Tag Archives: middle school

Book Review: Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz & Renée Watson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published Jan 2018
256 Pages

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights.

Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born. – Goodreads

I gave this book 5 Pickles and yes I normally give the rating at the end but this will be a short review as this read was perfect for anyone that wants to know more about Dr. Betty Shabazz.

Firstly, while reading this book not only do you learn about Dr. Betty and the struggles she went through as a child but you find out information about the African Americans and their struggle internal struggle. What I mean by internal struggle is African Americans have a huge huge spending power. The Housewives League went around the neighborhood to get people to commit to spending their money at Black owned businesses. The issue back then was Blacked owned businesses charged more than white owned business.

This exact ties into today. Granted due to online stores and cutting the middle man, Black businesses are on a rise but that is only for certain products. Brick and mortar stories are important and due to various reasons they are scarce within Black communities.

As much as I loved this book as it showed me more about who Dr. Betty Shabazz was as an individual and not just as Malcolm X’s wife, I wanted to know more about The Housewives League. I wanted to know more about what was done to unite Black communities outside of becoming desegregated from their white counterparts.

When the book begins it is at a turning point in Dr. Betty Shabazz’s life. It makes a whole lot of sense why it begins where it does as well as where it finishes. I want to know more about this woman and this book was a great starting point.

Again,

5 Pickles 

 

Book Review: Shadow Warrior: Based on the True Story of a Fearless Ninja and Her Network of Female Spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Celia Krampien (Illustrator)

Annick Press
Published Sept. 12, 2017
64 Pages

It’s 1558, and warlords across Japan are battling for territory and control. Into this setting, Tanya Lloyd Kyi weaves the stories of three people: Mochizuki Chiyome, a young woman determined to become a ninja whose plans are thwarted by an arranged marriage; Takeda Shingen (The Tiger), a fierce warlord seeking a new weapon to outsmart his enemies; and Aki, an orphaned tavern girl whose destiny is changed by a mysterious woman.

As their stories intersect, the three characters become key players in an elaborate network of undercover female ninjas who will eventually shift the balance of power in Japan. Based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome and her all-female spy network.- Goodreads

*Short Review*

I really enjoyed this. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this book but the amount of history and story placed in this quick read was amazing. From the beginning, you are pulled in and you don’t want to leave.

This book is detailed without being dragged out and its colorful and complicated without feeling the author is trying to do too much. My only issue with this read, is I wish it was longer.

I loved how the author moved easily between three different point of views/three different stories. But I wanted to know more about each of them. Not necessarily their past, but what they were doing presently, what happened when the world started changing. I know that this book is meant for children, specifically middle schoolers but this read opened my curiosity to Mochizuki and what women did during this time.

It really is a good starting point for anyone that is mildly interested in badass women.

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers Published April 25, 2015 240 Pages
Algonquin Young Readers
Published April 25, 2015
240 Pages

Corinne La Mer doesn’t fear anything; not even Jumbies in the forbidden woods. Jumbies are simply made up stories that parents use to keep their children out the woods, but Corinne knows better. 

But when Corinne notices yellow eyes staring at her at the edge of the woods. She begins to doubt her fearlessness. And when a beautiful stranger shows up at the marketplace and then her home with her father, Corinne knows that danger is near. 

Using her courage, the help of her friends and a ancient magic, she had no idea she possessed, Corinne must save her home and everyone in it. 

I really have a hard time finding good fantasy books for children (maybe YA) written by African-Americans. So, I jumped on this one purely based on the author and I wasn’t disappointed. This book was written extremely well that I would even recommend it for YA readers.

Firstly, characters. You knew from beginning and end that these were children. However, you didn’t feel the immaturity, even when the kids were acting a fool with each other. Corinne and her friends had a sense of wisdom about them that I didn’t feel was out of place. It fit them. They were kids but not reckless children trying to prove a point.

I loved how the author seamlessly tied mythology into the story without feeling like a history lesson. It was part of the culture, part of everyone’s lives and I loved how relevant it was in the beginning and end of the story. Also the author added something in there regarding history and I liked it. I was very surprised but thought it was perfect.

I enjoyed the pace of novel. However, at a certain point, the constant movement hit a plateau and I was stuck wondering if this was going to be end of my enjoyable ride. But it wasn’t. The pace began to build after this point and it did well til its descent at the end. Speaking of the end, it was great but it was a hard reality to swallow. I liked how the author did not shy away from the outcome because it is true. In real life and in every fantasy story, where the hero proves to be different it happens.

Would I consider this story horror? No, there is nothing exactly scary about it (even from a kids perspective) but it is deeper than just a fantasy story. You see how much a myth or a fable affects communities/cultures no matter what the generation is.

Overall,

4 Pickles

Book Review: Pursued by Gary Urey

Albert Whitman & Company To be published Feb. 28, 2017
Albert Whitman & Company
To be published Feb. 28, 2017

For thirteen year-olds, Axel Jack and Daisha Tandala life cannot get anymore complicated. Running from  a billionaire, who killed their scientist parents for their device, the Geoport.

The Geoport, which can teleport any person to any place on Earth within a matter of seconds can be deadly in the wrong hands. As a dying wish from their parents, Axel and Daisha race to destory the Geoport. But when the two are separated, finding each other becomes just as important as in running for their lives. 

I am going to come out and say that I cannot give this book a rating. I can’t because I am so conflicted. There were a lot of good points in this book but then as an adult reading it there were issues. So I don’t believe it would be fair to rate this book as it is for children and I would recommend it for children.

Anyway, what I loved about this book was the diversity. It is a breath of fresh air to see authors use non-white main characters. It is just really good to see. I also loved the story and the intensity you feel once the story beings. You jump into the story instantly and I love that.

However, that intensity quickly dies down and it takes a bit too long for it to pick back up. I didn’t like the villain. Not because he was a villain but he was a brat and appears to be extremely childish. Axel and Daisha, two thirteen year-olds had much more maturity and I was not enjoying that. In my head, he had this real annoying, whinny voice that I couldn’t shake.

The pace of the novel was slow; even for a children’s book. Because of this, it was much harder to stay focused on it; therefore making it hard to finish. Do I believe my nieces or a young child would enjoy this? Yes and no. Because for a race against a billionaire with everything at his disposal it was slow. But it was a good book. Just not something I would read or any other adult should read.

 

No rating. 

Children’s Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Algonquin Young Readers To Be Published Aug. 9, 2016 400 Pages
Algonquin Young Readers
To Be Published Aug. 9, 2016
400 Pages

Once a year, the Protectorate leave a baby as a sacrifice to the witch that lives in the woods in exchange that she will not bother the town. But the witch, Xan, is nothing short of kind. Not understanding why the people of Protectorate do this every year, she brings the baby she finds to a family in the surround towns.

But one year is different. Xan finds a baby she is unable to let go and she feeds her moonlight instead of starlight and the child is filled with unfathomable amounts of magic. To keep, Luna, her new child safe, she locks her magic to be released when she is 13 years old. But when Xan is away the magic begins to release. 

At the same time a man from Protectorate, looks for the witch to save his people from the agony experienced each year. What is Luna to do when everything she comes to love is slowly slipping away. 

As a disclaimer, I need to say that if you are an Adult reading YA books, this book is not for you. This is for middle schoolers/children and it is written as such.

I am grateful that I was approved for the arc via Netgalley because this is such a cute, creative and entertaining read. I highly recommend it for children, who are getting into fantasy.

Its a detailed and complex story but not too complicated where someone will feel lost or feel as if something was missed. The pace was surprisingly great. I expected a slow book because it was a children’s read but also because Xan is the most self-sacrificing witch, I have ever read. She gives everything to Luna and to the people that sort her help. But what kept the book interesting was the switching of narratives. You move from Xan, Luna, the man looking to kill, a swamp monster named Glerk and a dragon named Fyrian. This kept the book interesting and I like that.

Luna, throughout the book, was still developing i.e. that is why this book is considering coming of age. Therefore, I will not dig deep into her personality. What I can say it the character development for her was done very appropriately. Luna was the main focus but she didn’t become the main character til closer to the end of the book. This isn’t a issue at all. Kudos to the author.

The book did take some time to get going and I also feel that there wasn’t enough intensity coming from the past. I would have liked more drama, considering Xan had a heck of a life; a little history would have helped as well.

Overall, recommended read for the kiddos.

4 Pickles

Book Review: A Stolen Kiss (Stolen Royals #1) by Kelsey Keating

Swanifide Publishing Published March 1, 2016 346 Pages
Swanifide Publishing
Published March 1, 2016
346 Pages

Derric Harver is nothing more than a palace stableboy or at least that is all he should be. When Princess Maria’s curse stops her from accepting a Prince’s proposal, she ask Derric for his help and as if a knight in shinning armor, he gladly assists.

With the help of his sister, who is the Princess’s maid and a Prince, Derric and Maria embark on a journey to find the sorceress that cursed the Princess. Although the journey is dangerous, the secrets that will be reveled will be the most dangerous of them all. 

This isn’t a YA book. Just because the characters at 17 years old doesn’t make the book YA. In most cases, it does but not in this case. Why? Because of the way the book was written.

The main characters, Derric, his sister, the Prince and Princess were all very childish. The decisions that they made, they way they spoke and addressed each other were simple minded. I appreciated this because they showed each other respect and care but it made the journey a bit too easy. Overall, the story was fairly easy. There were complications but it was nothing that they didn’t get over by the next chapter.

I felt that this story could have been more dramatic, which is why I get the middle school vibe. In regards to romance, I didn’t feel it from anyone. Attraction? Yes, that was there but not love.

The story was too cute and I did like it. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be. I loved how the author incorporated magic into the story, where it didn’t seem like a stretch or that she was completely relying on it to move the story. I also have to give credit to the shocking twist of events. It was nicely done.

The book moved slow and it was long, which bugged me out but it is finish-able. Although I felt the book was written for a younger level, I was drawn to it and completely believe it is an adorable read.

Overall,

3 Pickles

 

NetGalley Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Bloomsbury USA Childrens Published Sept. 1, 2015 240 Pages
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Published Sept. 1, 2015
240 Pages

Pram Bellamy can speak to ghosts. She lives with her aunts and doesn’t have any friends except for Felix, who is a ghost.  When Pram is forced to attend school, she meets a boy named Clarence, who like her has lost his mother.

Clarence wants to say good bye to his mother so with Pram they go to meet Lady Savant, a spiritualist for help. But Lady Savant isn’t exactly who she claims to be and takes a dangerous interest in Pram and her ability.

Wonderful, wonderful read! Perfect for middle schoolers or young adults that do not want fluff of romance and extra nonsense.

Pram is a straight forward character. There isn’t any real depth to her other than her ability to see ghost and the death of her mother. Surprisingly enough when she ask a question she gets an answer without any run around. It made for a uncomplicated situations for about half of the book. I was actually worried there wouldn’t be much going on.

However when Lady Savant the story takes for a creepy turn. I loved it. Lady Savant provides the complex character that I wanted from Pram. She is twisted and although at one point Pram feels bad for her, I don’t not even the slightest bit. By time I finished the book I got the feeling that this book wouldn’t be the last time we hear from Lady Savant. The ending didn’t seem easy but a bit too easy for the character.

As stated before the book is designed for middle schoolers because it doesn’t contain a romance or backstabbing or any of the other usual stuff you see in paranormal YA books. The pace was great but the lack of personality from Pram did make the book seem slower. When things got bad I was hoping from some intensity from Pram and it didn’t really come at all.

Overall I unexpectedly fell for this book. I impatiently look forward to book two.

4 Pickles

 

Impatiently Waiting For: A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Bloomsbury USA Childrens To Be Published Sept. 1, 2015 240 Pages
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
To Be Published Sept. 1, 2015
240 Pages

Synopsis:

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Book Review: The Eye of Zoltar (Chronicles of Kazam #3) by Jasper Fforde

 Hodder & Stoughton  Published April 10, 2014 401 Pages
Hodder & Stoughton
Published April 10, 2014
401 Pages

16- year-old Jennifer Strange is still running Kazam, a mystical arts management company, in which wizards are rent out for money. When the mighty wizard Shandar tells Jennifer she needs to find the eye of zoltar or pay a fee he encountered during her goodwill mission.

The problem with finding the eye of zoltar is the fact that is was last seen handing around the neck of the legendary Sky Captain Morgan who was last seen in the legendary (maybe mythical) Leviathan.

On top of this Jennifer must take the Princess of Snodd under her wing by the request of the Queen; to teach the Princess how to not be such a brat and to be humble. Believing this will be a quick mission simply to hunt for clues, Jennifer hires tour guide Addie to go through the dangerous Empty Quarter in order to reach Leviathan.

But this simple mission has Jennifer and her crew fighting a darkness no one is prepared for.

I have a love hate relationship with this series. Fforde is a talented writer; there is not a single doubt in my mind.  He is able to develop characters and throughout this series he was able to show real growth within these characters, especially Jennifer.

Jennifer is a great character throughout all three books. She is realistic despite living in a “fantasy” world,  she is smart, logical without being a jerk and she is down to earth. She has grown so much in this series and is very important in the literature world.Along with the character development, the consistent flow of the story, the creativity of this once magical world, the simplicity and complexity of this world is my top loves.

What I hate about this series is how long it goes on for. I feel that Fforde adds a lot into the novel that doesn’t necessarily need to be there. It is a lot of information, a lot of moving parts that are in the novels, especially this one. Is it bad? Yes and no. Yes because it was long. The novels are long and take a certain amount of focus to keep into it when something new is being added. No it isn’t a bad thing because there are not written badly. Fforde is a talented writer and even with all the extra it is still good . . . just a lot.

I love the creativity, I love the development of characters as well the civilization and I really love the growth.

Overall, I would recommend this read.

4 Pickles