Tales from Adventureland #1: The Keymaster’s Quest (Jason Lethcoe)

22 Nov

If you love visiting Disney parks, especially Adventureland and the Enchanted Tiki Room, and your heart is eager to go on a little adventure, then this is the book for you!

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest Squinklethoughts

1.  The Keymaster’s Quest is a fast-paced adventure that grabs you from the very start.  I’m really glad that there wasn’t a whole lot of downtime in between chase scenes and fight scenes and escape scenes.  That meant that I didn’t skim quickly through any particular part: I was riveted to the story the whole way through.  From a mansion in Oregon to the waters of the Pacific Ocean (literally) and onto the Hawaiian islands, readers journey alongside Andy Stanley as he fulfills his grandfather’s mission.

2.  I love how awkward and clumsy Andy is.  These qualities make him someone you really want to root for.  It also makes for an excellent protagonist in a story that is so quintessentially a bildungsroman.  Not that that is what my students will pay attention to.  They’ll just love how awkward Andy is and how funny he can be … and maybe how there’s a little bit of him in all of them.

3.  I wasn’t all that pleased that Andy leaves for his adventure without personally talking to his parents.  I know it’s important for the main parental figures to get out of the way so that the adventures can truly start, but I still would’ve liked to see him make a phone call or something to let his mom know he’s okay.

4.  What a great location for a story – the Polynesian islands!  There’s so much natural beauty and, of course, potential traps put into place by ancient magic.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve always loved stories based in Hawaii, but it was really hard not to lap up every detail of the islands that Lethcoe offers.  I loved reading about Pele, Kapu, the menehune, and all the other magical island dwellers in the story.

5.  Ned Lostmore’s friends are a hoot!  I so want to know more about them and how they came to be part of the Explorers’ Society.  I’m particularly enamoured with Madame Wiki.  She seems like she’s got quite a story to tell.

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest 2  

6.  This is the first book in a series, but I’m not entirely sure how long the series will last.  On his website, Lethcoe alludes to the idea of a trilogy, but three books really aren’t enough!  I really hope there are way more stories based on the various rides and lands in the Disney Parks.  I think a Jungle-Cruise-themed adventure is up next (or soon), and I’m so ready for that!

7.  I really wanted some Dole Whip while I was reading this story.  I can’t wait for more Disney adventures this Christmas.

8.  Teachers/parents, this is an excellent story to add to your shelves.  Even if your kids are not as Disnerdy as I am, they’ll still love Andy’s adventures.  What really drives this story is Andy himself whom Lethcoe brilliantly colours as sweet and smart and sensitive.  He’s exactly what many kids are at his age, and his lack of certainty mixed with his stalwart desire to be brave is both heartwarming and encouraging.  I’m sure many kids will find a kindred spirit in Andy.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Jason Lethcoe’s Online Corners
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Disney Books, for sending me a copy of Tales from Adventureland: The Keymaster’s Quest in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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The Magic Misfits (Neil Patrick Harris)

21 Nov

I love everything about The Magic Misfits – from its title to the cover art to the fact that it’s written by one of my favourite actors ever.  This is a completely magical read that I finished in one sitting and has left me hungry for more.

 

Magic Misfits Squinklethoughts

1.  The Magic Misfits.  What a great title.  Who hasn’t ever felt like a misfit at least a few dozen times in his or her life?  As a teacher, I know I often seem all cool and collected (ha), but rest assured: I’ve had many a misfit moment in my school days.  (And a few since then, too, but we won’t talk about that.)  The title alone will hook you into thinking that you will find a kindred spirit in Carter, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

2.  Carter is such a great hero – a kind, courageous new hero I’m so pleased to introduce to my students.  He’s had a hard life, but he hasn’t let it beat him down.  I love that he develops, on his own, his tenet of never stealing, even though he’s raised by a thieving uncle.  Carter is not super trustworthy of others at first, and we can’t blame him, but he also wants to believe in them, which just goes to highlight his indomitable spirit.  He’s smart, funny, and a little dented – a perfect MC in my books.  He has so many more stories to tell.

3.  Leila, Theo, and Ridley are awesome companions.  They’re not all alike, so they don’t always agree with one another.  This makes for some great conversations.  But, like Carter, they’ve got big hearts.  Izzy and Olly round up the group very nicely, and I’m eager to learn more about them.  In fact, I want to learn more about all of them.  We get to meet a little of Theo’s family, but there’s so much more to explore about his tuxedo-wearing ways and Ridley’s reasons for being confined in a wheelchair.  I’d also love more stories about Leila’s two dads.  It was great of Harris to create a dramatis personae full of people with different personalities, divergent back stories, and unique talents.  A cast of misfits that fit so well together.  I love it!

4.  When Theo doesn’t even bat an eyelid when offering Carter a place to stay – The Feels.

5.  Uncle Vernon, Purveyor of Illusion and the first to befriend Carter in his new runaway life, is an enigma I want to demystify.  There are so many breadcrumbs about his childhood and his daily life that I’m just as interested in him as I am in the kids.  (Also, I love that he’s an Uncle Vernon and that there’s an allusion to Aunt Petunia in the novel, too.)

 

Magic Misfits 2  

6.  There are lots of magic tricks revealed in this story (but shh, don’t share them with non-magicians!).  This is great for young and old readers alike who would like to learn a little more about the tricks and illusions magicians perform.

7.  Loved the ending!  But boy, does it ever epitomize the whole “always leave ‘em wanting more” motto in showbiz.  I want more Misfit magic!  Luckily, there seem to be three more books planned in this series.  On the one hand, yay … three more books!  On the other hand, I really loved this story, and I’m a little sad that there will only be three more.  Perhaps we can persuade NPH to write beyond just four books?

8.  I wonder if Al A. Kazam is a real person.

9.  Teachers/parents, there are so many teachable lessons here.  I’ll be adding this title to our school library (especially since the author states at the beginning that the ARC is but a sapling in comparison to the finished copy), and I’ll also be putting together some reading and discussion questions for my students.  Among other topics the book explores are: what it means to fit in, how a person’s experiences shape him/her, what “magic” actually is, and creating families from friends.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Neil Patrick Harris’ Online Corners
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Thank you, LB Kids and HBG Canada, for sending me a copy of The Magic Misfits in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions (Ted Stewart)

13 Nov

The physical book itself is not very long, but Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America packs a wallop.  Historians, poli-sci students, and lay people alike will find Ted Stewart’s discussion of significant Supreme Court decisions gripping and educational.

 

Supreme Power Squinklethoughts

1.  This book is for you if you want to know how the Supreme Court began and why a Justice once said, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”  The intro hooks you in right away.  Stewart discusses the Founding Fathers, their vision for the new country, and even some personal vendettas against one another.  I guess if you want to learn about how the highest court in the land got to be that way, you have to start at the beginning.  I find it really interesting that the number of Justices has fluctuated throughout history.  Also, it’s incredible how many appeals there are every year, and how many are actually heard and decided by the Court.

2.  The divide between prescriptive and descriptive linguists today neatly mirror the two philosophical types of Justices that Stewart describes – the Originalist and the Constitutionalist.  I found this part particularly interesting because I could see how similarly different many tenets of the two political parties are.  As I read through the chapters, I found myself seeing each case from the view of both philosophies, and it’s no wonder they had to go to the Supreme Court for final decisions.

3.  The section on Plessy v. Ferguson, which discusses the onset of the term “Jim Crow” and how the idea of “separate but equal accommodations” led to problems we continue to see today, was a good read.  Stewart recounts the Court’s ruling that the Louisiana Separate Car Act was not in violation of either the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments.  As far as class discussions go, this chapter would make a great springboard for talking about what constitutes “established usages, customs, and traditions” and whether a few years is enough time for a custom to become established.

4.  Another chapter that I liked was “How a Law on Bakers’ Working Hours Led to Abortion Rights”.  I enjoyed learning about Lochner and the belief that part of our birthright is the right to work as long or as hard as we want.  I also like that Stewart poses the question on who defines “liberty” and what “due process” actually (or should actually) means.  I would have liked more of a discussion on the proceedings and consequences of Roe v. Wade.  Stewart discusses Lochner a lot, but he leaves the Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade to a few paragraphs.  I think the pivotal impact of McCorvey’s case shouldn’t have been considered outside the scope of this book.

 

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5.  I didn’t take any poli-sci or history classes in university – at least not ones that explored the Supreme Court and its decisions – so I was happy to learn about the cases Stewart presents.  This book would be great for anyone who wants to know a little bit about them and American political origins.  It would also make a good addition to senior high-school and university courses.  I don’t know if I would assign the entire book, but I’d definitely pick a couple of cases (and the intro) for students to get into.  A caveat, however: Stewart uses jargon that the average person might have heard of but don’t understand.  If I were to give excerpts of this book to non-poli-sci students, I’d have to include a glossary so that they don’t get lost in legalese.

6.  Aside from a glossary that would have helped even me, I would have liked to find an index at the end so that I could find pages related to specific mentions of Justices or cases more easily.  A very extensive bibliography is included though.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Ted Stewart’s Online Corners
US District Court Profile | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Student Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (Karen Foxlee)

10 Nov

This fantasy story is mysterious and breathtaking.  Karen Foxlee has made a very clever and adventurous story that will impress you and touch your heart.

 

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy  

This story is about two main characters who have very different personalities.  Ophelia is just a normal girl who feels like she is not brave at all.  She has a sister and a dad, but her mom has passed away, so she’s very sad.  The Marvelous Boy, whom Ophelia thinks is named David, has been a prisoner for hundreds of years.  Ophelia discovers him locked in a room in the museum where her dad works.  As soon as they meet, they go on a mission: to save the world.

I have several things I like about this book.  One is that the characters are great.  They all have a special role to play in the book.  I like that Ophelia questions everything.  She’s used to believing in things that are logical, but when she meets the Marvelous Boy, she has to try to wrap her head around the stories he tells her.  She seems like a girl I could be friends with.  Another reason I liked this book is there was a lot of action.  Specifically, I liked the idea that this sort-of-scary story happens in a museum.  It seems like a magical place where you don’t think about finding ghosts and villains, but then it makes sense that they’re there.

Foxlee’s writing wasn’t too difficult for me to understand, but it actually felt a little more grown up than typical middle-grade books that my teacher gives me.  I would recommend this book to boys and girls who have a big imagination.  I think adults would enjoy the book, too.  It’s a great story.

Hannah B., grade 6

Mutant Bunny Island (Obert Skye)

7 Nov

If you’re looking for a story about cute, fluffy bunnies, then this isn’t really the book for you.  Well, actually, hang on.  There ARE cute, fluffy bunnies here, but don’t forget that even the title warns you that mutants abound.

 

Mutant Bunny Island Squinklethoughts

1.  I like stories that are smart-funny, not just slapstick-funny.  Skye’s writing has that in spades.  I loved all the word play in the book, most especially because I think my students will really appreciate his cleverness.  I mean, the first chapter is called “Getting Squiddy with It”, for goodness’ sake.

2.  Perry is a lovable character whom, I think, many people will be able to identify with.  I would much rather stay indoors than enjoy the allergens outside – though for him, he’s avoiding newts, not ragweed.  He seems to have a great relationship with his dad.  I wish the author had explored more the reasons his mom isn’t in the picture, but it looks like Mr. Owens is really trying to be a good dad AND friend to Perry.

3.  Rain is so annoying at first, and it takes quite a while for me to warm up to him.  I suppose there’s not much to do on his island, but still.  I’m glad he becomes less annoying towards the end.

4.  I’m also glad that although there are hints of Perry blushing around Juliet, that storyline doesn’t dip into romance, which the story doesn’t need.  If there’s to be another book with these characters, I’d be more interested in seeing how the friendship among Perry, Juliet, and Rain develop than in any potential love story.  And even without a love plot, I’d love to read Perry’s awkwardness at dealing with girls.

5.  One of the best things about this book is that it intersperses elements of graphic novels with the narrative structure.  The artwork after every chapter not only provides back stories of Admiral Uli and the rest of the squids that Perry wishes were his friends, but it also serves to give readers a pause from the main story.  For many of my kids who sometimes have a hard time getting through novels, this set-up is absolutely perfect.

 

Mutant Bunny Island 2

 

6.  The squid humour is great.  Just thought I’d add that in again.  Our library copy has already been borrowed and loved, so I know this will be a great hit amongst my kids who love funny, fast-paced stories with great art.

7.  Teachers/parents, want to see if this is book is for your child/ren?  Check out a sample here.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Obert Skye’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Eduardo Vieira’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of
Mutant Bunny Island in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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