Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

This was highly recommended to me by a student and I can see why she loved it, though I did not find it great. Kind of a DaVinci code for kids. I do love historical secrets and secret society stuff and I did enjoy this, though to be honest not nearly as much as, say, Charlie Thorne. That said, I’ll probably read the sequel because I am curious to find out what happens next. I could see the “twist” coming a mile away.

Bad Sister by Charise Mericle Harper

I love Harper’s Craft Cat books, but this one is different-based on her own life (so a memoir, like Real Friends or Smile). I had read in reviews that indeed she is a bad sister, so I was looking forward to finding out if that’s the case. And guess what? She is not kidding about being a bad sister!  You see all the awful things she does to her younger brother-outright mean, sometimes manipulative, sometimes lying. You do have a lot of sympathy for her though because sometimes it seems she just can’t manage her feelings and that’s why things happen and also some things really aren’t her fault. Also, it’s all interspersed with some great sibling bonding times. Very enjoyable. I did find myself wondering what her now grown up brother thinks of all this. Did he think she was a bad as she thought she was? I mean on the one hand it skews as kind of funny. But on the other hand it also feels (maybe this is a parental point of view) pretty sad to think of these two kids going through their childhoods the way they did.

Very appealing cover.

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

One of this year’s Newbery honor books and also a Stonewall Award winner. I gave this one 4 stars over on Goodreads. It was a quick read and just a really nice book. The main character is matter of factly haunted by an uncle who has recently died. But it’s not a scary ghost story! Just a dead uncle trying to send a reassuring message about finding oneself.
You know what was really fascinating about this story? That they lived in such a rural town in Vermont. I mean, that right there was fascinating. I think a lot of kids could relate not necessarily to that but of being friends with certain people due to circumstance or necessity. And then what if those friends start to change? Or you do. And you don’t have a lot of other options. I thought some things worked out a little too easily, but on the other hand I’m also critical of tv and movies making people bully and say things that I don’t really see in real life (I think the character even said something about that!)

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

Ugh. I came to read this book in a weird way. It’s nothing I would choose on my own, but once I started it I wanted to finish it because I was hooked on the story and was interested to see how it would play out. The basic premise is that a boy is lured away from home by a creepy guy to a mysterious enchanted house. In the course of one day the house goes through all four seasons and they are perfect and beautiful and amazing. The boy lacks for nothing and, like he’s in a Greek story, he loses track of time in this perfect place. But there are hints of frightening things, things not being what they seem, and possibly being unable to leave. That outline sounds pretty good so if this story was written by someone else I might have enjoyed it. But, it’s written by master horror writer, Clive Barker. And even though this is a book for children, it was still way too much Clive for me. I hated the gruesome descriptions and the scary scenes. I have kids in my 4th and 5th grade library ask me every year for It (really? a. why are your parents letting you watch that movie and b. there’s no way you’d read a book that long and c. get over yourself and read an age appropriate horror book.) and this would be a great choice for them. But not for me–I actually had a nightmare while I was reading this!

The Girl From the Sea by Molly Ostertag

Technically, this was the last book I read of 2021, reading it on December 30. And then somehow only returning it to the library last week because it got lost in the abyss of our household. I like Ostertag (Witch Boy) and I found the cover and concept (any kind of mermaid situation) very appealing.

My Goodreads review is short and to the point: “An enjoyable quick gn selkie romance.” And I’d still say that. I didn’t looooove it-only gave it 3 (prob more like 3.5-.75) stars, but I did like it. I thought it was a cool setup-the location, the harbor, the selkie mythology. And I liked environmental theme, too.

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.