Review: Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw

Title: Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw
Author: Laurie Forest, Andrea Bell
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Robin Loxley, the 5th grade outlaw of Nottingham Elementary, tells all! From Epic! Originals comes a comic-inspired illustrated novel series that treats growing up as an adventure.

Fifth grade has just started, and the school bully, Nadia, already rules recess with an unfair Playground Tax. Robin refuses to be pushed around, but all she can think about is winning back her best friend, Mary Ann, after a disastrous fallout over the summer. To do so, she will have to stand up to Nadia, face the wrath of Assistant Principal Johnson, and become a legendary outlaw at Nottingham Elementary—all while forming a merry band of new friends along the way. 

Review:

This story is a retelling of Robin Hood, in a middle school setting.

A lot of the elements in the story were exaggerated to reinforce the story of Robin Hood. The main character was a girl named Robin who was literally wearing a hoodie all the time. The school had a currency that students could earn when they did well on assignments. However, a mean girl named Nadia ended up creating a playground tax so she could steal everyone’s money. It was a silly way of giving Robin a way to “steal” from the bully to give the students their money back.

There was a lot of bullying in this story. Nadia was a girl who picked on Robin and stole from other students. Even the staff bullied kids. I don’t know how they wouldn’t have noticed what was happening on the playground. There was too much bullying without enough redemption at the end.

Thank you Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Have you read Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw? What did you think of it?

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Review: Broken Strings

Title: Broken Strings
Author: Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A violin and a middle-school musical unleash a dark family secret in this moving story by an award-winning author duo. For fans of The Devil’s Arithmetic and Hana’s Suitcase.

It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. 
Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

Review:

This story takes place a few months after 9/11, so it is appropriate that it was released the day before September 11, 2019.

There was a lot of past trauma explored in this story. Shirli’s grandfather survived the Holocaust, but he never spoke about his experience at Auschwitz. Shirli is now living in a world where everyone is suspicious of people with brown skin, because they may be Muslim. Though the Holocaust and 9/11 were different events, they both left people discriminated against because of their religion.

This story made me tear up a few times. Shirli’s grandfather’s experience at Aushwitz was difficult to read, but it is an important part of history that everyone should know. This was a very powerful story!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hedy’s Journey: The True Story of a Hungarian Girl Fleeing the Holocaust by Michelle Bisson, El Primo Ramon

Have you read Broken Strings? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Okay Witch

Title: The Okay Witch
Author: Emma Steinkeller
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl in this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress. 

Review:

This new graphic novel had all of the best parts of a magic story: a talking cat, a family feud that spanned centuries, time travel and a magic broomstick. Even though it had all these classic elements of a magical story, it was original.

There were some historical elements to this story. Moth’s family originally had to flee their town to escape the witch hunts of the 17th century. By using magic, her family was able to survive until today.

I liked the way magic represented anyone who was not “normal.” Just because the witches had magic that no one else could understand, they were chased from their home. However, the answer is not to just run away. Moth teaches her family that there are other ways to fight back.

I loved this book!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to Read Next:

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Quince by Sebastian Kadlecik, Kit Steinkellner, Emma Steinkellner

About the Author:

Emma Steinkellner is an illustrator, writer, and cartoonist living in Los Angeles, California.

She is a graduate of Stanford University and the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated comic Quince.

 The Okay Witch is her debut graphic novel as an author.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for letting me participate in this blog tour.

Review: The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)

Title: The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Zane Obispo’s new life on a beautiful secluded tropical island, complete with his family and closest friends, should be perfect. But he can’t control his newfound fire skills yet (inherited from his father, the Maya god Hurakan); there’s a painful rift between him and his dog ever since she became a hell hound; and he doesn’t know what to do with his feelings for Brooks. One day he discovers that by writing the book about his misadventures with the Maya gods, he unintentionally put other godborn children at risk. Unless Zane can find the godborns before the gods do, they will be killed. To make matters worse, Zane learns that Hurakan is scheduled to be executed. Zane knows he must rescue him, no matter the cost. Can he accomplish both tasks without the gods detecting him, or will he end up a permanent resident of the underworld?
In this cleverly plotted sequel to The Storm Runner, the gang is back together again with spirited new characters, sneaky gods, unlikely alliances, and secrets darker than Zane could ever have imagined. Secrets that will change him forever. 

Review:

This is the highly anticipated sequel to The Storm Runner. I loved that book so I was excited to read the second in the series.

The story started out a little slow, because I had forgotten a lot of the last book. It took a couple of chapters to get back into the story. However, once I got into it, it flew by. It was a wild adventure.

I was at a bit of a disadvantage while reading because I don’t know much about Maya mythology. If I was more familiar with it, I think I would have enjoyed the story more. It would have made more sense if all of the characters were explained more, because there were so many characters, including the many gods.

This was a great story. Fans of the series will love this book!

Thank you Disney Book Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Other Books in the Series:

What to read next:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan

Have you read The Fire Keeper? What did you think of it?

Review: Two Peas in a Pod (Whatever After #11)

Title: Two Peas in a Pod (Whatever After #11)
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

I’ve landed — along with my brother, Jonah, and our dog, Prince — in the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea! When I can’t fall asleep on top of a hundred mattresses, the kingdom decides I must be the princess they’re looking for. Talk about royal treatment — I’m suddenly being waited on hand and foot. Plus, I get unlimited ball gowns, sparkly jewelry, and ice cream. 
But can we find a REAL princess to run the kingdom?
Now we have to:
– Hold a princess contest
– Defeat an obnoxious prince
– Escape hungry alligators
– Make it back home 
There’s no time to snooze — may the best princess win!

Review:

I loved the story of The Princess and the Pea when I was a kid. Whenever I had trouble sleeping at night, I thought about this story. This was a great adaptation.

Abby becomes the princess in this story. She arrives with her brother to the castle, and ends up passing the “princess test” when she can’t sleep on the mattresses that are on top of the pea. However, Abby has to go home eventually so she can’t be their princess forever. She creates her own princess test to find an intelligent, strong, and brave girl to be the princess in her place.

As this series has progressed, the stories become more complex with larger casts of characters. I really like the way the characters have become more developed too. Abby learns life lessons in each book, such as teamwork, which was important to this story.

This was another great story in the Whatever After series!

What to read next:

Seeing Red (Whatever After #12) by Sarah Mlynowski

Have you read Two Peas in a Pod? What did you think of it?

Review: Swing it, Sunny

Title: Swing it, Sunny
Author: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Graphix
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Summer’s over and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of . . . middle school. When her Gramps calls her from Florida to ask how she’s doing, she always tells him she’s fine. But the truth? Sunny is NOT having the best time. 
Not only is the whole middle school thing confusing . . . but life at home is confusing, too. Sunny misses her brother Dale, who’s been sent to boarding school. But when Dale comes back, she STILL misses him . . . because he’s changed. 
Luckily Sunny’s got her best friend and a mysterious new neighbor on her side . . . because she is NOT going let all this confusion get her down. Instead, she’s going to remain Sunny-side up!

Review:

This is a great sequel to Sunny Side Up!

Sunny’s brother has been sent to boarding school to take care of his addictions and misbehaviour. Sunny spent the summer with her grandfather in the previous book, and she has to face her day to day life without her older brother in this book.

Sunny’s new neighbour is a teenage girl who teaches her how to use a swing flag. It was like baton twirling with a flag. This was a great activity for Sunny to occupy her time, instead of worrying about her brother.

There were loads of references to things from the 70s. Sunny and her friend watched shows like General Hospital and Gilligan’s Island. She even bought a pet rock as a gift for her brother. I think the parents of middle grade readers would love these references.

I really enjoyed this book!

What to read next:

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Have you read Swing it, Sunny? What did you think of it?

Review: Abby in Wonderland (Whatever After #10.5)

Title: Abby in Wonderland (Whatever After #10.5)
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Down the rabbit hole . . . 

I’m spending the day with my best friends, Frankie and Robin, and — UGH — snobby Penny. I’m not expecting anything magical to happen, until Frankie falls into a mysterious hole behind Penny’s house . . . and we all wind up in the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

I’ve visited fairy tales before. But in Wonderland, everything is topsy-turvy. There are potions that make you grow, cakes that make you shrink, bossy caterpillars, and a horrible Queen of Hearts who wants to put us on trial.

Now we have to:
– Solve a riddle from the Cheshire cat 
– Attend a wacky tea party with the Mad Hatter
– Become BFFs with Alice
– And find Frankie

. . . Or we’ll be stuck in Wonderland for good!

This special edition is extra-long, extra-enchanting, and comes with puzzles, games, and a Q&A with the author!

Review:

This is the first special edition of the Whatever After series.

This story is different because Abby enters a story with her friends, instead of her brother. It’s also the first time she enters a story that isn’t a fairytale.

There were some other ways that this story was different from the other books in the series. The girls follow Alice’s adventure backwards. They don’t end up meeting Alice until the end. That part made sense for this plot, because Abby’s friends had to go on the journey along with Abby. It would have been very confusing to have five girls as main characters traveling through this adventure.

I really enjoyed this book. I hope there are other special editions in the future!

What to read next:

Two Peas in a Pod (Whatever After #11) by Sarah Mlynowski

Have you read Abby in Wonderland? What did you think of it?