Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier


Published by Scholastic in 2016.

This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!

Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.

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Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.

Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.

Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.

Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.

I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.

My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.




Book Review: Free Verse

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

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Published by G. P. Putnam and sons in 2016

Sasha has experienced more loss than most 8th graders should. Her mother left her years ago. She and her brother were raised by their father, Ben until a mining accident claimed his life. Then her brother puts off college to raise her until he his killed fighting a fire in a bakery. She is moved in to foster care with a lady named Phyllis. Phyllis is patient as Sasha is dealing with all her trauma. Then Sasha discovers that a cousin of her’s is Phyllis’ neighbor. She befriends the cousin’s son, Mikey.

School is a challenge. Meeting with the guidance councelor, having the school bully watch a meltdown, getting invited to join poetry club (which happens to be run by the school bully), and making a friend on the bus.

Since this book is called “free verse” it would be a let down for it not to have poetry in it. The third section is told in poetry as Sasha explores different formats. She also uses it as a coping mechanism when trauma makes speaking too much to bear. These poems are beautiful and move the story along smoothly.

Sasha has a tendancy to run. When an accident causes them to no know if Mikey’s dad is alive or dead, she decides to take Mikey with her. She gets a few towns over, until she’s picked up by the cops, but Mikey stays on the run. Will Mikey be found? Will Sasha have a family that will stay?

This book does a good job of being realistic and making each character 3 dimensional. They are responsive to trauma in their situations. Almost everyone that Sasha gets to know has a backstory and a reason/motivation for their actions. In this polarizing time, this book does a good job of imaging a part of the country complexly without being patronizing or focused on a handful of issues. Mining accidents are mentioned multiple time in this book, but Sasha points out that miners are people with lives outside of work. They are parents, artists, adventurers, and many other things. Huebert, Sasha’s cousin mentions the “smarts” that are necessary to work the incredibly delicate/dangerous machinery involved in mining.

FTC disclosure. I recieved this book from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.


“Wake me…Before you go running off again…just wake me. Then if you run, I’ll run with you.” (p. 69)

“It’s like haiku opened a door inside me that I’m trying with all my might to shove closed again.” (p. 98)

“You can’t understand what makes a good story if you’ve never starred in one, or at least been a particularly memorable (sometimes tragic) supporting character.” (p. 258)

“I’m secretly awful.” (p. 264)


Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers


Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Kammie is new in town, attempting to fit in. She tried to be accepted by The Girls, a group of popular kids. After they convince her to cut her hair, she sings for them on a rotting wooden cover over a well. She falls through and is now stuck in the well. The Girls don’t seem to be moving to quickly to get help.

As her situation goes on, she is forced to reflect on why she has to be in Nowheresville, Texas. Her father embezzled from a charity, and is in jail. She is forced to face the fallout that her father caused her. Wondering if anyone would care enough to come find her, she is guided by hallucinations to help her cope.

This story is incredibly layered and beautiful! Middle grade readers will enjoy this!


“We left a lot of things behind, but not enough. It turns out you cna’t get away from yourself. The museum of you is inside you.” (p. 180)

Book Review: Catch You Later, Traitor

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

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Published by Algonquin Young Readers in 2015.

“I felt like I was looking though a kaleidoscope. Every turn I made, things changed: shape, color, and the connections between them. It’s a strange world when you can’t put names to the colors you’re seeing.” (p. 140)

Avi sends us to the McCarthy years with 7th grade Pete. His teacher begins targetting him because of something his dad said. Then he’s being followed by and FBI agent. This is the perfect chance for him to emulate his favorite radio show. In between action, Pete reflects as if he is a 1950’s gumshoe detective.

In addition to the adults causing grief, Pete’s friends abandon him. He only has his friend Kat left. As a way to get back at them, he decides to rebel by supporting the Giants instead of the Dodgers. The rest of the school is caught up in Dodger fever and can’t understand him.

At home, things are getting complicated. It turns out Pete’s dad DID go to ONE communist meeting when he was young. Pete begins questioning everyone. His uncle, the blind man he reads the paper to, his dad’s friends, and his dad’s coworkers.He tries to learn about his family history, and who is his dad visiting every Wednesday?  But then he wonders is someone following him? Why is there always a car following him? Is it the FBI? Someone else?

This book will keep readers on the edge of their seats and teach them about an era they may not be familiar with.

FTC disclaimer: I recieved this book through interlibrary loan. I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.

Book Review: Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson, Illustrated by Tom Mead

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Published by Workman Publishing Group in 2015.

It is refreshing to see an author be so transparant in their research for fiction books. Folklore and oral history have woven a beautiful background for cryptozoology. Inspired by Henry H. Tryon’s Fearsome CrittersFearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods tells of 20 creatures from American folklore. Budding cryptzoologists will not only love the stories that Johnson tells, they will love Mead’s illustrations and hidden glowing monsters.

Each story is told in first person perspective, with the narrator telling the reader of his interactions with 20 creatures. These are written in a conversational tone with a story of someone’s interaction with each creature. From the menancing hodag to the curious billdad, to the adorable wapaloosie. Each creature has a unique story that will thrill readers!

Great for a readaloud or to recommend to students!

FTC disclaimer: I recieved this book through interlibrary loan. I recieved no compensation for this review.

Book Review: Cosmic Catastrophes

Cosmic Catastrophes: Seven Ways to Destroy a Planet Like Earth by David A. Aguilar

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Published by Viking and Smithsonian in 2016.

“Our ‘Pale Blue Dot,’ as the legendary planetary scientist Carl Sagan used to call Earth, is small but mighty. There may be obstacles ahead, but our planet has survived big messes before, and this…orb..has shown resilience and awesome staying power.” -pg 73

Aguilar provides a fun to read book about different ways our planet could cease to exist. Many other books that face this topic test to read like a conspiracy theory or sound far fetched, but this book provides readers with a healthy balance of exploring the potential of disaster in a researched, balanced, and calm tone. The author has fun with exploring likely catastrophes but keeps the likelihood of these events happening in perspective.

From the well known idea of asteroid strike to alien invasion to black holes and supernovas, this book provides a variety of known and less well known potential disasters. Aguilar bases his research in history, archaeology, and science to help make his case. Kids and teens will love this book!

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Book Review: House of Secrets

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini


Published by Balzer and Bray in 2013

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is…The Walker family has fallen on hard times. They have been kicked out of their home and are househunting. They find a mansion that is the same price as their apartment. This mansion used to belong to a famous author. The kids start seeing an old lady around.

The kids, Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia, keep their suspicions to themselves.Then the old lady comes in and introduces herself as the famous author’s daughter. Then she changes into the “Wind Witch.” The kids and the house are sent into three of the author’s books. They have to avoid savages, hide from giant animals, fight pirates, and try and find the Book of Doom and Desire. The Wind Witch has told them that she will not send them back into the real world until they find it. In order to find it, they have to indulge their selfish desires. The kids realize that the Wind Witch cannot have it, and have to try and find a way home without giving the book to the witch.

This book may intimidate teens because of it’s length, but it hooks readers quickly and keeps them interested with TONS of action.