Genre: MG Contemporary

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Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski

July 10, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna StaniszewskiOnce Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski
Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on September 27, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise--especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she's running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren't all bad--it's good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she's learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There's also a guy who's super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume--if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than 'hi' to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: the laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley's hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Having had the good fortune to go on three cruises in my lifetime, I can tell you that cruises are pretty darn good when they’re good. When they’re bad, they’re the 2013 Poop Cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph. You’ll probably get a different story from the cruise ship workers, though. Listening to them, you’ll get the idea every cruise is a small clusterfuck hidden beneath a veneer of order. That’s certainly how it seems when you read about Ainsley’s adventures onboard a fairy tale cruise!

Read more »

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Review: Macarons at Midnight by Suzanne Nelson

January 5, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Macarons at Midnight by Suzanne NelsonMacarons at Midnight by Suzanne Nelson
Series: Wish
Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on June 28, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
When Lise Santos stumbles into a bakery's midnight taste test, she meets a supercute boy. He's as sweet as the macarons they share, and Lise is totally smitten. She's pretty sure he is, too -- but they never get a chance to exchange names. Now Lise has to find him again....

When Lise finally discovers who her mystery guy is, he's not at all what she expected -- and suddenly they don't get along anymore! Things become even more complicated when her friend Viv starts to express interest in him. Now Lise's head and heart are all in a jumble. Can she gather the courage to admit her true feelings ... or is this a recipe for total disaster?

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (the love interest Rajeev is Indian, the principal’s wife is Thai, and Elise’s dad is Brazilian)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

This is one of those reviews I’ve been putting off for months because Macarons at Midnight is pretty easily summarized. Very cute, a bit outlandish in parts, but worth reading if you’re in a bad mood and want something fluffy. BUT I MUST WRITE A PROPER REVIEW FOR IT. I almost wish I weren’t swamped in review books now so I just could review what I wanted when I wanted the way I did when I started six years ago. So. Reviewy thing now.

(I know, I’m a master at transitions and subtlety.) Read more »

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Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

December 8, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana ZiaThe Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia
Published by Peachtree Publishers on March 1, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids — the fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She's old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Aliya and her family are Indian Muslims; her best friend Winnie is Korean; Marwa’s family is Moroccan)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (the book’s focus on Muslim girlhood creates plenty of intersections between gender and racial-ethnic identity)

One review of The Garden of My Imaan calls the book a modern homage to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, that classic book parents gave to their kids when puberty threatened to rear its ugly head and begin the monthly misery of menstruation. I never got to read that one because I was an ace at odd things like not getting to read things that were “normal” for kids my age to read. That continued all the way into high school. ANYWAY. The Garden of My Imaan is far from perfect, but it has a lot of value for its audience even if it’s a bit didactic. Read more »

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Review: The Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford

November 18, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Only Girl in School by Natalie StandifordThe Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford
on January 26, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
two-stars
When Claire’s best friend, Bess, moves away, she becomes the only girl left in her entire school. At first, she thinks she’ll be able to deal with this -- after all, the girls’ bathroom is now completely hers, so she can turn it into her own private headquarters and draw on the walls. When it comes to soccer games or sailing races, she can face off against any boy.

The problem is that her other best friend, Henry, has begun to ignore her. And Webby, a super-annoying bully, won’t leave her alone. And Yucky Gilbert, the boy who has a crush on her, also won’t leave her alone.

It’s never easy being the only one -- and over the course of a wacky school year, Claire is going to have to make it through challenges big and small.  The boys may think they rule the school, but when it comes to thinking on your feet, Claire’s got them outnumbered.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Reading has always been a solitary activity for me. As a little girl, my parents never read a book before I did to make sure it was safe for me, nor did they ever read it with me so I could discuss questionable stuff with them. Even when I was in elementary school and my fifth grade class read the entirety of Holes by Louis Sachar out loud with new students playing different roles from the book each day, I read ahead on my own. Well, The Only Girl in School is one of the very few books I’d ever think needs to be read by parent and child together. It’s important no matter the child’s gender. Read more »

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Review: Brooke’s Not-So-Perfect Plan by Jo Whittemore

January 22, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Brooke’s Not-So-Perfect Plan by Jo WhittemoreBrooke's Not-So-Perfect Plan by Jo Whittemore
Series: Confidentially Yours #1
Published by HarperCollins on January 5, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Perfect for fans of The Cupcake Diaries and The Baby-Sitters Club, this new series is about four best friends who are confidentially yours when writing their middle school newspaper's advice column.

Brooke, Vanessa, and Heather have been friends for as long as they can remember, and they're positive they'll rock their first year of middle school. The trio decides to sign up for a journalism elective, and they find themselves columnists for the school's newspaper, the Lincoln Log. They and their new friend Tim are put in charge of the advice column!

The year is going perfectly for Brooke. She has her friends, her travel soccer team, the advice column, and a lot of new activities . . . but maybe too many activities. As Brooke struggles to balance all her commitments and schoolwork, she realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew. Can she figure out how to have it all and stay on the advice column without sacrificing her other responsibilities?

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Vanessa is black and Heather appears to also be POC based on the cover illustration)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

I started watching the morning and evening news when I was ten years old and did three years of journalism in high school, so you could call me a fan of the news. Juuuuuuuust maybe. I’m also a fan of cute middle-grade novels because the warm feeling they give me at their best is a good substitute for the warm feeling I get from being around my cats. Read more »

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Review: Revenge of the Angels by Jennifer Ziegler

September 17, 2015 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★★½

Review: Revenge of the Angels by Jennifer ZieglerRevenge of the Angels by Jennifer Ziegler
Series: Revenge #2
Published by Scholastic Press on August 25, 2015
Genres: Comedy, MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
he Brewster triplets from Revenge of the Flower Girls meet The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, in a new, sweetly hilarious holiday story from Jennifer Ziegler!

When we last saw them, Dawn, Darby, and Delaney Brewster stopped their big sister from marrying the wrong guy, proving that they can accomplish a lot when they work together. Now, they are turning their smarts and high-energy hijinks to something completely different: their local Christmas pageant! They've been practicing looking wise and stroking long, fake beards in preparation for their roles.

But what if they're not cast as the wise men? What if instead they have to play angels in the pageant? Distasteful. Deplorable. Dreadful. And it's not like anything else is going their way this holiday season, either. Can the triplets figure out what to get for their mom, solve a mystery about a stolen Santa, and recover their holiday spirit in time for the pageant? Of course they can! And they'll do it with humor and charm, or they're not the Brewster triplets.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (The Brewsters’ neighbor Mr. Neighbor is black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Sometimes, the Internet fails to tell you important things such as the fact Revenge of the Angels is a sequel and not a standalone like I thought it was. That was probably just my research fail, but it ended up making little difference to me. I don’t dabble in MG often, but Revenge of the Angels reminds me why I do! Read more »

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Review: George by Alex Gino

August 24, 2015 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: George by Alex GinoGeorge by Alex Gino
Published by Scholastic Press on August 25, 2015
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: BEA 2015
Goodreads
four-stars
BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (best friend Kelly is biracial)
QUILTBAG: 5 (George/Melissa is trans)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

About two years ago when he was sixteen, my best friend’s little brother Eden came out as trans and his family realized they’d been considering him a girl named Belle when that wasn’t right. I haven’t gotten to see Eden since he came out, but I’m so, so happy for him. His transition has been almost problem-free and his family accepted him right away. Even without knowing Eden, seeing trans stories make their way into MG and YA fiction would be important because so many children questioning their designated gender identities need books like this. Gino’s debut novel is a touching, important read for everyone–including cis people who want to understand. Read more »

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