Mini Review: Ruckus by Laurie Elmquist

Our external reviewer Sara has another mini-review for us! She has been recommending a lot of great middle grade books and here is another to add to that list!

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Synopsis: Reece’s new dog, Ruckus, tears through life like a Tyrannosaurus rex. He bites everything that moves and drives Reece’s mom nuts. The puppy was Dad’s idea, to make things easier for Reece after his parents’ separation, but Ruckus is not easy at all and Mom is getting fed up. When her diamond earrings go missing, it sends the family into a tailspin. What happens when a dog swallows something precious? Reece is about to find out. But they can’t give up on this little Jack Russell terror, can they? He’s family, after all.

I really enjoyed this as a beginning reader’s chapter book. It was a pretty quick read, so I don’t think an emerging reader would have too much trouble reading this on their own. The plot was fast-paced and fun, with some great messages for the reader about family troubles, which I thought was helpful. They did a great job showing what it was like to have a family member who isn’t the best at their job; in this case, the father. I would really recommend this to a young reader.

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.


Check out this book called Dork by my author friend Will Winkle about a guy trying to get his crush’s attention while navigating his life as part of a fraternity house!

His book can be found on Amazon, Goodreads, and his website: WillWinkle.com.

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Middle Grade Mini Book Reviews

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Book Highlight: Nutmeg Street

Have you heard about Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, by Sherrill Joseph yet? Check it out and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom!

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Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets (A Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries #1)

Expected Publication Date: February 1st, 2020

Genre: MG/ Middle Grade/ Mystery (Ages 9 – 12)

World-famous Egyptologist Dr. Winston Thornsley died suddenly two months ago in disgrace. His widow, Ida Thornsley, remains convinced her husband was falsely accused of stealing an ancient burial urn he discovered in Egypt last summer, but local and federal law enforcement officers are stumped.

Mrs. Thornsley, desperate for answers, calls in her thirteen-year-old neighbors, the Botanic Hill Detectives—twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, Moki Kalani, and Rani Kumar. Their exciting mission? To find the urn and its real thief, bring the criminal to justice, and exonerate Dr. Thornsley so his spotless reputation can be restored.

A roomful of venomous snakes, the poisoned Egyptian pond, and Dragon Pit Man are just a few of the tests awaiting the four tech-savvy teenagers. As the detectives begin to unravel the sinister plot, the mystery takes a dangerous turn. Answers are at their fingertips—if they can only convince their parents to let them solve the case.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Uncle Rocky did his best to join the kids on the floor but resorted to an old, overstuffed club chair instead. No sooner had the man gotten settled when Rani’s face changed.

“What’s that?” she said.

Flashing lights were beaming into the attic through the little window and dancing wildly around the room. The group quickly clustered around the opening.

Lanny grabbed the binoculars hanging nearby and trained them on the source. It took some time before the light show stopped interfering with his vision. “It’s Mask Face! On the Quince Street Footbridge!” he shouted, lowering the binoculars.

Lexi yanked them from her brother, taking his neck along with the strap, and aimed them out the window. “You’re right. Eww! It’s creepy,” she replied as goosebumps ran down her arms.

The figure had turned the flashlight onto its mask, creating the illusion of a disembodied head floating across the bridge.

Coming Soon!

Egyptian Secrets, in paperback and eBook, will be available for purchase on Amazon, February 1, 2020!

For your chance to win a digital copy of the book, book swag — a bookmark, a sticker, and a post card, And a $25 Amazon gift card, click the link below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Prizes mentioned above are available to the U.S. only. A digital copy of Egyptian Secrets will be given away for international entries!

The giveaway will run from November 4th to November 7th. Good luck!

About the Author

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Sherrill Joseph’s debut novel, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, had been inside her head for decades. The mystery genre took hold of her as a fifth grader when she discovered Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries. Years later, it still hasn’t let go.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in education, Sherrill spent the next thirty-five years as a K-12 literacy teacher. When she retired from teaching in 2013, the Botanic Hill Detectives and their mysteries finally sprang to life.

Forever inspired by her beautiful students in the San Diego public schools, the author has peopled and themed the Botanic Hill Detectives mysteries with children of various abilities, cultures, and interests. She strongly believes that embracing diversity is the key to a better world.

Sherrill is a native San Diegan where she lives in a ninety-year-old house in a historic neighborhood with her bichon frisé-poodle mix, Jimmy Lambchop. In addition to her dog, the city of San Diego, reading and writing, the author loves her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. She must also include dark chocolate, popcorn, old movies, staircases, the color purple, and daisies. She is a member of SCBWI and the Authors’ Guild and promises many more adventures with the squad to come.

Sherrill Joseph | Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Book Blitz Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours


It’s already November! I am being pretty ambitious and will be trying to read 5 books this month. Check out what I will be reading!

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What is the first book you remember reading?

I don’t know about you guys but when I first learned to read, it was the most exciting thing in the world to me. I could explore anywhere through imagination an become immersed in different adventures all without leaving the couch or reading nook. The first full book I read that I can remember is the 1st book in the Magic Treehouse series.


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Synopsis: Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

If you grew up in the 90’s, then you definitely have read these books. There are over 100 of them now, you would think that they would run out of adventures to go on but nope. I remember feeling so proud of myself for finishing this book all in one sitting. These books were great for learning to read. This probably started my obsession with having a treehouse.

Let me know what the first book you remember reading is in the comment below. Talk to you soon bookworms 🙂