Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

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Little Blog on the Prairie is an ingenious way to bring pioneer life to modern children and still make it fun.

Genevieve Walsh is less than happy when she’s informed her family is spending the summer at Camp Frontier, where they will live like the pioneers of the 1890s. She’s even more appalled when they arrive and she discovers she’ll have to churn butter, remove weeds from the corn field, and use an outhouse. Luckily, she was able to sneak in her cell phone–the one she isn’t supposed to get until they return home–and is able to share her pioneer experiences with her friends.

Her friends turn her texts into a blog that quickly goes viral. When a TV crew arrives at Camp Frontier wanting to know all about Gen, she’s afraid she might have ruined the vacation for everyone, even herself.

The Lil’ Diva, who knows I am a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, saw this book at the library and decided she must read it. We ended up reading it together and it made me laugh so hard I couldn’t put it down. I loved the idea of this book so much, it’s getting added to the list of books I wish I wrote. It’s like taking PBS’ Frontier House and putting it into a book. Not all the neighbors get along. Tempers flare. But Gen makes a great narrator and you can’t help but follow along as she discovers things about herself.

I enjoyed the  romantic triangle among Gen, Caleb, and Nora–the owners’ daughter. It’s innocent enough and definitely makes it a more realistic story.  Nora made a great sympathetic villain for this story because these kids spend one summer there and then they are gone, but she lives Camp Frontier 365 days of the year. I would love to see a book about Nora after the events in Little Blog on the Prairie considering how the book concluded.

Definitely a must read.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Lexile Measure: 820L (What’s this?)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; Reprint edition (May 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599906775
ISBN-13: 978-1599906775

Guest Book Review: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name by Karen Pokras Toz

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Book Review: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name by Karen Pokras Toz
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Grand Daisy Press (September 7, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0984860851
ISBN-13: 978-0984860852
Age group: Preteen and Tween

Five stars


Not content with saddling their daughter with a mouthful of a name like Millicent Marie (after a grumpy family member), Millicent Marie’s parents insist on calling her by that very same huge mouthful. Known to her school friends as Millie, Millicent Marie is grateful that she did not end up with a cool, arty, celebrity kid name like Organza. However, Millie decides that if she’d had a choice, her name would have been Amanda. Amanda has such a nice ring to it. After all, Amandas are beautiful, wildly popular, and talented. When Millie begins a diary in which she signs her name as Amanda, little does she realize what a ten-year-old annoying little brother (Douglas aka Doogle) can do to wreak even more havoc in her life. Doogle finds Millie’s diary on her computer and publishes it as a blog for the entire world to see. Amanda’s soul is suddenly laid bare and, amazingly, people love her. She becomes Springside Elementary’s most sought after sixth-grade mystery gossip and advice columnist. Can Millie keep up the pretence? And for how long before her cover is blown?

This is a lovely read for tweens (and their parents!). Millie has the usual slightly disparaging attitude towards her prehistoric-age, totally embarrassing parents who (in the nature of all parents) seem to be incapable of treating her as the almost-adult she considers herself. Millie was given the choice of a computer or a cell phone when she turned twelve. Everyone knows that any self-respecting teenager needs both. Author Karen Pokras Toz captures Millie’s life angst—from disillusionment with sixth grade, to decisions about doing soccer or drama, to denying she has a crush on the utterly handsome Jordan Cowell—with humor and inside knowledge. I also enjoyed Millie’s coming of age and gradual maturing. As Amanda, Millie learns huge life lessons about friendship, respect, and the fact that other people have feelings and problems. As Millie, Millie learns about her identity, who she really is, and decides if she is happy being herself. Highly recommended.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Guest Book Review: Seven Spectral: Into the Red World by Valerie Wicks

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Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Valerie Wicks (October 13, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0615715567
ISBN-13: 978-0615715568
Rating: 4 stars
Age group: preteen upward

Emerald Drizzleweather Bogwater has an unfortunate name, unfortunate red hair, and an unfortunate tendency to rebel. When she escapes her small, dull, slow village (where everyone and everything is in shades of green) to see the world, she discovers something she wasn’t bargaining for…a whole new one. Now she must solve the mystery of the Egyptian-styled Red World (and its problems), before its dangers ensnare her forever. Escaping was relatively easy. Emer’s father (Alder Bogwater) tries to make her stay by bringing her back forcibly. She has even been married off to the kind of boy any sane girl would avoid—an oaf who drinks far too much lime ale. But Emer is on a mission to find her mother, Lore, with nothing but memories and an old turquoise compass, one of the pair that works in unison. However, if that means charting a dangerous course, so be it. With her green otter Samhain (aka Sam) as companion, she scales the wall separating Green from Red world and is catapulted into an adventure beyond anything she imagined. Deities, magic, death, blood and gore, intertwined worlds, weird characters and scary monsters, and a female Pharaoh determined to lock the Rainbow Gate, a mysterious set of ‘Keys’ that must be found, traitors, rebellions, and a boy that leads an army. Talking of boys, Shigeru is way more exciting and attractive than anyone Emer has ever met before. He comes from the Violet world, an element that hints at the other worlds in this planned series. Will Emer find her mother and is she ready for revelations that will shatter her beliefs?

Author Valerie Wicks has a way with words and a gift for world-building. She weaves a fantasy realm that intrigues with descriptions that unfold with the adventure. Emer is a feisty young woman who thinks on her feet as danger threatens and situations turn distinctly nasty. My criticism would be that although Emer is sixteen, sometimes she speaks and thinks like a younger person. The plot twists and turns in an interesting way, but in various sections I felt as if the plot and its myriad characters ran away from the author. Sometimes too many other elements (albeit fascinating) distract the reader from the main story theme and Emer’s character development. However, a great start to a series where the rainbow’s shades create new and different worlds.

First reviewed for Readers Favorite

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Guest Book Review: A Pirate, a Blockade Runner and a Cat by Beverly Stowe McClure

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BOOK REVIEW: A PIRATE, A BLOCKADE RUNNER AND A CAT by Beverly Stowe McClure

File Size: 410 KB

Print Length: 265 pages

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (January 9, 2013)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Language: English

ASIN: B00AZ9JRR8

Age group: 12-13 (tweens)

RATING:  4 STARS

Just how bad can one kid’s life get? When 13-year-old Erik Burks discovers a black lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car his life falls apart. Totally! His mom leaves his father and drags Erik from being king of the hill in Texas to the bottom of the pits in South Carolina. No Dad, no baseball, no friends, just Starry Knight (a girl who reads minds) and her equally weird brother, Stormy, the twins that live down the block.

Just when Erik thinks life can’t get any worse, while hanging out at the beach one evening, he and the twins notice lights radiating from an old, deactivated lighthouse. Stranger still, a ship materializes in the moonlit harbor. On closer inspection, the kids discover the ghost of a blockade runner, a phantom cat, and a pirate who prowls Charleston Harbor, all searching for rest. The ghosts may be the answer to his desire to return home. Erik wants his old life back and he wants answers from his dad. He makes a deal with the ghosts. He’ll help them find what they’re looking for so their spirits can rest in peace. In return, the ghosts will scare Erik’s mother so she’ll be on the next flight back to Texas.

What a great tween adventure. This book has everything for kids who like action, mystery, pirates, and ghosts. Author Beverly Stowe McClure very cleverly intersperses real piratical and nautical facts between her fictionalized account of the feud between (historical figures) Major Stede Bonnet and Edward Teach aka Blackbeard. Danger abounds when Erik and his friends board the pirate ghost ship and set sail on their quest to resolve the ghosts’ issues. Magic and mayhem keep the action going, without being too scary. I liked the author’s handling of Erik’s inner turmoil, his confusion over his father’s behavior, and his longing for his life and friends back in Texas. A subtle theme is how children deal with parental break-ups. The author creates a lovely character in Erik, which kids will relate to very well. Storm and Star were less well-developed, but no less entertaining. Very enjoyable. Recommended.

First reviewed Fiona Ingram for Readers’ Favorite

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Guest Book Review: Stranger Moon by Heather Zydek

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Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Moth Wing Press (November 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615564232
ISBN-13: 978-0615564234

Moths, mystery, and growing up are the focus of Stranger Moon. Twelve-year-old Gaia (and she hates her name!) is not your typical tweenager. Anyone who can recite screeds of information about moths, and in particular the elusive Luna moth, just has to be labeled ‘nerd.’ Gaia finds refuge in her love of unusual insects and her little gang of equally geeky friends. Her dad is glued to his computer, her mom died when she was little, and she is bullied by the ghastly duo, ‘The Emmas,’ at school. Could life get any worse? The night she and her friends go on a moth hunt, they find a bug-eating, scary wild woman living in the woods, in an abandoned ice cream van. They spend the summer spying on her, as they investigate her history, as well as defending their tree house from invasion by the Emmas. They discover the identity of the crazy lady, and must decide if they should use the information to exact revenge on Gaia’s worst enemy.

This book is so much more than a story about kids growing up. Gaia and her friends display typical tweenager idiosyncrasies as the author taps right into what makes a tween tick. Each character is well drawn and believable. As the story unfolds, the gang finds themselves tested on several levels. They need to learn friendship, compassion, and basic kindness: to boring Leonard with his yo-yo and his crippled hand, and to the mad woman herself. The ultimate challenge comes with how they deal with the vital information about the woman’s identity. Gaia’s strained relationship with her emotionally distant father also changes, bringing some interesting revelations. I loved the tone of thinking that author Heather Zydeck instils in Gaia’s inner narrative. As in most tween lives, everything is Dramatic and Tragic, with some Big Words to enhance the seriousness of it all. I laughed aloud at various points.

The fragile and sometimes uncertain life cycle of the Luna moth resembles the rite-of-passage that Gaia and some of the other characters experience. The completion of the cycle offers redemption, understanding, and acceptance as they move onto a happier level. There are moments of great sensitivity as Gaia tries to understand life and people, and wrestles with conflicting emotions and ideas. A sensitive and humorous look at the angst and conflicts of tweenagers and their issues. The author impressed me with her perception and insight. I found the resolution and tying up of loose threads a little rushed at the end. However, a great book for tweens, and for parents to learn how tweens think. Highly recommended.

First reviewed by Fiona Ingram for Readers’ Favorite.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.