Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (review)

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth
Author: Debbi Michiko Florence
Illustrator: Elizabet Vukovic
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (July 11, 2017)
Borrowed from library.

It's a big weekend for eight-year-old detective Jasmine Toguchi!

She's excited to celebrate Girl's Day-a Japanese holiday celebrating women and girls-with her sister, her mother, and her best friend, Linnie. On Friday, Jasmine's neighbor Mrs. Reese lets the best friends search through her old clothes for the perfect accessories for their Girl's Day outfits. But the clothes are in her garage, which is dark and scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine's big sister, Sophie, doesn't seem to want to join in the Girl's Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

In this entertaining new chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi stars in adventures which revolve around school and her family and their Japanese traditions. Jasmine is dramatic and imperfect and fun. We get to follow along her adventures, which she describes in grand fashion but which sometimes fall flat. Kids will enjoy her stumbles along with her excitement.

I like that the Japanese traditions shown in the book are integrated well, and don't either take a front row seat or fade too far into the background. They are simply part of Jasmine's life, so we learn about them through her excitement. The illustrations are warm and fun and integrated into the text. 

It's always good to find a chapter book series to recommend.

Four stars!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Braced (review)

Author: Alyson Gerber
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March 28, 2017)

Rachel is excited about the start of 7th grade with its promise of soccer and friends and (just maybe) boys. But when the surgeon monitoring her scoliosis says the curvature in her spine is getting worse and that she must wear a back brace 23 HOURS A DAY, all her dreams seem doomed.

What follows is a year of difficulty and discovery, as Rachel learns to cope with the bulky clothes she has to wear, the difficulty in playing her beloved soccer, and the impact her brace has on her friends, teammates and her ever-so-cute crush, Tate.

What makes the story heartwarming is how Rachel starts to see the trials her friends and family are also going through, from her pregnant mom who used to wear a brace herself, to her friends coping with loss and love and confusion. There are times when this can be a little too convenient as far as lessons go, but what really works is how well the author captures the age and mindset of Rachel, and shows how she matures and gains perspective through her adversity.

Four out of stars


Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited (review)

The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 11, 2017)

17-year-old Molly is the queen of crushes, carefully tabulated and shared with her twin sister, Cassie, and good friends Abby and Olivia, but never, ever shared with the boys themselves. She is shy, but also afraid that the boys might see the overweight girl Molly sees in the mirror.

In this entertaining and often poignant story of taking chances and breaking out of her self-imposed boundaries, Molly must rediscover the girl in the mirror while at the same time dealing with her changing relationship with her sister. In a way, it reminds me of the theme (though not the story) of the Disney movie, Frozen, with sisters learning to define their own roles while exploring love outside, and inside, their safe but confining home.

With a wonderful cast of characters, from the sisters' helpful but unhelpful moms to the gorgeous Mina who sweeps away Cassie on her tangent to the smooth hipster Will and adorkable Reid who, in Molly's mind at least, vie for her first big step out from unrequited love to real live boyfriend, The Upside of Unrequited is fun and authentic and caring.

I strongly recommend for young adults, and anyone who remembers what it was like.

Five stars!


P.S. This also reminds me I should really get a copy of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Ms. Albertalli's first novel, which has been highly recommended.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Straight and Narrows (review)

The Straight and Narrows
Author: Christine A. Emery
Illustrator: Kellie R. Emery
Publisher: Koehler Kids (November 15, 2016)
Digital ARC provided by author

Wide and Curly was born into a family of Straight and Narrows.
She couldn't, wouldn't, didn't fit.

Come along with the Straight and Narrows as they learn in their stick-y situation what it means to be family and the measures they will go through to find acceptance.

I was a little afraid after reading the description that this might be too much of a message book, but with the delightful illustrations and entertaining story, it is a joy to read. After various attempts by the Straight and Narrows make to "fix" their Wide and Curly daughter, they realize that what needs fixing is their attitude.

Perfect for starting discussions in a classroom or with your own kids. In case you worry, this is not a thin vs. fat book, but far more generally applicable to differences of all sorts.

Four stars.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Be Light Like a Bird (review)

Be Light Like a Bird
Author: Monika Schröder
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers (September 1, 2016)
Courtesy of free e-copy from author

Twelve-year-old Wren's life is turned upside down after her father dies in a plane accident. Her mother seems angry and unable to cope, and even more unable to help Wren talk about her grief. They leave their home and move from town to town, settling in each for a few weeks before her mother gets restless and moves on again. Finally, they reach the small town of Pyramid in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Wren decides that whatever it takes, they're going to stay.

Wren struggles to deal with bullies and loneliness, and with her increasing alienation with her mother, but when she finds a mission in the form of protecting a local pond, she starts to make connections and even friends. But she worries that it could all be torn away if her mother decides to leave again.

In time, Wren finds the strength to deal with her issues, and with the very thorny difficulty in forgiving those who may not entirely deserve it. An emotional story that may be hard for middle graders to start, and even harder for them to put down.

I recommend this to all who love the environment, and who may have experienced loss or sadness.

Four stars out of five.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Foxheart (MMGM review)

Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (October 4, 2016)
Courtesy of our local library

I'm excited to offer a lovely new book by Claire Legrand for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver is not an orphan, but her parents left her in a convent orphanage anyway. Never fitting in, or wanting to, Quicksilver learns to fend for herself... and take what she wants. With aspirations of being the greatest thief in the Star Lands, and when she finds a stray dog she names Fox, she even has a companion.

But everything changes in a flash when a strange group of seven visit the convent late at night, and wreak havoc in a search for witches (of which very few are left in the world). Quicksilver escapes with Fox, and they head out to perfect her thieving ways, but before long they run into an old woman who changes everything. Soon, Quicksilver and Fox are embarked on a quest they don't much want to help people they don't much like while fighting an ancient king who may not be quite what he seems.

Themes of love and loss, loyalty and sacrifice, and the importance of deciding your own fate are woven into a tapestry that is a delight to watch, and even more fun to live through. I particularly liked that Quicksilver's early dream of being a great thief never fade and are integrated into her new life. Richly imagined with great characters and a very clever fantasy world, this is a delight for middle grade kids, and anybody else who loves a good story.

I strongly recommend this to all who love fantasy, magic and wonderful worlds.

Four and a half stars out of five.

To find other posts for MMGM, visit Shannon Messenger's blog where she toils to keep up with them.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Princeless #1: Save Yourself (review)

Princeless #1: Save Yourself
Author: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: M Goodwin
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment (April 1, 2014)

From School Library Journal: Princess Adrienne is no hero's fair maiden, and she is not afraid to say so! She's the seventh daughter whom her father, the king, has stranded in a tower (his goal is to lure a prince worthy to rule the kingdom of Ashland). Prince after prince has tried to rescue Adrienne, and after Prince Wilcome's failed attempt, she decides to save herself. Along with her protector dragon, Adrienne decides to save her sisters, but their first mission is to find some armor. Blacksmith Bedelia Smith joins their group with her armor-for-ladies collection, and the princess also lets her brother, Prince Devin, in on her plan. After his failed rescue attempt, the very charming Prince Wilcome is banished to the palace's dungeon, but he doesn't bargain on Shadira the elf tricking him into helping her escape. This volume includes the first four issues of the dynamic and female-empowering comic book series. Princess Adrienne is a strong woman of color, and she talks about her femininity in a fresh and fierce new way. Other characters are drawn well, and the side stories of Bedelia Smith, Prince Wilcome, and Prince Devin are engaging. On the whole, the series feels current and skewers well-known tropes. VERDICT Princess Adrienne is not to be missed! Recommended for all middle grade graphic novel collections.

This (or these, as it is really four short comic issues in one) is the sort of book I am thrilled to have around for young girls. It is fun and quick, and I love the diversity and empowerment. I would recommend it for middle grade shelves at the bookstore or library.

That said, it wasn't quite all I had hoped when I read about it. There are a lot of great graphic novels, and I was hoping for something closer to that. This is more of a comic book style, and that doesn't appeal to me as much. (Fortunately, I am not the target demographic, which is why there is a whole series of these already.)

So, good for them for making it, and I hope it gives great pleasure to the young ladies for whom it is intended (and the young men who aren't afraid).

Three and a half stars out of five.