Tag Archives: friends

Karma Khullar’s Mustache (Kristi Wientge)

15 Aug

Over the years, the stories that have become the most borrowed and requested by my students are those that tackle universal issues with idiosyncratic flairs.  This is exactly the strength of Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge, and I have no hesitation recommending it to you, Squinks!

 

Karma Khullar's Mustache

Squinklethoughts

1.  At the heart of this novel is a girl who isn’t looking to shine – just fit in.  Isn’t that how everyone feels when they’re starting a new school?  It’s hard enough changing from being the kings and queens of elementary school to becoming the guppies of middle school, but over the summer, poor Karma discovers SEVENTEEN little hairs above her lip … which is basically the end of the world.  I like that Wientge understands how big of a deal this is for some people.

2.  Karma’s moustache is the impetus for a lot of her troubles, not the least of which is earning the nickname “’Stache Attack”, but there are far worse obstacles for Karma to overcome.  The worst of it is that her best friend no longer seems to be her best friend.  I know what it’s like to lose a friend for no reason at all (at least no reason that I could foresee or understand).  Karma and Kate have been friends for years, and all of a sudden, Kate’s interests are different from Karma’s.  It was really heartbreaking that Karma was in a state of limbo.  Should she even care that Kate doesn’t like her anymore?  And yet, it’s so hard not to care about things like that.

3.  And then Lacy moves in across the street from Kate, and all of Karma’s fears deepen.  How can she compete with the girl who seems to be so well put together, while she can’t even figure out how to get rid of 17 stinkin’ strands of hair?

4.  That scene in the lunchroom where Karma tries to enjoy her tiffin full of delicious dal and chapati had me in tears.  Wientge illustrates a scene right out of my own childhood where I was made fun of for bringing squid and rice for lunch – one of my absolute favourite dishes, which I suddenly had no appetite for after being taunted by my grade-2 classmates.  Have a tissue on hand when you get to this part.

5.  Karma’s inner monologue reminds me a lot of Lizzie McGuire.  I never watched the original series, though I did see the movie.  I like how Karma is, for the most part, realistic about life, but I also enjoyed reading bits and pieces of her overdramatic thoughts about school, people, and her moustache.  I’m sure I felt the same way when I was younger.

6.  I liked learning about Sikhism and some of the traditional foods that Karma and her Indian-American family eat.  As a child of a mixed-race marriage, Karma has the added challenge of melding two traditions together.  I would have liked a bit more of that.  Karma complains about how her mom’s blonde hair would probably not be so noticeable over her upper lip, and there are a few conversations between her parents that hint at differences in upbringing, but I wanted a bit more.  Wientge sort of gets away with not going into too much detail when Karma admits that she only goes to church and temple a few times a year.  I don’t think the lack of detail about the two religions or the two cultures took away from the story, but I think the details could’ve added to it.

7.  I read this book very quickly because I was highly invested in Karma’s journey.  I think that’s what makes this a great story.  I was as sad as she was when those awkward moments with Kate happen; I was as humiliated as she was when the kids make fun of her lunch; I was as indignant (but helpless) as she was when she is blamed for something she didn’t do.  I really wanted a happy ending for her.

8.  Wientge combines Karma’s specific situation with universal problems, which will make Karma Khullar’s Mustache appealing to all readers.  I would definitely pick up the sequel if there were to be one.

 

4.5 Squinkles  

Kristi Wientge’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for sending me a copy of Karma Khullar’s Mustache in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found (Moïra Fowley-Doyle)

8 Aug

This book has everything I liked, which is why it jumped to the top of my reading queue.  Definitely pick this title up if you also love any of the following: secrets, magic, spells, friendship, strong women, Ireland, narratives in multiple voices, tree and flower names.

 

Spellbook of the Lost and Found  Squinklethoughts

1.  The title alone hooked me.  I like books about magic and spells, especially in modern times, so this seemed the perfect choice for me.  One thing I really like about Spellbook is that while magic permeates throughout the entire story, it’s not presented with the type of clichés that persist in other books.  The magic here is treated with respect, even by the characters who don’t believe in it at first, because there is every chance that a life will be changed.  Or lost.  No foolish wand-waving or silly incantations here.  (In fact, the spells are very nicely worded.)

2.  Right off the bat, I was sucked into the stories of SO MANY characters, all of whom narrate a chapter here and there.  In reality, there are only a handful, but it sure felt like there were more.  Once I got the dramatis personae figured out, including which girl-named-after-a-tree is related to or friends with that other girl-named-after-a-tree, the multiple narratives are not a problem at all.  Olive, Rose, Hazel, Ivy, Rowan, Laurel, Ash, and Holly … You really become invested in their stories once you meet them.  I felt like they might have been my own friends.

3.  In fact, I liked the multiple-narrative format that Fowley-Doyle employs here.  It really highlights the fact that the characters are all related but are experiencing the events of the story in his/her own way.  Even if they share scenes or encounter the same strange trinket in the woods, the characters repress different secrets and develop unique perspectives.  I do think there could have been a little more work put into adding more idiosyncrasies in the speech or thought processes of the characters because often, the narrator of one chapter sounds exactly like the narrator of the previous one.  I’m thinking along the lines of one of them always saying something like “Wotcher” (à la Tonks), though I like Rose’s quirk of blowing bubbles to manage her cigarette cravings.

4.  It is a lot of work to weave different characters’ stories together when those characters have little reason to be connected at all, and I really applaud Fowley-Doyle’s plot.  Everything came together very well, and although I got an inkling about the ending about halfway through the plot, I was sufficiently surprised at how she designed it.  Nothing seemed contrived … so much so that I wanted more.

 

Spellbook of the Lost and Found 2  

5.  About that ending … As great as the entire story was, I felt let down at the end.  Not because it wasn’t a good conclusion, but because the conclusion was so delightfully messy.  I can’t help but think (and hope) that it serves as a bridge to a sequel.  I want more of Rose’s healing, more of Hazel and Rowan’s reconciliation, more of Ivy’s secrets, more of Olive and Emily’s changing sisterliness, and more of Laurel, Ash, and Holly.  More of everything and everyone.  And I definitely want to know more about Mags.  I mean, she could be the star of her own book, and that would be awesome.  Is there even enough for a follow-up book?  I think so.  The ending of this one just leaves you wanting more … and isn’t that the sign of a great story?

6.  Fowley-Doyle writes very lyrical prose.  It was a pleasure to read her turns of phrases, though I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or swig of poteen). There were many times that I had to reread a sentence or phrase because it just seemed so deep that I needed to give it extra attention.  If you’re into that kind of writing, this book will definitely satisfy you.

7.  Parents/teachers, there are a few scenes that might be too delicate for certain readers, and there are sprinkles of profanity throughout the book (though not enough to seem like it was put in for the sake of sounding teenage-y).  On the whole, this story would be just fine for YA readers to devour.  Even better, I’m sure readers of adult lit would enjoy this story, too!

8.  Last thought for you to keep in mind before you begin your journey with Spellbook of the Lost and Found: Be careful what you wish for; not all lost things should be found.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada, for sending me a copy of Spellbook of the Lost and Found in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Nameless City (Faith Erin Hicks)

15 Jun

I don’t get to read as many graphic novels as I would like, so I am quite particular about the ones that I do read. Wow, am I really glad to have come across The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.

 

Nameless City 

Squinklethoughts1.  Why is it called the Nameless City? Because the city has been named and renamed by its invaders (of which there have been many), but its citizens try to live without paying much heed to the constant tug of wars. The easiest way to identify someone who isn’t a true citizen, then, is by hearing him/her try to name the Nameless City.

2.  I like both Kaidu and Rat, and I really enjoyed reading about their developing friendship. They’re so different, but they manage to find common ground become friends in the process. I’m happy that Hicks didn’t reveal all of their backgrounds (especially Rat’s) because I’m quite looking forward to knowing more about her and how she got to where she is in the story.

3.  Parkour fascinates me, and to have it as recurring scenes in this graphic novel really made my toes tingle!

4.  That tower in the centre of town is a mystery. It seems like a haven, but as with most interesting things, it’s the background that draws me in. I’m keen to find out more about how it came to be.

5.  The whole premise of the Nameless City being nameless is so sophisticated that at the end of the book, I was left speechless. It was like I had passed through a (very enjoyable) whirlwind. It’s almost as if while I was reading, I knew there was something great about the whole thing, but I kept that thought at bay because I knew it was complicated. Am I not making sense? Yeah, well, The Nameless City is the type of story that will make you think about the significance of words and labels, the importance of where you come from and how you’re raised, and other social issues that the city itself is mired in. Life is messy and really hard to compartmentalize, and I’m glad Hicks explored this (or is beginning to, anyway).

6.  There’s a lot of potential for the next two books of the trilogy. This is the first time I’ve encountered Faith Erin Hicks, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

 

4.5 Squinkles 

Faith Erin Hicks’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Chapters

 

Thank you, First Second Books, for sending me a finished copy of
The Nameless City in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown (Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith)

14 Jun

This is the sixth book in a wonderful series that I can’t recommend highly enough to all my students. “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith’s books are truly embraced by my kids who love science, experiments, adventure, and really awesome characters.

 

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown 

Squinklethoughts

1.  I love that you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. I’m sure that will be a selling point for some of you. The authors even add little footnotes on some pages to tell you in which book you can find the previous experiment or mishap the characters are referencing. Or they may be gently nudging you to read the rest of the series because the other books are just as great as this one. Take it how you will.

Nick and Tesla - Book 6 - Ch. 3

2.  Nick and Tesla’s relationship doesn’t annoy me at all, as some literary sibling relationships do. Maybe it’s because they’re twins or that they’re equally delightfully nerdy. Whatever the formula is, it works, and I’m glad. They bounce ideas off one another and sometimes don’t even need words to communicate. Super cool.

3.  I’m not a huge fan of their friends, though I’m glad they’re loyal to Nick and Tesla. There’s one particular scene with Silas’ dad that really had me fuming. Argh. All in all, I enjoyed the dialogue and scenes between the two siblings more than their scenes with others.

4.  I love how smart Nick and Tesla are.

5.  I hate how much smarter Nick and Tesla are than I was at their age … and even now because – who am I kidding? – I wouldn’t be able to come up with any of their ingenious devices.

6.  I hope this isn’t the end of this series, or at least of this story arc. I’d hate to have to say goodbye. Also, I’d love for Books 3, 4, and 5 to magically make their reappearance in our library. It’s been weeks since they’ve been checked out, but nary a return …

7.  There are some really cool activities at Nick and Tesla’s official website.  Check it out here.

 

4 Squinkles 

Bob Pflugfelder’s and Steve Hockensmith’s Online Corners
Bob’s Website | Steve’s Website | Nick and Tesla’s Website
Bob’s Twitter | Bob’s Instagram | Steve’s Twitter

 

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Bookcation 2016 #11: Waylon and Pax

21 Mar

Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker is coming out next month, and I want you to keep an eye out for it. It’s a quick read that I think will leave an impact on you.

 

Waylon - One Awesome Thing 

The story is about Waylon, a fourth-grader who has grand plans for improving life but who has to deal with life itself before anything else. Waylon wants to be friends with (almost) everyone, but his classmates are divided in their loyalties. His older sister has begun wearing all black and stopped being his best mate. Will nothing ever stay the sweet way it was?

Middle school is often a strange and defining time in life, and I really enjoyed the way Pennypacker explored the various problems that adults often dismiss as important. When you’ve read this book, come find me and tell whether you ever felt like Waylon, too.

 

Pax

 

While I’ve got you eager to read all about Waylon, let me remind you to borrow one of our copies of Pax, too, and to visit the book’s site, “Find Pax”. Pax was sadly orphaned when he was very young because his fox family was killed, but Peter rescues him from the clutches of wild nature. Under Peter’s care, Pax regains strength, and the two of them plant the seeds of a beautiful friendship. But then, war happens, and Peter must move in with his grandpa while his father goes off to fight. Pax is not welcome to join them. Will Peter and Pax ever see each other again? Don’t worry, I’ll give you a tissue when you visit me to borrow the book.

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