Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Sisters of Luna Island by Stacy Hackney (Middle Grade Fantasy Book Review)

 I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

The Sisters of Luna Island
by Stacy Hackney
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
on April 12, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Length: 336 pages
Ages: 8 - 12 years

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Synopsis:
Little Women gets a Nevermoor twist in this bewitching novel about a young girl tasked to break a centuries-old curse or risk losing her beloved sisters. 

Twelve-year-old Marigold Lafleur is the last of a long line or aromages: witches who blend scents into practical charms using aromagic. But ever since a terrible accident injured her father and damaged Luna Island, Marigold and her sisters, Birdie and Lou, have vowed to abandon their family legacy and mama's way of life. Shunned by their neighbors and overlooked by their parents, Marigold relies on her big sisters above all else. 

But when Marigold discovers a secret curse that threatens her family, her sisters can't stop the impending danger. It's up to Marigold and her best friend, Sam, to uncover the origins of the curse and break the spell. To do so, she must learn to trust her instincts and believe in her own unique magic or risk losing her beloved sisters forever. 


My Thoughts:

This is a fantastic coming-of-age story filled with magic, mayhem, and familial life lessons! 

Marigold LaFleur lives with her mother and three sisters on Luna Island, as did all her ancestors before her. Like their mother, Marigold and her sisters, Birdie & Lou, are aromages and can make magic charms or potions by mixing scents and can also sense unknown things through scents around them. But using their gifts can have consequences, called vexes, and Marigold and her sisters have vowed to never use their aromagic again after the earthquake that injured their father and caused him to leave the island. 
Marigold and her sisters, unfortunately, seem to always be around when something goes wrong and they are quickly ostracized by their friends and community while their mother becomes more and more withdrawn from their daily lives. When Marigold learns that their family is cursed and that she is destined to lose one of her sisters, the few people she has left, she is determined to find the source of the curse and end it once and for all, but she will learn many lessons along the way. 

This is being promoted as Practical Magic meets Little Women and I have to agree, in all the best ways!
It's filled with magic and mystery, sisterly love and feuding, and a familial curse that must be broken to save a family and island community! 

There are some tough life lessons in this story that can also double as CONTENT WARNINGS, such as parental separation, child abandonment, bullying, and more. 
 Marigold struggles with guilt over her father's new absense, her mother's withdrawal, and the building tension between her older sisters, as well as the community, all creating the perfect storm.
Of course, there is character growth and resolution that ends on a happy, positive note! 

I loved that each chapter begins with a little herbal information such as "Sage leaves promote wisdom", which really sets the tone for the story ahead. 



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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Garlic and the Witch (Garlic #2) by Bree Paulsen (MG Fantasy Graphic Novel Review)


Garlic and the Witch
(Garlic #2)
by Bree Paulsen
Published by Quill Tree Books
on September 6, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Length: 160 pages
Ages: 8 -12 years

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Synopsis:
Bree Paulsen's brave little protagonist, Garlic, is back in this charmingly illustrated standalone companion to Garlic and the Vampire, serving up another tale of friendship, magic, and self-discovery. 

Garlic loves spending time with Witch Agnes, Carrot, and her new friend, the Count, who has proven to be a delightful neighbor to the village of vegetable people rather than a scary vampire. But despite Agnes's best attempts to home-brew a vegetarian blood substitute for Count, the ingredient she needs most can only be found at the Magic Market, far from the valley. 

Before she knows it, with a broomstick in hand, Garlic is nervously preparing for a journey. 

But Garlic is experiencing another change too--finger by finger, she appears to be turning human. Witch Agnes assures her that this normal for her garden magic, but Garlic isn't so sure that she's ready for such a big change. After all, changes are scary... and what if she doesn't want to be human after all? 



My Thoughts:

Garlic goes on another adventure, this time to the far away Magic Market to buy the ingredients that Witch Agnes needs to fix Count's blood-subsitute. Garlic learns to overcome her fear of change and becomes a little more human along the way. 

I LOVE these books! 
They are seriously just the cutest, wholesome, heartwarming little basket of veggie-people and I just want to hug them!

Garlic is such a loveable character (as are all of the side characters) and I loved every moment of her growth and character development. Magicked into being, the veggie-people grow more and more human every day, and Garlic is very conscious of that, overworrying and then overcoming those worries with courage and a brave face. 

Besides the adorable characters, the story is simply magical with lots of camaraderie, heartwarming moments, and another beautifully happy ending.

These graphic novels are perfect for Autumn / Harvest season and include a vampire, witches, and a hint of suspense but are not scary and are the perfect read for leading into 'Spooky Season' for young readers. 


This is the stand-alone companion to 
Garlic and the Vampire!



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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Choose Your Own Adventure: Journey Under the Sea by Andrew E.C. Gaska & E.L. Thomas (Middle Grade Graphic Novel Review)

 We received a temporary digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Choose Your Own Adventure:
Journey Under the Sea
by Andrew E.C. Gaska & E.L. Thomas
Illustrations by Dani Bolinho
(Based on the original by R.A. Montgomery)
Published by Oni Press
on September 20, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Length: 134 pages
Ages: 9 - 12 years

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Synopsis:
From the hit Choose Your Own Adventure novels comes a new adapted graphic novel taking readers on their own visual adventure as a diver and new crew member of the ship Maray, a scientific vessel seeking to solve the mysteries of the ocean. 

In the newest Choose Your Own Adventure graphic novel comes an underwater epic where YOU get to choose the destination. With your submarine vessel, the Seeker, you'll explore the ocean depths and all the mysteries, creatures, and monsters that inhabit the ocean floor. Some will be familiar: squids, whales, and of course the Great White Shark. Others will be entirely new to your eyes, like the city of Atlantis. So how will You proceed?
Will you willingly dive into the depths? What paths will you choose?


My Thoughts:

Ready for a fantastic adventure?!

In Choose Your Own Adventure: Journey Under the Sea, YOU are the main character! As an underwater explorer, you must be ready to embark on a mission to find the lost city of Atlantis! 
Are you ready?!

This adventurous graphic novel is perfect for ocean lovers and anyone seeking thrills but also for kids who are hesitant to spend giant chunks of time reading or for kids who might not enjoy reading blocks of text. You can spend as much or as little time as you'd like with the story and you can always come back to new ones in the future! 

I read a few Choose Your Own Adventure type books as a kid and thought they were a lot of fun to read because you're reading the same book but getting a new adventure each time. 
This was a lot of fun to read as an adult, too, despite that I ended up at 'The End' just five or six pages into my first adventure! I didn't get much further the second or third time, either, but each time was a new adventure and I did finally make it to Atlantis! 

No matter your chosen path, you're sure to enjoy the wonderful illustrations, underwater creatures, the technology, and the overall adventure woven into each page! 
Enjoy your journey! 


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Friday, September 16, 2022

Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau (YA Contemporary Romance Graphic Novel Review)


Bloom
Written by Kevin Panetta
Illustrated by Savannah Ganucheau
Published by First Second
on January 29. 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Graphic Novel
Length: 368 pages
Ages: 14 - 18 years

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Synopsis:
Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easy going guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom... that is, if Ari doesn't ruin everything. 

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow. 


My Thoughts:

Ari wants nothing more than to escape his hometown by moving to the city to rent an apartment with the other members of his band, but his parents, who own and run a bakery, need him to stay and help out. Ari compromises with finding a replacement. 
Hector is taking a break from culinary school to sort through his grief when he applies for the bakery job. 
As Ari shows Hector the ropes, a beautiful friendship is born. A friendship that blooms into something more. 

This is a super sweet little lgbtqia+ love story that I can't help but compare to Nick & Charlie from Alice Oseman's Heartstopper series. Ari and Hector are such kind and wholesome characters that come into each others' lives at just the right time to help get through their hardships. There's a lot of character growth and little life lessons that make this perfect for young adults. 

This is much more of a summer read than anything but I had to wait a few months on hold but it was worth the wait. 



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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen (MG Fantasy Graphic Novel Review)

 

Garlic & the Vampire
(Garlic #1)
by Bree Paulsen
Published by Quill Tree Books
on September 28, 2021
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Length: 160 pages
Ages: 8 - 12 years


Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BookDepository

Synopsis:
A farm-fresh debut graphic novel starring a heroine who is braver than she realizes. 

Garlic feels as though she's always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it's nice and safe. 

But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes. 

After all, garlic drives away vampires... right?


My Thoughts:

Garlic is one of several bewitched vegetable-people that were brought to life by Witch Agnes to help tend the garden and help at market. The veggie-folk enjoy their simple yet busy life but when they discover that a vampire is occupying an abandoned castle nearby, they volunteer overly-anxious Garlic to go and discover any dastardly deeds the vampire may have planned for the village-folk.


This is the absolute CUTEST!

It has all the Autumn / Harvest Season vibes, fantastic characters and illustrations, and just a hint of suspense that makes it perfect for a not-so-spooky 'Spooky Season'. Despite the summary, this middle-grade graphic novel has a vampire but is not at all scary. It has a lovely focus on friendships, courage, and enjoying the little things in life. 
It's a wholesome little graphic novel with a happy ending and I recommend it to all ages! 



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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Animal Adventure's Guide by Susie Spikol (Children's Nonfiction Book Review)

 We received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The Animal Adventurer's Guide:
How to Prowl for an Owl, Make Snail Slime, and Catch a Frog Bare-handed -- 50 Activities to Get Wild With Animals
by Susan Spikol
Illustrations by Becca Hall
Published by Roost Books
on September 13, 2022
Genre: Children's, Nonfiction
Length: 144 pages
Ages: 5 - 9 years

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Synopsis:
Calling all animal lovers! 50 hands-on activities and adventures that bring you closer to wild animals than you've ever been. 

With 50 interactive activities that include talking like a chickadee, learning to sniff like a snake, and making your own fossils--this is your guide to having fun-filled adventures that will bring you up close and personal with the wild creatures right outside your door. 


Our Thoughts:

A fantastic guide for connecting with nature and wildlife! 

This fantastic guide for kids reminds us to pay attention, practice kindness, stay safe, and to leave nature better than you found it.
It's filled with facts, diy activities, prompts for field journaling, and more, and has chapters specific to birds, mammals, herps, arthropods, and other invertebrates so your child can find and observe their favorite critters! 

The activities range in age group so this would be perfect for multiple age children or kids with differing skill sets. Some are as easy as making toilet paper roll binoculars while others have lengthy instructions and multiple steps. 

This adventure guide is perfect for children and families that love being outdoors or want to get closer to nature, armed with the safest ways to get out, observe, and interact with the wildlife around us. It will definitely prompt you to get out there and to have fun learning! 

"The small things in nature--the things we can hold, touch, or lie down next to and watch closely--these are the things that open our hearts as children. These are what remind us of our connection to one another."



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Thursday, September 8, 2022

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez & Gabriela Epstein (Middle Grade Graphic Novel Review)


Invisible
Written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
Published by Scholastic
on August 2, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Graphic Novel
+ English/Spanish Bilingual Book
Length: 208 pages
Ages: 10+ years

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Synopsis:
For fans of Twins and Allergic, a must-have graphic novel about five very different students who are forced together by their school to complete community service... and may just have more in common than they thought. 

How can you be yourself when no one sees the real you?

Christina Diaz Gonzalez, award-winning author of The Red Umbrella, and Gaby Epstein, illustrator of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel adaptations, have created a vibrant and relatable graphic novel about unexpected friendships and being seen for who you really are. 



My Thoughts:

A group of Spanish-speaking students at Conrad Middle School are forced to work together on a community service project that eventually brings them together and shows them the hardships that can befall any one at any time. 

This is being shared as a modern day 'Breakfast Club' but instead of a ragtag group of kids in detention, this wonderful graphic novel is about a group of Spanish-speaking kids that are persuaded to work together to boost their school's community volunteer hours, where they discover a family truly in need. Despite their differences, these empathetic young ones learn to work together to solve the dilemma, and try to stay out of trouble in the meantime. 

This is such a heartwarming story with great character development and a happy ending but I especially loved that it is a BILINGUAL BOOK! Yes, I had to 'shout' that because I've yet to come across any book that shares the majority of it's dialogue in another language, WITH TRANSLATIONS, and as someone that is fascinated by languages and actively learning to read Spanish, this was a beautiful thing to see and read. We really do need more books like this! 


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