The Bookshelf Corner

Book reviews, creative writing, and more!


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Saturday Thoughts | Middle Grade Books I Love

Happy Saturday, Bookworms!

What are some of your favorite middle grade novels/series???

Pictured is my small stack of middle grade books I own.

Some of my favorite MG stories are Emmie & Friends series by Terri Libenson, The Unteachables and Ungifted by Gordon Korman, Mustaches For Maddie by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown, George by Alex Gino, and Narwhal & Jelly series by Ben Clanton.

So yesterday I received some shocking news about my dog, Lance. He still has mast tumors which we can only be treated with med since he’s too old to be put through surgery (he’s 14). But now it turns out he’s also anemic. He is usually roughly 25 pounds but is now 16 pounds.

Yet you wouldn’t be able to tell he has any of those things because he personally hasn’t change. Still eats, sleeps, barks, happy, and looking adorable like normal. Until is quality of life worsens he is “figuratively” ok.

Have a good day, everyone!

 

 

Stay home. Save Lives.

We’re All In This Together.


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Hyping About Winter Themed Book Releases In The Spring

Happy Narwhalidays! by Ben Clanton
Series: Narwhal and Jelly #5
Pub Date: September 8, 2020 by Tundra Books


I know what you’re probably thinking. Spring just started so why am I posting a book about a winter holiday. Simple: I love narwhals and this adorably informational book series so much that I was beyond ecstatic when the news of another book was going to be publish.

Here are some links to my reviews for all the previous books in the Narwhal and Jelly series:

 

ABOUT THE BOOK: Narwhal and Jelly spread some holiday cheer (and warm waffle pudding)!

It’s the festive season in the world wide waters, and Narwhal is looking forward to cozying up with a good book, singing and partying with his pod pals and enjoying some warm waffle pudding. But most of all he’s excited about the arrival of the Merry Mermicorn! According to Narwhal, she’s part mermaid, part unicorn and completely mer-aculous! Jelly is of course skeptical about the existence of the “Mira-Miny-What-A Corn” . . . even when he receives a mysterious present. It must be from Narwhal. Now Jelly has to get the perfect gift, but finding a present for someone as unique as Narwhal is no easy feat, even when you have six tentacles. How will Jelly ever come up with a whaley great gift for a best pal who spreads cheer all through the year?

 

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Cover image via Goodreads
Background Royalty free image via Pixabay


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7 Imaginative Picture Books Kids Will Love

In the 4 years that I’ve been blogging I’ve been able to read and discover some really imaginative picture books. Out of all the pictures books, the 7 stories below were told in distinct ways. They created thoughtful, engaging and humorous reading experiences. Every page was rich in color and design.

Even though I read these as an adult, I loved each of the books on this list.

 

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Pictures by Oliver Jeffers

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

 

 

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, Illustrated by Heather Fox

Snakes On The Job by Kathryn Dennis

Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López

The Pigeon Wants A Puppy! by Mo Willems


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!


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[Book Review] It’s Okay To Be A Unicorn! by Jason Tharp

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quotes: “The key to happiness is accepting your unicorniness!” – Cornelius J. Sparklesteed

[from Copyright page] “Feel free to take a look, just don’t steal this book. See, it’s full of unicorn magic, and that sounds cool, I know. But stealing will awaken Cletus, the world’s worst unicorn, to come to your house and fart the stinkiest rainbow toots in your face – forever! Unicorns are cool, thieves are just fools!”

 

ABOUT: Cornelius J. Sparklesteed is known among all the other horses in Hoofington for his beautiful and creative handmade hats. But Cornelius is hiding a secret under his own tall, pointy hat: He’s really a unicorn.

Hoofington is a friendly place, but its horses pass on lots of mean rumors about unicorns. When Cornelius is chosen to perform for this year’s Hoofapalooza, will he find the courage to show everyone his unicorniness?

It’s Okay To Be A Unicorn is an inspiring story about the rainbow magic of kindness.

 

My Review:
It’s Okay To Be A Unicorn is fun to read that inspires kids to celebrate their unique differences. I laughed a lot at the wild words the author constructed, such as “Mayor Mare,” “Hoofington,” and “Hoofapalooza.”

The height of the story and proceeding action was kind of disappointing. It missed the mark on the moral point of the story. Overall, it’s a good book kids will love listening to and enjoy the colorful illustrations.


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[Book Review] Snakes On The Job by Kathryn Dennis

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Full of sibilant sounds and other wordplay, Kathryn Dennis’s picture book, Snakes on the Job, is a sssssweet story that’s sure to be a read-aloud hit.

Off to work the snakes will go.
They slide into trucks and roll out slow.
Hisssssssh goes the sound of the brakes.

The busy snakes are back! This time, they are operating a variety of construction vehicles–bulldozers, diggers, backhoes and more–and what they are building is a surprise. It’s so fun, that new friends want to join them!

 

My Review:
Snakes On The Job is a fun picture book to read. You get to learn about different vehicles/machines and what they are used for. The snakes and pages are delightfully colorful, which made the story more appealing (I love colorful picture books!).

Snakes On The Job is also good for easy memory practice and word associations. The ending was super cute too. I would recommend Snakes On The Job for kids.


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[Book Review] Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, Illustrated by Heather Fox

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUTMeet Llama, the next great picture-book megastar, who has most definitely driven a bus and who loves tacos way more than you.

He also loves cake, and that’s where our story begins.

On Monday, Llama discovers a pile of cake, which he promptly eats.
On Tuesday, Llama squeezes into his dancing pants, which he promptly rips.
The force of the rip creates a black hole (naturally).
By Friday, Llama will (indirectly) destroy the world.

 

My Review:
Llama Destroys the World is exactly what you think. This carefree llama ignores all signs foreshadowing impending doom. The whole story is silly and distressing – but in a good way that makes you invested in what’s going on. The ending was very satisfying because it alluded to potentially more (perhaps a series about Llama? that’d be cool!).

I like this book. The kids at work loved it. They were completely engaged and had a lot to say about Llama’s actions. Definitely would recommend this book!


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Book Review: “Brave” by Svetlana Chmakova

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Series: Berrybrook Middle School #2
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: In his daydreams, Jensen is the biggest hero that ever was, saving the world and his friends on a daily basis. But his middle school reality is VERY different – math is hard, getting along with friends is hard…Even finding a partner for the class project is a big problem when you always get picked last. And the pressure’s on even more once the school newspaper’s dynamic duo, Jenny and Akilah, draw Jensen into the whirlwind of school news, social experiment projects, and behind-the-scenes club drama. Jensen’s always played the middle school game one level at a time, but suddenly, someone’s cranked up the difficulty setting. Will those daring daydreams of his finally work in his favor, or will he have to find real solutions to his real life problems?

 

My Review:
Another crazy drama-filled adventure at Berrybrook Middle School! Brave is a great read that centers around the issue of bullying and the obvious signs and subtle signs.

Jensen is clearly being bullied but he doesn’t see it that way (is in denial). Brave depicts bullying from all sides and how it effects the person the person being bullied and the bully (also wickedly called “lizard brains”) through a physiological lens. Svetlana Chmakova does a great job weaving this heartbreaking issue into the story in a non-patronizing way, an accessible way.

Every character is dynamically crafted and undergoes some or total change throughout the story. I like that other than bullying, the book also touches upon so many things, such as friendship, self-esteem, civil disobedience, and credible journalism. A lot of topics really but without being to weighty.

I was totally engrossed in the story and couldn’t put it down. I was wholly invested in Jensen’s story and how he dealt with being bullied. Brave is a fantastic story that everyone should read because bullying transcends middle grade age. This book will help someone who is going through the same experiences as Jensen.


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Book Review: “Big Nate Makes The Grade” by Lincoln Peirce

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Graphic Novel
Series: Big Nate: Comics
Rating: 2 out of 5 (DNF @ pg.114)
Recommend to Others?: No

 

ABOUT: Self-described comic genius Big Nate keeps parents and teaching on their toes in this hilarious……Nate Wright is known to his pals and teachers for many things, his penchant for mischief and his school record for detentions being the foremost. But beating out brainiac Gina’s grades is not one of those things! In Big Nate Makes the Grade, the school life goings-on of Nate, his pals, and his long-suffering teachers are recounted in hilarious detail……

 

My Review:
I wanted to read this book because it was a popular series for this age group and I wanted to know why. It looked like a good read. It’s a very character driven story. Nate’s character holds a lot of presence.

However, I couldn’t finish it because of Nate’s character. He’s very unlikable, oblivious, and too troublesome. He’s not the best academically (which is fine) but he doesn’t try out of sheer laziness it seems. He’s quick to blame everything and everyone else for his troubles. If this wasn’t a graphic novel, I’d say Nate was an unreliable narrator.

The comic art style is great and done in such a classically nostalgic way. The writing is really good. There were a few times here and there when I was actually liking the story because of the dialogue.

I just couldn’t care enough to finish and I don’t think Kid Me would have finished it either. The book has a few merits but not enough to keep me reading.


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Book Review: “Middle School Misadventures” by Jason Platt

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Jason Platt’s debut graphic novel, Ferris Bueller meets Calvin and Hobbes in this hilarious and embarrassing middle school caper that asks the important questions–like how long can one kid vamp before he embarrasses himself in front of his whole school?

Newell is always getting into trouble–whether it’s showing up tardy for most of the year, or mocking his teachers while authoritarian Mr. Todd is standing right behind him. When disaster strikes and Newell finds himself on track to summer school, he’s given one last minute option to get out of it–participating in the upcoming Talent Show. The only problem is that he doesn’t technically have a talent to show. Yikes.

In this fun and imaginative full-color graphic novel, Jason Platt sends a fast-talking, daydreaming, middle school kid on a desperate quest to pull off a great show and save his summer.

 

My Review:
Middle School Misadventures follows the unintentional troublemaker Newell as he scrambles frantically for a way to get out of going to summer school.

Newell is a great main character for this story. He’s kind, funny, and imaginative. He is such a dynamic, idiosyncratic character. Every laughable thing that happens to him is only something that would happen to a kid like Newell. And when he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader it just adds to his charm.

He has a great relationship with his dad and his best friend, Collin. When you read about Newell’s dad, you immediately see where Newell gets some of his eccentric behaviors. I like that Collin is the voice of reason in his friendship with Newell. It’s a good contrast to have paired with. They even have an epic handshake.

The principle, Mr. Dodd, and subsequent arch enemy of Newell kind of reminds me of the really too-nice teacher, Mr. Simmons, from the Nickelodeon show Hey Arnold!. Actually, the characters in Middle School Misadventures remind me of the quirky kids in Hey Arnold! and I love that.

Middle School Misadventures is an oddly amazing book to read.


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Book Review: “Sunny Rolls The Dice” by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Watercolor by Lark Pien

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Series: Sunny #3
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Too cool for school . . . or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny’s just made it to middle school . . . and it’s making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny’s not against any of these things, but she also doesn’t understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She’s much more comfortable when she’s in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you’re sword fighting and spider-slaying, it’s hard to worry about whether you look cool or not. Especially when it’s your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool . . .

 

My Review:
Now this is what I have been waiting to read in this series: the middle school / middle grade aspect of Sunny’s life. She’s such a cute character that I really wanted to know more about her life in late 70s Pennsylvania. You definitely get a better sense of the kind of person Sunny is – she’s a pretty cool person.

Sunny faces two conflicts: growing up and staying true to herself. Sunny is who she is but she’s concerned that who she is and what she likes is not the way to go. Everyone young and old can relate to this universal internal conflict and peer pressure.

I liked seeing Sunny play Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve never played the game but learning about it was fun. It seems like a fun game to play.

Again I’m in love with the art and the cultural references. Sunny Rolls The Dice was definitely a step in the right direction. I hope there are more books about Sunny in the future.This is a great middle grade series and graphic novel.

 

More Sunny series:
Sunny Side Up – book 1
Swing It, Sunny – book 2