middle grade fiction

All posts tagged middle grade fiction

The Girl Who Walked On Air – Emma Carroll

Published February 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Fans of Frost Hollow Hall will love this epic adventure, where courage takes many different forms.

What did I think?:

The Girl Who Walked On Air is the wonderfully talented Emma Carroll’s second novel for children, aimed around the middle grade reading age but… (and this is a big BUT), I truly believe that her books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially those adults who love an imaginative plot and beautifully drawn characters like Louie Reynolds, our heroine for the story.

I first came across Emma’s writing with her fantastic debut, Frost Hollow Hall which completely captured my heart and I can’t recommend highly enough. Well, if she hasn’t gone and done it again with The Girl Who Walked On Air! Set in the grounds of a Victorian circus it features a young girl called Louie who was abandoned by her mother at Mr Chipchase’s circus and is looked after by the kindly Jasper, a trapeze artist and her guardian angel. She has big dreams of being a performer, or to be exact – a “showstopper,” on the tightrope wire. She practices constantly, watched over by her loyal little dog Pip, but Mr Chipchase is determined that she is only good enough to sell tickets and mend costumes.

This sends her and new arrival at the circus Gabriel, straight into the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved, who manages a rival circus and insists on only the most death defying stunts to bring in the punters. As Louie learns more about who she is as a person, where her heart lies and just what lengths she will go to in becoming a star, she also discovers a lot about friendship and just who can be trusted in a fickle world where money and pure greed is, sadly, the only yardstick by which success is measured.

Once again, Emma Carroll has given us some brilliant characters which have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Louie, just like Tilly in Frost Hollow Hall is beautifully drawn. She is impetuous, independent, brave and indeed flawed but ever so realistic as a young girl which in turn, made her infinitely more loveable as a result. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with Jasper and her friends Ned and Gabriel and was touched by the dark side of her past and her desperation to find out where she came from and where she belonged. The setting of the circus that the author chose was just as stunning and so descriptive that I felt I could picture events scene by scene, character by character, which led to many difficulties putting it down!

As I mentioned earlier, please don’t be dissuaded that the author writes for children, I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by adults just as much. The Girl Who Walked On Air took me right back to my childhood when I used to just sit in a room and read right until the book was finished (and if this went past my bedtime, it was continued under my duvet with a torch!). I didn’t need the torch as an adult, but I certainly read from the beginning to the end in one sitting and loved every moment.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – DECEMBER READ – The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair by Lara Williamson

Published December 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her. Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

What did I think?:

I’m always a bit sad when a year of Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit comes to an end as we enjoy it so much! For the final book of the year we chose The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair, partially because of the brilliant title and partially because of the great reviews on GoodReads. Apart from that, we really didn’t know much about it. It was only when I read the “about the author” part at the epilogue of the book that I realised that this was the author who also wrote the book A Boy Called Hope which has also has some excellent reviews and I am still to read (but very much looking forward to it now after this book!). But honestly, I cannot praise this book enough and it was a very welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it, ending our Kid-Lit year on an undeniable high.

Just to say, the synopsis above (from GoodReads), does not do justice to how great this story is. Our main character is a young boy called Becket who lives with his little brother Billy and his father and is still trying to cope with his mother’s death after she gave birth to Billy. They had previously been living with a woman lived Pearl, who his father was seeing but for some strange reason their father packed them all up in a hurry and moved them to a dingy little flat at some distance from their old house. They have been forbidden from any form of contact with Pearl, have to start at a new school and are, plain and simple, miserable. They were hoping with Pearl in their lives, they had the chance to have a “second mother,” and finally become a family. The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair shows how Becket deals with this latest upheaval in his life as he struggles with the grief for his mother, tries to forge a relationship with his father and get Pearl back into their lives and makes sure that his little brother and his new friend, Brian the snail are well looked after.

This book makes me want to do a lot of love-heart emoji’s. It is so beautifully written and absolutely hilarious which I completely wasn’t expecting. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud, but this one – oh my goodness. The characters are so warm and loveable, especially Becket and Billy, the latter of whom is so painfully honest but in such a funny way, like small children often are. The armchair in the title was the favourite chair of the boys mother and used by them to remember her and when Billy has bad dreams, the two curl up in it and Becket tells him a story of his own that calms him down and allows him to sleep again. The whole book is very fairy-tale esque (another bonus for me!) and filled with the most beautiful, emotional moments that would help anyone struggling with grief themselves. This is a wonderful story that I’m so glad I read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating:

four-stars_0

BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017 – THE TITLES ARE REVEALED – COMING 2ND JANUARY!

Blog Tour – Guest Post by Andy Briggs, author of Gravity (The Inventory #2)

Published October 26, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Eeek! Think that’s a monster? Nope: it’s a person. What terrible weapon could do this…? Errr – well, that used to be top-secret. Problem: it’s not quite so secret anymore. Dev messed up big time the day he let the ruthless Shadow Helix gang into the Inventory. What is the Inventory, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the secret lockup for all the deadly battle tech the world is NOT ready for. Which is why letting it get nicked was a REALLY BAD IDEA. Now the Shadow Helix have Newton’s Arrow: a terrifying weapon that messes with gravity, causing … well, you get the picture from this book’s cover. Dev and his mates HAVE to get it back – even if it means crossing the entire globe. To stop this evil, no trip is too far!

Hi everyone and welcome to a very special post on bibliobeth today. The second book in The Inventory series, Gravity has been released (for a review on the first book, please see my post HERE) and the author, Andy Briggs has kindly agreed to provide a guest post about his favourite scenes in the novel. Hope you enjoy!

My Favourite Scenes in Gravity – Andy Briggs

Writing any story appears to be, in my experience, a case of creating the characters and plot, then try to wrap them around various scenes and scenarios that have been festering in the back of my mind. The problem with that is the new story often surprises you by demanding scenes of its own, meaning those long-planned events need to be parked and perhaps used elsewhere.
This is particularly pertinent when it came to writing The Inventory: Gravity. I not only had a fairly clear idea of where the story was heading, I also had the luxury of scenes and plot elements that I wanted to put in the previous book (Iron Fist), but just couldn’t fit them in. Of course, most of those scenes then got pushed into book three, which I have just completed…

The Inventory series is one of those global adventures that requires my characters to visit exciting locations – and many of these locations are ones I have visited. There is nothing more inspirational than wondering around a potential location and think what could I do here?
An early scene in Gravity takes place in Tokyo. All the locations, buildings and little details are all real, which was a great help in structuring Dev’s little adventure there. I would love to tell you more about the sequence… but as it’s integral to the plot, my lips are sealed!

Another moment in the book comes when Dev, Lot and Mason have to sneak into… a place I can’t mention… using some technology called ‘Phantom-Suits’. Now, you may try to hazard a guess about what these suits do… but I’m pretty confident that you will never get it exactly right. As with everything in the Inventory there is always a sting in the tail. However, when writing this sequence I was torn between really wishing I could do it in real life, and realising that I would be utterly terrified to take the first step. Writing the sequence was one of those moments writers enjoy as they find themselves cringing at the dire consequences their characters are about to face and, because of the nature of the technology involved, it was a joy to imagine new perils that I have never seen in a book before.

The more I think about this, the harder it is to reveal anything that won’t become a plot spoiler… you’ll just have to read the book and then ask me!

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the Hero.com, Villain.net and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events.

Website: http://www.andybriggs.co.uk
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aBriggswriter

A huge thank you again to Andy Briggs for giving up his time in writing this guest post for me today. Gravity (The Inventory #2) was released on 6th October 2016 by Scholastic Books and is available from all good bookshops NOW. If you’re interested, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour?

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32571679-gravity
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gravity-Inventory-Andy-Briggs/dp/1407161806

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published September 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’t it all about?:

Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the goose boy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I picked The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase on a bit of a whim when we were researching our list for 2016 but oh my goodness I am ever so glad we did, as this little gem seems to have flown completely under my radar prior to now. Even better, I’ve now discovered that it’s part of a series (The Wolves Chronicles) of twelve books set in the same fictional early 19th century world where wolves have entered Britain through a new “channel tunnel,” terrorising the occupants of more rural areas. Oh, I’m definitely going to be exploring this series! The author herself wrote over one hundred books for adults and children in her lifetime, winning the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature.

This is the story of two cousins, wealthy Bonnie Willoughby and her poorer cousin Sylvia who comes by train to live with Bonnie when her Aunt Jane cannot physically or financially support her any longer. Bonnie has a huge heart and a fiesty spirit and is delighted to welcome Sylvia into her home, taking her firmly under her wing and showering her with love. Bonnie’s parents are due to go abroad for a while due to Bonnie’s mothers ill health and so her father has appointed a guardian, Miss Slighcarp to look after the children in their absence. However, Miss Slighcarp is not all she seems and has grand (and very evil) plans for Willoughby Chase that categorically do not involve the children. Before long, both girls are shunted off to an orphanage where the owner, Miss Brisket makes them work their fingers to the bone to earn their keep on very little nourishment. Meanwhile, the dastardly Miss Slighcarp and her partner in crime Mr Grimshaw have completely taken over Mr Willoughby’s wealth, house and livelihood with wicked plans to ensure that he and his wife never return from their travels.

Chrissi actually finished this book before I started it and she immediately texted me and told me how much she loved it, comparing it to A Little Princess (one of her all-time favourite books). This was high praise indeed and I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to love it too. Just how much however, I certainly wasn’t prepared for! First published in 1962, this book reads like every classic piece of children’s literature should and has everything going for it so that it can be enjoyed by future generations for I hope, many years to come. We have wonderful characterisation – from the good (Bonnie, Sylvia, Pattern the maid) to the downright nasty villainous types (Miss Slighcarp, Mr Grimshaw) and a thrilling plot that is so enthralling you can easily read this book in one sitting. It’s the sort of book that’s perfect to read as Autumn is closing in, with a nice blanket, cup of hot chocolate and even a little shiver down the spine as you read about two loveable little girls and criminals you’re just praying will get their comeuppance.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Miss Slighcarp, Bonnie and Sylvia – illustration by Pat Marriott

Banned Books 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – Bone Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith

Published September 28, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert.

One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures…

Humor, mystery, and adventure are spun together in this action-packed, side-splitting saga. Everyone who has ever left home for the first time only to find that the world outside is strange and overwhelming will love Bone.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our ninth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Bone, Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith

First published: 1993

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: political viewpoint, racism, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I can’t believe this graphic novel is over twenty years old! It was first published in 1993 which doesn’t seem that long ago to me and I don’t think attitudes have changed too much in the past twenty years so, as with most of our banned books, I don’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged when it was originally published. I was struggling with reasons why this book had been challenged as I read it and I deliberately don’t look at the reasons why until I write this part of the review. To be honest, I’m pretty dumbfounded. The violence – yes, I get to a point…but political viewpoint and racism? I must have been reading a different book?

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I was really searching for a reason why this book was banned. I read it over a week ago and nothing has stuck in my mind for a reason why it should be banned. Political viewpoint and racism- I really couldn’t pick out ANYTHING, so if anyone does know why then please enlighten me! Yes, there were certainly some violent scenes but nothing overly shocking, although I can understand why some educators wouldn’t want it in their classroom or libraries.

How about now?

BETH: In a open, liberal society (we would hope!) there’s even less reason for any book to be banned or challenged (the exception is if it is being considered as a taught text for some age groups in schools). As I mentioned above, I struggled with two of the reasons for this graphic novel being challenged as I don’t really remember any instances of either political viewpoint or racism in the narrative! The only thing that made me a bit wary of it being available for all age groups is that some of the monsters in it, known as the rat creatures, are a bit scary and I can imagine it being a bit too frightening for certain children. I still think it should be available in case they fancy scaring themselves a bit though!

CHRISSI:  I have said before that censoring a book can make children (and adults alike) more keen to try it out. Like Beth, I understand that the violence and scariness might be unsuitable for certain children, but in the main part, I don’t see that it should be banned now. Children can see much worse on the TV, in the news, or computer games.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a bit of a strange one for me. I liked the artwork and some of the characters like Thorn and her grandmother were very endearing, (others very irritating) and I did laugh out loud at a couple of points in the story. However, I wouldn’t rush to read the next one in the series. Apparently Neil Gaiman is a fan though, which makes me slightly more curious to read on.

CHRISSI: I didn’t really like this book. I wasn’t hooked by the story. The artwork was good, but it didn’t capture my attention.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of October when we will be discussing The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – JUNE READ – The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Published July 3, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Beneath the kitchen floor is the world of the Borrowers — Pod and Homily Clock and their daughter, Arrietty. In their tiny home, matchboxes double as roomy dressers and postage stamps hang on the walls like paintings. Whatever the Clocks need they simply “borrow” from the “human beans” who live above them. It’s a comfortable life, but boring if you’re a kid. Only Pod is allowed to venture into the house above, because the danger of being seen by a human is too great. Borrowers who are seen by humans are never seen again. Yet Arrietty won’t listen. There is a human boy up there, and Arrietty is desperate for a friend.

What did I think?:

The Borrowers was one of those classic children’s books that I never took the opportunity to read when I was younger although I am aware of the gist of the story, mainly through the film that was made with British actor Jim Broadbent. One of my favourite films when I was younger (and a bit of a guilty pleasure!) was Honey I Shrunk The Kids and I remember being fascinated about how frightening the human world must look to someone no bigger than an ant so I was looking forward to seeing how this particular world would be portrayed.

The borrowers are little people who live in “normal-sized” humans houses, mainly under the floorboards or behind furniture to escape notice if they possibly can. Of course, they have to live and eat the same way as you or I do so they designate a member or members of their family as borrowers who sneak out whilst the house is quiet and borrow items that they need from the regular humans. This can include bits of leftover food or drink, or things they can find useful round the house like cotton reels to use as stools, blotting paper to use as carpets or even postage stamps which they can hang as portraits on their walls.

The particular family we learn about in this story is the Clocks, (named as they live behind the large grandfather clock in the hall) consisting of father and mother Pod and Homily and their only daughter Arrietty. Arrietty has never known life above the floorboards of their little den although she can occasionally see a bit of the garden and the sunshine through the grating in the wall. Her mother and father are very protective of her but soon realise that they have to be honest and warn her about the dangers of being seen by the humans that live upstairs.

Far from being horrified though, Arrietty is enthralled by their tales which sound far more exciting than the life she currently leads. She begs her mother and father to let her go out borrowing one time with her father Pod to experience what life is like beyond the clock. Although extremely worried, her parents reluctantly agree and Arrietty gets to see this whole new magical world where everything is much larger, much more thrilling and indeed much more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. However, when Arrietty herself is seen by a young boy who is living at the house at the time, she realises the small world she has become so accustomed to has the potential to change forever.

This was a lovely story to read and I particularly enjoyed the illustrations in my Kindle version by Joe Krush which added  an extra bit of magic to an imaginative and exciting plot. Arrietty was probably my favourite character in the narrative – I have to admit, her mother Homily annoyed me slightly and the young boy in the story was also ever so slightly irritating although I warmed to him a lot more when he started helping the Borrowers out as the tension rose and their lives became threatened. I can imagine a lot of readers falling in love with the independent, brave yet soft-hearted Arrietty and I admired her resilience as everything she has known comes crashing down around her. There are a lot of great things about the story that young children will love and Mary Norton certainly writes in an entertaining way that kept me engaged until the end.

For Chrissi’s fabulous post, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Banned Books 2016 – JUNE READ – The Adventures Of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants #1) by Dav Pilkey

Published June 27, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Pilkey plays with words and pictures, providing great entertainment. The story is immediately engaging – two fourth-grade boys who write comic books and love to pull pranks find themselves in big trouble. Mean Mr. Krupp, their principal, videotapes George and Harold setting up their stunts and threatens to expose them. The boys’ luck changes when they send for a 3-D Hypno-Ring and hypnotize Krupp, turning him into Captain Underpants, their own superhero creation. Later, Pilkey includes several pages of flip-o-ramas that animate the action. The simple black-and-white illustrations on every page furnish comic-strip appeal. The cover features Captain Underpants, resplendent in white briefs, on top of a tall building. This book will fly off the shelves.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our sixth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

JULY – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl- Tanya Lee Stone

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

The Adventures Of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants #1) by Dav Pilkey

First published: 2000

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No way! In no shape or form! Not only because of the relatively recent publishing date (2000) but because of the frankly stupid reasons that are given for it being challenged. I’ve just finished this entertaining book for younger readers and am struggling to remember where exactly the offensive language was and as for the “violence,” it’s all portrayed in the best possible way, in the form of a superhero who fights back against the bad guys. For goodness sake, kids see worse than that in children’s television cartoons!

CHRISSI: Not at all. Yes there’s some fighting but it’s no worse to what children see on TV, As for offensive language? Really??? I was trying to think of what I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading to my class and there was absolutely nothing that I could see. Roald Dahl used ruder sayings than Dav Pilkey and I’ve used his work all year. It’s absolutely ridiculous!

How about now?

BETH: Again, see previous answer! This is a really fun read that had me chuckling at many points and is a book that I think children will just love. Amongst the text are some great illustrations and I really enjoyed the parts near the end where by swiping back and forward on my Kindle I could make a cartoon come almost to life. I took a picture of the page just before the book begins – perhaps this is the reason why it may be challenged? 😊

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CHRISSI:  I really don’t get why this book was banned. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? I know I’d read it to children. They’d love it. I honestly can’t think of a single reason why it would be banned.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: It was great! The humour throughout is fantastic and I loved the characters of Harold and George, two small boys who love playing pranks and designing their own superhero in the form of Captain Underpants. It had everything going for it including an exciting plot with some very mild peril and a very happy ending. Brilliant children’s book!

CHRISSI: It was so much fun. It didn’t take me long to read at all and it had me smiling throughout. I loved our main characters and the trouble they got up to. I’d love to read it to my class.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

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Join us again on the last Monday of July when we will be discussing A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone.