Tag Archives: 2014

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


Bookcation 2016 #8: Star Darlings: The Adventures of Sage, Libby, and Scarlet

17 Mar

Okay, well you know how much I love Disney characters, so it’s no stretch to think that I love Disney books, too. Percy Jackson and The Zodiac Legacy are two of our all-time favourite series, both of which are published by Disney Publishing Worldwide. Now, I’ve got another great series for you to fall in love with: The Star Darlings.


Star Darlings - Sage 

I’ve only read the first three books of what will be, I think (though I wish for more), a 12-book series, but I’m hooked. Think about it: not everyone is let in, so it is a rather big deal to be accepted to Starling Academy, a prestigious school for those wishing to become Star Darlings – wish granters – to people on Wishworld (aka Earth). Each Star Darling has her own unique personality, strengths, and even colour (just look at the book covers !). The cover art of each of the books alone is enough to get you hooked. The images and colour combinations are simply gorgeous and utterly mesmerizing.


Star Darlings - Wisher's Guide to Starland 

The first book, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld, introduces us to Star Academy and the Star Darlings. It’s everything you’d enjoy in a series starter: backstory, introductions, and lots of adventure. Sage is a great character who is flawed enough to be realistic but still quite likable. You’ll really enjoy discovering all about Ahmet Zappa and Shana Muldoon Zappa’s imaginative world full of Holo-Books and Star Transmitters (among other things). The follow-up, Libby and the Class Election, is just as sweet and charming as the first. Libby loves to say “yes” to people, but she needs to learn to think more of her own needs and stand up for herself, too. Nowhere does she learn this lesson more than down on Wishworld during her mission. In Scarlet Discovers True Strength, you’ll meet another Star Darling who is very unlike Sage and Libby. Scarlet is manipulative and often seeks revenge on those who displease her. Through her journey to Wishworld, she learns a valuable lesson on how to best help others.


Star Darlings - Group 

All three titles are in our library now, and I’m waiting to get my hands on the next three (Leona’s Unlucky Mission, Vega and the Fashion Designer, and Cassie Comes Through), which were published earlier this year. While we’re waiting, let me point you to the direction of Disney’s official Star Darlings site, Facebook page, and Instagram account. I’m sure you’ll find lots of images, news bits, and videos to keep you busy throughout the March Break. Let me know who your favourite Star Darlings are!

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile (Marcia Wells)

14 Oct

I was very happy to discover the Eddie Red Undercover series last year, and after reading it with some of my Squinks this past month, I’m happy to tell you that they loved it as well.


Eddie Red - Mystery on Museum Mile


Eddie Lonnrot is in grade 6 at a private school that he loves to attend. But financial troubles are threatening his attendance for the next school year. How will he find enough money to pay for tuition? Luckily (or maybe not), a situation presents itself in the form of helping to catch a mastermind art thief and his cohorts that have the NYPD stumped. And luckily (though not for the thief), Eddie has a photographic memory, which is just what the detectives need to nail the Picasso gang. With a little bit of reluctant acceptance from his parents and a lot of support from his best friend, Jonah, Eddie Red is born.

Squinklethoughts1. When I read books like Eddie Red Undercover, I always find myself lamenting over the fact that I didn’t have these books to entertain me while I was growing up. I would have loved to have immersed myself in Mystery on Museum Mile if for nothing else but that it was really fun and easy to read.

2. Eddie’s a great character who knows his place. He celebrates his skills, but he knows his shortcomings. He handles Jonah and his sometimes-wacky ways, which I give him a lot of credit for – I definitely do not have the same kind of patience he has. I wasn’t particularly fond of that one scene where he begs his mom to let him work with the NYPD, but I could see how a sixth-grader could do it. I also like that he celebrates his love of knowledge. Eddie likes many of the things that I do, including solving puzzles, looking at maps, and learning languages, which endears me to him. And the fact that he draws so well when I draw so NOT well only makes me applaud him more.

3. I don’t know anyone (adult or child) who doesn’t want to someday visit New York City or who didn’t enjoy his or her trip there. I, for one, really love it when I get the chance to explore the Big Apple because it just doesn’t run out of things to see and do and experience. I liked learning about Fifth Avenue and the various museums on Museum Mile, including the Neue Galerie, which I hear about far less often than the Guggenheim or MOMA.


Eddie Red - 5th Ave


4. The illustrations in this book are fantastic. I’m really really terrible at drawing, so I always appreciate artists who can draw faces and people without requiring divine intervention of some sort. The only thing I wish is for there to have been more of a variation of pictures. Although there were a few other things, most of the illustrations were of people. At some point, it’d be nice to see what else Eddie sees to really enhance my appreciation of the story.  All that aside, Marcos Calo does a truly phenomenal job.  I encourage you to look at his other works.

5. Wells is funny. The one-liners that Eddie has, especially in reaction to Detective Bovano, are just chortle-chortle funny, which is my kind of humour. It wasn’t only once or twice that I heard giggles from a student reading this book because he had just read another one of Eddie’s gems about Bovano warming up to him.

6. One of my Squinks wants to know what happens to Detective Bovano at the end of the story. We’d like to think that he’ll pop up every once in a while in the other books – maybe if Eddie visits a spaghetti place or something. We had fun coming up with names of these pasta restaurants. “Sauce Boss” and “Meatballs for Mobster Nappers” were at the top of our list.

7. The next two books, Mystery in Mayan Mexico (April 2015) and Doom at Grant’s Tomb (April 2016), will definitely find a home in our school library.


Eddie Red - 2nd and 3rd


8. Eddie Red is über cool.  You should definitely check him out.


4 Squinkles


Marcia Wells’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

Thank you, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for sending me a copy of Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Paris Winter (Imogen Robertson)

18 Aug

What little creativity I had when I was in elementary school led to my determination to somehow improve this sad shortcoming.  However, while I have good penmanship and can plan events pretty well, I still have not developed any measurable drawing or painting talent.  Your fellow Squinks throughout the years have gotten bellyaches from all the laughter induced by my drawing attempts on the whiteboard.  Why do I tell you this?  It’s just a roundabout way of explaining to you why I admire artists, especially portraitists, so much.


Paris Winter 

Imogen Robertson’s protagonist, Maude, is a struggling artist voluntarily “lost” in the City of Lights.  She’s left the small-town charms and constraints of her little English village to study at the Académie, one of the few places where women could study alone and without condescension during the time period known as la Belle Époque.  I really empathized with Maude throughout much of the story on two accounts: First, I love studying, so I know what courage it takes for her to give up a relatively comfortable life back home to chase her art-related dreams across the Channel.  The trouble is … she is skint and desperately dreading the imminent cold Paris winter.  This is the second reason that made me feel for Maude.  Not many people have all the money they could ever need, but to not even know where your next meal is coming from must be a truly frightening and helpless experience.

I love historical fiction, and, in general, history.  The beginning of this novel was a little slowly paced for me, but once Maude finds employment with the Morels, I found myself drawn into Robertson’s world of rich characters, and I couldn’t read fast enough.  The women in the Paris Winter, in particular, I found very appealing as a reader – though I don’t think I’d be quite as nice to Sylvie as Maude is.  Regardless of their moral behaviour or social appearance, I found great pleasure in seeing the story lines of each woman unfold.  It’s not surprising that I was rooting for Maude.  She is, after all, the protagonist.  But she is hardly without fault.  I found her seeming lack of gumption galling at times, and on some pages, I really wanted to scream, “Stop being so gullible!”  But she is kind and honourable, and I admired her for that.  Yvette was a blast to walk through the novel with.  She is fiery and fabulously French, typifying the je ne sais quoi expression.  I ached for and with Tanya, whose life only seems remarkable to one not living it.  But she is decent and loyal, and I cannot find fault with that.

I didn’t fall in love with this book as much as I thought I would, but there is so much strength in Robertson’s writing that I cannot NOT recommend it all the same.  Fans of historical fiction and strong female characters will particularly enjoy it, and I’m sure anyone who’s as in love with Paris as I am will find much of the narrative a delight for the senses.  Robertson’s writing is eloquent and enchanting – a piece of art in itself.  She writes as Maude would draw a portrait: a sketch here, an outline there, and before you know it, a vibrant burst of colours sits before you.  I look forward to exploring what other stories Robertson has to offer.

Did you read the Paris Winter?  What did you think?


4 Squinkles 

Imogen Robertson’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for sending me a copy of the Paris Winter in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Autumn Falls (Bella Thorne)

4 May

Autumn Falls 1 

I’m not sure why I was completely surprised that I liked this book so much. Recommended by a student who’s a Bella Thorne fan, it hooked me from the first chapter and never let me go. It wasn’t that I had low expectations, but while it delivered the lightheartedness that I was expecting, it also surprised me with how invested I became in the characters. I read the first four chapters on my commute and devoured the rest that same night.

Autumn Falls is the story of the titular character who is dealt, in my opinion, one of the worst emotions you can feel: regret. Not only does she not get to say goodbye to her dad, but the last words they exchanged were ones of anger. You know how much I love (reading, but not experiencing) deliciously awkward and achingly bittersweet moments, and this definitely falls into the latter. The plot, after the opening chapter when the family receives the dreaded phone call, is simple but well executed. Autumn is given her dad’s old journal, and she realizes that whatever she wishes for in it comes true. Will she wish for a way to make her life easier? For the cute guy to notice her? For her bully to have a mishap? As the book wore on, I found myself hooked onto finding out what Autumn would wish for next.

I really applaud Thorne for writing with such a distinct voice. Autumn feels very authentic in both her misery, reluctance to trust others, and helplessness against the mean girls. I understand her frustration in dealing with the sudden changes in her life, and even more, I applaud her for how she tries to fix everything herself. Thorne really impressed me by letting Autumn try to fix her mistakes or get past obstacles on her own first without resorting to asking for help from her mom or other adults. In this way, she shows not only the strength of Autumn’s character, but she also highlights the idea that sometimes it’s better for kids not to always have adults around to help them. Trying to fix things herself is definitely character building for Autumn, and I really enjoyed that bit.

Two other things that made this story an enjoyable reading experience: the diary, and Autumn’s friend, J.J. The journal is such a clever, multifunctional device that is so instrumental in Autumn being able to move forward with her life. It’s a tie to her past, a useful tool to her present, and a potentially powerful item for her future. It is such a brilliant agent of change, and it also encourages kids to write. Love it! And then there’s J.J. Let me just say … he had me at the word “anagram”. Anagrams are cool, and he’s one cool bloke.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you get through this book. You just want to keep reading it ‘til it’s done. Check it out! And if you’ve read it already, let me know if you’re excited for Autumn’s Kiss.

See also my ami thé and my A-to-Z of Autumn Falls!


4 Squinkles


Bella Thorne’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, Random House, for sending me a copy of Autumn Falls
in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

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