Tag Archives: 3.5 squinkles

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.

Prettiest Doll (Gina Willner-Pardo)

29 Aug

Prettiest DollA librarian friend of mine suggested I pick up a copy of this book, and the author, Gina Willner-Pardo, very kindly signed and sent me a copy.  This is one of those books that I probably would have passed over if I had simply been browsing Chapters for my Next Great Read, so I was glad that it was recommended to me.

Prettiest Doll is a sweet story about a 13-year-old girl, trapped in the clutches of the beauty-pageant world by her mama, whose resentment over her glitzy cage manifests itself into running away.  Olivia desperately wants to live a life that doesn’t include stiff dresses, stiff hair, and stiff smiles—no matter how many people tell her she’s beautiful.  So when a stranger comes to her small corner of Missouri, in the form of 15-year-old Danny, who’s also dealing with the trappings of his own cage, Olivia finds her ticket out of town.

There are a few things that I really enjoyed about this book that you might like as well.  First, I like that Olivia is not whiny.  It would’ve been very easy to write a character who complains about anything and everything under the sun, especially since Olivia does have something to complain about.  But I very much appreciated that despite her complaints, she doesn’t seem bratty or annoying.  She has genuine concerns about how her participation in pageants might affect the rest of her life.

Second, I liked having a bit of a backstage pass to view the life of a beauty queen between contests.  I wonder if Willner-Pardo ever participated in any pageants herself of if she knows someone who does.  I think, Squinks, what you’ll like is the fact that she tackles the "uncommon" situation of someone who’s good at something but who doesn’t actually want to participate in it.  We never think of that happening.  I mean, usually, if you’re good at gym, for example, teachers assume that you actually enjoy gym class.  I liked the fleshing out of Olivia’s character by giving her so many layers.  She wants to please her mom, knowing she easily could, but she doesn’t enjoy it and, instead, dares to think differently and deeply about her future.

The third thing I really enjoyed was the dynamic between Olivia and Danny.  Willner-Pardo nicely juxtaposes Olivia’s obstacles with Danny’s dilemmas to showcase the fact that despite being relatively similar in age, kids can have radically distinct—though somewhat related—problems.  And in talking about their lives and sharing their fears and hopes, these two people who might never have known each other if not for their chance encounter over milkshake, begin a friendship that I’m sure they will cherish for the rest of their lives.  I know it’s hard to think about making friends and leaving them, and although Willner-Pardo doesn’t indicate that Olivia and Danny will never meet again, in creating the character of Danny, the author highlights the existence of a rare and beautiful gift that sometimes we take for granted (or not even realize we have): Danny is one of those souls that walks into our lives, if but for a fleeting moment, but that nonetheless changes us forever.  I liked that Olivia and Danny discover more of themselves by getting to know one another.

Squinks, this is a nice story of friendship and growing up that you might like.  I did find some parts of it moving a little slowly—there was a moment when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick it up again after I was interrupted, but I was glad I did.  The ending is sweet and thought-provoking.  And parents, this is a great story to lead into discussions of physical appearances, expectations, and the true meaning of beauty—not to mention running away from home.  That being said, the irony isn’t lost on me about how I totally judged this book by its cover when I first saw it, which is the issue Olivia and Danny grapple with throughout the story.  But just as with other things, there’s so much more than meets the eye in this book.

 

 

Gina Willner-Pardo’s Online Corners
Website| Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

 

Thank you, Gina Willner-Pardo and Clarion Books, for sending me a copy of Prettiest Doll.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

Campaign of the Gods (Mike Evers)

23 Oct

Campaign of the Gods

 

Squinklebooks Squad,

 

Here’s another fun story by Mike Evers. This time, lovers of mythology will get lost in an interesting world where Asgardian gods mingle—at first inadvertently and then very willingly—with Earthly humans. Stuart Gooding is a police constable who is anxiously awaiting the birth of his first child. You’d think that all he had to worry about was assembling a cot and crossing his fingers that the baby doesn’t come while he’s patrolling the streets of Hopfield. But with Norse god, Loki, a troublemaker in every aspect, in the mood for mischief, Officer Gooding’s quiet life won’t stay quiet for very long.

 

Evers has a talent for creating intricate worlds where the lives of various characters intertwine. While I did find some parts were slower than others, I was sufficiently intrigued to find out how the gods and humans untangle themselves from Loki’s net that I was eager to continue reading nonetheless.

 

3.5 Squinkles

 

Some things I particularly enjoyed, which I think you might enjoy, too, are the little introductions to Norse deities and concepts that serve as background on the characters and places each chapter mentions. If I ended up not enjoying the story, I would’ve been happy to have learned a little something about Norse mythology at the very least.

 

Mike Evers’ Online Corners

Website | Book Trailer

 

Shelf Life - Borrow

 

Thank you, Mike Evers and Great Minds Think Aloud, for sending me a copy of Campaign of the Gods.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

The Spirit Archer (Mike Evers)

22 Oct

Spirit ArcherHey Squinklebooks Squad,

 

If you enjoy reading historical fiction or you just can’t get enough of the Middle Ages, try out this novella from Mike Evers. To be honest, I don’t know too much about this time period because—and I’m ashamed to admit this—I haven’t read much set in these centuries, including the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Evers’ story is firmly planted into the modern world, but lovers of the age of knights, ladies, and castles will enjoy the ties to 1237 England.  A visit to Robin Hood’s grave awakens the spirit of the famous outlaw from English legend, and a touching, if unconventional, friendship develops between two characters who are both in need of someone to talk to. 

 

3.5 Squinkles

 

Have you ever felt like the weight on your shoulders is just too much to bear? Have you ever encountered an unlikely hero or become friends with an unusual sort? You might enjoy reading this story about the time Jamie and Robin Hood find each other by accident and how both of their lives take turns for the better.

 

Mike Evers’ Online Corners

Website | Book Trailer

 

Shelf Life - Borrow

 

Thank you, Mike Evers and Great Minds Think Aloud, for sending me a copy of The Spirit Archer.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

The Librarian Saga [Parts 1 & 2] (Eric Hobbs)

21 Oct

Dear Squinklebooks Squad,

It’s such a great concept to have adventures begin in a library, don’t you think? After all, don’t libraries hold within their walls some of the greatest adventures? And the very best librarians are those who not only know the secrets within the books that surround them but who, rather than reveal them outright, simply point adventurers in the right direction.

 

I really enjoyed the fact that Hobbs chose to have very small, bite-sized chapters in The Librarian Saga. They helped me compartmentalize what was happening to the various characters. The pacing of the story was wicked fast … so much so that I finished Part 1 in one sitting because I just couldn’t wait to get to the ending.

 

Librarian Saga 1What can you expect from Part 1?

  • a storyline revolving around Peter Pan

  • two main characters who have lots of spunk

  • a guest character who’s both piteous and honourable

  • mysterious carvings

  • a grand adventure

 

What’s in store for you in Part 2? Librarian Saga 2

  • more action

  • greater character development of the main characters

  • two main characters whose friendship is put to the test

  • a bully you might just feel something for

  • an adventure down the yellow-brick road

 

 

3.5 Squinkles

 

Hobbs has a great love for books and the art of storytelling. His passion certainly seeps through every page of his work. I wonder which literary characters will appear as the saga continues!

 

Eric Hobbs’ Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Shelf Life - Borrow

 

Thank you, Eric Hobbs, for sending me a copy of The Librarian Saga, Parts 1 & 2.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

 

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