Tag Archives: family

Mighty Jack #1 (Ben Hatke)

20 Mar

So, if you like fairytale adaptations like I do, you’ll probably have a really good time with the first book in the Mighty Jack series.


Mighty Jack  

Squinklethoughts 1.  I’ve always had an issue with Jack and his magic beanstalk.  How could he have given up his cow for a few measly beans?  This time round, though, Ben Hatke makes Jack a little more mature, a little more kindly, a little less self-centred, and only a little … silly.  Oh, and he’s a little grumpy, but I didn’t mind that because I like talking back to grumpy characters.

2.  I’ve had a few kids of all grades and linguistic abilities read this already, and they’ve all enjoyed it.  The fourth-grader laughed out loud a lot, and the mom of the eighth-grader mentioned to me that he had stayed up late one night just so that he could finish the book.  An ESL student also told me that she really enjoyed it, which speaks to the universality of Hatke’s retelling.

3.  The illustrations in this book are aces.  The panels and page layouts are varied, so the story doesn’t lull, and I particularly enjoyed that there were a lot of things going on in the gutters.

4.  This isn’t just a happily-ever-after story.  Parts of the story are lip-quaver-inducing. For example, Jack’s mom has to work overtime because they need money for food; and Maddy, Jack’s sister, is autistic, so Jack often finds it difficult to connect with her.

5.  The first book ends on such a cliffhanger (reader, beware), so my kids are all waiting for the next installment.  I think that if the series stretches out to a few more book, it would be a prime opportunity for Hatke to develop Maddy’s character.  I wonder if she’ll become the true heroine of the story.


4 Squinkles


Ben Hatke’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters


Thank you, Raincoast Books, for sending me a copy of
Mighty Jack in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are my own.

Isabella for Real (Margie Palatini)

17 Mar

I bet we’ve all wondered how our lives would change if we were all of a sudden famous, right?  Squinks, here’s a great story about a little girl named Isabella who suddenly finds fame … and finds out that it’s not quite what she expected it to be.


Isabella for Real   

1.  I don’t know that I’ve ever truly wanted to be famous.  As the eldest child, I know what it’s like to have siblings watching and copying my every move, so I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed being in the limelight much.  One of the biggest reasons I liked Isabella for Real is that Isabella’s expectations of fame change very quickly once she finds it.  I know she doesn’t really ask to be famous, but I loved the struggle she has with figuring it all out.

2.  My family is pretty kooky, so I completely enjoyed meeting all of Isabella’s eccentric relatives.  Plus, they keep her grounded, which is what all good families should do, so I’m glad she can count on them (even if they are sometimes  sources of potential embarrassment).

3.  I first fell in love with LeUyen Pham’s illustration when I read the Alvin Ho stories.  The drawings are just wonderful, and the comic strips in this story really propel it along.  To be honest, I wonder why the entire story wasn’t written in comic strips.

4.  I like epistolary novels and diary stories.  There’s something about the first-person perspective that just works with certain books, and this is one of them.  I like that Isabella for Real combines movie storyboards, comic strips, diary entries, and traditional narrative.  That’s kind of how my mind is.

5.  I’m glad that this book tackles the highs and lows of social media.  Smart phones and social apps weren’t really around in my day (dinosaur times, I know), so the problems that arise from them have only begun to find their way into MG and YA stories.  For this reason alone, I think Isabella for Real would be valuable in any elementary library or classroom.  (And for when the kids are older: Sophie Kinsella has a very funny take on Instagram in her novel My Not-So-Perfect Life.)


4 Squinkles


Margie Palatini’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Chapters


Thank you, Raincoast Books, for sending me a copy of
Isabella for Real in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Bookcation 2016 #9: Towers Falling

18 Mar

It’s been 15 years since the Twin Towers in NYC fell, and it seems simultaneously too long and too short a time since it happened. I was still a student then, finishing up my undergrad and getting ready to join the workforce. It was quite a challenge getting to classes that day (there were so many people gathered around TVs that normally ran a continuous loop of the weather – in various cafeteria, student lounges, and building lobbies) and getting through classes that week (profs and students alike were more keen to discuss the implications of what had just happened). For an event so clearly etched in my mind about where I was and what I was doing when I heard about it, I can hardly believe that a decade and a half have already passed since.


Towers Falling 

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes is set in 2016 (and will pub this summer), and it discuss the events of September 11 through the eyes of Deja. Deja is in the fifth grade and, along with her friends Ben and Sabeen, wasn’t around when IT happened. But she knows it happened. She didn’t have to be alive then to feel the ramifications of that fateful day. She knows its significance because at school, their lessons revolve around American pride and community growth and healing. And she definitely feels it whenever Pop gets angry every time she mentions anything about the towers.

I haven’t managed to get a copy of this book yet, but I am quite excited to read it. Our world today is very different from how it was 15 years ago, but for those born after 2011, this is the only world they’ve (you’ve) ever known. I’m curious about what Deja and her friends discover about the past, their families, and themselves, and how it feels to live a life that doesn’t have a pre-9/11 memory.

Mon ami thé #8

5 May

Ami Thé 008 - Question of Miracles 

The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold
[death, coping, rain, friendship, chicks, pink ladies, Magic card game]


Guava Cadabra by David’s Tea
[mango, apple, hibiscus, elderberries, guava, beetroot, rosehips]


When Boris tells Iris about Pink Lady apples, I knew I wanted a tisane to pair up with this book.  Then, when we read about how much he loves the card game Magic, the deal was sealed!  If you love refreshing, fruity teas, you’ll want to try an iced guava cadabra while reading Arnold’s sweet tale about coping with a loss.  Que pensez-vous ?

Weight of Earth (Stevie Mikayne)

17 Sep

Evolved Publishing
23 April 2013 | softcover: 278 pages
(mature) YA – NA – women’s studies – occult


Weight of Earth


4 Squinkles


Here’s another novel with some super strong women that you might enjoy. Weight of Earth is a story about generations of women who are trying to balance the demands of everyday life with their exceptional abilities. Ella, the main character, has had a tumultuous and mysterious relationship with her mother. She’s never really understood why her mother had dark days when she was young. All she knows is that 12 years ago, her mother turned her back on her sister, and their lives have never been the same. When she fortuitously meets William, a special-needs boy, she learns how strong family bonds can be and how much love a heart can hold. In spite of her cold relationship with her mother—or perhaps because of it?—she commits herself to helping William, and in doing so, gives him a friend and champion for life. Ella’s world is shaken, however, when Zeth enters the picture. How does he seem to know her so intimately when she doesn’t even understand herself? Why does he seem to hold so many answers when she hasn’t even begun to formulate the questions?


Even though I found the characters difficult to follow at first (the story switches between events in the past and present), by the time I was a quarter of the way in, I was hooked. Ella really touched my heart with her effortless acceptance of and commitment to William. Stevie Mikayne’s portrayal of their relationship proves that it sometimes really does take only one person to turn your life around. I don’t know if I would have enough courage or compassion to do what she does in the novel (though I hope someday I might), which is why I admire the character of Ella very much. The magic that is woven throughout the threads of the story is what really lured me in. I like the conflict created whenever censorship or simply having to hide one’s nature is in question. In Weight of Earth, you get a variety of strong female characters all with unique abilities that, in some way or another, are latent, tempered, or repressed. Imagine what will happen when they’re put together in the same room! I’m not sure if another novel is planned to continue the story, but I’d read it for sure. What would you do if you had special abilities you couldn’t share with the world?


If you manage to get a copy of this book (in paper or e-book format), check out the acknowledgements section!


Shelf Life - Borrow


Teachers, are you looking for potential teachables?
Find me here.


Grab a copy of Weight of Earth from Chapters/Indigo or from your friendly neighbourhood bookstore.


Thank you, Stevie Mikayne and Evolved Publishing, for sending me both an e-copy and paper copy of Weight of Earth.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.
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