Paperback Throwback

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus

Welcome to Paperback Throwback. Each week, I highlight a book from my ever-growing collection of older paperbacks, ‘90s and prior. Come check out everything from Zebra’s line of horror to Scholastic’s preteen Apple Paperbacks, and everything in between— you’ll know them by their stylishly cheesy covers, flashy plots, and cheap prices.

Join me on this stroll down Literary Memory Lane. Stops include Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and anywhere else mass market paperbacks may be lurking.

For today’s selection, the B stands for Beatrice.

Continue reading “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus”
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Paperback Throwback

Goblins in the Castle

Welcome to Paperback Throwback. Each week, I highlight a book from my ever-growing collection of older paperbacks, ‘90s and prior. Come check out everything from Zebra’s line of horror to Scholastic’s preteen Apple Paperbacks, and everything in between— you’ll know them by their stylishly cheesy covers, flashy plots, and cheap prices.

Join me on this stroll down Literary Memory Lane. Stops include Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and anywhere else mass market paperbacks may be lurking.

Today’s selection is all about goblins.

Continue reading “Goblins in the Castle”
Reviews

What Goes Up by Wen Jane Baragrey


Robyn Tinkerbell Goodfellow’s roof is magnetic. Well, not literally, but an awful lots of stuff ends up there. Most days, it seems like half the town of Calliope loses something on her roof— kites, cats, bed sheets … a sky diver. Normally it’s just a mild annoyance, but then NASA reports that one of their satellites is about to fall out of orbit and Robyn can’t help but worry that it’s headed straight for her home. As if a sixth grader who just discovered she’s named after a fairy from a Shakespeare play and who’s attempting to locate her father doesn’t have enough to deal with!

Continue reading “What Goes Up by Wen Jane Baragrey”
Reviews

Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo


The last thing Ruby wanted to do was move into yet another forever home, particularly in Vermont. But Ruby knows the drill— don’t settle in, don’t make friends, and soon enough her mother, Dahlia, will pack them up and leave for their next forever home. However, everything changes when her mother is wrongly arrested after an altercation with an abusive boss. With the court date looming, Ruby attempts to push aside the noise and invisibly navigate sixth grade. But then she meets Abigail, her reclusive neighbor, and learns of her remarkable past.

Continue reading “Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo”
Reviews

Secrets and Scones by Laurel Remington

Title: Secrets and Scones
Author: Laurel Remington
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: 11/06/2018
Classification: Middle Grade


Scarlett’s mother is a mommy blogger like no other,constantly writing about every moment in her daughter’s life for the world to read. So, she hatches a plan to become totally boring, depriving her mom of new material. However, when her elderly neighbor is rushed to the hospital after a fall, leaving her cat wailing for food, Scarlett discovers the glorious next-door kitchen practically begging her to bake. But can she really keep her cooking(and a new friend) a secret?

Author Laurel Remington has taken the idea of technology and youth and flipped it on its head. Rather than a lamentable screed against screen time and teens, she focuses on its impact on parents. It works and it’s completely relatable. Whether a parent posts about their children on a major blog or just to their private social media, it’s incredibly easy and popular to overshare in a way that can be mortifying for young adults. This is such a refreshing and relevant take on the issue.

It also helps that Scarlett is such a great character. Since her plan has caused her to go introverted, outwardly she could appear rather boring. However, Remington takes advantage of telling the story from her perspective. Her inner thoughts are funny, insightful, and completely developed. Whether Scarlett was learning how to bake scones or going through the awkwardness of trusting her new friend, Violet, I was invested. She sounds like a teen.

While food carries the story (and sounds delicious), to unpack here about relationships. Scarlett struggles with her mother, and this drips into other parts of her life. She mistrusts the people around her, for fear they’ve read the dreaded blog. As she becomes close to her neighbor, Mrs. Simpson, part of what pushes the relationship is her focus on food rather than on Scarlett. It’s a delicate situation, and Remington handles it masterfully, allowing each of the characters to evolve naturally.

Not to suggest that it isn’t difficult along the way. Part of the charm of this book is that Remington does not shy away from the difficult, particularly over the last half of the book. But a little love and some great baked goods can always help the mending process.

The problems are real, the scones are delicious, and this book is divine.

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Reviews

The Best Man by Richard Peck

28251377Title: The Best Man
Author: Richard Peck
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: 09/20/2016
Classification: Middle Grade


Sometimes there are books that are so full of joy that none of their flaws really matter.

Archer Magill is growing up fast in a Chicago suburb and he’s on the lookout for role-models. He certainly has plenty to choose from: his car-loving father, his architect grandfather, Uncle Paul, who’s all-around amazing, and Mr. McLeod, his new fifth grade teacher. Everyone loves him. While Archer knows he’s surrounded by some pretty great guys, he struggles seeing the important stuff right in front of him. So it comes as a bit of a shock when he’s offered the chance to be the best man at a wedding for two of his role models. Of course, that’s getting ahead of things…

The book is pretty episodic in structure, and Archer tends to crash from section to section, primarily with the help of his best friend, Lynette. Works under this structure have to be exceptional to hold my attention. But Richard Peck was such a master of character and situation, it doesn’t matter.

Part of this is because Peck hones in on a heightened sense of what children experience. Most of the scenes are farcical. At one point, Mr. McLeod becomes an internet sensation, resulting in adoring fans casing out the school in droves. It’s handled with intense humor that skews into unrealistic, but it works because it’s Archer’s perceptions.

This also makes some of the more serious moments much more impactful, particularity a scene that hones in on bullying. But that’s middle school. One minute, you’re laughing at the absurdity of it all. The next, you’re crushed.

Certainly, one of the biggest points in this book is its handling of gay marriage. And boy, it’s joyous.

It’s romantic. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It’s just an all-around celebration, and something that’s been absolutely necessary in kidlit.

Author’s Twitter | Goodreads


 

Reviews

Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt

38659072Title: Speechless
Author: Adam P. Schmitt
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 11/06/2018
Classification: Middle Grade


The last place Jimmy wants to be is at his cousin Patrick’s wake. Add in the fact he’s wearing last year’s outgrown dress pants and he’s about as uncomfortable as possible. That is until things get worse when his mother informs him he’ll be making a speech at Patrick’s funeral. Why him? And what can he say about Patrick, the kid who seemed to ruin everything?

Author Adam Schmitt deserves tremendous credit for tapping into such a natural voice of a thirteen-year-old boy. Jimmy is quirky, complicated, and completely believable. In many cases, I was reminded of myself at that age, which was heightened by the first-person prose. It’s impossible not to feel close to Jimmy, and his struggle of just being able to find the right words is both compelling and touching.

Of course, Patrick lurks over the action right from the opening pages. As Jimmy considers his speech, each chapter has a vignette featuring Patrick. At the beginning, he’s rambunctious and destructive and these scenes would raise the blood pressure of even the most patient person. However, Schmitt shows some pretty remarkable skill in the structure of this book. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book is a beautiful blend of pace and progression.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the last couple of chapters had me in tears.

Schmitt does not shy away from some seriously harsh realities, particularly with family relationships. We don’t get to pick our families that can lead to conflicting personalities, even when (or perhaps because) there are often abundant similarities. Jimmy clashes with Patrick, his parents, and the chaos around them. In these moments, the frustration is palpable. But ultimately, it’s also family that provides him the necessary understanding.

In kidlit, there’s often a discussion of quieter novels and their place in the canon. Speechless straddles that line. Jimmy is a deeply funny narrator navigating a world filled with uproar. However, it’s also deeply introspective with incredible subtlety as it deals with the serious concepts of death and reflection. The result is a powerfully profound debut novel with heart.

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.