Book Review for Mabel’s Fables: Crushing It

This is my review of the Middle-grade novel Crushing It by Joanne Levy for Mabel’s Fables bookstore!

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Self-described warthog Kat feels she is no match in beauty and popularity to her “best cousin” Olivia, whom Kat likens to a graceful gazelle. Now in seventh grade, Kat is the studious, nerdy Manga lover while Olivia is the school’s leading dancer and beauty trends expert. Both cousins may be complete opposites, but they stick together. Their latest mission: getting a certain boy to ask Olivia to the dance.

That boy is Chris, Kat’s best friend. But he’s changed over the summer – a lot – and so has Kat’s feelings towards him. Olivia has also noticed the change, and yet, however different she and Chris may be, he’s way too cute not to go with to the dance. As the three friends find themselves in tense, nail-biting situations, friendships and loyalties are put to the test.
Nicole’s rave: Crushing It is a simple, enjoyable read filled with wholesome and lovable characters, combined with gut-churning, sweat-inducing middle school drama. Readers will feel those romantic pangs when Kat helps Olivia – however reluctantly – get the boy they both like, they’ll cringe when Kat all-too often lies down like a doormat for Olivia, and they’ll root for Kat when she rises to the occasion. I love that author Joanne Levy never has the two girls turning against each other. There is no cattiness between them, just admirable maturity as they deal with their issues. Fun, funny and “good” silly, Crushing It is a page-turner young readers will relish. – Reviewed by Nicole Abi-Najem

Rating: 4 / 5

Age in store: 11
Perfect for fans of: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanThe School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani and Iacopo BrunoThe Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

Eye of the Crow

[GOODREADS] “Sherlock Holmes, just 13, is a misfit. His highborn mother is the daughter of an aristocratic family, his father a poor Jew. Their marriage flouts tradition, makes them social pariahs in the London of the 1860s; and son Sherlock bears the burden of their rebellion. Friendless, bullied at school, he belongs nowhere and has only his wits to help him make his way.

But what wits he has! His keen powers of observation are already apparent, though he is still a boy. He loves to amuse himself by constructing histories from the smallest detail for everyone he meets. Partly for fun, he focuses his attention on a sensational murder to see if he can solve it. But his game turns deadly serious when he finds himself the accused, and in London, they hang boys of thirteen.”

Wow. All I can say is, wow! I read this book in one sitting. This is a superb story, written with an eye for detail that must be expected of any mystery, and especially a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Shane Peacock takes us into the early life of Sherlock. It is filled with the grit, smut and intense poverty typical of London life during that time.It’s important to note this because it drives the character of a boy who becomes a cultural icon; born with a brilliant mind but unfortunate circumstances. He doesn’t let one detail go, not one plot or word that is not intricately placed and it all leads us through a topsy turvy adventure. Then, there’s a murder. The crows descend; the sparkle in the night; it all means something; it all matters.

HOOT

HOOT

by Carl Hiaasen

[Goodreads] “Unfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and-here’s the odd part-wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.”

Hiaasen is a seasoned journalist, and his books read as such. He has written some excellent true-to-life thrillers. Flush is the first of his books that I read, and what I love about him is that his passions in life really come through in his work. I mean, the guy has been writing about Florida since he was six! His passion for the environment is the common denominator throughout his books. With Hoot in particular, the lives of the burrowing owls is put in danger after a pancake house wants to plant themselves smack dab on top of their burrows. His settings are seeped with idyllic Florida life, and even though I’ve never been to Florida, Hiaasen seems to represent the many colourful inhabitants of the state with compassion and familiarity.

Fans of Stuart Gibb’s ‘Belly Up’ will be sure to love this.

The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks

by Jeanne Birdsall

A National Book Award winner, this modern classic is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager.

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

That warm, buttery yellow cottage that the Penderwicks arrive to is just the beginning of this sumptuous reading experience. We can all remember that one, unforgettable summer filled with warm, radiant days and fun and adventure.

This book is Anne of Green Gables – with its idyllic setting – meets Little Women – with its strong, well developed characters moving through the pages. If you’re looking for one captivating premise that will sell you on this, you won’t find it. I can say it’s a glimpse into a time filled with small adventures, amazing encounters, beautiful characters – including of the cuddly variety. It’s as if Birdsall had all of them sitting before her as she wrote this, recounting to her that one unforgettable summer.

 

One of my new favourite books.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

A classic from Europe to the other side of the ocean, The Little Prince is a book I only recently picked up. I read a few pages a while back, but didn’t stick it though long enough to let the charm of the little prince dazzle me. The stories he shares of all the planets he has prior to visited before coming to earth is clearly Exupery’s own comments on society, and the types of people who inhabit it; whether miserable or content.

The Little Prince looks at the world with a delicate eye and these grand, esoteric revelations on love and loss are something that makes me believe it is a better suited as an adult book, however short it may be.

It is classified under the 9-year age range, and I just can’t imagine a child appreciating this  story. While the premise is quirky enough to gauge anyone’s attention, it really is a deep and philosophical book that someone can pick up from time to time, read a passage from, and find some relevance and application to their own lives.

 

 

Belly UP

Belly Up 

By Stuart Gibbs 

12 year old Theodore“Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it’s claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain’t the polar bear’s lunch. 

Stuart Gibbs keeps you moving in his spectacular debut novel as you’re introduced to a young boy named Teddy, who seeks to uncover the mysterious death of Henry—a 4,000-pound hippo who one day, very suddenly and mysteriously goes belly up. Cue all the antics that ensue within the parameters of the FunJungle zoo—and that’s where the story really kicks off.

There’s no reason for this notoriously mean hippo’s sudden parting. After all, he’s still young, still robust and full of temperamental spirit. There’s something else going on here, something deep and sinister.

This mystery keeps you guessing, and also laughing along as the plot unfolds with startling detail and accuracy. No surprise, Gibbs formerly worked at the Philadelphia Zoo. His passion seeps through the pages and lends credibility to the characters and resonance to their voice.

It’s a great book that I would definitely recommend to any one who is young or young at heart and looking for a good, nuanced mystery, humour, and of course, animals!

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society 

by Trenton Lee Stewart

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” 

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I liked this book because it highlights how each of us are talented in our own way. We can each use our skills and intelligence to contribute to things that matter. This is the first of the four-book series. The reading level will likely challenge many young readers, as it should. Kid’s books are not only simple and shallow, and this book proves it through its well-written and nuanced writing. Each of the kids is uniquely talented, and each uses their skills to contribute to this great adventure.