Tag Archives: 2016

Mighty Jack #1 (Ben Hatke)

20 Mar

So, if you like fairytale adaptations like I do, you’ll probably have a really good time with the first book in the Mighty Jack series.

 

Mighty Jack  

Squinklethoughts 1.  I’ve always had an issue with Jack and his magic beanstalk.  How could he have given up his cow for a few measly beans?  This time round, though, Ben Hatke makes Jack a little more mature, a little more kindly, a little less self-centred, and only a little … silly.  Oh, and he’s a little grumpy, but I didn’t mind that because I like talking back to grumpy characters.

2.  I’ve had a few kids of all grades and linguistic abilities read this already, and they’ve all enjoyed it.  The fourth-grader laughed out loud a lot, and the mom of the eighth-grader mentioned to me that he had stayed up late one night just so that he could finish the book.  An ESL student also told me that she really enjoyed it, which speaks to the universality of Hatke’s retelling.

3.  The illustrations in this book are aces.  The panels and page layouts are varied, so the story doesn’t lull, and I particularly enjoyed that there were a lot of things going on in the gutters.

4.  This isn’t just a happily-ever-after story.  Parts of the story are lip-quaver-inducing. For example, Jack’s mom has to work overtime because they need money for food; and Maddy, Jack’s sister, is autistic, so Jack often finds it difficult to connect with her.

5.  The first book ends on such a cliffhanger (reader, beware), so my kids are all waiting for the next installment.  I think that if the series stretches out to a few more book, it would be a prime opportunity for Hatke to develop Maddy’s character.  I wonder if she’ll become the true heroine of the story.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Ben Hatke’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters

 

Thank you, Raincoast Books, for sending me a copy of
Mighty Jack in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are my own.

Isabella for Real (Margie Palatini)

17 Mar

I bet we’ve all wondered how our lives would change if we were all of a sudden famous, right?  Squinks, here’s a great story about a little girl named Isabella who suddenly finds fame … and finds out that it’s not quite what she expected it to be.

 

Isabella for Real   

1.  I don’t know that I’ve ever truly wanted to be famous.  As the eldest child, I know what it’s like to have siblings watching and copying my every move, so I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed being in the limelight much.  One of the biggest reasons I liked Isabella for Real is that Isabella’s expectations of fame change very quickly once she finds it.  I know she doesn’t really ask to be famous, but I loved the struggle she has with figuring it all out.

2.  My family is pretty kooky, so I completely enjoyed meeting all of Isabella’s eccentric relatives.  Plus, they keep her grounded, which is what all good families should do, so I’m glad she can count on them (even if they are sometimes  sources of potential embarrassment).

3.  I first fell in love with LeUyen Pham’s illustration when I read the Alvin Ho stories.  The drawings are just wonderful, and the comic strips in this story really propel it along.  To be honest, I wonder why the entire story wasn’t written in comic strips.

4.  I like epistolary novels and diary stories.  There’s something about the first-person perspective that just works with certain books, and this is one of them.  I like that Isabella for Real combines movie storyboards, comic strips, diary entries, and traditional narrative.  That’s kind of how my mind is.

5.  I’m glad that this book tackles the highs and lows of social media.  Smart phones and social apps weren’t really around in my day (dinosaur times, I know), so the problems that arise from them have only begun to find their way into MG and YA stories.  For this reason alone, I think Isabella for Real would be valuable in any elementary library or classroom.  (And for when the kids are older: Sophie Kinsella has a very funny take on Instagram in her novel My Not-So-Perfect Life.)

 

4 Squinkles

 

Margie Palatini’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Chapters

 

Thank you, Raincoast Books, for sending me a copy of
Isabella for Real in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between (Lauren Graham)

15 Mar

Reading Lauren Graham’s memoir is like reconnecting with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time but have loved nonetheless through the years.  If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan like I am, you’ll love every bit of this book, and will undoubtedly fall in love with LG even more.

 

Talking as Fast as I Can

Squinklethoughts1.  When I saw that my husband had given me a book for Christmas, I thought, “What book could I possibly want but not already have?”  Turns out, he actually realized that in all the hustle and bustle of November and December at school, I hadn’t yet managed to pick up Talking as Fast as I Can.  Best Christmas gift ever (because his gift also included some Tsum-Tsum blind bags, and, really, he just gets me).

 

Talking as Fast as I Can - Gym  

2.  I devoured the original series of Gilmore Girls.  I saw so much of myself in both Lorelai and Rory – a fast talker, a book nerd, a self-confident student who didn’t care much about what others thought, a quirky friend, and a complete coffee addict.  This book brought me back to happy (and not-so-happy) memories that coloured my young-adulthood.  It was cool to know how Ms. Graham’s childhood and young adult-hood also developed.  Did you know she used to live on a boat?

3.  The best parts of the memoir are the two sections that discuss her life during the original and follow-up series.  Graham does a great job correlating what we saw on the screen to what was happening behind the cameras.  I loved learning more about the cast and their real-life relationships with one another.

4.  It would have taken a lot for me not to love this book, but even objectively speaking, anyone who liked Gilmore Girls or Parenthood would enjoy reading about Graham’s voice in her own words.  Her prose is humorous and a little self-deprecating, from time to time, which I really loved because I like that kind of personality.  I don’t usually buy audiobooks of stories I already have in print, but this is one that I’m really eager to get.  Can you imagine having Lauren Graham telling you her life story in her own voice, talking as fast as she can?  I’m sure it’s awesome.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Lauren Graham’s Online Corners
Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Chapters

 

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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!

* Teachers/parents, if you’d like a copy of the chapter-by-chapter questions that I give to my students, please feel free to email me!

 

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.

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