Our external reviewer Sara has been busy doing some middle grade reading so that she can be better acquainted to recommend books to the kids at the library she works at! Here are some of her reviews on some of the books she has picked up!
The Monster Sisters and the Mystery of the Unlocked Cave by Gareth Kyle Gaudin
Synopsis: When a quiet seaside town is suddenly overrun by hundreds of giant monsters, two young sisters are the only ones prepared to handle the situation. Using their keen interest in architecture, local history, folklore and gymnastics, the two girls attempt to not only stop the monsters’ rampage but also figure out why it’s happening. The story is set in Victoria, British Columbia, and the city’s impressive history and creepy folklore add intrigue to the proceedings, as more and more monstrous guests arrive on this unceded Lekwungen Territory.
Review: Unfortunately, though this graphic novel seems to have a pretty entertaining idea, I found it pretty disjointed and difficult to read. The idea of the novel was really neat, and the idea to put little facts about Victoria was fun, but really pulled away from the story. There were also a few times where the story jumped around for no real reason and added in a narrator at the last few pages to tie everything up.
Admittedly, I’m still working on appreciating the style of the graphic novel, but this one felt particularly difficult to get into the story.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to the younger readers this book is geared towards. It does seem like it’s leading really heavily into a sequel, and I’m optimistic that perhaps a second novel from this author would be more successful.
Book Rating: 2/5
Shadow Island by Nancy Deas
Synopsis: With nowhere left to live after losing his parents and working his way through a long list of relatives on the mainland, Ollie finds himself at his grandpa’s house in Sueo Bay, “home of the supernatural.” Miserable and intending to get away from the earthquake-prone, rain-soaked island on the next bus out of town, Ollie’s getaway plans are altered abruptly when he and three classmates discover something they shouldn’t have in a trailer in the woods.
The four unlikely friends come together in a mystery involving supernatural creatures, a ticking clock and one angry gym teacher to save themselves, the creatures and Sueo Bay from a darkness that is infecting the island.
If they succeed, will Ollie finally find a place to call home?
Review: I loved this one graphic novel. I thought the start was a bit abrupt, but I quickly forgot about this as I continued reading. It was a fun story that I think kids in this age group will absolutely love. The images were great, and I even approved of the text style (as a teacher, the all-caps style common in graphic novels does not help emerging readers). I think this could turn into a series most emerging readers would love to get obsessed with!
Book Rating: 4/5
Sid the Kid and the Dryer by Leslie Choyce
Synopsis: Milton the washing machine and W. P. (Whirlpool) the dryer are being delivered to a new home in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. The pair are excited to start their new jobs in the Crosby home, and are just getting settled in to the basement when “the kid” comes home from school. Sidney straps on a pair of Rollerblades, drags out a beat-up hockey net, and starts to practice. Every now and then a loud carrong echoes off W. P.’s shiny white enamel as the puck misses the net, prompting scolds from Sidney’s mother upstairs.
Eventually, the poor dryer needs to be replaced; it’s missing knobs and covered in dents. W. P. doesn’t want to go, and it’s up to Sidney to convince his dad that sometimes, being reminded of your mistakes is a good thing.
Review: I did not enjoy this book. It felt sort of strange, although I really loved the idea. It almost felt like this book hasn’t been seen by a publisher yet. I believe the illustration style would not be very popular with most of it’s intended readers, either, as the sort of almost-realistic style of illustrating seems to have fallen out of favour in the last decade. I feel like there other sports-adjacent picture books in this genre that readers would enjoy more.
Book Rating: 2/5
A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice by Nadia L. Hohn
Synopsis: Jamaican poet and entertainer Louise Bennett Coverley, better known as “Miss Lou,” played an instrumental role in popularizing Jamaican patois internationally. Through her art, Miss Lou helped pave the way for other poets and singers, like Bob Marley, to use patois in their work.
This picture book biography tells the story of Miss Lou’s early years, when she was a young girl who loved poetry but felt caught between writing “lines of words like tight cornrows” or words that beat “in time with her heart.” Despite criticism from one teacher, Louise finds a way to weave the influence of the music, voices, and rhythms of her surroundings into her poems.
Review: I really loved the idea of this book. Being able to connect important historical figures with the reader in a natural way is something I really admire in children’s books. I think that the average child will love reading a story, only to discover that it’s about a real person. Unfortunately, I wished for more! I wanted more of what was in the author’s note at the end to be told in the story, where it will really engage the reader. I’d love to read more by this author.
Book Rating: 4/5
Wolverine and Little Thunder | Ki’kaw’ju Kaqtukowjik by Alan Syliboy
Synopsis: From the bestselling creator of The Thundermaker comes another adventure featuring Little Thunder and Wolverine—a trickster, who is strong and fierce and loyal. The two are best of friends, even though Wolverine can sometimes get them into trouble. Their favourite pastime is eel fishing, whether it’s cutting through winter ice with a stone axe or catching eels in traditional stone weirs in the summer. But that all changes one night, when they encounter the giant river eel—the eel that is too big to catch. The eel that hunts people!
Book Review: I loved the illustrations and the idea of the book telling an indigenous tale for the readers. Unfortunately, the writing was a bit lacking. The story didn’t have much flow to it, and it kind of felt like nothing really happened. The excerpt of the book used on the inside cover almost told more of the story than the actual book! I wished for more connection to the reader, and a better development of the plot of the book. I just didn’t feel like this book lives up to some of its competitors in the genre.
Book Rating: 3/5
Olga: Out of Control! by Elise Gravel
Synopsis: In this third installment of the series, Olga’s beloved companion, Meh, is now a mom! She has a litter of adorable babies that look like spring rolls. But the babies aren’t just adorable—they’re a handful! How can Olga stop them from covering her house in rainbow poop if she’s busy making sure they’re fed?
Can Olga keep it all under control?
Book Review: I’m not sure I really enjoyed this book. It felt a little bit too contrived. While I was reading, it felt like it was just a thinly veiled attempt to teach kids about the challenges of parenting and owning pets. This author writes as if they only think they know how to write for children, which is odd, as I’ve read other books by this author that are much better!
Book Rating: 2.5/5
Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliot
Synopsis: Jaxon had just one job–to return three baby dragons to the realm of magic. But when he got there, only two dragons were left in the bag. His best friend’s sister, Kavita, is a dragon thief!
Kavita only wanted what was best for the baby dragon. But now every time she feeds it, the dragon grows and grows! How can she possibly keep it secret? Even worse, stealing it has upset the balance between the worlds. The gates to the other realm have shut tight! Jaxon needs all the help he can get to find Kavita, outsmart a trickster named Blue, and return the baby dragon to its true home.
Book Review: I loved this one book! I was a little worried about it being a sequel, as I haven’t read the first one, but it was still a great read, and I didn’t feel lost. I found the story engaging, and at the perfect level for the age group. There was action and a bit of magic, but mostly they’re was great relationships between the characters. I would recommend this one to any early reader!
Book Rating: 5/5
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If you are interested, I have this video detailing my opinions on the books that I read in February. Check it out if you want to see me talk about the books rather than read a review.