Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Release Date: February 1, 2010
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.
Title: I Have No Secrets
Author: Penny Joelson
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: June 29, 2017
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.
Title: The Lotterys Plus One
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Release Date: March 28, 2017
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!
Title: Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitters Club: Graphic Novel #1)
Author: Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Kristy Thomas, Mary-Anne Spier, and Claudia Kishi are best friends who live in Stoneycreek. They all babysit for kids their neighbourhood. One night, Kristy’s mom has trouble finding a babysitter for David Michael, Kristy’s little brother. When she has to phone multiple people before finding a solution, it gives Kristy the idea to start the Baby-Sitters Club. Kristy and her friends, along with Stacey McGill, will meet three times a week and take calls from parents who need babysitters that week. That way, parents can reach many babysitters at once. They also create a notebook where they can write their experiences with each family, so the other babysitters know what to do if they ever have to babysit them. This new club also brings Kristy closer to her family and her mom’s new boyfriend, Watson.
The drawings in this book are just like the other ones in Raina Telgemeier’s other books. It’s so cool to see some of my favourite characters come to life on the page.
This graphic novel brought back so many memories from when I originally read the Baby Sitters Club books. I loved this book and I’m excited to read the next ones!
Title: The Cloud Castle
Author: Thea Stilton
Genre: Children, Middle Grade
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Will Mystery calls the Thea Sisters for their help. There is a crack in the ceiling of the Hall of Seven Roses, which indicates trouble with the fairies. The girls and Will take a helicopter to Mount Everest to access the fairies in the clouds. Once they get there, they find Ariette, a weaver fairy, who is locked away in a tower. She has been sent there because the Queen thinks she caused their problems by telling the fairies about the real world below the clouds. The problem is that the weaver fairies, who create silver thread with their dreams, are no longer producing it. They need the silver thread to weave clouds everyday. The Thea Sisters and Will embark on a mission to clear Ariette’s name and discover the truth behind the missing silver thread.
There were many aspects from World mythology in this story. For example, the elephant, Airavata, reminded me of Krishna from Indian mythology and the hundred handed giant is like the ones from Greek mythology.
Multiple words on each page stand out by being illustrated. For example, words related to snow would have snow covering the tops of the letters and the word “rainbow” had a different colour for each letter. This makes these words stand out and would teach young readers what they mean.
The mouse theme was present throughout the story. They would exclaim “Holey Cheese,” and at first I thought they spelled “holy” wrong. The same thing happened when they described something as “enormouse.” This was a clever way to incorporate the mouse theme into the story.
This book was recommended to me by a ten-year-old because it’s her favourite book. I was surprised at how many times I laughed while reading it. I haven’t read any other books in the series but I still really enjoyed it.
Title: Two Times a Traitor
Author: Karen Bass
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Lazare Berenger is very unhappy on his family vacation in Halifax. He still hasn’t forgiven his parents for moving from Ottawa to Boston while he was staying with his grandmother. He has big fights with his father too. After one of their big arguments, he runs into the ruins of a citadel, and falls into a tunnel, being knocked out. When he wakes up, he is taken as prisoner by sailors. At first he assumes it’s a camp his father has sent him to as punishment. But he soon learns that he has travelled back in time to 1745. The British assume he is a spy because he has a French name and a French accent. However, his French background also makes him a perfect spy for the British, so he can infiltrate their town without suspicion. Laz has to endure a lot on his time in the past until he can figure out how to return to 2017.
This is a great story. The historical aspects are really good for middle-grade students. Canadian history isn’t taught as much as it should be in school, so this story would be a great supplement for kids.
Though Canada’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year, this story demonstrates how Canada’s history goes far beyond 150 years.
The character of Laz is relateable to kids today because he sees things through modern eyes. For example, whenever something happens to him, he thinks of what he would text his best friend back home in 2017. This drifts off a little after he becomes more comfortable in 1745.
I wish we had seen the reunion of Laz and his parents at the end of the story. It would be interesting to see how Laz has changed in relation to his family. Also, I would have liked to see how his dad treats him after their many months apart.
This is a great story for middle grade readers!
Title: The Ice Maiden’s Tale
Author: Lisa Presoisi
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Casper and Johanna have to go stay with their neighbour, Mrs. Kinder, while their mother visits their father in the hospital. They are a little scared of her because she reminds them of the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Mrs. Kinder reads them a story from a mysterious book. She tells the stories of two men: Gabriel and Sebastian. Gabriel is a sculptor who sculpts a woman out of ice. Then he leaves her but he wishes she was alive. He embarks on a quest to bring her to life. Sebastian is a magician who uses his powers to kill people in his way. When he finds Gabriel’s ice maiden sculpture he also wants to bring it to life. Sebastian then goes on a quest to bring life to the ice maiden too.
This story reminds me of a fairytale. Casper and Johanna are similar to Hansel and Gretel since they go to the old woman’s house. They even have German names like in the tale. It also reminds me of the story of Pygmalion, who made a sculpture of a woman. When the Greek goddess Aphrodite saw how much he loved the sculpture, she brings her to life. This is like Gabriel’s story, since he sculpted the ice maiden and then wanted to bring her to life.
The dueling stories between Gabriel and Sebastian were a little confusing at times because they were so similar. They both involve magic and going on quests to bring the ice maiden to life so they could get mixed up.
I like the way this story brought a fairytale/folk tale into the modern world. Casper and Johanna were told the story, but the reader also gets to experience the stories of Gabriel and Sebastian.
I also like that the two main characters are a boy and a girl, so the book isn’t specifically aimed at one gender. However, they did follow gender stereotypes with Casper wanting to hear about dragons and Johanna wanting to hear a love story.
This is a good story with a unique premise.
Title: Speed of Life
Author: Carol Weston
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Sofia Wolfe lives in New York with her father. Her mother died from a brain aneurysm a year ago. She goes to an all-girls private school. One day, Dear Kate goes to her school to do a presentation. Dear Kate is an advice columnist for Fifteen magazine, and Sofia’s best friend Kiki is obsessed with her. They sneak into the presentation for parents at night, which both girls convinced their parents to attend. Kiki hopes that her mother and Sofia’s father will start dating. As Sofia deals with confusing issues about growing up, and without a mother figure to speak to, she starts emailing Dear Kate her questions. When Sofia’s dad starts dating someone, she doesn’t want to hear about it, but she emails Dear Kate asking for advice. This all derails when she meets her father’s new girlfriend. Then Sofia not only has to think about the loss of her mother, but also her dad’s new girlfriend, his girlfriend’s teenage daughter, having her first boyfriend, and the possibility of moving and starting at a new school.
I couldn’t put down this book! I liked that the age level for it is between middle-grade and young adult. I don’t think there are enough books for this in between age, which is important to have. Sofia’s perspective is more middle-grade since she is just graduating from middle school and starting high school. However, she has to face many teenage issues when it comes with her dad’s girlfriend’s daughter.
This book also talked about many issues that teens face but may be afraid to ask. This comes out in the questions that Dear Kate is asked in her column. Girls, such as Sofia, feel more comfortable asking her questions through email, rather than speaking to someone in person about these awkward topics.
Sofia also mourns her mother and faces the possibility of her father remarrying, which is a real issue for many young girls. I like the way this story deals with these difficult parts of life in a positive way.
This is a great book for both young readers and parents alike!
Author: Bevin Rolfs Spencer
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Mozart, Lucy, Estaban, and PJ are the Backyard Players. They put on plays in Mozart’s backyard for their neighbours. When they are looking for the props for their latest play, they find a magic wand with a note. They have five chances to use the wand, but they have to use the magic word. They guess that the magic word is “Abracadabra,” but when Esteban waves the wand, it turns PJ into a pig! They go to the magic shop where the wand is from to try to figure out how to turn PJ back into a boy before they have to perform their play that evening.
This is a really cute story. It’s great for middle grade readers! It’s funny because every time they think of a new magic word to use to try and change PJ back, they make it worse by giving him wings or a tail.
One thing that bothered me in the story is that the pictures didn’t always match up with what was happening in the story. For example, the words say that Esteban waves the wand, but in the picture that accompanies that chapter Mozart waves it. There were a few instances where this happened so it was confusing. This could also have been fixed in the final copy because I was reading a ARC.
This is a funny story, and I hope there are more to come!
Title: Jelly Bean Summer
Author: Joyce Magnin
Genre: Middle Grade
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Joyce Anne is an eleven-year-old girl who shares a bedroom with her older sister Elaine and Elaine’s pet guinea pig, Jelly Bean. Her older brother is missing in the Vietnam War. Her missing brother causes a lot of tension in her house. Elaine constantly claims to see UFOs in the sky. One day, Joyce gets sick of hearing about her sister’s UFO sightings and she decides to move to the roof. She brings a tent up along with some books and binoculars to keep an eye on the neighbours. As she watches the other houses, she sees a teenage boy standing on another roof, also looking through binoculars. They write on papers and hold them up to each other to communicate. When Joyce goes over to meet the boy, Brian, she learns that his brother died in the war. His mother also died long ago so he just lives with his father. But his father doesn’t want to take care of him anymore. He thinks Brian would be better off living with his aunt in Arizona. Brian is currently working on a car so that he can drive it to Arizona, but he needs money to finish the job. Joyce has the idea to create a miniature UFO and sell tickets for people to see it. The problem is that Joyce will need her sister’s help to build it. Can they put aside their differences to help the cute boy from down the street?
I liked the way this story demonstrated the effects of the Vietnam war on the families of the soldiers. It changed the way that Brian’s family and Joyce’s family lived. It also gave Joyce and Brian something in common (both having brothers who fought in the war), despite their age difference.
I didn’t feel a strong connection with the characters. They all seemed a little one-dimensional, including Joyce who is the main character and the narrator. She has a one-track mind, and only focuses on helping Brian get his car working.
I also struggled with the title of the book. I don’t think it is descriptive of what actually happens. Jelly Bean, the guinea pig, is only a small part of the story. I think the title could have told more about the plot of the novel.