifting viewpoints of each of the three works well. It’s a nice way to get to know each boy.

4) George Nelson is a good antagonist. Love how they deal with him.

5) I liked Eduardo, who bakes amazing cheesecake! I particularly like the whole interchange with the boys about why he calls his store Michelle’s 🙂

6) Of course, I love The Hobbit references. (Although, I feel bad that the rest of the class doesn’t get to hear Ms. Bixby read the final 20 pages!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL

1) The first line is “Rebecca Roudabush has cooties.” Fine. Actually, that’s a great opening to the book. If Rebecca is a major part of the plot. Sadly, she’s not. She’s basically only in the first chapter. (Oh, she shows up in the classroom flashbacks, but it’s nothing special.) I was waiting for her to join the three boys on their quest, but she doesn’t. I was slightly disappointed by this.

2) I didn’t like how the other sixth grade teacher, Mr. Mackelroy, was treated by the author. Okay, so he wasn’t as cool as Ms. Bixby, but did you have to make him so unlikeable?? As an adult, I felt this went too much into caricature. (And not in a good way.)

3) I don’t know HOW Ms. Bixby is able to leave the hospital to go on their picnic. She’s sick. She’s dying. While the picnic is very touching, realistically it wouldn’t be able to happen that way. Why didn’t they just have the picnic in her room?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked this book quite a lot. It’s your standard students-inspired-by-a-cool-teacher trope, but I thought it had enough of a fresh story to be a good read.

Review: Restart

mediumBook: Restart
Author: Gordon Korman
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: A bully named Chase is given a second chance at life when he falls from the roof and wakes up with amnesia. He can’t remember a thing about his past shenanigans… which frustrates his former buddies. And worries his former victims.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Chase. I like how Chase has to navigate the old Chase with his feelings as the new Chase.

2) This bully story shows that bullies are complex beings. Many books treat them in a 2-dimensional way. At one point in the book, somebody conjectures whether or not the old “bully” Chase felt remorse over the piano incident. Since we only get to know the new Chase, it seems that maybe he did, in his secret heart of hearts.

3) I liked the fact that Chase does the wrong thing by sticking up for his old friends during the fire extinguisher incident. It shows that his transformation is not so pristine (and therefore it is more realistic). The old and new Chase are still the same Chase. It’s just that the new Chase has the chance to change some of his patterns of behavior.  This incident created some real moments of conflict that moved the story along nicely.

4) I liked the Senior Citizen angle to the story. Cranky Mr. Solway was a great addition to the cast of characters. And I’m a sucker for anything that touches on recording oral history from people who lived in momentous times.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The mom is pretty much a non-entity. Chase lives with her, yet we get to know the dad and his new wife (Chase’s stepmom) better than we get to know his mother. I felt she was rather 2-dimensional.

2) Flip cameras?! I felt the video club was using technology from a bygone era. This is 2017. Do they even make flip cameras anymore when the kids probably have better cameras on their smartphones? (And yes, I know about video production, so this was a biggie for me!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I liked the book. It has the “Korman-touch”. I would compare it to some of his other books like: Pop, Ungifted, and Schooled. All these books have a character you can root for.