Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts (Esta Spalding)

8 Nov

If you’re looking for a story with characters that don’t fit neatly into a box, you might find a match with Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding.

 

Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts

Squinklethoughts

1.  I was really happy to encounter such a unique cast of characters in this story.  They’re definitely not cookie-cutter protagonists.  The four children – Kim, Kimo, Toby, and Pippa – find themselves thrown together by virtue of complicated parentage.  They all share a mother or a father or both. This was a selling point for me, as I haven’t read enough stories where step-siblings get along with one another as these four do.

2.  I love the setting of the island.  Even though the kids live in a car, I like to imagine that they enjoy the weather and scenery on a regular basis.  (I’d love to experience a warm rainfall on the beach of an island one day.)  There’s also something about adventures being set on islands that I really like, although I’m not too fond of the show Lost or the novel Lord of the Flies.

3.  This book was just okay for me, and this is the perfect example of a story that I felt lukewarm about but that my students loved.  I mean … I had kids repeatedly asking for when the book would become available because their classmates really enjoyed the story.  Just goes to show you, I guess.

4.  One of the things I wasn’t too thrilled about was the way that the circumstances of the kids were treated very lightly.  From time to time, Kim does stress over how to find a new place to live (because the kids are growing up and the car space is growing small), but I can’t imagine how the four of them get along the way they do without a home, even though (most of) their parents are still around.  I mean, they live in a car with no reliable source of … practically anything.  Maybe for the younger ones it’s really the only life they remember, but I don’t quite understand how they’re able to survive with the meagre allowance they get from their parents or how they’re able to live on a beach with no trouble from authority figures.  The kids’ hardships were treated too lightly, almost trivially, for my liking, but for some of my students, this is exactly what they enjoyed.  They liked that despite the Fitzgerald-Trouts’ circumstances, they still get through their days and find adventures in Ikea-type stores.

5.  Spalding’s prose is very easy to get lost in.  In spite of those struggle points mentioned above, I enjoyed immersing myself in the story of the children and life on the island.  I read a few chapters aloud in class, and my students lapped them up.

6.  The illustrations are gorgeous.  They’re done by Sydney Smith whom I was really pleased to have met in January and who very graciously illustrated my copy with a palm tree (I LOVE palm trees), the beach, and the ocean.  Check out his website for more eye candy.

7.  I’m looking forward to the next book of this series, Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts, which is slated for release in May 2017, because I do really want to know what happens to the kids.  I felt rather cliffhangered at the end of this book, and my students felt the same.  I’m hoping there’s a little more realism (when it comes to some of the heavy stuff) balanced with the adventures of the Fitzgerald-Trout clan.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to exploring the island with the children once again.

 

3.5 Squinkles 

Esta Spalding’s Online Corners
Website | Chapters

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada, for sending me
a copy of Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts in exchange for
an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends (David Stabler)

12 Oct

I love, love, love the Kid Legends series, and this latest addition is no exception.

 

Kid ArtistsSquinklethoughts

1.  Kid Artists is the third installment, preceded by Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes, which are also terrific.  I love finding series that are so great that they become auto-buys.  I have no doubt I’ll be reading (and buying for our library) the next title in this collection, whatever it might be about.

2.  You’ll enjoy finding out what the childhoods of some very famous people were like.  Well-known names like Andy Warhol (who loved Campbell’s tomato soup as a child) and Dr. Seuss (rhymes with “choice”, ya know) are just some of the people you’ll read about.

3.  Sometimes, illustrious people have privileged beginnings, but many more times, they endure hardship and unsupportive friends and family in their younger years that you have to wonder how they ever produced their art.  This book gives you the good stuff and the bad stuff that made these artists not just unique, but also remarkable.

4.  I have a soft spot for Vincent van Gogh.  (One of my favourite Doctor Who episodes is Vincent and the Doctor … bawled my eyes out at (spoiler alert) the end.  Soooo great.)  Be sure to read about his beginnings.  We might never fully understand people, but we can try to appreciate what might have led them to turning points in their lives.

5.  I hadn’t heard of some of the people covered in Kid Artists, so I’m glad to have this book accessible.  There are so many cool people and events in history that we should all read about.

6. I love Doogie Horner’s people drawings.  They’re wonderful!

7.  Check out the Kid Legends website!

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

David Stabler’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Chapters

 

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of Kid Artists
in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts herein are entirely my own.

My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and Sports (Dan Gutman)

11 Oct

I love learning random facts, though I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always remember what I’ve learned.  If you’re into geography, sports, or random trivia, you’ll find Dan Gutman’s My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and My Weird School Fast Facts: Sports very awesome reads.

 

My Weird School - Geography Squinklethoughts

1.  Are you already a fan of Gutman’s My Weird School (and My Weirder School and My Weird School Daze) series, which began in 2004?  My students love these stories, which are full of memorable characters and funny dialogue.  We particularly enjoy their rockin’ rhymin’ titles like Mrs. Yonkers is Bonkers! and Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin’!.

 

My Weird School - 1-21 

2.  In both Geography and Sports, you get to hang out with A.J. and Andrea outside of school.  Their very different personalities make for great banter between them.  I’d like to think that they are still friends-ish even though they bother the heck out of each other a lot.

3.  There were so many places I had already known (like Pangæa and Lake Vostok), but many others that were completely new to me (like Chimborazo and West Quoddy Head).  You’ll learn a TON of new geography facts.

4.  And I haven’t forgotten about you sports fans.  You’ll love learning about how “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” began and why Ulrich Salchow’s and Alois Lutz’ names are mentioned very often in the winter.

 

My Weird School - Sports  

5.  I particularly enjoyed how Gutman divides each book: Geography has chapters based on various elements like water, the continents, and natural disasters.  I really liked the section where he names a few interesting facts about each US state.  Makes me want to go on a road trip!  Sports is, as you can guess, divided into chapters based on different sports.  The one on baseball is really long, so my only disappointment is that the other chapters (like the one on hockey) were just as long.  I am glad that curling and table tennis were mentioned though!  And I loved learning lots of cool stuff about the Olympics.

6.  Jim Paillot’s artwork is phenomenal.  You’ll enjoy the the drawings on each page that help bring Arlo’s and Andrea’s narrations come to life.  Definitely check out his website!

 

4 Squinkles 

Dan Gutman’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Chapters – Geo | Chapters – Sports

 

Thank you, HarperCollins, for sending me a copy of My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and My Weird School Fast Facts: Sports
in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History (Sam Maggs)

4 Oct

We don’t have nearly enough books outlining the remarkable women of history (and of the present).  If you’re looking for a particularly good one, you should definitely pick up a copy of Sam Maggs’ Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History.

 

wonder-women-sam-maggs

Squinklethoughts1. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Maggs (as I’ve been lucky enough to have had) or hearing her speak in the previews to silver-screen movies, then you know about her awesome cadence and witty remarks.  They’re all over Wonder Women, which is chock full of asides and parenthetical commentary.  I know some people aren’t fans of having too many interrupters, but I love them.  They make the stories in this book more interesting.  And funnier.

2. I only knew a handful of the women Maggs highlights in this book … which I’m sure is the same sentiment as many other readers, and which is proof-positive that WE NEED THIS BOOK in libraries and classrooms everywhere.  It’s a great introduction to fierce, intelligent, and confident women like Ada Lovelace (whom I knew) and Margaret Knight (whom I’d never heard of before now).

3. You’ll enjoy learning about Lise Meitner and her instrumental contributions to science; you’ll cheer for the gutsy Sarah Emma Edmonds who fought in the American Civil War … as a guy; and you’ll wholeheartedly agree with Maggs that Hollywood needs to make a movie about the tearjerker that was Anandibai Joshi life.

4. Sophia Foster-Dimino’s illustrations are lovely. They help bring Maggs’ words to life.

5. Because the stories of these inspirational women are reduced to a few pages, you won’t have any trouble getting through this book.  Even more, it’s really easy to jump around, so you can read about women of adventure before discovering the lives of women in espionage.

6. Teachers/parents, Wonder Women is a great read that would be an excellent purchase: it fills a gap on many bookshelves, for sure.  There are huge dollops of feminism throughout the stories (original subtitle: 25 Geek Girls Who Changed the World), but with or without labelling Maggs and her writing as such, the book stands on its own as a really fascinating and informative read.

4.5 Squinkles

Sam Maggs’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |
YouTube | Tumblr | Chapters

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of Wonder Women in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Alien that Ate My Socks (Brandon Dorman)

9 Sep

Meet Hank, Hector, and Henry Hooligan – three brothers who love adventure.  The only trouble is … adventure sometimes comes with a side of purple.  Purple alien, that is.  A great adventure awaits you all, Squinks, in The Alien that Ate My Socks.

 

Alien that Ate My Socks 

Squinklethoughts

1. The action never stops.  This book begins with the Hooligan brothers competing in a go-cart race against their perpetual enemy, Rock.  Once they encounter the purple guy, it’s just one thing after another.  It was really hard for me to quit reading at the end of the night (or at the end of lunch) because each chapter ends with a cliffhanger.  Is the purple alien going to eat ALL their clothes?  Is it going to start eating the three boys or their friend, Ellie?  And what makes it smell so … ick?  I imagine green ooze wrapping itself around all that purple.

2. Hank, Hector, and Henry have such a great brotherly relationship.  They annoy one another and taunt one another, but they never stop having each other’s backs.  When Hector is hugged by the purple blob and goes temporarily noodly, Hank and Henry do what they can to get Hector back to normal.  It must be so much fun to live in the Hooligan house!

3. The illustrations are just wonderful.  Brandon Dorman is the illustrator of so many middle-grade books, including The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, and The Curvy Tree, one of The Land of Stories tales.  I loved flipping through the book again to see the pictures, which helped bring me back to various points of the story.  You’ll love the images, too!  You most definitely need to see the rest of Dorman’s wonderful illustrations online.

4. I really locked onto Henry’s character from the get-go.  He’s quite charming and really funny with his retorts to his brothers’ jabs.  I love that he’s always wondering about what else can be replaced with superficial materials just as his teeth had to be replaced with fake ones.

5. This is the first book in the Hoolie and the Hooligans series, and I’m glad because one book just isn’t enough to cover the Hooligans’ adventures.  This book ends with such a bang … alas, that makes me impatient for the follow-up!  Don’t worry: you’ll know when I know when the next book will be published.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Brandon Dorman’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Thank you, Shadow Mountain Publishing, for sending me a finished copy of Hoolie and the Hooligans 1: The Alien that Ate My Socks in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

%d bloggers like this: