Tag Archives: 4.5 squinkles

Squint (Chad Morris & Shelly Brown)

14 Oct

Middle school is hard enough, but imagine having to go through all the craziness of school while also losing your vision.  In Squint, Morris and Brown introduce Flint, a very sweet and uplifting character who’s going blind and is not part of the in-crowd, but who finds solace in drawing his comic book and making a new friend.

 

Squint Squinklethoughts

1.  Squint (real name Flint) is such a nice guy.  I wish there were more kids like him.  He’s very observant about the dynamics of school and how people interact with one another.  He’s also quite honest about his fears about losing his sight, not finishing his comic book on time, and generally not ever being accepted.  What I love most about him is his authenticity.  The story is told from his perspective, and I think my students will really find a friend in him because he tells his story well.

2.  McKell is also a great character.  It must be difficult dealing with a terminally ill sibling.  It’s one thing to deal with death, but even at my “mature” (ha) age, I still find it hard to hear that someone my age is dying.  Mostly, I’m happy that McKell chooses to not follow her friends in the way they make fun of Squint.  I’m hoping that someone who reads this story will be inspired by McKell deciding to befriend him instead of treating him poorly.  Imagine what both of them would miss out on if they had never met.

3.  I love that Squint lists various rules.  In fact, I think they would have made great chapter subtitles!

4.  This whole narrative gently nudges readers to consider their choices carefully without seeming too … preachy, for lack of a better word.  When Squint’s grandpa encourages him to be proud of the hard work he puts into his drawings, it highlights the idea that quitting, while sometimes easier, is not necessarily the best choice.  And when Squint comes into the kitchen with a glint in his eye, and his grandma tells him that his grandpa would advise him to treat his friend really well, it was a much nicer way of teaching Squint to be considerate of others.  You catch more flies with honey, they say, eh?

 

Squint 2  

5.  I like the multimodal aspects of the story.  Besides the rules that Squint mentions periodically, there are comic-book excerpts and text exchanges between the characters.  They enhance the story simply by giving readers a break from the traditional narrative format.  More and more, I see my young readers devouring these kinds of texts.

6.  Teachers/parents: You’ll definitely want to add this story to your shelves.  It’s a nice way to introduce readers to topics like fitting in, making friends, being sick, getting advice from your grandparents, and ultimately accepting who you are.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Chad Morris’ Online Corners
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Shelly Brown’s Online Corners
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Thanks, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Squint in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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My So-Called Bollywood Life (Nisha Sharma)

19 Sep

I had a feeling, as soon as I read the synopsis for the book, that I was going to love My So-Called Bollywood Life, and I’m happy to be right.  I half hope that this will be made into a movie – but only half hope because as much as I’d like to see Winnie Mehta’s life played out on screen, I also don’t want to risk ruining a great narrative along the way.

 

My So-Called Bollywood Life Squinklethoughts

1.  I love Nisha Sharma’s voice and writing style.  There’s so much wit (and snark!) in all the characters’ words.  Even in just describing Winnie herself, Sharma has so many funny, quotable lines to make the reading experience pleasurable.  As someone who has never really not code-switched in everyday communication, I not only appreciate but also enjoy and welcome all of the characters’ flips among English, Hindi, and Punjabi.  I really would have loved a glossary at the back of the book (I’ve only seen the ARC and eARC, so I’m not sure if the final copy has one) alongside the list of movies Winnie mentions throughout the novel.

2.  In recent years, the call for stories (in novels and movies, especially) with diverse characters has grown louder.  Of course, it only makes sense that narratives highlighting the experiences of characters from different ethnic backgrounds should be readily available, even prevalent, in our modern global society.  However, I also believe that any story – whether featuring diverse characters or not – should, above all, be well told and authentic.  One of the reasons I really enjoyed this story is the way Sharma doesn’t force Indian/American-Indian culture down the reader’s throat (Eye?  This idiom got away from me …).  Winnie’s life (and, therefore, this story) is intrinsically entrenched in the culture of her family, but not everything is about being Indian.  She’s deeply stressed by her family’s pandit’s prophecy about her love life, but she’s also worried about whether she has enough worthwhile entries on her university application to give her a fighting chance to attend the school of her dreams.  In this way, Sharma encourages her readers to learn and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of our ethnicities while reminding us that we belong to more than one culture/subculture.  Our everyday experiences reflect the fact that we are so much  more than just Indian/Italian/ Indonesian/Iranian, etc.; we are also students/bookworms/film buffs/artists/athletes, etc.  Sharma gets this so right in the story.  Winnie can simultaneously worry about organizing a student film festival and finding a nice lengha to wear to prom.  Neither action defines her, but they both contribute to who she is.  THIS is something that will come up in my lessons when I use the book in my lessons.

3.  On a less wordy note, Sharma’s characters are endearing and interesting.  Bridget is a great sidekick, Dev is charming and enigmatic, Pandit Ohmi is adorably funny, and Winnie’s grandmother is a tough-but-sweet cookie.  Sharma took care to create characters with unique quirks that enhance the plot in their own ways.  If I had to write a story, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to make characters’ voices authentic and different from one another’s, but I can definitely spot an author who can masterfully do so.  I wish I could meet Winnie, and that’s a testament to how real of a person she became to me as I read the novel … as well as a testament to Sharma’s narrative prowess.

4.  Teachers/parents: There are many reasons why this title should be added to your shelves.  It can be because it’s a book with diverse characters in it, or because it’s a novel that has tons of allusions to various Bollywood films, or something else completely.  Point #2 includes many reasons for why My So-Called Bollywood Life has been added to my curriculum this term.  Ultimately, I found this title to have a lot of heart, and I think a lot of my students will love it, too.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Nisha Sharma’s Online Corners
Website | Pinterest | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Crown Books for Young Readers and Penguin Random House, for sending me a copy of My So-Called Bollywood Life in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

That’s Not What Happened (Kody Keplinger)

4 Sep

Happy September, Squinks!  We’ve had a crazy-busy spring and summer in our little corner of the world, so while I’ve been updating our school library shelves and spotlights list, I haven’t had much time to write on this blog.  But September is a great time for new beginnings, right?  There’ve been tons of awesome books published in the last few months, and I can’t wait to share them all with you here.

First up is Kody Keplinger’s unforgettable That’s Not What Happened.  A few years ago, a YA novel about school-shooting survivors would not have been on my TBR list.  I don’t usually opt to read sad stories, especially those involving kids – I get too sad too easily.  But something about the premise of this novel really called to me, and not only did I request this book, but I bumped it up to the top of my list when it arrived.

 

That's Not What Happened Squinklethoughts

1.  That’s Not What Happened is about survivors whose perspectives don’t get as much play in the media as the victims’.  We read and hear a lot about the lives of the victims and their futures that were taken away, but we don’t get as much information about the people who have to keep on going after witnessing their friends die.  Above all else, this novel gives us a story told from much-needed perspectives.

2.  Speaking of perspectives, while the story is told from the point of view of Lee Bauer – one of the witnesses, and best friend of one of the victims – Keplinger masterfully allows the other survivors to tell their tales, too.  The survivors have a voice, and the victims’ stories are told by people who knew them best.  There are many times that I think a story with multiple narrators would have been better told from just one person’s point of view, but I’m really pleased with how Keplinger neatly sews together the various narrators’ sections to create a seamless storyline.

3.  This novel was very unputdownable for me.  I read it in a couple of days, and it only took me that long because I started on a weekday, and couldn’t read much while teaching (though I snuck in a few pages here and there).  I really, really wanted to know, first, what detail about Sarah (Lee’s best friend) everyone keeps getting wrong, and, second, what Kellie has to do with it.  These mysteries propel the story forward, on top of the fact that I was very invested in all of the survivors’ lives since the tragedy of three years ago.  The six survivors are treated by the police, the school community, and the town at large as one group, but the shooting occurred at different moments in their lives, which inevitably leads to very distinct ways of dealing with it.

 

That's Not What Happened 2  

4.  This is the kind of story that you have to read for yourself.  I can’t tell you exactly what might compel you to read through to the end, but for me, it was a combination of memorable characters, authentic dialogue, angst and conflict and misunderstandings, and a desire to know what really happened.  I know some people weren’t particularly moved by the story, and I think that’s just proof that how much a story or character affects a reader is based on when that story or character enters a reader’s life.  Some readers will devour this book, while others might think it’s just another YA title.  Regardless, I think this is an important book to be accessible to all readers in case there’s one out there who might need it.

5.  Teachers, there are a lot of ways this title can be incorporated into your lessons.  Potential topics include: truth, THE truth vs. what is accepted as truth, loyalty, finding your voice, survivor’s guilt, life after tragedy, bullying, knowing when a story is yours to tell, reconstructing a shattered life, and controlling the narrative.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Kody Keplinger’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic, for sending me a copy of That’s Not What Happened in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Just Like Jackie (Lindsey Stoddard)

30 Apr

Fair warning, Squinks: This story will hit you in the feels.  Multiple times.  Definitely pick up Just Like Jackie for your next read.

 

Just Like Jackie Squinklethoughts

1.  It’s not that I had low expectations of this book, but as an avid MG readers, I generally have a good sense of how an MG reading session is going to go.  It’s one of the great comforts of this genre that readers should expect some comedy, some angst, some magic (maybe), and a lot of heart.  Just Like Jackie has all of these, which makes for an excellent reading experience.

2.  First off, I was so mad for the first five or six chapters.  Everything Robbie feels in the opening pages, I’ve felt, too.  The injustice!  The utter cruelty of Alex and Robbie’s teachers/principal!  I can’t believe she was made to return to school even after everything that happens in the opening pages.  That would so not fly in today’s world.  I was seething at some points that I seriously considered giving up the story and throwing the book across the room, just so I wouldn’t be mad.  But I’m glad I didn’t, and if you feel this way after the first few chapters, too, trust me … keep reading.

3.  I firmly believe that for some people, all it takes is one teacher to believe in you for you to believe in yourself.  Of course, you can have many supportive teachers in your life, but how early you’re lucky enough to find the first can make all the difference in your entire academic career.  With the way things are going in Robbie’s life, she’s incredibly fortunate that her school counsellor, Ms. Gloria, has the patience and tenacity to keep trying to help her and the other kids.  I’m willing to bet that Robbie, Alex, and the other kids in the group will never forget Ms. Gloria.  And she really saves the reading experience for me.

4.  It’s so hard to watch someone’s memories slip away.  I think it’s much harder to experience than simply seeing someone grow weak with age because you can’t really see memories failing.  But you can certainly feel it, and it brings incredible sadness for everyone who’s friends with the person affected by it.  Robbie is sweet and caring, and every time her heart breaks over her grandpa, my heart twinged with sadness, too.  What a situation to have to deal with at such a young age!

 

Just Like Jackie 2

 

5.  I’d have loved to have learned more about Robbie’s family background, but I suppose it’s not necessary.  However, considering the family seems to have had so much drama, I was really looking forward to reading more about the past.

6.  I’m so glad Robbie has friends like Derek and Harold to get her through her days.  They’re incredibly loyal, treating Robbie as if she were family, which makes the ending more optimistic than it might have been.

7.  Teachers/parents: There are two things I particularly enjoyed about this story.  First, Harold has a husband, and the two adopt a baby.  It’s not a major plot point in the story, but I’m glad, all the same, that it exists, especially considering Robbie has to deal with issues surrounding her grandpa having darker skin colour than her.  I liked that the obstacles stemming from these are explored, but that neither racism nor homophobia overpowers the other troubles Robbie faces, namely her grandpa’s failing memory and the school bully.  Second, Stoddard’s writing is so fluid that I lost myself in the authenticity of Robbie’s voice.  Her emotions are so real and heart wrenching that I found myself, on multiple occasions, tearing up on the subway and streetcar from everything Robbie has to deal with.  If you’re thinking of including Just Like Jackie on your bookshelves or reading list, you might want to keep this in mind when considering your readers.  This story affected me more than I anticipated, and it’s a great one for all readers to experience.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Lindsey Stoddard’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of Just Like Jackie in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Love Sugar Magic #1: A Dash of Trouble (Anna Meriano)

13 Mar

Squinks, if you’re looking for a story brimming with magical adventures and misadventures, with a healthy serving of heart and humour, then you must read Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble.

 

 Squinklethoughts

1. I love origin stories about magical people.  I think that’s what drew me to the Harry Potter series because the pitch involved a boy who learns he’s a wizard.  In A Dash of Trouble, Leo(nora) discovers that she and the other girls in her family are brujas – witches with magical powers that are passed down the matriarchal line.  It was really interesting to read about how Leo discovers her family secret and how she handles (bumbles) it.  I totally would’ve bumbled it, too, I bet.

2.  Leo is a sweet character who does many wrong things for the right reasons, and these choices are sources of great conflict – and comedy!  While her stubbornness at not leaving experimenting with magic left me saying out loud, “Don’t do it!” as if she were a movie character taking a shortcut through the woods at night, the thing is … I totally get her.  It’s hard to listen to people who are trying to prevent you from growing up or developing your skills.

3.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as the youngest in a large household, but I bet I’d be as frustrated as Leo is, having to watch her sisters, mom, and aunt work to make their family panadería successful, all while being told that the best way to help is to stay out of the way … for four years!  At 11, Leo is too small, too young, too green to start doing magic, but what she lacks in age and experience, she makes up for in enthusiasm and heart.  I have a sneaky suspicion I wouldn’t have been able to wait four years either.

4.  I like the friendship between Leo and Caroline.  I also like that Caroline has a sad back story, which is probably one of the reasons that Leo wants to help her out so much.  It’s nice to find good, loyal friends at a young age.  I also really appreciated Meriano’s development of Brent’s character.  Rather than being a “typical” boy that middle-grade girls (and girls of all ages, come to think of it) stay away from because of cooties, Brent is kind—often sweet—to Caroline and Leo.  It’s a welcome change from other stories with female protagonists that often brush boys aside.

 

  

5.  There is so much to love about this story, and I’m glad it’s just the first in a series.  I really want to know more about Leo’s mama, abuela, bisabuela, and tías.  I definitely want their stories and Leo’s sisters’ stories to appear more in the next books.  Their personalities and magical powers are so different … there is so much potential for great plot lines and conflicts in subsequent tales.  And Leo’s dad.  Well, he’s a Pandora’s Box I can’t wait to open.  (Be careful what you wish for?)

6.  One of the best things about this book is how liberally Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout it.  Because I code-switch all the time at home (and even at work, when I don’t realize it), it was so natural, but also refreshing, for me to have Leo and her family speaking a combination of English and Spanish.  Meriano offers readers a great avenue to learn a bit about this beautiful language and the cultures from whence it came.  This is definitely one of the unique strengths of this novel.

7.  Teachers/parents, I very much recommend this book for all your MG readers, especially if they’re into magic, sisterhood, and learning a little of the Spanish language.  I bet the follow-ups will be even better!

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Anna Meriano’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, HarperCollins Canada, for sending me a copy of Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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