Book Review: Lions & Liars

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 1.28.54 PMLions and Liars by Kate Beasley is a story about a boy who discovers who he really is by pretending to be someone else.

Nothing is going Frederick Frederickson’s way. He thought by the time he got to 5th grade, he’d be one of those kids that other kids want to hang out with. Instead, he feels like just as much of a loser as ever. To make matters worse, his family’s cruise vacation has been cancelled because of a hurricane.

Then, he accidentally ends up all by himself in a boat. After floating down the river all night, he finds himself at a boys’ camp. Instead of asking the counselors to help him get home, he sees his chance to get a fresh start and assumes the identity of a missing camper. At first, he likes his new life as Dash Blackwood. But soon he gets more adventure than he bargained for. The camp, as it turns out, is a disciplinary camp, and the hurricane is heading right towards it.

This book is a good end-of-summer read. It has humor and heart. Larrabee and I both enjoyed it.

 

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My Life in Books

IMG_7017Happy New Year! Winter Break is a time for looking back on all the great books I read in 2017 and starting the new ones I got for Christmas…

What better time to participate in the “My Life in Books” tag! Thank you to the Maniacal Book Unicorn for tagging me. Be sure to check out their post for the My Life in Books Tag if you haven’t done so already.

A Book for Each Initial

I’ve spelled out the name of my blog (Imaginary Friends) almost entirely using middle grade books I’ve reviewed over the past year or two.

I – The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

MThe Myth-o-Mania series by Kate McMullan

A – Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

G – The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I – The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

N – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

A – The Abracadabra Kid by Sid Fleischman

RRowan of Rin by Emily Rodda

Y – The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

F – Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

RThe Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

I – It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

E – Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

N – The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

D – Double Down by Jeff Kinney

S – Savvy by Ingrid Law

Age Count Along My Bookshelf

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I decline to say which position this book holds on my shelf. It shows, though, that I don’t only read middle grade books.

Book That Represents a Destination You Want to Travel To

Does it have to be a real place? If so:

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(Hawaii)

If not, then definitely:

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(Hogwarts)

Favorite Color

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It’s green!

Fondest Memory Of

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I think this biography of Beatrix Potter is out of print now, but I remember putting myself on a waiting list to check it out of the school library when I was in 3rd grade.

Most Difficulty Reading (Aloud)

That’s a tie between The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I needed lots of tissues to get through these read alouds.

Tag You’re It!

I’m sure many of you have already done this tag, but if not, I welcome you to give it a go.

 

Book Review: Writing Radar

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 2.24.43 PMJack Gantos is the author of lots of great books for kids, including the Joey Pigza series and the Newbery Award-winning Dead End in Norvelt.

Now he shows kids how it’s done in a fabulous book called Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories that’s instructive and inspiring.

This book is chock full of good tips, but it’s not just a how-to guide. It’s also the very funny story of how Jack Gantos became an author. Using examples from his own childhood journals, he demonstrates how to be observant and then shape events that really happened into compelling stories with a beginning, middle, and end and emotion as well as action. He also explains story structure and the revision process in clear and simple terms. It’s a must for the young writers in your life.

Book Review: The Ruins of Gorlan

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.11.13 PMThe Ruins of Gorlan is the first book in John Flanagan‘s popular Ranger’s Apprentice series. It’s an action-packed fantasy in a medieval setting.

Fifteen-year-old Will is an orphan and ward of Castle Redmont. He dreams of being a knight and hopes to be selected for Battleschool on Choosing Day. Instead, he’s apprenticed to a Ranger named Halt to learn the ways of the kingdom’s intelligence force. But before he can finish his training, he and his master are called on to defend the kingdom from the dreaded Kalkara.

I read this book aloud to Blaine many years ago. I remembered enjoying the scenes in which Will learns to use a bow and to hide in plain sight, so I recently read it to Larrabee. It’s really aimed at older kids (12+), though. Blaine has read several other books in this series and in the spinoff Brotherband Chronicles.

Book Review: The Detective’s Assistant

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 8.52.08 AMYou’ve probably heard of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. But did you know that it hired Kate Warne as the first female detective in the United States in 1856? And did you know that she and other Pinkerton detectives thwarted a plot to assassinate President-elect Lincoln on his way to his inauguration in 1861?

Kate Hannigan weaves these fascinating true facts into the fictional story of eleven-year-old Nell Warne in The Detective’s Assistant. 

Nell is an orphan. Her only chance of staying out of the Chicago Home for the Friendless is to make herself indispensable to her Aunt Kate, one of Mr. Pinkerton’s detectives. Luckily, Nell proves to be both clever and brave. She eagerly dons disguises and helps her aunt solve several dangerous cases. Along the way, she uses her new skills to uncover the truth about her father’s death.

The Detective’s Assistant is perfect for kids who like history and mystery.

 

Book Review: One Crazy Summer

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-4-38-33-pmOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia is the story of three sisters who travel from their home in Brooklyn, New York to spend a month in Oakland, California with the mother who abandoned them seven years earlier. It’s set in the summer of 1968.

Blaine and I both enjoyed this book. It refers to some of the same historical events as The Rock and the River (such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the imprisonment of Huey Newton), which led to some interesting discussions.

Most of all, we found the characters and their personal relationships compelling. (For more on that, see the craft review that I wrote for the Middle Grade Lunch Break blog.)

If you want to read more about the Gaither sisters, Rita Williams-Garcia has also written two sequels: P.S. Be Eleven (set in Brooklyn) and Gone Crazy in Alabama (set in rural Alabama).

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-8-54-49-pmThis year’s Newbery award winner is Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Larrabee and I just finished reading it aloud.

The Newbery Medal is awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Recent winners include other favorites of mine, such as The Crossover and The One and Only Ivan.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an unusual book with a lyrical, fairytale quality. Larrabee and I loved the characters, especially Fyrian, the Perfectly Tiny Dragon who thinks he’s Simply Enormous, and Xan, the fearsome Witch in the forest who’s actually kind. We were also intrigued by the magic.

I recommend reading this book aloud. It’s a long, complex story with several threads that all come together at the end, and its mysteries are revealed slowly. I think Larrabee might have had trouble following the story if he’d tried reading it to himself. It would make a better independent read for grades 5 and up.