Flunked

Flunked by Jen Calonita is a juvenile fiction book, great for 5th graders.

Imagine a fantasy world where villains’ are the ones teaching children how to be good. Well that is just what happens at the Fairy Tale Reform School.

Fairy Tale Reform School is a boarding school for children who show evil tendencies. History is taught by the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen does therapy sessions, Ursula teaches etiquette classes… oh and the headmistress is Cinderella’s evil step mother. Nothing can go wrong here right?

Gilly doesn’t consider herself wicked, at least she doesn’t think she is. But she is a thief. Gilly, her mom, dad and several brothers and sisters live in a shoe and are hardly making ends meat. So she steals from the royals occasionally to get by… they can afford it anyway, right?

Eventually, Gilly gets caught and is send to Fairy Tale Reform School. But who will take care of her family while she is gone? And are these villains’ really reformed criminals or is there something else at work?

This is one I often recommend for 4-5 graders, so I figured I really should read it myself. And it was really good. This is a perfect book for kids who like a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of humor, some action and a good twisted fairy tale.

I love when a series builds a little band of “heroes” who are going to investigate some shady doings in order to save the day. And Gilly, Jax and the rest of her friends are just the right amount of delinquent and good at heart.

Overall, I think this book will appeal to boys and girls 4-6th grade and would be great for readers who like “Land of Stories,” “Whatever After,” and Disney’s “Descendants.” It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes.

This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Very, Very Far North

The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el is a juvenile fiction book, probably ranging from 3-5th grade.

In the very, very far North lives a polar bear named Duane. Duane is a curious polar bear who loves the cold, cold ocean, exploring his surroundings and making new friends.

What follows is an account of Duane’s explorations and the interesting friends he makes. Written in linear but somewhat episodic chapters, is Duane’s story.

This was an interesting read, with an interesting narrative, which is one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place. It has an almost realistic fiction feel to it, but with personified animals as the main characters with very human traits.

One of the things I am not completely sure about, is who exactly the audience is intended for. Amazon gives it a 3-5th grade range, which rings true to me but I don’t know how much interest this book would hold for older readers and the younger range may have issues with the vocabulary/narrative. I actually think this book would be best as a read-aloud for caregivers to read with the kids. In fact, the narrator all but suggests it at one point in the story.

An odd, yet charming little book. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Arcade and the Triple T Token

Arcade and the Triple T Token by Rashad Jennings is the first book in a junveile fiction series probably best for 4-6th graders.

Eleven-year-old Arcade Livingston has some typical kid problems–he’s moved to a new city and is the new kid at school, some bullies have him in their sights and having to take the subway everywhere makes it difficult to check out all the library books he wants. But he also has one very unusual problem… a mysterious token that seems to be transporting him on some pretty crazy adventures.

Together with his older sister, Zoe, Arcade will learn to navigate his new home, while trying to uncover the secrets of this magical token that appeared out of no where.

This was a really fun read and quick too! I found the characters super relatable, each in their own way, and Arcade is someone you can definitely see being a friend. There’s almost this idea of stepping into another person’s shoes that the author is playing with, through the lens of  “what do I want to be when I grow up,” a question that a lot of middle grade kids are just starting to explore. I sort of loved that each of Arcade’s adventures were tied in to one of his friends interests and desires.

Arcade is sort of this “go to guy,” the guy who knows all the answers, even if he has no idea what he wants to be himself. He’s smart in an observant way and I liked how he sees the world around him.

There’s also a secondary lesson going on in the background with this one–this idea of why should we only think inside the box, when there are other ways of looking at the world. It’s a more obscure theme, but it’s there.

The fifth book is about to come out in this series, so I think this would be a great one for both boys and girls in 4-6th grade. There’s a lot to discuss and a lot that can be explored about ones own aspirations. This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Orphan Island

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a juvenile fiction book probably most appropriate for 5-7 graders.

There can only ever be nine children on the island or else the sky will fall–but other than that everything is perfect. The sun always shines, snakes don’t bite, and the children never go to sleep hungry. Only one thing ever changes: every year the boat comes and one young child arrives and the oldest child must depart.

This year’s Changing is no different. The boat comes and Jinny loses her best friend, Deen, becoming the new island Elder with a Care of her own to mind. Jinny knows that it is her responsibility, now, to teach Ess, the new arrival, the ways of the island. But her heart isn’t in it. Why would anyone willing step into the boat and leave the island?

Will Jinny be ready when the time comes to leave the island herself? Time is running short and she will soon find out.

I gave the kids for my book club a list of three books that I was thinking of choosing for our monthly book club, with the caveat that I hadn’t read them yet and we would be surprised together. From my descriptions this is the one they chose and I was sort of surprised by it and also delighted because this was the one I wanted to read.

And boy is there a lot to talk about with this one. Especially because the reader isn’t sure what is happening, just like the kids on the island. We are never “in the know.” Even the ending leaves you with no real resolution. It is up to the reader to decide where the story goes. I am wondering if this might be somewhat off-putting for some of my readers because one of the reasons I kept reading was to find out what was really going on… and you never do!

There are a few spots that deal with the harsh realities of growing up–puberty and all that comes with it–that I can image several of my boy readers going “ewwww.” But I warned them I didn’t pre-read the book, so it is what it is.

Ultimately, this is a great book for a book club because we can make guesses and talk a lot about what foreshadowing we saw and what we would do in certain situations. And I think there is appeal for both boys and girls, though it probably bends toward the girls more.

Maze Runner meets Blue Lagoon but for kids. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Electric War

The Electric War by Mike Winchell is a juvenile nonfiction book about the three powerhouses of electricity–Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse.

In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, electricity was just beginning to promise more to a world that was evolving at record speeds. Competition was fierce to become the first person to bring light to the world at large.

Who would be the first to create affordable electricity? Will it be Edison, the uncompromising proponent of direct current. Or would it be Tesla or Westinghouse and their determination to prove alternating currents.

This book is a glimpse into the battle between three of the greatest inventors of all time.

Nonfiction isn’t usually my go-to genre. I can do a good biography and a narrative driven nonfiction but I tend to skim anything else. But a colleague of mine recommended this one for my STEM club and if I could get my hands on more copies, I think I would definitely consider it.

One of the things I really liked about this book, was that you got to see each of these three men from their very beginning. You read about how they became the self man men who raced to light the world. And it was drawn out. It was exactly what you needed/wanted to know in order to get an understanding of where each man came from.

This book is accessible for 5-6th graders and honestly, as an adult, I found it to be super informative and a really good refresher. It was technical but not so much so that one would be turned off by it.

I won’t say that this was a fast read. It wasn’t. It got dry at times and I felt like I needed a break here and there. But ultimately, this would be a great option for a reluctant non-fiction reader or someone who needed to do a report or research assignment.

This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-