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review 2018-02-09 14:57
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor

Author: Leslie Connor

Rating: 5 stars


I struggled with this premise yall.


A middle-grade novel about a boy being RAISED IN A MINIMUM SECURITY PRISON struck me as ridiculous and idealistically implausible. My brain kept screaming  A CHILD DOES NOT BELONG IN A PRISON.


I'm not quite sure All Rise circumvents those concerns. But it was heartwarming and enjoyable. I know that probably makes no sense, but it's my honest opinion and you'll just have to read the book to see if you agree. 


Perry's mother, Jessica,  is in jail for a "mistake" she made when she was 18. She realized she was pregnant shortly after being incarcerated. The warden steps in and becomes the foster parent of the baby.  The warden creates a room for the child - Perry- at the prison so Jessica can raise him. Perry attends school, is kinda the prison mascot and is friends with *some* of the "rezs".   It is stressed that all of the prisoners are non-violent and the ones that are dangerous - this is a prison lest we forget- are referred to as the "cold ones" and Perry stays away from them. The cold ones stay on the periphery of the story. Which seems appropriate when you consider that is where Jessica and Perry mentally keep the harsh circumstances around them. As I read this story, my objections to the premise began to calm down and you begin to see the residents as Perry's friends and as complex people who made mistakes. 


The villain in the story, if you want to call him that, is a prosecutor who becomes aware of the situation. Perry is the worst kept secret in town so he learns of what is going on. He has Perry removed from the prison and takes him into his own family to show him a better life. This brings up interesting thoughts on what is best for a child, what is home, belief in redemption, forgiveness. The prosecutor is not all bad. I couldn't hate him when he was just voicing my same knee-jerk objections. 


Perry is an optimistic and lovable little boy who always looks for the good in every situation. He is slow to anger and is probably the most well-rounded character in the story. You root for Perry the whole book.


The secondary characters were wonderful. One of my favorite characters in the story which is Mrs. Samuels - the prosecutor's wife. While she supports her husband, she supports Perry as well. She reads as submissive but you learn she is no pushover.  I really enjoyed her character. 


Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I would even re-read it when I need a feel-good read. It was a pleasant surprise.






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review 2018-02-08 13:34
Flora and Ulysses
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - K.G. Campbell,Kate DiCamillo

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Rating: 2.5 stars


Newberry Medal Winner 2014


Book Blurb:  Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo. 


It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry - and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.


I should've liked this. A girl who reads comics and says things like "Holy Unanticipated Occurrences!"  A superhero squirrel that flies and loves poetry. Positive messages on connection and dealing with change... 


But I just could not connect with and/or get into this one. I closed the book and said "Meh". Maybe it's cuz I'm not the target demographic? Hmmm. Maybe. That's never stopped me before though. 


2.5 stars.

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review 2018-02-07 17:33
What did the Frenchman ever do to you?
Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods: Twenty Chilling Tales from the Wilderness - Hal Johnson,Tom Mead

I think if I had a new copy of this book I would have had the benefit of seeing the illustrations in their original glow-in-the-dark awesomeness. As it is, I got this from the library and it had seen many days under the sun (and probably some under a flashlight to really get all the juice out of it).

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods: 20 Chilling Tales from the Wilderness by Hal Johnson with illustrations by Tom Mead is a children's graphic novel that certainly delivered what it set out to with that supremely long title. This is definitely a middle grade title and I wouldn't recommend reading this to your elementary aged child before bedtime (unless they're tough as nails). It would however make a fantastic Halloween read aloud. ;-) The book consists of short stories depicting different monstrous creatures of lore and how they were discovered, captured (if they ever were), and killed their victims. Each story is accompanied by illustrations of the creatures overlaid with the glow-in-the-dark ink I mentioned at the beginning. The illustrations are FANTASTIC. I also felt like the stories were the perfect length if you were using them to read aloud to kids. Since there are 20 you could read one a day on the lead up to Halloween. However, in the spirit of full transparency, I need to point out that it seemed as if the author had something against Frenchman (they were abused quite a lot throughout) which did make me quite uncomfortable at several points. If not for that, this would have been a fully enjoyable little collection of monster stories. As it stands, I'll go with a 7/10.


An example of the illustrative style and writing. [Source: Barnes & Noble]


What's Up Next: The Unreal and the Real: Where on Earth by Ursula K. Le Guin


What I'm Currently (Re)Reading: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-02-02 16:37
The Crossover
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander

Author: Kwame Alexander

Rating: 4 stars


2015 Newberry Medal Winner


This was so good.  


The story of twin African-American brothers told in verse, this book was different and wonderfully engaging. I really enjoyed seeing JB and Josh's different personalities come through the page.  


In short, JB and Josh are twins who play basketball. Their dad is ex-NBA and their mom is the school assistant principal. Their family is tight-knit and HAPPY. Trouble comes when one of the boys gets a girlfriend and the other feels left out, trouble also comes from other directions that I won't spoil. There were such positive messages about education and balancing a love of sports, making your character a priority, family loyalty - I loved it.


The story itself was bittersweet and that is all I will say to avoid spoilers. The lessons imparted by their parents were powerful and would serve kids well. When I read the reviews, I  couldn't help but smile seeing how excited educators were to bring this book into their classrooms. 


It's a quick read but a worthy one. Definitely recommend.




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review 2018-01-29 21:19
Dominion (The Molly Stout Adventures #1) by Shane Arbuthnott
Dominion - Shane Arbuthnott

This is such a wonderful story! I'm pleased as punch that requesting the second book in this series for review, and then finding out that I needed to read Dominion first, put this on my radar. You all know how much I love a good Middle Grade book! Dominion is wonderful. Molly Stout is wonderful. So please pardon me while I gush a bit.

In this reader's opinion, the best part about Dominion is Molly herself. Although there's a lot of other parts that are definitely worth gushing about, Molly reigns supreme as the reason this book is so easy to love. I adored Molly's passion, empathy, and the fact that she had just enough reckless bravery to really make things fun. Better still, there's so much growth that happens in this book. From learning that preconceived notions aren't always healthy, to learning that it's okay to love someone and not forgive them, there are messages in this book that I found so important for this age group. Molly's family isn't perfect, her life isn't easy, but she shows how strength and perseverance are what change things for the better.

As for the setting itself, I think the technology of Dominion is truly what sets it apart from a lot of the other MG Fantasy that I've read. Instead of being Steampunk, I'd pin this book more as "Spiritpunk". Molly's world is one that floats in the clouds and sees spirits as fuel. Which, as I mentioned above, allows for this grey area that Arbuthnott really uses as part of Molly's awakening. I could close my eyes and picture massive ships floating in the clouds. To say that it was easy to get caught up in this book is an understatement.

My only issue, and it's a small one, was that there were some loose ends upon finishing. The ending felt a bit like it was rushing to tie as many things up as possible, while setting the stage for a cliffhanger. I know that there's another book on the horizon though, and so I'm willing to be patient! I'm more than happy to follow Molly, no matter where she might go.

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