Review: Real Friends

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Title: Real Friends
Author: Shannon Hale, LeUyen Pham
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: First Second
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

When best friends are not forever . . . 

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Timesbestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it’s worth the journey.

Review:

This is a great graphic novel for kids.

I loved the art in this book. It made the story quite funny. Shannon’s sister was depicted as a bear sometimes. Shannon had daydreams about creating fantasies with her friends. These things couldn’t have been demonstrated in the same way if it wasn’t a graphic novel.

The story is important for all kids to read. Shannon had trouble making friends. She would have a friend and then they would move away. She didn’t fit in with the popular group, though she tried to join them. When she tried to leave them, she couldn’t get anyone to join her new group. Many kids have these kinds of problems at some point in their lives, so this would show them that they aren’t alone with their feelings.

Shannon also had problems with her sister. They didn’t get along most of the time. But then it was revealed that they actually had a lot in common. Sometimes you don’t like things about someone else because they remind you of yourself. This also shows that it may not be your fault if you don’t get along with someone.

I really enjoyed this story. I recommend it for young readers!

Review: Running Through Sprinklers

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Title: Running Through Sprinklers
Author: Michelle Kim
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Two life-long best friends grow up and begin to grow apart in this honest, deeply felt middle grade debut.

Sara and Nadine.
Nadine and Sara.

It’s only ever been the two of them. Two halves of the same person. Best friends forever—until they aren’t.

Everything has changed this year. Nadine has suddenly skipped a grade and gone to high school without Sara. No matter how hard she fights to save their friendship, Sara can feel it slipping away.

But change can happen from the inside, too. The forever-friend days of running through sprinklers and slurping up ice cream cones may be over. Yet in their place, Sara just might discover something new and wonderful: herself.

Review:

This is a great middle grade novel about real life.

Sara tells this story through her memories and things that are happening to her right now. The story takes place throughout one year, her last year of elementary school. She experiences many things, such as losing friends, making friends, puberty, and even a friend going missing.

Some of the things that Sara goes through are sad, but it reflects real life. Her friendship with her best friend, Nadine, breaks apart when Nadine is moved ahead a grade and into high school. Also, Sara’s brother’s friend goes missing, and they are the last ones who saw him, so they feel like they have to help find him. Though these experiences are tough to read about, they are things that kids may experience in real life, so it is important that their books reflect that.

I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it for middle grade readers!

Review: Ghost (Track #1)

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Title: Ghost (Track #1)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Source: Purchased
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Review:

I loved this story! It’s short and easy to read, but very entertaining.

Ghost is an ordinary boy. He reminded me of so many boys that I knew growing up. He loves reading about world records. He throws out facts about them throughout the story. Many kids I know have a period where they love that story. I think young boys would relate to his story.

Ghost’s story was sad at times. He became a fast runner because he had to run away from his dad when he was shooting at Ghost and his mom. And he was teased for things beyond his control, like his shoes. But that just made him more realistic.

I laughed many times while I was reading this book. Ghost has a funny way of seeing the world sometimes. He says Mr. Charles, who works at a store, looks like “James Brown if James Brown was white.” He later described Lu, a boy on the track team, in a similar way: “this kid looked like a white boy, if a white boy was black.” (10). Ghost had never seen an Albino person before, so that’s how he described him, but I understood what he meant. That was a clever way of showing Ghost’s youth through his narrative.

I really enjoyed this story. It would be especially good for young boys who are reluctant readers!

Review: Tournament Trouble

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Title: Tournament Trouble
Author: Sylv Chiang
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Annick Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An exciting new middle reader series from a debut author.

All twelve-year-old Jaden wants to do is be the best at Cross Ups, the video game he and his friends can’t stop playing. He knows he could be―if only he didn’t have to hide his gaming from his mom, who’s convinced it will make him violent. After an epic match leads to an invitation to play in a top tournament, Jaden and his friends Devesh and Hugh hatch a plan to get him there. But Jaden’s strict parents and annoying siblings, not to mention a couple of bullies and his confusing feelings for his next-door neighbor Cali, keep getting in the way!

Tournament Trouble marks the first book in a planned series by Sylv Chiang, a captivating new voice in middle reader fiction. With sharp dialogue and relatable characters, it chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. Accompanied by Connie Choi’s lively illustrations, Tournament Trouble invites readers into Jaden’s world, and will leave them eagerly awaiting his next adventure.

Review:

This is a great middle grade story about video games.

I really liked Jaden. He matured through the story. He went from being a gamer at home to competing in a tournament. He was even able to convince his strict parents that video games aren’t all bad. I’ve played video games my whole life, and they can be very educational. Even if the game doesn’t seem to be obviously teaching something, you can still learn strategies and problem solving skills.

Another great part of this story is the diversity of the characters. Jaden and his friend Cali are Chinese. One of his friends was Indian and I believe his sister’s boyfriend was black. This is great, because young kids can see themselves represented in this book. This diversity was also demonstrated in the illustrations, where you can clearly see how different they all look.

This is a great book. I’m excited to see what happens in the next book in the series.

Blog Tour Review and Guest Post: A Possibility of Whales

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Title: A Possibility of Whales
Author: Karen Rivers
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The story of a girl who—thanks to her friends, her famous dad, and a chance encounter with a whale—learns the true meaning of family.

Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher loves possibilities: the possibility that she’ll see whales on the beach near her new home, that the boy she just met will be her new best friend, that the photographers chasing her actor father won’t force Nat and her dad to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses and loves Nat—and is waiting for Nat to find her.

The thing is, Nat doesn’t even know who her mother is. She left Nat as a baby, and Nat’s dad refuses to talk about it. Nat knows she shouldn’t need a mom, but she still feels like something is missing.

In this heartfelt story about family, friendship, and growing up, Nat’s questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

Review:

This book was just amazing!

The characters were so real and moving. Nat has a famous father, but life hasn’t been easy for them. She has never known who her mother is, and her father tries to keep them out of the spotlight and away from the paparazzi. I also loved the character of Harry! He is a transgender boy, which is not common in middle grade stories. Harry struggles with being his true self, because his father insists that he remain a girl.

The pacing of the story was great. There were a couple of reveals at the end. Though they weren’t big mysteries, such as why Nat didn’t like Solly anymore, the suspense kept me guessing.

The kids in this story faced real, adult problems. Kids grow up very fast these days, so it makes sense that the children they read about would have to as well. I absolutely loved this story for both young readers and adults!

Guest Post from Karen Rivers:

How real life inspires fiction, what events from the book were “real” and how my own journey as a single parent informs a lot of my books.

I often tell my students to write what they’ve felt, as opposed to what they’ve known, but all fiction is probably really a combination of both.   I wrote A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES remembering how I felt when I was twelve:  I was often an outsider, not sure how to fit in.  I was betrayed by my best friend more than once.  I was scared of how puberty might mean I was no longer a child, and that once I went through it, I would have to be a different version of myself.   I carried these things in my heart and into A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES.  I knitted Nat up from an idealized version of myself, with a sprinkling of my daughter, a splash of imagination, and a large dollop of her own unique spirit.

Now that I am an adult, I also find myself a single parent.  It isn’t what I set out to do, yet here I am.   I’m often exploring single-parenting on the page, trying to look at it from all the different perspectives.   I know that one of the things my kids experience is a yearning for what they don’t have, what they might have had if things were different, not in terms of material goods, but in terms of family.   In many ways, being a single parent is easier; but in other ways, it’s so much harder.   I can never be a father to my son.  I can only be his mother, and so his journey from boy-to-man is harder than it maybe otherwise would be.  I can’t know, because we can’t know what isn’t, only what is.  In a way, I am Xan Gallagher, but Xan Gallagher is also very much himself.   We both parent with a big dose of humour, we try to be present, we hope we are hearing what our kids are saying.   But he has what I don’t have:  Vast wealth, which buys him so much time, so he can be with Nat when she needs him, and even when she doesn’t.

Plus, he can play the ukulele.

One of my clearest childhood memories has to do with interacting with whales – in my case, orcas – and seeing their bodies vanishing into the bottle green water beside the boat as they swam under us and all around, their fins rising from the water.   The scenes haunt my dreams, still.   There is something ethereal about whales, about seeing them in the wild – it’s like making contact with pure magic.

This book, like all books, is of course autobiographical, biographical, and pure fiction.  All stirred together, then baked until done.  I hope you like it.  I loved writing every single word of it.

About the Author:

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Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published
in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found
hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she
lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds. Find her online at karenrivers.com and on Twitter:
@karenrivers.

Follow Karen:
Website: https://www.karenrivers.com/
Twitter: http://ow.ly/wOqT30iPD8b
Facebook: http://ow.ly/zlpm30iPDdA
Instagram: http://ow.ly/96dY30iPDgw
Goodreads: http://ow.ly/P6wk30iPCOP

Giveaway:

The winner will receive:

1 signed hardcover copy of A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers
Details:
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends Mon. Mar. 19th @ 12AM EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Thomas Allen & Son for letting me participate in this blog tour.

Review: Harry Moon: First Light

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Title: Harry Moon: First Light
Author: Mark Andrew Poe
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Rabbit Publishers
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

When Declan goes on vacation, Harry Moon takes over Declan’s paper route. For the first time, Harry is on his bicycle in Sleepy Hollow in early morning. Before the sun actually rises, Harry learns of a world he never knew existed. This is the special time known as “first light.” It is the light that peeks out from the sun before the sun truly rises. There, Harry finds the secret land where his magic teacher, Samson, is doing his most important and surprising work against the nefarious We Drive By Night Company.

Review:

I’ve read many Harry Moon stories in the past couple of months, but I think this one is my favourite.

This story had a very creepy theme. Strange creatures, who are controlled by the mayor, ran the newspaper office in their town. They looked like something out of Doctor Who! It was creepy, but I liked the mystery of the creatures.

As in the other Harry Moon stories, there are teaching moments throughout the adventure. Harry learned discipline by taking over his friend’s paper route. And he ended up seeing what a beautiful town he lives in when first light happens in the morning.

This was a great middle grade story.

Review: Leatherback Blues

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Title: Leatherback Blues
Author: Karen Hood-Caddy
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Dundurn
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Robin is kidnapped by dangerous poachers while trying to save leatherback turtles in Central America.

Robin Green is carrying on her work rescuing vulnerable animals at The Wild Place Animal Shelter when she and Zo-Zo get an amazing chance to help protect sea turtles in Central America. Worried about the bugs, the heat, and the threat of poachers, Robin faces her fears and travels there with Zo-Zo, her brother, Squirm, and her eccentric grandmother, Griff.

It only takes one scorpion sting before Robin wants to go home, but the unbelievable sight of a leatherback turtle laying eggs on the beach changes her mind. Just when the group starts making progress, the poachers strike back. Suddenly, the turtles aren’t the only ones who need rescuing! Can Robin and Zo-Zo find a way out?

Review:

This is a great story to teach kids about wildlife!

Robin is a great character. She’s brave because she’s willing to travel around the world to save animals. She convinces her family to travel to Costa Rica to help a turtle sanctuary. She’s realistic because she is also flawed. She doesn’t listen to her grandmother when she tells Robin not to go on the beach by herself. Robin ends up paying the price for that when she is kidnapped, so she learns to follow her grandmother’s rules.

The setting of Costa Rica was very realistic too. My friend just came back from vacation there, and it was depicted just the way she described it to me. It was very hot but rainy when she got there, just like when Robin arrived . Carlos even says “pura vida,” which is what all the locals say. Though I have never been to Costa Rica, I felt like I was there in this story.

The climax of the story, when Robin is kidnapped, happens close to the end. Since it was mentioned in the description, I thought it would happen earlier. But this was an important turning point in the story. Robin learned what the animals at their rescue shelter feel like when they are kept in cages. She ended up learning from the scary experience.

This is a great story for young readers who are interested in wildlife!