Tag Archives: 2013

Student Review: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic

21 Sep

Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic 

Have you ever heard of Desmond Pucket?  If not, well let me tell you about him.  He is a monster maker.  He is very good at scaring people with his creations, which include paint-filled balloons, confetti cannons, and more.  In the beginning of the story, readers are told that he is really good at special monster effects and pranks that scare other people.  Then, a school disciplinary officer named Mr. Needles stops Desmond from going on the Mountain Full of Monsters ride at Crabshell Pier.  So Desmond has to be Mr. Perfect until school ends, or else he could get expelled!  This is no easy task.

 

Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic - Excerpt 

Some things about this book that readers might like are the illustrations because there are lots, and they’re all really cool.  Also, the book is easy to read and the text is big.  Lastly, it is a short book, so it doesn’t take too long to finish, which is good because the story is very interesting, and you just want to find out more!  Something I wish the author, Mark Tatulli, had done is make the book a little longer, but I am glad there are more books in the series.  I think people who believe in monsters and those who like pranks will enjoy this book.

Alex P., grade 6

 

Squinklethoughts

1. It’s hard to find books sometimes that can appeal to a wide range of readers, but this is one of them.  It’s a great book for students in elementary school, young and old alike.

2. Tatulli’s voice is engaging and very funny – definitely a plus when it comes to MG books.

3. The drawings are fantastic.  They look hand drawn (and I suppose they are), and that adds to their appeal.  I’ve found students trying to make their own versions of some of the doodles, which is a great sign that they’ve taken a liking not just to the illustrations, but to the story itself.

4. Both my boys and girls liked this book, but I’ve found that my boys tended to laugh out loud much harder and louder.  Make of that what you will.

5. One of the things I missed out on by growing up in the previous century is the extension of the reading experience through activities, events, and (especially) websites.  There’s an entire site dedicated to Desmond Pucket that is chock full of information and handouts that my kids have enjoyed exploring.  Take a look at the trailer below, too.

 

  

 

4 Squinkles 

Mark Tatulli’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

 

Thank you, Andrews McMeel Publishing, for sending me a copy of Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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The Little Paris Bookshop (Nina George)

9 Sep

Of all the stories I read this year, I think the Little Paris Bookshop has given me the biggest book hangover yet. When I was done with it, I simply handed it to my mom and said, “Read it. Trust me.” And she did. And she loved it, too.

 

Little Paris Bookshop 

Squinklethoughts

1. The title hooked me right away. “Paris” and “bookshop”? Yes, please. (My site tagline is “Bouquets de Bouquins” … Doesn’t that tell you something?) Someday, I’m going to go to Paris and be chuckled at for my franglais and my accent québécois, and I will drink my café and have un temps merveilleux.

2. The cover is gorgeous. You know me: I absolutely judge books by their covers. And this one has cotton-candy colours of sunset with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Just delicious and completely enticing.

3. There is a map! I can’t begin to tell you how much that fact made reading this book much more pleasant. I seriously think that all books should have maps in them. A writer’s imagery, no matter how well done, can only allow me to visualize individual scenes in my head, but I need them all stitched up in a map, so I know where the characters geographically are. Jean and his companions travel down the River Seine, and it was great to see where along the waterways each chapter occurred.

4. I am a fan of bittersweet moments. I don’t always like them in my own life, so when I encounter characters like Jean, whose life has been full of some sweet but mostly bitter moments, I’m hooked. And that he was the cause of his own sufferings? Captivatingly cathartic.

5. The narrative is particularly beautiful. I’m not sure if it can be wholly attributed to Nina George or to the translators, but there are many lyrical phrases in the book that made me smile.

 

Little Paris Bookshop - Quotes 

6. I know some people didn’t like this story. They thought it was overly simplistic or overly cloying or overly clichéd. I understand – if what they were looking for was a story of grand gestures and perilous adventures and harrowing revelations. For some, they couldn’t connect to Jean or understand his current place in life, but I think it’s because some people skate over the 20 years (and counting) that Jean spends in misery. Once we’re past gut-wrenching moments, it’s often way too easy to forget what it meant to live each minute with heartache. (Being bullied all through elementary school? Oh, yeah, it wasn’t that bad. Eating by yourself at lunch throughout high school? Oh, well, it wasn’t terrible.) Twenty years: that’s 10 512 000 sorrowful minutes that Jean lived through to get to where he is in the story. And this is what I truly appreciate about the Little Paris Bookshop – the author and the book itself appreciate what it means to live practically an entire life with a gnawing feeling in your stomach and an empty hole in your heart.

7. For me, this story speaks to all those quiet moments in the morning, by yourself, smiling at a happy memory from 20 years back, and finding your eyes full of tears. This was all about those lazy summer days of sipping iced tea at Starbucks, flipping through a magazine, only to be greeted by an article outlining the successes of the girl who made your school years a living hell. This was about that poignant feeling I get now, after waving thanks to my student’s grandfather for dropping him off at school, and remembering that I don’t have my grandpa anymore.

8. I love the concept of a book apothecary. Can you imagine being able to read people as easily as Jean Perdu does? And, on top of that, being able to make people’s lives a little better by prescribing the perfect livre du moment? As a school librarian, I try my best, but after reading about Jean’s perfectly tuned skills, I know I’ve got a long way to go.

9. This is a great story about the moments, choices, people, and books that leave indelible footprints on our hearts.

10. You really need to read this book.  Read it now, then re-read it after five years to see how much more it resonates with you.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Nina George’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House (Crown) and Blogging for Books, for sending me a copy of the Little Paris Bookshop in exchange for an honest review.

All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Student Review: My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish

23 Jul

Let’s talk about Mo O’Hara’s book, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish. Here’s the gist for you:

  1. Tom has a zombie goldfish named Frankie.
  2. Tom’s evil big brother basically murders a goldfish as a science experiment.
  3. Frankie can hypnotize people and make them do what he wants.
  4. Frankie tries to kill Tom’s brother, Mark.
  5. Mark wants to get rid of Frankie (forever!).

Who do you think wins in the battle between Frankie and Mark?

 

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish 

I like that Frankie has hypnotic powers because he can hypnotize people into doing unusual things, such as riding a bicycle with a monkey on their heads. Another reason I like this book is that Tom has an evil scientist for an older brother. Not everyone has an evil scientist older brother, and I think it’d be cool to figure out how to avoid becoming his next science experiment. The thing I like the most is that this book is unique. I have never read or even seen another book about a zombie goldfish that hypnotizes people. This makes this book special. It was a lot of fun reading it – and I enjoyed the story so much that I finished reading it in a couple of days.

One part I didn’t like was the fact that Sanj is a hacker. I did not like this because I think BBEDLAM would have had better use of an evil magician. He could just do a magic trick that makes the zombie-goldfish stare appear on TV and who know what might happen?

I would recommend this book to all people who like zombies, hypnotism, and evil scientist older brothers. I think people who like book with pictures (but not necessarily picture books) and who have curious personalities might enjoy reading My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.  I wonder what will happen in the SeaQuel and in the rest of the series … It’s up to SIX books now!

Review by Alex P., grade 6

 

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish 2 

Squinklebooks Says …

If you’re looking for some fun activities, check out this page on Mo O’Hara’s website!  But don’t stare at Frankie’s eyes too long, just in case something unusual happens to you …

 

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish - Series

Days that End in Y (Vikki VanSickle)

27 Mar

Days that End in Y

 

If her Clarissa Delaney stories hadn’t already become some of my favourites, Vikki VanSickle would’ve sealed the deal for me with this one. Of all three books, Days that End in Y is the one that we read in the least amount of time (three days) because my Summer Squinks and I really devoured it. Even I was truly surprised at how quickly we flew through the chapters – I couldn’t assign them enough pages to read, and we had to be really careful (à la River Song) not to reveal spoilers just in case someone had not quite reached a particular scene.

What I really enjoyed about Days that End in Y was that although the wedding (Which wedding? You’ll have to read to find out!) seemingly took centre stage, the relationship between Clarissa and Benji was much more intriguing and compelling. And the ending really left me breathless. I couldn’t believe VanSickle’s audacity and brilliance in leaving me all emotionally spent, and (still) not knowing if she would tell me what happens next. Evil and completely brilliant, I tell you. I asked some of my Squinks from the summer what it was that made them read Days so quickly, but they couldn’t really put a finger on it … All they knew was that they wanted to know more.  This, my Squinks, is part of the magic of storytelling and part of the reason why VanSickle is truly on the same level as the likes of Judy Blume and Rick Riordan. You just want to read more. Even now, months later, I still wonder how the rest of Clarissa and Benji’s summer is going. Have they begun high school yet? If so, what outfits did Clarissa and Mattie wear?

I am so glad that what turned out to be a Vikki VanSickle summer worked out so well. It wasn’t planned (beyond the first book anyway), but some of the best things in life come by happenstance, as you know. If you read this series along with us, I hope you enjoyed the friends’ adventures as much as we did. More importantly, I hope these characters and their stories stay with you throughout the year. And if you’re so inclined, I encourage you to get in touch with VanSickle … Let her know how much you loved Clarissa Louise Delaney and that her stories made summer school not as horrendous as you thought it would be.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Vikki VanSickle’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Chapters

Summer Days, Starry Nights (Vikki VanSickle)

18 Mar

Summer Days, Starry Nights

 

I was very excited to attend the launch party of Vikki VanSickle’s Summer Days, Starry Nights two years ago. I had read the synopsis of her novel, and was instantly interested in seeing where I could fit it in our school reading lists. Alas, the day of the party came and went, and I neither met VanSickle nor bought her book hot off the press. (I really hate it when school/work gets in the way of book-related activities, don’t you?) Anyway, I bought a copy of SDSN that week (the happily dog-eared copy in our library), and eagerly anticipated a free afternoon to enjoy some coffee and Canadiana. The following Saturday, much to my delight, I came across an announcement that VanSickle was going to do a signing at the Chapters right near the school. I happily raced over after work and, upon entering the bookstore, was greeted by the friendliest of smiles on the face of the authoress herself.

VanSickle was so generous to chat with me for 10 minutes, asking me about my munchkins (you guys), my drink in hand (venti caramel macchiato), and the titles we stock in the library (mostly MG and YA). Then, she very graciously signed a brand-new copy of SDSN as well as her other three Scholastic-published books (more on them later). I left Chapters feeling so exhilarated by our meeting that I completely forgot to replace my empty coffee cup with a full one. (Don’t worry; that was rectified soon thereafter!) Vikki VanSickle is as pleasant a person as you’ll ever meet, and a talented writer to boot. Her latest novel is one that I’m sure you will all love!

Although it’s not explicitly described this way, SDSN is a love letter to middle children everywhere. The Starr family live in and run the beautiful cottages at Sandy Shores, a resort in the Muskoka region, north of Toronto. For protagonist Reenie, this is the only home she’s known—the only place she could ever imagine calling “home”. But even the picturesque beaches outside her front door are not enough to drive away the pains of being a teenager. She’s too young to play games with her older brother, Bo, or even to be let in on the secret of his night-time adventures, but she’s old enough to be held responsible for her six-year-old sister, Scarlett, who enjoys cuddling with her in bed and following her everywhere. When a family friend, Gwen Cates, comes to Sandy Shores, Reenie is excited to have someone a few years older than she is to talk with, hang about, and even look up to. But she gets more than she hopes for, for the arrival of the ballet student from the city kick starts a summer of intrigue, self-discovery, and a few skeletons in the family closet.

Reenie is a great character to befriend. She’s authentic and down-to-earth—qualities that too many other characters of similar age lack. VanSickle truly captures the daily dilemmas of being a new teenager and a middle child. Who wouldn’t feel annoyed at being of an age where you are given responsibilities but are still questioned all the time? Who wouldn’t feel left out with a mom who decides to spend more time with visitors than you? And who wouldn’t be gobsmacked at discovering something at the last (and very wrong) moment that has been right before your eyes the whole time?

Squinks, for those of you who haven’t picked this one up yet, let me tell you that Summer Days, Starry Nights is one of those books that shines quietly in the corner but will grab hold of you as you spend the summer with Reenie. By story’s end, you’ll be like me, looking online to see if Sandy Shores exists, and wondering if somewhere near Orillia, there really is a resort full of the promise of summer days, starry nights, and scintillating magic.

Have you read VanSickle’s latest? How did you like it?

 

4 Squinkles

 

Vikki VanSickle’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Chapters

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