To and Again/Freddy Goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks

To and Again

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade lit

Synopsis: Freddy the pig is tired of living in a small barn during the winters.  But his friend the rooster suggests migrating to the south just like the flying birds do, so he and a couple friends decide to take off and soak up some rays while the winter comes to the north.  Along their way, they make some friends, some enemies, some money, and even ore–and that’s just before they hit Florida!

Review: This was such an entertaining book.   Apparently this series was super popular back in the day (and back in my childhood–Tori, I’m looking at you!), so I was truly surprised I didn’t hear of it sooner than I did.  This was a fun little romp along the east coast, and it was great watching Freddy and his pals meet the president, outwit some crocodiles, and find some gold.  This is one of the few books from the past that has actually….aged really well.  So, kudos to you, Freddy!

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Middle grade lit

Synopsis: Ivan’s lived most of his life inside a cage, pleasing those who come to visit him.  He’s best friends with a stray dog, and loves listening to his next door neighbor, an elephant.  But people begin losing interest in him and his work, so his boss makes a big decision: he gets a baby elephant.  But this elephant misses her mother, and he promises his next door neighbor to do whatever it takes to make sure this little one doesn’t live the same life as them.

Review: Did you know that this book was assigned to me for my humor class?  Did you know that I cried?  A lot?  I just want you all to know what you’re getting into: it’s a heartwarming story, it’s sweet, it’s endearing, but it’s based on real life atrocities that will utterly shatter your heart.  Animals don’t belong in cages, even if Ivan is complacent with the idea.  And animals certainly shouldn’t be expected to perform, even if Ivan is complacent with that too.  And thus we begin Ivan’s realization that there might just be something more out there, that that something more might even be something fulfilling.

Cue waterworks.

This was such a moving story, one filled with animal and human stories interweaving and interconnecting at just the right moments.  Every character has value, even the antagonist of the story, a point which argues that everyone is simply doing what they can in order to survive and stay sane in their current position in life.  I think that overall, this was an incredibly well-rounded book that did a magnificent job at not only shedding light, but letting younger audiences know about what non-human tragedies there are.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Frog and Toad are Friends

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook

Synopsis: Frog and Toad are friends.  Always have been, always will be.  But sometimes they get into a few personal trials and tribulations that test their self-esteem and patience.

Review: I love these gay amphibians.  So much.  So, so much.  I think I can speak for most when I say that the Frog and Toad books bring back such memories, especially of elementary school, and how in light of events how CLEARLY Frog and Toad loved each other in ways much more tender and soft than just being friends.  The illustrations are just so sweet, and the stories are so simple yet so wonderful and evocative.  I’m so glad I reread this–it’s affirmative and loving all in one.

McBroom Tells the Truth by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Kurt Werth

McBroom Tells the Truth

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, picturebook, tall tale

Synopsis: McBroom always tells the truth.  He’ll tell you about the watermelons in a minute.  But first, he has to tell you about how he came to purchase a farm with soil so potent that crops grew in a matter of hours…

Review: I read this for my humor class, and our first unit was on tall tales, and boy was this a tall tale if I’ve ever seen one.  Exaggeration of the totally normal, the use of an oral storytelling narration, and the illustrations all lend to the McBrooms and their fantastical farm.  This was just truly enjoyable, and made me nostalgic for all those tall tales I’d heard as a kid!  This is a great place to revisit those memories.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade lit, children’s lit, classics

Synopsis: After a sickness spreads in India, a motherless Mary must go to England to stay with a distant relative in his manor.  There, she becomes begrudging friends with the servants, and begins investigating the mystery of the ghostly moaning down the hall as well as the secret garden that has no key.

Review: I honestly can’t believe I’d never read this before?  I also can’t believe that I’d seen the movies YEARS ago and couldn’t remember any of it except for when Colin stands on his legs in front of the gardenkeeper.  So, that being said, I really enjoyed reading this as an adult.  Once again this is another book that I’d somehow missed growing up, so to experience it later in life fills me with a nostalgia for something I’d never experienced.

The Secret Garden is filled with intrigue, mystery, and quite a bit of hot-headedness.  And much of this is paralleled with the secret garden, too.  Of course, nature has much to do in this novel–for the more time the children spend outdoors in this garden, the better they become, both in health and temperament.  And the characters are lovable too, despite their initial shortcomings, so in the end, I was rooting for them all, and I was so glad that they all became great friends and that they all could surprise each other and count on each other.

I’m just so glad that this book is still popular today (I think??  I hope so), so that I could have had a chance to read it.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Rebecca

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade lit, children’s lit

Synopsis: Rebecca is sent off from her lively home to her aunts’ house–a beautiful brick house that they rule over with an iron fist.  But through Rebecca’s time in school and church, she grows into a lovely young woman who not only changes the hearts of her community, but perhaps her aunts as well…

Review: This was SUCH a darling book.  I’m not sure if I would have picked it up if it weren’t for school, but I’m so glad I did.  This was rife with young mishaps much different and more feminine than characters such as Tom Sawyer (for obvious reasons, but I feel like they’re within the same line).  Her mishaps are nowhere near as grave as they seem, but having that bright-eyed young wonder, they seem like the worst things that could possibly happen…so lessons and didacticism are rife within these pages, but they make for pleasant laughter and genuine love and care for Rebecca Randall.

I love her so much, and she’s one more young female character that should be imitated for her literacy, her love of learning, and love of life.  Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm brought out some of the best in me whilst I was reading it, and it’s clear to me why this was in the same unit as Little Women for my class.  I definitely recommend visiting this old classic and revitalizing it in today’s curriculum!

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade lit, historical fiction

Synopsis: A folktale and reality combine through one single harmonica.  If one harmonica can save three lives, then three sisters will be released from their servitude–but only if this harmonica can travel safely through Nazi Germany, old-time America, and empty farms after Japanese internment.

Review: I didn’t expect to be so emotional when I got to the end.  I’ll say that right off.  The beginning seems a little fantastical, but overall fun, and then you get into the heavy stuff.  Nazi Germany, orphan boys, farm workers…it’s a lot for one book to take on, but it does it well.  Each voice is unique and daring and brave, and they all have one thing in common: music.

I wasn’t exactly sure how everything was going to weave together, or if it even would, but…dang.

Overall though, I learned plenty more about these time periods than I’d previously known, and everything tugged on just the right heart strings at just the right time.  This is definitely for lovers of historical fiction and middle grade novels–Echo will definitely resound for a long while afterwards.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Broadview Edition)

Little Women

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: YA Literature, classics

Synopsis: The March family is wanting for money, but they never want for love or warmth.  Filled with four girls, a servant, a mother, and a father away at war, all these girls want is what’s to be expected of young girls of their age, from socials to dresses to pianos to limes.  But through parts one and two, these young girls grow up to be little women, and learn what it means to have hardship and strife, as well as each other.

Review: This is now the second time I’ve read Little Women, though in a vastly different format–the first time I read this was as a free ebook, and now I’m reading it in a physical academic edition!  This book never fails to disappoint me.  And, as I read this academically this time around, my review will also be somewhat academic.  Fortunately, discussing the didacticism and the syllabi and the self-consuming and self-satisfying nature of this text didn’t dilute my love of it.  In fact, all of these new things I’d never seen before only helped me to further engage with this novel and my kinship with it.

Little Women just makes me feel so homely, and makes me want to be a better person with each and every chapter.  I know a lot of people nowadays dislike the didacticism and the subtle internalized misogyny but dang…the March girls are just truly nice people when it comes down to it, and there’s nothing boring about them. This book will continue to be close to my heart.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Genre: Children’s literature, LG literature

Synopsis: Marlon Bundo wants a little bunny boyfriend, and he finds one.  The only problem is that Mike Pence won’t let him get married…

Review: My coworker and I came across this book on the To Be Shelved cart, so CLEARLY we read it together.  What a cute story, and kindof nonfiction, too!  The illustrations are lovely, the message is inspiring, and overall, it’s a great fuck you to Mike Pence.  What more could you want?

The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

The Circle

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Genre: YA Literature, fantasy, modern fantasy

Synopsis: After Elias commits suicide, something strange happens.  A blood red moon shines over Engelsfors, and 6 teenagers gather together under its light.  They are the chosen ones, and learn about the impending apocalypse they must fight against.  The problem is, they’ve only just gotten their powers–not to mention, their principle is killing them off one by one…

Review: The cover really attracted me, so what can I say, I got my greedy little hands all over this book.  As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’m still pretty new when it comes to the genre of fantasy, but I’m just LOVING modern fantasy.  In fact, I’d have to say that this book is akin to The Raven Cycle, but is probably a distant, Swedish cousin.

The language seems a little distant at first, though that’s likely because it’s translated, and translated books frequently have a very distinct tone to them.  This tone, though, works sooo incredibly well, what with how distant the girls feel in relation to their apocalypse problem, and in relation to each other.

And speaking of the girls, I LOVE THEM ALL.  Each girl is vastly different, bringing unique personalities and problems to the story.  And what I love even more about this book, is that besides the fact that they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with the evil powers in Engelsfor, they’re also just grasping what to do in their own lives, which really helps round these girls out as characters.  In fact, if Elfgren and Strandberg want to write a book of these girls just doing random, mundane things, I’d definitely read it.

This overall was such a fun read, and it’s easily one of my favorite series that I’ve read this year.