Tag Archives: hmh books for young readers

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.


The Question of Miracles (Elana K. Arnold)

13 Mar

Question of Miracles 

Hey Squinklebooks Squad, I’ve got a nice title to suggest to you today. I was very excited to read this book because it tackles a sensitive subject that MG authors often avoid, but which I think is incredibly important for young readers to be able to explore. The Question of Miracles is the story of Iris who moves to Corvallis, Oregon, after the accidental death of her best friend, Sarah. Having lived in California her whole life, Iris finds that the omnipresent rainy weather in Corvallis is just one of the many unfortunate things she has to get used to in her new life. A cast of characters accompanies her on her journey of discovery and recovery, including Boris (a Magic-loving classmate), Charles (an ugly-looking but ever-faithful hairless cat), and adult folk in the form of her parents, Boris’ mom, and Dr. Shannon. With this support system by her side, Iris learns that it really isn’t about whether it’s going to rain or not in Oregon (‘cause it probably will rain), but what kind of rain it’s going to be … and whether you plan on meeting this rain with an umbrella in hand or with a smile on your face.

What I Liked About This Story

First – Not enough authors deal with the topic of death for a younger audience, so I’m always happy to know a title exists that may someday help a young person explore and survive the murky waters of mortality.

Second – Of the many religions and faiths out there, Catholicism seems to be at once very popular and highly criticized. Arnold could’ve appeased everyone by looking at death through all religious levels, but I’m glad she stuck with one. Also, she handles the challenge of questioning a religion with respect and honesty. Through Iris questions, kids of all religious backgrounds can also think critically about the topic of death and miracles.

Third – I like that Iris and Boris won’t necessarily fall in love if a sequel is planned. Yes, this is an MG novel, but I’m still glad that it’s okay for a girl and a boy to be “just friends”. In fact, I really like the honesty between the pair. It kind of reminds me of the flashbacks of Doctor Who’s Amy and Rory Williams as children. Simple and sweet.

Fourth – It was great to read about Iris’ frustration with other people, especially the adults around her, who keep trying to get her to share her thoughts and feelings about Sarah. Adults forget too often that silence can be just as precious as communication, and that not talking about something doesn’t mean you need help. Arnold’s decision to showcase this situation was spot on for me.

What Could’ve Been Better

First – The ending left me wanting. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it did feel anti-climactic. I think I was just expecting … more …

Second – I read the ARC version of this book, so I’m not sure what the final copy looks like. I think images really add to a story, and with so many wonderful and different things we are introduced to, it would be great to see them in the chapters. I want to know what Magic cards, Charles, Iris’ dad’s veggie garden, the incubator, and the homestead look like.

If you’ve ever wondered how other kids view death and miracles, you might like this book! It’s definitely a title to keep in mind.


4 Squinkles 

Elana K. Arnold’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, HMH Books for Young Readers, for sending me a copy of
The Question of Miracles.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

%d bloggers like this: