Book Review: The Water Bears by Kim Baker

I saw this diverse read written by Kim Baker at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year. I love the cover of The Water Bears and decided to pick it up.

Genre: Middle Grade

Blurb:

A story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic.

All Newt Gomez wants for his thirteenth birthday is a bike. After surviving a bear attack last year, he thinks this isn’t an unreasonable request. Instead, his hardworking parents give him a former taco truck to help him get around the wacky island where they live in the Pacific Northwest. And then Newt and his best friend Ethan find a life-sized wooden bear washed up on the shore. Ethan is convinced the bear grants wishes; Newt doesn’t know what to think.

Newt also has a big decision ahead: go to middle school on the island, or to the mainland where his warm extended family lives? There, he won’t be the only Latinx kid; he doesn’t have bad dreams about the attack, and not everyone knows what happened to him. Newt secretly plots to move to his abuela’s house, but his truck is stolen with the maybe-magic bear inside. He must confront his fears and adapt to the reality of a world that’s often uncertain, but always full of salvageable wonders.

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful and poignant story that middle grade readers will enjoy. It contains a little adventure, some facts about nature, and features a boy who learns the value of friendship and that it is okay to be a little different.

Newt has experienced a traumatic event (the bear attack) and slowly learns to accept what has happened to him. He also learns, with the help of his friends, that he can move on from his experience – and that it is okay to move on in a way of his choosing. Newt learns that despite the bear attack, he can still enjoy moments in his life – and that he can continue to do things that he enjoyed in the past.

I like the message in this story; it is a message that will sit well with preteens when they read the book. They will learn what it is to be accepted; as well as what it means to be different. The Water Bears is a well-written story that will appeal to children who enjoy reading novels that show growth in the main character.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 59th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson

While at the OLA Super Conference at the beginning of this year, I could not resist a signed copy of Colleen Nelson’s middle grade novel Harvey Comes Home. I also could not resist photographing it in front of the tulips I pass by on my morning walk.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade, Animals

Blurb:

A dog’s world is a world of scents, of adventure. When a runaway West Highland Terrier named Harvey wanders out of his old life guided only by his nose and his heart, lives begin to converge.

Austin, a young volunteer at Brayside retirement home, quickly finds that the audacious Harvey inspires Mr. Pickering, a bitter resident coping with memory loss, to tell stories of his childhood. Moved by the elderly man’s Dust Bowl recollections of grinding poverty and the perseverance of his friends and family, Austin begins to trade his preconceived notions for empathy. But is it enough to give him the resolve to track down Harvey’s original owner?

Supported by striking illustrations from acclaimed artist Tara Anderson, Colleen Nelson immerses readers in a rich and unflinchingly human tale of struggle and hope—all inspired by one curious dog.

My thoughts:

The story of Harvey, the dog, is told alongside that of Mr. Pickering, a senior at the Brayside retirement home, and a young boy named Austin. Through these stories, readers will not only experience adventure but they will also learn what it looks like to be empathetic (as well as learn a little history). Austen is a young boy who slowly learns the importance of listening to others and of being empathetic to both Mr. Pickering and Maggie, Harvey’s unknown owner.

Young readers will love this story of a dog who goes on an adventure. They will connect, as well, with both Maggie and Austen especially if they own a dog or would like to own one. Harvey Comes Home is a story that will touch the hearts of young readers and encourage them to follow Harvey in more of his adventures.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 43nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Lost Scroll of the Physician by Alisha Sevigny

At the OLA Super Conference, I was able to get a signed copy of The Lost Scroll of the Physician – a middle grade book of the historical fiction genre. The synopsis intrigued me as I have always been interested by the Egyptian period.

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In her search for answers, Sesha must find a priceless scroll for the pharaoh.

Sesha and Ky, children of the pharaoh’s royal physician, are left charming snakes and stealing food to survive after a brutal fire takes their parents and their home.

Unsure of whom to trust, the pair are found and brought back to the palace, despite misgivings that the royals are somehow involved in their parents’ deaths. Sesha is tasked with finding the rare and valuable medical document her father was transcribing for the pharaoh, who needs it urgently for his upcoming campaign.

Befriended by another scribe and a young princess, Sesha must navigate palace intrigue and temple treachery while desperately seeking the priceless scroll that not only has the power to reveal the circumstances around her parents’ death and mitigate any casualties of battle, but may also be the only thing that can save her brother’s life.

My thoughts:

I loved this middle grade book set in ancient Egypt! The language in the novel hasn’t been simplified and includes some beautiful imagery. The metaphors that were used by the author refer perfectly to the time frame of the story.

The Lost Scroll of the Physician is an adventure story and therefore the writing is paced in such a way to encourage the reader to continue reading. Even though the story is set in ancient Egypt, the characters’ experience is relatable to the modern child as they interact with others their age as well as with adults. Sesha finds herself in situations beyond her control and works at changing what she can. She is a strong character that makes the mistakes that children her age often do – but she is able to bounce back from them.

Sevigny has written the perfect adventure story that will get young readers engrossed and committed to the story. The added bonus is that those who are curious about the past will see a snapshot of life in Ancient Egypt. This novel is the first in a series and definitely encourages me to want to read more about Sesha and her sidekick Paser. I know I will be recommending this story to the 8 – 14 years in my life – especially those who enjoy adventure stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 19th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

During the recent OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference, I was fortunate enough to attend a book signing by Kenneth Oppel, a well-known Canadian author of middle grade literature. I got his book Inkling signed for my daughter with the proviso that I read it before she gets it.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Blurb: 

Ethan’s dad is a comic artist whose greatest creation, the mutant superhero Kren, brought him fame and glory. But after his dad’s string of successful books, a tragedy strikes the family and now his dad is completely stuck.

If only artistic talent were hereditary. Ethan is stuck on a graphic-novel project of his own at school and won’t own up to the fact that he can’t draw. When one night an ink-blot creation emerges from his father’s sketchbook, the family’s whole world begins to change.

Featuring artwork by the beloved, award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith, Inkling is a timeless story that speaks to the creator in us all.

My thoughts: 

I loved this book even before reading it! The illustrations are perfect for the story, and I loved the scent of the novel as I paged through it. It reminded me of the days I used to use the roneo machine to make copies of worksheets for my class.

Right from the first page, I fell in love with the story. We are introduced to an unusual character in the novel: Inkling, a blot of ink that come’s from the sketchbook of Ethan’s dad. With the advent of Inkling, a young boy (Ethan) comes to certain realisations about himself; and a dad comes to realise that he has been neglecting his family and where he should go with his art.

The story kept me engrossed and I finished it in two sittings. There was not a moment when I was bored with the story; or a time when I thought I would put the book aside. Instead as I kept flipping the pages over, I thought of how much my students would love this novel. The one character, Inkling, is unusual and yet Ethan is a normal boy living at home, going to school, and doing things young boys do. It is the type of life readers would recognise and connect with. Readers would also recognise the friendships and rivalries described in the story.

Kenneth Oppel has once again written a story that will capture the hearts and imagination of his audience. This novel is creative, has a sense of adventure, and touches on issues important to young readers. This children’s book will, I believe, keep the young child turning the page to find out what Inkling will get up to next. I highly recommend this book for the 7 – 12 year old in your life. Even a reluctant reader’s imagination will be captured by Kenneth Oppel’s Inkling.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 10th in my book pledge for 2019)