Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: middle-grade-fiction
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.




Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-20 19:35
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, almost entirely because I loved the cover artwork. I'm easily drawn in by illustrated covers. I knew very little about the story but assumed that it would have at least a few fantasy elements. This assumption was supported by the Goodreads users who tagged it as "Fantasy" and Potter's own writing, which kept hinting that fantastical things would happen. At the very least, there was supposed to be a ghost.

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I don't consider this to be a fantasy novel, and my expectation that it was probably hurt my opinion of the overall story. It's really more of a mixture of mystery and adventure.

The kids' desire to avoid going back to Little Trunks resulted in them accidentally investigating the mystery of their mother's disappearance. The way Potter wrote about Otto's quirks as being defense mechanisms was very intriguing and part of what kept me reading, even though the book's pacing and efforts at foreshadowing annoyed me. I also felt for Lucia, who both protected and depended upon Otto, and was grateful for Max, whose observations and deductions kept the story from lurching to a standstill.

The pacing, as I said, really didn't work for me. I was also a bit impatient with Potter's choice of narrator. The book was written as though it was a story being told by one of the Hardscrabble kids. The narrator never revealed their name, but various clues made it clear who it was. It was never clear to me why the author did things this way, and there were a few moments when I was distracted by thoughts of how surprisingly good this child seemed to be at guessing adults' ages. I don't know about you, but when I was as young as the Hardscrabble kids, my knowledge of adult ages was limited to "as old as my parents," "probably younger than my parents," and various levels of "pretty old."

It didn't take me too long to decide that I wasn't going to love this book, but, as the pieces of the Hardscrabble children's past started to come together, I did at least want to know how things would turn out. My first impression of the ending was that it was okay, but a bit dissatisfying. As I thought about it some more, however, I began to get angry.

First, what is up with stories in which parents

lie to and essentially betray their children for years and who are then forgiven by their children after a few minutes of explanations and apologies? Casper let his kids think that their mother had abandoned them, or had maybe even been killed. Heck, what about the rumors that Otto had killed his own mother? By not telling the truth, Casper let those flourish. I wouldn't have blamed a single one of the Hardscrabble kids for crying and screaming at him, or refusing to talk to him ever again.

Second, the way Potter wrote about mental illness was crap. Casper told his children that he'd taken their mother to multiple places to try to get her some help "but she was miserable at all of them. They pumped her body full of medication." (272) So she was miserable at all these places, but supposedly not miserable while held captive in a castle-turned-mental-hospital, kept from her children, who even Casper admitted she probably still loved even if she didn't know who they were? And then there was Potter's way of writing about medication. There was no mention of side-effects or issues with finding the correct dosage. Instead, Potter made it seem like it was the very act of trying to medicate Tessa that was bad. So what did Casper do instead? He took her to a place where no apparent effort was made to treat Tessa at all.

(spoiler show)

The Kneebone Boy had some good points. I liked the Hardscrabble children, and I thought the castle Haddie was staying at was pretty cool, even though the people who built it were awful. However, it took way too long for the book's focus to become apparent, and the more I think about the ending the more awful it feels.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-01-29 05:18
A Gothic Tour
The Poe Estate - Polly Shulman

This is an homage to Gothic fiction lovers aimed at younger readers. I loved that about this book. It's metafiction that takes it even deeper. There is story within a story within a story. I read The Wells Bequest first, which is the science fiction volume of this series. I liked it, but I liked this more because I love Gothic/Classic horror. It's apparent that Shulman does as well. I made a note of all the books she alluded to. Many I had read, but I got ideas for others to look up and read.

The overall concept was well done, and some elements were quite serious for a MG level book. This book deals with death in a very matter-of-fact way. Suki's sister died and her ghost is her protector. Except Kitty is getting to be problematic in her protectiveness, leading to Suki's reputation as being weird, and Suki needs to let her go. Her parents have to move in with a great, great-aunt into a house that is part of her family's strange and tragic history. As Suki gets drawn into an adventure related to her ancestor's tie to the house and interacts with employees from the New York Circulating Repository, she learns that it's important to accept her sister's death and try to move on.

I couldn't give this book higher than 3.5 stars because it is written in too lightweight a fashion. Some serious topics are put out there and there are deeper levels that don't get delved into with this book. I feel that there was a longer book inside of this one that didn't get written. I understand that some things had to be pared down due to format, but I would have liked to see that other book that this book shows potential for turned out. On the good side, I love how multicultural it is, and the fact that all families aren't the same, and that hardworking people experience financial difficulties and lose their homes and jobs. Not because they are lazy, but because of things outside their control. Suki is a strong young girl to go through all of this and keep on going. I had mad respect for her and her family. I cried about her sister and some of the tragic events from her family's past.

I love the metafiction concept. I could read about that for days. I could have spent hours more delving into this interest world that Shulman created. I wish I had 100 more pages of this gem. I will always be a cheerleader for middle grade fiction. While I was somewhat disappointed with this book, I would still recommend it to readers who love classic and Gothic horror.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-08-25 22:17
A Girl, a Cat, and a Library
The Forbidden Library - Django Wexler

I love the idea of this book, about people whose magical ability is to read themselves into books. Appropriately enough, they are called "Readers". Alice is a recently orphaned girl who is taken in by a supposed great-uncle to stay at his estate, which he calls the Library.

It turns out that there is a library, a place full of danger, with possible answers on her father's death. Alice learns that all is not at all as it seems. The Library is sinister and has a life of its own, a doorway that leads to worlds even more dangerous.

I liked what was there, but there are big gaps in the story. I read a fair amount of books for middle grade readers, and this one feels like it's paced and laid out for a younger audience than necessary for the greater maturity of the storyline.

This is an interesting idea, but seems short and simplistic in execution. There are a few active scenes loosely connected by an underlying, although thin narrative. The story gets to a certain level, but doesn't go past that. By and large, the characters feel underdeveloped, save Alice, and possibly Isaac. The ending is not satisfying. Not a cliffhanger, but near enough. The reader deliberately left with questions. I find that a bit manipulative. Not so much a natural close to the first story, but one in which the reader is left hanging.

I liked the lead character, young Alice, a girl left parentless, and seeking answers. She goes from being timid to gaining empowerment in her new identity. I loved her new companion, Ashes, a talking cat. It appears the writer spends quite a bit of time around cats. He has their mannerisms down pat. Isaac's relationship with Alice is intriguing, but his characterization barely scratches the surface. The villains are shadowy figures that never coalesce in this book.

There's enough here in this story to make for a series that would be worth pursuing, although there were some disappointing aspects. It will be interesting to see where the story goes next, but I hope the next book is better developed.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?