Squad Goals – Erica J. Kendrick

Magic’s family members are all a bunch of athletes… and she’s not. She’d like dearly to be able to follow in her mom, sister and grandma’s footsteps and become a kickass cheerleader, but alas she falls more than she claps. Yet she isn’t one to quit, and this summer she’s aiming high: become a HoneyBee cheerleader and prove to everyone, most important her family and herself, that she hasn’t skipped the athlete gene.

Sometimes, as a reader, I was unsure if she was doing all of this to make her family proud or if she really had an actual passion and deep interest for dancing and cheering people up. Her family’s opinion obviously means the world to her and she certainly does not want to disappoint them. Regardless, it’s good to try things that we’re not necessarily automatically good at, and Magic is certainly here to prove that hard work and dedication, with time, show beautiful results. Slow and steady wins the race, right? She’s not one to quit after the first or second or third failed attempt at a cheer move.

Although, Magic is doing more than just try to achieve a dream of joining her school’s cheer squad, which her family shares. She’s also dealing with friendship drama—navigating between her best friend and new friends—, a new crush that totally seems out of her league, bullying from the other participants at the cheer camp and her own insecurities. Luckily, Magic is not alone to deal with all of this and she can count on her grandma’s ‘‘magic’’ pom-poms to give her strength, courage and remind her of her goals whenever she loses sight of them.

I think this is a cute and well-executed story. It has a lot of expected elements in a middle grade story, as you may have noticed already, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable read that one can finish in a quiet afternoon. I enjoyed spending time with Magic and doing my best to cheer her on from the sidelines. I’m also just generally entertained by stories involving sports. I do admit that I’m conflicted about whether it’s a good idea to feature the idea of ‘‘getting even’’ in such a story, as opposed to exploring the concept of ‘‘turning the other cheek’’ or ‘‘responding to hate with kindness.’’ As seen in the story, responding to embarrassment and humiliation with more embarrassment and humiliation leads to more embarrassment and humiliation, yet I’m not sure that Magic herself understood that. Overall, though, this was a relatively solid debut novel and I hope for more in the future from this author.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Jacky Ha-Ha – James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

28096546. sx318 Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: 2016
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Humor, Performance, Siblings, Family


REVIEW:

Jacky is an amazingly funny and hot celebrity, and she’s looking back to her childhood period to show us how she overcame many obstacles and precarious situations to become the insanely talented actor she is today. Continue reading

The Only Black Girls in Town – Brandy Colbert

The Only Black Girls in TownThe Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 10+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Family, Friendship, Racial Relations, LGBTQIA+


REVIEW:

I love it. I just love it when authors branch out. I have read YA Fiction from Brandy Colbert and now I’ve had the chance to read Middle Grade. Believe it or not, some authors don’t transition from one to the other smoothly. I think that to write a well-told story in any category, one must study the category beforehand very well and understand its audience. Brandy Colbert has managed that quite nicely. Continue reading

Camp – Kayla Miller

42873833Camp by Kayla Miller

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2019
Publisher: HMH BFYR
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Friendship Dynamics, Summer Camps, Social Isolation


REVIEW:

It was good to spend some time with Olive again. In the first graphic novel, she had trouble expressing her creative side and communicating with her friend groups. In this companion, she and her good friend Willow are away at camp. Everything is going well in the beginning. Olive and Willow are sticking together but Olive wants to branch out a little and try different things, talk to more people, whereas Willow wants to stick with the familiar. Continue reading

Click – Kayla Miller

37570594Click by Kayla Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2019
Publisher: HMH BFYR
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Social Circles, Family Relationships


REVIEW:

This is a sweet graphic novel for middle schoolers. The illustrations are adorable, as is the colouring. It’s a story that deals with an issue that can be disheartening but remains very positive and solution-focused throughout.

There is a talent show at Olive’s school and while she’d love to be part of it, not one of her many friends has asked her to join their group. She doesn’t want to force herself into one so she’s feeling down and unsure of how to proceed. Continue reading

One Year at Ellsmere – Faith Erin Hicks

46223329One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: July 14th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle School, Graphic Novel, Friendship, Bullying, Boarding School


REVIEW:

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why some authors decide to include one fantasy element in an otherwise completely contemporary story. I understand magical realism. I think it can be very beautiful, surprising and, well, magical. But this was no magical realism story. Continue reading

Ali Cross – James Patterson

Ali Cross
Ali Cross by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: November 2019
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Mystery, Friendship, Family, Gaming


REVIEW:

This is the story of Ali Cross – Alex Cross’ young son – who wants to become a detective, just like his father, and work towards protecting his community. He thought he would have to wait much longer to follow on his father’s footsteps, but after one of his friends disappears, he decides to investigate the disappearance and won’t stop until he finds his friend. Continue reading

Towers Falling – Jewell Parker Rhodes

24846343. sx318 Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Friendship, School, Family History, American History


REVIEW:

With Jewell Parker Rhodes, you don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to question whether the book is worth buying, reading, holding in your hands. There is no reason to pause and squint your eyes. Because you just know that this author will deliver a meaningful story with memorable protagonists and an affective atmosphere. Continue reading

Lily the Thief – Janne Kukkonen

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Lily the Thief by Janne Kukkonen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: November 2019
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 9+
Genres & Themes: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Supernatural


REVIEW:

Lily is a young little thief who is tired of getting easy jobs. She wants to get the respect she thinks she deserve and challenge herself by taking on a hard job and becoming one of the great thieves of her guild.

Alas, her master does not approve of her ambitions, unable to get past the fact that she is a girl (and quite talented in the art of thievery). So she decides to work towards her goal without the blessing of the Guildmaster. Continue reading

Black Brother, Black Brother – Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Sports, Siblings, Racism, Respect, Family


REVIEW:

This is a book that will capture your heart from the beginning. If you’re familiar with Jewell Parker Rhodes’ writings, get excited because she delivers more emotional content and beautifully poetic prose that is sure to move you and remind you that there is humanity left in this world. Continue reading