Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas

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Pages: 224

Publisher: Random House Children’s (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

Published: April 14, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: A moving story involving PTSD, war, poverty, death, and love. A book for middle-grade readers and adults. It will open the eyes of adults to the questions and emotions children experience when facing death. Everything may look fine on the outside but inside there are questioning everything from could they have done something different to prevent it from why did it happen.

I can see many of the kids I work with connecting with this book on many levels. Unfortunately so many have lost a parent to death. Hopefully, this book will show them questioning the whys and hows is ok but that it is also ok to cry and talk with others about what they are experiencing. Everyone experiences death differently.

I am interested in other works by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Random House Children’s, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: A poignant story of a boy picking up the pieces of his life after the unexpected death of his father, and the loyalty, concern, and friendship he finds in his small-town community.

Justin doesn’t know anything these days. Like how to walk down the halls without getting stared at. Or what to say to Jenni. Or how Phuc is already a physics genius in seventh grade. Or why Benny H. wanders around Wicapi talking to old ghosts. He doesn’t know why his mom suddenly loves church or if his older brother, Murphy, will ever play baseball again. Or if the North Stars have a shot at the playoffs. Justin doesn’t know how people can act like everything’s fine when it’s so obviously not. And most of all, he doesn’t know what really happened the night his dad died on the train tracks. And that sucks.

But life goes on. And as it does, Justin discovers that some things are just unknowable. He learns that time and space and memory are grander and weirder than he ever thought, and that small moments can hold big things, if you’re paying attention. Just like his math teacher said, even when you think you have all the information, there will be more. There is always more.

Set during the Gulf War era, Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened is a story about learning to go on after loss, told with a warmth that could thaw the coldest Minnesota lake.

The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

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Pages: 176

Publisher: Myrick Marketing and Media LLC

Published: March 17, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I solely picked this book based on the title and was greatly surprised by how deep the theme of the story. We met Olive who along with her family is working through the grief after the death of her mother.

While this may be considered a middle grade/children’s fiction book I think adults could get a lot of info from this. One is how children are more perceptive to what we as adults are experiencing and feeling. We try to keep on a happy face in front of them but they know when we are upset or are bothered. A lot of children will try their hardest to fix us but do not understand why their fix is not working.

Another review mentioned she was a little worried that this book would convince children that with a little hard work they could fix the adult troubles and that is not always the case. My personal opinion is that it shows children that with hard work they can overcome their own grief and depression when the time is right.

I am intrigued to look into the author’s other works.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Myrick Marketing and Media LLC, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: A jewel of a middle-grade novel about a resilient little girl who longs for her dad to break free from the elephant of his depression.

When Olive’s dad drags himself to work in the morning, the elephant goes with him. When he comes home again, so does the elephant. It’s always there, heavy and silent, casting a shadow of sadness over him. Olive knows it has been like this since her mother passed away when she was a year old, and she can’t stand to see her father burdened anymore. With help from her grandfather and her best friend Arthur, she hatches a plan to rid her family of the elephant once and for all.

Before long, she’ll learn that while happiness isn’t that simple, small things can move mountains—or elephants.

Award-winning author-illustrator Peter Carnavas portrays a child’s response to her father’s depression with naïve wisdom. In defiance of the looming grey presence, The Elephant is an intergenerational story of resilience, family, and hope.

Judy Moody and Friends: Prank You Very Much by Megan McDonald

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Pages: 64

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: March 10, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: A good book for young elementary school readers. It would be a good read-aloud for first graders.

Illustrations have great detail and will draw the littlest reader’s attention.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Candlewick Press, through Netgalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Judy can’t wait for her mischief to bear fruit when Stink discovers that his backyard science project is an overnight success. Hardy-har-har!

Prankenstein strikes again! The Summer Science Showdown is just around the corner, and Stink is positive that he has the recipe for a winning entry. Soon he’s acting like a mad scientist, with strong-smelling potions in hand and visions of super tomatoes dancing in his head. Judy takes one look at her busy brainiac brother and sees a situation ripe for a little mischief! Everyone knows that Judy has never met a practical joke she doesn’t like, and soon the Princess of Pranks is cooking up a recipe of her own. From Megan McDonald comes an epic match of wits in a Judy Moody story perfect for newly independent readers.

Help Wanted, Must Love Books by Janet Sumner Johnson

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Pages: 32

Publisher: Capstone

Published: March 2, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: A great children’s book to show young children how great nightly bedtime stories can be. I also think it is a great book to remind parents how important nightly read-aloud time is for our children.

Shailey’s imagination from the stories read previously to her was beautifully illustrated as well as the love between a parent and child.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, Capstone, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Shailey loves bedtime, especially reading with her dad. But her dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime routine. So Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately. She is thrilled when her favorite characters from fairytales line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can’t stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings along her whole team. Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?

Finding Home (The Baxter Children #2) by Karen Kingsbury

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Pages: 320

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Published: February 25, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I’m a fan of Kingsbury’s Baxter Family series even though I have not nearly read enough of them. It is definitely a series I like to savor and take my time to read. I was very excited last year to read about the creation of a new series centering around the Baxter children. I am happy to say that book two was just as good as the first.

I find it refreshing to read a children’s book that highlights kids using their imagination during playtime. Being a teacher, I am saddened how many children cannot free-write stories using their imagination because they do not know how to imagine. I constantly hear stories from my littles telling me that they go home and watch hours of endless TV, Youtube or play video games that are far too adult for them. So many rarely go outside and pretend they are on an island made of lava and find ways to escape.

I love how Finding Home teaches right from wrong and being humble. No matter the age of the reader (child or adult) I think we all could learn from it. Even a gentle reminder. Being humble is a wonderful trait but one of the hardest in today’s society.

Finding Home is a great read-aloud for families.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Summer is over and Dad begins his important position at an Indiana hospital. Like it or not, Bloomington is the Baxter Family’s new home. As school starts, everyone finds reasons to be excited about the move. Everyone that is except Ashley. Ashley desperately misses the home and friends she left behind. As she realizes her siblings have their struggles, too, she can’t help but wonder if unlikely friends can be the best friends of all? And could time and love from her family be enough to make a house feel like home?

In the second book in the Baxter Family Children series, #1 New York Times bestselling Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell tell the funny and poignant tale of the Baxter children finding home!

The Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1) by Marthe Jocelyn

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Pages: 336

Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada

Published: February 4, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: A delightful read for Agatha Christie fans of all ages. Murder, mayhem, and intrigue lurk around corner of the debut novel in a new series.

Being a huge fan of cozy mysteries I jumped at the chance to read this new novel. I am so glad I did. Although it is a fictionalized version of a young Ms. Christie I was able to imagine this was how she started her career as the Queen of Mystery.

In this novel, Aggie is twelve years old and homeschooled and has plenty of time to use her imagination (a gift so many today do not get to explore). She fancies herself a mystery writer but when she finds a dead body she uses that imagination to try and solve the case. She gets herself into plenty of scraps but her friend Hector is always in the shadows to get her out of them.

This is the perfect novel to introduce the Mystery Queen to your young readers and open their world to a future of cozy mysteries.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: A smart and charming middle-grade mystery series starring young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot. For fans of Lemony Snicket and The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

Aggie Morton lives in a small town on the coast of England in 1902. Adventurous and imaginative but deeply shy, Aggie hasn’t got much to do since the death of her beloved father . . . until the fateful day when she crosses paths with twelve-year-old Belgian immigrant Hector Perot and discovers a dead body on the floor of the Mermaid Dance Room! As the number of suspects grows and the murder threatens to tear the town apart, Aggie and her new friend will need every tool at their disposal — including their insatiable curiosity, deductive skills and not a little help from their friends — to solve the case before Aggie’s beloved dance instructor is charged with a crime Aggie is sure she didn’t commit.

Filled with mystery, adventure, an unforgettable heroine and several helpings of tea and sweets, The Body Under the Piano is the clever debut of a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere, from a Governor General’s Award–nominated author of historical fiction for children.

The Bake Shop (Amish Marketplace #1) by Amy Clipston

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Pages: 336

Publisher: Zondervan

Published: November 5, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: A warm, delicious read that will leave you full of love. The story between Christiana and Jeffrey is romantic but like all relationships there is strife. I admire their persistence to keep believing all will work out.

The only complaint and it is not a big one: I wish there were recipes for Christiana’s yummy bakery items. Clipston makes them come to life.

I’m excited about this new series and am already counting down the months to book two.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Zondervan, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Return to Lancaster County with the first installment of Amy Clipston’s charming new Amish Marketplace series.

Christiana Kurtz loves to bake, but when her bake stand becomes too busy, her mother encourages her to move her business to the local market. Her new bakeshop becomes so inundated with customers that the line blocks the leather and woodcraft shop next door, which is run by Jeffrey Stoltzfus. When Jeffrey complains that her stand is driving away business due to the lines, she complains to him that his personalization machine smells. Though their relationship starts off on bad footing, they eventually forge a friendship.

When Christiana’s father makes a surprise visit to the market, he is upset to find that Jeffrey uses the building’s electricity to personalize his items. He tells Christiana that Jeffrey is too modern for her, and she’s forbidden from dating him. Christiana is crushed, but she knows she must obey her father.

When Jeffrey’s shop catches fire one day, he puts the entire market in jeopardy—including Christiana’s bakeshop. Christiana, however, can’t deny how she feels about Jeffrey despite his mistakes. Though the odds are against them, can two young people find a way to rebuild both their businesses and their relationship?

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Publisher: Dover Publications

Published: July 17, 2019 (reprint)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review: When I was a little girl I wore out my VHS tape (yes I am that old) of Shirley Temple as A Little Princess. So when I had the chance to read the book as an adult I jumped on it. The book was different and more beautiful than the movie. I say beautiful because I felt the feelings and emotions of Sara. As you read you really experience the cruelty she received from Miss Minchin.

A Little Princess is a tradition that should be shared with generations of little girls around the world.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Dover Publications, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: When Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin’s boarding school, the well-to-do student has every material comfort that her doting father can buy as well as the headmistress’s fawning approval. But when Sara falls upon hard times and is left to the mercy of the suddenly vindictive headmistress, she must rely on her optimistic outlook, lively imagination, and innate goodness to see her through a reversal of fortunes.

Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper

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Pages: 272

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Published: October 8, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I can see this book becoming a popular book club read among the middle-grade readers. When reading you feel like you are Jade and feel her emotions so deeply. What she is going through is so common among our children. A sick parent and the life they know is turned upside down.

The magical realism that is part of the plot is used nicely. It didn’t make me cringe as some do. Middle graders will love it. I think my fourth-grade cousin will love this book.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Charlesbridge, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: One creative middle-schooler discovers that the best friend a girl can have is the one she makes herself in this charming magical realism read.

Jade’s life hasn’t exactly been normal lately, especially since her dad’s cancer diagnosis. Jade wishes her family could leave their no-name town in Colorado already–everybody else does sooner rather than later, including every best friend Jade’s ever had. So she makes one up. In the pages of her notebook, she writes all about Zoe–the most amazing best friend anyone could dream of.

But when pretend Zoe appears in real life thanks to a magical experiment gone right, Jade isn’t so sure if she likes sharing her imaginary friend with the real world. To keep her best friend (and even make some new ones), Jade learns how to cope with jealousy, that friends should let friends be true to themselves, and that may be the perfect best friend doesn’t exist after all.

The Snow Bear by Holly Webb

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Pages: 160

Publisher: Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC

Published: October 1, 2019 (November 26, 2012 (UK Edition)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: Sara loves to listen to Grandpa’s stories of his adventures in the Canadian Arctic when he was a boy. As the snow begins to fall, she builds a snow bear just like the one in Grandpa’s story. In the middle of the night, Sara wakes up and sets out on an enchanted journey through a world of ice and meets a special polar bear cub who befriends her. But will she ever find her way back home?

My Review: An endearing read for children of all ages. The love between a grandpa and granddaughter is highlighted beautifully within the backdrop of the Canadian Arctic and a polar bear looking for his mama.

A bonus is a piece of educational information on polar bears and other arctic animals at the end of the book. A perfect book for an elementary classroom.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.