Book Review: On Snowden Mountain

Note to parents: We’re using it in our 8th grade Home Ed curriculum this year. I’ll write up a post over at GoodEnoughHomeschool.Com with a book list this weekend.

I adore historical fiction. I’ve based my entire home education program on intertwining great stories with factual spine books, so that my kids not only get the facts of history but the heart of how people were feeling and thinking at those times.
This World War 2 story set in the American Appalachian Mountains is a quiet, moving tale of families at home. Twelve-year-old Ellen knows enough to call for help after her Dad leaves for the War and her Mom won’t get out of bed. What she didn’t realize is that Aunt Pearl will insist on moving both of them from Baltimore to Snowden Mountain. She doesn’t want to move, and yet there is no alternative.
Ellen goes through a bit of culture shock. The mountain world is new and backward to her: outhouses, the one-room schoolhouse, and the lack of electricity are just the beginning. Nearly everything is different from her life so far.
This is a middle-grade book, but I’d lean towards the older end of that age range due to some of the heavy topics that are central parts of this story. Ellen’s new friend Russell has an alcoholic, violent father, and Ellen’s mother’s mental illness is pretty much unavoidable if you are reading this aloud.
I would hand it to a kid struggling with any of these issues at home as the kids and adults involved handle the situations creatively and thoughtfully. Ellen holds a genuine fear that she may inherit her mom’s mental illness, and even though the setting is long ago, that’s still a fear of kids today.

Publication date: October 2019

ARC Review- The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling

You all know I’m always relieved to see #1 in the title of a new book- I double puffy heart love a new series.

Also, I apologize in advance for teasing you with a book you can’t read until July. After researching just how much it helps authors to get pre-orders I decided to try and post my reviews early and then share them again on release day for an extra boost. You don’t even have to pre-order it yourself, almost all libraries have an online form so that you can ask them to order it for you. Bonus points for getting to the top of the holds list before they even have a copy!

So, hey here goes: What an amazing story! I probably broke some kind of reviewer code of conduct by reading most of this aloud and I’m not even sorry. This book is simply delicious, the names and prose roll right off your tongue. People like
“The Queen of the Deep Dark” will stay with you long after you finish reading this story.

If you are familiar at all with fairy tales you’ll know that a changeling is a goblin left behind by magical folk when they want to steal a human child.

In this book, both the Changeling and the human child are left in the human world after a switch goes wrong and are now both around the age of twelve. Cole and Tinn are inseparable. No one knows which one is the goblin and which is human but everyone in the town knows one of them isn’t human.

This story is jam packed with fun characters, scary creatures in the darkest part of the woods, goblins, witches, shapeshifters and more. The humans are strong and resourceful too. I love when a story doesn’t depend on “magic” saving the day.

Without giving too much away, the magic of the goblins will be lost forever unless the Changling presents himself on the day of his 13th birthday. And so, the boys set out together, following a map that shows the way into Oddmire, a forest where they hope to work out the truth, save magic and each other.

I haven’t read the author’s super popular Jackaby series and I hear there are references to that world within this book. I’ll be checking it out soon while we wait for Oddmire #2!

This book is a great read aloud candidate for all ages who enjoy a good fantasy. You can safely go above and below middle grade if you are comfortable with scary fairy tale danger.

The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling by William Ritter

July, 2019

Book Review: Guardians of the Wild Unicorns

I literally ” awed” out loud while reading this late one night. Lewis and Rhona are at sleepaway camp when they discover a real life- Unicorn!! Then they find that there are more- which was awesome!

Unicorns aren’t all cuddly and sweet either, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need saving. Poaching is a real threat to them, and only Lewis and Rhona can help. I’d love to hear an audio version of the Scottish Highland Brogue that Rhona sports and the descriptions of the surroundings are lovely.

Being a middle-grade book, the main characters have some issues at home and while they aren’t resolved the kids bond together and have each other as they become guardians of the unicorns.

All in all, it was a fun romp through Scotland with some of my favorite mythical (or real?) creatures.

Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson April 30, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea: an ARC Review

Did you love Dumplin’? Me too. Dear Sweet Pea is Julie Murphy’s first Middle Grade book.


Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco is having a bit of a rough year. Her parents are getting divorced, she’s got friend drama in middle school and on top of all that she starts answering letters written to her neighbor’s advice column.(without permission)

Highlights:

  • I’m a sucker for a cute cat and her cat Cheese and all his antics made me smile.
  • I Love how hard her parents try to make things okay for her, when they just can’t fix the way things have to be now.
  • Giggled at her parents’ attempt to keep things “normal” by living in twin houses on the same street. Weird, yet endearing.
  • Oscar- the best of best friends

This is a quick, easy read for the middle school reader in your world. As always, Julie models lots of body positivity and her characters have authentic reactions to their circumstances which is always awesome for this age of readers to see and hopefully emulate.

Two thumbs way up! You’ll have to wait a while for this one as right now I see the publish date as October 1, 2019.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes: Book Review

The title says scary and it means it. This collection of short stories is wildlife documentary scary. If you’ve ever watched PBS and yelled for the baby animal to “Watch Out!” You’ll love this. I’ll give this warning: the stories included are dark and sometimes disturbing. I read parts to my 13 yo and he agreed that at 9 or 10 he would have had nightmares. I’d be completely fine calling this YA, but in my opinion it is not suited for kids under the age of 12. Your mileage may vary. Pre-read it if you have any doubts, by page 33 six foxes have died.

The story aside I want to talk about the actual book a little. It features excellent thick paper, and an easy to read typeface. The best part is that the interaction between foxes (hearing the story) happen on black pages with white print and the stories they are being told to foxes are on white pages with black typeface. It’s simple, and brilliant all at once.

Things I like about this story include that it is perfect for reading a little a day. I’d say bedtime, but you know- scary. The foxes personified keep you at the edge of your seat. I’ll not that one story vilifies Beatrix Potter in a way that although true never occurred to me.

In the end it all wraps up with a happy ending and I loved it.

Scary Stories For Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

July 30, 2019

Dog Days in the City- Book Review

My thanks to the #KidLitExchange for this review copy. Getting books in the mail is always so fun!

This book is the sequel to An Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City which I read in 2017, not sure if that review made it over here, but I remember liking it. You can jump right into this story without reading the first book if you want to.

Animal loving kids will adore this one! Our main character Josie (and her lovely large family) are back and she has given up ballet lessons to help out at the animal shelter. Someone drops off a litter of puppies and chaos ensues. In the midst of all that her own dog is quite ill, her neighbor is moving and she has some typical middle school drama.

I’d say that kids on the younger side of middle grade will enjoy this the most, it does involve some tear inducing pet moments so be aware of that before starting it.

All in all a solid sequel. Dog Days in the City by Jodi Kendall

The Doughnut King: ARC Review

Doughnuts and a city kid transformed from a transplant into a small town defender in one seamless story. What more could you ask for in a sequel? You don’t need to read The Doughnut Fix (a 2018 Cybils finalist!) to enjoy this story, but I think you should. Kids of all ages will giggle and laugh their way through The Doughnut King. They will also crave doughnuts, spiced butter tea, and cupcakes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We bought these before we knew we could be creating them ourselves.

This story picks up right where the Doughnut Fix leaves off. The doughnut business is a huge success and as great as that is, its hard to keep up with demand. Josh and Tristan rack their brains to figure out what they can do to keep up with their orders. On top of that, Tris knows his parents are struggling financially and the town is too. It is a lot for a couple of kids to handle. Tris ends up entering one of those kids cooking show contests in the hopes that winning will solve all their issues.

Things I loved:

  • All the descriptions of New York and food. Tris knows New York like we know Chicago. Our trips always center around what foods are in that neighborhood and how we can sneak them into our day.
  • The honest way that Jessie writes about Tris and his anxiety. Lots of kids have anxiety and reading about someone else helps.
  • All the family dynamics and how real they are.
  • The fact that there is a doughnut robot in real life. (We had to google to see if it looked like an actual robot)
  • I’m a champion of out of print books but, I’ve got to say how fun it is to read a book so current that I had to show the text emoji’s while reading aloud. There is something sort of great about a book that is clearly set “right now” in time.
We made these!!

This book and its predecessor make great family read alouds. They also inspire baking. Two thumbs up from our house. We’re hoping for a third book!

Pre-order The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz before the publication in May 2019.