Tag Archives: 4.5 squinkles

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.

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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.

The Lost Rainforest #1: Mez’s Magic (Eliot Schrefer)

22 Feb

Readers who love stories about animals, unlikely friendships, and near-impossible goals will love Eliot Schrefer’s The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic.

 

Lost Rainforest - Mez's Magic Squinklethoughts

1. I love stories about unlikely friendships and partnerships.  What better way is that demonstrated than in a story where a panther, fruit bat, tree frog, and capuchin monkey join forces to defeat a common foe?  I love Schrefer’s choice to use rainforest animals as defenders of their world.  It only makes sense that those living in Caldera would have the most reason to want to keep it safe.

2.  Mez’s relationship with her sister, Chumba, is so sweet, and one of my favourite parts of the whole story.  Their banter and the way that Mez looks out for Chumba all the time really makes you fall in love with Mez right from the start of the novel.  Add to that their double defense against Mist, their luminous cousin, and you’ve got a great sister tag team that I hope will make it into the other stories.

3.  Speaking of other stories, Mez’s Magic is the first in a planned series of books, each of which will be told from the perspective of one of the animals.  In general, I don’t like having multiple narrators, but in this case, because Lima (the bat), Rumi (the frog), and Gogi (the monkey) are all delightful and unique, I can imagine how successful having each of them as narrators in the following books could be.  I particularly love Rumi’s nerdiness – he totally speaks my language!

4.  There is a lot of action in the back half of the story, which was great because I enjoyed the animals’ journey to the ziggurat, and was kind of worried that there wouldn’t be as much adventure when they got there.  I love that there’s even a ziggurat in the book (great teachable moment), though it was hard for me to imagine all the panels on the ziggurat that the animals were seeing.  I hope subsequent books will include them.  I can see a set of playing cards or collectible cards being made from all the creatures and places in this story.  Schrefer has created a richly detailed world!

 

Lost Rainforest - Mez's Magic 2  

5.  Teachers/parents, I have no trouble recommending this book for your children’s bookshelves.  The compassion of Mez and her friends are really important to encounter in literary characters, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this story.  I wonder though if maybe you want to wait ‘til the second book comes out before getting this one because you can bet your little readers will be clamouring for the next as soon as they turn the last page!

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Eliot Schrefer’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, HarperCollins Canada, for sending me a copy of The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Click’d (Tamara Ireland Stone)

27 Nov

It might surprise you, considering I’m writing this on my blog, that I don’t know much about coding.  What I know I learned in one class in high school, and I use a combination of my very basic knowledge plus a lot of Google help to present these very words in some sort of aesthetic format.  You should definitely meet Allie Navarro – soccer player and app developer extraordinaire.

 

Click'd Squinklethoughts

1.  You really will like Allie.  She’s spent the whole summer with a few brilliant girls developing a coding project on something she feels can benefit people, which is also an entry into an upcoming coding competition.  Click’d is her answer to schoolmates not knowing one another and not knowing that they have more in common than they realize.  Allie has a good heart, and even though she spends the summer away from her best friends, it’s as if nothing has changed when they reconnect on the first day of school.  This says a lot about her.  She’s so upset when she inadvertently hurts a friend, and she feels sick when she realizes how many people she might potentially hurt if she doesn’t fix a nagging problem in her code.  I think I’d like to be friends with Allie.

2.  The dedication page mentions Stone’s real-life Ms. Slade, and it’s so wonderful to know that the author had a teacher who once told her she could do anything and be anything.  Too often I hear students complain about how much work a teacher gives or how unfair a prof is, so I’m always on the lookout for teacher-student mentorship stories.  Maybe it’s because I always hope that I give kids more inspiration than … homework.  Ms. Slade is so nice in the story.  She offers help to Allie and her archnemesis, Nathan, but she doesn’t necessarily give them answers or do the work for them.  Again, A+ in my books.  Most importantly, she always makes Allie feel like she’s on the right path.  Ms. Slade focuses on the good stuff Allie does, and I’m sure it holds Allie together more than she realizes.  Great teacher.

3.  Stone also creates a great character in Nate.  He and Allie don’t get along very well, but interestingly, it seems to be just small annoyances that have built up over time that have created the huge chasm between them.  They actually do have a lot more in common than they realize, and Allie’s app makes them both see that.  It’s pretty cool that Allie benefits from her own app.

4.  I’m not entirely sure how well the app would work in real life, and this was the only iffy thing for me about the book.  Once all the students in a school have downloaded the app and gone through the questions, how much more would the leader boards change?  Of course, the app will spread to other schools and other communities, but the characters don’t address that potential much, so I wondered how different the story would be if it went beyond the week-long setting.  I guess I’m just curious how long it might take for a person to exhaust his/her potential leader board in Allie’s world.  Maybe Allie would roll out other features?  Hmm … now I’m kind of curious about that.

 

Click'd 2  

5.  Stone’s writing is very easy to get lost in.  The story flows very well, and I didn’t have any trouble ploughing right through the book.  In fact, I read it in a couple of days because I really wanted to know how Allie’s story develops.  I know a few students who would love to befriend Allie and see how she gets through her coding issue.  The language seems to read like more of a YA story in the beginning, but the characters are all still in elementary school, so this would make a great bridge novel for advanced young readers getting ready to enter the YA world.  I’m eager to read more of Ms. Stone’s work!

6.  Loved the ending.  Not too neat, not too difficult.  Gold … ilocks.

7.  More than possibly encouraging girls to get into coding, as this book was blurbed to me, the story really is just good.  It’s about a girl who creates something amazing but that takes on a life of its own.  It’s about a girl who has a major crisis to solve and a huge competition to face.  It’s about a girl who’s loyal to her friends and who hurts them by accident.  The coding stuff was great, especially for someone like me who doesn’t know much/anything about coding, but really, it’s all about the girl.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Tamara Ireland Stone’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Disney-Hyperion, for sending me a copy of Click’d in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Tales from Adventureland #1: The Keymaster’s Quest (Jason Lethcoe)

22 Nov

If you love visiting Disney parks, especially Adventureland and the Enchanted Tiki Room, and your heart is eager to go on a little adventure, then this is the book for you!

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest Squinklethoughts

1.  The Keymaster’s Quest is a fast-paced adventure that grabs you from the very start.  I’m really glad that there wasn’t a whole lot of downtime in between chase scenes and fight scenes and escape scenes.  That meant that I didn’t skim quickly through any particular part: I was riveted to the story the whole way through.  From a mansion in Oregon to the waters of the Pacific Ocean (literally) and onto the Hawaiian islands, readers journey alongside Andy Stanley as he fulfills his grandfather’s mission.

2.  I love how awkward and clumsy Andy is.  These qualities make him someone you really want to root for.  It also makes for an excellent protagonist in a story that is so quintessentially a bildungsroman.  Not that that is what my students will pay attention to.  They’ll just love how awkward Andy is and how funny he can be … and maybe how there’s a little bit of him in all of them.

3.  I wasn’t all that pleased that Andy leaves for his adventure without personally talking to his parents.  I know it’s important for the main parental figures to get out of the way so that the adventures can truly start, but I still would’ve liked to see him make a phone call or something to let his mom know he’s okay.

4.  What a great location for a story – the Polynesian islands!  There’s so much natural beauty and, of course, potential traps put into place by ancient magic.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve always loved stories based in Hawaii, but it was really hard not to lap up every detail of the islands that Lethcoe offers.  I loved reading about Pele, Kapu, the menehune, and all the other magical island dwellers in the story.

5.  Ned Lostmore’s friends are a hoot!  I so want to know more about them and how they came to be part of the Explorers’ Society.  I’m particularly enamoured with Madame Wiki.  She seems like she’s got quite a story to tell.

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest 2  

6.  This is the first book in a series, but I’m not entirely sure how long the series will last.  On his website, Lethcoe alludes to the idea of a trilogy, but three books really aren’t enough!  I really hope there are way more stories based on the various rides and lands in the Disney Parks.  I think a Jungle-Cruise-themed adventure is up next (or soon), and I’m so ready for that!

7.  I really wanted some Dole Whip while I was reading this story.  I can’t wait for more Disney adventures this Christmas.

8.  Teachers/parents, this is an excellent story to add to your shelves.  Even if your kids are not as Disnerdy as I am, they’ll still love Andy’s adventures.  What really drives this story is Andy himself whom Lethcoe brilliantly colours as sweet and smart and sensitive.  He’s exactly what many kids are at his age, and his lack of certainty mixed with his stalwart desire to be brave is both heartwarming and encouraging.  I’m sure many kids will find a kindred spirit in Andy.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Jason Lethcoe’s Online Corners
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Disney Books, for sending me a copy of Tales from Adventureland: The Keymaster’s Quest in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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