To Night Owl from Dogfish

Meg Wolitzer children's book - The Night Owl From DogfishI watched The Parent Trap over and over when I was a little girl. I loved the story of two identical twins raised apart who meet at summer camp and scheme to reunite their divorced parents.

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer caught my attention because its premise sounded like The Parent Trap in reverse. Two twelve-year-old girls, Avery and Bett, are being raised by single, gay dads on opposite sides of the country. When their dads meet at a conference and fall in love, they decide to send the girls to the same summer camp. But Bett finds out and emails Avery. The two agree that they don’t want to meet at camp, and they don’t want their families to change.

The story is told entirely in letters (mostly emails) over the next year and a half. I’m not always a fan of epistolary novels, but this one works because the two girls have such distinct personalities and writing styles. Avery (a.k.a. Night Owl) is an intense New Yorker who worries about a lot of things. Bett (a.k.a. Dogfish) is an outdoorsy and fearless Californian. It’s fun to see the story unfold through their different viewpoints.

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Book Review: The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody

35631756My dad is a big Civil War buff, and I grew up among the battlefields of Middle Tennessee, so I was intrigued by a middle grade novel about a twelve-year-old Civil War reenactor. The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis did not disappoint. It’s a terrific school friendship story with a historical mystery on the side.

Oliver is an expert on the Civil War, so he’s thrilled about his new social studies project. But then he gets paired with Ella, a girl who never does her homework and is rumored to be failing the 7th grade. To make matters worse, they’re not assigned one of the famous generals he knows so much about. Instead, they’re tasked with researching Private Raymond Stone, a low-ranking soldier who lived near their Pennsylvania town and died of dysentery.

Both Private Stone and Ella turn about to be a lot more surprising–and complicated–than Oliver expected. The same could be said for this book. I recommend it.

Book Review: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

36292177In the first chapter of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, 12-year-old Ella (a.k.a. Coyote) accepts a free kitten from two boys outside a mini mart. Despite her dad Rodeo’s strict no-pets policy, she smuggles the kitten aboard their converted school bus home. And she names him Ivan after the gorilla in her favorite book, The One and Only Ivan. At that point, I was hooked and eager to follow Coyote on her remarkable journey.

Coyote and her dad have been living on the road for five years. They haven’t been back to their home in Washington state since her mother and two sisters were killed in a car crash. But one day, when they’re in Florida, Coyote talks to her grandmother on the phone and learns that her neighborhood park is going to be torn down in less than a week. She and her mother and sisters buried a memory box in that park, and she’s determined to retrieve it. The problem is that home is even more of a no-go than a pet for Rodeo. So, Coyote hatches a plan to get back there without her father figuring out their true destination. Along the way, they pick up several interesting passengers with missions of their own, and they have lots of adventures.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good road trip story. It’s one of those stories that has sad parts but overall has an upbeat tone. Larrabee enjoyed it too. Thanks to my friend Lindsay for recommending it to me!

 

Book Review: The Doughnut King

41800976The minute Larrabee finishes a book he loves, he always asks, “Is there a sequel?”

If, like us, you loved The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz (a 2018 Cybils finalist), then I have good news for you. Tris’s adventures continue in The Doughnut King!

The doughnut business that Tris started with his friend Josh is a huge success. It’s so popular, actually, that they can’t keep up with demand, and that’s a problem. Meanwhile, the town of Petersville has problems too. If it’s not able to attract tourists, it may disappear.

When all his other options to fix his supply issues fail, Tris reluctantly goes on a reality TV kids’ cooking show in the hopes that he can use the prize money to buy a doughnut-making robot to save his business and his new town. But the contest will test more than just his baking skills.

The best thing about this book is the characters. They’re vivid and interesting, especially Tris and his family. His dad speaks French when he gets angry and takes on crazy projects, such as trying to make maple syrup from sycamore trees. His mom, a professional chef, thinks baking is a more important life skill than swimming. His middle sister Jeanine is an academic superstar, and his youngest sister Zoe eats chocolate cream straight from the pastry gun. And Tris is one of those ordinary kids who ends up doing extraordinary things.

I recommend this book to kids who are foodies, bakers, entrepreneurs, or fans of fun stories. Just don’t read it when you’re hungry!

Thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is May 7.

 

Book Review: Takedown

36405733If you like sports books as much as I do, you’ll like Takedown by Laura Shovan–even if you’re not a wrestling fan.

Takedown is told from the points of view of two sixth graders who are assigned as partners on their travel wrestling team: Mikayla (a.k.a. Mickey) and Lev.

Mikayla Delgado is from a wrestling family. Both of her older brothers wrestle, and she loves the sport. But it’s not easy being the only girl on the team.

Lev Sofer just missed qualifying for the Maryland state championships last year, and he’s determined to make it this year. But having a girl for a wrestling partner doesn’t seem likely to help.

The wrestling match scenes in this book are gripping, but the book is about a lot more than just sports training and competition. It’s also about Mikayla and Lev’s sometimes complicated relationships with their families and their friends at school. And it’s about their growing friendship with each other. It’s a very enjoyable read for wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike.

Book Review: Max and the Midknights

40642963Max and the Midknights is a medieval adventure story by Lincoln Pierce, the author of the Big Nate series.

Max’s Uncle Budrick is a troubadour, who travels around singing, juggling, and playing the lute. And Max is an apprentice troubadour who dreams of being a knight.

When the evil King Gastley forces Uncle Budrick to become his court jester, it’s up to Max and a group of kids who call themselves the Midknights to save the day. To do so, they’ll have to use all their talents and face all sorts of dangers.

Like the Big Nate novels, this story is told in a combination of text and comic panels. It’s fast-paced and funny with everything you could want in a medieval adventure from swords to sorcery to dragons. Larrabee and I both liked it a lot.

 

Book Review: The Giver

8309278I don’t know why it took me twenty-five years to read The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s so good.

It’s the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in what seems like a utopian community. At the Ceremony of Twelve, when his classmates are given their Assignments, roles like Birthmother, Instructor, or Laborer, Jonas is not assigned. Instead, he is selected at the next Receiver of Memory and is apprenticed to a man who calls himself The Giver. As he learns his new role, he begins to understand that when his community suppressed its bad memories (war, poverty, pain), it also gave up good memories (color, music, strong emotion)

The Giver won the Newbery Medal in 1994, and I’ve picked it up in the bookstore or library many times since then (including when the movie version came out in 2014). It was Larrabee who finally prompted me to read it, though. His teacher recommended it, and he decided he needed to read since it has also been suggested by someone at camp last summer. So maybe it’s one of those books that needs multiple recommendations. If so, let this blog post be the one that pushes you over the edge. It’s the type of story that will linger in your thoughts.

The other books in The Giver Quartet are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, but they are companion books rather than sequels to Jonas’s story. Larrabee has enjoyed the second and third books. We also enjoyed the movie, although it’s no substitute for the book in this case.