Tag Archives: 4.5 squinkles

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.

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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.

The Magic Misfits (Neil Patrick Harris)

21 Nov

I love everything about The Magic Misfits – from its title to the cover art to the fact that it’s written by one of my favourite actors ever.  This is a completely magical read that I finished in one sitting and has left me hungry for more.

 

Magic Misfits Squinklethoughts

1.  The Magic Misfits.  What a great title.  Who hasn’t ever felt like a misfit at least a few dozen times in his or her life?  As a teacher, I know I often seem all cool and collected (ha), but rest assured: I’ve had many a misfit moment in my school days.  (And a few since then, too, but we won’t talk about that.)  The title alone will hook you into thinking that you will find a kindred spirit in Carter, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

2.  Carter is such a great hero – a kind, courageous new hero I’m so pleased to introduce to my students.  He’s had a hard life, but he hasn’t let it beat him down.  I love that he develops, on his own, his tenet of never stealing, even though he’s raised by a thieving uncle.  Carter is not super trustworthy of others at first, and we can’t blame him, but he also wants to believe in them, which just goes to highlight his indomitable spirit.  He’s smart, funny, and a little dented – a perfect MC in my books.  He has so many more stories to tell.

3.  Leila, Theo, and Ridley are awesome companions.  They’re not all alike, so they don’t always agree with one another.  This makes for some great conversations.  But, like Carter, they’ve got big hearts.  Izzy and Olly round up the group very nicely, and I’m eager to learn more about them.  In fact, I want to learn more about all of them.  We get to meet a little of Theo’s family, but there’s so much more to explore about his tuxedo-wearing ways and Ridley’s reasons for being confined in a wheelchair.  I’d also love more stories about Leila’s two dads.  It was great of Harris to create a dramatis personae full of people with different personalities, divergent back stories, and unique talents.  A cast of misfits that fit so well together.  I love it!

4.  When Theo doesn’t even bat an eyelid when offering Carter a place to stay – The Feels.

5.  Uncle Vernon, Purveyor of Illusion and the first to befriend Carter in his new runaway life, is an enigma I want to demystify.  There are so many breadcrumbs about his childhood and his daily life that I’m just as interested in him as I am in the kids.  (Also, I love that he’s an Uncle Vernon and that there’s an allusion to Aunt Petunia in the novel, too.)

 

Magic Misfits 2  

6.  There are lots of magic tricks revealed in this story (but shh, don’t share them with non-magicians!).  This is great for young and old readers alike who would like to learn a little more about the tricks and illusions magicians perform.

7.  Loved the ending!  But boy, does it ever epitomize the whole “always leave ‘em wanting more” motto in showbiz.  I want more Misfit magic!  Luckily, there seem to be three more books planned in this series.  On the one hand, yay … three more books!  On the other hand, I really loved this story, and I’m a little sad that there will only be three more.  Perhaps we can persuade NPH to write beyond just four books?

8.  I wonder if Al A. Kazam is a real person.

9.  Teachers/parents, there are so many teachable lessons here.  I’ll be adding this title to our school library (especially since the author states at the beginning that the ARC is but a sapling in comparison to the finished copy), and I’ll also be putting together some reading and discussion questions for my students.  Among other topics the book explores are: what it means to fit in, how a person’s experiences shape him/her, what “magic” actually is, and creating families from friends.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Neil Patrick Harris’ Online Corners
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Thank you, LB Kids and HBG Canada, for sending me a copy of The Magic Misfits in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Have Sword, Will Travel (Garth Nix & Sean Williams)

3 Nov

I picked this book up because of the slogan that was pitched to me: “Live by the sword … Die by the sword … No matter how often the sword yells at you.”  Seriously, Squinks, you’ll get sucked in because of the talking sword, but you’ll stay for the adventures.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel Squinklethoughts

1.  Odo and Eleanor are great friends, and that, for me is the mark of a great story.  Odo is thoughtful and patient, but he doesn’t necessarily want to be a knight.  Eleanor, on the other hand, is also considerate, but a little more impulsive, and has always wanted to be knighted, to take after her mom.  It’s a great set-up for some excellent conflicts in the story.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel 3  

2.  Biter is funny!  He’s sarcastic and quick-witted, but pragmatic and to the point, too.  At many times throughout the story, I actually thought that there were three people travelling north.  Then I remembered that while Biter is a great character who moves the plot along and is instrumental to the action, he’s just a sword, bobbing his way alongside Sir Odo and Squire Eleanor.

3.  I love the names of the villages and townsfolk that Nix and Williams came up with.  They definitely give me nostalgia for my university classes where we learned about various Alfrics and Æthelreds.  I read the ARC version of this book, which didn’t have the illustrations in the final text, but I’m happy to say that the published book has a map for endpapers!  I love maps.  It’s so much easier to appreciate Odo and Eleanor’s adventures when you can see (not just imagine) how far they travel.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel - Map 

4.  I like that lady knights are not just possible in this fictional world, but commonplace.  And not just knighthood through marriage or royal blood either … the authors depict ladies as knights with the intent to combat enemies and defend honour.

5.  I don’t know if there’ll be many more books in this series, but I sure hope so.  There is still so much growing up to do by Odo, Eleanor, and even Biter whose recollection of his own story is a bit fuzzy.  I want to know more about Odo’s siblings and Eleanor’s mother.  I want to encounter Toland, Master Thrytin, and the urthkin again.  Mostly, I want more adventures, and I want to see how the friendship develops between Odo and Eleanor – not necessarily romantically.  It’s always interesting for me to see how a character changes alongside another character with whom he/she has been friends since childhood.  I can only imagine the kinds of conversations the two will have about the best routes to travel, the most efficient ways to parry a blow, and the need to wash every day (Odo).

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Garth Nix’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Sean Williams’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of Have Swords, Will Travel in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

A Map for Wrecked Girls (Jessica Taylor)

26 Sep

The best story backdrops are the ones that rip the main characters away from their natural habitats and pluck them into completely unknown worlds.  In Jessica Taylor’s A Map for Wrecked Girls, you’re in for a treat: there are TWO main characters (and a boy) stuck on a deserted island.  Only good things can come from this.

 

Map for Wrecked Girls

Squinklethoughts

1.  This story is about two sisters, and right there is the reason I wanted to read this.  Henri and Emma (great names!) have been as close as close can be.  They’re sisters and best friends and confidantes; they’re two halves of the same whole.  But things can’t always stay the way they are.  High school – and boys – get in the way.  Maybe it’s because I have sisters of my own that I was so compelled to find out how they get through the story with the chasm between them that seems all too permanent.  Can they even find their way back to each other?

2.  More than what would happen to the girls on the island, I wondered what would happen to the girls’ relationship.  This is what drives the book.  I know some people might think that it’s too contrived to have them maroon on an island, eke out desperate means of surviving desperate times, and hope that somehow their mitigating circumstances will eventually lead them to reconciliation.  In truth, I found the island survival part secondary to Emma and Henri surviving one another.  When you’ve spent your entire life dependent on another person, how do you now live feet away but worlds apart?

 

Map for Wrecked Girls 2

 

3.  I’m glad that Taylor doesn’t reveal the root of the girls’ problems until towards the end.  It gives readers a chance to get into Emma’s shoes (sandals?) through her narration.  I feel bad for what she did to Henri even though I didn’t even know what it was until the last few chapters.  But because Emma is a completely reliable narrator, I knew that it must have been really bad.  Imagine that, and attribute it to Taylor’s writing.  I had all these wild theories running around in my head about what Emma could have possibly done, but even without knowing it, I felt like Henri’s anger towards her was completely justified because Taylor writes Emma’s thoughts so well.

4.  Alex is so good.  So flawed, so human, so intriguing.  He treats the girls really well, especially considering he’s only known them for a few hours.  It must be quite difficult to deal with trying to thrive on an island while wracked with guilt for his cousin.  The best part about Alex is that he seems to really care about Emma, and he sees Henri for who she really is.  I wish that there had been more to the story just because I wanted to read about Alex more.  I know the story revolves, primarily, around Emma and Henri’s sistership, but Taylor sows the seeds for a great story revolving around Alex.

5.  Actually, I feel like the three characters – Emma, Henri, and Alex – have so many more stories to tell.  The novel is told from Emma’s perspective, but how great would it be to read Henri’s point of view of the whole mess as well?  I want more of these three!  And I want more of Jesse, the girls’ neighbour and long-time friend, who seems to be a beacon of stability in the girls’ lives.

6.  I feel really, really bad for Gavin.  Some people won’t agree.  But I think that sometimes, we use age as a fair-weather weapon to brandish about when it suits us, sheathing it only when doing so works in our favour.  There are so many other factors to consider.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Jessica Taylor’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada and Dial Books, for sending me a copy of A Map for Wrecked Girls in exchange for an honest review.

 

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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