Ghosts


Title: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Purchased
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

Review:

I loved the diversity in this graphic novel. It focused a lot on the Mexican traditions of their town. Carlos’s family makes more traditional mexican food and they speak Spanish fluently. Maya and Cat’s mother didn’t like the way her mother was so traditional when she was young so she didnt take the time to learn about her heritage. Cat and Maya get to learn about these celebrations from Carlos.

Another important aspect of the story is Maya’s illness. This is an important subject that isn’t covered enough in chuldren’s stories. I’m glad to see it represented here.

This is a great middle grade story for young readers.

Review: The Artsy Mistake Mystery


Title: The Artsy Mistake Mystery
Author: Sylvia McNicoll
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Dundurn
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

They say he’s been stealing art. But is Attila being framed?

Outdoor art is disappearing all over the neighbourhood! From elaborate Halloween decorations to the Stream of Dreams fish display across the fence at Stephen and Renée’s school, it seems no art is safe. Renée’s brother, Attila, has been cursing those model fish since he first had to make them as part of his community service. So everyone thinks Attila is behind it when they disappear. But, grumpy teen though he is, Attila can do no wrong in Renée’s eyes, so she enlists Stephen’s help to catch the real criminal.

Review:

This was a really cute story. It takes place in Burlington, about an hour south of Toronto. I’ve never read a story set there, so that was really different for me.

I liked how the dog walking was so prominent in the story. It shows Stephen and Renee working and earning money, which will make them well rounded kids. We also see some of the challenges they face, when Stephen is reported to Animal Control.

Mistakes are a big part in this book. The chapters are divided between the mistakes that Stephen notices him and other people making throughout the day. Sometimes he realizes something was a mistake after it’s happened and it’s too late to change it. This story demonstrates that everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay.

This was a clever mystery. Many pieces of art disappear from the neighbourhood. There isn’t one obvious culprit, since there are multiple victims.

This is a great Canadian book for middle grade readers.

Bess’s Magical Garden


Title: Bess’s Magical Garden
Author: M.E. Hembroff
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s
Publisher: Friesen Press
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Release Date: October 21, 2015
Rating: 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bess’s mother moves them to Pineview, away from her best friend Megan, and she terribly misses her. Six months earlier, Bess’s father died in a car crash, and she’s also in the midst of recovering from the final stages of polio. She’s in a sad and lonely place. From the moment she and her mother settle into their new home, Bess hears whispering voices and encounters a ghostly figure in the well-kept garden and in her dreams. She can’t make sense of everything and so shares her observations with Megan by writing her regular letters. During the summer, she makes new friends, including an orange and white tomcat that she names Pumpkin, and her new neighbour Josie. With the help of Mrs. O’Toole, the woman who watches her, Bess continues to recover, both physically and emotionally. She becomes more and more curious about the garden and the unexplained clues that she finds there. In Bess’s Magical Garden, Bess discovers her own true strengths through enduring life’s struggles. She – with Josie and Megan’s help – also finds some hidden items in the garden, including a map, that leave the girls with more questions than answers. Who was the figure that visited Bess? Will Bess and her friends be able to uncover the garden’s secrets? Or will those secrets be mysteries forever?

Review:

This is a cute story. Bess has faced many challenges in her young life, but she takes it all in stride. She has polio, and during her recovery, her father was killed in a car accident. Despite all of this, she is still very innocent and finds simple joys in life.

I really liked the illustrations in this story. They are childlike, but also detailed and precise. They suit the story very well.

There were some inconsistencies in the timeline of the plot which confused me. Marie, who was the daughter of the original owners of Bess’s house, was childhood friends with Rae and Mae. Now, Rae and Mae are elderly women, which would mean that Marie would also be elderly. However, Mr. and Mrs. Snow were adults when Marie was a child, which would make them very old now, but they don’t appear to be because they are still working in their general store. If this timeline were cleared up, it would have made the story much more cohesive.

The story also had a creepy aspect to it, because Bess had dreams about Marie. This made me wonder about her sanity, but she appeared to be fine. Once she solved Marie’s mystery, Bess stopped dreaming about her. These dreams had the potential to make Bess into a creepy little girl, but she retained her innocence.

This is a cute, short book for young readers.

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast


Title: My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast
Author: Jerry Mahoney
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

It’s Halloween and Maddie wants to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Her stepbrother, Holden, decides he will be the Beast. But when his costume is too gruesome, their parents make him change into a suit and call himself a lawyer instead. Once they return from the Halloween party, Holden notices that their Beauty and the Beast story on his iPad has changed. The Beast still looks like a beast at the end, instead of the handsome prince that he is supposed to change into. They both enter the story, Maddie as Belle and Holden as a lawyer, to try to save the fairytale. 

This is a good story. Holden often points out the negative parts of the story, such as Belle having Stockholm syndrome and the Beast’s vanity. This shows young readers that you have to read everything critically, even beloved fairytales. 

This story is a cute adventure for middle grade readers. 

How To Be A Supervillain


Title: How To Be A Supervillain
Author: Michael Fry
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: jimmy patterson 
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Victor Spoil has supervillain parents called The Spoil Sports. But Victor is too good. They want him to be more evil so he will be a supervillain too. They hire the villain “The Smear” to teach Victor how to be bad. The Smear’s super power is making stains that won’t come out. He takes Victor to a fight he has scheduled against MegaMole. Along the way, Victor meets Octavia who is traveling with MegaMole to learn how to be a superhero. Octavia’s parents think she’s too bad to be a good superhero. Just like Victor, she doesn’t behave the way her parents want her to. All battles between heroes and villains are scheduled and scripted. They know who is going to win before it even begins. But The Smear is tired of losing. He wants to win this time. He travels around with Victor, battling many superheroes and teaching Victor how to be a supervillain. 

This story is so funny. I love all the rules the superheroes and villains had to follow, like having their fights scripted beforehand. The powers they have are also ridiculous, like being able to create stains that can’t be removed. It’s also funny that Victor is too nice and polite to be a supervillain. The typical story of the “bad” child is reversed with the child being too good. 

This book reminded me of Captain Underpants because of the crazy plot and the illustrations within the story. Captain Underpants was one of my favourite series when I was a kid. 

I really enjoyed this unique plot. It’s a great, funny read for middle grade readers and their parents. 

The Crowns of Croswald

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Title: The Crowns of Crosswalk
Author: D.E. Night
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Stories Untold Press
Release Date: July 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Ivy Lovely was a scaldrony maid. The scaldrons are dragons that cook the food in the kitchen of the castle. When one of them gets sick, Ivy is kicked out of the castle. Then, she finds that her belongings have been left outside for her, along with a note from her friend Rimbrick, a dwarf. He is sending her to the Halls of Ivy, a school for royals and scrivenists. Ivy will be a scrivenist, a person who writes and works for a royal family. They have some magic in them, but not as much as the royals. When Ivy arrives at the school, she realizes she has always dreamt of this place. She knows things that others don’t. She is able to remember things that everyone else has forgotten. Ivy has to use her special powers to save the Halls of Ivy and all of Croswald.

This book is a lot like Harry Potter. Ivy had a unique upbringing in a place that did not welcome her. Then she suddenly found out she had special powers and was sent to a magic school. Unlike Harry Potter, Ivy doesn’t know her family history, so it remains a mystery for the reader too.

I found it hard to get into this book for the first couple of chapters because there were so many strange things, such as the scaldrons and the hairies (creatures that create light). But once Ivy went to the school, it started to make sense.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a great start to a new series.

Sisters


Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier 
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Raina and Amara are sisters. They go on a road trip with their mom and younger brother, Will, from California to Colorado for a family reunion. There are flashbacks throughout the story of their relationship. When Raina was little she asked for a sister and then she got one. But she wasn’t the best friend she thought she would get. Amara cried and whined a lot, and she didn’t want to do the same things Raina liked. They also had to share a room. They had different opinions on pets, with Amara wanting a snake and Raina being terrified of them. When Raina gets her own room, Amara is finally given a snake for a pet. But it needs to be fed live mice which their mother doesn’t want to do. They take it back to the pet store but it slithers out of the bag and into the car, disappearing for a long time. In the end, Raina and Amara have to learn that though they don’t get along all the time, they have a special sister relationship. 

This is a really funny graphic novel. It’s the follow up to the book Smile, which is about Raina getting braces. This story also deals with think that kids experience, such as wanting a sibling and going on family road trips. Neither of these things turn out as planned either, since Raina and Amara don’t get along, and they don’t have a good time on the trip. 

Though I don’t have any sisters, I really enjoyed this book. It’s very funny, and has Raina Telgemeier’s familiar style. I hope she makes other follow up stories.