Tag Archives: harper collins

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.



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.

Student Review: Posted (John David Anderson)

19 Dec

Posted is an exciting story about a male character named Frost who struggles to find his identity and solve the problems going on with his friends.




Frost wants to be the glue to keep his old and new friends together as one group instead of being five friends who fall apart.  But, when one person joins the group, another leaves, and when they try to fix this problem, it just gets worse.  Most of the sticky notes being passed around are full of humour and honesty, but some have very mean comments, and in the end, nothing will ever be the same with the kids at Branton Middle School.

This book has a lot of realistic drama with friends and family that is typical in middle school.  I like how this book is relatable because of those problems and the choices the main character makes.  I also like that there are different scenes in this book that I wouldn’t expect.  For example, a new girl comes in and another girl gets suspended.  I was very intrigued by the fact that there is a connection between the events, but I didn’t see it coming.

The characters were my favourite part of the story.  The author created unique ones that I don’t read about in other stories.  For example, there is a rich kid who doesn’t actually like doing what rich people do.  That’s interesting for me.

I wish this book had more details given about the adventures.  There are many fun adventures, but there are some parts that didn’t feel too real.  I don’t know that I would have enough energy to go up and down a deadly mountain like the kids do in the story.

I think I’d recommend this book for kids aged 8 to 12.  If they like friendship stories, diaries, and adventures, they’ll like this one.

This book has an awesome start and a touching ending.  I’m really glad I read it.

Hannah B., grade 6


Mutant Bunny Island (Obert Skye)

7 Nov

If you’re looking for a story about cute, fluffy bunnies, then this isn’t really the book for you.  Well, actually, hang on.  There ARE cute, fluffy bunnies here, but don’t forget that even the title warns you that mutants abound.


Mutant Bunny Island Squinklethoughts

1.  I like stories that are smart-funny, not just slapstick-funny.  Skye’s writing has that in spades.  I loved all the word play in the book, most especially because I think my students will really appreciate his cleverness.  I mean, the first chapter is called “Getting Squiddy with It”, for goodness’ sake.

2.  Perry is a lovable character whom, I think, many people will be able to identify with.  I would much rather stay indoors than enjoy the allergens outside – though for him, he’s avoiding newts, not ragweed.  He seems to have a great relationship with his dad.  I wish the author had explored more the reasons his mom isn’t in the picture, but it looks like Mr. Owens is really trying to be a good dad AND friend to Perry.

3.  Rain is so annoying at first, and it takes quite a while for me to warm up to him.  I suppose there’s not much to do on his island, but still.  I’m glad he becomes less annoying towards the end.

4.  I’m also glad that although there are hints of Perry blushing around Juliet, that storyline doesn’t dip into romance, which the story doesn’t need.  If there’s to be another book with these characters, I’d be more interested in seeing how the friendship among Perry, Juliet, and Rain develop than in any potential love story.  And even without a love plot, I’d love to read Perry’s awkwardness at dealing with girls.

5.  One of the best things about this book is that it intersperses elements of graphic novels with the narrative structure.  The artwork after every chapter not only provides back stories of Admiral Uli and the rest of the squids that Perry wishes were his friends, but it also serves to give readers a pause from the main story.  For many of my kids who sometimes have a hard time getting through novels, this set-up is absolutely perfect.


Mutant Bunny Island 2


6.  The squid humour is great.  Just thought I’d add that in again.  Our library copy has already been borrowed and loved, so I know this will be a great hit amongst my kids who love funny, fast-paced stories with great art.

7.  Teachers/parents, want to see if this is book is for your child/ren?  Check out a sample here.


4 Squinkles


Obert Skye’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo


Eduardo Vieira’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo


Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of
Mutant Bunny Island in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.


York #1: The Shadow Cipher (Laura Ruby)

26 Jul

Codes, ciphers, secrets?  Count me in!  If you want an adventure that requires a bit of thinking and a lot of running, you’ll definitely want to pick up Laura Ruby’s York: The Shadow Cipher.


York 1 - Shadow Cipher


1.  I have been waiting and waiting for the next great puzzle adventure, and I’m glad that it is the York series.  We love The 39 Clues (by various authors) and The Copernicus Legacy (by Tony Abbott), and now, we’ve got York to add to the list.

2.  I’m not a fan of time-travelling stories, but I LOVE stories where people in the past leave clues for folk in the future.  In 1798, Tess and Theodore Morningstarr begin their work of revamping New York City using mysterious technology that is super avant-garde.  Just before they disappear, they leave behind a puzzle called the Old York Cipher.  How cool is that?  If you like stories with advanced technology, you’ll love all the gizmos and gadgets in this one.

3.  Fast forward to the present day, and Tess and Theo Biedermann, along with their friend, Jaime Cruz, go all around the city, trying to solve the puzzle that no one has been able to solve since the Morningstarrs bequeathed it to NYC.  And for them, it’s not a matter of just getting the right answer … because solving the puzzle could mean saving their homes.  I love it when characters are tasked with impossible tasks.

4.  The twins are great in this story.  They don’t always get along; in fact, they often get on each other’s nerves.  I like that Ruby decided not to have twins who are completely in synch with one another.  This way, there’s more excitement.  And since this is only the beginning of the series, I do wonder if Ruby will make her readers gasp by … separating the twins at some point.  Oh, boy, would that be fun to read.

5.  Jaime’s story is one I definitely want to know more about.  Ruby’s given us bits and pieces, but I want more.  His and his grandmother’s close relationship is very enviable, and, I think, a great, calming force in the story.

6.  Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, which makes for an interesting read.  In the beginning, I had to flip back to the first pages of the chapters to remind myself who was narrating, but you get used to it.  It’s a great way to get to know more about the characters through what they want you to know about them.

7.  This is an excellent book for school and classroom libraries.  I will probably be adding this to my curriculum next year, so check back to see the questions and activities I create!


4.5 Squinkles


Laura Ruby’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

Thank you, HarperCollins and Walden Pond Press, for sending me a copy of York 1: The Shadow Cipher in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

%d bloggers like this: