Sunday, October 9, 2016

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles (MMGM review)

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles
Author: Shari Green
Publisher: Pajama Press (October 12, 2016)
Digital review copy courtesy of NetGalley

I'm very excited to offer a wonderful, poignant book in verse for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Bailey and her younger brother, Kevin, are staying with their Nana Marie in the small town of Felicity Bay for a month, but it is not quite a vacation. Their parents are struggling, and have gone away on a retreat called Marriage Repair. Bailey and Kevin barely know Nana Marie, but as they have nowhere else to go, they get to spend a month near the ocean with her. Bailey believes in miracles, and hopes for one to make her parents happy again.

Meanwhile, Felicity Bay feels like a miracle of its own. Bailey makes a new friend, Daniel, and loves exploring and playing in the sea. But when Daniel keeps coughing, and she finds out he has cystic fibrosis, she starts to lose faith.

Then a mermaid appears (well, a driftwood mermaid), and a retired pastor with an ice cream cart starts shouting prophecies. Bailey thinks that just maybe a miracle is possible after all, if only everything doesn't fall apart first.

The story is lovely, and winds up in a beautiful way with Bailey discovering that sometimes you have to make your own miracles, and that sometimes even miracles aren't enough. But through the sadness and joy, Bailey remains optimistic, and discovers that families always love each other, even when it is hard to get along.

I strongly recommend this to all who love the sea, and families, and miracles. And even root beer candy.

Five stars out of five!

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


P.S. After I read this, I was pleased to see that this is a Pitch Wars success story. How terrific to see the writing community pull together to support emerging writers.

Finally, a snippet of verse from the book showing how wonderfully Shari Green captures this age.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Battles a Pirate - Review

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Battles a Pirate
Author: Georgia Pritchett
Publisher: Quercus (To be released November 1, 2016)
Advanced Reading Copy provided by publisher

Wilf worries about everything. Peanuts, bears, scorpions, salt water and so forth, but especially Alan, the man next door who keeps trying to take over or destroy the world. Alan worries Wilf so much he has to get a pamphlet with hints about how to not worry. When Alan decides to build a pirate ship with a big gun thingy, Wilf feels so worried he "wanted to knit himself a big woolly hat that went over his eyes so he couldn't see what happens next."

Fortunately for the world, Wilf's worries never get the best of him and he has to take action. We set off on a series of manic "kerfuffles" filled with wild invented words that always make sense in context. It is humor somewhat in the vein of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, but with less toilet talk and more genuine affection by the hero for Wilf's bizarre little sister, for his best friend and pet, Stuart the woodlouse, and for all the random, sometime very random, people he meets along the way. I laughed out loud, and would have happily bought these for my kids if they were even close to the right age.

Highly recommended for young readers, and their older siblings, and especially their parents who get to read along. Since this will not be released until November, I recommend you start with Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World, and pre-order this book so you get it when it is released.

Five of five stars.

Amazon US
Amazon Canada

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness (review)

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
Author: Tricia Springstubb
Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (April 12, 2016)
Borrowed from library

Cody is a delightful, impetuous girl whose adventures will delight early middle grade readers. Whether she is making friends with shy Spencer who lives nearby, or hypnotizing his cat, MewMew, or trying to set up her older brother with the beautiful Payton, every adventure iss a mix of marvelous and mishap. No matter how many times her mom reminds her to think before she acts, she never quite thinks enough.

Every character is this delightful book is endearing, and a little quirky. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Five of five stars.

Amazon US
Amazon Canada

Note: I added the Diversity tag because a major character, Spencer, is African-American.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Grayling's Song (review)

Grayling's Song
Author: Karen Cushman
Publisher: Clarion Books (To be released June 7, 2016)
Digital review copy courtesy of NetGalley

Grayling's life is not easy and her mother, the local wise woman (witch), is demanding and tough and belittles Grayling constantly. But when a dark force burns down their house, steals her mother's book of spells and roots her mother to the ground where she starts to turn slowly into a tree, it is up to Grayling to find the spell book and rescue her mother.

Gathering a strange group of companions on her way, Grayling goes forth, doubting her companions and herself most of all. But as they struggles through many perils and entrapments, Grayling learns that there is more to magic than sheer power, and that she is capable of far more than her scant magical abilities might suggest.

In a richly developed world both like and unlike medieval England, the author takes us on a helter-skelter trip where magic is woven into the tapestry of the world, but is never the main thread. Middle grade readers will love Pook the shape-shifting mouse and Grayling's sundry companions, but most of all Grayling herself.

Five of five stars.

Amazon US
Amazon Canada

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Most Magnificent Thing (review)

The Most Magnificent Thing
Author: Ashley Spires
Publisher: Kids Can Press (April 1, 2014)
Digital review copy courtesy of NetGalley

A girl and her dog, both unnamed, set out to make something magnificent. At first, it all seems to be going well, but as the girl tinkers and hammers and measures and the dog pounces and growls and chews, the thing turns out wrong, not magnificent at all. She tries again and again, accompanied by delightful illustrations of both her efforts and her growing frustration until finally she quits.

But after a walk to settle her down, she discovers a wonderful thing about her failures, and learns to turn them into a magnificent thing after all.

I have to say, I liked the book a lot the first time through, but loved it by the second. Even aside from the fun illustrations, this is a story about a girl, a real girl, who tries, gets frustrated and tries again. She doesn't go ask for help. There's no parent or boy who saves her. In a simple and elegant way, she does what she needs for herself. Filled with lively language, full of laughs with a great message, this is a book I'd be happy to give to a young girl or boy.

Five stars out of five.

Available on:

Amazon US
Amazon Canada

Monday, June 1, 2015

My Stinky New School (review)

My Stinky New School
Author: Rebecca Elliott
Publisher: Lion Children's Books (To be released June 19, 2015)
Digital review copy courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

Toby is about to start at a new school, and he is not happy about it. His brother and sister go to daycare and preschool, and both of them seem like so much more fun. While his sister's school "smells of rainbows, paint and chocolate", and his brother's school "sunshine, playdough and bananas", his new school "stinks of pigeon poop, ogre armpits and sadness."

Worst of all, Toby doesn't know how he will make friends. Fortunately, thanks to an alien called Jake and a pirate called Lilly, he manages to make friends without even knowing.

This is a wonderful book for children facing a new school. It is fun and silly in a way that will put kids at their ease, and they will laugh both at how scary school seems and how Toby finds his way to liking it. I can see giving it to my goddaughter who is going to Kindergarten next year.

Five stars out of five!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Unicorn on a Roll (review)

Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (Heavenly Nostrils)
Author: Dana Simpson
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (To be released May 26, 2015)
Digital review copy courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

I was not aware of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn comics before I read this collection, but I am certainly a fan now. It reminded me a little of Calvin and Hobbes, if Calvin were a spelling whiz girl who loved nerdy things and if Hobbes were a fashion conscious unicorn with attitude.

What I like best about Phoebe and Marigold Heavenly Nostrils (the unicorn) is that they aren't too perfect or too obnoxious or too smart, but simply real, or as real as friends can be when one is a magical unicorn. They have adventures, friends and enemies, and muddle through life whenever they aren't rollerskating through it. It is wonderful to have a book to give young girls that doesn't put them ornaments, or love interests, or even evil nemeses for the boys in the story. I think quite a few boys might enjoy it as well, though they might not admit it.

My only real issue with the book is that as with many collection of comics, it is better for dipping into than reading whole as there in no particular storyline, simply a series of daily comics. On the other hand, some of them are brilliant, such as Marigold singing Modern Magic Unicorn, her version of Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major General.

Four out of five stars. (Available for pre-order now)