Book Review: The Story That Cannot Be Told

If you’ve got a kid that loves folk and fairy tales, this is a story for them. If they like historical fiction, this is also for them. The alternating chapters between the story of Ileana in Romania circa 1989, and the stories that Ileana adapts as Romanian folktales to disguise their exact origins are amazing.
Living under Ceausescu was so dangerous for people who rebelled that Ileana has to leave Bucharest and go and live with her grandparents in a rural village. This is quite the change for a kid who grew up living city life under a communist regime. She is used to food shortages, secrecy, and living under the threat of torture. In the country, her grandparents are far enough away that she has a taste of a sort of “normal” childhood for a little while. During this time in the village, she comes into her own with both her storytelling and her political ideals. The novel reminded me of “The War That Saved My Life.” This is a time period (1980’s and 1990’s) that doesn’t have much for Middle-Grade kids.
Anyone studying Eastern Europe with kids could use this as a Read Aloud for many ages. You may have to explain to younger kids when the story transitions back and forth from fairy tale to the present, but the story contains typical wartime violence.
In the end, the story was so captivating that I thought maybe the fairy tale was real.

Book Review: This Was Our Pact

You’ve watched all of Stranger Things, then maybe you did a family re-watch of Goonies. What’s next?

You may want to try this graphic novel. Not only is it an excellent read aloud for all ages, it’ll get you out of a reading slump with a bang. I saw it on a Owlcrate video and snagged it at the library while I was picking up Cybils Awards nominees. It was a sort of send-off book for me as I embark in nearly a two month reading spree where other people choose my books. PSA: It’s not too late for you to nominate your favorite kids book published between Oct 2018- and Oct 2019. Pick me something good in the YA Speculative Fiction section.

Ok, so back to this gem.

It’s so well done, I want to hang the artwork all over my house.

From the publisher:

It’s the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they’ll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they’ve made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back.

The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn’t long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben and (much to Ben’s disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn’t seem to fit in.

Together, Nathaniel and Ben will travel farther than anyone has ever gone, down a winding road full of magic, wonder, and unexpected friendship*.

*And a talking bear.

I read most of this book while I was sick with a fever and feel like it was like reading a Hayao Miyazaki film. It’s so full of bite sized wisdom like:

“No one is going to force you to, but if you don’t jump in, you’ll always think back on this moment and wish that you had.”

All together suitable for all ages, spooky without being scary. Tons to talk about while reading. It checks all my boxes for the perfect October read aloud.

Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Who’s ready for some ghost hunting Halloween vibes?

From the publisher:

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

I read this one in a single sitting. I found the small town Indiana setting charming and realistic. The characters are all full of snark and the story simply never lagged. It has more than a little overlap with both Stranger Things and Riverdale. I don’t watch Supernatural but, I know enough of the plot to say that it compares to that too.

If you are looking for scary “light” this one’s for you. Paranormal yes, horror, no.

October 1, 2019

ARC Review: The Dark Lord Clementine

You’ll have to wait until October 1, 2019 to get your hand on this one. Go ahead and feel free to pre-order it now.

I knew I’d enjoy this book for 9-13 year old kids from this line on page 2:

Clementine Morcerous knew that if the Dark Lord Elithor had three gifts in this world, they were:

The invention and implementation of magical Dastardly Deeds.

Math

Not Talking About Anything

I was hooked from that point on. It’s a little bit like a Neil Gaiman book mixed with well, a female dark lord written for middle grade readers and me. I loved the opposite theming where Clementine has to grapple with feeling that although she’s always told that she needs to be as evil as possible, that doesn’t seem like the right path for her.

I know lots of kids who will love Clementine! She is dark (of course, as an evil warlord) but also caring. She cares about keeping her Dad in the evil Lord business and does it her own way after learning to ask for help from her new friends.

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.