Posted in Children's Lit, Uncategorized

Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry

1033662Peter and the Starcatchers
Dave Barry
2004 by Hyperion Books
ISBN – 9780786854455
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Middle School
3.2 Stars

Peter and the other orphans are taken on the ship Neverland to live on an island ruled by an evil man. Little does everyone know that the ship is carrying something very special, and something that a lot of people and pirates would like to get their hands on. One of the pirates that is chasing after then is the notorious Captain Blackbeard, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the treasure. Peter and his friends must help protect the mysterious trunk and try to stay alive while doing it.

This book is full of magic, adventure, pirates, and talking porpoises, sounds great right? For some reason, it just didn’t excite me. It seemed to drag on with too many characters, and too many story lines. I had a hard time connecting to any of them, its as if they were all spread too thin. I love the idea of the beginning of Peter’s story, and I really enjoyed the parts of the book that addressed his coming to be a lost boy. I enjoyed that part so much, that I may still pick up the next one, just to see how his character is developed. On a side note, the audio book was narrated by Jim Dale, and he is always excellent!

Posted in Children's Lit

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm

19156898The fourteenth Goldfish
Jennifer L. Holm
2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780375870644
Genre – Science Fiction
Age – Middle School
2.99 Stars

Ellie does not want to leave the fifth grade, in fact she doesn’t really want life to move forward at all, and she just can’t picture growing old like her grandpa Melvin. But wait, somehow her grandpa Melvin has figured out how to be young again, and he appears as a 15 year old boy and the family tries to pass him off as Ellie’s cousin. It seems that grandpa has found his own fountain of youth, but now that he looks like a fifteen year old, he is having trouble getting back into his lab!

I thought this book was okay. Three weeks after reading it nothing really sticks out to me. The best character was Melvin by far, but how could he not be with the juxtaposition of the curmudgeonly old man in the body of a pubescent boy! Ellie was forgettable, and the lesson in the end was weak. I did really enjoy the tidbits of science. I love when novels throw in interesting and educational facts that may lead to piquing the interest in young minds. So other than that, nothing really called to me. I also read Bird as well as Countdown just before and just after this one, and as far as female coming of age tales, they both surpassed this one in my opinion.

Posted in Children's Lit

Bird, by Crystal Chan

Crystal Chan
2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442450905
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – Middle School
4 Stars

Jewell lives in the shadow of her brother, who died the day she was born. Her grandfather will no longer speak because he nicknamed her brother Bird. Thinking he could fl, he jumped off a cliff. Jewel is constantly trying to find the balance in between her mother’s practical nature and her father’s superstition. She is also trying to make it known that while her brother may have died, she is still very much alive and has her own needs.

The writing in this book was so lyrical that I kept reading. This is not normally my favorite type of book, but there was so much that I enjoyed. I appreciated the multicultural aspects in the book. The superstitions of Jamaica really added a fantastical element to the book. Coupled with the prose, it was really quite magical. At times I loved Jewell for being so honest with herself and everyone else, but other times I just felt that she was completely unrealistic. Jewell is strong in the way that she doesn’t give up. Even when things are hard and people are mean, she doesn’t stop trying. She is not the character that is strong in an unemotional way, she embraces her feelings, and lets them guide her through her rough times. Not only does this foster her own growth, but the growth of her friends and family as well.

Posted in Picture Books

The Octopuppy, by Martin McKenna

18692476The Octopuppy
Martin McKenna
2013 by Scholastic
ISBN – 9781742990156
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.3 Stars

All Edgar wanted was a dog, but instead he got Jarvis, an octopus. Jarvis couldn’t do any of the things that dogs can do, like sit or play dead, but he was incredibly smart. He just wasn’t what Edgar wanted. It took Jarvis leaving for Edgar to realize that maybe Jarvis was pretty cool just the way he is. This book is super cute! The illustrations are fantastic. They are bright, colorful, and humorous! Jarvis is full of wacky stunts that any kid other than Edgar would be thrilled to have a pet do! The end is adorable and sweet, and gives us a tiny little hint at the true meaning of friendship. I definitely plan on building a storytime about Octopuses and including this one!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero

20702546Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
Isabel Quintero
2014 by Cinco Puntos Press
ISBN – 9781935955955
Genre – Realistic Fiction, Diary
Age – High School
4 Stars

Gabi is a senior in high school, with her fair share of problems. Her dad is addicted to meth, her best friend gets pregnant, she is caught up in college applications, and she can’t stop thinking about food, all the glorious food. Oh yeah, and boys. In all of this mess, she finds an outlet, poetry. Through poetry, she is able to explore and release many emotions that she keeps bottled up. Gabi documents her final year of high school in her diary, and lucky for us, we get a first hand view!

I like this book more after some time apart. Generally I am not a fan of diary type books, because of the casual nature of the writing. I never liked my own diaries either…But Gabi seems to write with a certain sophistication that makes this book a little bit different. She is going through some really hard times, but she always manages to pull through. I like that she doesn’t over dramatize the things that aren’t the end of the world, but we also see that the important things affect her. I really just liked Gabi, in the way that I want to be her friend. She is a good person, she has empathy for others, and also importantly, she knows good food! She is comfortable with herself, as much as any teenage girl struggling with her self image can be. She knows who she is, even when she battles with herself. She works hard, at everything she does, and I can definitely respect that! I also really enjoyed the use of the Spanish language throughout Gabi’s poetry and the rest of the book. It was not so much that I felt lost if I didn’t understand it, I do know a tiny bit of Spanish. It added an authentic feeling to the story as a whole. The cover is a bit strange, but it grew on me throughout the book, and with a bit of explanation.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, by David Levithan

9780525428848_HoldMeCloser_BOM_CV.inddHold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story
David Levithan
2015 by Dutton Juvenile
ISBN – 9780525428848
Genre – Musical
Age – High School
3 Stars

Tiny Cooper returns after his appearance in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. This time, he tells the story of his life in musical form. I love the character, I think he is so well rounded and positive. The only thing is, I really REALLY don’t like musicals! There, I said it, don’t judge me. I wanted to love this book, I did, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t look past the format, and oh gosh, I don’t think I could bear the audio book, especially not if it was full cast. But the positive…Tiny Cooper is a great character, and the lessons he sings are positive. His friends and early experiences really help to define who he has become, and who he was in his other appearances. I like that he never makes excuses for himself, even when he makes mistakes. He know who he is, and even when being himself is not the easiest thing in the world, he still embraces that.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Awake, by Natasha Preston

Natasha Preston
2015 by Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN – 9781492618522
Genre – Mystery
Age – High School
3 Stars

Scarlett was in a fire when she was a child and she does not remember the first five years of her life. But then she is in a car accident and strange glimpses seem to be coming back. Her family along with her new boyfriend are helping her to cope with her past, as well as her future, but when she finds out what her past truly was, will she want help from any of them? Turns out that Scarlett was raised in a very strange cult, who may not have had her best interests in mind. It seems like everyone has lied to her, and now she doesn’t know who to trust.

I usually go for the cult books, it’s one of my things. Sure this had the excitement and suspense, but that was about all it had. I didn’t like the characters, nor did I find the situation believable. No one knew how to speak a word of the truth, even when it was in everyone’s best interest. Scarlett was obnoxious and rude, like a teenage girl should be, but she just had so much expectation while at the same time was able to let every logical thought and reaction go. Noah was ridiculous, and his part in this whole mess was obvious from the beginning. Not great in my mind.

Posted in Children's Lit

Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

22749539 (1)Echo
Pam Muñoz Ryan
2015 by Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780439874021
Genre – Historical Fantasy
Age – Middle School
5 Stars

Three stories woven together by one fairy tale. Three beautiful stories of life, struggle, family, racism, and strength. The first, a young Jewish boy and his family struggle to live in Germany during the Rise of Hitler. The second, two orphans struggling to stay together as a family no matter what. The third, a family of farmers defending their rights for equality for themselves and their friends. Each one as heartbreaking and heartwarming as the last.

I hate to use the word magical for this book, because that is what everyone else is saying, but the thing is, that is exactly what it is. It is the kind of magic that hurts your heart, but also helps it in so many ways. After reading this book, I was in such amazement, but I was so sad that never again would I read it for the first time. The writing is fantastic, the characters are selfless, and wonderful, they are who I strive to be. They are wise beyond their years, while still carrying the innocence of childhood. The story is amazing and it is beautifully woven together. I think I could read this again and again. Seriously, READ THIS BOOK, no matter what your age.

Posted in Children's Lit

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

5976052The True Meaning of Smekday
Adam Rex
2007 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN – 9780786849017
Genre – Science Fiction
Age – Middle School
5 Stars

Gratuity Tucci, or Tip as her friends call her has to write an essay about what Smeckday means to her. Smeckday was previously called Christmas, but is renamed to honor the invading alien race’s leader. Tip tells the story of her cross country road trip with an alien named J-Lo in order to find her mother who was previously abducted by the aliens.

Yay for this book! It is so excellent, and obviously so much better than the movie! It is funny, and on so many levels, funny for all ages. It is sweet, it focuses on family and friendship, and prejudice. It shows us that we can be friends and family with all sorts of creatures! Also, DIVERSITY!!! On top of all of this, it is well written, and well illustrated. It is just plain fun for all ages. I can’t think of a single negative thing to say. That’s pretty rare!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma

18044277The Walls Around Us
Nova Ren Suma
2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
ISBN – 9781616203726
Genre – Mystery
Age – High School
4 Stars

Violet is a dancer, on her way to Julliard to follow her dreams, but she has a dark past. Her best friend Orianna was sent to a juvenile facility when she got in between Violet and her bullies. What happened next is something that Violet will have to live with for the rest of her life.

It is hard to say too much about this book without giving the mystery away, and the mystery is the best part. This book is like an onion, you just get to peel one layer away at a time. It is written from the perspectives of Violet, and Amber, who knew Orianna from the juvenile facility. Each girl has their own thoughts and opinions about life and how it works. These perspectives are developed by severely different upbringings and life situations. I found it particularly funny that the girl who is not it jail is the horrible person, and the one who is in jail seems like a genuinely kind and caring human being. It goes to show that you shouldn’t always judge people by the seemingly obvious factors. This book was a great read. It kept me wanting more the whole time, and wanting more when it was done.