Review: Pay Attention, Carter Jones

pay-attention-carter-jones.jpgBook: Pay Attention, Carter Jones (2019)
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: It’s a rainy morning when the Butler shows up at the front door. A Butler! And he’s about to change the lives of Carter Jones and his family. From his “Remember who you are, Young Master Jones” to how he introduces Carter to the world of cricket… the Butler helps Carter work through one of the toughest experiences of his young life.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The Butler. Man, I liked this guy! He was kind of like the male version of Mary Poppins. Although not quite as vain (at least about his looks). Seriously, this book made me wish we could all have a butler in our lives.

2) I love all the Britishisms. (Yeah, that’s probably not a real word.) The tea. The cricket. (Somehow Mr. Schmidt managed to make the cricket match have suspense.) The fact that the Butler calls Carter “Young Master Jones.” I love how Carter decides to take the Butler’s suggestion to look at the “Tory” POV with regards to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. (And, boy, does he get it at school!)

3) I like that Carter’s family is quite big. It’s not often that you get big families in books these days. Three sisters. Not to mention the brother.

4) I also like the friendships that develop in the book. Of course, there’s Billy Colt, but later on, there are the eighth-grade boys… the cricketers. Especially Krebs.

5) The emotional journey Carter takes through the book is also very nicely done. I like this little reveals, just enough at just the right time. The moment when Carter’s sister asks him the big question while they are out walking the dog… that was heartbreaking. (Moments like these are what I’ve come to expect when reading a Gary D. Schmidt book.)

6) I like the cover for this one… All the little hints as to what’s in the book are right there in the book cover.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) (**Slight SPOILER here) The fact that Carter drives the Eggplant… (i.e. the Butler’s car.) I just couldn’t believe that. I just don’t see how a twelve-year-old would NOT get in trouble for driving! On the road. In 2019. (End spoiler.) This seriously is THE reason why I think I cannot give this book 5 stars!!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – I loved this book! I loved Carter and the Butler and the tea and everything. And weirdly enough, I even liked the stuff about cricket. 🙂


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

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Review: One-Third Nerd

one-third-nerdBook: One-Third Nerd (2019)
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Liam lives with his mom and sisters, Dakota and Izzy. Oh, and their dog Cupcake. But Cupcake has a problem with controlling her, ahem, bladder. And that isn’t good news when the landlord is a grouch and is threatening to evict the family because of it.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really liked the main character, Liam. I especially love his relationship with his sisters… even the one that gives him the most grief. (Dakota. We’ll talk more about her later.)

2) And then there’s Izzy, the youngest of the three siblings. I love Izzy! She has down-syndrome, and I really enjoyed reading about her family-interactions. I like how she and Liam have a shared love of Bigfoot! And I thought it was nice how she fits into the plot… (**MINOR SPOILER: with regards to finding the solution to their problems… both with Cupcake and with the landlord’s daughter.**)

3) The tennis part of the book was pretty neat. (Although, I’m not sure how super necessary it was to the plot.)

4) Crash is Liam’s friend’s awesome grandpa! He also happens to be the kids’ babysitter. I wish there was more of Crash in the book. He didn’t get enough page-time for my taste.

5) I also enjoyed the character of Moses. Because Moses is one of those “rich kids”, it added a nice layer when Liam is trying to hide where he lives, etc. I particularly loved the scene near the end with Moses and the “lawyer” mom! I love this kid. 🙂

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I didn’t fall in love with the dog Cupcake. Which means I wasn’t 100% rooting for them to keep the dog. Frankly, I just didn’t care. (Not that I don’t care about pets in general. I know what it’s like love a pet.) But I was more drawn to the humans in this story. Particularly Izzy.

2) Dakota drove me batty! Half-way through the book, I realized that I did NOT actually like her as a character. (**SPOILER: She sells Liam’s Bigfoot collection on eBay without asking Liam’s permission to do so! She also does the same with Izzy’s horse collection. I was furious and felt oh so betrayed.**)

3) I absolutely hated it when she started calling her mother: Kimberly. And her mom, not really okay with this, does nothing. Nothing!

4) I was waiting for some redemption arc for the landlord. (**SPOILER: Doesn’t happen. 😦 **)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – The book was good but not as good as what I’ve come to expect from Choldenko. I think the main culprit is this: I didn’t really care about the dog. And that’s pretty much the goal of the story. To save the dog. That said, the book is a fun read. I like the whole “one-third nerd” thing. And I really like the friendship that springs up between Liam and Moses. And Izzy. 🙂


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: Cool Zone

cool-zoneBook: Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One (2008)
Author: Judy Blume
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: This is another story starring the Pain (younger brother Jake) and the Great One (older sister Abigail). Told in alternating chapters, we get their differing points of view. There’s a whole lot of sibling rivalry, but also a bunch of sibling-love at the heart of each story.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love the sibling rivalry, but I’m glad that there’s more to it than that. Even if the kids don’t quite admit it, they love each other. 🙂

2) I don’t mind the episodic nature of this book. Not many books get published nowadays that are basically a collection of short stories. Judy Blume does a great job with this one. Each story is self-contained and fun.

3) Judy Blume’s characterization of the kids is perfect. Reminds me of her Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing series. I love how she starts out each of these books with how the Pain thinks their parents prefer the Great One, and the Great One thinks the Pain gets all the breaks in their family. Isn’t that how it always is?

4) This book is a quick read. I think my favourite story was the one about the lost tooth. (I could feel Abigail’s frustration!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The only thing I didn’t really like was that the Pain (Jake) calls his teacher “Mary”. Every other teacher in the book is called Mr./Ms. This is just a personal preference of mine. In fact, I ended up just substituting Ms. Mary in my mind every time I saw her name in the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this book. Not sure whose POV I liked better. The POV of the Pain? Or that of the Great One? 🙂


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

ARC Review: The Phoenix and the Carpet

phoenix-and-carpet

Book: The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
Author: E. Nesbit
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Rating: 5 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: The five children from Five Children and It are back! This time their magical adventures come in the form of a Phoenix and a flying carpet. And there may (or may not) be a special guest appearance by everybody’s favourite Psammead!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s not often that the sequel is as good as the original, but this book is the exception to the rule. We get more great magical adventures featuring Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Robert. And of course, the Lamb. How can you forget the Lamb!

2) I love the chatty Phoenix, so different from the grumpy Psammead from the first book. Also, the Carpet’s a nice, silent, companionable foil. Love how that works into the plot at the end of the story.

One of my favourite lines in the book:

“Then we’ve lost the treasure,” said Cyril.

And they had.

“But we’ve got the carpet and the Phoenix,” said Anthea.

“Excuse me,” said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, “I do so hate to seem to interfere, but surely you must mean the Phoenix and the carpet?”

(The Second Chapter)

3) E. Nesbit is the queen of magical realism. The magic always has a bit of a twist or causes some sort problem for the children. I love how that works. (Even though it’s rather frustrating to the children!) It makes for a great story.

4) I love how the kids work together and bicker and tease. I love their adventurous natures.

5) My favourite episode is probably the chapters that involve the Topless Tower. (Treasure. Towers. What more could you ask for?) Although the bit with the Burglar near the end is also hilarious!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Can’t think of anything to put here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – This is a wonderful, magical tale. And it still holds magic even though the story was originally published over 100 years ago. This makes a great re-aloud.

Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

vanderbeekers1Book: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: Upper MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: The five Vanderbeeker children have lived forever at their New York City brownstone. But now their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is kicking them out, even though it’s Christmas. The kids decide it’s time to try to make friends with The Beiderman, even if he’s an award-winning crank. The problem is that they’ve never seen him because he never comes out of his upstairs apartment.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved this family of five kids. This book reminded me of the The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright, which also takes place in NYC. And I do love the fact that there are five kids. Yay for big families! (And how can you not like their last name!)

2) The illustrations are a wonderful addition to this book. They definitely helped me understand Jessie’s scientific inventions.

3) Quiet Hyacinth, Brave Hyacinth is my favourite Vandereeker! I also like Oliver (the reader) and little Laney is cute. The twins (eldest girls) are fine. I wasn’t crazy about the subplot about the dance, but it was okay. I guess I was just really drawn to the younger Vanderbeekers.

4) There is a hint of mystery to this book with regards to the grouchy recluse neighbour. I was definitely drawn into the mystery surrounding the Beiderman. (I love how they call him “the Beiderman” even though their parents keep reminding them that it’s Mr. Beiderman!)

5) The neighbourhood is sooo New York. I like how Glaser captures the atmosphere of these tiny pockets within the City… the communities where everybody knows everybody else’s business. (It makes me miss living in NYC!)

6) The quotes at the front of the book… One from Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and the other from Spiderweb for Two (Elizabeth Enright) are delightful. I’m always HAPPY when the authors I read have such love for other authors that I love.

7) The Vanderbeeker parents are wonderful parents. Yay for good parental figures! (Still, the kids always manage to give them the slip, because otherwise it’d be a boring book.)

8) The ending didn’t exactly make me cry, but it DID bring some tears to my eyes. Even though the ending isn’t too surprising, it felt just right.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The winter setting. I kept thinking it was summer. The kids never seem to bundle up, even though it’s December. I’ve lived in NYC. While I know it doesn’t have to be freezing cold, it IS cold enough to have to wear a winter coat in December. And if it were somehow unseasonably warm, why didn’t they mention this? Also, the kids go up on the roof at some point to pour water down a special invention (that was pretty cool!), but why are they doing this in December? It felt like a summer book. Or maybe fall/spring.

2) The five-day ticking bomb (being evicted at Christmas) was not necessary. And I found it a little unbelievable. Like suddenly Scrooge was the villain of this story??

3) They go to the bakery A LOT. Where do these kids get all their money? I can’t imagine that the parents are all that wealthy. They don’t seem to have any jobs. Why are they always going to a bakery when their own mother is an amazing baker (her job)? (If I were the mother, I’d be a bit annoyed. And I certainly wouldn’t give my kids money for that.) And why are they going two times a day to get cookies or cheesy croissants?

4) I had a hard time remembering which child was which. I mean the family does have five kids, so it was a little difficult to remember all their names, PLUS all the pets they have in the house. Since the book already has illustrations, why didn’t they give us a family illustration? Even simple silhouettes with names underneath and something to help us identify each character, like Isa (plays the violin); Jessie (the scientist); etc.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I had some mixed feelings about this book. There’s a lot that I loved. The siblings. The Harlem neighbourhood. The cranky neighbour. The attempts of the children to befriend him. But there were also things that irked to no end. Like the sudden eviction and the summer-y (but wait! It’s supposed to be winter!) weather/atmosphere. But in the end, this book came together. I choked up at the end (in a good way), so I will recommend this book 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? Who’s your favourite Vanderbeeker? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Swing It, Sunny

51Dl5f8bEEL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Swing It, Sunny
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Genre: MG Graphic Novel, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: Sequel to Sunny Side Up. Sunny’s back home and starting middle school. But she’s having a hard time adjusting to the absence of her big brother, Dale. (Note: This is a Graphic Novel.)

WHAT’S COOL

1) The theme of the happy-go-lucky television show… How everything seems slick and fine on the outside, but there’s got to be conflict somewhere.

2) I love it when Gramps pops into the story. First on the telephone, but also for a visit later on. (Too bad the “Girls” from the first book couldn’t tag along. I really liked those old ladies!)

3) I like how the story of Dale remains complicated, yet hopeful. It felt true and honest. I love Sunny’s attempt at connecting with him by giving him a pet rock to take care of.

4) The book has a lot of 1970s nostalgia. And I thought it was done well.

5) I like the introduction of the neighbour girl and her flags. And then how Sunny takes the flags as a challenge, especially when they aren’t as easy to manipulate as they seem.

WHAT’S NOT COOL

1) I still would like to see this as a full-scale novel. The graphic novel is fine, but there’s so much more to explore with these characters.

2) I felt the end might have been a tad rushed. When I got there, I felt like saying… “Wait… where’s the rest?” Then I realized that was it. It’s not a bad ending. Actually, it ties up nicely enough, but I still felt there was something lacking.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I thought this was a good follow-up book. Although, I think I like the first one better with the Grandpa. But I really did enjoy returning to Sunny’s world.