Friday, February 27, 2015

Classic MG Read-along: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH readalongFebruary's  pick for the Classic Middle Grade Read along with the Midnight Garden was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien.    You can follow along or join in the discussion at or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.  

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

Published March 1st,1986 by Aladdin Paperbacks
Genres: Middle Grade Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 233 pages
Format: Paperback
Source:  Purchased

Synopsis from Goodreads:  "Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service."

This is my first time reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  I'd enjoyed the movie adaptation, The Secret of NIMH, especially with Dom DeLuise as Jeremy the Crow. And I enjoy reading animal stories, Redwall, Mouseheart, Nightshade City to name a few featuring rats/mice.  Yet, I  recall being confused about the magical elements in the movie, especially when it came to Nicodemus.  I always felt like it was never really explained where his magical powers came from.  The movie also had a creepy feel to it too, which at the time I really didn't like.    I think everything seemed to  flow better in the the book, but this isn't meant to be a blog post comparing the two.   

The story had a slow beginning for me, but then it really picked up.  Although the central theme was on Mrs. Frisby's struggle to relocate her home, there was also this larger backstory on how the rats of NIMH became so intelligent and their connection to Mrs. Frisby's family that I really got caught up in.   I was a little disappointed though whenever Mrs. Frisby's story took to the backburner.  Mrs. Frisby is such an admirable, brave character.  She puts herself in harms way to save her children, just a lovely mom. 

 I enjoyed the mice and rats perspective on the world, like scavenging for food as the season's changed, trying to avoid Dragon the cat.  But, the science of the experiments and the ways in which the rats learned to read were my favorite parts.  Although, I can't help now thinking about the ethical treatment of animals for research purposes.  And, how did I not know that NIMH stood for the National Institute of Mental Health?  There was also all of these moral issues to reflect on, like how the modernization of the rats was turning into their downfall and how they wanted to move away from stealing off of others to live.  Nicodemus was concerned that eventually the rats would be found and what would happen to them then?  

"Why move? We've got a better place to live right now.  We've got all the food we want.  We've got electricity, and lights and running water.  I can't understand why everybody talks about changing things." "Because everything we have is stolen." 
"That's silly." " Is it stealing when farmers take milk from cows, or eggs from chickens?" 

It's was also so easy to get caught up in the characters, lovely Mrs. Frisby, Mr. Ages, Nicodemus and Justin. Then add in the mystery behind Mrs. Frisby's husband, Jonathan, and overall I was very entertained.  

Favorite quote   “All doors are hard to unlock until you have the key.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MG Review: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic 
by Natalie Lloyd
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Magical Realism
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 25th, 2014

by Scholastic Press 
Source:  Public Library


Favorite Line:  
“It's so weird how life is so full of moving around-people coming and going, people passing by each other all day long. You never know which person's going to steal your heart. You never know which place is going to settle your soul, All you can do is look. And hope. And believe. “

Midnight Gulch used to be a town filled with magic, where "stars were kept in Mason jars and thunderstorms were caused by singing".  And then there were those who had magic for music, like the Threadbare boys.  This is the town where Felicity's mama grew up, and the one that Felicity, her mama and sister Frannie Jo are just now returning to.  Mama says the magic left Midnight Gulch with the Threadbare boys,  but Felicity learns a secret that might bring the magic back.  With the help of the Beedle and Felicity' s teacher, Miss Lawson's talent show, maybe just maybe Felicity may have finally found a way to stop mama's wandering heart. 

A Snicker of Magic is a magical story with characters that are interesting and varied.  It's a story with a small town feel, where quirky characters stories intertwine to reveal the plot.  Mama with her wandering heart,  not able to put roots down in one spot and Felicity keeping hope and believing that some day it might be possible.   Even little Frannie Jo, who is wiser than she gets credit for.  I read a few interviews of Lloyd's on  The Secret Files of Fairdaymorrow and Literary Rambles where she talked about the inspiration for her story and where her characters came from.  I enjoyed reading about how she incorporated her grandparents, friends and even beloved dog into her story.  Lloyd gives an authentic feel to the relationship that Felicity and Frannie Joe share.  

 "...And I think if you're lucky, a sister is the same as a friend, but better.  A sister is like a super-forever-infinity friend."  

I so loved how Felicity writes her words on her tennis shoes, sees them as words everywhere, above and around a person, even floating down a hallway.  But, especially that she "catches these words" and uses them to develop a poem for her sister on their first day at their new new school.  You can feel their love for one another.   

What comes so easy for Felicity to see, does not come easy for her to speak in front of more than one person.  Her lack of confidence in herself and loneliness make me want to give her a big hug.  I was so happy that Felicity met Jonah, who's words "shimmer and make her heart beat a little faster."  He is so sweet and wonderful as the mysterious "Beedle."   I like the way he is drawn to Felicity over missing pieces in both their families.  He seems to know exactly what she needs, especially since Felicity thinks that "making new friends, in a new place, when you're the new girl, is harder than fractions."  

Most of all I really enjoyed how Lloyd chooses just the right words to tell her story...

"The way he said her name made my heart cramp. In all my years of word collecting, I've learned this to be a tried and true fact: I can very often tell how much a person loves another person by the way they say their name. I think that's one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person's mouth. When you know they'll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time."


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines From Books, movies or TV

This is my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday.  I was inspired to give this a try by While I don't always promise to have 10 things, well cause sometimes I might not have that many, I thought it would still be a lot of fun to participate.  

                                 This week's topic: Favorite Heroines From Books (Or movies/tv).
                                  In no particular order....




So, I only came up with nine.  I had a very hard time thinking of that last one... Olive from Books of Elsewhere, Smooth Kitty from The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place and Rory from The Ever Afters Series, came to mind.   A few on my list I think others may have selected too. Especially Hermione, but did I pick some that others didn't think of? I've included links to my reviews about Kyra and Renee de Winter , they are two that I especially enjoy.   Who are some of your favorite heroines?  

Monday, February 23, 2015

MG Review: The Case of the Cursed Dodo A Jungle Noir by Jake G. Panda

The Endangered Files #1
by Jake G. Panda

Genre: Middle Grade Mystery/Noir
Paperback, 180 pages
Published December 15,  2014
by Woolly Family Studios
In exchange for an honest review, a review copy was provided by the author for free.  

Add it on Goodreads

I'm always on the lookout for a book that my kiddo and I can enjoy together.  The Case of the Cursed Dodo caught my eye for its engaging cover.  It has a very old classic detective story feel to it, with the actual cover having an intentional distressed look that I wish you could see.  The author and main character (Jake G. Panda), refers to the writing style for the story as endanger'd'scope or jungle noir, meaning the writing has a movie script feel with lines that include CUING IN, DISSOLVE TO and FADING IN.  We really enjoyed this and felt like there was a whole visual aspect to the story that rooted you in the scene and the action going on.  It had a Chet Gecko (by Bruce Hale) Mystery series vibe going on.  The Book synopsis gives you a feel for the writing style...

From Goodreads:  "If you're looking for trouble, you've found it. The name's Jake G. Panda, and trouble seems to follow me wherever I go. I work in the protection racket at a flophouse for endangered critters called the Last Resort. I'm the hotel snoop. The resident fuzz. It's my job to keep these guests safe and outta harm's way. This is the first of my many misadventures. A wild and woolly mystery involving a lost suitcase, a green bird, and a bunch of double-crossing animals. I'm calling this jungle noir The Case of the Cursed Dodo."

We loved the old movie terminology (fuzz, hotel snoop, flophouse) and that it was packed with endangered species.  Lots of fun.   The Case of the Cursed Dodo includes lots of humor, mystery, adventure and animal jokes that define the animals nature.    "Ernie's the hotel driver.  A thick-skinned pachyderm with a chip on his shoulder.  He lost his tusks in a hunting accident.  And he's not the kinda guy to quickly forget.  But I had a soft spot for the big fella.  He had a lead foot and worked for peanuts."  We also really enjoyed the black and white illustrations that punctuated the beginning of each chapter, highlighting the upcoming action.  Overall, a fun, entertaining story written in a unique style that will appeal to middle grade readers and parents alike.   

My copy was donated to the Public Middle School library following my review.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette


I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour review for Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette.  Be sure to check out all the other tour stops listed at bottom.

                                                   ABOUT THE BOOK:

E=mc2 is no longer the most powerful force in the universe. Your wand is."  Twelve-year-old Billy and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn't mean to change the universe.  Billy,  a quantum physics prodigy, just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother - and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school.  Suzy, his intellectual equal wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood, a belief in magic.  Together they made Billy a real, working, magic wand, and opened a door to the Quantum World where thoughts create reality, and all things good and bad - are possible.  

Genre: Middle Grade/YA Sci-Fi  Adventure
Paperback, 192 pages
Published December 8,  2014
by Elephant's Bookshelf Press, LLC 
In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided from CBB Book promotions for free. 

So, why did I want to read Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand?  I was intrigued by the premise and the cover which seemed to hint science fiction and magic.   There were also certain elements in the cover that I was very curious about, the pink flamingo, gnomes, cat wearing a beret and the girl with a flask in her hand?  So much to ponder and question. Lucky for me all of that was explained in the story.

Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand begins with Suzy in a police station explaining how Billy disappeared....

     "YOUR'E IN A LOT OF TROUBLE, young lady."  Adults say the stupidest things sometimes.  Of course 12-year-old Suzy Quinofski was in trouble.  She sat in a police interrogation room covered in dirt and dried tears.  Her fingers were cracked and bloody from digging in the ground.  She looked like she'd just lost her best friend, because she had.  The adult informing her of the obvious was Detective Mark Danner.  

      Suzy put him straight. 
"you don't know the half of it."  
Actually, he didn't know a tenth of it.  
    He didn't know a millionth of it.
  "Then why don't you fill me in?"
      "Because you couldn't comprehend it if I did."

The story is broken into two parts, the first half written as a transcript of Suzy detailing Billy's disappearance.  At the same time, she is being observed through a two-way mirror by another officer and a child psychiatrist, who interject their thoughts into Suzy's story. Suzy provides all the insights into her and Billy's home and school life and the science behind them making a magic wand.  These portions are very science based, we're talking quantum physics and microbiology, but are very necessary to setting up how they discover a way to break the space time continuum.  Billy and Suzy are super smart twelve-year old- science prodigies, it's important to know they have the capability of figuring out how to make a magic wand.   Billy's specialties are math and physics and Suzy has a passion for genetics and microbiology.  Billy is the one who figures out that there are alternate timelines, but I especially enjoyed that Suzy determines the link to unlocking the space/time continuum.   Enjoying science myself, it was fascinating to read how Suzy uses this link to explain an individual with Autism, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's reality.  Of all the characters,  I really enjoyed Suzy the most. Which I guess is understandable, because she is the story teller for most of the story, plus she also has a great sense of humor.  It is also easy to be touched by Billy's home life.  He lives in a trailer with his older brother and mother.  His mother is a hoarder and is mentally ill,  slowly it is revealed that she has Schizophrenia.  Even Billy's school life is challenging, with kids who bully him and expect him to do their math and science homework.  Suzy's life on the other hand is somewhat more stable, including that her  father is a general in the Army.  I can't say that I've read many books that included a family member in the service,  so it was a pleasant surprise to have this included.   What really stands out in the story though is the friendship between these two and how much of a support they are to each other.  Suzy is always there helping Billy with his home life and giving him advice for the bully's at school.  

The second half of the story is what happened after Billy disappeared.  It introduces the characters of Merlin and a form changing familiar cat, both who are connected to the Quantum World. Merlin explains to Billy the philosophical reasons as to why the wand works the way it does, but doesn't provide him all the answers.  He also cautions Billy that he soon will be walking into a mysterious trap, but he will do so willing.  Reading the second part of the story was kind of reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time with its description of traveling through time and space and pondering's on consciousness.  Billy begins to understand how the wand works and that there are dark forces out there who want to acquire the wand.  Somehow, I was expecting more action during the second half of the story, maybe building up to a climax.  Instead, it was a mixture of setting up a rescue mission with Suzy's father for solider's who were kidnapped and the humorous ways in which Billy uses the magic wand to exact a little retribution on the boys who bullied him.   Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand is not a story for someone looking for a quick read. Instead, it provides an intriguing mixture of science and magic that would appeal to that middle grade reader who wants something a little more complex, filled  with contemplation, magic and science. 

1st Prize- *signed* copy of Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand
2nd Prize- Season two of Xena: Warrior Princess
Open to US only
Ends 2/25/15
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Shelf Life- Review
WS Momma Readers Nook- Author Interview
CBY Book Club- Author Interview
Novel Novice- Author Interview
Karen Writes Stuff- Author Interview
Donnie Darko Girl- Author Interview
Curling Up With a Good Book- Author Interview
Little Red Reads- Author Interview
Log Cabin Library – Review

About the Author:

R.S. Mellette has written, directed, designed and acted in theater, film, television, and publishing for over 30 years.  His credits in various jobs include XENA:  Warrior Princess, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Blue Crush, and his own JACKS OR BETTER, which won Dances With Films Best Screenplay award in 2000.  He has been working with the festival ever since.  His novel, Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand, was published in December 2014 from Elephant's Bookshelf Press.  For novelists, Mellette blogs for From The Write Angle.  For filmmakers, he writes for Dances With Blogs.  

Find R.S. Mellette at:  Website  Facebook  Twitter   Goodreads

Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand Blog Tour hosted by: 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cybils Winners Announced

The Cybils list is out with the full list here  I was a first round judge for Middle Grade Fiction, so it's been tough waiting to see who the judges picked. And the winner is.... 

My review is here

Here's what the finalist selection committee had to say  "Eleven-year-old Sam has had a tough life. He had a heart transplant when he was young and was further scarred by his mom leaving, several minor run-ins with the law, and a father who doesn’t understand him. One night he takes his anger out on an old deserted building and this time when he’s trying to get away, he climbs the tree of the biggest house in town and ends up accidentally destroying the extravagant Christmas decorations in the yard. The owner Mr. Wells insists that he repay him with his time. Mr. Wells knows everything about Sam’s past, and he thinks he can use some of Sam’s skills on a secret project to help the town of Nickel Bay. Sam takes his punishment, reluctantly at first, but it doesn’t take long until he is working hard to earn Mr. Wells’ trust.
Nickel Bay Nick will appeal to middle grade readers of all ages as they try to figure out the mysterious Mr. Wells and join in Sam’s secret adventure. Boys and girls will be able to relate to the difficult things Sam faces like his parent’s divorce and financial hard times, peer pressure, illness, the consequences of bad choices and the relief of second chances."
Congratulations to all the winners, nominees and judges for a great Cybils year!