Turn Left at the Cow – Review by Savannah Jarrett

df4fdecbbdf732946fe4acd0ffcb5604--school-uniforms-school-uniform-skirtsSavannah is adorable, fashionable, and bright. She rushes through the halls with great purpose, but offers a smile as she passes. At times, her face lights up with realization when she hits on a great idea, while at other times her features curl with thought as she puzzles over new information about history or a challenging passage of a book. She shares her ideas with enthusiasm, demonstrated by going above and beyond by writing a review for this blog!

 

Thirteen-year-old Trav has always wondered about his dead-before-he-was-born dad. But when he heads from California to his grandmother’s house in rural Minnesota, hoping to learn about his past, he gets more than he bargained for.  It turns out his dad was involved in a bank robbery right before he mysteriously disappeared, and the loot from the take is 17165955still missing. Along with Kenny and Iz, the kids next door, Trav embarks on a search for the cash. But the trio’s adventure quickly turns dangerous when it becomes clear that someone else is looking for the money—someone who won’t give up without a fight! – Amazon

 

Review — Turn Left at the Cow is a hilarious and exciting book with excellent characters. Although the non-white/female representation could use some work (most/all characters being white, doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, blue eyes romanticized), you should definitely read it! Trav and his friends are funny and honest, and even though Gram’s small Minnesota town takes some getting used to for Trav, his awesome adventures there are very exciting! Recommend for ages 8 and up.

 

 

“Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery. . . . A promising fiction debut.” Kirkus
“Bullard has a good sense of family and community dynamic and articulates complex conflict and resolution with honesty and humor. . . . With a warm narrative, careful plotting, actual danger, and the beginnings of romance, this adventure has something for everyone.”
Booklist
“Through strong character development, Bullard is able to explore family dynamics in a way that is both relatable and informative. Fans of books like Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky are sure to enjoy this suspenseful and heartwarming novel.”
School Library Journal
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Deep Blue – Review by Rifka

-1Rifka is funny, unique, and spirited, as I hope you can tell by the picture she decided to use for this post. She makes me laugh all the time, and she loves to talk as much as I do (and that’s saying something!). She makes me think and she brings up really good points that cause me to alter or add to my lessons, like when she pointed out that we hadn’t learned about women of the Civil Rights Movement, so we did. The book she picked is rather beloved by the kids in my class, so I think I need to check it out myself. 

 

Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donnelly-2

“When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.” – The Book Smugglers

Deep Blue is not your average mermaid book and nor is Serafina your average mermaid. This book is for people who like fantasy and mermaids but are tired of the “brave prince saves princess, happy ending” cliche, as well as clueless and shallow mermaids. Sera and her friends have amazing powers that they must use to save the oceans from a terrible power that threatens. I like how each mermaid has a different character and weakness. Sera is royal and strong but has moments of uncertainty and is sometimes impulsive. Neela is first portrayed as shallow and frilly, but she can think fast and follows her dream, designing, even though it goes against the wishes of her family. Deep Blue is a moving and entertaining book, that will keep you hooked. The second one, Rogue Wave, has just come out and I just cannot wait for the third, Dark Tide!

The Westing Game – Review by Hanako W.

imageHanako is currently a 6th grader in my class. Insightful, sweet, bright and sincere, this kid is going places. She likes to sit at the front of the room and acts like I’m pretty interesting and funny, which I enjoy, especially, since it’s the last class of my day and the fourth time I’ve delivered the same lesson.

 

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin71MT0ceUanL

When sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, an extraordinary game begins. Although no one understands why the unconventional, game-loving millionaire has chosen a possible murderer to inherit his extensive fortune, the players all know that Sam Westing may not be alive, but that won’t prevent him from playing one last game.    

This book was spectacular. It was a detailed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story, with twists and turns on every page. The Westing Game is full of mysteries just waiting to be solved, and, as a reader, in a way, you get to. The characters are so deeply developed that you can imagine what he or she may do before he or she does it. This allows for the reader to have a “day in the life of a detective” and further expands on their understanding of the story. In the plot, there was a lot of working together involved. Players of the Westing Game are put in pairs, and then required to try and figure out who murdered Sam Westing. In the end, the only way that the players can win is to use one another’s individual talents. This was one of the themes of the book, but it was very subtle, and not as cliché as books that I have read before. I read The Westing Game this past year, and was perplexed as to why I had never read it before. I recommend this book to students and adults of ages 9 and up, simply because some of the parts can be a bit confusing. For me, however, that is one of the parts of the book that I enjoyed. Ellen Raskin tied the short, simple things that, as readers, we may sometimes overlook, into the larger, more complex areas, to create a slowly thickening plot. This was a beautiful book about how teamwork can open up opportunities that may not typically come without the help of complementary personalities working together.

 

Greenglass House – Reviewed by Megan

Megan and SheepMegan is a delightful young lady who came to hear me speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival when Falling for Hamlet was new to the world. Megan stood out in the crowd because she was, I believe, the only actual teen in the audience. Anyhow, we’ve stayed in touch, and she even arranged for me to speak to at her high school. In the middle of getting ready to graduate from high school and beginning a new chapter of her life, she agreed to review a book for the blog.

Megan, you’re wonderful! Happy graduation.

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Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

A18fcrxLO2L._SL1500_“It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.”

A perfect read for a quiet day, this book blends mystery with fantasy in Milford’s well-imagined world. The characters are eccentric and unique—much in the tradition of a turn-of-the-century mystery: it’s easy to imagine Professor Plum stepping into the mix with Clem Candler, Mr. Vinge, Dr. Gowervine, Mrs. Hereward, and blue-haired Georgie Moselle. These five guests seem to be suspects—after all, they have come to a smugglers’ inn—but it’s unclear what the crime is, or even if there is a crime at all. While the guests are easily defined by their eccentricities, they defy flat characterization, instead possessing aspects beyond their initial introduction. The hotel staff, too, is full of well-developed characters, including Milo’s parents, who are kind and generous without being boring. Milo, the protagonist, very much has the potential to be an average middle-grade hero, but differs from his literary peers by having depth to his quirkiness. He’s adopted, but Milford stresses that this is not even remotely the most important part of his character. Instead, he’s curious, polite, and geeky. Milo listens to his parents and (largely) obeys their wishes, but without seeming too much like a goody-two-shoes. He is a likeable character, but also believable—he isn’t always sure of what to do, and often uses easy-to-follow logic.

The Greenglass House is a lot of fun to read because often the reader can guess what’s going to happen next just a little bit before Milo does, but the ending is genuinely surprising (not something I can say for a lot of books). Especially for younger readers, this book gives the satisfaction of piecing together the mystery yourself, without being predictable. The details are vivid and tactile: Milford’s descriptions of the stained-glass windows that distinguish the inn are beautiful. Her world is truly well crafted, and the reader gets the sense that it is built up far beyond the town where Milo lives (indeed, the book is connected to some of Milford’s other books by characters mentioned but not present in Greenglass House). Nonetheless, even portraying only a tiny corner of it, Milford gives a clear and lucid depiction of the world.

Well-defined and eccentric characters with dynamic relationships, set in an interesting and vibrant world; a clever yet easy-to-follow mystery; a Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque role-playing game; a mysterious map: The Greenglass House is perfect for middle-grade readers who like mystery or fantasy, or older readers who like a good adventure. Highly recommended.