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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Friday, December 18, 2020

MG Debut Warm and Uplifting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Because of his autism, Hank Hudson feels things—especially sadness—very keenly.  His hyper sensitivity has gotten him into plenty of trouble already, which is why he's hesitant to join the new girl's campaign to free her neighbor's dog.  It's not that he doesn't care about Booler's plight.  He does.  The 2-year-old pit bull, who's constantly tethered to a too-short chain, is pitiable.  But Hank has enough problems without Maisie Huang bossing him around and getting him mixed up in some ill-planned rescue mission.

When Maisie makes him an offer he can't refuse, Hank becomes her reluctant wing man in a covert operation to help Booler escape his confinement.  It's not long before Maisie's enthusiasm overtakes her good sense (again) and the kids are caught up in a plan that's quickly spiraling out of control.  Hank needs order to keep his world on an even keel.  The more chaotic Maisie's escapade becomes, the more anxious he gets.  When push really comes to shove, can he keep it together long enough to fulfill the mission?  Can they give the poor pooch the freedom they so desperately think he needs?  What if the plan to free Booler isn't really about the dog at all—what if it's the two misfits looking for belonging who are really the ones in need of rescue? 

There are so many things to love about We Could Be Heroes, a debut middle-grade novel by Margaret Finnegan.  Not only is it warm and funny, but its depictions of autism are some of the clearest, most helpful explanations of the disorder that I've ever come across.  Hank's feelings and actions seem very authentic, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that Finnegan has an autistic daughter who helped her make them so.  Both he and Maisie are wonderful characters, who are interesting, humorous, and relatable.  Their actions are consistent with their ages, which makes them feel like real kids.  In addition to likable story people (and canine), the book also features a compelling plot and engaging prose.  Finnegan uses these elements to subtly teach valuable lessons about how to be a real friend, accepting people in spite of their differences, reserving judgement, and owning up to and learning from one's mistakes.  Overall, We Could Be Heroes is simply a great children's book.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scary situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

MG Series Opener A Joyful Ode to the Ordinary

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ryan Hart always tries to see the best in people and to make lemonade out of lemons—she's a budding chef, after all!  When her dad gets a new, less profitable job, for instance, it means the family has to move to a different part of Portland, Oregon, into an older house that isn't nearly as nice as their last one.  Ryan's disappointed that everything in her new home seems tired and used-up, but she's excited when she finds a treasure that gives her a mystery to solve.  On top of that, she has to figure out what her talent is so she can share it at the school's upcoming showcase.  She can't exactly perform "being nice" onstage, especially when the mere thought makes butterflies do wild gymnastics in her stomach.  As other challenges crop up in her life, Ryan has to find ways to overcome them using her usual creativity and positive attitude.  Can she find ways to make sunshine, even on cloudy days?

Ways to Make Sunshine, the first installment in a new middle-grade series by Renée Watson, is an upbeat, positive story that is as joyful as it is empowering.  Ryan Hart has been called the new Ramona Quimby, which fits.  While she's a good girl who's always trying to be kinder and more compassionate, she becomes realistically frustrated with daunting situations.  She's also got a mischievous side that helps make her feel authentic.  There's not a lot of plot in this series opener, but that's okay.  I actually love that the book portrays ordinary days with ordinary problems in the life of an ordinary family.  You don't see that a lot in children's novels that star Black families—most of the ones I've read tackle slavery, racism, gang violence, absent fathers, the Civil Rights movement, etc.  While there's nothing wrong with taking on those big issues, it's refreshing to find a book like Ways to Make Sunshine that depicts a typical Black family dealing with normal, everyday issues.  I wish this novel had been around when my daughter, who is bi-racial and adopted, was younger.  It would have helped her feel seen.  I'm thrilled that kids who look like her—as well as those who don't—will all be able to find themselves in this delightful series.

(Readalikes:  The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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