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Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Whether you are a cat fan or not this funny graphic novel will make it into your hearts. Presenting… Katie the Catsitter by Stephanie Yue and Colleen AF Venable! This amazing book will make you want to read it every single day! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Katie’s friends are going to camp and are always talking about how many hours are left until camp starts. Katie is not going to camp because she does not have enough money to. Then she gets an idea to get money! She puts up a poster in her apartment hallway saying that she can help watering plants, carrying grocery bags, that kind of stuff. But after she kills a lot of plants and accidentally breaks an egg carton in a shopping bag she starts to doubt that she will have enough money to go to camp. Just when Katie has given up, a nice lady comes to her with a job, cat sitting. Katie loves cats, but when Katie agrees to the job she has no idea what a handful the cats are! The cats are super intelligent, they do not use a litterbox, they use a real toilet! The weirdest part is that they all have talents! Not just any talents though, Potato is a yoga instructor, Jolie is a computer hacker, Jack Slayer is a getaway driver and, best of all, DJ Bootie Butler is a DJ with mad beats! With 217 of these crazy and not to mention mischievous cats to take care of, how will Katie survive and save enough money for camp! Oh and when you are reading brace yourself for more crazy action as the book goes on!

This book is one of my all time favorites because of all of the action that happens in the story. So many things are not what they seem and that makes this book super exciting! This is the best book any kid could wish for! The illustrations are also sooooooo cute! I love how the illustrations are filled with all sorts of beautiful colors! The illustrator did a beautiful job coloring this in. This book is easily one of the best graphic novels I have ever read and probably ever will read! I can not wait for the second book in the series called Katie the Catsitter Best Friends for Never! Enjoy!

**Thanks so much, Sofia! We are so glad you loved it!**

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Violets are Blue
Author: Barbara Dee
Published: September 28, 2020 by Aladdin

Summary: From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

Ricki’s Review: This book ripped me apart and put me back together. It is unflinchingly honest, and it is a book that so many middle grade kids need. The characterization is beautiful, and the book would make for a great study on the relationships between humans and a general study on humanity. No character in this book is perfect—all are flawed, and this reflects who we are as people. I stayed up late at night reading this book (when I should have been sleeping), and I cannot recommend it highly enough. We all deserve to reinvent ourselves, and this book gives us permission to do so.

Kellee’s Review: Barbara Dee is so wonderful at writing such relatable middle school books with characters that deal with the real issues that middle schoolers are dealing with today. This book is no different as we get to watch Wren deal with her own identity, dealing with divorce & remarriage, moving, finding new friends, and just learning how to be happy. All of this in addition to what Wren ends up needing to work through when it comes to her mom. Dee does a great job balancing all of these plot points while also building such full characters. All characters in the main characters in the book are well developed and are truly themselves–flaws and all!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book works beautiful to teach about characterization. Students might select a character to study in a group and then work individually to study a person in their own lives (personal or famous). This offers opportunities for rich discussions about imperfection and the flaws in all of us.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does Wren’s hobby with makeup reflect her life? How does it connect with the story?
  • How does Wren’s mother evolve in the story, and why do you think she makes specific decisions in the text?
  • Why do we keep secrets? How does secret-keeping impact others?
  • What did you learn from this story? What will you take with you?
  • How does Wren and her mom moving change the trajectory of the story?
  • Were there clues about Wren’s mom earlier in the book?
  • Why is it that people have such a hard time with girls and boys just being friends with each other?

Flagged Passage:

Chapter 2: Changes: “The day Dad left us, just a little over nine months ago, it all happened so fast. One gray Saturday morning in February, when we were still living in the house in Abingodon, I woke up to the sound of loud arguing in the kitchen. Yelling, actually, which happened a lot those days, followed by a car zooming out of our driveaway.”

Chapter 9: Nebula “[CatFX’s YouTube Channel] Here’s my secret message to you guys: fantasy is not the opposite of truth.”

Read This Book If You Loved: My Life in a Fish Tank by Barbara Dee; The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner; Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm; Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Recommended For: 

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  RickiSigand
**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!
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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Introducing Princesses Wear Pants by Savannah Guthrie! This is one of my favorite picture books and my little sister agrees. Princesses Wear Pants is a colorful picture book which every kid will love! This book is recommended for ages 3-12.

In this book there is a princess named Penny. The princess wears dresses and tiaras but she also has a closet of all kinds of pants. She wears pants for things like workouts and tending a garden. Then the royal ball comes up! Penny goes to the ball at first with a fancy shirt and pants but a person named Grand Lady Busyboots tells her that princesses don’t wear pants. Penny goes home to change but with a secret pair of pants underneath her dress. When she arrives at the ball for the second time she forgets all her worries but then her royal cat is seen hanging on the side of a tower trying not to fall. The princess throws off her dress and dives in the water around the tower. To everyone’s surprise the princess had put on her bathing suit underneath her clothing! You should read the book so you know what happens to the cat and the princess! 

I love this book so much because of the beautiful illustrations! I got this book as a gift a few years ago and have read it countless times since. This is an amazing book to give as a gift. This is a cute and powerful story which tells about the importance of wearing pants! There is a sequel which I have on my NEED TO READ list. I really hope you and your family members love this book as much as I do!

**Thanks so much, Sofia, for this wonderful review!**

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

This book is especially for the Katherine Applegate fans! I present to you . . . The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate! This book is also a Teachers’ Pick on Amazon!!! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Red is a wishtree. His friend, Bongo, the crow, is one of his residents as you might say because she lives in Red. Red is the town’s wishtree so he gets covered in paper scraps and cloth that is carefully tied onto his branches with wishes for the future. Some of his other inhabitants are a family of owls, a family of opossums and a family of racoons. At night time a girl from a family that just moved in goes outside and sits quietly and waits for Red’s inhabitants to scurry forward. Bongo likes the girl, her name is Samar. When it’s wishing day, Samar ties a wish on Red that reads “I wish for a friend”. Will the wishtree be able to make up a scheme to help Samar’s wish come true?

I love this book for its really cute illustrations. They are remarkable even though they are not colored. They look more like pencil drawings but great ones at that! When I read this book I feel my heart warm up. This is such an amazing book and Katherine Applegate did an awesome job writing this book! I just can not express how much I love this book! The author wrote this book from an unexpected point of view. Who would have thought to write a book coming from the perspective of a tree! The perspective is fun because we are simply not trees, we will never be trees. It is exciting to imagine how something like a tree would think. Of course, like almost all of the Katherine Applegate books, there is a bit of humour just to keep the mood happy! I hope that you love this book as much as I do!

If you loved this book then I highly recommend Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate! The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is similar to Crenshaw because it is the same type of heartwarming story. The problem is not the same but Crenshaw will touch your heart like The Wishtree.

 

**Thanks so much, Sofia. This book holds a special place in our hearts, too.**

 

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Kyle’s Little Sister
Author & Illustrator: BonHyung Jeong
Published June 22nd, 2021 by JY

Summary: My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

About the Author: BonHyung Jeong (Bon) studied Cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and Kyle’s Little Sister is her debut graphic novel, made possible with the help of numerous people. She hopes to make connections with others through relatable stories. Currently living in Korea, she’s always busy playing console games – exactly like someone in the book!

Review: As an oldest child, I never knew what it was like to be compared to a sibling in the same way Kyle and Grace are compared, but I definitely empathize with Grace’s feelings of being compared to a more successful sibling! Although many reviews said Grace seemed like a brat, I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as someone who just truly wants her own identity and to be valued for what she is not what she isn’t (Kyle). This is tough in middle school in general much less when you feel overshadowed by someone else. It definitely made me think about how I react when I teach a sibling of a past student!

I found the crushes and friendship drama all very realistic to middle school, especially 6th grade as kids figure out who they are as adolescents. I also enjoyed that the book did not show middle school as this daunting thing you should fear–Grace was excited to start middle school! Too often just the starting of middle school is blamed for drama, but this book focused more on friends who may be a bit different figuring out how to remain friends despite the differences.

This is a graphic novel that will find love with fans of Raina Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, and Terri Libenson, so it is definitely worth adding to your collection. However, I do want to share that there was one real part that I hope kids reflect on instead of do what Grace does: When she stops being friends with Amy, her new “friend” starts ohysiclly and mentally bullying her, and Grace does nothing. I think Jeong did a good job showing why she did nothing, but I also hope that watching this bullying will make readers want to stand up to a bully the next time they see one!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What should Grace have done when Cam started picking on Amy?
  • Why is Grace so resentful of her brother? Are there incidences in the book that make you empathize for her resentment? How does Grace feel like Kyle’s shadow at home? At school?
  • Why does Amy yell what she does when she fights with Grace?
  • Why is what Amy was doing to Jay inappropriate?
  • How is Cam’s relationship with Grace another type of bullying?
  • Why does Kyle stand up for Grace even though he says she’s annoying?
  • How is Grace’s mental health affected as she questions her identity?
  • How did the author use illustration and color to portray mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Middle school friend and family drama graphic novels

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity and JY of Yen Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Sofia is a 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Introducing the best book ever: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart! This is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it! This is a very adventurous and funny book. The writer has a wonderful writing style but some of the words are difficult to understand, and you need an advanced vocabulary to follow this book. I had to look up a few words in my dictionary while reading this. This book is recommended for ages 9-12.

Reynie is an orphan. He gets a tutor for school because he has already finished all of the orphanage’s high school curriculum. Reynie likes to read the newspaper. One day an ad in the newspaper calls for gifted children searching for special opportunities. It is a weird ad because it sounds like it is being written directly to children. Reynie thinks this is odd because almost no children read newspapers. To get the special opportunities Reynie has to take a test. There are many time slots available on the weekend so Reynie and his tutor, Miss Perumal, sign him up for the first session of the test. After Reynie arrives the next morning he only has to wait a few minutes. Just after he finishes the first test the test administrator tells him the test is over. When the test administrator calls the names of the people who passed the test Reynie is startled that he is the only one in that room who did. On his way to the second test he sees a girl who drops her pencil into a sewer grate. He thinks it is weird and when he helps her she offers him the answer key. Reynie declines and passes the test without her help. Much to his surprise the girl with the answer key does NOT pass! On his way to the third test he meets another kid named Sticky. He is a super fast reader and everything that he reads sticks in his head. They talk while they wait for the test and Sticky says someone in his test ALSO dropped her pencil! They are very surprised and become even more scared when a third kid enters the room and also had a kid drop her pencil and offer her the answer key. The girl who just entered is called Kate. She is very tall and always carries a bucket with her.

When they finally pass the third and fourth test they eat. They meet a new girl whose name is Constance, she is really small. Then they meet a mysterious man called Mr. Benedict. He tells them about mysterious messages that are being sent to confuse people’s minds. Mr. Benedict tells them that a man named Ledroptha Curtain is behind the messages. He also tells them that Mr. Curtain runs an institute and that he will send them there to go undercover so they can stop the messages. Follow Reynie on the rest of his exciting journey and help him save the world! Also, figure out if Mr. Benedict is to be trusted!

The many laughs this book gave me was only one of the amazing things about this book. This book was very fun to read and as more awkward characters joined the story it became even more hilarious! I do not know if I would consider this book realistic fiction even though I am pretty sure this could happen in real life. The characters are very clever, they even used Morse code to save the day! This is one of the best books I have ever read for sure, and I highly recommend it!

 

 

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Imagine how excited I was when I figured out Nidhi Chanani, the author of Pashmina, came up with a new book! I was dying to get my hands on that book and thanks to the Macmillan publishing house, I have! (Thanks so much Macmillan!) Introducing Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani! This graphic novel is recommended for ages 10-14.

When Shaheen’s music loving father goes missing she starts to panic. She starts to feel really bad because of all of the bad things she did to her dad. At first her family just thinks he is out for a long time but when days pass they start to worry. Her babysitter takes her out to distract her and they get a snack. After a long time passes Shaheen gets worried and drags her babysitter to her dad’s music shop. They have to break into their dad’s shop because it is closed and get scared when they see Shaheen’s dad’s glasses on the floor. They go upstairs to explore. You have to read the book though to see what kind of secrets they uncover!

I love this book because of the colors. This is about the most colorful graphic novel I have seen in my life and that is SAYING SOMETHING.That is one of my favorite things about this book because when the scene is really sad you still can not help feeling happy because of the flourishing colors and your mind can not decide whether you should be happy or sad. This is definitely one of those books to lighten your mood. I also love this book because the author is making a graphic novel mystery, something that you come across very little. This is a truly unique book! I hope that you enjoy this book too!

**Thanks so much to Sofia for giving us an advanced review of this book! We were excited to see it came out this week!**

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