Two Middle Grade Cybils

Look at me reading all of the Cybils. (Well not all of them, obviously.) These two were good!

I started off kind of grouchy because the main characters in The Evil Wizard Smallbone are all male. All of them. Oh sure, we have a few solid female supporting characters (four, I think) but, bah humbug. Women and girls can be “evil wizards,” too. Whatever. The story was fun and I did like every single character, even if most of them were male. I loved the bookstore and the seals and wolves and the coyotes. Also loved the ending.

I loved everything about The Firefly Code except the ending — and that’s only because I am way too invested in these characters lives and I want to know what happens to them next! (The second book just came out but I can’t reserve it at my library yet and I’m grouchy about that.) This is the story of what happens when you start engineering your kids… the good, the bad, and the downright painful. Science is amazing. Technology is amazing. We can do a lot of good things with both — where you draw the line though, that’s the kicker, isn’t it?

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of …etc.

I finally read a book from the Cybils shortlist! Can you believe it? We’re almost nine months into 2017 and I think it’s my first. Ugh. Oy. I miss YA, middle grade, and children’s fiction. Sigh.

Worse yet, I did not love The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice. In fact, I came close to saying I hated it. TW read it first and when I asked her how it was, she said it was “OK” but she made that face that means she didn’t/doesn’t like something. I see now why she felt that way.

I wanted to love it. It’s a CYBIL for goodness sake. I liked the kids, I liked the dragon and the goblin and even the ogre. The bad guys were well-written bad guys. But… the slavery storyline.

I understand why the author decided to write this (sort of) but I just kept picturing some middle school or late elementary school kid reading this and I do not think it was the right story. It certainly wasn’t the right ending. I mean do we really want to teach kids that the white powerful man only abolishes slavery because it won’t have any negative effect on his wallet or his kingdom because his kingdom doesn’t really have slaves anyway? (Yes, I know this is actually fairly true but the way it was told in the story actually celebrated the King’s decision without pointing out the problems with his decision. It’s a very shallow dive into this very complex issue.)

Also, the whole part of the story where the progressive white girl and the goblin (ugh) had to explain to the slave boy why slavery was bad and convince him (trick him?) into believing he shouldn’t be a slave boy. Really? We really need to perpetuate the idea that slaves liked being slaves and without the benevolent white folks dragging them out of slavery they’d still be there?

OK I didn’t mean to write all of this… clearly, since it’s a jumble. I could write more but I won’t because … whatever.

The adventure was fun. The kids, the dragon, the goblin, (and even the ogre) were fun. If you could strip out the underlying badly told aspects about slavery it would be a terrific book.

The Sweetest Sound

I have no idea why The Sweetest Sound was on my library cart. Maybe I impulse picked it up from some random display at the library? Or maybe I saw it on some book list and reserved it? Weird.

It’s a middle grade fiction about a very shy girl and her hidden talent (singing) and overcoming fears and growing up. It was … ok. Not great, not horrible.

The Lotterys Plus One

I’m not sure what I expected from a children’s book written by Emma Donoghue but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t The Lotterys Plus One. Oh sure, I expected an LGBTQ family but this family? Not so much, lol.

There are FOUR parents, a lesbian couple and a gay couple. They have quirky names like PopCorn and CardaMom. The kids are all named after trees, except for Briar… she changed her name to Brian, and while she is adamant about NOT being a GIRl, she’s also not saying she’s a BOY. Gender is hard, or really simple — take your pick, both are true.

Besides the fact that there are eight zillion people in this book, all with quirky names, and you have to try to keep track of who is who you also have to deal with the fact that the family has weird names for EVERYTHING. Family meetings are called “fleetings,” the back porch of the house is called the “derriere,” the extra bedroom is called “spare oom,” something isn’t excellent, it’s egg salad… this is all a little overwheling. It’s fun, but on top of the all of the weird family names, it’s messy.

In fact everything about this book is messy, which is why you should absolutely read it.

The family is super messy and quirky and I kind of love them, even if I could do without the weird/cutesy names. The children came to the family in a variety of ways and have a variety of ethnicity, personalities, (and some issues.) Some were biological to some of the parents. One has what’s probably ADHD, one is a shaken baby.

And then there’s the grandfather… the one who has messy problems of his own, the least of which is that he’s an old white conservative dude from a small town in Canada and he things families should be made up of one man, one woman, and hopefully the same race/ethnicity. He also thinks people should behave in more traditional ways. And, there’s more… he is the plus one in this story, and he is what drives the plot line.

Donoghue throws a lot into this one tiny book and in the end, I loved it. I could do with fewer odd names/language choices but I get it. The family is quirky. I’ll take them as they are (and TW says there are or will be more books, so I’ll read them.)

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics

Here’s where I talk about missing our beloved Glenview Public Library

We wanted to listen to the new Mr. Lemoncello book on audio because the first one was so much fun. So, I looked at the Alachua County Library to reserve it on CD. They had no CD versions. So, I reserved it for Overdrive. It arrived, fairly promptly but the check out time was HORRENDOUS… a week? 10 days? I don’t know but NOT long enough. No big deal, I thought because I can just renew it, like I could with Overdrive books checked out from the Glenview library.

Hahaha. Not so much.

I had to actually RE-RESERVE it and wait for it to be re-delivered to me. THAT WAS ANNOYING and FRUSTRATING and I MISS THE GLENVIEW LIBRARY SYSTEM. (Though I do also appreciate Alachua County’s library… the auto-renew thing is awesome. I love that.)

Anyway, about Mr Lemoncello’s Library Olympics… totally fun. Obviously. I highly recommend it.

9 Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books from the Cybils Shortlist

I’m not linking all of these because OMG, too many…

– A Pig, a Fox, and a Box — was fine, really simple and easy.

– Don’t Throw It to Mo! — was ok, too, but this confused us because it’s rated “one letter” above A Pig, a Fox, and a Box and it was significantly harder. I think we don’t understand the Scholastic level program anymore. (TW was troubled by this one because the Mo doesn’t play (football) very often (meaning, he’s a benchwarmer)…)

– In, Over and Under on the Farm was cute. I like the flaps and will see about reading it to JMP when he arrives for Christmas.

– Ling & Ting: Twice As Silly was ok. I didn’t love it. Kind of boring, really.

– Picture Perfect (Sofia Martinez) was better than I expected it to be. I like the use of Spanish in the book (and the glossary in back.)

– Big Bad Detective Agency was pretty ho hum, really. I think I’m just kind of tired of these types of stories. lol.

– Ranger In Time #1 troubled me SO MUCH. A dog who is just playing around in his back yard, minding his own business and digging holes, as one does, when he’s suddenly transported in time and… he’s a dog, he spent the whole trip across the Oregon Trail looking for his people and trying to do a GOOD JOB so his person would find him. Good lord that was troubling to me. People time traveling is fine, but animals? NO. Don’t do that. Gah.

– Dory and the Real True Friend confused me. LOL. I was confusing Dory with Violet Mackerel and was trying to figure out why this felt so out of character to the previous books. Hahaha. Once I realized my error, I settled into it. The thing is, I don’t particularly like the Dory books. I mean, they’re fine. But Dory doesn’t speak to me. lol.

– Lulu and the Hamster In the Night was fun. I like Lulu and Mimi. I like them a lot. I like their grandma, too.

3 More Cybils

Now, all that’s left are poetry, early readers, some non-fiction and… yea. A whole lot of books. Anyway, on with the tracking of the ones I have read…

Bone Gap was not the book I expected it to be. Which is impossible for me to explain (I’ve tried, TW doesn’t get it, lol) so I didn’t quite love it. I did like it, though. I think.

I did like Inheritance of Ashes but not as much as I expected to. I found both sisters to be a little… annoying, which made it hard for me to really care whether they could sort out their relationship.

Shadowshaper is the one I had heard almost nothing about (shocked, not shocked, sigh) and had no expectations about. I loved it. Even when I was cursing the damn #patriarchy (which was all the way through it.) Loved this one because I loved Sierra (and her grandmother, even if we only got to know her toward the end.)

2 Cybils Shortlist, Middle Grade SciFi/Fantasy

I wasn’t really looking forward to either of these books but ended up enjoying both, though one more than the other…

I really loved The Dungeoneers. Some of the characters were really complex and that’s something I like in middle grade fiction. The good guy was a bad guy who maybe was also a good guy except he wasn’t. And, that was hard. I hope I can read the next one in the series. Someone remind me…

Mars Evacuees was the book I was saving for last because I wasn’t enthusiastic about it at all. I don’t really like “space fiction” all that much. (Don’t hold it against me, y’all.) And, true to form, TW liked this one more than I did. Something about the tone didn’t feel like it was middle grade. TW disagreed. I don’t know — it took me a long, long time to care at all about any of the characters and the ones I cared most about were not the “Mars Evacuees.”

The Fog Diver

My expectations for The Fog Diver were low. Another post-apocalyptic/middlegrade/ya/adventure book. Ho hum? OK not ho hum, because I LIKE this genre but still… turns out, this was one of the better ones.

Really clever cultural references gone wrong, gone very very wrong. Likable characters. A plot that moved fairly quickly. Mostly it was the cultural references that got me.

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Off-topic but not really: I’m considering not doing the Cybils Challenge next year. Or ever again. It’s not that I don’t love these books, I do. But, so many of them are series’ books and I just can’t keep up with the series’ while also reading a bunch of newly introduced series. When I try, I find myself reading nothing but YA and Middle Grade fiction/scifi/fantasy. I need to find some sort of balance. So… stay tuned, this may be the last full shortlist challenge I attempt. Figures, since odds are high that I’m not going to successfully complete it, for the first time – ever.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I suspect I’m in the minority here but I liked Harry Pottery and the Cursed Child. I did. I really did.

It’s not a perfect book. There are a lot of things that left me shaking my head. But, all things considered, I wasn’t really disappointed. I do suspect it’s better as a play than it is a book but either way. I’m not sorry I read it. I’d read another.