Amulet series, books #1-8 by Kazuo Ish…

This is one of THE most popular series in my library and knew I really had to get around to reading it. I read them all pretty quickly together. I thought the first book was a lot of magical set up, but I liked it. Books 2 and 3 got a little laggy for me, but then it really started picking up momentum for me and eventually, like all my students, found myself at the end saying “I can’t believe he hasn’t published #9 yet!!!”
Overall, it’s a good fantasy adventure graphic novel. Episodic, though I’d definitely read in order.

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

I didn’t love this as much as I wanted to. I loved the illustrations as I really like Santat’s style. I did enjoy this story (sea creatures come to land in an old diving suit and meet up with the girl whose father perished in a shipwreck, which is where they got the equipment from) and the whimsy and nods to Cousteau, but I found myself with a lot of questions about details about the story itself. The research, the dubious aquarium, the creatures themselves– I felt like that all needed to be developed more.

Shirley & Jamila’s Big Fall by Gillian Goerz

Terrific! Even better than the first. Shirley and Jamila are unlikely friends, with one of them being a keen observer, which allows her to be a wonderful detective (kind of like Sherlock Holmes, and like him her single mindedness makes her a bit of an acquired taste, friendship wise.) It’s a new school year and Jamila is on the basketball team and making new friends. This causes some friend conflict. I loved the writing,especially with regard to bad guy, Chuck. He’s a blackmailing bully that Shirley and Jamila are trying to take down. It’s nice seeing Shirley and Jamila branch out a little bit and I just really enjoyed the plot.

Best Friends for Never by Colleen A.F. Venable

Katie the Catsitter #2

I loved the first one, so it’s saying something that I liked this one even better than the first!

In this installment everyone is watching a show that is essentially the Great British Bake Off and they are obsessed with it. As a GBBO fan I loved this part. It was hilarious. There are also some goth kids in this who are hilarious. So many funny details and a good mystery.

Catherine’s War by Julia Billet

A graphic novel about WWII from the perspective of a girl in hiding. I’d put this between 3 and 4 stars because I quite enjoyed it. I was interested in knowing what parts were true and what was fictionalized and enjoyed the author’s note at the end. It was an interesting p.o.v. of occupied France and the Resistance and what it was like for Jewish children in hiding. The children get shuffled around, quickly, sometimes they are hiding in a village, sometimes in the woods. And in our time of instant photos of EVERYTHING it was interesting to see photography as a hobby and important record of history in the 1940s.

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.

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.

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale

Read 10/4/21

Highly anticipated as I loved the first two and was eager to see how Shannon continues to deal with adolescent friendships. I was not quite prepared for this one to be quite a bit more mature than the first two, although it obviously makes chronological sense. I mean, it is her life and she is getting older.
Shannon does reflect on and refer to the friendship groups she had in the first books, she once again seamlessly mentions her faith (Jesus seems like a nice pal of hers), but now there is a lot boy-girl relationships that she faces, as well as a real mental health crisis. Some boys (and girls) seem willing to make out with anyone, but she’s pretty sure that’s not for her. She’s also realizing that 1980s Utah is super sexist and experiences anxiety/depression that no one seems to really notice. [I really wanted to step into the book and have a word with her parents.] She also has an icky experience which adult Shannon addresses in an afterward.

I really felt badly for her and while it’s terrible knowing that that’s what went on in her life, as least you know she DOES grow up to become a very successful and happy author.

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.

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.