Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez

4 girls form their own club and embark on activism and become friends. That’s really boiling it down a lot, but in a nutshell there you have it. What’s neat is that they form the club without knowing each other first. There already exists a historic girls’ club in their Florida town and it’s very prestigious and does a lot of good. However, it’s deeply flawed for one of the girls and she sets out to protest it and disrupt it. I liked how committed to nature everyone was, I liked how frank they were about inequality, and I liked all the bird stuff. Points of view switched around so you really saw how different each girl’s life was. The setting (Florida small town) was exotic to me.

Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson

A magical bookstore that is open to customers from a 100 year time span? Yes please! The store is in 1944 and run by the Fullbright family. Poppy loves the store and its magic and its regular customers. It’s a tough time, though, because of WWII. And blah, blah, blah, Dark magic vs. Light magic and a big battle. 

I wanted to like this more than I actually did. I loved the descriptions of the bookshop and the magic within it-quotations appearing on a blackboard, flowers blooming and vines growing, wallpaper changing-it’s a living breathing thing. And the characters showing up throughout time is also really cool and I think I would have liked to have known a bit more of their own stories. But really the main plot is the dark magic trying to make its way into this world and Poppy desperately trying to keep her family and the shop safe. And that was the least interesting part to me. I think I get a little bored with magic stuff when it’s very descriptive and at the same time not descriptive at all (because it’s not real so you can’t say “oh yes, that is what is happening.”) 

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse

Read 9/30/21

I really enjoyed the first Witches of Brooklyn and I’m pleased this sequel was just as (nearly?) enjoyable. Effie is feeling more comfortable with her witchiness and new friends, so of course something has to come along to upset that. In this case, it’s a new girl. So now Effie is no longer the new girl and feeling less confident of her new friendships. Meanwhile, you get to see a neighborhood witch meeting (they’re all around us! And just regular people!) and be as surprised as Effie to find out the magical problem behind a busy neighborhood intersection. To be honest, I enjoyed this subplot MORE than Effie’s nose being out of joint about not being the new kid, but that’s just because I liked the whole “behind the scenes” aspect of finding out about magic in the neighborhood, how they fix things, who has magic, etc. Solid.

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

This book is beloved in our household. We listened to the audiobook more than once and everyone loved it. Notably I am not a great audiobook listener and the first time through when we got to the end said “Wait— <something very obvious and key to the book that everyone else knew all along>?!” and everyone was annoyed with me. In my defense I think I was reading another book at the same time. But it was very funny and we loved the audio version and the yodeling and the whole basis of the story-pronouncing “Fake Mustache” as “Fah-ko Mustach-o”. It made its way into our family vocabulary! (along with “man about town” and the marvelous name Jodie O’Rodeo.)
So, time to sit down and read it myself before the big author visit. Delightful. This story is kind of a bonkers hoot and premise. Essentially child genius is going to take over the world by disguising himself with just a fake mustache. Which WORKS.
Even though our author visit was all about Origami Yoda I made sure to tell Mr. Angelberger what a gift to my family this story was. He seemed tickled.

Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Read 9/20/21

I read this for a very fun reason–I had a virtual author visit with Mr. Angleberger! Although the Origami Yoda series is his most well known, I know him better from different titles. Time to quick read this! And it was so good! I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised, he is a very funny guy and this is a very popular series. I think I didn’t really know what the story was though–that a boy at school who is kind of a mess has a crumpled up finger puppet that is an origami yoda and he keeps dispensing advice through it. He insists that it is the Origami Yoda and not him. This first book has a great setup-one boy telling various stories of times the advice was given. So each chapter is a situation that is problematic, the advice is dispensed, and then you see how it works. What was best of all was how it all tied together at the end.
A quick fun read, and our author visit was a big success. The kids loved him and he was great with them and we all made our own Origami Yodas.

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable

Read 9/20/21

We’ve been Venable fans in our house since the kids were little and we adored the Guinea P.I. books. I was so excited for her first middle grade graphic novel and this did not disappoint. First of all, there a ton of cats in this story. So many cats! With so many talents! I just thought it was hilarious. And the mystery of who’s the superhero and what’s happening is very enjoyable, too. I eagerly look forward to more. Bonus points for the yearbook style end pages where all the cats are listed with their talents, and they are amazing.

Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Earlier this summer I was at Girl Scout camp. While my unit was doing origami I saw that one of the other counselors had left a graphic novel on the table. I picked it up and happily read half of it. Took a pic of the cover and put the book on hold so that when we got home I could finish reading it.
This was terrific (and I see it’s a vol. 1).
I could definitely see this having high appeal for kids who like Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall. It’s got gnomes, people disappearing, vampires about rumors, and kids on a self contained island at a camp with a reputation.

Very enjoyable.

The Leak by Kate Petty

Children’s/Middle Grade Graphic novel. Leak is a clever title here because a leak is something in journalism, and in this case the avid journalist wants to investigate and reveal some kind of toxic leak into the town’s water supply. (Yes, this is directly inspired by the Flint water situation.) What I really liked about this story was that the main character has all the passion and desire to uncover the wrongs inflicted by corporations and immoral folks, but she gets some real journalism lessons from an older friend working at the NY Times about evidence, bias, and not jumping to conclusions.

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi

Read back in April, “I loved the two voices going back and forth and sharing their perspectives. And of course I loved all the food descriptions. This wasn’t quite as fun as I wanted it to be, which is understandable given that both girls are really struggling and racism and parental depression are just two of the big topics, but it was still good and I think kids will like it. Kudos to normalizing menstruation in it.”

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

I bought this book for my library a pretty long time ago, but only just read it now in April. I’m so glad I did because I really liked it and can recommend it more confidently now. In fact, I recommended it to the literacy coach at our school and she got it to be the “one book, one school” summer reading book. I’m pretty psyched about that as it’s a graphic novel. I was disappointed to have one teacher tell me she “hated it” and it “was terrible.” I hate to be one of those people but I’m going to straight up say “then you didn’t get it.” And maybe even “then you don’t understand how to read good books.” I think this book has a lot offer kids,and I especially love the emphasis on creativity and make believe, something we do don’t see often enough outside of picture books. (that’s one of the reasons I especially liked Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee.) In fact, I see I focused on that in my original review over on GR:

This is just terrific. a wonderful homage to children playing in the most creative of fashions, of using their imaginations, of just having fun having make believe adventures. What I especially loved is that one: they aren’t babyish. And I always like to see older kids having creative fun and pretending. and two: each story has some insight into their non-make believe life, which covers a lot of things like bullying, family dynamics, and gender expression. A really lovely book.

And of course, the other thing I like about this book is the way the p.o.v. changes for each chapter (with a different author for each section) and you really find out about each character and his or her own issues. And some of them do have very real and relatable issues with themselves and their families.