Sunday, December 10, 2017

MMGM (12/11/2017): New and Upcoming MG Books!

First, the Holiday Signed Book Extravaganza doesn't end until Tuesday, so click here to enter! Next, for today's MMGM, I have posted a list of new books to from authors of books I have previously recommended! Some of these are sequels, while some are not; most have come out, but some won't until after the holidays. Note that I have read none of these books (although I do own some of them), and this post is not a recommendation, but rather just a list of things to look forward to.

The first book I want people to know about is The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The book, which is available now, is the sequel to The War that Saved My Life, a Newbery Honor book that I reviewed here. The publisher's description is as follows:

Like the classic heroines of Sarah, Plain and TallLittle Women, and Anne of Green Gables, Ada is a fighter for the ages. Her triumphant World War II journey continues in this sequel to the Newbery Honor–winning The War that Saved My Life
 
When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. Who is she now?

World War II rages on, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, move with their guardian, Susan, into a cottage with the iron-faced Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded home is tense. Then Ruth moves in. Ruth, a Jewish girl, from
Germany. A German? Could Ruth be a spy?

As the fallout from war intensifies, calamity creeps closer, and life during wartime grows even more complicated. Who will Ada decide to be? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

Ada’s first story,
The War that Saved My Life, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second masterwork of historical fiction continues Ada’s journey of family, faith, and identity, showing us that real freedom is not just the ability to choose, but the courage to make the right choice.

The next book is also out now, and it is the sequel to Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall, which I reviewed here. The book is called Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I., Book 2), and here is its publisher's description:

“My partner scanned the message and a slow grin took over her face as she said our four favorite words: We have a case.’
HOWARD WALLACE IS BACK!
Middle-school detectives Howard Wallace and Ivy Mason are itching for a juicy case. But when their friend and cohort Marvin hires them to prove his nephew— über-bully Carl Dean—didn’t pugnap the school mascot, they’re less than thrilled. To succeed, not only must Howard and Ivy play nice with Carl, they’ll have to dodge a scrappy, snoopy reporter and come face-to-face with Howard’s worst enemy, his ex-best friend Miles Fletcher. Can Howard deal with all these complications and still be there for Ivy when her life is turned upside down? Or will he once again find himself a friendless P.I.?


One of my favorite books, Greenglass House by Kate Milford (reviewed here), now has a sequel! The book is called Ghosts of Greenglass House, and it, too, is available now. Here's the publisher's description:

Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House where thirteen-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul. 
This exciting sequel to a beloved book that was praised in a starred review as "an enchanting, empowering read" is sure to thrill both fans and newcomers. Like its predecessor, it's a smart, suspenseful tale that offers ghosts, friendships, and a cast of unforgettable characters, all wrapped up in a cozy mystery.

A series that I read about on MMGM also has a new book! This series, the Wells & Wong Mysteries by Robin Stevens (the U.S. editions are reviewed here), now has a new book, A Spoonful of Murder. Note that the series is published first in the U.K. with different covers (such as this one), so it will be released soon after the 4th book, Jolly Foul Play, will be released in the U.S. Before you read this book, which comes out on February 8, 2018 in the U.K., you will need to read Jolly Foul Play and Mistletoe and Murder (the 5th book), and you can also read the Cream Buns and Crime short story compilation. All of these can be ordered online, even from the U.S., and you can pre-order A Spoonful of Murder on Amazon.co.uk here. Here's the publisher's description (with no spoilers from the so-far-U.K.-only books):


When Hazel Wong's beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel's family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. 

But when they arrive they discover something they didn't expect: there's a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn't just the detective. She's been framed for murder! 

The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel's name - before it's too late . . . 

Finally, in what may be the most exciting news yet, authors Rebecca Stead (I have reviewed her books here and here) and Wendy Mass (I have reviewed her books here, here, and here) are collaborating on a new book called Bob, with illustrations by Nicholas Gannon! The book comes out on May 1, 2018, and the publisher's description is here:


It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who―or what―he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.

Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, two masterminds of classic, middle-grade fiction come together to craft this magical story about the enduring power of friendship.

I am certainly looking forward to reading all of these books, and I hope you are too! Next week, I will hopefully have read a book which I can review, but, until then, I thank you for continuing to read this blog through its messier periods! Also, look out for the announcement of the Holiday Signed Book Extravaganza winners, coming this week!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Introducing the first Holiday Signed Book Extravaganza!

With all of the illness I have mentioned in previous posts, I have gotten behind on school projects which are due Friday (!). Therefore, instead of posting a review today, I am starting the Holiday Signed Book Extravaganza! What does that mean? It means that you can enter to win 5 different signed MG and YA books! Here's how it works: First, read through the below list of signed books that I am offering and their publishers' descriptions, and choose the books you would like to win.



Nightfall (Keeper of the Lost Cities #6) by Shannon Messenger

Sophie and her friends face battles unlike anything they’ve seen before in this thrilling sixth book of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Sophie Foster is struggling. Grieving. Scrambling. But she knows one thing: she will not be defeated.

The Neverseen have had their victories—but the battle is far from over. It’s time to change tactics. Make sacrifices. Reexamine everything. Maybe even time for Sophie to trust her enemies.

All paths lead to Nightfall—an ominous door to an even more ominous place—and Sophie and her friends strike a dangerous bargain to get there. But nothing can prepare them for what they discover. The problems they’re facing stretch deep into their history. And with time running out, and mistakes catching up with them, Sophie and her allies must join forces in ways they never have before.

In this spectacular sixth book in the
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must uncover the truth about the Lost Cities’ insidious past, before it repeats itself and changes reality.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of 
Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.


Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humor, this graphic-novel memoir is a debut of the rarest sort.

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She's from Atlanta, she's never kissed a guy, she's into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie's savant-like proficiency at the camp's rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it's too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.


Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of peculiars was written in the Tales.

Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A fork-tongued princess. These are but a few of the truly brilliant stories in Tales of the Peculiar—the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the locations of time loops—first introduced by Ransom Riggs in his #1 bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.

Riggs now invites you to share his secrets of peculiar history, with a collection of original stories in this deluxe volume of Tales of the Peculiar, as collected and annotated by Millard Nullings, ward of Miss Peregrine and scholar of all things peculiar. Featuring stunning illustrations from world-renowned woodcut artist Andrew Davidson this compelling and truly peculiar anthology is the perfect gift for not only fans, but for all booklovers.


A perfect gift, reminiscent of classic bookmaking, this beautifully packaged volume features full-page woodcut illustrations, gold foil stamping, a ribbon, and removable back sticker.



Now that you have decided which books you would like, fill out the form below! As a courtesy to others, do not select books you do not actually want, as you may end up winning them and taking them away from those who do want them. You will be entered in a separate drawing for each book you select, so you may win more than one book. Your entry must be made using the Google Form below. Entries in any other form, such as by comment, will NOT be accepted. Comment-based entries will be deleted for your privacy. Your email address will not be published; it will only be used to, if you win, alert you and request your mailing address. Your nickname (which does not need to be your real name) WILL be published on this blog to announce who has won the giveaway. To protect the entrants' privacy, all entries will be deleted after the giveaway ends. I will close the giveaway entry form on the morning of Tuesday, December 12, 2017 (in Central Time). All entries placed before the form is closed will be accepted. If a winner does not respond with a mailing address within 48 hours after I send an e-mail requesting one, I will choose a new winner and alert the former winner. Be sure to check your spam or junk folder if you do not see my request! (P.S. When you submit, the confirmation will be at the top, so scroll up!)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

MMGM (11/27/2017): The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Sorry about not posting last week—I had an unusually bad headache. Luckily, this week, I have a recommendation for The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.




Here's the publisher's description:

For a full hour, he poured lemonade. The world is a thirsty place, he thought as he nearly emptied his fourth pitcher of the day. And I am the Lemonade King.

Fourth-grader Evan Treski is people-smart. He’s good at talking with people, even grownups. His younger sister, Jessie, on the other hand, is math-smart, but not especially good with people. So when the siblings’ lemonade stand war begins, there really is no telling who will win—or even if their fight will ever end. Brimming with savvy marketing tips for making money at any business, definitions of business terms, charts, diagrams, and even math problems, this fresh, funny, emotionally charged novel subtly explores how arguments can escalate beyond anyone’s intent.

Despite what the publisher's description says, this book is not excessively or glaringly educational and will be enjoyed by anyone of any age, from young children to MG readers to adults. Evan and Jessie are great characters with different personalities, and readers will be able to empathize with their conflict (involving both of them being in the same class, as Jessie is skipping a grade). Both Evan and Jessie's tactics to win their “war” (a competition involving profit from their lemonade stands) are interesting to read about (and, yes, educational to very young readers). As both characters make friends and money, accidentally upset each other, and feel guilt, stress, and more, readers will want to know what happens next. Best of all, when readers finish this book, they can read the four additional sequels! All in all, The Lemonade War is a great read for young kids, old kids, and adults alike!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

MMGM (11/13/2017): Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

For MMGM, I am recommending Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.




Here's the publisher's description:

Lost and alone in the forbidden Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives, binding them by an invisible thread of destiny. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. How their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

Richly imagined and structurally innovative, Echo pushes the boundaries of form and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories.

This Newbery Honor Book is incredible! One of the best things about it is the vivid portrait of the time and its hardships that it paints. The book is intertwined with subjects such as the Nazis, Japanese internment camps, orphanages, and fighting in the war. Every issue that occurs in the book, from Friedrich being pressured to take part in a Nazi-required surgery to prevent him from having kids due to a large birthmark on his face, to Mike discovering that his new adoptive mother plans to give him and his brother up, to Ivy dealing with having a sibling fighting in the war while visiting the home of a family currently in a Japanese internment camp, is handled deftly and touchingly. Every character is complex, even minor ones, and readers will root for the three major ones until the end of the book, which features an uplifting ending. The book's nearly-600 pages are not filled with text and go by quickly, making Echo one of the rare books that can teach about the past, emotionally impact its readers, and move quickly and be enjoyable to read!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

MMGM giveaway winners!

I've finally gotten around to choosing the two winners of my giveaway of The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron, and here they are! The winners are . . .


Danielle H.


and


Greg!


Congratulations! If you are one of the above winners, check your email (including spam or junk folders) and reply to my email with a mailing address within 48 hours. Thanks to all who have entered in my giveaway (I noticed some new entrants as well as some familiar ones), and be on the lookout for my upcoming holiday giveaway, which will feature several signed MG and YA books!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

MMGM (11/6/2017): Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan

As you may have noticed, I have taken an unusual amount of breaks from blogging recently. I decided that, this week, I needed to post a review. However, this week, I (of course) got sick, so I apologize in advance if this review is a mess! Before my recommendation (which is for Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan, author of the famous novel Sarah, Plain and Tall), however, I would like to remind my readers that my giveaway of two signed copies of The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron closes this Tuesday, so be sure to enter here if you haven't already.




Here's the publisher's description:

From the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall comes a story about one brave girl who saves her family from losing everything. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls this lyrical tale “melodic, poetic, and enchanting.”

Everyone in Lucy’s family sings. Opera. Rap. Lullabies. Everyone, except Lucy. Lucy can’t sing; her voice won’t come out.

Just like singing, helping Aunt Frankie prepare for flooding season is a family tradition—even if Frankie doesn’t want the help. And this year, when the flood arrives and danger finds its way into the heart of Lucy’s family, Lucy will need to find her voice to save her brother.

Fly Away is a short book with large font (aimed at younger readers), but it still packs in much meaning and emotion. Every character is distinct and rich, from Lucy, who is upset that she is a bad singer and wants to write poems, and Gracie and Teddy, Lucy's younger siblings with their own personalities and development, to the adults in the story, such as the siblings' Aunt Frankie. The setting of Aunt Frankie's house is vivid and well-described, and, although Fly Away may seem simple at first, every moment is touching and vital to the story. From moments where we learn more about a character or how s/he has changed to simple events of everyday life, every part of this book is incredible. Although my mind refuses to think of anything more to say, Fly Away is an amazing book that everyone will come out of with hope and positive thoughts.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

MMGM Giveaway: (10/30/2017): Win one of two signed copies of The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron!

I have no review for MMGM today, but to make up for it, I am giving away not one, but two signed copies of The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron!




Here's the publisher's description:

In the tradition of Edward Eager and E.L. Konigsburg, a novel about the excitement—and the dangers—of wishing.

Tess and her brother, Max, are sent for the summer to their aunt’s sleepy village in the English countryside, where excitement is as rare as a good wifi signal. So when Tess stumbles upon an old brass key that unlocks an ornately carved gate, attached to a strangely invisible wall, she jumps at the chance for adventure. And the world beyond the gate doesn’t disappoint. She finds rose gardens, a maze made of hedges, and a boy named William who is just as lonely as she is.

But at William’s castle, strange things begin to happen. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s eerie warning: Beware of the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.

In a magical, fantasy world that blurs the line between reality and imagination, readers are left to wonder exactly what they’d wish for if wishes could come true. Perfect for fans of Half Magic and The Secret Garden—and for anyone who’s ever wondered if magic is real.

If this book sounds interesting, then enter the giveaway below! To allow more than one person to win a signed copy, the winner of the giveaway will win one copy only. Two winners will be chosen randomly from those who enter the contest by filling out the Google Form below. Entries in any other form, such as by comment, will NOT be accepted. Comment-based entries will be deleted for your privacy. Your email address will not be published; it will only be used to, if you win, alert you and request your mailing address. Your nickname (which does not need to be your real name) WILL be published on this blog to announce who has won the giveaway. To protect the entrants' privacy, all entries will be deleted after the giveaway ends. I will close the giveaway entry form on the morning of Tuesday, November 7, 2017 (in Central Time). All entries placed before the form is closed will be accepted. If a winner does not respond with a mailing address within 48 hours after I send an e-mail requesting one, I will choose a new winner and alert the former winner. Be sure to check your spam or junk folder if you do not see my request! (P.S. When you submit, the confirmation will be at the top, so scroll up!)

 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

MMGM (10/23/2017): Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

For MMGM, I am recommending Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.




Here's the publisher's description:

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

This book is incredible! I should say now that this book is much sadder than many of the others that I have recommended recently. However, that, of course, does not diminish how touching it is. Crenshaw deftly portrays a financially troubled family, with children very aware of what their parents are not telling them. As Jackson, the narrator, both describes what is happening to his family presently and their past experience of living in their car, readers will understand, more than ever, what this family and similar ones in the real world are going through. Crenshaw, Jackson's realistic imaginary friend from the past who returns during the book, adds a touch of humor and warmth to the novel, as do Jackson's family members and friend, Marisol. Crenshaw is a book that everyone should read for its incredible depiction of real-life struggles, compelling characters, and sheer display of hope in the world.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

MMGM (10/16/2017): The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline

For MMGM, I am recommending The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (author of other books I have enjoyed, such as those here and here), with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline.




Here's the publisher's description:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.

And then, one day, he was lost.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hoboes' camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle -- that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER is now available in paperback! This timeless tale by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, complete with stunning illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline, honors the enduring power of love.

This book is simply incredible! When I first bought it, I promptly read it in 2 hours. While looking at it again for this review, I found myself sucked in and deeply touched by the end (even more so than when I first read it). The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is very fast-paced, but an incredible amount of impact is packed into each place where Edward ends up. Some places Edward enjoys, some he does not, and some he cares deeply about. One of the best parts of this book is simply how true the depictions of love and the loss of someone are. Many books try valiantly, but few convey the same amount of emotion that this book does. However, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is not so depressing that you can’t keep reading. The plot also helps pull the reader through, with an abundance of cliffhangers that will most likely force you into reading this book as quickly as I did! Everyone who reads The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane will come out of it deeply changed, making it a perfect book for any age, from young child to old adult!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

MMGM (10/9/2017): A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

For MMGM, I am recommending A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.




Here's the publisher's description:

An award-winning book from the author of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and The Candymakers for fans for of Wonder and Counting by Sevens

Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. Forced to reveal her condition, she must look to herself to develop an understanding and appreciation of her gift in this coming-of-age novel.

I love this book! One of the best parts of this book was getting to learn about the rare condition of synesthesia. The book is clearly well-researched, and readers will learn about synesthesia’s qualities, both good and bad. The book also has interesting characters with strengths and flaws. Although Mia makes mistakes throughout the book, she is still a good person who readers will like. The book deals with many complex themes, such as how people deal with death and how much people can care about pets. The book never slows down, with various events constantly happening that affect Mia in different ways, changing her immensely by the end of the book. Different parts of the book may show Mia’s relationship with her siblings or her friends, her dealing with synesthesia, or her dealing with the loss of her grandfather. This book is both heartbreaking and incredibly enjoyable, and every reader will love it by the end!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

No posts this week!

In the interest of enjoying the remaining few hours of my busy weekend, I will, unfortunately, not be posting anything this week. I will most likely have more posts next week (and a signed book giveaway coming up), so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

MMGM (9/25/2017): Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

For MMGM, I am recommending Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George.




Here's the publisher's description:

See where it all began with Jessica Day George's magical bestselling series!  

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

I really enjoyed this book! One of my favorite things about it is how original its premise is. The author has taken what seem to be common elements of books, such as magic and royalty, and made a unique mash-up of them, helping to keep the plot interesting and unexpected. Of course, this is helped by the fact that the book moves quickly through many interesting events. Conspiracies are uncovered, people are trapped, and the castle's magic creates many fun twists and turns. Even as the plot rushes forward, however, the characters remain full of life and emotions, never becoming dull or caricatures of themselves. The main character, Celie, is especially likable, never becoming too much like an adult but still rising up in the face of a challenge. Although this book is part of a series, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, so you can read it as a standalone book (I felt that the second book in the series went too slowly, but people have enjoyed the later books, so it may be worth it to read the whole series). Whether you read it by itself or along with the rest of the series, Tuesdays at the Castle is a wonderfully fun book for readers of all ages!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

MMGM (9/18/2017): The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

For MMGM, I am recommending The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.




Here's the publisher's description:

It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

The Graveyard Book, a modern classic, is the only work to ever win both the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) medals. A New York Times bestseller.

I love this book! There are so many things I could talk about, but here are the major ones. Firstly, the characters are very well-rounded, with interesting backstories (some of which are initially mysteries to the reader) and personalities. Bod, even though he does make mistakes, is still a likable main character. Also, the writing of The Graveyard Book is great. It has its own personality (just like in another of Gaiman's books that I enjoyed, Coraline), making every part of the book interesting. There is enjoyable description which makes scenes vivid and often adds a sense of creepiness. Finally, the plot of the book is great. There are subplots, twists, and climactic scenes that keep the reader on the edge of their seat. All in all, The Graveyard Book is a fabulous novel that absolutely deserves both the Newbery Medal that it won and the love of readers everywhere!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

MMGM (9/11/2017): Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

For MMGM, I am recommending Heartbeat by Sharon Creech.




Here's the publisher's description:

Run run run.

That's what twelve-year-old Annie loves to do. When she's barefoot and running, she can hear her heart beating . . . thump-Thump, thump-Thump. It's a rhythm that makes sense in a year when everything's shifting: Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is forgetful, and her best friend, Max, is always moody. Everything changes over time, just like the apple Annie's been assigned to draw. But as she watches and listens, Annie begins to understand the many rhythms of life, and how she fits within them.

I loved everything about this book! One of my favorite things about it was the writing. The main character, Annie, has a realistic voice which is both thoughtful and down-to-earth, and the writing is expressed in beautiful, rhythmic verse. Scenes are described vividly, as are the emotions contained within them (unsurprising, since Creech has written many amazing books, including Newbery Medal-winning Walk Two Moons). The book has a great plot as well, never dragging on as it jumps from one topic to another, dealing with aging, friendship, and new siblings, with added extras thrown in (such as running or drawing an apple). Heartbeat is not very long (only 180 pages of verse in large font), but each chapter is a touching moment. Everyone who is lucky enough to read this book will definitely enjoy it!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Poetry Sunday: Three poems! (no MMGM)

I have no MMGM this week, since I have had no time to read or reread a book. However, to make up for it, I am recommending three poems for Poetry Sunday! The first is "The Panther" by Rainer Maria Rilke, the second is "After Apple-Picking" by Robert Frost, and the third is poem 449 ("I died for Beauty — but was scarce . . . " by Emily Dickinson. I hope you enjoy these!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

MMGM (8/28/2017): The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

For MMGM, I am recommending The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd.




Here's the publisher's description:

Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians — every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream. For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down. But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task: finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors, including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost? With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinary cements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

I really enjoyed this book! One of the best parts about it are the characters. Emma is a fun, likable character, and almost all of the cast is kind and cares deeply about one another. In addition, The Key to Extraordinary features a very vivid setting (a small town called Blackbird Hollow). Featuring interesting flowers and rumors of ghosts, the town and all of the places in it make the book gripping and immersive. Finally, the plot of the book is fabulous. It never drags on or moves too quickly, and it feature many different events, some of which have to do with Emma, and some with others. There is a great balance of magic and realism, many interesting discoveries, and a delightful ending. The Key to Extraordinary is an amazing book that no one will want to put down!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No posts this week!

Since I went back to school on Monday, I had very little time to read or think, so I will not post anything this week. I should be back to normal by the upcoming weekend (but no promises)! I hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Poetry Sunday (8/13/2017): "I Will Sing You One-O" by Robert Frost

I've been reading a lot of Robert Frost poems lately, so, for today's Poetry Sunday post, I am recommending his poem, "I Will Sing You One-O." I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

MMGM (8/14/2017): El Deafo by Cece Bell

For MMGM, I am recommending El Deafo by Cece Bell.




Here's the publisher's description:

Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

Several years ago, I read El Deafo, a graphic novel and winner of a Newbery Honor, in one sitting. Years later, it had stuck with me, which is why I am recommending it today. I have so many positive things to say about it. Firstly, I love the story, which is based on the author's childhood as she navigated her life with little hearing and conspicuous hearing aids. The writing and illustrations combined paint a very vivid picture of both struggling in everyday life and of having trouble being accepted by others. Also, I love the art style of the book, which seems to depict the characters as rabbits (which one can tell by looking at the ironically large ears) and adds a touch of whimsy to the book. In fact, El Deafo is never overly sad, which makes it even more realistic, enjoyable, and powerful. Young children will enjoy the depictions of childhood and will understand the message, while older children and adults will appreciate the narration of the book, seeming to come straight from the author, and will still feel touched by the book's theme of accepting one's differences and making the best of them.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MMGM (8/7/2017) Classic Critique: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If you were reading this blog several months ago, you might remember that I did a post in a new style I called Classic Critique, where I list the pros and cons of a famous book. Today, I am critiquing To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (which I wholeheartedly recommend). First, however, I would like to tell you that today is the one-year anniversary of Completely Full Bookshelf! I first posted on this blog on August 7, 2016, when I recommended When You Reach Me. I would like to thank all of the authors of the books that I loved so much, and I would also like to thank all of my readers, old and new, for giving me a supportive audience to recommend books to. Now, to the review!




Pros:
  • The characters. One of the best parts of To Kill a Mockingbird is the characters. Scout is a great main character who learns as the story goes on and whose adult self looks back on her child self without either looking down on her or seeming like she hasn't changed at all. Scout's older brother, Jem, annoys Scout at times but is still a good person, and Scout's father, Atticus, is both very wise and is a unique parent. Readers will also like some of the townsfolk, such as Maudie Atkinson.
  • A plot that moves. Many classic books that I have read drag on without any thing happening. To Kill a Mockingbird is a welcome exception to that statement. No events are rushed, but none are focused on for longer than they need to be. Also, none of the plot events are boring or particularly depressing (some are sad, but they don't emphasize it).
  • The ending. The main plot point of To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't have the happiest ending. However, rather than ending with a clichéd message of hope (which would have been fine, but not great), one final event happens that shapes the entire end of the story and makes the reader forget all about the preceding hardships (at least in the moment).
  • The writing. To Kill a Mockingbird is simply a well-written book. No sentences are awkward, and the book has a great mix of beauty and humor. There are great metaphors (such as the one in the title) and great descriptions both of scenery and, often, of the behavior of society.
  • The messages about race and gender roles. To seal the deal, To Kill a Mockingbird has great messages as well. Some of these are about race (Atticus, a lawyer, is defending an African-American man in court, and the book discusses both how racism is wrong and how not as many people are racist as we think), and some of these are about gender roles (when Scout's aunt comes to live with her family, she is constantly appalled by Scout's behavior, which involves playing outside and wearing overalls instead of dresses). These messages add to an already great book to create one that is worthy of all of the praise it has gained over the years.

Cons:
  • Sometimes, even people Scout's own age seem wiser than her. I doubt that everyone will agree with my cons, but I'm still writing them down anyway. During the book, Scout is not nearly as wise as those older than her when it comes to racism. However, over the course of the book, Jem, who is just a few years older than Scout, and Scout and Jem's friend Dill, who is of a similar age, are both upset over racism, while Scout isn't, really. This casts a somewhat negative light over Scout, which is jarring.
  • One particular sexist moment. One other moment in To Kill a Mockingbird bothered me as well. At one point, Atticus is explaining to Scout that women aren't allowed to serve as jurors. However, rather than condemning this practice, he condoned it, with his reason being the usual "women are fragile" lie. In addition, he also jokes that, if women served as jurors, they would constantly be interrupting. Both of these got to me. Although everyone is flawed, I have always found prejudice to be worse than many other flaws, and, with Atticus being one of the few people who isn't racist throughout the course of the book, these comments were very strange and somewhat upsetting.

Verdict:
To Kill a Mockingbird isn't perfect, but no book is. It is still an incredible story that any reader will remember for the course of their life and come out of feeling changed for the better. Although some classics are only famous for being good in their time, To Kill a Mockingbird is still better than many books published today, and it probably will be forever.

Poetry Sunday (8/6/2017): "Good Hours" by Robert Frost

Since my blog is turning one year old tomorrow, I decided to be a more responsible blogger and resume my Poetry Sunday posts. Today, I am recommending "Good Hours" by Robert Frost. I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

MMGM (7/31/2017): Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

For MMGM, I am recommending Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins.




Here's the publisher's description:

In a world of elite magic academies, weird and wonderful things happen when you're sent off to public school...and put in the Upside-Down Magic class. 

It's never easy when your magic goes wonky.

For Nory, this means that instead of being able to turn into a dragon or a kitten, she turns into both of them at the same time-a dritten.

For Elliott, the simple act of conjuring fire from his fingertips turns into a fully frozen failure.

For Andres, wonky magic means he's always floating in the air, bouncing off the walls, or sitting on the ceiling.

For Bax, a bad moment of magic will turn him into a . . . actually, he'd rather not talk about that.

Nory, Elliott, Andres, and Bax are just four of the students in Dunwiddle Magic School's Upside-Down Magic class. In their classroom, lessons are unconventional, students are unpredictable, and magic has a tendency to turn wonky at the worst possible moments. Because it's always amazing, the trouble a little wonky magic can cause . . .

I really enjoyed this book, seeing as how I read it in 2 days (although it is short) and have already started the first sequel (book 4 will come out this January)! The main character of the book is Nory, a girl who lives in a world where everyone has some sort of magic powers. Nory's powers, like those of many others in the book, allow her to turn into different animals, but, unlike the powers of others, these animals are usually not one animal, but a blend (such as the dragon-kitten combination, or "dritten," shown on the cover). In addition, Nory often loses control over her animal forms to pure instinct. For these reasons, Nory does not get into the private magic school run by her father, who sends her away from her family to live with her aunt and go to a public school. During the course of the book, Nory struggles with being away from her family and having trouble in her class, but she also starts to like her aunt, teacher, and classmates and learns that her powers, despite being judged and ridiculed by many, can actually be useful. All of the characters in Upside-Down Magic are fully fleshed-out (even the bullies), and the plot never drags on, instead moving quickly thanks to the book's short size. Although this book is aimed at 5th or 6th graders, who will definitely enjoy it, older readers will still love the messages and characters and want to try the sequels A.S.A.P.!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

MMGM (7/24/2017): The Wells & Wong Mystery series (Murder Is Bad Manners, etc.) by Robin Stevens

For MMGM, I am recommending the Wells & Wong Mystery series (Murder Is Bad Manners, Poison Is Not Polite, and First Class Murder) by Robin Stevens.




(Note: The cover shown is for Murder Is Bad Manners.)

Here's the publisher's description for the first book in the series, Murder Is Bad Manners:

Two friends form a detective agency—and must solve their first murder case—in this “sharp-witted debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) that is the first adventure in a brand-new middle grade mystery series set at a 1930s boarding school.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are best friends at Deepdean School for Girls, and they both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? They have nothing to investigate.

But that changes once Hazel discovers the body of their science teacher, Miss Bell—and the body subsequently disappears. She and Daisy are certain a murder must have taken place, and they can think of more than one person with a motive.

Determined to get to the bottom of the crime—and to prove that it happened—before the killer strikes again, Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects, and use all the cunning, scheming, and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?


Some books are meant to be digested slowly and carefully, while others are designed to pull the reader through at lightning-speed and get them interested. Murder Is Bad Manners and its sequels fall into the latter category. This series (which I heard about from fellow MMGMers Michael Gettel-Gilmartin and Sue Kooky) combines a well-thought-out, intriguing murder mystery with the story of two very-different best friends in 1930s Great Britain. One of the best parts of this series is the characters. The two main characters are Daisy Wells, a popular girl at her boarding school who secretly decides to become a detective, and Hazel Wong (the narrator), a girl from Hong Kong who is befriended by Daisy and dragged into being her assistant. Daisy and Hazel have very different personalities (Daisy is impulsive, while Hazel is thoughtful) and sometimes fight, but this only adds to making their friendship seem very realistic. Both characters have their own struggles, such as family relationships and, in Hazel's case, standing out because of race, and these are well-illustrated in the series, especially the later books. Another part of the series that I love is each mystery. Filled with clues, twists, and both relevant and irrelevant secrets, the mysteries will grab the attention of any reader and leave them both shocked and pleased at the end. The series uses just the right amount of foreshadowing, making it challenging, but possible, to guess the ending. Finally, the victims and suspects are very realistic and compelling as well. The books in the Wells & Wong Mystery series will be enjoyed by both child and adult alike, with just the right balance of real-world elements and dramatic mystery.
 
Note: The books in the Wells & Wong Mystery series were originally published by Penguin Random House in the United Kingdom, where it is known as the Murder Most Unladylike series. The books were then republished in the United States by Simon & Schuster. Book 4 (Jolly Foul Play) has been released in the U.K., and it will be released in the U.S. in April. Book 5 (Mistletoe and Murder) has been released in the U.K., but U.S. publication has not been announced. The same has occurred for the short story compilation Cream Buns and Crime (which contains the Deepdean Mini-Mysteries shown on Robin Stevens's website), and will most likely occur again for the untitled, but announced, book 6. A list of books is available on Robin Stevens's website, robin-stevens.co.uk.

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!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

MMGM (5/29/2017): The Year of the Book, written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Abigail Halpin

For MMGM, I am recommending The Year of the Book, written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Abigail Halpin.




Here's the publisher's description:

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated.  

When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world.  

Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

I really enjoyed this book! Although it is aimed more towards the younger end of the middle grade spectrum, it can be appreciated by anyone of any age. One focus of the book is on friendship, as Anna makes a new friend and copes with her friend Laura's befriending of two popular kids who aren't particularly nice to anyone, including Laura. Anna's family, particularly her mother, struggles with acclimating to the United States after immigrating from China. Anna is often embarrassed by her mother's struggles with English and job cleaning apartments as she goes to college. Laura also has family struggles, as her parents often fight, and her father often breaks things and has been kicked out of the house. The Year of the Book is a very enjoyable read, and Anna, despite making many mistakes, is a likable protagonist and narrator. All in all, The Year of the Book is a great read that discusses many important topics (and has several sequels)!

Poetry Sunday (5/28/2017): "Summer Storm" by Dana Gioia

For Poetry Sunday, I am recommending "Summer Storm" by Dana Gioia. I hope you enjoy it!

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!