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Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye (Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle)

13 Jan

Triskaidekaphobia, schmriskaidekaphobia.  It may not bode well for Warren the 13th, but Squinks, today, on a decidedly lucky Friday the thirteenth (tempting fate, my paraskevidekatriaphobic friends), you get some goodies, including an introduction to my new friend, Warren.

 

Warren the 13th - Book 1 

Squinklethoughts

1.   I would be way too terrified to ever enter an ancient, dilapidated house – though why I would be compelled to even approach one is beyond me.  But I really enjoyed walking the corridors alongside Warren as he fulfilled his duties as bellhop, valet, and about six hundred other occupations at his family’s rickety hotel.  If you like places with corners that are dark, dank, dusty, and lit  by “a tarnished chandelier that clung to the ceiling like an insect” (not to mention odd creatures lurking in those dark, dank, dusty corners), then I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy Warren’s ancestral home.  (Twelve generations is enough to consider Warren the 1st an ancestor, right?  I’ll have to look that up.)

2.   About the guests at the Warren Hotel … Well, I use the term “guests” loosely.  The mysteries in The All-Seeing Eye begin right away when a tall, thin figure – the first guest in years, might I add – strides into the lobby.  Warren bows to him, and then … silence.  Crickets.  (No, seriously, there were probably crickets outside the hotel chatting away to one another wondering what on earth would have possessed Paleface to visit the hotel.)  I like stories that introduce mysteries and conflicts right away.  It just makes me feel like I’m getting my money’s worth on the ride.  It doesn’t mean every single story has to be that way, but when I encounter one like this, I really appreciate it.  Plus, it leaves room for my favourite literary phenomenon: mysteries upon mysteries upon mysteries upon … (I know some readers dislike this very thing, so just a heads up.)

3.   Tania Del Rio got me in the feels with this gem: “That was the main reason Warren worked so hard: because he knew his father had worked hard, and his father’s father had worked hard, and his father’s father’s father had worked hard, and so on.”  Truth, right?  I mean, even with the words I’m typing right now, I wonder … would Mom and Dad be proud?

4.   Puzzles, secret codes, and (did I mention) mysteries?  Need I say more?

5.   If you’ve been keeping up with my squinkle journey, then you’ll know by now that I LOVE illustrations and that I scour the middle-grade section of bookstores for my Next Great Read.  The All-Seeing Eye stands apart from many books out there because not only is it a great MG story (that, by the way, I would totally recommend to readers who are MG-at-heart like me), it has some gorgeous two-colour illustrations.  And, you know, I think I like Warren a little more now that I’ve seen him.  I can’t draw to save my life, so I’m always enamoured by those who can.  I tip my hat to Will Staehle.

 

Warren the 13th IG 

6.   Students of mine who stalk me on Instagram are well aware of my love for words, names, and etymology, in general (a linguistics background will do that to a person).  It may seem like a small thing, but I love the names in this book.  Warren, Rupert, Annaconda, Petula, Scalene, Friggs, even Sketchy!  It’s a cornucopia of delightful monikers!

7.   Warren has wanderlust.  (Who wouldn’t if you were stuck doing six thousand jobs in a dingy hotel?)  Kindred spirit.  That is all.

 

Warren the 13th 2  

8.   It’s taken a really long time for the sequel, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, to pop up, but wait no longer … well, no longer than March 21.  (That’s not that long, right?)  In the meanwhile, click this.  No, THIS.  Enjoy a short story and some puzzles to tide you over until the pub date of Book 2.

 

Warren the 13th SS 

9.   One last serious note.  I highly regret passing on getting a galley of this book at a previous BEA.  I, as you all know, judge books by their covers.  Why would I not, when so much work goes into them?  Well, I didn’t have a lot of time to thumb through this galley, so I passed up Warren and his friends all because I thought the book would be too scary for my taste.  (Maybe I had just seen the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and was completely influenced.)  So, let this be a lesson kids: Do not pass up on a book without thumbing through it first.  Otherwise, you’ll miss out on getting to know people like Warren with his six million jobs.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Tania Del Rio’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters

Will Staehle’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Chapters

 

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye in exchange for
an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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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.

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.

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.

Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown (Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith)

14 Jun

This is the sixth book in a wonderful series that I can’t recommend highly enough to all my students. “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith’s books are truly embraced by my kids who love science, experiments, adventure, and really awesome characters.

 

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown 

Squinklethoughts

1.  I love that you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. I’m sure that will be a selling point for some of you. The authors even add little footnotes on some pages to tell you in which book you can find the previous experiment or mishap the characters are referencing. Or they may be gently nudging you to read the rest of the series because the other books are just as great as this one. Take it how you will.

Nick and Tesla - Book 6 - Ch. 3

2.  Nick and Tesla’s relationship doesn’t annoy me at all, as some literary sibling relationships do. Maybe it’s because they’re twins or that they’re equally delightfully nerdy. Whatever the formula is, it works, and I’m glad. They bounce ideas off one another and sometimes don’t even need words to communicate. Super cool.

3.  I’m not a huge fan of their friends, though I’m glad they’re loyal to Nick and Tesla. There’s one particular scene with Silas’ dad that really had me fuming. Argh. All in all, I enjoyed the dialogue and scenes between the two siblings more than their scenes with others.

4.  I love how smart Nick and Tesla are.

5.  I hate how much smarter Nick and Tesla are than I was at their age … and even now because – who am I kidding? – I wouldn’t be able to come up with any of their ingenious devices.

6.  I hope this isn’t the end of this series, or at least of this story arc. I’d hate to have to say goodbye. Also, I’d love for Books 3, 4, and 5 to magically make their reappearance in our library. It’s been weeks since they’ve been checked out, but nary a return …

7.  There are some really cool activities at Nick and Tesla’s official website.  Check it out here.

 

4 Squinkles 

Bob Pflugfelder’s and Steve Hockensmith’s Online Corners
Bob’s Website | Steve’s Website | Nick and Tesla’s Website
Bob’s Twitter | Bob’s Instagram | Steve’s Twitter

 

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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