The Bonaventure Adventures: Mabel’s Fables Book Review

The Bonaventure Adventures by Rachelle Delaney




Puffin Canada

May 2017

Middle grade

As a descendant of a famous Romanian circus family, Seb Konstantinov’s life has always involved skilled performers, animal acts and constant travel. But the once thriving circus has fallen upon hard times and its future is uncertain.

While his father, Dragan, attempts to modernize, Seb goes behind his back and applies to the prestigious Bonaventure circus school in Montreal. There’s only one problem: Seb has absolutely no circus talents. His dismal balance and failed acrobatic skills are a fact that both he and his father have long accepted. But Seb has hope, not only for his circus abilities but for the future of his family’s circus.

To his surprise, Seb is immediately accepted — without so much as a request to audition. As he makes his way from Eastern Europe to snowy Montreal, he soon discovers that the notoriously mean school “Directrice,” Angelique Saint-Germain, has motive for granting Seb acceptance. An old family friend of his father, she believes that Dragan is heir to a lucrative circus empire and that he will save the school from its own financial demise.

Unfortunately, Seb has no remarkable circus skill, nor the finances to help the school. What he can offer, however, is wisdom. As a self-proclaimed circus scholar, Seb knows the power of a story, and with his vision and storytelling abilities, he attempts to bring modernity to the circus and revive his family’s crumbling legacy.

Nicole’s rave: Despite being about the circus, The Bonaventure Adventures is really a story of friendship. Seb and his friends may not be your traditional circus performers, but they each offer a unique set of talents: Frankie does parkour, and her rough life has led to her unconventional acrobatic skills; Banjo, a boy with no internal compass, walks in everywhere late but has fantastic stories to share; and Seb is the scholar of the trio. This all comes in handy, when, through ingenious plotting and a bit of courage, they attempt to save the best circus school in the world.

Rather than over-the-top circus antics performed at lightning speed, Delaney opts for a slow, rhythmic unfolding of events and revelations. Her eloquent writing and attention to detail carried me through. Along with glimpses of Canada, I enjoyed the depth and nuance of The Bonaventure Adventures. Seb’s quest to understand his role in the circus is intertwined with the need to help his family, and inevitably the school itself. Plus, you can never go wrong with a lesson of belonging in one’s unique way.

While there is no thrilling adventure or crazy encounters in The Bonaventure Adventures, it caters well to readers looking for a quiet book about the power of friendship, family and determination. – Reviewed by Nicole Abi-Najem

Rating: 3.5/5

Age in store: 10

Perfect for fans of: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee StewartCircus Mirandus by Cassie BeasleyThe Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.


Fatty Legs

Fatty Legs

By Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

The moving memoir of an Inuit girl who emerges from a residential school with her spirit intact.

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.

Fatty Legs may not be on the ‘Indigenous Reads’ radar when compared to the heavyweights like Joseph Boyden and Gordon Downie, but the enduringness of this light book is prolific. This is not a story devised of imagination, but the true tale of a young girl who was drawn to the allure of residential schools. Much like the adventures of Alice in Wonderland, which she learns to read and falls in love with: Pokiak, too, finds herself swept in a topsy-turvy world.

In what proves to be a heart-wrenching narrative, we are guided along this journey with her. We grieve with her over the loss of identity, the challenges she endures being in the residential school and the ultimate acceptance of her Inuit traditions.

By far, this is one of the best books for your readers that I have read this year. It is profound.

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!

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.

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 Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square 

by George Selden

Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City―the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides―and friends―than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures―from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.

Simple and heart-warming, this book wins me over. I’m a sucker for books about friendship, animals, and New York City; and I lucked out on all three. There’s something about combining the small – in this case insects and animals – with the big – New York City. What you get is magic. It gave me that feeling I had when I read Harriet the Spy; there’s this little world and many little worlds unfolding in an immense city. Only in NYC can people and creatures of such diverse backgrounds find love and companionship together.

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness 

by Kate Beasley

Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she’ll be leaving behind. There’s just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

This book is so good! I don’t use the exclamation mark lightly. Gertie’s woes and troubles are all at once the common-day travails of children, and yet distinct. Gertie’s mother has abandoned her, and this headstrong heroine traverses the struggles of Grade 5: popularity, friends, grades, and the bigger stuff.

I could feel my pulse racing at points because the author does such a great job of making us feel that unfairness in certain circumstances, and some nail-biting scenes in others, which I won’t give away.


Leap to the nearest bookstore, and meet Gertie the great!