Book Review: Salt to the Sea

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 11.50.05 AMSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a beautifully written historical novel set in the winter of 1945.

It’s told from the perspective of four young people all being evacuated from East Prussia at the end of World War II ahead of the advancing Soviet army: Joana, a guilt-ridden Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a Prussian deserter with a secret; Emilia, a pregnant Polish girl; and Alfred, a delusional German sailor.

Joana, Florian, and Emilia join with an unlikely band of refugees on the dangerous road to the port in Gotenhafen. There, they secure passage on a German ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Just when they seem safe, though, the ship is struck by torpedoes from a Soviet submarine and begins to sink.

I have read many novels and works of non-fiction about World War II, but I had never heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in which more than 9,000 people lost their lives. One reason I like historical fiction is that it can bring to light events that might otherwise be forgotten.


Book Review: Wishtree

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 11.03.44 AMWishtree by Katherine Applegate is the first book I’ve ever read that’s narrated by a tree. Yes, a tree. An oak tree named Red, to be precise.

She’s lived for more than two hundred years.  Many different kinds of animals have made their homes between her roots, on her limbs, and in her hollows. And many different people have tied their wishes to her branches.

Then, one day, a Muslim family moves into one of the houses Red shades. The family has a little girl who wishes for a friend. When someone carves “LEAVE” into Red’s trunk, she decides she needs to do something. But what can a tree do?

Wishtree is a beautiful, poetic, philosophical story about friendship and community. As Red herself says, “Trees can’t tell jokes. But we can certainly tell stories.”

Book Review: Nevermoor

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 11.24.27 AMLarrabee and I LOVED Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. I read it aloud in huge chunks during Winter Break, stopping only for the occasional coffee break to soothe my tired throat.

Almost-eleven-year-old Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. For her whole life, she’s been blamed for everything from fire damage to spoiled marmalade. Worse yet, she’s doomed to die on Eventide.

But then she gets a second chance at life. Jupiter North arrives just ahead of the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow and sneaks her into the magical city of Nevermoor. There’s she’s introduced to the Brolly Rail, a Magnificat, and a hotel room that adapts to her wishes. She also learns that she’s a candidate for entry to the Wundrous Society. The only trouble is that she must compete against more than five hundred other children in four difficult trials. And just nine will be selected.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow combines engaging characters, a delightful setting, and fast-paced action. It’s the first book in a planned series, and Larrabee and I are eagerly awaiting the next installment.



Book Review: Restart

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January is a month for new resolutions and fresh starts, so it’s the perfect time to read Restart by Gordon Korman.

This book asks an intriguing “what if.” What if a middle school bully fell on his head and couldn’t remember anything from before the accident? Would he necessarily still be the same person, or could he change? And if he wanted to be different, could he change the way other people see him?

Chase Ambrose is a popular 8th grader, the captain and star of the football team. Or so everyone tells him. He doesn’t even remember his own name.

As he navigates both family dynamics and the middle school social dynamics, he starts to piece together clues about who he was before the accident. Through other people’s reactions, he learns that he was a hero to some but hated or feared by many others. He was the kind of kid who was sentenced to community service at a nursing home. He always ate lunch with the football team, and he never set foot in the school’s video club. He doesn’t feel like the old Chase any longer, the Chase that both old friends and old enemies expect him to be. But it’s hard to figure out how to be a new Chase.

This story is told through multiple points of view, so we see Chase’s journey through his eyes and the eyes of some of his classmates.

Larrabee read this book first and recommended it to me. I’m glad he did.

Book Review: The Loser’s Club

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 12.41.09 PMI could tell that Larrabee liked The Loser’s Club by Andrew Clements because he couldn’t put it down. When he finished, though, he gave it a compliment I wasn’t expecting: “It would make a good movie.”

See, The Loser’s Club is contemporary realistic fiction (in other words, no magic, no dragons, no sword fights). In fact, it’s about a 6th grader who starts an after-school quiet reading club.

Naturally, I had to read it next.

I’m glad I did. And I agree with Larrabee. Not every book (or movie) needs a sword fight. This one features a cast of interesting kid characters and a lot of great books.

It’s a book that will appeal to any bookworm.

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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If not, then definitely:

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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: Savvy

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 4.33.25 PMLarrabee and I recently read Ingrid Law‘s Savvy aloud together. We found it to be quirky and fun.

Savvy is the story of Mississippi (“Mibs”) Beaumont. Mibs is about to turn 13. When she does, she’ll discover her “savvy,” her special supernatural power. Everyone in her family has one. Her grandfather can move mountains and her brother can create hurricanes.

Then her father gets in a car accident and ends up in the hospital. Mibs is sure that with her new savvy, she can save her father. So, she sneaks away from her birthday party and onto a salesman’s bus along with two of her brothers and two other kids. But the bus heads in the wrong direction and the adventure begins…

Larrabee says if he could choose his savvy, he’d want it to be telekinesis. What would yours be?