Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Reviews | Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels


Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball by Phyllis J. Perry follows 5th-grader Jack as he deals with a couple of bullies who steal his lunch and call him Mustard (because they consider him a coward/yellow because he doesn't fight back). Jack and his buddies enjoy baseball and are excited that their team is going to the World Series. He's also been assigned a project with the new kid in class, so there's plenty of action going on in this chapter book. This is an easy-to-read engaging coming-of-age story (which I received free from TCK Publishing in exchange for an honest review) that would appeal to middle graders and be a good conversation starter about bullying.

Since I enjoyed the Hunger Games series, Robbie picked up a copy of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins for me. This is a prequel to the original series and tells the backstory of President Snow. It's a good read, although it's not what I would have envisioned and leaves the reader with a little more empathy (rather than complete loathing) for Corialanus Snow and the drive behind his need to survive.

In addition to these two first (to me) reads, I've also been reading some of the books in our collection, most of which I've read before. Some are classics, while others are ones I've had since my school years. As I(re)read these books, I'm deciding which ones stay in our collection and which ones can now be passed along.

The ones that continue to merit shelf space (and future re-readings) include:
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane was first published in 1895 and follows a young soldier, Henry Fleming, as he battles fear and cowardice in the midst of the Civil War. He eventually discovers courage as the war matures him in this well-written novel.
* Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch is a quick read about a young girl who struggles with anger and is often in trouble for misbehaving at school, but she's also dealing with lots of responsibilities at home while her mother works to provide for the family as her father is in prison. Robbie remembers his elementary teacher reading this book aloud to him, and it's a favorite of both of ours.
* The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is another classic first published in 1895. When the Time Traveller arrives in a future utopian time he wants to learn how the creatures live in harmony and return to his own time, but he discovers all is not as it appears.
* A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a lovely book about young Sara Crewe and the hardships she faces at a boarding school in London when her father passes away and the strict headmistress relegates her to a servant. It's a beautiful story about using one's imagination to make the best of any situation and has a wonderfully satisfying ending.
* Master of the World by Jules Verne follows John Strock, head inspector in the federal police department, as he investigates reports of objects moving at speeds that make them almost invisible. The book is set in the early 1900s and is a classic science fiction story. Strock is eventually captured by the man who is behind these events and wants to be master of the world.

A few books did not make the cut for staying in our collection for a variety of reasons:
* Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse by Mary Francis Shura is a good read with details about nursing during the Civil War. I enjoyed this fictionalized biography and added it to the donation box for others to enjoy.
* My small paperback copy of Candy Stripers by Lee Wyndham was falling apart and hasn't had a cover for years. I believe it was originally my older sister's book. We were both candy stripers at local hospitals in our teen years, and I really liked this story. However, I knew it was time to re-purpose it and have added the pages to my pile of ephemera for use in paper crafting. I kept some of the pages with illustrations separate and plan to create a scrapbook page about my time as a candy striper (or junior volunteer, as we were called when I served during a couple of my high school years).
* Waiting Games by Bruce & Carole Hart is about fourteen-year-old Jessie who "becomes romantically and sexually involved with her eighteen-year-old guitar teacher Michael." This is another book from my teenage years that I probably would not recommend now as it downplays the emotional consequences of teenage promiscuity.
* I had a beautiful hardback copy of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo; however, as I re-read this story of Despereaux (a mouse who lives in a castle but gets sent to the dungeon by the other mice), Roscuro (a covetous rat who lives in the dungeon), Miggery Sow (a servant girl who is mistreated), and Princess Pea (whose mother died while eating soup), I realized that it's quite a downer (although things work out in the end) and I had no desire to trudge through it again. It went into the donation pile.

I'm enjoying working through these books in our collection, keeping some, passing some along, and repurposing others. Have you re-read any of the books in your personal library lately?


  1. Enjoyed your reviews. I have read The Little Princess & I think they made into a movie & a re-do of the original movie. I have a few books that I kept during our book purge a few years back & now I only buy books that I have borrowed from the library more than once. Re-reading some books is like visiting with old friends. Top of my list of re-reads is the Thirteenth Tale, this book really grabs me every time & I want to know more. I've re-read What the Psychic Told The Pilgrim a number of times, she describes friendship so well plus it is a real journey she took. Of course there is The Hobbit & Lord of The Rings & no list of re-reads would be complete without adding all the Harry Potter books & now I add all of Louise Penny's books to my visiting with old friends.

  2. I remember the Tale of Despereaux being a bummer too, and as I recall I think my volume was an especially good quality book as well. That author must have insisted upon it. (I would too if I were ever published!) We are so overwhelmed by our book collection, that I have vowed to make it a priority to purge in 2022. I have started with the smallest volumes, mass market paperbacks and have a box of those to be donated along with lots of old DVDs. I have more difficulty parting with any normal size book whether hard or soft cover. Since the pandemic started I am doing mostly audiobooks, I need to force myself back to the bookshelves next year.


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