All posts by pinkjellybean11

Little Brothers & Little Sisters vs. Just Because

Since this year is probably going to be just as weird and different as the last two, I’ve decided to try something new for the ol’ bloggy: once a month, I’m going to get a random “you choose for me” bag from my local library. (Which, incidentally, is closed due to COVID, but is still offering curbside pickup because librarians are rock stars).

From that bag of randomly selected books, I will randomly select two stories to review. This month, I have chosen:


Title: Little Brothers & Little Sisters
Written & Illustrated by: Monica Arnaldo
Published By: OwlKids Books, 2018


Title: Just Because
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault
Published By: Candlewick Press, 2019

I’m going to read each book once and then react. Ready? Ready! Let’s do this!

First up, Little Brothers & Little Sisters. So, right off the bat I really liked the art. It’s really friendly and bright and cute. It’s eye-catching and colourful. A+ for the art. The story is really, really simple: little brothers and sisters just want to be part of your world, older siblings. They want to get into your clubhouse, sit with you on the couch, not have to pull you around in a wagon.

(Just a quick interjection here: as an older sibling, was I doing it wrong? Like, was I too soft on my little brother? I never prevented him from joining me in our treehouse, he always had the best spot on the couch and he never, ever pulled me around in a wagon or anything else for that matter. I pulled him! Dammit, I think I seriously blew this ‘I’m the big sister so do what I say’ thing. I wonder if it’s too late now?)

Anyway, the good news is that even though the little sibs in the story don’t get to do WHATEVER they want (unlike my little brother, apparently), they do get older sibling love/help when it’s needed. So there’s a sweet ending to the story. Aw.

Do I think my kiddos would’ve liked it as little ones? Maybe as REALLY little ones. The story would’ve been too thin for them after the age of about three. Also, with their rivalry, I’m not sure how well they could relate to these siblings. Sigh. Working on that.

Next up: Just Because.

The art is good. I like how it goes from fairly monochromatic on the room pages, with only the circle behind the question being coloured in, and that the circle colour predicts the background/dominant colour on the following double-page spread. Nicely done!

The story: guys, I have a confession to make. I’m a giant nerd. That is, I love science and non-fiction stories. I watch SciShow or Crash Course every night on YouTube. I often fall asleep to Hank or John Green’s voice. I love facts and knowing the answers to questions.

That said, I’m also a creative writer who makes stuff up for a living. So, I love imagination as well. The thing that kind of irks me about this book is that I get it but I don’t LOVE it.

Here’s why: the story is about a little girl who is stalling at bedtime. She keeps asking her dad legit questions, like: Why is the ocean blue? What happened to the dinosaurs? What’s a black hole? And, instead of giving the kid legit answers, the dad totally makes things up.

Which, you know, I get it. Dad is tired. He wants to go downstairs and watch some kind of sporting event on television. Maybe have some wine? Probably. He doesn’t really want to get super in-depth on the topic of bird migration or the lifecycle of deciduous trees. I feel you, Dad. I FEEL YOU. But…little nerd-Jess is struggling with the lack of answers. As a kid, I would’ve been annoyed with my own father for just making stuff up. I would’ve been all “Ha, ha! The dinosaurs floated out to space. Hilarious. Now, what really happened? For REAL.”

And all THAT said, I know I’m not the target audience. This *theoretically* could be a good jumping-off point for a discussion with your kid about real vs. fantasy/good information vs. bad information/people being experts vs. people just randomly having theories with no actual basis in reality.

Would my kids have liked this book? Well, I think they’re both too much like me. They would’ve listened patiently and then been like “Okay, once more…this time, just the facts.”

Little Brothers & Little Sisters: 4/5 stars

Just Because: 3/5 stars

Bear is a Bear


Title: Bear is a Bear
Author: Jonathan Stutzman
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published By: HarperCollins, 2021

Since it’s November, I’ve almost finished my Christmas shopping (I’m a bit late this year, to be honest). I always try and get Karl a gift that he doesn’t expect/that will probably make him cry (happy tears, not tears of bitter disappointment).

This year’s choice was obvious: a Dan Santat book! The perfect gift for anyone!

Okay, fine. So I kind of bought it for myself too. But mostly for Karl!

The book is…well, put it to you this way: I almost ugly-cried at Chapters.

The book follows the story of a little girl’s bond with her teddy bear. As someone who has loved many bears (but one more than all others), I can 100% relate to the deep and important relationship a bear provides. The text is poetic, simple, beautiful. The art is, obviously, the best ever. I read the book for the first time at the store, and it nearly killed me not to openly sob. Then I tried reading it at home, thinking I wouldn’t be so affected the second time.

Yeah, I was. And I have been every time after that. Its emotional impact isn’t lessening, you guys. This is Love You Forever all over again. This is the epilogue to Knuffle Bunny Free on repeat.

This book will always simultaneously bring me tremendous joy and tremendous longing for my children when they were younger.

Gah, this review has taken a turn for the sad. I’m sorry, readers. What I really want you to know about this book is: it’s fantastic. It’s adorable. It’s fabulous. It’s so, so sweet and lovely. And it’s a little bit sad, but also hopeful. It’s basically the perfect book to give to a parent, because it’s really the journey a parent takes. It’s growing up, it’s letting go.

And it’s got a bear.


A Kid is a Kid is a Kid

Title: A Kid is a Kid is a Kid
Author: Sara O’Leary
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Published By: Groundwood Books, 2021

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’ll know that we’ve reviewed another book by Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng — A Family is a Family is a Family (linked here). We were HUGE fans of that first book and, great news, we’re fans of this one as well!

Lily and I read this one for a bedtime story last night. Lily had the following observations/comments to share:

  1. I really love the art in these books. The illustrator is awesome! (I agree. The art is so watercolour-y and beautiful.)
  2. I don’t know why that kid cared if the other kid was a boy or a girl. Just ask a person their name and go with that. (Right on, kiddo.)
  3. I relate strongly to the book kid and the short kid. I’m both of those. (Accurate.)
  4. Vivi knows identical twins!
  5. I like that kid’s shirt. It is exceptional.
  6. Pumpkin Pie is a great dog name. We can’t have a dog, but I think I’d name a tortoise Gumdrop. (We are not getting a tortoise. Not yet, anyway. Now that she’s gone and come up with the perfect tortoise name, it’s kind of hard to say no.)
  7. The grandmother’s house is kind of sad and happy. She’s talking about it like she doesn’t go there anymore.

As for me? I liked the subtle things, like referring to one of the characters by ‘their’ as opposed to him or her. I liked the fact that the kids all looked different and had different interests. I liked the overall gentle feeling of this book, that matches so well with A Family is a Family is a Family.

I think all kids are feeling the pressure/anxiety right now when it comes to returning to school. My kids are doing online learning (at least until they’re vaccinated), and they’re worried about that (last year was homeschool, so this year will be different). A book like this one is a great way to remind them that kids are all just looking for a kind friend and someone to play with. If you’re a teacher, pick up this book. If you’re a parent, check it out. Your kiddo will enjoy it, I promise.

Lily’s Rating: 5/5

Mama’s Rating: A+


I know I’ve complained before about my kiddos growing out of picture books. And trust me, I’m not going to be okay with that, like, ever. But one thing I HAVE enjoyed about their reading tastes expanding is that we get to discuss books in more detail. I also get to find out what my kids really love about certain books.

One of the graphic novels I was most excited to find out about is Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter. Allergies are near and not-so-dear to this family. Vivi has terrible animal allergies (we’ve yet to find an animal that DOESN’T make her sneeze), Lily has seasonal allergies (and celiac disease, which isn’t exactly an allergy, but definitely impacts our day-to-day lives), Karl is allergic to pollen and mold and I’m allergic to everything under the sun, except chocolate.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating that last part. But honestly, not by much. My allergies are wide-ranging and insane. I can’t eat so many things. Animals are awesome, but they all make me sneeze (except for fish, which I will never own because fish all hate me and die upon arriving at my house). Allergies are a thing we’re all familiar with, is what I’m saying.

I bought this book for Vivi and she devoured it in an afternoon. Today, I’m going to interview her and find out exactly what she thought of it.

What was the book about, in a nutshell? (Allergy humour. Nutshell. Heh.)

V: This girl, Maggie, who really wanted a pet, but couldn’t have one because of all her allergies.

What was your favourite part of the book?

V: I really liked the part where, at the end, they go to the aquarium, and that’s where Maggie finds her true passion.

Which is?

V: Studying fish! She wants to be a marine biologist.

What was the most believable part of the book, from an allergic-person’s point-of-view?

V: Like myself, who has pretty much the same allergies as Maggie, the part where her parents made the executive decision that she should get allergy shots. It’s very believable. If she has that many allergies, I get the point.

But you don’t get allergy shots.

V: I know, but she has allergies to everything under the sun.

Who was your favourite character in the book?

V: I like Maggie best, of course. I felt for her. She went through what I’ve gone through, which is having bad allergies when your siblings want a pet.

If you weren’t allergic and could have any pet in the world, what would you choose?

V: I’d probably have a cat. If it was a tabby, I’d call it Tangerine. If it was a Russian Blue, I’d name her Sapphire, after the precious stone.

Who do you think should read this book?

V: A person who has allergies, like Maggie. And a person who wants to know that they can find their passion, even with allergies. Allergic was so unique. Even though it wasn’t meant to be sad at all, I got a little teary-eyed at the end.


V: It was just so powerful. I can understand how it wouldn’t be that powerful to a person who didn’t have as many allergies. But since I do have such bad allergies to so many animals, I understand it and I really do love the book.

What rating would you give it out of five?

V: 5 stars!

Summer Reading List

Well, it’s summer time again. I can’t believe how fast this year is going…wasn’t it just LAST summer? We’ve been homeschooling for a year, and it has been…really good, actually. It’s funny because so many people have said that this past year has been hard, schooling-wise.

But…we’ve been really lucky.

My kids like to learn. That’s a bonus. They don’t have any learning difficulties. Blessing number two. My dear, wonderful ‘other-mother’ (a strong, brilliant woman who has filled the mother role for me many times over the past 27 years and is now filling in as my daughters’ beloved auntie/other-grandmother) has been teaching them French. My awesome mom has been teaching them art. Karl has stepped in for a computer lesson or two and I’ve been handling everything else (with the love and support of lots of fabulous people in my life — including their auntie, one of my chosen sisters, who happens to be an elementary school admin with knowledge of great curriculum suggestions).

This summer, after the official ‘schooling’ is over, we’re going to focus on reading a LOT. My girls love books (hooray!) and they’re stoked. Without further ado, this is our Summer Reading List, 2021:

For Vivi:

Matilda – Roald Dahl
Another Word for Home – Jasmine Warga
Wonder – R. J. Palacio
Allergic – Megan Lloyd
Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy
Fly on the Wall – Remy Lai
Small Mercies – Bridget Krone
Before the Ever After – Jaqueline Woodson
Something to Say – Lisa Moore Ramee
Martin McLean, Middle School Queen – Alyssa Zaczek
Front Desk – Kelly Yang
The Whispers – Greg Howard
The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani
The Jumbies – Tracey Baptiste
I Can Make This Promise – Christine Day
The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
Weird Little Robots – Carolyn Crimi
The Wild Robot – Peter Brown
Savvy – Ingrid Law
11 Birthdays – Wendy Mass
Holes – Louis Sachar
My Last Best Friend – Julie Bowe
Out of My Mind – Sharon M. Draper
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares
Anyone But Ivy Pocket – Caleb Krisp
Fortunately, The Milk – Neil Gaiman
Summer of the Gypsy Moths – Sara Pennypacker

For Lily:
Bink & Gollie – Kate DiCamillo
Just Grace – Charise Mericle Harper
Heartword Hotel – Kallie George
Olga – Elise Gravel
Dory Fantasmagory – Abby Hanlon
Ruby Lu, Brave and True – Lenore Look
My Life in Pictures – Deborah Zemke
Princess Posey – Stephanie Greene
Babysitters Little Sister – Ann M. Martin
Absolutely Alfie – Sally Warner
Heidi Heckelbeck – Wanda Coven
Judy Moody – Megan McDonald
Frankly, Frannie – A.J. Stern
Gooney Bird Greene – Lois Lowry
Daisy Dawson – Steve Voake
Stella Batts – Courtney Sheinmel
Violet Mackerel – Anna Branford

Will we get through ALLLL those books in eight weeks? Well, I hope so. Heck, I’ll be happy if we get through half of them. I can’t wait to review most/all of them! Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got some books to reserve at the library.

Happy summer!

A Series of Unfortunate Questions

Today, I have the great pleasure of interviewing Vivi and Karl about their thoughts on A Series of Unfortunate Events.  They’ve been working their way through the series throughout this pandemic, and they’re ALMOST done all 13 books. Here’s what they said.

Q: So, how far along in the series are you?

V: We’re almost done book thirteen.

Q: If you had to give me the elevator pitch for the series, what would it be?

K: The Baudelaire orphans need to discover the mystery of their parents’ lives and demise.

Q: What has your favourite book been so far?

V:  That’s tricky, but…The Reptile Room (book 2) was really good. It:
A) had the “Ah ha!” joke. (Basically, it’s trying to explain what Sunny says. She says ‘ah ha’ and all she means by ‘ah ha’ is ‘ah ha.’)
B) It made you understand who the characters were.  It brought out where the series was going to take itself.

K:  I would say that my favourite book was The Carnivorous Carnival (book 9). For the first time, it took the story in a truly new direction. It began to blur the line between what is noble and what is treacherous.

Q: Who is your favourite character in the series?

V: Sunny…or Violet. But Sunny, probably.
K: Violet. I think you can connect with Violet the most. Obviously, Sunny is the funniest, but you can understand Violet and the difficulty she’s going through.

Q: Who is your least favourite character in the series?

V: Mr. Poe makes me frustrated, because if you were a good guardian, you’d listen to the Baudelaires and understand what they were going through, and not just sit there and let Count Olaf do whatever he wants.

K: Mr. Poe…I mean, obviously he does what he’s mean to do: he lets them down every time. He represents adults not believing children. He’s just so awful. He’s so oblivious. Every time he shows up, you’re like <anguished wail>. At the end of Grim Grotto, where they ignore him and they walk away from him, it’s such a good scene.

Q: Was there any plot twist you didn’t see coming? Like, a shocking moment?

V: For me, it was that Sunny told Count Olaf to burn down the hotel.
K: The Baudelaire orphans burning down the carnival. That’s a bit of a shock.

J: There seems to be a lot of burning things down.

V: That’s the entire thing.
K: The fire plays a massive role in the story. All the safe places are burnt down.

Q: What’s the ending going to be? What do you think?

V:  This is tough, because Lemony Snicket hasn’t revealed any secrets so far. I think the Baudelaire orphans will sail away from the island, with Kit Snicket and the Quagmires on their side. And that’s when they’ll reveal all the secrets they have.

K: It’s incredibly hard to know. Because the thirteenth book goes in such a different direction…I think they’re finally going to reveal the truth about their parents, and what they did to Count Olaf’s parents.  But the question of how, exactly, Lemony Snicket is going to end this and what they’ll do after could be anything. We do know the Baudelaire orphans survive, but we don’t know about Count Olaf.

Q: Who do you think this book is for?

V: I say, it’s for older kids who like having a humorous element to their stories, but they would be okay with sadness. At the beginning, there was a LOT of death. They haven’t really had a moment of happiness.

K: I would say, it is for kids who like complex stories, kids who really love playful language. A key concept in the book is the fact that people who read books are honorable and noble and people who don’t read books are treacherous.

J: I fully agree with that sentiment.

Join us next time when we get Karl and Vivi’s reaction to the ending of the whole series!

A New Day

Title: A New Day
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: The one and only Dan Santat!
Published By: Dial Books, 2021

Before the review, first a disclaimer:

I know I review a LOT of Dan Santat’s work on here, and maybe I should just rename the whole blog “Jess Reviews a Dan Santat Book,” but I couldn’t very well NOT review his latest picture book, right?


So I’m going to!

I saw A New Day was out. (I think I read about it on Twitter. )(Slight side note: I follow a whole ton of artists/illustrators/publishers on Twitter, but have fewer than 30 followers myself. BUT within that group, I have several well-known artist/illustrators following me. So that’s nice!) As soon as I know about a Dan Santat creation, I must own it. So I ordered it (and a few other books so it wouldn’t be lonely in transit).

And then it arrived (cue the chorus of angels).

There are several things I really love about this book. But I want to talk at length about the most significant one: it doesn’t follow ANY of the ‘well-known’ picture book writing conventions. Which are:

  1. Your manuscript must be no more than 32 pages long or your book will explode. Amazon pegs this one at 48 pages. 48 glorious pages in which to tell a story. (More angels singing).
  2. Less is more. Write less, kids will like it more. Now, look, there are TONS of picture books where minimal text works really well. It just always bugs me (as a soon-to-be published author) that you’re expected to tell your story in the tightest way possible. This book does NOT do that, and that’s refreshing.
  3. Look and see what other books are on the market that are like your book. And DON’T say yours is unique, because there’s got to be SOMETHING like it out there. Okay, but what if mine IS unique? Like, say, A New Day? I’ve never read anything like this, and I’m not sure what you might compare it to. A LOT of publishers/agents want you to tell them what your book resembles in your cover letter, but what if it REALLY is one-of-a-kind?
  4. Don’t have too many characters. Kids can’t keep track of a big cast. This book has seven main characters and a TON of side characters. There are always a LOT of people/animals/personified days of the week on each page.
  5. Make sure the vocabulary and concept are young enough for your audience. Well, sure. But also, this book talks about Sanskrit, Elbridge Gerry, and herrings. So…maybe this rule doesn’t really count either.

I think the fact that Brad Meltzer literally broke ALL the rules for this book makes me like it even more. Sometimes (again, as a writer speaking here), I get a little down when it comes to trimming ALL of the flowery language from a manuscript. I get that picture books are more poetry than prose (generally), but sometimes (just sometimes) the cuts feel too deep. It feels like whoever edited this book just let Brad Meltzer WRITE. Yay!

So what’s it about? Okay, here’s a quick overview:

Sunday is tired of being taken for granted, so she quits. Then the days of the week have to replace her by auditioning others to be the new day.

The new days that audition run the gamut from “Fun Day” all the way to “FirepolesSlidingIntoPoolsofCottonCandyDay.” The book builds from simple ideas all the way to a fever pitch of auditions. Then, just when it seems no day will be suitable (though Lily was quite partial to “Caturday”), Sunday gets thanked and returns to work.

Whew. That was a close one.

The writing is funny and silly and the pictures are, well, perfection of course.

Of course, Dan Santat could illustrate a refrigerator repair booklet and I’d review it and love it, so…you know, I’m a bit biased.

If you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, keep them laughing and break up the monotony of this ongoing nightmare of a pandemic, please get this book. You will giggle at the absurdity, laugh at the weirdness and, just for a moment, forget what’s happening in the world outside.

Mama’s review: 5 cotton candy pools/5

Lily’s review: Every day is Caturday!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade


Title: The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Author: Justin Roberts
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published By: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

You guys, this has been a tough year. When I say ‘year,’ I mean ‘365 days.’ Not 2020, not 2021…a full on 12-month-time-period. We’ve been…well, mainly at home. During the summer, we had a bit of a reprieve, but then September came and things started to go pear-shaped. Karl and I talked about whether or not to send the kids back to school this year, and ultimately decided that homeschooling them was the best idea for our family. I have a background in primary/junior education, so I’m relatively qualified.

Anyway, all that said: when I read The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, I felt nostalgic. Super nostalgic. Look at all those kids at school! You can see their little faces. They seem so carefree. We’ll get back to that, I know. At some point, I have faith. It’s just…it’s been such a long time since we’ve had that experience.

But heck, you didn’t come here to read about my pining for the pre-COVID-world. You came here for a book review…and review I shall!

You probably know how much I love Christian Robinson and his awesome illustrating skills. You Matter is one of my current favourite picture books (if you haven’t checked it out, you need to do that now). I asked for The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade for Christmas because it was illustrated by Mr. Robinson. I’m collecting his work, book by book.

So, let’s start with the art: it’s great, as per usual. Here’s what I love most:

  1. The kids are incredibly diverse. When I was a kid (eighty-five-billion years ago, according to my kids), I went to school in Scarborough (now part of Toronto). My school looked like the school in the book. When I was a child, I realized that picture books in the library didn’t feature kids that looked like my friends. I’m so glad that’s changing.
  2. The art is colourful and the colours are vibrant. Most of the backgrounds are white, and that lets the colours pop and stand out.
  3. I just adore Christian Robinson’s style. It’s simple and effective and gorgeous.

Now, the text. I honestly had never heard of Julian Roberts before this, although according to the jacket copy, he’s a star in the family-music genre. I’m guessing it’s because of his song-writing skills that he decided to go with a rhyming text. I have mixed feelings about this choice.

On one hand, there are some solid rhymes and clever lines. On the other hand, sometimes I felt the meter was a bit off.

I liked the overall message of the story: one kid can make a big difference. I do have a bit of trouble with Sally seeing situations of bullying and not helping/alerting an adult, but…I also recognize that’s a really big ask of a really small person.

So, overall I’m going to give this one a 4/5. I loved the art and liked the text. It’s a solid book.

Next time: I promise, more cheery and less dreary.

Stargazing with Guest Blogger, Vivi!

See the source image

Title: Stargazing
Author: Jen Wang
Published By: First Second, 2019

Hello, Vivi! Welcome to the ol’ blog. Thanks for agreeing to help me out and be a guest blogger. Today, we are going to discuss the last graphic novel you finished. Stargazing by Jen Wang.

First, what was your overall impression of the book?

V: I thought it was amazing! The author didn’t leave out anything. You really got to know the characters. I think it was one of the best books I ever read.

J: Which character did you like the best?

V: I really liked Christine and Moon. I liked Christine because she was a really sweet girl. It seemed like she had a really good life. I liked Moon because she was a very funny character and she wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies.

J: Do you think it’s realistic that two characters that are so different would be friends?

V: Yes, I do.

J: Why?

V:  I think anyone can become friends.

J: What was your favourite part of the book? (I liked the part where Moon punched the little kid. I know, I know. I’m not supposed to say that. But, realistically, we’ve all known a kid like Gabriel. I’m not saying a punch in the face is the right way to go, but I’m glad Moon followed her heart.)

V: Well, I sort of agree with you on that one.

J: What part of the book made you feel things or worry?

V: When they found Moon’s brain tumor. Moon had to go to the hospital, and she was one of my favourite characters. I was worried something bad would happen to her.

J: What did you think of the ending?

V: I think the ending was perfect, because it establishes that Moon gets better, and that she and Christine are going to stay friends.

J: What did you think about the part about angels and everything?

V: I think that made Moon feel special. I think she was upset when she lost that ability.

J: What did you think of the art?

V: It was beautiful. It was one of the best parts of the book. It was detailed, it was colourful. I loved it!

J: Who do you think this book is for?

V: Probably nine, ten and eleven year olds. Tweens.

J: Do you have anything else you want to say about the book?

V: My favourite author (Raina Telgemeier) put a comment on the cover. That made me want to read it, for sure.

J: Thank you for your feedback, Vivi! You’re a great guest blogger. What shall we review next time?

V: Twins (by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright).

Mama’s review: 5/5 stars for Stargazing

Vivi’s review: ditto

Dragon Masters

You guys, know what’s hard for a mama? When your kids get too old for picture books. It happened a few years ago with Vivi, and now it’s happening with my tiny, little Lily. LILY!

The thing is, she’s going to be six in nineteen days (we have an official countdown going), so I get it. Picture books are so last year (*sob*). Now, before you get as depressed as I am about the situation, it’s important to note that she’s not against ALL picture books. Big-kid picture books are okay. Her current favourite is The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base. (Which, if you haven’t read it, is something you should definitely check out. Graeme Base is an outstanding illustrator and The Eleventh Hour is remarkable. I LOVE the riddles in it, all the hidden messages and pictures…it’s delightful in every way.)

Image result for dragon masters

But. At bedtime, she’s asking for something new. A CHAPTER book. Specifically: The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West. Karl read this to Vivi at around the same age, and she also really enjoyed it. I have some…thoughts. Most of them positive!

  1. The series is a light read. The vocabulary is simple, the plot is simple, the characters are simple…it’s…well…simple. Which is not to say ‘bad,’ in any way. It’s great for the age group it’s written for. Lily could probably read these books mostly independently. She just likes hearing my character voices. Especially the wizards.
  2. The books aren’t terribly long. They’re full of pictures (black-and-white), and the chapters are only a few pages each. Again, for the age group (or reluctant readers), this is excellent.
  3. There are a lot of characters to keep track of. I feel like I’ve reached my mental capacity for cast members at this point. We have Rori, Vulcan, Kepri, Ana, Drake, Worm, Heru, Wati, Bo, Shu, Petra, her hydra (I forget its name), Maldred, two good wizards, King Roland, the queen (Rose, I think), Carlos, the lightning dragon, Heru’s mom and dad, and Bob the seagull. That’s. A. Lot. Lily and I both forgot who Bob was from one night to the next. I can’t handle any more character introductions!
  4. I feel like the characters are all quite nondescript. I once read an awesome Oatmeal comic (shout out to The Oatmeal) about why Bella was so relatable in the Twilight series. He suggested that she’s so generic, she’s like a pair of pants anyone can put on. I think the kid characters in this story are somewhat similar. Other than their vague physical appearances, what do we really know about their backstories, other than a few sparse details? None of them has a distinct voice. They all speak and act pretty much the same, save for Rori’s occasional bad-assery. This only becomes a problem when you’re honestly not sure which kid is which, because there are so many of them.
  5. The stories can be read out of order or in order…it’s easy to pick up the thread of the story. It’s like the good ol’ BSC (yup, another BSC reference). Each book was a sort-of continuation of the lives of the girls in the club. BUT…if you happened to pick up, I don’t know, #83 before #64, you weren’t totally lost. Because of chapter two, that’s why. In each BSC book, chapter two was dedicated to giving the reader a run-down on how the club worked, who was in the club, and any major recent developments in their lives. (Kristy’s mom married a millionaire! Dawn’s brother moved back to California! Dawn and MaryAnne’s Mom and Dad got married! Jessi still likes ballet! Mallory still sucks!)
  6. The stories offer just enough suspense to keep Lily interested, but not enough to scare her before bedtime. THAT is really important. I was a bit worried when we started reading the series (despite Vivi’s assurances that it was ‘not scary at all’). But after book one, I knew we were going to be A-okay.

So that’s what we’re reading. We’re up to book seven, and Lily really does like the stories. Will she ask for me to re-read the series over and over, as she has The Princess in Black and The Owl Diaries and Bad Kitty? I’m not sure. But as long as she’s enjoying The Dragon Masters, I will be happy to read them. And sneak in a picture book here and there as well.