Thea Stilton and the Hollywood Hoax

Title: Thea Stilton and the Hollywood Hoax
Author: Thea Stilton
Genre: Middle Grade, Children
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

The Thea Sisters return in this mystery. They go to Hollywood to visit Jenna, their friend, and her sister Terri, who works at a film studio. They get to visit the set of The Powerpaw Mouselets. They watch some filming, including scenes with the famous Johnny Ratt. But one night when Terri is working late, she is locked in a closet and the film is stolen. Meanwhile, the princess of Mousitania has gone missing. The Thea Sisters have to help Terri find the missing film so she doesn’t lose her job, as well as keeping an eye out for the princess.

Like the other books, there are many mouse references. They say other mice are “squeaking” instead of “speaking,” and their investigation has “more holes than a slice of  Swiss.” There are also mouse versions of celebrities. The famous actor is Johnny Ratt instead of Johnny Depp, and the director of a movie is Ratatino rather than Tarantino. They also pass the Mouselor on the street, who is like the Bachelor.

This was a clever mystery. I couldn’t figure out what happened and was surprised at it. This is a good story, which would be great for middle grade readers!

Gotham Academy Volume 2: Calamity


Title: Gotham Academy Volume 2: Calamity
Author: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: March 16, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

The kids of Gotham Academy are back again. Maps is still joking around, creating rhymes about imaginary adventures that have yet to happen. Olive’s mother has just died. She goes to see a psychiatrist, Professor Strange. But she thinks she sees her mother. Her mother was the villain Calamity. Buildings are still being set on fire and Olive is certain that she sees her mother’s ghost. With the help of Colton, Pomeline, and Maps, Olive ventures into Arkham Asylum to find the truth about her mother. 

This volume was much more exciting than the first. The characters were introduced in the first graphic novel, so the new plot could begin right away in this one. This was also a very funny story. Maps added some comic relief too. 

I was glad that there was more of Arkham Asylum and Gotham City in this story. Batman’s son made an appearance as well as one of the Robins. Maps even dresses up as Robin, fulfilling her sidekick role. 

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and I’m excited to read the next volume!

Fierce Kingdom

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Joan and Lincoln were leaving the zoo when it happened. Four-year-old Lincoln had been playing with his “guys,” his superhero toys, in the sand when his mother said they should go. The zoo would be closing soon. She kept hearing popping noises, like fireworks. But she didn’t realize what it really was until she saw the bodies on the ground near the exit. She ran when she saw the the gunmen. She carried Lincoln and they ran to a hiding place in an empty animal enclosure.

This story is very realistic right now. These kinds of shootings happen all too often. I think it would be especially scary in a zoo, because there are so many hiding places for both the shooters and the victims.

There were other people hidden in the zoo along with Joan and Lincoln, but I don’t think they were as necessary to the story. I felt more of a connection to Joan because she was the main focus of the story. There was also the hint of the backstory of why the shooters did this. It would have been interesting to know the full story, but it was never told.
Lincoln added some comic relief to the story. He made jokes to make his mom laugh. But I would cringe when he would speak to loudly, possibly alerting the shooters to their position.

I was holding my breath for a lot of this book. It was very thrilling, but I wish there was some more explanation of why the situation happened.

Who Runs The World?

Title: Who Runs The World
Author: Virginia Bergin
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: MacMillan
Release Date: June 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Imagine a world with only women. No men. The men have been destroyed by a virus that women are immune to. The remaining men live in sanctuaries. New babies are born using IVF, but if it’s a boy, it is sent away to a sanctuary before the mother can even see it. There are four generations of women: Gramummas, Mummas, Teens, and Littler Ones. The Granmummas were teens in the time before the men were killed, so they remember the old world. Everyone else only knows the new world of only women. This world is turned upside down for River when she finds a boy one day. He tries to attack her but she subdues him and brings him back to her village. But the boy should have been killed by the virus long before now. There’s a reason he’s still alive. And now he owes River for saving his life.

The premise of this story is very good. It’s a world run by women, 60 years in the future. This is especially relevant today, when many women are losing the rights that they have spent centuries earning. Even the title is a reference to a Beyoncé song, “Who Runs The World? (Girls)”

I wish the story had more description of the new world. River narrates the story, which gives a first person perspective of what is happening. However, this often turns into a stream of consciousness that is confusing until the details of the community are told. I still had many questions about how the world was run and what it looks like. The buildings are falling apart, but why? And where do they get their money from? They eat insects rather than meat, so where did the animals go? I think there could have been a whole book just to explain the new world without men.
It’s interesting how the genders were divided up. The men were associated with violence and fitness and video games. The women don’t fight or workout or play video games at all. I’m not sure if these stereotypes would play out in real life if this happened, because plenty of girls like to work out and play video games.

This was a very intriguing story, but I wish it had some more details to completely immerse the reader into the story.

Smile


Title: Smile
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Rating: ★★★★★

Raina is going to get braces. They have to alter the plan when she falls and knocks one of her front teeth out and the other is slammed into her head. After getting those teeth fixed, she has a root canal. Then, she gets the braces but they don’t fix her front teeth. So her orthodontist decides to remove her front teeth completely and use the braces to bring her other teeth together to fill in the gap. All this happens, and she’s only 13-years-old. Raina also has to face bullying at school, that has to do with her unusual dental situation.

This is a true story about the author. I squirmed through a lot of the book. There were some graphic descriptions (and images) of her dental problems. I can’t imagine what this was like to go through, but now she has a beautiful smile and an incredible story to share!

This book would be great for kids who are getting braces or other serious dental work done. They probably aren’t having the same amount of extensive work that Raina had, so reading about someone who had a lot more dental problems could calm them down. Also it shows a character in a book who has braces, which isn’t demonstrated much in young adult graphic novels.

 

I Have No Secrets

Title: I Have No Secrets
Author: Penny Joelson
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: June 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Jemma is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or move her body to communicate. She was put up for adoption and has lived with her family since she was 2 years old. They also have two foster kids, Olivia and Finn. Sarah is Jemma’s support worker who lives with them. Since Jemma can’t speak, people tell her their secrets because they assume she can’t hear as well. But Jemma knows everything that’s happening. She even knows more than most people because she knows their secrets. Sarah’s boyfriend, Dan, tells Jemma he will never get caught for a crime, implying that he murdered her neighbour. So when Sarah disappears, Jemma is very worried that Dan has done something to her. Though Jemma knows the answers to these problems, she struggles with her silence.

This is the first novel I’ve read that is narrated by a person with a severe disability. I was so frustrated for Jemma at the beginning since she knew things but she couldn’t express them. I struggled along with Jemma through the mystery of Sarah’s disappearance.

Though Jemma lives in a foster home with two other kids, it isn’t the stereotypical foster home that is in many YA novels. Usually foster kids in YA novels are abandoned or run away. Jemma’s family is very caring to her and the other children, and they accommodate their special needs.

I enjoyed this unique, diverse book. I hope more stories about characters with limited abilities come out in the future.

The Lotterys Plus One

Title: The Lotterys Plus One
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

The Lotterys are a very diverse family. They have two dads and two moms: PopCorn and PapaDum, and Cardamom and Mama. When they won the lottery, they decided to buy a giant house in Toronto, where they could raise their children. Some are adopted and some are their biological children. They have 7 children, each named after a type of tree. The story follows the fifth child, Sumac Lottery. She gets to travel to the Yukon with PopCorn to visit his father. But it isn’t the trip she expected. PopCorn’s father, who the kids call Grumps, burned down his house because he has dementia, so they bring him back to live with them. Their 82-year-old Scottish grandpa isn’t prepared for their diverse household, with gay parents and multicultural children. Sumac is given the task of guiding Grumps through their house and their daily activities.

The Lotterys are a very diverse family. The four parents consist of two gay couples.  Many of the children are from different cultures, like Native Canadian, Filipino, Jamaican, and Hindu. They celebrate the different holidays from these cultures. The grandfather’s old-fashioned ideas clash with this modern family in a realistic way.

Another part of the family that I liked was how they continued to use the childish sayings from the kids as they grew up. For example, Brian says “egg salad” instead of “excellent” and they call the spare room “Spare Oom.”

The illustrations in the novel were a great help for keeping the characters straight. There are 11 Lotterys plus Gramps, so I started to get them confused at first, but their distinct pictures helped me keep remember who they were.

There was also a lot of Toronto history in the story. For example, the Toronto islands used to be part of a peninsula connected to lakeshore, but they broke away. They also mention Hurricane Hazel which I learned about from my grandparents but immigrants to Canada may not be familiar with.

This is a great book for parents and young readers. I learned lots about Toronto from this book so I’m sure others could too!