Tag Archives: penguin canada

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

Squinklethoughts

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.

The Last Kids on Earth (Max Brallier)

29 Oct

Squinks, just in time for Halloween, I’ve got a title to die for (mwahaha). Max Brallier’s The Last Kids on Earth is full of terrifying fun and adventure that’s perfect for this time of year. Oh, and there are zombies.

 

Last Kids On Earth

 

Squinklethoughts1. Okay, so zombies aren’t really my thing. And no, I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but I know many of YOU like it, which is why I gave it a whirl. For someone who’s not into these kinds of stories, I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed it.

2. Brallier is terrifically funny. The humour starts right off the bat with the first page, and it continues all throughout the story. You’ll love Jack Sullivan’s voice, – I can certainly hear many of you in him – for he’s full of amusing one-liners and witty observations.

3. Speaking of Jack, I love how cautiously optimistic he is. I mean, it IS rather a feat to be dealing with monsters and zombies taking over the town. Jack knows where his strengths lie, although he does have some laugh-out-loud moments of delusions (“I’m a zombie-fighting, monster-slaying, tornado of cool … And I will Rescue June Del Toro and complete the ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success!”), and his plans to rescue June are not always completely thought out. He is fiercely loyal to his best friend, Quint, though, and for that, he’s a hero in my books.

 

Last Kids on Earth - Jack Sullivan 

4. I’m sure many of you will find a lot to like in Jack and Quint’s friendship. They work well together despite being very different. For one thing, Quint is always tinkering with things and using science to solve problems, while Jack is more about bat swinging and monster jumping. This combination serves them well when they’re two of the last kids on Earth.

5. I’m also happy that June Del Toro is a lovely damsel not in distress. And I’ve always been used to (and enjoyed) being the only girl in a group of boys, so that bit was particularly interesting to me. June’s feisty, but she’s pretty cool to Jack, so I find her a welcome addition to the growing posse that includes Dirk, an erstwhile-bully-turned-friend.

 

Last Kids on Earth - June Del Toro 

6. For those of you who love to draw, I’m sure you’ll find great inspiration in Douglas Holgate’s illustrations. They really add spirit to the story – in fact, much of the tale is told through the images, so not only do the drawings enhance the tale, they are actually vital parts of the plot as well. This book is like part graphic novel, which really adds to its appeal. I particularly like the many faces of Blarg. And I have to admit – Rover is rather cute.

7. What can I say about this book that I didn’t like? Well, except for the fact that there are monsters and zombies, and I now wonder what’s lurking outside my window every time I turn off the lights, not much. This may not have been my cup of tea, but I’m positive many of you will enjoy it nonetheless. I’d give it just under 4 stars … like 3.87, maybe. ‘Cause, as I mentioned, monsters and zombies.

 

4 Squinkles 

Max Brallier’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

Douglas Holgate’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

 

Thank you, Penguin Canada, for sending me a copy of The Last Kids on Earth in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Hamster Princess #1: Harriet the Invincible (Ursula Vernon)

5 Oct

Now that we’ve got September under our belts, let’s talk about more books! In particular, I want to share with you a fantastic series opener that boasts a fun, feisty, and fierce heroine named Harriet, whose adventures I can’t wait to read more about.

 

Hamster Princess - Harriet the Invincible

 

In this twist to Sleeping Beauty, Harriet finds herself growing up overly protected in a castle for 10 years … until she’s finally told the story of the curse set upon her at her christening by a wicked fairy godmouse. Rather than feeling depressed at the news that she is doomed to fall into a deep sleep when she’s 12, Harriet rejoices in the fact that she has TWO WHOLE YEARS to do whatever she wants because, after all, she has to stay alive until she’s 12 for the curse to work. And so she begins the best years of her life (so far), travelling up and down the countryside with her loyal quail, Mumfrey. Meanwhile, her evil fairy godmouse has vanished mysteriously …

Squinklethoughts

1. Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is easily one of my favourite rodents in all of literature. She’s got wit and humour in spades, and she’s not afraid to show it. She’s also quite logical for a hamster, which is, you know, pretty cool. She knows her shortcomings, and she can work with them to do what needs to get done, including finding an elusive prince and fighting Ogrecats. Plus, Mumfrey’s pretty loyal to her, and that says a lot to me about what kind of friend she is.

Hamster Princess - Princessly Quote

2. Adults and children alike will enjoy Vernon’s wit, allusions, and general writing style. I found myself bursting out laughing at many of Harriet’s expressions. I love how she communicates with Mumfrey with just looks and qwerks. It’s not hard at all to read this book because Vernon’s writing is smooth and natural. You’ll forget that this is about rodents and other furry animals retelling Sleeping Beauty. You’ll like it just for what it is – a great, funny tale with an awesome heroine.

3. I’m all for varied narrative formats, and Harriet the Invincible is a great mixture of traditional narrative and graphic novel features. I love pictures, and people who think this book is “too young” for them on account of these pictures will miss out on something seriously great. Never mind that the drawings themselves are cute … Who wouldn’t want visual representations of the various facets of Harriet’s crazy personality? And Mumfrey’s expressions are just the greatest.  Click here for a preview of the book and the lovely illustrations!

4. I share birthday fairy dust with a princess. That makes me kind of princessly, too, right?

5. Princess Harriet, long may she reign. Find copies of this book in our library now.  The sequel, Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic, will be out March 2016.  I can’t wait!

 

Hamster Princess - Of Mice and Magic

 

4.5 Squinkles

Ursula Vernon’s Online Corners
Website | Other Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

 

Thank you, Dial Books for Young Readers, for sending me a copy of Harriet the Invincible, in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

A to Z: C is for The Cahill Witch Chronicles

3 Apr

An acrostic for you today!  C is for Jessica Spotswood’s magical trilogy, The Cahill Witch Chronicles.  The adventures of Cate, Maura, and Tess will appeal to anyone, but will create a special connection with those who understand the oft-tenacious-but-ever-present bond between sisters.  Read my review of Born Wicked here.

  C - Cahill Witch Chronicles

 

Are you a Cahill sisters’ fan?  Who do you identify the most with?

The War that Saved My Life (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)

20 Feb

War that Saved My Life  

Hey Squad,

I’ve got a lovely new book to tell you about. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has quickly become one of my favourite MG titles, and from the first page, I think you’ll understand why. It’s the story of Ada and Jamie, two children living in London at the outbreak of the Second World War. They’re not orphans, but they may as well be for the way their mom treats them. Right off the bat, we find out that Ada has a club foot, so she’s not allowed to go outside lest she cause her mother shame. Ada spends her days watching her brother go off to school because, according to their mom, “he ain’t a cripple like you” (1). Her whole life, Ada has stayed indoors, learned to “walk” using her hands, taken care of Jamie, and been more of a servant than a child to her mom. When the London government starts sending children to the countryside to keep them away from potential bombings, it begins a new chapter in Ada’s life, one in which she learns that not all adults hit children when they’re upset, having been born with a physical deformity is not the person’s fault, and people’s real families are not always the ones they’re born into, but the people whom they choose to let in.

Ada is a wonderfully sweet heroine, full of the spunk I expect from young and strong female characters. She’s protective of and fiercely loyal to her brother. She’s open to new adventures and seeing the best in others, but she’s also vigilant and aware of other people’s capacity to hurt. She’s also got razor-sharp with, which I not-so-secretly admire!

I’m so thankful this book came into my radar and I had the chance to read it, and now that I think about it, part of the reason it really resonated with me is that Ada’s spirit bears more than a striking resemblance to that of another favourite heroine of mine – Anne-with-an-E!

Be on the lookout for this title to appear on our library shelves soon, and let me know if you love Ada as much as I do!

 

5 Squinkles 

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

 

Thank you, Penguin Canada, for sending me a copy of The War that Saved My Life.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

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