Thursday, 24 May 2018

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

Lumberjanes Unicorn Power!
Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!
By Mariko Tamaki 
Illustrated by Brooke Allen

Those who love the Lumberjanes comics can now read about April, Jo, Molly, Mal and Ripley in chapter book format in this new Lumberjanes series!

Lumberjanes are like Girl Scouts or Guides.  Their adventures take place at camp, and they are all-too-eager to venture out into the woods, make new discoveries and explore new territory.  The five girls of Roanoke cabin are best friends, and include each other in all of their plans.

In the first book of the series, Unicorn Power!, the Lumberjanes discover a field of unicorns – in fact, they are constantly discovering mythical creatures.  The unicorns lead them to a giant, unexplored mountain, and April is determined to conquer it.  Without telling their cabin leader, Jen, the girls set off on a dangerous adventure.  But the mountain is not your average mountain – nothing ever is in Lumberjane world.  Can the Lumberjanes cope with the otherworldly challenges they face?

An interesting aspect of the Lumberjanes stories is the way they challenge gender and relationship norms.  Not only do the books celebrate the strength and ingenuity of girls, they also feature boys who identify as girls (Barney), the exploration of gay relationships and some parents who are gay.  The stories also celebrate deep and ongoing friendships and simply being yourself.  “Because it is awesome to be in a place where you feel like you can be you.” (p. 41)

Those who have been to camp will identify with the spirit of camaraderie that permeates the book.  Girl Guides and Scouts will also appreciate the Lumberjanes’ pursuit of badges such as S’More the Merrier and May the Forge Be With You.

Thursday, 17 May 2018


By Kwame Alexander

It’s 1988, and 12-year-old Charlie Bell is going through some hard times.  His father has passed away, and he doesn’t know how to deal with it.  Neither does his mother.  When Charlie gets caught stealing, his mother reaches the end of her rope and sends Charlie to his grandparents’ house in Washington D.C. for the summer.

Charlie does not want to go, but at least he has his cousin Roxie.  Roxie LOVES basketball and she’s good.  Charlie is not so good, and he’s afraid to play.  But when Roxie’s teammate gets injured, Charlie is forced into the game.  With a bit of practice, he learns that he can play.  And after a few more rough times, he learns that playing basketball is a better way to cope with problems than getting into trouble.

As Charlie’s grandfather tells him, “[Life] is a team sport.  You can surround yourself with people who don’t play by the rules, or you can surround yourself with those who do.  But if you choose wrong, don’t start complaining when the coach takes you out the game.” (p. 374)

Rebound is not your typical novel.  It’s written as a series of poems with a bit of graphic novel thrown in.  The words flow quickly and easily, and the poems are inspiring.  More than once I was brought to tears.

Highly recommended!

Poison Is Not Polite

Poison Is Not Polite
Poison Is Not Polite
By Robin Stevens

It’s 1935 and 14-year-old Daisy Wells has returned from boarding school to her British country estate for the holidays.  This year, her best friend, Hazel Wong, has accompanied her.

Although Hazel is from Hong Kong, she attends school in Britain.  Because it’s 1935, she is one of very few Asian people to be known by the British upper classes.  Hazel is always aware that she is different from those around her.

Yet Hazel fits in with the other British girls perfectly.  Not only are she and Daisy best friends, but they have also started the Wells and Wong Detective Society after solving a murder in a previous book.

This holiday they will celebrate Daisy’s birthday.  As the partygoers arrive, Daisy and Hazel size them up.  There’s Aunt Saskia, who seems overly excited by valuables of any kind.  There’s Uncle Felix, who has some strange connections in law enforcement.  Lord and Lady Hastings, Daisy’s parents, are also there, arguing all the time.  Then there’s Mr. Curtis, who seems a little too friendly with Lady Hastings.  Also present are Miss Alston, the governess, as well as other servants and friends.

When one of the guests turns up dead, Wells and Wong are determined to solve the case, even if it puts them in danger.

This story is very British, filled with High Tea, hedge mazes and boarding schools.  It reminds me of the game Clue, where everyone is a potential suspect.  Hazel and Daisy must work their way through the clues, slowly ruling out suspects until the big finale.

For those who like a good murder mystery, this book is highly recommended!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy
the goldfish boy

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Matthew Corbin is 12 years old and lives in a quiet cul-de-sac with his parents. Matthew has stopped going to school because he suffers from severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He continually cleans his room and washes his hands so much that the skin is raw. 

Matthew spends his days in his room, or in the room across the hall, known as the office. From each of these rooms, he can see the whole street, front and back, and spends his time watching the comings and goings of his neighbours and making notes about them in his notebook. 

One day Teddy, the toddler next door, goes missing and it looks like Matthew was the last person to see him before he disappeared. As the investigation develops, Matthew and his friends Melody and Jake work together to do some detective work of their own with Matthew observing and Melody and Jake doing the legwork on the outside. 

Will Teddy return home safely and  will Matthew and his friends be able to solve the mystery in time?  This is a well written story with a good mystery and a good honest look at OCD. With Matthew narrating, we feel what he feels and get a good understanding of the difficulties he faces daily and the strength he needs to step outside his comfort zone to solve the mystery of Teddy's disappearance.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Wolfie & Fly

Wolfie and Fly
Wolfie & Fly
By Cary Fagan
Illustrations by Zoe Si

Renata Wolfman (a.k.a. Wolfie) is a loner.  She has her own ideas about how things should be done and friends just get in the way.

One day she finds a giant refrigerator box just lying around.  She decides to build a submarine.  After adding a porthole, a control panel, a steering wheel and a propeller, Wolfie is ready to play!  But she is soon interrupted by a knock at the door.  It’s her neighbour, Livingston Flott (a.k.a. Fly), and he’s hiding from his mean older brother.

Wolfie has no intention of playing with Fly, but when Fly notices her submarine, there is no getting rid of him.  Annoyingly, Fly has his own ideas about what should be added to the submarine.  Wolfie is surprised to find that some of his ideas are actually good!

But when the two of them get inside the submarine, that’s when the magic really happens.  Can they really explore the ocean in their homemade sub?

Ask yourself, is it better to play by yourself or with a friend?  Wolfie might just change her mind about being alone all the time after she finally gives in to playing with Fly!

Wolfie & Fly is a fun easy read – perfect for early chapter book readers!