Saturday, July 15, 2017

MMGM (7/17/2017): From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

For MMGM, I am recommending a classic: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.




Here's the book's description:

Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away . . . so she decided to run not from somewhere but to somewhere—somewhere large, warm, comfortable, and beautiful. And that was how Claudia and her brother, Jamie, ended up living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and right in the middle of a mystery that made headlines.
     Forty years ago, two motion pictures, and millions of devoted fans later, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler remains a modern classic, a favorite of children and adults alike. 

(Note: This description is from my 10-year-old copy of the book. Actually, the book is turning 50 this year!)

I read this book several years ago, and, just like people did 50 years ago (it was published in 1967 and later won a Newbery Medal), loved it! There are so many things I could say about it, but I'll try to limit myself. Firstly, the format of the story is very interesting. The narrator is actually Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as she recounts the story of Claudia and Jamie for her lawyer. Her frequent interruptions to tell him something are amusing, and her narration is enjoyable. Claudia and Jamie are spectacular characters as well, seeming like both children (which they are) and intelligent adults (which they try to act like). The setting of the story, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (as it was during the 1960s), is very vivid, and its description shows why Claudia wanted to run away there. Claudia's internal conflict is set up very well, and Claudia is shown to change, as a person, throughout the course of the book. This book (which actually allowed Konigsburg to become the only person to win a Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor in the same year) is a classic for good reason, and even children and adults who wouldn't normally enjoy such a book will find themselves sucked in and happy from beginning to end.

Friday, July 7, 2017

MMGM (7/10/2017): The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

For MMGM, I am recommending The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart.




Here's the publisher's description:

Before there was a Mysterious Benedict Society, there was simply a boy named Nicholas Benedict. Meet the boy who started it all....

Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but also he has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he's sent to a new orphanage, where he encounters vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances -- and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he has one important thing in his favor: He's a genius. 

On his quest to solve the mystery, Nicholas finds enemies around every corner, but also friends in unexpected places -- and discovers along the way that the greatest puzzle of all is himself.

As a fan of the Mysterious Benedict Society series (whose first book I recommended here), I was excited to read the series's prequel, and I'm glad I did — I liked it even more than the series, if that's possible! Just like with the main series, one of my favorite parts of The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is the great writing, which is sometimes humorous, sometimes emotional, and always enjoyable. Nicholas, the main character, has both realistic flaws and many more good qualities, making him an extremely likable character. Two friends that he makes over the course of the book, John and Violet, are also very complex people, and even minor characters, such as some of the staff at the orphanage where Nicholas lives, have very realistic traits. The setting of the orphanage is well-described, and the plot is packed full of many different events, preventing the book from ever once becoming dull. Finally, the book tackles many interesting themes, such as bullying, family, and whether the world is actually as selfish as we think. This book is both a great insight into one of The Mysterious Benedict Society's best characters and just, overall, an extremely enjoyable read!



Sunday, July 2, 2017

No posts this week!

Due to July 4th, I will not be posting either a Poetry Sunday post (which I will do again soon!) or an MMGM review. I hope everyone has a great July 4th!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MMGM (6/26/2017): Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

For MMGM, I am recommending Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker.




Here's the publisher's description:

“If it wasn’t for the fused-with-Zyx thing, I suppose I would just be normal—whatever that means.”

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Told in an unforgettable voice full of heart and humor,
Felix Yz is a groundbreaking story about how we are all separate, but all connected too.

Before I tell you all of the ways in which I loved this book, I first want to tell you that I originally heard about this book in a review by fellow MMGMer Greg Pattridge on his blog, Always in the Middle. (If you haven't been to his blog before, I suggest you do so immediately!) I am so glad that I bought this book for so many reasons! In the book, a teacher of Felix's explains to him that he has his own writing voice, which set the bar high for me, as a reader. Luckily, I was not disappointed! The way the sentences are written and the words used, you can practically hear Felix narrating the story. As you've probably noticed if you've read the description, Felix Yz has a very unique premise. The premise only gets more unique as the book goes on, however, with many other things, including an adventure-related plot point, coming into play. Even things that might be expected are still done well, such as Felix's often-humorous interactions with Zyx that lighten up some of the more depressing scenes. Finally, one of the book's major topics is gender. From characters who love others of the same gender (including Felix) to one who changes gender often and even a minor transgender character, Felix Yz shows that not conforming to gender norms is perfectly okay and irrelevant to who you are as a person. Every reader will find something to love or relate to in Felix Yz, making it a truly amazing read for anyone!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

MMGM (6/29/2017): Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

For MMGM, I am recommending Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.




Here's the publisher's description:

“Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.” —Kirkus Reviews

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

I really enjoyed this book! This book discusses a topic found in few books: dyslexia. The main character, Ally, has, but is not diagnosed with, dyslexia, making it hard for her to do schoolwork and even read a menu (as seen in one point in the book). As a relative of someone with dyslexia, I find the portrayal of Ally's symptoms and struggles very realistic. The book also discusses topics such as bullying (a girl named Shay relentlessly makes fun of Ally) and friendship (Ally befriends two kids, Keisha and Albert, who also deal with Shay). The characters in Fish in a Tree are fully fleshed out, from bullies and classmates to Ally's teacher, Mr. Daniels, who helps her overcome both her dyslexia and her shame because of it. In addition, the book strikes a perfect balance between happy and sad moments. All in all, Fish in a Tree is both a great description of dyslexia and an enjoyable read for anyone!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

MMGM (6/12/2017): Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

For MMGM, I am recommending Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.




Here's the description from the back of the book:

When ten-year-old India Opal Buloni moves to Naomi, Florida, with her father, she doesn't know what to expect — least of all that she'll adopt Winn-Dixie, a dog she names after the supermarket where they meet. With such an unusually friendly dog at her side, Opal soon finds herself making more than a few unusual friends. And soon, Opal and her father realize — with a little help from Winn-Dixie, of course — that while they've both tasted a bit of melancholy in their lives, they still have a whole lot to be thankful for.

One of the best parts about Because of Winn-Dixie is the varied lineup of characters, all of whom are central to the book. Some much younger than Opal and some much older, all of them have their own voices and troubles. Even Winn-Dixie is so well described, he seems to come to life. The book has several lessons in it, such as the importance of ignoring people's past actions and focusing on their present ones, or even just the awfulness of wars. The main character, Opal, has a great voice, and her backstory of having a mother who is not dead, but has left, is refreshing. The book is a short, quick read (being much shorter than another book by DiCamillo that I recommended, Raymie Nightingale) that is very enjoyable and not too sad. Anyone who reads Because of Winn-Dixie (a Newbery Honor Book), whether child or adult, is sure to love it as much as I did!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

MMGM (6/5/2017): The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

For MMGM, I am recommending The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm.




Here's the publisher's description:

Believe in the possible . . . with this New York Times bestseller by three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm. A perfect Father’s Day read about a child’s relationship with her grandfather! 

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer. Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far? 

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this gawky teenager really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth? 

With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility. Look for EXCLUSIVE NEW MATERIAL in the paperback—including Ellie’s gallery of scientists and other STEM-appropriate features.

This book is great! One thing that I love about it is its combination of life lessons (such as about the circle of life and about how scientific discoveries can change the world, for better or worse) and a story that is often funny and optimistic. The premise of the book (of someone reverting to a younger age and wanting to reveal the discovery so that people can avoid old age) is very unique and interesting, but the book is not really a science-fiction book, as opposed to a realistic story with some science-fiction thrown in. The book's main character, Ellie, is a great narrator for the story, and the way her life changes (such as by making new friends and losing old ones) is another great part of the book. The Fourteenth Goldfish is a great read with many important things to say!