Saturday, May 20, 2017

MMGM (5/22/2017): Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

For MMGM, I am recommending Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar.




(This cover is the redesigned version for the paperback.)

Here's the publisher's description:

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move her grandfather into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots.

I really enjoyed this book. One of my favorite things about it is the amount of major topics that it discusses. Carol's family is Hispanic, and her grandfather, who suffers from dementia, tries to convince her to be proud of her heritage and ethnicity. This ties in to Grandpa Serge's home, since Carol's family is moving Serge, who suffers from dementia, out of his long-time home and into a nursing facility. One major point of the book is Carol's deciphering of her grandfather's stories as she determines whether they are real or figments of his dementia. The author describes Serge's home and its desert location extremely well, combining majesty and torture (i.e. the heat). The book, narrated by Carol, is an enjoyable read, and it is not particularly depressing, despite discussing things that are exactly that. The book's small cast of characters allows each one to shine. Finally, the ending is amazing, being extremely unexpected and both sad and enjoyable. Hour of the Bees is a unique book that will be enjoyed by nearly everyone!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

MMGM (5/15/2017): Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

For MMGM, I am recommending Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass.




(Note: The cover was redesigned when a movie based on this book was released.)

Here's the publisher's description:

Jeremy Fink has been obsessed with the meaning of life ever since a box from his father arrived at his house five years after his father was killed in a car accident. Jeremy is determined to find the missing keys that will open the box that supposedly contains the meaning of life. Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy make it their summer quest to get inside the mysterious box. But after getting into some trouble, they get stuck doing community service together, helping an antique shop owner deliver things to different parts of the city. It turns out that these deliveries aren't always ordered, the recipients react unexpectedly, some with anger, some with tears. As Jeremy and Lizzy's summer adventures continue, they begin to discover the meaning of life and themselves along with it. 

As with the first book of Wendy Mass's that I reviewed (here), I love this book! One of my favorite things about it is how uplifting it is. Even through struggles or conflict, the book is resolutely hopeful and always enjoyable to read. Another great thing about it is the characters. The main character and narrator, Jeremy, has a very unique voice that shows as he ponders life or just talks about his collection of "mutant candy," and his best friend and total opposite, Lizzy, is a great character as well. Finally, I love the unique plot of this book. Jeremy and Lizzy try to open the box from Jeremy's father by searching for the 4 keys needed to open it, and they also ask people what the meaning of life is during their community service (or even outside of it). The twist at the end is amazing, and it seals my love of this book, which everyone should read!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

MMGM (5/8/2017): Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh

For MMGM, I am recommending Flying Lessons & Other Stories by various authors, and edited by Ellen Oh.




Flying Lessons & Other Stories is not a typical middle grade book. It is a collection of short stories from various middle-grade authors, some new and some well-known, with an emphasis on diversity. This is not shocking, considering that the book is affiliated with We Need Diverse Books (a cofounder of which, Ellen Oh, edited the book). I love this book! Each story is interesting, usually being about 20 pages, the perfect length for their plots. It is very satisfying to read short stories by some of my favorite authors, such as Grace Lin (whose books I have recommended here and here).   Several of the authors are even Newbery winners! I also love the diversity of the stories, especially since it is actually a major part of each story, as opposed to simply being a meaningless statement that does not change the story. This book is perfect for anyone, whether in school or just as a personal read, and makes a powerful statement about the importance of diversity in books.

Poetry Sunday (5/7/2017): "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke

For Poetry Sunday, I am recommending "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

MMGM (5/1/2017): All the Answers by Kate Messner

For MMGM, I am recommending All the Answers by Kate Messner.




Here's the publisher's description:

What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil, she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear. 

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only--those with definite right or wrong answers--but won't predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava's confidence grows with each answer. But it's getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava's family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers . . .

This book has become one of my all-time favorites. I love the premise, the characters, and the fun (and horrible) revelations, but most of all, I love this book's depiction of anxiety. As someone who has anxiety, I can relate to how the main character, Ava, often worries, whether about her family or her safety on a particularly nerve-wracking school field trip. Ava's worries and how she is sometimes trapped in them, nearing full-blown panic, or overcoming them, finally convincing herself to do things, is so realistic that it seems just like a vivid memory. I love how Ava's relationship with the pencil is both good, allowing Ava to help others, such as at her grandfather's nursing home, and bad, allowing Ava to answer her worries, some of which are true, making her worry more in anticipation and dread. Finally, I love how this book manages many complex topics, as well as many smaller ones, to create an incredibly realistic depiction of life and of a person with anxiety. (Even despite the magic pencil!) This book is amazingly written and so enjoyable to read, whether through the true-to-life sad parts or the truly uplifting happy ones.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

MMGM (4/24/2017): Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

For MMGM, I am recommending Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol.




Here's the publisher's description:

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn't kidding about the "forever" part . . . 
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who's been dead for a century. 
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs. 
Or so she thinks. 
Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya's Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut graphic novel from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel! It is a very quick read (I read it in about an hour), as well as a very fun one. The main character, Anya, has a family who has only lived in America for several years, having come from Russia. Anya smokes in an attempt to seem cool, and she isn't a good student. Just a few pages in, Anya falls down a well, where she meets the ghost of someone who died in the well. Anya and the ghost become fast friends, at least until they have a falling out and Anya discovers something shocking about the ghost. Although Anya makes many mistakes, she is a likable character, and she is very realistic. I also enjoyed the book's theme, which is mainly about how we perceive people as having better lives than we do, when that may not be true. Finally, I love the art style of this book, which is drawn mainly in black and white, although the black has more of a purple look to it. All in all, Anya's Ghost is an entertaining, thoughtful, and just-creepy-enough read!

Poetry Sunday (4/23/2017): "Rain" by Mary Oliver

If you've ever read my early Poetry Sunday posts, you might be aware that I often recommended Mary Oliver poems. Today, however, I finally get to recommend my favorite, which I don't think was legally available online until now: "Rain" by Mary Oliver. I hope you enjoy it!