Review | Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz

The Isle of the Lost(The Descendants #1)

Format: Hardcover, 311 Pages
Published: May 5th 2015
Genre: Fairy Tale
ISBN: 9781484720974
Age Range: 8+
Rating: 4/5

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent’s daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon’s eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen’s daughter, Evie, doesn’t know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she’s a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal’s little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he’s not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon’s eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil’s son may not be bravest, but he’s certainly clever. Carlos’s inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon’s eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon’s eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the dragon’s eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

So, if you don’t already know, this book is a prequel for a Disney Channel movie called The Descendants. I’m really pumped for this movie now!

I love bringing myself back to all of my favourite childhood evil characters, I mean who doesn’t love Jafar! It was wonderful to have that nostalgia.

I can’t tell you much without giving it all away, but what I can tell you is that all the evil families have been trapped on an Island and banned from using magic. In fact, there is a dome covering the island that has removed their magical abilities. That means that all the kids, still have to do kid things like go to school and do their homework.

The Isle of the Lost wouldn’t be my favourite place to live though, they get the leftover garbage that nobody wants. Burnt coffee and moldy food, but I guess that wouldn’t bother you if you were evil and that is what you enjoyed! The kids though, didn’t seem as evil as I thought they were going to be. I mean, I get it, kids don’t need to be like their parents but I kind of hoped a little.

Either way, I think everyone should read this book and prepare for a really amusing Disney Channel movie. I know I’ll be watching it in July just to see what happens! I’ve followed these characters for the majority of my life, why stop now!

Middle School Monday | Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 by N. Griffin

Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11

Who stole the hamster from Room 11? A once-happy class is set on edge in this humorous, highly relatable mystery perfect for middle-grade readers.

The day the hamster disappears from Smashie McPerter’s class begins like any other. Well, except for the fact that the teacher is out sick and Smashie’s class is stuck with Mr. Carper, the worst substitute in the world. And except for the mysterious business with the glue. And except for the fact that Smashie is wrestling with a terrible problem, which only partly stems from her extreme aversion to hamster feet. As the peaceable and productive days of Room 11 turn into paranoia-fueled chaos, as natural suspects produce natural alibis and motives remain unmotivated, Smashie and her best friend, Dontel, are forced to the limits of their parlor-room detecting to set things right.

Smashie and friends are a group of quirky friends who are trying to solve the mystery of the classroom hamster going missing. In order to find out what happened, they use their sleuthing skills to put together the clues and save the hamster. The investigation becomes quite complex, anyone could be a suspect but there are a few people that specifically had it out for Patches (the hamster), but who would have taken him?

This book has been rated for children 7-10 but I find it difficult to believe that a 7 year old would be able to read some of the words found in this book on their own. I would be worried the children would get discouraged with pronunciations and comprehension. Some of the words used are: thwarted, exonerate and caveat and they use expressions like “let someone else take the heat for you” which I think is a little difficult for most that age.

However, this book would make a perfect read aloud for a classroom or parents with lots of room for higher thinking questions. The way the more difficult words are presented would allow them to infer a meaning. The plot line and humour is perfect for grades 2-3. Overall, I enjoyed Smashie, the characters and story were funnier than I had expected.

Review | Mortimer by Robert Munsch


Format: Paperback, 24 pages
Published: February 1st 1985
Genre: Fiction, Humour
ISBN: 9780920303115
Age Range: 2+
Rating: 5/5
It’s Mortimer’s bedtime, but he would much rather sing his rowdy song. Mom, Dad and even the police can’t get him to quiet down, until they become so distracted by each otherthat Mortimer drifts off to sleep.
Mortimer is like any child, he doesn’t like to go to bed! What does a child do when they don’t want to go to bed? They do ANYTHING but go to bed!
I feel like I really relate to this story, even as an adult. You know, when you are laying in bed just staring at the ceiling, thinking about all the things that you didn’t get finished today? Maybe from now on I will just sing Mortimer’s song.
I love this book because it is fun, you can sing and dance along with it. I love this book because EVERY child relates to not wanting to go to bed and EVERY parent knows how it feels to constantly be trying to convince your child to do something, whether it be going to sleep, or being quiet, likely both.

Review | The Boy On Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone

The Boy on Cinnamon Street

Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
Published: February 1st 2012
Genre: Romance, Coming of Age
ISBN: 9780545215121
Age Range: 12+
Rating: 2/5

A story about a wounded girl and the boy who won’t give up on her.

7th grader Louise should be the captain of her school’s gymnastics team – but she isn’t. She’s fun and cute and should have lots of friends – but she doesn’t. And there’s a dreamy boy who has a crush on her – but somehow they never connect. Louise has everything going for her – so what is it that’s holding her back?

Phoebe Stone tells the winning story of the spring when 7th grader Louise Terrace wakes up, finds the courage to confront the painful family secret she’s hiding from – and finally get the boy.

Firstly, I think this book would be better suited with the teen books. In my local store I find it in the 9-12/tween section and I really didn’t feel it had any pieces to connect with that age group besides the outdated Bieber references.

Louise calls herself Thumbelina because she feels small and insignificant. She is really trying to find herself as she deals with bullying, boys and grieving the loss of her mother.

Things I liked:

– Light, easy read. It was short and there weren’t any complicated twists.

– Thumbelina’s struggles were real, including her naïvety

Things I didn’t like:

– Lack of resolution. Although I don’t necessarily think everything needs to end the same way, I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the ending.

– Dated. Authors who reference popculture run risk of being dated. Unfortunately, Stone made a wrong choice in references to make here because the Beiber Fever has been cured.

– The lack of character building. Even the main character felt shallow. I understand it was part of the story but I really felt disconnected.

Overall, I am happy I read it but would only recommend it to someone looking for a short and easy read.

Middle School Monday | Nerds by Michael Buckley

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (NERDS, #1)
Format: Hardcover, 316 Pages
Published: Sept 1 2009
Genre: Adventure, Spy
ISBN: 9780810943247
Age Range: 10+
Rating: 3/5
Combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, NERDS, featuring a group of unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their school, hits the mark. With the help of cutting-edge science, their nerdy qualities are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities! They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin, and an array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.
I found this book difficult to get into, but mostly because I’m an adult and I don’t buy into the gimmicks they used to try to get the reader’s attention at the beginning of this novel. It starts with you having to scan your finger to prove your identity, but then it asks you to remove the booger and try again. For me, this isn’t that funny. For a 10-year-old boy though, I’m sure this would be a hoot!
NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society) is about a group of children who come together to save the world. These children are all social outcasts because of their quirks, it is these quirks though, that make them special enough to form a team of kid geniuses.
The beginning of this book was a little dry for me, a lot of character development with very little story. It was almost confusing how all the pieces were going to fit together. However, when all the pieces do come together it makes for one fun adventure. This book, about a bunch of geeks, dweebs and misfits is exactly what some kids need to escape. Jackson starts off as the most popular kid in school, that is, until the braces happened. As he starts to settle into the invisible life he notices some kids who are often disappearing in class and seem to simultaneously sneeze all at the same time. As he follows the kids one day, he watches them all close themselves in lockers… and so it begins.
You must have level 4 clearance to read the rest of this file. Yes, that is exactly what it tells you as the book continues. The gimmicks are silly, there is a lot of bathroom humour but the boys will love it. I will definitely start recommending this series to the reluctant readers in my life, and I think you should all give it a try too. Just make sure you give it a fair chance. I almost put this book down within the first 1/3 of the book but I’m glad I stuck it out.

Middle School Monday | The Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry

The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet

Format: Paperback, 128 Pages
Published: Sept 30th 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Humour
ISBN: 9780545556170
Age Range: 8+
Rating: 2/5

Blizz Richards is a great guy, a caring boss, and a loyal friend. Oh, yeah…he’s also a yeti! He’s made it his life’s mission to study cryptids like him, hidden animals who have taken a powerful oath to never be seen by the outside world.

So when a photo of Cousin Brian becomes a media sensation, Brian can’t handle the guilt and disappears. But it’s time for the annual Bigfoot family reunion, and it won’t be the same without him. Luckily, Blizz and his devoted team are on the case. Can they find their furry friend before their secret gets out for good?

In Kevin Sherry’s hilarious new illustrated series, you’ll meet a wide array of weird and wacky cryptids, from goblins and Goatman to skunk apes and Sasquatch–animals that you don’t believe exist. And it’s up to Blizz to keep it that way!

I liked this story, the concepts and ideas, I even liked the characters but I can’t get past how terribly this book is doing its job. This book is supposed to be for beginner readers, a book with easy vocabulary to increase their confidence in reading and make children passionate about books. However, if a reader was having difficulty, I would not, for any reason recommend this book.
The words are complicated: cryptozoologist, paparazzi.
The humour is adult based: cost analysis, pain of doing taxes
I loved the concepts, a yeti family has to stay in hiding because they are meant to be ‘legends’. Even giving examples, Big foot, lochness, unicorns, leprechauns etc. Every year the ‘cryptides’ have a reunion where they get together and party. A few years ago, during  the party, a photographer crashed and took pictures, releasing images of their cousin Brian. Brian is disappointed in himself and feels like he has let the family down, so he disappears for the safety of everyone and no one knows where he is. They want to be able to find him for the reunion this year but where do they even start.
I’m so torn, I feel like reading this with a parent it could have 3 stars, but I don’t feel as though it is necessary to explain things like doing taxes to children between the ages of 6-8. The vocabulary is also a little too difficult, so I just can’t rate it as high as the imagination and creativity deserve.

Middle School Monday | Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliot

Eva's Treetop Festival (Owl Diaries #1)

Format: Paperback, 80 Pages
Published: Jan 2015
Genre: Early Reader; Friendship
ISBN: 9780545683623
Age Range: 6+
Rating: 5/5
Eva Wingdale gets in over her head when she offers to organize a spring festival at school. Even with her best friend Lucy’s help, there is NO way she will get everything done in time. Will Eva have to ask Sue (a.k.a. Meanie McMeanerson) for help? Or will the festival have to be cancelled? This book is written as Eva’s diary — with Rebecca Elliott’s owl-dorable full-color illustrations throughout!
I loved this book, it was cute and quirky! I think any girl would absolutely love this story about animals, friendship and sharing. The vocabulary was a perfect combination of simple and creative (lots of owl-themed words). The images complimented the story perfectly and helped with the understanding of the story for the children who would find it difficult. This is the first of what I see being a very long and successful series!
Eva decides that she is going to plan a fun festival at school and she is determined to prove everyone wrong and organize the event by herself. After some procrastinating and difficulties, Eva starts to run out of time and may have to cancel the event if she can’t swallow her pride and ask her classmates (even mean Sue) for help finishing up the preparations.
I can see this new line of publishing (Branches) being fantastic. If they can keep up these easy, yet novel sized books for the children that are having reading difficulties, I can see them becoming a hit. Plus, the books are fun and age appropriate.