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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter and I absolutely loved The One and Only Ivan, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read Katherine Applegate’s newest novel, Crenshaw.

Jackson is a young boy who lives in an apartment with his parents and his sister. The family doesn’t have a lot of money, and Jackson and his sister are often hungry.
Jackson is a very intelligent boy, who loves animals and relies on facts. When he begins to see a giant cat named Crenshaw, he isn’t sure what to think of this development. After all, it is a fact that imaginary friends are just that- imaginary. They aren’t real. They can’t be real. Or are they?

As Jackson watches his parents gathering up most of their possessions to sell at a yard sale, the family’s financial situation becomes more apparent. There is the possibility that they will have to leave their apartment and live in their van, something that happened several years ago. It was at this point in his life that Crenshaw appeared the first time. Has Crenshaw returned to help Jackson again?

This was an incredibly poignant story. Jackson is an incredibly mature and insightful boy. He cares deeply about his family, especially his little sister, who he tries to protect from seeing how dire things are. Jackson loves his parents, but he is frustrated with the situation. He also struggles with the possibility of losing his home, his friends, and having to leave his school and go somewhere else. Applegate deftly weaves a story that shines a light on the reality of homelessness: the struggle for some families to keep up with the bills, and how suddenly families can lose everything. Jackson’s parents are not drug users or lazy (insidious stereotypes); they are average adults who work multiple jobs and try to provide their children with the best life possible.

Crenshaw is an emotionally powerful book best suited for children in elementary school. Jackson is the only person who can see the giant cat, and he (Crenshaw) is often spotted doing funny things like riding a surfboard or taking a bubble bath. These moments of comic relief help break the tension, and once Jackson accepts Crenshaw as real, the cat provides the boy with much needed emotional support. This book will surely become a classic, just like The One and Only Ivan.

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Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild by Shannon Anderson

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Penelope Perfect is a picture book by Shannon Anderson. Penelope is a little girl in elementary school. She maintains a meticulous routine: she wakes up at 5:00, she always double checks her work, her desk is organized, and she even stays in at recess to do schoolwork. When a storm knocks out the power to her house, everything goes wrong; the alarm doesn’t wake her up, she doesn’t have time to comb her hair, and she even gets a B on a test. But when Penelope decides to go outside at recess and actually play with her classmates, she realizes that always being perfect might not be as perfect as she thought it was.

The illustrations were provided by Katie Kath. I found them to be quite charming. There’s such a contrast between the first half of the book and the second half. Penelope is dressed very nicely, her schoolwork is flawless, and she even uses antibacterial wipes before eating lunch. In the second half of the book, Penelope has to rush around because she is late. Her clothes are a little messy, and her hair is wild. Her facial expression is pained at first, but then she begins to smile when she realizes that she feels comfortable.

I read Penelope Perfect with all three of my girls. There are some great discussion questions at the back of the book, and we spent some time discussing Penelope’s story. My girls do have some issues with rigidity, but they aren’t perfectionists. If anything, my oldest girl tends to rush through her work and make careless mistakes. There were still lessons that we could take away from reading this book: accepting that it’s okay that things don’t go the way we expect them to, and finding the positive aspects of a negative situation.

I would recommend Penelope Perfect. The material is presented in a very engaging manner with rhyming quatrains. This is a wonderful teaching tool for children in elementary school, and I think that there are aspects that all children can relate to even if they don’t tend to rely on routines.
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Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter is eight years old, and she loves comics and graphic novels. She has always loved Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate comics. She looks forward to reading the latest strip in the Sunday paper, and she often checks Big Nate books out from both the town library and her school’s library.

So, when I received an opportunity to read an advanced copy of Big Nate’s latest adventure Welcome to My World, I was very excited because I knew she would love it.

Welcome to My World follows Nate, a sixth grade student. He’s a bit of an underachiever, but he makes up for it with a good sense of humor. The book is mostly made up of four panel strips, but there are also some eight-panel strips. There are several storylines, including Nate’s grandparents visiting PS 38 for Grandparents’ Day, Nate working hard to get a perfect score on his history final in order to get a B in the class, Nate taking a Junior Lifeguard class, and more. Nate is hapless, but likeable, in the same way that comic strip greats Calvin and Charlie Brown- and even Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid- are likeable.

My daughter absolutely loved this book, especially because it was full color- “just like in the [news]paper”. She laughed and laughed- not just giggling, but full-out cackling. She said that she appreciated that there was a punchline in the last panel of each page. Her favorite part was when Nate’s grandparents visited his school, and she said it made her wish that she could have Grandparents’ Day at her school.

I would absolutely recommend Big Nate: Welcome to My World. This is a fun comic strip book that holds a special appeal for children because they can directly relate to Nate’s everyday experiences. Older readers can also appreciate the humor: when are orange cheezy puffs not funny?

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Jasper John Dooley: Lost and Found by Caroline Adderson

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My girls and I read a lot of books, but I was not familiar with Jasper John Dooley before I read Lost and Found. Jasper John was so delightful that I immediately checked two of his other adventures out from the library. Jasper John Dooley is a series written by Caroline Adderson.

Jasper John Dooley is an adorable little boy whose manages to turn everyday occasions into fun adventures. In Lost and Found, he discovers a Marcel Mouse figurine in a box of old toys at his grandmother’s house. Marcel Mouse was Jasper’s father’s favorite television show, and Jasper knows that Marcel Mouse is very special. He wears Marcel on a string around his neck, but it is not very easy to keep track of the little mouse! Jasper and his friend Ori also find a “game that bleeps” in the lost and found box at school, and they take turns borrowing it. Jasper learns some important lessons over the course of the book, and relies on help from his friends and family. Continue reading

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A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My town library has a section of books for sale for $1 apiece. On a recent trip, I saw four- that’s right- FOUR Deanna Raybourn books on the shelf. Her Lady Julia mysteries had been on my radar, so I was very excited to find four them in like-new condition. I have a rather large to-read pile, and before I had a chance to read them, I received an opportunity to read an advanced copy of Raybourn’s newest book, A Curious Beginning.

I was ridiculously excited about this, and I absolutely devoured the book. A Curious Beginning introduces us to Veronica Speedwell. As the story begins, Veronica is burying her last remaining guardian. This sets off a chain of events including but not limited to: a ransacked cottage, an attempted abduction, a rescue by an German baron who claimed to know her mother, and her introduction a gentleman named Stoker. When the baron is found murdered, Veronica and Stoker must flee before they are implicated for the crime. Continue reading

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Eden’s Wish by M. Tara Crowl

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Eden’s Wish is a middle grade novel written by M. Tara Crowl. As the story begins, we are introduced to Eden, a young genie. Eden has just been summoned to grant three wishes to the hapless man who found her lamp. Eden’s mischievous streak comes out immediately when she takes the wisher’s request a little too literally.

Eden feels a little antagonistic about being a genie because she knows her tenure will last until she has granted wishes to a thousand people. Eden wants nothing more than to live on Earth amongst people, and when she sees an opportunity to do so, she seizes it- against the wishes of her handlers. Continue reading

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Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

The medical name for “bubble boy disease” is SCID- Severe combined immunodeficiency, which became more widely known after a (fictional) character with SCID appeared in a 1992 episode of Seinfeld. Or, if you are even older than that, you might remember John Travolta’s 1976 role in The Boy in the Bubble. I’m not quite sure if either of those pop culture references are in the lexicon of today’s modern youth- the target audience for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything. Perhaps this book is their first exposure to the rare medical condition.

Everything Everything is the story of a girl named Maddy. She lives with her mother in an average looking house on an average block, but there is nothing normal about Maddy’s life. Maddy is severely allergic to everything, and her house is eqipped with special sensors and air filters to protect her from airborne pathogens and other things that could trigger a fatal reaction. Aside from her mother, Maddy’s only companion is her beloved nurse Carla, who has been caring for Maddy for many years. Maddy is homeschooled, and receives only occasional face-to-face visits with her tutors; most of her schooling takes place via Skype. Continue reading