BOOK REVIEW: Furthermore – by Tahereh Mafi

brfurthermore

Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic
First published: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 16th 2016
Pages: 416
Rating 3,5qqq

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

myrambles1reviewqqq

I have been wanting to read Furthermore ever since I first heard about it. I admit I haven’t read Tahereh Mafi‘s popular Shatter Me series yet (mostly because of the mixed reviews I’ve seen out there), but this new story seems to be totally unrelated to it. Furthermore is a typical middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale and is full of adventures and a worldbuilding that is both creative and well executed. In fact, both the new world Tahereh Mafi created where color is currency and the plot itself are probably the strongest features of this book. The main characters are ok, although they did feel a bit underdeveloped at points. I loved the symbolism behind Alice though. As for the pace of the story: the beginning was quite slow and didn’t grab my attention right away, while the ending felt quite rushed. In other words, Furthermore lacked the right balance in pace and I would have liked to see a better ending. The story is well written though and I can see why middle graders would enjoy reading this story full of magical adventures. The chapters are not too long either, which makes it a great read to read out loud as well.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Ferenwood is a world where color is currency and the sign of magic as well. The more colorful the inhabitants are, the more powerful they seem to be… And that’s why Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t seem to be popular at all. She was born all white from top to bottom, and even though she desperately wants to fit in, everybody seems to treat her indifferently. Well, everyone except for Father, but he disappeared three years ago and nobody knows where he went. Alice is determined to find Father, and one day she gets help from an unexpected source. It turns out she will have to travel through the mythical and dangerous Furthermore to find him, and it will take all her wits to fulfill her quest.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

Maybe my expectations were set too high, but while Furthermore was a very entertaining read I did have some minor problems with it. The biggest flaw might be the pace, which was too slow in the beginning and felt way too rushed in the end. The adventures itself were cute enough and I simply loved the worldbuilding and the idea of color as magic. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but I liked Alice and I have no doubt it would be a big success in the target group.

BOOK REVIEW: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer – by Mark Twain

brtheadventuresoftomsawyer

Title: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Middle Grade
First published: 1876
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: October 20th 2016
Pages: 225
Rating 3qqq

“Can’t learn an old dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what’s coming?”

myrambles1reviewqqq

Like most people, I already knew most of the details around the life of Tom Sawyer and I think I might have seen a TV series at some point, but I’m ashamed to admit I had never actually read the original story as it was written by Mark Twain all that time ago. And since I needed to read more classics in the first place, I thought it was a great excuse to finally pick up my copy of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. Unfortunately I can’t say I fell in love with this classic. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem might be that I read it too late; I would probably have enjoyed this story a lot better fifteen to twenty years ago. That said, I did think there were too many religious references to my taste, although that can probably be explained by the fact that it was written back in 1876. But classic or not, I did have a hard time to get a proper feel for the story and it only started to get more exciting after their ‘graveyard adventure’.  Slow start and stronger ending; I guess it would still make a great middle grade, especially for boys.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Tom Sawyer is not like most of the boys in the Mississippi River town where his lives. He doesn’t really feel like behaving and doing as it is told by the adults around him, and is always looking for a way to escape his tasks. Tom is without doubt very clever, and is able to convince the other boys of just about everything. From the fun in whitewashing a fence to the games they play and the things that happen at school, Tom Sawyer is always a busy boy that normally means he will ends up in trouble. Trouble that might be turning into a really dangerous situation after what happened at the graveyard… But even trouble and danger cannot make Tom to stay away from his adventures and the creativity of his own mind.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I guess I either read this story at the wrong time or it just wasn’t for me, because I can’t say I was convinced by especially the first part of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. It’s not a bad read and I can see why especially younger readers would love this story, but I had a hard time getting into the story. The last part is a lot more exciting though, and the story is quite readable even though it’s written back in the 19th century.

ARC REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn – by Dana Simpson

brrazzledazzleunicorn

Title: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure
(Heavenly Nostrils #4)
Author: Dana Simpson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Children, Humor
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 10th 2016
Pages: 184
Rating 4qqq

“”My dad speaks ‘nerd’.”

“It’s good to be bilingual.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

myrambles1reviewqqq

I have been wanting to explore the graphic novel/comic genre for a while now, but with so many options out there it’s really hard to decide where to start. Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing offered the great opportunity to try my hand at my very first graphic novel this year with Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure. I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the cover. It’s just so colorful, fun and I simple love the artwork! This graphic novel is perfect for young girls from the age of 8 to 12 years, both because of the graphics and the simple, but funny and relatable stories. Dana Simpson has found the perfect formula in the friendship between little Phoebe and her best friend Marigold the unicorn. The interaction between both characters is great even at those pages where there isn’t happening much plotwise, and I love that it shows young readers that it isn’t necessarily bad to be different. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn shows a range of typical childhood events like the holidays, school assignments, summer camp, frenemies and chores. Phoebe’s childhood is quite typical except for the fact that her best friend happens to be an extravagant unicorn and she frequently runs into other magical creatures. Contemporary with a dash of fantasy,  and so much fun to read! I can definitely recommend this graphic novel for younger (female) readers.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Phoebe and her unicorn are back with more adventures and more sparkly than ever! In this fourth volume, Phoebe and Marigold talk about the holidays and NY resolutions, confront trouble at school, frenemies and messy rooms. Marigold also has a nasty case of ‘sparkle fever’, and they both go to music summer camp to meet up with Phoebe’s friend Sue and her friend Ringo the lake monster… And they are reminded that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I fell in love with this graphic novel as soon as I saw the cover art. The graphics in Razzle Dazzle Unicorn are just too cute, colorful and adorable in general! They will lure in even those children that might need a little push to start reading, and Phoebe and Marigold the unicorn will put them under their spell from the first page. The stories themselves are simple, but quite entertaining and funny. It will be easy for the younger readers to relate to Phoebe and it has an interesting underlying message that will encourage kids to use their imagination and not be afraid of being different. The glossary in the back and the final section are a nice touch as well!

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Prince – by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

brthelittleprince

Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Genre: Middle Grade, Classics, Fantasy
First published: 1943
Finished reading: May 27th 2016
Pages: 98
(Originally written in French: ‘Le Petit Prince’)
Rating 3qqq

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.

myrambles1reviewqqq

I think this is one of those cases where I should have either read this classic 15-20 years ago or have waited until I have kids of my own to read the story to… Because I didn’t enjoy The Little Prince as much as I thought I would. Sure, it’s an interesting enough middle grade story with illustrations and all, but I have to be honest and say I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. It is a quick read and I’m sure children will enjoy it, but I can’t say the story sticked with me. In fact, only a week after reading this story which was originally written in French, I’m having a hard time remembering specific details… Which isn’t exactly a good sign. I’m not saying The Little Prince is a bad read, but I do think this classic has to be read at the right time and wasn’t really ment for adults in the first place.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

A little boy decides to leave the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, even though it means he has to leave behind his precious flower. He travels from planet to planet and learns more about the strange behavior of adults through the persons that live on those planets. Afer a long journey he finally ends up on Earth and meets the writer of this story in the middle of nowhere… And the writer is so moved by this meeting later on, that he decides to write down the little boy’s story.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I have been trying to read more classics lately and The Little Prince was high on my list. I somehow never read this middle grade story when I was younger (as far as I can remember), and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this read as much as an adult. It’s not that the story is badly written and the illustrations will work perfectly with children, but I just didn’t find this classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry memorable at all. It might be the most translated book in the French language, but it sure isn’t my favorite.

BOOK REVIEW: Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper

broutofmymind

Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Middle Grade
First published: March 4th 2010
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.”

myrambles1reviewqqq

I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up my copy of Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I found. The main character Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, and her story has without doubt an inspiring message and should probably be made into an obligatory middle grade read. Out Of My Mind, not unlike another well known middle grade read with about the same theme Wonder, gives us the valuable lesson that being different or having a disability doesn’t mean that person should be discriminated or treated as a ‘lesser’ being; what really matters is what is on the inside and what that person CAN do. I agree that part of Melody’s story seems a bit farfetched; it’s hard to believe her parents or doctors didn’t think of a better way for her to communicate before with all the technology out there and famous cases like Stephen Hawking (he is even mentioned in the book itself). Still, since this book was ment as a middle grade read, I believe the focus should be on the story itself and the message it is trying to give… And I think Sharon M. Draper did a more than excellent job telling Melody’s story in a way that is both understandable for the age group, easy to read and even emotional at points. Melody’s character development is very well done, although the other characters do lack some dept (especially the ‘bad’ guys). Would I recommend reading this one? A definite yes, although I suggest keeping in mind the age group when you are reading it.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Eleven-year-old Melody is probably one of the smartest kids in her whole school, absorbing every single fact she has ever heard or seen in her photographic memory. The thing is nobody actually knows it… Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, meaning she can’t talk, walk or write down what she wants to say. She is basically stuck inside her head and most people don’t realize what she is actually capable of, including her teachers and doctors… But Melody’s wish to finally speak up for herself may finally come true as she discovers something that will help her to speak for the very first time. Melody finally has a voice, but not everyone will be ready to hear it… Or accept the fact that Melody is a lot smarter than they thought she was.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

If you forget about the sometimes not so credible circumstances around Melody’s situation and lack of development of the characters around her, Out Of My Mind is without doubt an incredible read. The story is easy to read, has an inspiring message and the character development of Melody is very well done. I loved how she reacted in one of the final scenes at school! This story will probably stay with me for a long time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the genre, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Wonder  by R.J. Palacio as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Serafina And The Black Cloak – by Robert Beatty

brserafinaandtheblackcloak

Title: Serafina And The Black Cloak
(Serafina #1)
Author: Robert Beatty
Genre: Children, Fantasy, Horror
First published: July 14th 2015
Finished reading: January 6th 2016
Pages: 304
Rating 4qqq

“Our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight.”

myrambles1reviewqqq

The first thing that convinced me to pick up a copy of Serafina And The Black Cloak was the gorgeous cover. In fact, I didn’t realize until later that this was actually a middle grade story… Although I personally like reading a middle grade book every once in a while. This story written by Robert Beatty has both an interesting setting and the perfect mix of fantasy and scary elements. It’s what you call a ‘light’ horror read that will entertain both a ten-year-old and an adult alike. The prose is really accessible and I loved the descriptions of both the mansion, forest and magical elements in the story. The main character Serafina wins over your heart in a blink of the eye and I loved the mystery around her character. The mysterious man in the black cloak is scary enough, but not too much to give the younger ones nightmares… And I really liked the ending. In short, Serafina And The Black Cloak was a more than satisfying read that I can recommend if you are looking for a middle grade fantasy book.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Serafina never knew her mother and has been growing up living in the basement of the Biltmore estate with her father. He works as a maintenance man during the day and hides away at night; nobody knows he sleeps in the basement and they don’t know that Serafina even exists. Her pa asks her only two things: she must take care to never been seen and she never has to venture too far into the forest. Serafina is not a normal child and has quite a few special skills. As silent as the night, her dad gave her the job of Chief Rat Catcher; she is able to catch rats with her bare hands… One day, children start disappearing at the estate. Nobody knows who is behind it except Serafina. Roaming around unseen that night, she saw a man in a black cloak stalking the corridors at night and taking away a young girl. She is determined to stop the man, but will she be able to even when nobody seems to believe her or can really see her in the first place?

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

Serafina And The Black Cloak is a very entertaining middle grade read that has the perfect mix of fantasy and creepy elements. The story is both accessible and well written, and just scary enough to not completely creep out the younger readers. The characters are very likeable and I loved the prose and descriptions. Definitely recommended!