Tag Archives: genre:school stories

The Hate U Give Review

the_hate_u_giveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Balzer + Bray, 2017. 978-0062498533

Synopsis: Starr Carter and her childhood friend Khalil are on their way home from a party when the pair are pulled over by a police officer. The traffic stop takes a turn when Khalil is shot and Starr becomes the only witness in what rapidly escalates into a hate crime. In the aftermath of Khalil’s death, Starr must decide whether she will use her voice to speak out or to stay quiet and deny that she was even there.

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for my online book club.

Why I finished it: Given current events, this book and its subject matter hit me as a rather poignant commentary on how society treats each other. As a white girl that grew up in middle class neighborhoods, I didn’t relate to Starr, a 16-year-old black girl who lives in a neighborhood known for its crime and drug dealers. Yet, the differences in our races and backgrounds didn’t prevent me from understanding the struggle Starr is going through. Even before the shooting turns things upside down, she had to find a way to separate her home life and her school life – she lives in a questionable part of town but her parents have enrolled her and her siblings in an affluent high school whose primary population is rich white kids. Plus, her boyfriend is white, something she knows is not going to go over well with her father. The numerous cultural references to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Starr’s favorite show), Harry Potter, Friday, and a slew of (mostly) nineties rappers help ground the reader – Thomas is giving us something familiar to latch on to in order to better relate the circumstances in which Starr finds herself. I thought it was especially apropos that Thomas used Tupac lyrics to push the main theme of the story: “…The Hate U-the letter U-Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the [butt] when we wild out”  (Thomas, 17). Pretty mind-blowing. So, really, if we think about all the forms of hate in the world, I think that it’s definitely a combination of nature and nurture, because we learn from both our immediate family and from our neighbors and friends. It makes one think about what we ourselves are putting out into the world that could end up biting back at us later. Granted, we cannot always show the compassion and kindness that we would like, but I still feel it’s an important message in a world that seems to be turning on its head as of late. It’s a powerful story about bravery and our ability to cope with tragedies in our lives.

Other related materials: Want by Cindy Pon; Flame in the Mist by Renèe Ahdieh; The Inexplicable Logic of My LIfe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera; 27 Hours by Tristina Wright; Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson; When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon; Queens of Geek by Jen Wildle; Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Dear Martin by Nic Stone; March books by John Lewis; Monster by Walter Dean Myers; Slam! by Walter Dean Myers

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Bad Machinery, Vol. 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor Review

Bad-Machinery-6Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016. 978-62010-351-7

Synopsis: With school out for summer holiday, Charlotte, Jack, and Linton are enjoying a long deserved rest from the rigors of academia and indulging in the delights of staying up late and getting up even later. But when a local celebrity ends up in the hospital after being found wandering around town (apparently out of his mind), the three young sleuths find that perhaps their holidays won’t be so lazy after all.

Why I picked it up: Because amazing-ness.

Why I finished it: This volume starts with a case already in progress, but due to “failed back-up procedures” the reader is only privy to the conclusion of the mystery. And I read through this entire volume not really giving much thought to the fact that Allison gave us only part of a mystery before delving into the main portion of the story…except that the end of the one story ends up being important for the other. But what really mystified me was that it wasn’t explained where Mildred and Sonny were spending their holiday until halfway through the volume when Mildred just sort of shows up at Lottie’s door. It was clear that there were members of the group that were out of town, but the only explanation given at the onset was where Shauna was spending her holiday. Or I missed something. Who knows. The reader gets to meet more of Linton’s family in this novel, and we learn where Linton may have gotten some of this appetite for solving mysteries and why he’s so desperate to find a mystery for he and Jack to work on during their summer break. It’s been interesting to see the group sectioned off a bit in the last couple of books so that we get some more in depth character development, which is one of the things I love about this series. Allison is growing his characters so that they are able to stand on their own and not just identify with being in a sextet. The ending gets a little bit MST3K, but even in its absurdity, it’s still 100% believable.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever Review

tucker_grizzwells_worst_week_everTucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449469108

Synopsis: Tucker Grizzwell is having a bad day…times seven. The school bully is out to get him after Tucker accidentally flung a dead beetle at him across the room. He’s got detention for almost blowing up the school during chemistry class. He misses the class field trip to the Planetarium because a kid got sick ON HIM on the bus. And when he tries to confide in his friends about the Jaws and Claws weekend with his dad, they don’t really seem to get it. Plus, there’s this Jaws and Claws weekend with his dad where he’s supposed to learn the skills every grizzy needs to know, and Tucker is less than enthused about having to kill his own dinner.

Why I picked it up: I think everyone has their own worst week ever – maybe more often than not!

Why I finished it: Most readers will identify with Tucker’s family issues and middle school woes. Adult readers will get a kick out of the interactions between the parents than younger readers, but I think that is one of the things that I enjoyed about this comic/book. We’ve all had to endure the unexpected surprise of a pop quiz or running into our mom at the mall when we told her we were studying or doing something silly to impress someone you like or even dealing with the questionable content being passed off as food in the cafeteria. Readers identify with Tucker’s need to be his own bear, to forge his own path that perhaps doesn’t include raiding campsites or dumpster diving like his dad. It’s easy for us to see why Tucker and his sister Fauna are confused by the words of wisdom offered to them by their father, especially when he seems to talk in circles. What endeared me immediately to the story and the characters was that it reminded me of the comics I loved reading in the newspaper growing up. I always looked forward to Hagar the Horrible and For Better or Worse and Zits because even though I didn’t get all of the humor, I loved following the daily lives of these imaginary people that were almost sort of kind of going through the same things I was going through. It’s a comic that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, especially when we think things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Other related materials: Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott; AAAA!: A FoxTrot Kids Edition by Bill Amend; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Oh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens; Garfield comics by Jim Davis; Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy Review

bad-machinery-2Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101148

Synopsis: Toddlers are going missing all over Tackleford and witnesses report they are being carted off by a mysterious beast. Meanwhile, another mystery beast appears in Mildred’s backyard – but at least this one appears to be friendly…and polite…and able to drink tea from a cup? Is it in any way related to the ‘dogs’ the girls drew with Mildred’s supposed magic pencil? Can Jack and the boys find the beast before Jack gets too beat up by the school bully? Will Shauna and Jack ever have a date?

Why I picked it up: I loved the first volume and was eager to read more about Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, Jack, and Sonny’s mystery-solving exploits

Why I finished it: Allison has created a wonderfully diverse world filled with marvelously fleshed out characters whose interactions remind us of our own adventures and misadventures. Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Jack, Sonny, and Linton could all very well be people we know, and the reader is instantly drawn into the group, looking for clues about what currently plagues their small town. There’s somewhat less interaction between the girls and the boys in this volume, since each of them seems to have stumbled upon their own separate mysteries. The bit with Jack being bullied is poignant without detracting from the main plot. Bullying is a big deal no matter your age group, and Allison addresses the issue in a way that seems to spark something in the reader. We can get called out on the fact that we’re in trouble, but it’s often hard to admit that we need help, that we can’t handle it ourselves. I also appreciated that the adults are just as snarky as the teens, walking a fine line between being a disciplinarian and being an advocate. It gives us a different look at our own lives and our own world without detracting from the fun and quirky nature of the comic itself. And again, there’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book to help readers with the idioms of British English.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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The Quikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face Review

rat_with_the_human_faceThe Quikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang

Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 978-1419714894

Synopsis: Lyle isn’t a bad kid. He’s a good kid that happens to find himself in bad situations. Like when he and his friends Dave and Marilla go to a shut down research lab in search of the rat with the human face. It sounded too cool to pass up, and the Quikpick Adventure Society was looking for something else to explore. Plus, this could potentially top the poop fountain. But then they get caught in the lab and trouble ensues. Big time.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to read more about the (mis)adventures of Lyle, Dave, and Marilla.

Why I finished it: It sounds funny to say that the story is action-packed, but there seems to be quite a bit going on in a short amount of time. Lyle wants to tell things like they are, to explain what happened and how everything got so blown out of proportion. Don’t get me wrong: he makes his case pretty well, but the reader can’t deny that while what they did was totally gutsy, it was also pretty reckless. I mean, yeah, the consequences were pretty bad, but things could have been a lot worse. The report reads like a letter from a friend, complete with Dave’s doodles, some photographs, and personal notes from Lyle that give us a little bit more meat to the story. The plot is paced well; Angleberger keeps the reader moving at a pretty fast clip up until the very last pages. But what really sells it for me is the wit and the humor. If the story had been just what was told in the report, that doesn’t feel like enough justification for what the Adventure Society did and how they inevitably got disbanded. The additions of the Rhyme-Jitsu, the slow-startup camera, and the sort of tongue in cheek commentary on consumerism is what makes us really engage in the story. We feel like the Quikpick Adventure Society could be us and our friends trying to do something exciting in a town that is anything but. It’s a fun and funny story about friendship, danger, and how some adults just don’t get it that readers of all ages can enjoy.

Other related materials: The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; The Quikpick Papers: To Kick a Corpse by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! by Tom Angleberger;  Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Star Wars: Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown;  How to Eat Fried Worms by Judy Blume; Freckle Juice by Judy Blume; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; The Ninja Librarians books by Jen Swann Downey; The Creature from My Closet books by Obert Skye; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Guys Read books edited by Jon Scieszka; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

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