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Mini Reviews / Dork Diaries #2 – #4

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Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl (Dork Diaries #2) / Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star (Dork Diaries #3) / Skating Sensation (Dork Diaries #4) by Rachel Renee Russell

Following my initial review of Dork Diaries, I just couldn’t help myself. My sister started reading book #2 and wouldn’t shut up about it that I continued reading and… I couldn’t stop. I read it one after another and only came to a stop because I couldn’t find book #5 at the library.

THE SERIES GETS BETTER.

If you recall, I wasn’t too crazy about the language used in this book. I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘retard’ and I didn’t like the way she treated her family. I had my fair share of concerns about this book but I’m happy to report that the series does indeed get better.

Nikki does a fair bit of growing up. She gains perspective about her parents and in particular, her father. Nikki becomes grateful towards her father for scoring her a scholarship at the school, despite her initial hatred for him because he is a pest exterminator. Sure she’s still embarrassed about the giant cockroach above his van and the fact that she needs to ride in it occasionally, but she’s not such a brat about it anymore. As far as I can remember, the language has improved a little bit, though I’m still not too crazy about it. Perhaps its written as such to make it believable that a teenager is writing this diary instead of a grown woman, but still.

My favourite so far is book 3 and 4, but I’m leaning more towards 4 because I feel that that’s where Nikki grows up the most. She becomes kind and compassionate towards other people and feels apologetic for her behaviour towards her family and other people in her life.

Is this series worth reading? Yes, yes, absolutely yes. Suitable for children aged 6 and above — but be aware: parental guidance and discussions may be required. As always, proceed with caution and do what you feel is best for your children and students.

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Dork Diaries Book 1 by Rachel Renee Russell

6054449Dork Diaries Book 1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell
Dork Diaries #1

Published 2nd June 2009 by Aladdin

Goodreads

Summary:

It’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid for girls in this hilarious novel!
Meet Nikki Maxwell! She’s starting eighth grade at a new school—and her very first diary packed with hilarious stories and art in Book One of the #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

New school. New mean girl. New crush. New diary so I can spill about all of it…

I put a lot of really personal stuff in this diary along with my sketches and doodles.

But, mostly it’s about how TRAUMATIC it was transferring to my new private middle school, Westchester Country Day.

And, how a lot of the CCP (Cool, Cute & Popular) kids were really SNOBBY and made my life TOTALLY miserable. People like, oh, I don’t know, maybe…

MACKENZIE HOLLISTER!!

And, it just so happened that I got stuck with a locker right next to hers. I could NOT believe I had such CRAPPY luck. I knew right then and there it was going to be a VERY, VERY long school year 😦 !

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My little sister has been reading the Dork Diaries series and I’ve always wondered about the content of these. My brother is a huge Wimpy Kid fan, and seeing how both Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries are constantly on the best sellers list, I finally decided to give it a go too.

I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting Dork Diaries is. The main character Nikki, is incredibly believable as a tween protagonist. I reminisced a lot about my own youth, and how I behaved when I wanted certain things and my own great sense of entitlement at the time. Dork Diaries has a lot of plus points: there’s so many things that we could discuss to kids about in this book, both as an educator and as a parent. It makes for good conversation, and its a book that is bound to be enjoyable for both boys and girls (albeit, leaning towards girls).

I did have my fair share of concerns, one being the use of the word retarded to describe herself, whenever she does something that’s silly. It’s not excusable. Its derogatory, its hurtful and its just not necessary. I would have preferred if she just stuck to the word “silly” to describe her own silly behaviour. Another concern is the fact that Nikki describes her parents are brain dead, for the simple reason that they do not buy her a phone despite her constant hints. Again, the language used here is very coarse and something that I don’t want younger children to use. They are not ok and it will not ever be okay.

I get the perspective that these are important key points that educators and parents can pick up and explain to them the dangers of using such hurtful words, or the concept of being rude and inappropriate but if we continually expose them in situations that “should be” taken as humour, it might be taken lightly to them too.

While I do have my concerns, Dork Diaries is still overall a very good and enjoyable book. As always, with children books, exercise with caution and always educate, educate, educate!

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Krista Kim-Bap by Angela Ahn

35801649Krista Kim-Bap by Angela Ahn
Published 18 Apr 2018 by Second Story Press

Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads

Summary: Krista and Jason have been best friends since preschool. It never mattered that he was a boy with reddish brown hair and she was “the Korean girl” at school. Now in fifth grade, everyone in their class is preparing their Heritage Month projects. Jason has always loved Krista’s Korean family, and particularly her mom’s cooking, but Krista is conflicted about being her school’s “Korean Ambassador.” She’s also worried about asking her intimidating grandma to teach the class how to cook their traditional kim-bap. Combine that with her new friends pulling her away from Jason, and Krista has a lot to deal with this year!

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Let’s talk about Krista Kim-bap.

No, seriously. Let’s talk about it.

This book is such a conversation starter. There are so many good morals within this book that the Middle Grade book world just doesn’t have enough of. Let’s start with the very obvious: the title of the book. Krista Kim-bap follows a titular character called Krista Kim. She’s a Korean-Canadian girl who knows little to nothing about her culture except that they eat Korean food and lots of kimchi.

Krista goes on a journey to find out more about her culture, the intimate story behind the Koreans love for food and rediscovers what it means to love yourself, being confident and breaking the status quo.

I love this book. For starters, this is a diverse book. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see that many books about Korean culture, period. It’s pretty exciting to see the different aspects of their culture, told by a Korean and seeing it through the eyes of a child and how they’re raised by their parents and grandparents. I think there’s a lot of importance for kids to be learning about other’s cultures and traditions; learning how to respect people who are different than us and celebrate their differences. Its completely excellent how Krista loves being Korean and doesn’t necessarily want to change anything about herself.

Middle grade books are targeted mostly to children aged 8 – 12, so some of the topics discussed here may be a little heavy for younger children; so if you are a parent or a teacher, this is your call. You’re gonna have to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t and filter accordingly — but: this book does talk a little bit about plastic surgery.

The discussion about plastic surgery is a short one, but the aftermath of that short discussion creates something we need to talk about. Krista’s grandmother is pretty big on plastic surgery, and admittedly, from what we’ve seen in Korean dramas or read on the gossip news, it seems like a pretty big thing in Korea too. She has a discussion with Krista and her older sister Tori about getting double eyelid surgery when they’re older in Korea, which leads to Krista’s eventual experiment with eyelid tape. This is of course met with disapproval from her mother, who finds it completely okay to have “Korean eyes” and not have the need to look like anyone in the magazines.

Krista Kim-bap is a bit of a fresh breath of air. I do think its an interesting book with a lot room for discussion and maintains its relevance to our current society. Filter this book or not, discuss it or not, but Krista Kim-bap can teach you so many things even as a grown adult.

Because loving yourself, being respectful to other people and walking to the beat of your own drums will never go out of style.

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Random Body Parts By Leslie Bulion

Random Body Parts By Leslie Bulion
Publication Date:  1 March 2015 by Peachtree Publishers

Disclaimer: I received a copy c/o the Publisher via Netgalley (through the ‘Read Now’ option).

Goodreads

Summary: Witty and nimble verse about body parts pairs with whimsical drawings in this informative, fun collection. It begins with an invitation to solve a series of poetic riddles: Of course you have a body, / But do you have a clue / Where all the body parts youve got are found / And what they do?

Each poem that follows poses a puzzle in verse (with a sly wink and a nod to Shakespeare) and provides hints for uncovering the body part in question. Sidebars further educate readers about the anatomical subject in question, while appended notes offer a crash course on poetic form and a few facts about the Shakespearean works that inspired the verses.

Captivating lines such as rumble, grumble, roil and rumble, / Acid burn and slurry tumble (from the poem that refers to the stomach) should spark readers interest in poetry and human biology alike. A glossary for science terms is included in the back matter.

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Random Body Parts was pretty fun. They’re simple witty poetry and basically describes different parts of your body. Random Body Parts would probably be more appealing to kids, given the charming and colourful illustrations and also comes with useful scientific information about the body parts on each page. If my siblings were a little younger/older (both my siblings are much younger than me!) I would definitely share this book with them and read it together with them. The book would make for a good quiz/guessing game, wherein if you hide the scientific info at the bottom you could guess what body parts each poem is about!

It’s definitely appealing and the poems are simple enough to understand. I did enjoy the little poetry notes at the end of the book which explains how each poem was written and where the inspiration came from. It’s definitely fun poetry tidbit and brought out the inner Lit geek in me.

All in all, a wonderful short book of anatomy poems. Random Body Parts is available on Netgalley as a Read Now book (at the time of writing) — so get reading!

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Smile By Raina Telgemeier

Smile By Raina Telgemeier
Smile #1
Published 1 Feb 2010 By GRAPHIX

Goodreads

Summary: From the artist of BSC Graphix comes this humorous coming-of-age true story about the dental drama that ensues after a trip-and-fall mishap.

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

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I am in love with Smile.

Smile is such a simple story, but possesses so much depth and elements that many can easily resonate with. Smile begins as a story that follows the author’s long and draining four year dental journey and her progression as a teenager from middle school to high school.

The story is presented as a graphic novel, where the pictures are simple, clean and coloured. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book because it helped me really visualise Raina’s traumatising dental drama and brings across the emotions very well.

The book begins with Raina at the dentist to fix her overbite problems, but later ends up injuring her two front teeth when she trips and falls. As her four year long dental journey begins, Raina also begins having to deal with boy trouble and terrible friends.

One of the main thing that Raina struggles with is bullying. Raina has terrible friends: they call her names, make fun of her, expose her secrets and are generally very unsupportive and awful. But the thing that makes me love Raina is that despite all of that, she stays strong and eventually finds real friends that support and love her.

I felt a lot for Raina and I could definitely resonate with her on so many levels, starting from terrible friends to having that first crush. In a way, it felt like I was watching my own story come to life (sans the dental issues). It was extremely heartwarming in the end, when Raina was able to lift her face and find her smile again.

Smile is a middle grade book, and certainly one that I would recommend everyone of all ages to read, especially the younger ones. Smile is one of those books I wish I read in my teenage years and would have definitely enjoyed. I feel like Smile could potentially help a lot of growing kids realise that things will be okay and that it is okay to have braces, and if you have friends that are constantly bringing you down, you should leave and not put yourself in that toxic situation.

I am so glad that I stumbled upon this gem of a book and in light of Anti Bullying Week next week, I am definitely going to be recommending this book to everyone.

Smile is an all-round heartwarming book with touching elements that will definitely make you want more.

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Pack of Dorks By Beth Vrabel

Pack of Dorks By Beth Vrabel
Publication Date: 7th Oct 2014 by Sky Pony Press

Disclaimer: I received a review copy c/o the publisher via Edelweiss

Goodreads

Summary: Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cool table in the cafeteria, or Lucy can pull up a chair among the solo eaters—also known as the dorks. Still unsure, Lucy partners with super quiet Sam Righter on a research project about wolves. Lucy connects her own school hierarchy with what she learns about animal pack life—where some wolves pin down weaker ones just because they can, and others risk everything to fight their given place in the pack. Soon Lucy finds her third option: creating a pack of her own, even if it is simply a pack of dorks.

Weaving tough issues, including bullying, loyalty, and disability, with a thread of snarky humor, family bonds, and fresh perspective, Pack of Dorks paints characters coming-of-age and coming-to-terms. Beth Vrabel’s stellar debut contemporary middle grade novel is sure to please fans of Jack Gantos, Elizabeth Atkinson, and Judy Blume.

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I had high hopes for Pack of Dorks. I was drawn to the synopsis of the book because it delt with some tough issues like bullying and disability but I ended up getting really bored. This is rare for me, seeing how I usually end up loving books like these but it really wasn’t for me. I want to attribute this mostly because I’m not the target audience (this is a middle grade book) but I felt that the plot played a huge part into why I didn’t enjoy this either.

Lucy is one of the most popular girls in her grade and she thinks that kissing Tom, the most popular boy in her grade would more or less help propel her to popularity. Little did she know that this would eventually lead her to become a loser overnight. The reason? Because she’s not a great kisser. Her best friend avoids her (claiming she’s a double agent and they’re still best friends … Just not in public) and the only people who wants to be her friends are dorks.

I’m a little on the fence about liking Lucy. On one hand I love that she’s accepting and loving towards her baby sister who has Down’s syndrome. On the other hand, she’s kind of annoying. At one point, Lucy tore up her partner’s work because she felt that they should be doing it together and that he should have waited for her to work on it together. I’ve never experienced or heard of such a thing before. It seemed a little uncalled for to ruin someone’s research. It is still just research and it wasn’t like he finished it all — he waited for her, and as he did, he took notes.

I thought Pack of Dorks was going to be a group of “dorks” rebelling and going against the status quo. I hadn’t expected it to be Lucy yelling “stop it!” ten times over and her point still not getting across. It was draggy, which is ironic seeing how it’s a short book and you’d expect it to go pretty fast.

Pack of Dorks is an okay book, but not something I would recommend. You’re not missing out much.

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First Term at Malory Towers By Enid Blyton

First Term at Malory Towers By Enid Blyton
Malory Towers #1
Published Sept 1st 2006 by Egmont Books (UK) (originally published in 1946)

Goodreads

SummaryDarrell and her friends grow together as they share their school days. There are new students to induct, sporting matches to be won, tempers to control and tricks to play on teachers.

This work presents stories about life at boarding school as readers follow the girls’ lives through 6 years at Malory Towers.

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Oh Malory Towers, how I adore you so.

I’ve grown up reading Enid Blyton, and though I know of the issues when it comes to Blyton’s work I have to say I read Malory Towers without any of that in mind. I’ve never read Malory Towers before growing up, so this was fairly exciting for me. I’m a huge fan of boarding school books so naturally I went into this with a lot of expectations and Blyton delivered.

Malory Towers is a boarding school and it centers around a group of classmates in their first term at Malory Towers. It revolves namely around Darrell, Sally and Gwendoline who are the three new students at the school. They’re later met by other colourful characters such as Alicia, Jane and Mary-Lou.

I really loved the different characters in the book. I thought that the characters were very relatable even now despite it being written in 40’s. There’s a lot of snarky and sharp girls, mean girls, misunderstood girls and ones that are painfully shy.

There is a lot that happens in the first term: cliques, test of friendships, jealousy, revenge and pranks. Darrell and Mary-Lou, specifically were wonderful characters. I liked that Darrell was a strong character but at the same time she recognized her faults and corrected them without anyone asking/telling her to. She was one of the three characters that showed a lot of growth throughout the book. Mary-Lou went from someone lacking in confidence into a very bright character and is stronger than she was before.

Malory Towers is a good book, and having read it for the first time as an adult I can only imagine how useful this would have been in my childhood years. I’m excited to continue reading the series and see what the girls are up to next!

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Eric, the Boy Who Lost His Gravity By Jenni Desmond

Eric, the Boy Who Lost His Gravity By Jenni Desmond
Published March 11th 2014 by Blue Apple Books

Disclaimer: I received a review copy c/o of the Publisher, via Edelweiss.

Goodreads

SummaryStuck in the house with his little sister one rainy day, Eric grows so angry that he lifts right off the floor and runs out the window, but after cooling off he realizes he misses his family.

 

 

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OK, this is a little different for me to review. Eric, the Boy who Lost His Gravity is a children’s book. I wanted to read this book, because I liked the illustrations and namely because I have a 4 year old younger sister that I like to read to.

As an adult (I’m 22 years old), the book was of course rather silly but it is whimsical and still enjoyable. The story itself doesn’t necessarily make that much sense but hey, its a children’s story so it should be fun and imaginative (which it certainly is). Perhaps for, me as an adult I wasn’t able to appreciate the last few chapters because it ended rather abruptly, but for my little sister, she was really happy and excited about it. So in a way, the book accomplished what its supposed to do: it was enjoyable and entertaining for children.

I really loved the illustrations and I must admit that I would love to own a physical copy for the artwork. Seeing how it’s a children’s book, I’d recommend it if you have kids, have younger siblings or know anyone who may be keen to pick this up.

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