Tag Archives: siblings

A Map for Wrecked Girls (Jessica Taylor)

26 Sep

The best story backdrops are the ones that rip the main characters away from their natural habitats and pluck them into completely unknown worlds.  In Jessica Taylor’s A Map for Wrecked Girls, you’re in for a treat: there are TWO main characters (and a boy) stuck on a deserted island.  Only good things can come from this.

 

Map for Wrecked Girls

Squinklethoughts

1.  This story is about two sisters, and right there is the reason I wanted to read this.  Henri and Emma (great names!) have been as close as close can be.  They’re sisters and best friends and confidantes; they’re two halves of the same whole.  But things can’t always stay the way they are.  High school – and boys – get in the way.  Maybe it’s because I have sisters of my own that I was so compelled to find out how they get through the story with the chasm between them that seems all too permanent.  Can they even find their way back to each other?

2.  More than what would happen to the girls on the island, I wondered what would happen to the girls’ relationship.  This is what drives the book.  I know some people might think that it’s too contrived to have them maroon on an island, eke out desperate means of surviving desperate times, and hope that somehow their mitigating circumstances will eventually lead them to reconciliation.  In truth, I found the island survival part secondary to Emma and Henri surviving one another.  When you’ve spent your entire life dependent on another person, how do you now live feet away but worlds apart?

 

Map for Wrecked Girls 2

 

3.  I’m glad that Taylor doesn’t reveal the root of the girls’ problems until towards the end.  It gives readers a chance to get into Emma’s shoes (sandals?) through her narration.  I feel bad for what she did to Henri even though I didn’t even know what it was until the last few chapters.  But because Emma is a completely reliable narrator, I knew that it must have been really bad.  Imagine that, and attribute it to Taylor’s writing.  I had all these wild theories running around in my head about what Emma could have possibly done, but even without knowing it, I felt like Henri’s anger towards her was completely justified because Taylor writes Emma’s thoughts so well.

4.  Alex is so good.  So flawed, so human, so intriguing.  He treats the girls really well, especially considering he’s only known them for a few hours.  It must be quite difficult to deal with trying to thrive on an island while wracked with guilt for his cousin.  The best part about Alex is that he seems to really care about Emma, and he sees Henri for who she really is.  I wish that there had been more to the story just because I wanted to read about Alex more.  I know the story revolves, primarily, around Emma and Henri’s sistership, but Taylor sows the seeds for a great story revolving around Alex.

5.  Actually, I feel like the three characters – Emma, Henri, and Alex – have so many more stories to tell.  The novel is told from Emma’s perspective, but how great would it be to read Henri’s point of view of the whole mess as well?  I want more of these three!  And I want more of Jesse, the girls’ neighbour and long-time friend, who seems to be a beacon of stability in the girls’ lives.

6.  I feel really, really bad for Gavin.  Some people won’t agree.  But I think that sometimes, we use age as a fair-weather weapon to brandish about when it suits us, sheathing it only when doing so works in our favour.  There are so many other factors to consider.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Jessica Taylor’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada and Dial Books, for sending me a copy of A Map for Wrecked Girls in exchange for an honest review.

 

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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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.

A-to-Z Extra: The 39 Clues Series

27 Apr

Since there are four more days left in April, I decided to include four more A-to-Zs to round off what’s been a pretty successful month of posting for me.  Let me tell you: I didn’t have terribly high hopes for managing to post every single day, let alone being able to come up with a little rhyme for each of the highlighted novels.  I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to juggle all of this along with lesson planning, test scoring, and all the general delights that greet me on a regular basis.

If you stumbled upon this blog thanks to one of my A-to-Zs, I hope you found a little something of interest to you.  Thanks to those who’ve liked these pages and for everyone who’s stopped me in the hallways to say a kind word or two about a particular post you enjoyed.  More importantly, I hope you’ve found a few suggestions about books to add to your TBR lists!

And now, without further ado, here’s the first of my A-to-Z extras …

Extra #1 is the utterly fantastic the 39 Clues series.  When I first stumbled upon these books, I decided NOT to read them.  I saw the first title, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, admired the cover, and moved on.  With the second book, One False Note by a favourite childhood author, Gordon Korman, I once again praised the cover, memorized the blurb, and walked away.  I did this up until the seventh installment, The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis, when I could take it no more.  I bought all the titles in one fell swoop and pre-ordered the remaining three.  You see, I knew from the get-go that I was going to love this series, and since I’m a very fast reader, I didn’t want to be left hanging at the end of the books.  I, therefore, decided to wait until all the books had come out before I dove into the series.  Well, the best-laid plans … It was an interminable wait until the tenth book finally came – Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

 

0 - Extra - 39 Clues

 

Which of the first set of books (there are two spin-off series now!) are your favourites?  I’ve got a particular fondness for Books 4 and 5 – Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson, and The Black Circle by Patrick Carman, respectively.  I’ve always enjoyed reading about Egypt and Russia.

More importantly, however, which branch are you in?  I used to be an Ekat, but no spoilers here …

Mon ami thé #4

3 Apr

Ami Thé - War that Saved My Life

 

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
[courage, determination, spunk, siblings, wartime]

&

The Earl’s Garden by David’s Tea
[strawberries, blueberries, blue cornflowers, calendula petals, bergamot oil]

 

This tea pairing combines tradition and modernity.  David’s Tea has taken the identifiable bergamot oil from earl grey teas and added spunky hints of strawberries and blueberries.  In short, you’ll love this tea as much you’ll love Ada’s spunk in the novel.  This is one of my faves! Que pensez-vous ?

Summer Days, Starry Nights (Vikki VanSickle)

18 Mar

Summer Days, Starry Nights

 

I was very excited to attend the launch party of Vikki VanSickle’s Summer Days, Starry Nights two years ago. I had read the synopsis of her novel, and was instantly interested in seeing where I could fit it in our school reading lists. Alas, the day of the party came and went, and I neither met VanSickle nor bought her book hot off the press. (I really hate it when school/work gets in the way of book-related activities, don’t you?) Anyway, I bought a copy of SDSN that week (the happily dog-eared copy in our library), and eagerly anticipated a free afternoon to enjoy some coffee and Canadiana. The following Saturday, much to my delight, I came across an announcement that VanSickle was going to do a signing at the Chapters right near the school. I happily raced over after work and, upon entering the bookstore, was greeted by the friendliest of smiles on the face of the authoress herself.

VanSickle was so generous to chat with me for 10 minutes, asking me about my munchkins (you guys), my drink in hand (venti caramel macchiato), and the titles we stock in the library (mostly MG and YA). Then, she very graciously signed a brand-new copy of SDSN as well as her other three Scholastic-published books (more on them later). I left Chapters feeling so exhilarated by our meeting that I completely forgot to replace my empty coffee cup with a full one. (Don’t worry; that was rectified soon thereafter!) Vikki VanSickle is as pleasant a person as you’ll ever meet, and a talented writer to boot. Her latest novel is one that I’m sure you will all love!

Although it’s not explicitly described this way, SDSN is a love letter to middle children everywhere. The Starr family live in and run the beautiful cottages at Sandy Shores, a resort in the Muskoka region, north of Toronto. For protagonist Reenie, this is the only home she’s known—the only place she could ever imagine calling “home”. But even the picturesque beaches outside her front door are not enough to drive away the pains of being a teenager. She’s too young to play games with her older brother, Bo, or even to be let in on the secret of his night-time adventures, but she’s old enough to be held responsible for her six-year-old sister, Scarlett, who enjoys cuddling with her in bed and following her everywhere. When a family friend, Gwen Cates, comes to Sandy Shores, Reenie is excited to have someone a few years older than she is to talk with, hang about, and even look up to. But she gets more than she hopes for, for the arrival of the ballet student from the city kick starts a summer of intrigue, self-discovery, and a few skeletons in the family closet.

Reenie is a great character to befriend. She’s authentic and down-to-earth—qualities that too many other characters of similar age lack. VanSickle truly captures the daily dilemmas of being a new teenager and a middle child. Who wouldn’t feel annoyed at being of an age where you are given responsibilities but are still questioned all the time? Who wouldn’t feel left out with a mom who decides to spend more time with visitors than you? And who wouldn’t be gobsmacked at discovering something at the last (and very wrong) moment that has been right before your eyes the whole time?

Squinks, for those of you who haven’t picked this one up yet, let me tell you that Summer Days, Starry Nights is one of those books that shines quietly in the corner but will grab hold of you as you spend the summer with Reenie. By story’s end, you’ll be like me, looking online to see if Sandy Shores exists, and wondering if somewhere near Orillia, there really is a resort full of the promise of summer days, starry nights, and scintillating magic.

Have you read VanSickle’s latest? How did you like it?

 

4 Squinkles

 

Vikki VanSickle’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Chapters

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