Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Jonathan Auxier. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed some of Auxier’s other books, and I thought it would be a good fit for my three girls who are in the fourth and sixth grades.

Nan Sparrow works as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. It’s a miserable existence, with no end in sight, but that changes when she meets Charlie, a gentle creature who befriends her. Nan has never really had a friend, and she is fiercely protective of Charlie. She understands that he would never hurt anyone, but is there a place in the harsh world for a monster? Read more

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Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

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Mistletoe and Murder is the fifth book in Robin Steven’s Wells & Wong series of middle grade historical mysteries. My oldest daughter is eleven years old, and she is a big fan of this series. We actually own the UK editions of most of the series (including this one), but we were super excited when we received the opportunity to read an ARC of the American edition.

In fact, my daughter was so excited about reading this book (again) that she asked if she could write the review. So, here you go:

My review on Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Note: this is my first review EVER so, sorry if you think it’s short :/

Hello whoever is reading this! This is my review on Mistletoe and Murder.

This book is part of a series called Wells and Wong in the US, but in England, it’s called A Murder Most Unladylike.

The book takes place during Christmas time in England, and Hazel and Daisy-the main characters- are staying in wintry Cambridge for the Christmas holidays.

But-of course-a murder happens. Two days before Christmas, a person is murdered, and Hazel and Daisy have to solve the case- But they have competition with the Junior Pinkertons, a rival agency, and they have to find the killer before Christmas day! Talk about all that stress!

But a big twist comes at the end, something you’d never see coming!

If you liked Mistletoe and Murder, you should try more Murder Most Unladylike books! I DEFINITELY recommend them, the books are so great, like this one! Robin Stevens is an amazing author, and I definitely love this series!

Okay, back to my adult/mom perspective now!

Boarding school books are my absolute favorite, so I was a little sad to see Daisy and Hazel leave their school for the holidays. However, it was quite pleasant to see them reunite with some of the characters from previous books in the series.

I found the mystery to be quite satisfying, and although I did pick up on the direction the book was going to take in its earliest stages, I was surprised by the Big Reveal. I do think it’s great that Hazel and Daisy go about solving their cases. Everything is very methodical and organized. Details and observations are written down in a notebook, and they discuss points before reaching conclusions.

I loved the way this book tackled tough subjects like gender and race in such a meaningful way by incorporating them organically into the plot. I also loved the evolution of Daisy and Hazel’s friendship; like many teen girls, their friendship has suffered ups and downs, but manages to persevere.

I would absolutely recommend Mistletoe is Murder to middle grade readers. I would suggest starting with the beginning of the series and then reading the books in order. Stevens is an extremely talented author, and the books are surprisingly nuanced- not your typical middle grade fare! As a mom to girls, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate such a wonderful series with strong female leads who work together and are very very clever. We are both eagerly looking forward to finding out what is going to happen next for our intrepid sleuths!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.

 

 

 

 

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is a picture book written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Juliet Sarda. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a children’s biography about Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote Frankenstein. Because this is a picture book rather than a chapter book, there is a limited amount of space in which to convey a great deal of information. Mary’s childhood is briefly covered; most notably, that she hid behind the sofa to listen to Coleridge recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Much of the book covers her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley and the circumstances that led to her inspiration for writing Frankenstein. The prose is quite evocative, and one can quite easily picture spending rainy days in a castle with two of England’s most famous poets. The book ends with the enduring legacy of the Frankenstein story.   Read more

Guts & Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson

 

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Guts & Glory: The American Revolution was written by Ben Thompson. I picked up the Audible edition of this book (as well as the others in the series) during a sale, and my girls and I listened to it while we were driving around during all of our after-school activities.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the foundations of American history. Thompson uses a jocular storytelling format to convey information, and I found myself enjoying listening to this book as much as the kids. Much of the story is slightly irreverent, which naturally appeals to children. He uses modern pop culture examples to draw comparisons with events from the Revolution, like comparing Bunker Hill to an epic battle from Lord of the Rings or saying that he has to pay tax “every time he buy[s] a new Xbox game or a Big Mac”. Understanding history is so important, and I have a great deal of appreciation for Thompson’s ability to make learning about history appealing. Read more

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

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Jolly Foul Play is a middle grade novel written by Robin Stevens. It is the fourth Wells & Wong Mystery that features Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, the intrepid schoolgirl sleuths. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book with my oldest daughter because I had a feeling she would like it.

Hazel and Daisy are back at Deepdean for another year, and there have been a lot of changes. Elizabeth, the new Head Girl, is very cruel to the younger girls. She and her five friends rule the school, and there are severe repercussions for the most minor of infractions. On Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found dead on the playing field. The Headmistress insists it was an accident, but Hazel and Daisy are convinced that it is murder- especially after someone begins releasing secrets about the girls at the school. It is time for the Detective Society to reconvene and solve their fourth murder! Read more

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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The Orphan Band of Springdale is a middle grade novel written by Anne Nesbet. I always read the middle grade novels I receive with my oldest daughter, so I was excited about the opportunity to share another book with her.

Gusta Neubronner arrives in Sprindale, Maine to stay with her mother’s family. She wants nothing more than to fit in with her new classmates, but she immediately stands out when she fails an eye exam on the first day of school. Gusta has always known that she needs glasses, but she always used coping mechanisms like memorization to “pass” the test. Glasses are a luxury that she doesn’t think her family can afford.

Gusta also stands out because of her “foreign” name. It’s 1941, and her school is engaged in activities that highlight what it means to be a Real American, and what they as children can do to be patriots. Gusta wants to do her part, but she is also struck by the injustice that she sees around her. Her father is actually on the run from the authorities for his role in labor organization. Read more

Big Nate: Silent but Deadly by Lincoln Peirce

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Big Nate: Silent but Deadly was written by Lincoln Peirce. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is a big fan of the Big Nate comic strip and I knew that she would be interested in reading it too.

Nate is an average American boy who goes to elementary school. He has somewhat of a contentious relationship with teachers and administrators, and he has friends and adversaries within the school community. He’s a bright boy, but he doesn’t like to do schoolwork, which is something most children can empathize with. He plays sports, and interacts with his family. Read more

Unicorn of Many Hats by Dana Simpson

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Unicorn of Many Hats is the seventh book in Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn series of comics. I was very excited to read this book and share it with my oldest daughter because she loves this series.

The premise is fairly simple: Phoebe is an elementary school student, and her best friend is a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Marigold is mostly invisible, but she does have some interactions with the other characters.

Unicorn of Many Hats tends to follow a similar setup to the other books, wherein the good part of a year is covered, without the characters really aging from one book to another. There are story arcs devoted to starting school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Many of the familiar secondary characters have returned, including frenemy Dakota, Max, Phoebe’s geeky parents, and even the goblins make an appearance. Read more

I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo by Charles Schulz

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I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo is a collection of Peanuts cartoons by the late Charles Schulz. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is a big fan of Peanuts. Needless to say, she was very excited when I told her that I had a Peanuts book for her to read!

Fans of Peanuts will know that “sweet babboo” was a term of endearment that Sally Brown used with her beloved Linus. Interestingly enough, while there was a storyline involving Sally and Linus going to a farm on a school, most of the collection focuses on other storylines. We are treated to Snoopy’s feud with the cat next door, Peppermint Patty’s school troubles, Charlie Brown running away, and Snoopy playing tennis with Molly Volley.

These storylines are unrelated, but the compilers of this collection did a good job with the segues, so nothing seems out-of-place with the transitions. There’s a nice flow. Read more

The Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau

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The Uncanny Express is a middle grade novel written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Jen Hill. This is the second book in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book with my girls because we enjoyed reading The Jolly Regina, which is the first book in the series.

After their pirate adventure in the first book, Jaundice and Kale are looking forward to returning to their bland lives sitting at home, darning socks, and eating cheese sandwiches. Their plans are thrown off-kilter when they are directed to go to the train station to meet their aunt, and inadvertently end up on a train speeding off to the Uncanny Valley.

Jaundice and Kale agree to help a glamorous magician and serve as her assistants, but then she disappears- even though the train never made any stops. Luckily, one of the other passengers on the train is the famous detective Hugo Fromage. Can he help solve the mystery of the missing magician? Read more