Monday, July 2, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey as a way to share what you have read and/or reviewed in the past week. It's also a terrific way to find out what other people are reading.

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers have given this meme a children's literature focus: picture books, middle grade novels, etc. They "encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting the other bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

It is no longer June, and the sultry, hot summer is definitely here! Everyone has headed for the pools, the water parks, or into the air conditioning. Reading outside is fine, if you go out in the morning and find a spot in the shade. But as the afternoon begins, it's time to head inside and sit in front of the fan with a glass of iced water at hand! Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this middle grade fiction novel both through my #BookRelays group and NetGalley. I’ve been very excited about reading it ever since I read Barbara O’Connor’s book, Wish! I really enjoyed reading this story of friendship, people’s abilities to grow in positive ways, and the realization that people are multidimensional – no one is all good or all bad in real life.

We learn all of these awesome lessons through the story of Mavis Jeeter, Rose Tully, Mr. Duffy, and Henry. Mavis has moved many times in her life, as her mother frequently changes jobs and/or relationships. When Mavis’ mom gets a new job as a housekeeper in the Tully household, she and Mavis move into a small apartment over the family’s garage. Mavis, who has never had a best friend, quickly informs Rose Tully that they will be best friends. Rose, who has been lonesome ever since her older sister went off to college, is glad to have a new friend. But it soon becomes clear that these two girls are very different from each other.

Rose is very reserved, soft-spoken, and very reluctant to break any of the rules set by her rigid mother. Mavis is more of a free spirit who speaks her mind, often without thinking through the consequences. When the two of them try to help lonely Mr. Duffy, the gatekeeper of the upscale community where they live, by finding him a new dog to replace the beloved pet that passed away, there are a number of rules that need to be broken.

Rose learns to relax a little bit more and take risks. Mavis learns that sometimes she needs to be more patient in order to be a good best friend. Mr. Duffy and Henry, an escaped greyhound from the local dog track, also learn new lessons about trusting others and trying new things.

The character development in this story is great. Everyone learns something and becomes better for it by the end of the story. I like that the characters are multidimensional. For example, Amanda is a bit of a snooty girl and somewhat of a nemesis in the story. However, she is kindhearted enough to give food to the stray dog and is generous enough to loan her bicycle to Mavis. It concerns me a little bit that in order for Rose to prove her friendship to Mavis, she feels pressured to break her mothers’ rules. I know that kids often think rules are lame, but Rose’s mother had her rules in order to keep Rose safe – especially the rules about staying away from the woods and the busy highway outside the housing development. But this is a very real situation for middle grade readers, as they are faced with this type of peer pressure all the time. This might lead to a good opportunity to discuss with young readers whether someone should have to break rules in order to be friends with someone.

This is a terrific middle school read with an engaging story. Anyone who has ever fallen in love with a stray animal will definitely be able to relate to this book. This book will be released in August and would be a good addition to classroom libraries, grades 4 and up.

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade fantasy novel in exchange for a review. This book is a fun adventure that takes readers into the world of dreams. The main characters are friends that attend Brassmere, a school for extraordinary children with supernatural talents. Plum, Vien, Gwendle, and Artem have the ability to interact with each other while they’re asleep. They are able to engage in tandem dreaming, where they meet up with each other in a dream and work together to defeat whatever threatens them.
But their dreams become more unusual and they start to receive strange warnings in them. When one of the friends disappears, the others realize that things aren’t as they seem at this school, and they can’t be sure who to trust. There is lots of action and ideas about dream experiences for middle grade readers who like those sorts of stories. There’s a little bit of violent gore, but not anything that’s over the top for kids in grades five and up. The story can be a bit confusing at times as the action switches between real life and the dream world. Also, the ending is a bit abrupt without a clear understanding of the motives for the villain of the story.

Picture Books

I have to admit that I share Bear's distaste for spiders...I am always dusting away webs and if I see a spider, I call for my husband to come with his "catch and release" jar. I received a review copy of this book in exchange for a review. This adorable picture book has me rethinking this. The spider that is leaving webs all over Bear's tidy home is so cute and talented. He paints, he knits, he plays guitar, he reads. And when Bear has a big problem, he's the first one to lend a hand and fix things. The awesome illustrations were drawn with charcoal and crayon and then colored digitally. This would be fun to share with young readers as a way to show that friends really are everywhere, and we should have an open heart to building relationships.

So many family pets really run the show in their households. I received a review copy of this book in exchange for a review, and it's a cute story about a dog who is ever so "helpful" in raising twins, Ally and Mae. She bathes them with doggie kisses, helps them get dressed by running around with their clothes in her mouth, and eats meals with them. The twins come down with a stomach bug, and Nanny Paws does her best to nurse them back to health. This would be a fun book to share with young readers who enjoy their own pets at home, or at least would love to have their own pets to take care of them.


  1. Reading inside here, too, since the shade is not much cooler than the sunny spots. I'll take the heat over winter any day though! So agree about Wonderland! Wish is one of our summer reading books so I think students will be interested in reading other Barbara O'Connor titles including this one.

  2. I'm very much looking forward to Wonderland. Your description of the multidimensional characters pleases me (middle grade is a great time to explore this facet of human behavior). And Dreaming Dangerous sounds quite fascinating. But I get rather frustrated with abrupt endings. Maybe it'll help me if I'm prepared, though. Thanks so much for sharing this title. It's new to me. Have a wonderful reading week, Jana!

  3. Wonderland sounds so good. I've loved O'Connor's books before, & now will look for this new one, Jana. It's fun to hear your thoughts about spiders and Bear's Scare, and a new way to look at others. I will note that one! Happy Summer!

  4. I'm looking forward to Wonderland. I am of the firm opinion that there is nothing in the world as good as a well written MG novel, and Barbara O'Connor has mastered the art.

  5. For some reason I have yet to read Wish, I probably should. I really liked your description of the characters in Wonderland. I also might give Bear's Scare a try. Good luck with the heat, I am having rare cool summer days in Western Canada.

  6. Wonderland was so wonderful; I am so mad at myself for having waited so long to read an O'Connor book.

    Happy reading this week :)

  7. I haven't been reading middle grade novels as much as I used to - you've shared some pretty good ones here. Have a great summer!