Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Report: The Science of Defying Gravity by L.G. Reed

The Science of Defying Gravity

Written by L.G. Reed

Illustrated by Basia Tran

Keyes Canyon Press, 2020

Does your child have a science fair coming up? Or perhaps your middle grade student loves things that fly. This book is for both of you!

Cassie is not interested in science class, and therefore, her grades suffer. But she REALLY wants to go to Space Camp. After her family experiences financial difficulties, Cassie has to take Space Camp attendance into her own hands and figure out how to be able to attend. Setting the goal to make it to camp is just the right fuel to blast her rocket into space.

Thank you, KidLit411 www.kidlit411.com and L. G. Reed for sending me a copy of The Science of Defying Gravity! This chapter book is a very engaging read, and I couldn’t stop-just one more chapter, oops, two more chapters . . . and suddenly I was done reading it.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ Cassie and her best friend Wylie are great characters; flawed yet lovable

~ Excellent premise of a student having no interest in science class transforming into a driven young tween who worked her tail off to implement a stellar science fair project and presentation

~ Family issues were on target and added to the build-up towards the story climax

~ Cassie continued marching forward despite hitting numerous obstacles

~ Cassie and her feelings of being overlooked by her parents, which led to her striving to gain their attention

~ Cassie’s best friend, Wylie, is on the spectrum; this adds an extra layer of interest and learning about others who may be differently abled

~ Budding romance, just barely, but adorable

~ Science-I learned quite a bit about science fairs, gravity, what makes things fly, how to plan a winning science fair project, how they are organized, and even specifics about scientists in the real world

~ Cassie is a strong female main character, and will surely inspire other young girls to follow their interests in STEM fields

~ Helpful backmatter

~ The usefulness of this book to help students prepare for an actual science fair (lots of examples)

Amazon Blurb:

“Useful, entertaining, and encouraging; will inspire confidence and an appreciation of science.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.” — Booklife Reviews

In this mashup of STEM education and fiction, 11 yr old Cassie films her life. She loves movies and dreams of becoming a movie director in SPACE. *Her plans to go to Space Camp are derailed when her dad loses his job and she must win a SCIENCE FAIR to earn a scholarship to attend. Spunk, a caring teacher, an engineering mentor and her friends keep her dream on track.* Contained within THE SCIENCE OF DEFYING GRAVITY is an actual science fair project, including tables and charts for kids to see. The project covers the four forces of flight—lift, thrust, gravity and drag—which are embedded in the fictional story but are factually accurate.


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Book Review: Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison #BookBirthday

Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes

Written by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison

Illustrated by Marco Primo

Mascot Books; October 6, 2020

Happy book birthday to Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison! Coming out on October 6, this interesting travel and coloring book is filled with fun tales, adventures, and coloring pages.

I was sent a copy of this book by Mascot Books in exchange for a review. Thank you, Mascot Books and Sam, Angus, and Marco, for the many adventures! Read more about Mascot Books at http://mascotbooks.com.

Why I Like This Book:

~ This chapter book is written by a boy who has been lucky enough to grow up in Paris and Washington D.C.! How cool is that?

~ Sharing his own experiences, Sam tells of travel adventures he has enjoyed with his father.

~ I love how Sam tells of friends he met along the way. Making friends as one travels is definitely a perk of being an adventurer.

~ Sam gives interesting factoids about the different locations he has visited.

~ How many locations are included? 16 chapters, though at least one features more than one place. I wish my passport had that many stamps!

~ Coloring pages! And extra blank spaces for readers to draw their own pictures.

~ Great voice! I enjoyed getting to meet Sam through his travels and stories.

~ Well written, engaging, and a page turner. Each chapter is not too long, which kept me reading on to see what came next.

~ The title is perfect! When I first searched for this book on Amazon, I put in Backpacks and Baguettes. And what showed up? Backpacks and baguettes. I didn’t know you could order baguettes on Amazon.

~ Great read!

Check out Sam’s adventures at @samrmorrison on Instagram. He wants to hear about your adventures!

Amazon Blurb:

You’re only a child once. Capturing the world through young eyes is difficult. Backpacks and Baguettes attempts to better understand what children think, see, feel, and smell when they are traveling. Everything is new, and everyone is a possible friend.

Your guide is Sam, a half-American/half British boy who so far in his young life has been lucky to grow up in Paris and Washington, D.C.. Sam loves soccer and food and is curious about how people in other countries lead their lives. He thinks graffiti and street art are better than postcards to truly understand a place. He’s even included some authentic global graffiti in the book for you to color. He’s also left space on the back of each image for you to draw your own graffiti or take notes.

Backpacks & Baguettes is a reminder of what it was like to be in the world before the pandemic hit – the sound of mopeds in Rome, the smell of chicken turning on a spit at a French market, a water fight in Bangkok, mushroom hunting in the hills of Tuscany, the feel of fog on your face in San Francisco bay–human contact.

Sam’s stories are ultimately about asking questions until you’re exhausted. They’re about not caring what people think. They’re about smiling and laughing until it hurts and playing until you scrape your knees. They’re about letting your imagination run wild. They’re about realizing in one breath that children are different, but ultimately the same all around the world. They’re about being a kid once.


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Book Report: THE BOY WHO GREW DRAGONS by Andy Shepherd #BeeAReader

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons

Written by Andy Shepherd

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Yellow Jacket, An Imprint of Little Bee Books; 2020

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Thank you, Yellow Jacket Books, for this review Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Boy Who Grew Dragons. I’m happy to announce that I totally enjoyed reading this middle grade novel.

Honestly, I can’t say enough about this fun read. Dragons with explosive poop, an unsuspecting boy and his friends, an interesting gardening experience, trouble with neighbors, and adventures galore provided a very entertaining read of The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Dragons! Tiny dragons who bond with humans, drop explosive poop, and get into trouble. Books with imagination always catch my attention.

~ A mysterious tree in the garden grows funny (weird) fruit. Dragon fruit tree? Is there not a real life fruit called dragon fruit? Does that fruit also grow dragons? I digress.

~ Tomas is a believable, interesting main character. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the not-so-nice neighbor.

~ The cover and internal illustrations are fantastic and perfectly compliment the story. Yes, this middle grade novel is illustrated with funny, clever, and enticing artwork.

~ Great writing and engaging story

 

I think young readers will devour The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

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Yellow Jacket Blurb:

This hilarious middle-grade novel with illustrations throughout sees Tomas discover that he can grow dragons in his own garden!

When Tomas discovers a strange old tree at the bottom of his grandfather’s garden, he doesn’t think much of it. But he takes the funny fruit from the tree back into the house and gets the shock of his life when a tiny dragon hatches! The tree is a dragon fruit tree, and Tomas now has his very own dragon, Flicker!

While Tomas finds out that life with Flicker is fun, he also finds that it is very…unpredictable. Yes, dragons are wonderful, but they also set fire to your toothbrush and leave your underwear hanging from the TV antenna. Tomas has to learn how to look after Flicker—and quickly! And then something extraordinary happens: More dragon fruits appear on the tree! Now it’s official, Tomas is growing dragons.

 

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Book Report: Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Three Things I Know Are True

Written by Betty Culley

HarperTeen, 2020

 

Two best friends. A single shot. A family broken.

These words on the book jacket perfectly set the scene for Three Things I Know Are True.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut YA novel by Betty Culley. Thank you, KidLit411  and Betty Culley, for sending me a copy!

***Spoiler Alert

Three Things I Know Are True is the tale of (as mentioned above), friends, a loaded gun, and two families broken. The story, written with brilliant and spare words, packs this emotionally charged tale about dealing the the aftermath of an accidental shooting. Liv, the younger sister of the victim, tells the story through her viewpoint. I absolutely love how she processes and reacts to the situation. Raw, honest, painful, witty, flawed. All of the good things. And I say two families are broken, because Liv’s family and the family who owned the weapon are both torn apart by a tragic event.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Raw, honest, emotional (you will be amazed, cry, admire, and appreciate the reality of living with tragedy)

~ Brilliant writing (the book looks huge, but it’s not; I stayed up well past my bedtime to read it)

~ I CARED about the characters in the book and what happened next

~ The pain and conflict in the book are phenomenal; it’s full of emotional landmines!

~ I love the Three Things I know Are True game

~ Hope and acceptance in difficult circumstances

~ Friendship and romance

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Amazon Blurb:

Fans of Jandy Nelson and Marieke Nijkamp will love this deeply moving novel in verse about the aftermath of a gun accident.

Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

This powerful novel is a stunning exploration of tragedy, grief, compassion, and forgiveness.


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Book Report: JELLY by Jo Cotterill #BookBirthday

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Jelly

Written by Jo Cotterill

Yellow Jacket (an imprint of Little Bee Books); January 7, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

I LOVE Jelly! This is a great story about a large girl who figures out how to cope with rude comments about her size. Humor and excellent impressions of others keeps everyone laughing, but deep in her heart, she hides her true feelings. This is also a coming of age story. I loved the writing, the setting, the poetry (!!!), and the music. Not everyone has to fit in the same package or do the same things to belong. Honesty with family and friends is worth the risk. I love the way school, friendship, and home life is all tied up in one exciting bunch. Excellent read!

Thank you, Yellow Jacket, for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Jelly to review.

As an adult who struggled with being the chubby kid at school, Jelly resonated with both my younger and more mature self.

 

Why I LOVE This Book:

~ The personality of Jelly is fantastic. This is someone I would love to meet in real life. Her story rings true.

~ The struggle with being overweight and how Jelly is treated by others is sadly life-like. Bullies are everywhere and Jelly learns how to deal with mean comments by reacting with humor. But beneath it all, she is hurt and is hiding her true self.

~ The courage and honesty of Jelly as she changes how she interacts with others and shares her real feelings is refreshing.

~ I love that Jelly writes in her journal to process life. I love the way she expresses herself through poetry.

~ Fantastic friendship, family, and school dynamics

~ The story!

~ I really enjoyed Jelly. Readers will see themselves in the many characters and hopefully learn to treat others kindly, no matter what size.

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

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Amazon Blurb:

Twelve-year-old Jelly hides her true self behind her humor and keeps her true thoughts and feelings locked away in a notebook. Can she find the courage to share who she really is?

Angelica (Jelly for short) is the queen of comedy at school. She has a personality as big as she is, and everyone loves her impressions. But Jelly isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. No one knows her deepest thoughts and feelings. She keeps those hidden away in a secret notebook.

Then her mom’s new boyfriend, Lennon, arrives. He’s kind and perceptive, and he is the first person to realize that Jelly is playing a part. Jelly shares her poetry with him and he convinces her to perform one of her poems as a song at the school talent show. Can Jelly risk letting people see the real her? What if it all goes wrong?

  • Age Range: 10 – 14 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 9

 


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Book Report: The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia

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The Memory Keeper

Written by Jennifer Camiccia

Aladdin, An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; 2019

 

I received a copy of The Memory Keeper through Natalie Aguirre’s blog Literary Rambles. Thank you, Natalie and Jennifer!

I enjoyed reading The Memory Keeper. The cover is very attractive and captured my attention while also giving me a place of setting. The characters are really fun and engaging. I learned SOOOO much about brains in this book. Do not be turned off by that statement. This is a far cry from medical descriptions of brain information. Jennifer expertly wove brain facts into the story. Each chapter begins with a new bit of information relevant to that chapter, and then off we go!

The story of Lulu, a young girl with HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) and her grandmother, who might be beginning to suffer from dementia OR memory-related stress incidents, is a great read.

Why I Loved This Book:

~ The characters are fantastic.

~ I learned so much about brain science (in a fun, non-textbook sort of way).

~ Mystery, danger, intrigue!

~ I liked the friendship factor.

~ Dysfunctional family. Who doesn’t have one of those?

~ I enjoyed the history and inter-generational relationships.

~ The problem-solving and hidden secrets really upped the story intrigue.

~ Excellent writing and story telling.

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Amazon Blurb:

Fish in a Tree meets The Thing About Jellyfish in this heartfelt middle grade debut about long-buried secrets, the power of memory, and the bond between a girl and her gram.

All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.

At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.

With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.

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I hope you enjoy The Memory Keeper. Great read!

 

 

 


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Book Report: Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze by Jamie McHone

Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze

Written by Jamie McHone

Illustrated by Walter Policelli

Mascot Books, November 5, 2019

 

Happy Book Birthday! Today is a special day for both Jamie and Walter as Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze is released to the world. Book birthdays are super important to book authors and illustrators. Cue the music, balloons, and confetti!

Chris Baker at Mascot Books sent me a review copy of Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze. I am happy to spread the word about this new release.

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Book Blurb:

Durban is a bird with giant sneakers and wings so small he can’t fly. He’s tired of being made fun of by all the other flying birds, so he sets off on a journey to find out who he really is. Along the way, he meets Maudry, a smart and sassy female bird, and Wainwright, a grumpy worm with a short temper. Together, the unusual trio goes through thick and thin to discover what it really means to be yourself.

This zany tale of Durban Frankenshooze and his friends will help children begin dialogues about diversity, acceptance, and appreciation of differences, all while building vital language skills.

Southwest Virginia native Jamie McHone is delighted to share her very first children’s book with young readers everywhere! Although McHone enjoys animals, she does not have birds in her home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Instead, she has Rottweilers!

To set up an interview, reading, signing, or for information regarding Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze, please contact Chris Baker at chris@mascotbooks.com.

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What I liked about this book:

~ The names are super creative and fit each character and the problems faced by the characters. Clever and fun!

~ The issue of feeling unlovable due to personal characteristics-be it tiny wings, huge feet, needing glasses, or having thick eyebrows-is universal to humans of any age. Young readers will discover how Durban, Maudry, and Wainwright form a unique friendship and head out to explore the world and solve their “challenges.” (Really, they have fun together and learn to enjoy life in spite of their perceived physical shortcomings.)

~The vocabulary is wide and varied. Readers will be exposed to different words, idioms, and sayings. Stopping to discuss new ideas and vocabulary will enrich the story and reading time.

~While the story is told in a longer format and might not work for a read-it-all-in-one-session, it would be easy to break the story into sections for multiple readings. Older readers will enjoy reading this as a chapter book.

~I love the friends aspect of this book. Despite their differences, all 3 main characters find commonalities and learn to enjoy time spent together. They also make new friends as they travel on their adventures.

 

For a fun read, check out Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze.

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Book Report: The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home

Written by Padma Venkatraman

Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019

 

I read about The Bridge Home at KidLit411.  After commenting, I won a classroom Skype visit with Padma Venkatraman. I rushed to the library to borrow this book so I could read it before arranging the Skype visit.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Bridge Home. Tough topics are explored in this story, and those bits were difficult to read. Homelessness, abuse, extreme poverty, gangs, starvation, death. But there were also the important topics of family, friendship, dreams, and hope. This book is perfect for opening discussions about difficult situations faced by children, be it here or in international locations.

What I loved about The Bridge Home:

~ The characters! Each child had such personality, unique and interesting. I love the way the four main characters relied on each other and became a family unit. Four children, living on their own, a family. Think about that for a few moments.

~ Inclusion. Viji’s sister, Rukku, is differently-abled. I love how this younger sister is loved and accepted as she is by the other two members of the new family, Muthi and Arul.

~ Determination. These four friends are determined to make it work, whether living on the bridge over the river beneath tarps or heading to a new location after a scary incident (don’t want to ruin the details here).

~ The descriptions. Just imagine scrounging through huge garbage mountains. GARBAGE. Ick.

~ The writing. Clean, well stated, and easy to follow. This story is a winner.

Thank you, Padma, for showing us new windows on the world.

You can read Padma’s KidLit411 interview here.

Amazon Blurb:

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.


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Calling all writers of picture books and chapter books. SCBWI has a new award out in memory of Kate Dopirak. What a wonderful way to remember such a special person!

Check it out. This year the focus and award is for writers of picture books. Go for it!

via Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award


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Book Report: The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

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The Virtue of Sin

Written by Shannon Schuren

Philomel Books

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019

 

Much thanks to Shannon Schuren, Literary Rambles,  and Natalie Aguirre for sending me this beautiful copy of The Virtue of Sin.

I don’t know what I expected when I read The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren, but this was not it. I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued to find out this debut YA is a tale of young love but also how that love goes awry in the midst of a secluded group.

Daniel, the group leader and mouth of God, has established New Jerusalem to provide members a safe and untouched by the outside world haven. Strict rules have been set in place regarding social interactions, life careers, even Matrimony.

Miriam is very excited for the Matrimony, as she is certain Caleb will name her as his wife. But when that does not happen and Miriam’s name is called by Aaron, a newcomer, Miriam’s life plan falls apart. And she begins to question and allow her voice to be heard.

There are sooo many unexpected twists in The Virtue of Sin. I really want to name a few, but I’m going to let you discover them on your own. Two thumbs up.

What I loved about this book:

~ The characters were rich! Mystery, emotions, hidden agendas, evil motivations, forbidden love.

~ I enjoyed Shannon’s portrayal of the group, leadership control, and member dynamics. Ok, not enjoyed, as I so wanted to speak out to Miriam and other characters. But I was totally engaged in the problems of the day.

~ The setting. Great descriptions that made me feel like I was right there in the book.

~ The plot line was fascinating. Like I mentioned above, so many unexpected twists. As I was reading, my side brain was constantly exploring the whats and whys and possible nexts. Loved it!

~ Great writing!

 

Amazon Blurb:

A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free — perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Tara Westover’s Educated.

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

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