Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Book Review: The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez


THE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ, by Robin Yardi, is an adorable tale for middle school readers and perhaps younger. The story draws you in right away in the first chapter when Mateo sees a couple of skunks steal his old tricycle, the one he is supposed to give up to his little sister. As a proper knight, he makes it his mission to bring the trike home.

This story has some bully drama, sibling rivalry, and skunk armor. It is full of fun nighttime adventures to places that delight the imagination. And, of course, the midnight war.

Lighthearted and fun, but with some real middle school issues. I highly recommend!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Book Club Discussion Questions: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and tells the story of President Snow. There is so much in this amazing book that I put together some discussion questions. Be warned that there may be some spoilers, so read on only if you have already read the book and are ready to discuss it with others. If you haven't read it, do so. Suzanne Collins does amazing things in young adult literature. 


Book Discussion Questions: 
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

1)      What did you think about the title of this book before you read it? And after?

2)      This book is about Coriolanus Snow and his origins. Did he seem like the same character we’ve seen in the other Hunger Games books?
-          His family was poor and couldn’t even afford new shirts. Was that a surprise? What did you think about him wanting to hide his family’s poverty?
-          Tigris is his cousin! By Mockingjay, we know she is on the rebel’s side. What do you think of this?

3)      Let’s talk about Lucy Gray Baird.  What did you think of her character?
-          Her affinity for snakes
-          From District 12
-          Her singing – Lucy Gray is the writer of the lullabyes Katniss sings “Deep in the Meadow” and “The Hanging Tree”

4)      Much of the book centers on the romance between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray. What are your thoughts on their relationship?

5)      Coriolanus gets a break when he gets to feature Lucy Gray at the zoo. Quite a bit happens at the zoo. What are your thoughts on this?
-          What do you think is worse….letting tributes starve in cages, or fattening them up like Katniss and Peeta?

6)      Let’s talk about Sejanus, one of Corio’s peers. He is different than the others. Do you think that is because he is from District 2 and not the Capitol?
-          What do you think about the relationship between Coriolanus and Sejanus….and the Plinths?

7)      What are your thoughts on Casca Highbottom, the brains behind the Hunger Games?

8)      We are introduced to Dr. Volumnia Gaul, Head Gamemaker. Did she surprise you in any way?
-          What did you think of her neon colored snakes?

9)      Were you surprised when the girl from District 10 suddenly killed Arachne Crane? Did you think Arachne brought it on by teasing with the sandwich?

10)   Did the explosions at the arena surprise you? What are your thoughts on the arena?

11)   What do you think happened to Clemensia after the snake bite?

12)   Sejanus’ tribute, Marcus, was a classmate. Do you think that was unfair to Sejanus?

13)   By the time the Hunger Games begin, there are only 13 tributes left. What are your thoughts on that?

14)   As the games begin, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray kiss. How does this make you feel?

15)   They display Marcus’ body at the beginning of the games. What did you think of that?

16)   What about the Hunger Games in this book was familiar to you? What differences did you notice?

17)   Coriolanus has to go into the games to save Sejanus. What are your thoughts on that? What do you think about when he killed Bobbin….his first kill?

18)   Was Coriolanus cheating when he put the handkerchief in the snakes’ cage?

19)   What are your thoughts on the snakes in the arena?

20)   In part 3, Coriolanus is sent to District 12 to be a Peacekeeper.  What are your thoughts on this?

21)   Is Coriolanus responsible for what happens to Sejanus?

22)   There is a lot of talk about the mockingjays and their origins. What are your thoughts on this?  On jabberjays? What are your thoughts on how Coriolanus sees these birds?

23)   We find out that Coriolanus’ father is responsible for the creation of the Hunger Games. What are your thoughts on this?

24)   This book is about Coriolanus. Do you think he changes by the end of the story?

25)   What do you think happened to Lucy Gray?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl


This debut novel is a marvelous masterpiece and a love letter to math. There is a lot to love about Lucy Callahan. We love that a lightning strike (she would surely be able to tell you the remote probability of that), left Lucy with brain damage that makes her a genius at math. We love that her surviving being hit by lightning and her acquired savant syndrome are not what make her strange when she enters middle school for the first time.  Lucy has OCD and her ticks and habits that happen in threes can look odd to others. We also love that she doesn't like animals, because they are full of germs, but falls for one tragic pup with all her heart and soul. Lucy isn't like other middle school students, but in many ways, she is like every 12 year old.

Five stars to Stacy McAnulty and THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Book Review: All the Bright Places

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven takes on a difficult subject that not everyone wants or knows how to talk about.

My lovely goddaughter told me it was her favorite book, so I had to read it.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet during a dark period of both of their lives. Together they find adventure and beauty in "staying awake." I watched the Netflix version immediately afterwards, which was a good reliving of the novel, but lacked the depth, especially from Finch's POV.

Trigger warning: This book talks about suicide. Bring tissues.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Review: A Wolf Called Wander

Middle grade readers who love animals may enjoy this story about a wolf who loses his pack and struggles to survive injury, starvation, men with rifles, and fire, all on his own.

A WOLF CALLED WANDER by Rosanne Parry is a gripping tale of survival that is inspired by a true story. This book includes some illustrations for readers who like a visual context. While the story is not always happy, as things are in nature, this is a story I wanted to read from start to finish. I am particularly impressed by how the author gave enough details for the reader to understand the many wolves in the pack that were lost, the personality of each, and what they meant to Swift.

In spite of the obstacles, Swift is proud of the wolf he is and has hope to lead a pack like his father. Readers cannot help but root for this plucky wolf.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Book Review: Queen of the Sea

History is re-imagined in the graphic novel Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis.



Margaret is an orphan living in a nunnery on an island. Her life is about chores, prayer, and the twice annual arrival of the ship that brings supplies, news from the mainland, and sometimes new visitors. When a regal, cold stranger arrives, things start to change. Margaret learns who Eleanor is and why she is on the island, the sinister truth about the nunnery she calls home, and her own identity.

This is a story that stands out as unique, even among historical fiction, and a delight to read.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Review: We're Not From Here

We're Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey, is a middle grade novel that is outside the box. Even out of this world.



This novel takes place after Earth has been destroyed and a small fraction of humans are living on Mars. Food and resources are running out, and humans are at a disagreement as to what to do next. Our main character, Lan, and her family choose to live on the planet Choom that is populated by giant insects.

The problem is, it takes 20 years to get there, and when they do, the government of the planet Choom changed their mind. Now Lan and her family have to convince the hostile inhabitants of that planet that humans are not violent.

This book was completely different and fun to read, and probably has a lesson in there on accepting people of different cultures. The ending was a bit predictable, but very satisfying.