Tag Archives: children

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


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.

Echo (Pam Muñoz Ryan)

6 May


I was drawn to this book for three reasons:

  1. The title … How mysterious!  How intriguing!
  2. The cover … So lovely.  The colours are just gorgeous, and the silhouettes made me think of my own happy days of childhood.
  3. The name Pam Muñoz Ryan … An author well known for weaving MG magic?  Of course I’ll give it a read!

Echo is a beautifully conceived and masterfully written piece of art.  I know all authors work hard on their books, but there are some stories that readers can just feel are labours of love.  And as soon as we realize how much plotting and planning obviously went into a particular story, we sort of root for not only the characters, but also for the author to keep the momentum going – to make the end of the novel as enticing as the beginning.  I felt compelled to finish Echo after just a few pages in.  Maybe it’s because the setting of the novel is before and after the Second World War.  I get very emotional imagining the lives of children whenever wars are involved (The War that Saved My Life did the same for me).  Or maybe I just wanted to find out what Eins’, Zwei’s, and Drei’s real names are.  Whatever it was, I stuck on for the 300-page ride and was left exhausted and exhilarated at the end of it.

Here’s what you need to know: the book is sewn together by a harmonica that finds its way into the hands of three children from various parts of the world at different points in time.  Much in the same way that the wand chooses the wizard, the harmonica seems to end up with the correct owner, right when that child needs its magical tones most.  Whether to befriend the outcast, to comfort the orphaned, or to inspire the poor, the harmonica with the mysterious M etched onto it gives each child the strength and determination he/she needs to blossom in a troubled world.  Three stories that are all different but all equally touching left me wondering if the M stood for “miracle”.

Why You’ll Love Friedrich

Have you ever known anyone to have been outcast because of their looks?  Maybe it was a simple mark like an inconveniently placed mole or something more drastic like a badly scarred face.  If so, then you’ll want to hug Friedrich from the moment you meet him.  He’s kindhearted and dedicated to his father and uncle; he understands the sacrifices his family has made for him.  You’ll feel heartbroken when you understand why one of his coworkers reacts to him in a particular way because Friedrich’s innocence has not yet allowed him to realize the darkness of humanity at this time.

Why You’ll Love Mike

If you are lucky enough to have a wonderful sibling or to know someone who cares about you as if you were family, you’ll be instantly drawn to Mike.  He is 11 years old, but wise beyond those years.  He’s grateful to have a bed in the orphanage, but his indomitable spirit allows him to hope for better things to come.  Mike’s best quality is his fierce protectiveness of his brother, Frankie.  He willingly sacrifices himself to ensure Frankie’s happiness and well-being, which is the kind of love enviable by all.  He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders just so Frankie doesn’t have to worry.  Who wouldn’t want someone like that in their lives?

Why You’ll Love Ivy

When Ivy has to leave her home abruptly, without even being given the chance to say goodbye to the handful of people who have been nice to her, I felt her pain.  I understand the injustice she feels and the guilt that runs through her, and I empathize with her struggle to feel bad for the cruelty of it all, despite her knowing that she should be grateful.  You’ll love Ivy for the strength she displays on the first day of school and for her wisdom in rising above everyone’s expectations of her.  She is innately compassionate with a strong sense of justice, which makes her unique as a character.  Once you get to know her, you just know she will do great things in her life.

Even though the jump between the prologue and the main story had me confused for a bit (cliffhung, if you will), I only have heaps of praise for this story from the remarkable Pam Muñoz Ryan.  I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do, so please let me know when it finally finds its way into your hands!

Check out my ami thé and A-to-Z of Echo!


5 Squinkles


Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, Scholastic, for sending me a copy of Echo
in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

A to Z: E is for Echo

5 Apr

E is for Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  It’s a recent read, and one I really enjoyed.  Three (and a half) equally engaging stories are woven together to follow the journey of one life-changing harmonica as it touches the lives of three children.  Review to come very soon.  In the meanwhile, happy reading!  And isn’t this cover just gorgeous?


E - Echo


Have you read Echo yet?  What do you think of my choice of ami thé for it?

Mon ami thé #3

2 Apr

Ami Thé - Echo


Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
[music, magic, mystery, children, courage, strength, heroes]


Apple Custard by David’s Tea
[apples, golden raisins, coriander, chamomile, vanilla]


When I came upon the scene of Friedrich describing his sister’s apple strudels, I just knew that this would be my tea pairing.  The only thing that makes this tea not quite Elisabeth’s strudel is the lack of cinnamon, but for those who enjoy the smell of apples, this is a lovely cup of tea.  Que pensez-vous ?

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