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: 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: 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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Book Report: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Spin the Dawn

The Blood of Stars, Book 1

Written by Elizabeth Lim

Alfred A. Knopf, 2019

 

Spin the Dawn was a fantastic read! A special thanks to KidLit411, Sylvia, Elaine, and Elizabeth Lim for this beautiful copy of Spin the Dawn! You can read the interview about Elizabeth Lim and her new book here.

Let me put a plug in for KidLit411. The blog posts, interviews, advice articles, and collection of writerly information is spot on with what writers for children need to know. Through their posts, I am able to keep up with what’s happening in the KidLit world. New releases, author and illustrator interviews, and opportunities to interact, discuss, and encourage other kitlit writers are all a part of KidLit411. And I’ll let you in on a little tidbit: Many authors offer the chance to win a copy of their work. You can find KidLit411 on Facebook or Twitter.

What I Loved About Spin the Dawn:

~ I really enjoyed the characters, especially the main character, Maia. I loved her determination to help her family despite cultural expectations and rules.

~ I enjoyed the Mulan meets Project Runway story. Girls (and women) can do and be anything they want. Maia’s story will inspire young girls to stick to what they want to do.

~ The adventures! I love adventure stories, and this tale took some very surprising turns.

~ The relationships were well developed and interesting to follow.

~ I loved the mystery, danger, and intrigue. Throw in some fantasy, and an engaging tale is ready and begging to be read.

 

Amazon Blurb:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

 


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Book Report: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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Caterpillar Summer

Written by Gillian McDunn

Illustrations by Alisa Colburn

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019

 

It’s summer, and Caterpillar Summer is the perfect read! Thank you to Gillian McDunn and Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles for this lovely copy. If you look just close enough in the above photo, you will see a friendly butterfly snacking while I consider this perfect summer read. A nod to the main character and her name of Cat(erpillar).

Amazon Blurb:

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

Why I Love This Book:

~ The names! Cat and Chicken? Fun and interesting.

~ The unique way Gillian created a mother who is an author that writes stories about her children, aka, Caterpillar and Chicken. Each section opens with an illustrated page from a story written by Cat’s mother and several other Caterpillar and Chicken illustrations are interspersed throughout the book. Stories upon stories.

~ The characters are great. I love how Cat is a caring, responsible older sister who is just finishing 5th grade. I love the uniqueness of Chicken and how Cat knows how to take care of him. The harried, busy mom, the newly met grandparents, old friends and new friends, the bad guys-the characters are fun to get to know.

~ The setting is fabulous! Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer in a huge house at the beach? On an island? I would. Cat gets to stay in her mother’s old bedroom. I love the small town community where Cat’s grandparents live.

~ The intrigue. Why has Cat never met these grandparents? What happened to Dad? Why does life have to have so many changes? How can Cat take care of Chicken but also still be a kid and enjoy life? How can Cat get her mother and grandfather to talk?

~ Fishing. This is a big hook (!) for Cat’s hopes of getting her family to reconcile.

~ Friendship, forgiveness, and family.

~ Great writing! I found Caterpillar Summer easy to read and very enjoyable. I think upper elementary and early middle grade readers will love this summer tale.

Two thumbs up for Caterpillar Summer.

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