The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes

The Middle Moffat, by Eleanor Estes, was published in 1942 by Harcourt. It is the sequel to The Moffats.

Rating: 4/5

The Middle Moffat focuses on Jane Moffat, as opposed to the all-encompassing Moffat family viewpoint of the first book, and her thoughts, struggles, and opinions over a year-ish of time. I don’t remember this book nearly as much as The Moffats, so it was almost entirely new to me. And it was a delight to read.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was Jane’s thoughts, her rambling, sometimes odd, but exactly on point in terms of age, thoughts that cover at least half of most of the chapters. As she explores playing the organ, taking care of the oldest inhabitant, dealing with Wally Bangs, and participating in the basketball game and the parade, her thoughts perfectly encompass the sorts of things a child doing those things might think about. It really is so delightful and fun to read her wondering about shooting baskets in a basketball game, and all the running and chaos that incurs, and all the things she doesn’t want to do beyond shooting baskets.

For younger readers, the book might be a little hard to understand because of all the outdated language, especially in terms of describing clothing, but Jane is inviting and endearing as a character, so I don’t think the setting will inhibit too much.

The Moffats was a good book, but The Middle Moffat made me fall in love with Estes and the Moffat family, especially Jane. I’m really looking forward to seeing what charm and delight the next books might bring.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2LRWKX1

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White with JustRead Publicity Tours!

Disclaimer: I voluntarily received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.  

My rating: 4/5

Of all the authors I’ve read from Bethany House, Roseanna M. White is probably one of my favorites. One thing I enjoy about her writing is her ability to create likeable, yet flawed and complex, characters and intriguing side plots.

Let’s start with Margot, the main character. I adored her. It’s not often you get a female protagonist that’s so numerically minded and so closed-off to her own emotions. Clinical, logical, doesn’t show much emotion (or understand it)—never have I felt more connected to a female protagonist of a historical romance novel. She’s also used to demonstrate the changing ideas of the 20th century in terms of women roles. White maybe took the whole numbers aspect a little too far—White in general tends to use, over and over, characters who hear from God directly as a voice (or in this case, as a succession of numbers)—but other than that Margot was the true star of the novel.

Drake, in my opinion, was much less successful. I probably would have liked him more if he wasn’t so perfect. In general, I don’t mind if novels don’t minutely reflect real life, as they’re fiction, not reality, so I understand that Drake is simply a model or an example, but next to Margot he’s a bit vanilla, even with his exciting career.

As for plot, White sets this novel in one of the most exciting times in history, in my opinion: World War I. The plot is full of codebreaking and espionage, and the whole book is wrapped around a mystery that is really quite clever and well-done. Add in interesting side characters and lots of cool historical tidbits, and White has crafted an compelling novel with only a few minor flaws.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Number of Love

Series: Codebreakers #1

Author: Roseanna M. White

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Intrigue

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | ChristianBook


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. CONNECT WITH ROSEANNA:Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

CONNECT WITH ROSEANNA: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


GIVEAWAY

Grand Prize: Shadows Over England series, The Number of Love, and the Decrypto board game, plus “Mi Alma” necklace (Necklace is 24″ chain with a 1″ pendant that says “Mi Alma” Spanish for “My Soul”. A term of endearment used throughout the book. Handmade by Bookworm Mama)

(3) additional winners of The Number of Love.

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight June 3, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm June 17, 2019. US only. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway†



Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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1992 Newbery Medal: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, was published in 1991 by Atheneum.

Rating: 4/5

I don’t know why, but I’ve really been enjoying the dog books I’ve been reading lately. There’s been a few misses (Sounder and Old Yeller are at the bottom of the pack), but Where the Red Fern Grows, Ginger Pye, and now Shiloh are great.

I think what I like the most about a dog book like Shiloh is that it doesn’t hinge on the dog dying. That’s probably also why I really enjoyed Ginger Pye. To be honest, the two books are a little bit similar in that they deal with “unsavory” characters and animal abuse.

I think what I liked most about Shiloh, though, is Naylor’s portrayal of Judd Travers. Children’s books can stray into strictly black-and-white territory, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Travers is portrayed in a surprisingly nuanced way. Nothing that is revealed about him excuses his poor behavior towards animals, but it does help to explain how he became that way—and that sort of nuance is important in a children’s book. Nowadays I feel like we’ve gone even more strictly black-and-white in our portrayals of characters, as authors seem to be scared that any positive or empathetic view on a bad character, or any negative or critical view on a good character (or a character that society has deemed should only be portrayed positively), will result in backlash. As a frequenter of Goodreads, I’ve seen how much readers expect characters to think and act in certain ways. So Naylor’s characters, written thirty (!) years ago, and the human ways they are portrayed are a breath of fresh air.

The book is also great in its discussion of ethics, as well as in how Marty’s determination shines through despite the unfair way Travers treats him (and how that wins over Travers, in the end). Overall, for such a short book, there’s quite a lot to unpack and think about in Shiloh

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Realistic

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2IE5T27

1972 Newbery Medal: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien, was published in 1971 by Aladdin.

Rating: 4/5

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is one of those books where I felt like I remembered a lot about it before reading it, and then realized that I really didn’t remember much at all. The only thing I truly remembered was that Mrs. Frisby’s son Timothy gets sick, and also that the rats were genetically modified. Other than that, my vague impressions of the book were dead wrong.

The book has a more middle-to-high level reading level (on a scale that I invented just this minute to express what I’m trying to say about the writing), and so it feels, at least, a bit more mature and complex than an average Newbery Medal. I actually quite like this type of writing style. There’s a lot of words, but they’re not complicated ones, so children should still be able to follow along fairly well. It was a nice change after some of the more simplistic things I read, and it helped give the book a more serious and studied air, as befitting the NIMH rats.

The story itself is engaging. Mrs. Frisby enlists the help of the genetically modified rats of NIMH to help her move her house, and along the way learns their story and their ultimate goal of achieving their own sustainable den so they no longer have to steal to survive. There’s some tension involving the cat, Dragon, as well as the looming threat of NIMH, and the ending is dramatic and even a little ambiguous as to the final fate of the rats (one in particular).

The biggest weakness of the book is that the whole premise of the book is based on evolutionary theory, and I honestly don’t think O’Brien did a very good job at all at communicating it in an even remotely sensible way. Perhaps the age of this book shows a little during all the talk of monkeys and prairie dogs. In any case, it’s presented in a way that’s almost laughably bad. In addition, the end goal of the rats is shaky at best. It’s a bit like Rabbit Hill was. At least in this book it explains how the rats were modified, but the whole idea that rats could have their own community, their own farm and crops, and flourish (in essence, live like humans) is unbelievable.

Despite my problems with the entire premise, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is still an interesting story—and it’s not all about the rats, either. Mrs. Frisby gets some great moments to shine, too, which are arguably some of the best moments of the book besides the rat escape at the end.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2IsntGu

1952 Newbery Medal: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes, was published in 1951 by Harcourt.

Rating: 4/5

There are a lot of dog books out there, but Ginger Pye is probably one of my favorites. It has the sadness you might expect from a dog book, but without the heartbreak. It has humor, charm, memorability, and a nice sense of oomph and depth. It deals with difficult topics without getting into crying-lots-of-tears-at-the-end territory, like Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, and so is a much better vehicle for communicating those topics to younger children.

Ginger Pye is about, of course, Ginger Pye, the dog that Jerry buys for a dollar. The story, though, is more than just about Ginger—it’s about Jerry, and his sister Rachel, and their Uncle Bennie (who is only three years old—this book also is a great vehicle for communicating different family dynamics, such as a girl who marries young, who has young parents who have another child ten years (thus becoming “old’ parents) after their daughter gave birth to two of her own.). It’s a much more daring book than The Moffats in several regards: the aforementioned family dynamic, the whole idea of “unsavory characters,” and, of course, kidnapping and animal abuse—because it can’t be a dog book without something happening to the dog.

In this case, Ginger is kidnapped. This happens about halfway through the book, and so the rest of the book is Jerry and Rachel searching for him and wondering where he is. Estes also portrays this quite realistically: time passes, and even as Jerry and Rachel continue to hope Ginger will return, life goes on for them. They go to school, they hike, they camp, they play with friends. Yet they never stop thinking about Ginger, or thinking up ways to find him, so of course at the end of the novel, they are reunited, though not without some trauma on Ginger’s side.

I think that’s probably what I liked most about this book: the way Estes handles these difficult topics, the way she includes stories and asides everywhere, the way she communicates danger and abuse without being graphic or overly angsty or even losing a bit of the charm and simplicity that’s in the book. In fact, really the only complaint I have is that this book is massively long because Estes takes her time building everything up, as well as telling lots of stories to establish the characters. It maybe takes too long to get to the climax—two chapters too long—but it’s an adventure worth taking.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2K4rsLN

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, was published in 1961 by Delacorte.

Rating: 4/5

Starting out right from the gate with spoilers, so be warned! I always knew Where the Red Fern Grows as “the one where the kid falls on an axe and dies.” I didn’t know it was a dog book, since I never actually read the book. But I’ve heard it compared to Old Yeller, so perhaps that should have been my first clue.

My fourth-graders read Old Yeller, and I have to say, I think Where the Red Fern Grows is far superior—so it baffles me that it doesn’t have any kind of award. The book is poignant and sweet, with a determined, likable protagonist and a gritty realism that is only lightly coated in nice things.

It also presents an attitude that is far underrepresented in children’s literature today, which is, of course, the prominence of religion and its role in someone’s life. Billy prays a lot, and his family talks about God a lot, and while there are a couple of inaccuracies (“God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible), it helps give a realistic tone to an area and a time that would have said and done those things. And it combines the religious aspect with a more superstitious, “legends of the hills” aspect, which also makes sense for the area and the time.

Since this is a dog book, yes, it is sad, and yes, the dogs do die, but this is a story about love, first and foremost, and even the death of the dogs shows that. This book has a lot to say about purpose and meaning and why things happen and love and sacrifice, which is why I think it’s superior to Old Yeller, which doesn’t have much of that. Where the Red Fern Grows is poignant and powerful and I’m sad that I never read it sooner.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: Little Ann, one of the dogs, is called a “bitch” at one point, which is, of course, the word for a female dog.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2Wfs08a

2001 Newbery Medal: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck, was published in 2000 by Dial.

Rating: 4/5

A Year Down Yonder is technically a sequel, but luckily it’s not at all necessary to have read the book that comes before it—which is good because I didn’t. The book is about Mary Alice, who goes to live with her grandmother for a year during the Great Depression, due to the financial situation of her family. It’s pretty much a “city girl goes to the country” type of a book, except with less school drama. Instead, Mary Alice learns the ins and outs of the town, including all the small-town shenanigans you might expect. There’s secret family histories, women’s committee drama, and, all right, a small amount of school drama.

But the star of the show is, of course, Grandma Dowdel, who is a fierce and formidable woman. She manipulates the people around her so that she gets the results she wants, but she also shows a soft side when it comes to her family and friends. The story revolves more around her than Mary Alice, for better or for worse.

Peck manages to expertly capture the oddities and charms of small-town, country life. Though the scenarios are often outrageous, there’s an undercurrent of believability underneath them that makes them that much more appealing. Grandma Dowdel steals the show with her boots and her shotgun, though Mary Alice has her moments, too. A Year Down Yonder is a charming read, and what it lacks in memorability and depth, it more than makes up for in good, plain fun.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2LSgT0T

1980 Newbery Medal: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832, by Joan W. Blos, was published in 1979 by Atheneum.

Rating: 4/5

A Gathering of Days reminded me quite a lot of Dear America, if Dear America dedicated itself a bit more to accurate writing style and language. It’s a collection of journal entries detailing Catherine’s life at school and home, and while it’s a simple book at its heart, there’s a lot of charm and character hidden in each entry.

The book doesn’t have too much action in it; the action is developed through character rather than through plot. There’s a runaway slave, along with some abolitionist talk, a new mother and brother, and lots of school and home activities. Through it all, Catherine shares poems, little bits of her thoughts, and other things that help her shine as a character. The novel does a great job of showing how hard life was in those days and how much work everyone had to do, and it also does a great job of giving the appropriate amount of balance between religion and daily life that was in those times.

To be honest, I think I only would have given this book a 3 rating if it hadn’t been for one line towards the end of the book: “Trust, and not submission, defines obedience.” What a great theme to end the book with, and such an important one to discuss even today. While I wouldn’t say A Gathering of Days was as interesting as some of the better Dear America books I’ve read, some of the themes that Blos develops are far more profound and important.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2JdSQq8

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Beastly Bones, by William Ritter, was published in 2015 by Algonquin. It is the sequel to Jackaby.

Rating: 4/5

Beastly Bones continues the oddball, eclectic fun that I loved so much about the first novel. Central to that fun is, of course, Jackaby, who’s basically a nicer Sherlock Holmes (at least in the Sherlock iteration), but various side characters also contribute. Abigail Rook, though portrayed as the serious, “let’s bring this back down to earth” type of partner, also has her moments, especially in her awkward moments with Charlie Barker.

This book has a much better mystery than Jackaby did, though once the revelation came, I realized that I probably should have figured it out sooner. I didn’t, though, so I was delightfully surprised. And I liked the introduction of a Shadowy Figure, as it gives a united goal and an arc for the books, though I honestly wouldn’t mind if each book was separate and only united in characters and other minor details (like Jenny’s backstory).

These books have been really fun so far, and I’m hoping the quality of mystery improves without ruining the fun of the characters and the quirky nature in general. I like mysteries just a little more detailed and involved, but that might mean not having as much fun in general. And these books were clearly written to be fun.

Also, the covers of these books! To be honest, if it was just the silhouette and the title, it would be perfection. The picture in the middle kind of ruins it a little, but they’re still very pretty. I don’t gush about pretty cover art enough, in my opinion.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2GPCr8s

2016 Newbery Medal: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña, was published in 2015 by Putnam.

Rating: 4/5

It’s difficult to write reviews of books as short as Last Stop on Market Street, so, fair warning, this review will most likely be almost as short as the book.

Last Stop on Market Street is a children’s book for younger readers: mostly pictures, with a few lines of text on each page. It tells the story of CJ and his grandmother on the bus on the way to serve at a soup kitchen, and his grandmother shows him how to be satisfied with the things he has and how to see beauty in the ordinary.

Simple books like this are adored by many people, and I get the appeal: beautiful pictures, a relevant, straightforward message, and a nice tone and style throughout. Yet these types of books (not quite a picture book, not quite a plain story) don’t really appeal to me unless I’m reading them to children and get to see their faces.

I can at least appreciate the book, and I do see why it won a Newbery Medal—though I’m baffled as to how it beat The War That Saved My Life. There is beauty in simplicity, though, and that’s why this book is beautiful in both pictures and message. I am just unable to appreciate it for all of its worth, I guess.

Recommended Age Range: 6+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Realistic

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2KOuwgP