Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

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Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

bottom-pieI just love little Flavia…so wish I could go back in time and read these as a 10 year old! I would have been mad for her then! Such a cheeky little bugger! But whom I kidding? I love her now as a 46 year old!

If you think this is a short review, well you’re wrong…You don’t need me to tell you what the book is about, you just need me to tell you to go out and read it…so I am telling you now…it doesn’t matter how young or old you are…go out and buy this book…we all need a little Flavia in our lives!

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Review: Seeker by Veronica Rossi

A very adventurous and exciting story, filled with enough action to make even the most stubborn of readers get engaged. I know the teens are gonna love this.

Because this is the second book in the Riders duology, I don’t want to say anything spoilery. But what I can tell you is that this has to be one of favorite true YA series. My kids and I read the first book, Riders, right when it came out. Then I just did a relisten last week, with them listening every now and then, and all the excitement came back to me. In fact, my non reader son actually found ways to be in the same room as me so he could listen to the book, but not making it obvious that he was listening. The audible was very addicting. I found myself actually doing chores just so I could listen to it more. That, my friends, is a sign of a good book.

And my anti romance daughter was equally intrigued with this story as well. I’m always on the lookout for exciting YA books that aren’t completely centered around romance, and this one fit the bill as well. It enough to keep us both happy, and that’s a rarity.

Well, enough about Riders, now onto Seeker. Seeker takes place about 8 months after Riders end. The characters are trying to work past what happened and try to find a solution. Since they’re younger and less mature, they don’t always make the right decisions. They try and do things on their own, so save others from harm, but what they really need to do is work together. Once they realize this, then things start to fall into place. I’m not saying that nothing bad will happen, but it’s easier to deal with the bad, when you have your friends and family close by.

It’s very bittersweet to have this book end. I will miss these characters and I wish there were more books coming, but alas, there is not. But I am happy to see their trials complete and them still together and moving on as a family. 

This series will be added to my master list of YA books and I have a feeling it will be recommended often.

~Melpomene

Grab Riders here: http://amzn.to/2pkiUHD
Grab Seeker here: http://amzn.to/2pkwP0c

Review: Gregor the Underland Chronicles

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As a teacher, I’m often asked for kids’ book recommendations.  And I’m always looking for great books to offer to kids.  One series that always gets top mention is the Gregor Chronicles.

Written by Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games fame, this is a milder, gentler series for younger readers not quite ready for that world.  With Gregor as our hero, we are taken to a world hidden deep beneath the streets of New York City.  His adventures bring him into contact with giant rats, bats, and roaches among others.  There are legends to be followed, and destinies to be realized.

It’s not without violence, however, as there are deaths along the way.  However, I was able to read and recommend this series to second graders with no hesitation. And older readers have no fear. This is still one of my favorites to read MYSELF.

The boxed set makes an excellent gift and truly should only be bought that way as eager eyes are sure to zip through the first volume and immediately look for the next.  Happy reading!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Gregor the Underland Chronicles

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Illustrated Edition

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Even in this age of ebooks, even with my dedication to my Kindle, there’s a place for real, actual books. And this is one of those places.

Simply beautiful.  That’s the only way to describe this newish addition to the Harry Potter family.  I say newish because this first one came out last year with the second volume available now.

Some people will say that an illustrated version of these timeless stories messes it up by putting another person’s visions in our heads.  I disagree. Because chances are, if you are buying these hardcover books for yourself or for a loved one, you’ve already read the original stories multiple times.  And you’ve seen the movies. So for me, these books are just another take on a much loved story.  And they absolutely do justice to the originals.

So grab these amazing books.  They make great gifts. And it’s okay to gift yourself from time to time!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

Review: The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

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Yes, this is what might technically categorized as a children’s book.  But my reasons for reviewing it on this blog are many.  First of all, I’m a second grade teacher so much of what  I read falls into this category.  Plus, the holiday gifting season is upon us and books do truly make the best gifts.  And the best reason of all, it’s really a funny book!  In fact, so funny in parts that I couldn’t get the next word out as I was reading it to my class.

So there are these chickens.  Four of them, to be exact.  And there’s the mama chick, Moosh.  Oh and there’s J.J. the dog.  He’s in charge of keeping the chickens safe.  This first book sets the stage for future stories before diving headfirst into the mystery of “the big and scary thing” that Tail the squirrel finds in the yard.  The chickens take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

Without a doubt, it’s juvenile humor.  But any humor is good.  And I promise, any young person you read this story to or with will enjoy it.  Plus, it’s the first in a series that will appeal to all kinds of readers.  Enjoy!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Chicken Squad

 

Review: Balancing Act (Chloe by Design #2) by Margaret Gurevich (illustrated by Brooke Hagel)


In Balancing Act, we follow Chloe at her New York fashion house internship that she won in Book #1 (Making the Cut). She lives in a dorm where one of her roommates gives her a hard time about not earning her way into the industry. But Chloe is so good at creating unique fashion, that her samples get chosen to be made into designs for fashion week. Her mentors even give her a gift bag at the end of her internship — and it contains a surprise that Chloe had only dreamed of. 

I really liked the full color fashion sketches in the book. When Chloe described clothing she saw, the next page would have a drawing of that item. The book illustrated many kinds of clothing, and I especially liked seeing all the different ways a simple shirt could be designed. 

I liked that the author made a few mean characters in the middle of all the happy friends, families, interns and mentors. The story seemed more realistic that way. Even though there were always those mean people trying to discourage Chloe, she focused on a good support system of people who encouraged her to go for her dreams. 

Now that Chloe is done with her internship, I’m excited to read Book Three when she is back in her California hometown. 

-calliope’s 11-year-old daughter 

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