Tag Archives: clarion books

Late to the Party ARC Review – Imagine by John Lennon & Jean Jullien (Illustrator)

Title: Imagine

Author:  John Lennon & Jean Jullien (Illustrator)

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace. Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization, Amnesty International.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I don’t normally review picture books on my blog, despite reading a lot of them as part of my job at the library. That being said, I couldn’t resist checking out this beautiful picture book put to the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine.

There is a wonderful simplicity to the artwork, as you’re watching this pigeon explore the world around him, trying to unify people. Ultimately that was Lennon’s message on a whole, finding peace, loving others regardless of race, gender, colour, sexuality or creed. He believed that one day the world would be “one” and peace would defeat war. We need the hope that Imagine provides to remind us that people are not inherently evil.

I enjoyed Yoko Ono’s forward in the book and he discussion of John Lennon’s thought process when he crafted Imagine, and what he hoped from the world. She said that we need Imagine now more than ever because the world isn’t “one” and hope must triumph over despair. This picture book is a lovely addition to anyone’s picture book collection and worth the read with your loved ones.

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Blog Tour – Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner (Review)

I’m going to be frank: I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I was approached by Raincoast to host this stop on the Fish Girl blog tour. If I am being even more honest, I was worried about how I would feel about the book as well. I love when a book proves my feelings wrong, and that is exactly what Fish by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner has done.

Plus, check out this artwork:

fishgirlcomic

Looks dreamy, doesn’t, it?

Once again, huge thank you to Raincoast for allowing me to share my thoughts on this blog tour stop, and I do hope you check out Fish Girl when it releases on March 7th, 2017.


30971730Title: Fish Girl

Author: Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: In this graphic novel, a young mermaid, called Fish Girl, living in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Sam’s Review:

I’m going to be completely honest: I wasn’t sure I was going to like Fish Girl. In fact, when I received it in the mail I did that dreaded thing you sometimes shouldn’t do: judge a book by it’s cover. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the artwork, and the story sounded merely all right. I was colourfully surprised by how much I enjoyed Fish Girl

However, I say this with an air of caution: Fish Girl is a misleading book. While it’s aimed at middle grade audiences, it does shed light on themes of abuse and abduction in a way that is creepy, and seeing it from that point of view can make it a tough read. On the other side of it, this book reads like a fairy tale as well, sharing both consequences and the potential for a positive outcome. It’s a rough read all around, and I think it definitely offers some interesting discussions that can be had with younger readers on these topics.

I actually do think Mira, our Fish Girl, is a wonderful character. She longs to not be an aquarium attraction and wishes to be like the people on the land who come to see her. She wants legs, and adventures, and yet she’s trapped in a fish bowl by a man who wants nothing more than to gain profit from her existence. It’s a solid story, and it shows that people can take destiny into their own hands. Or in this case, also escape abuse. I like the message that this book presents, and I think the ending does a great job of highlighting ways in which people need to stir a course towards what they truly want from life.

I admit, at times I did have a heart time with the artwork, but it did grow on me as I read on. There’s a lot of very realistic looking artwork, the use of pastel colours is really pretty, and there are moments where the artwork is breathe-taking. There are also moments where it doesn’t fit either, which I found somewhat disappointing. That being said, once I got over my initial feelings, I found myself really digging the art style and coming to the consensus that it actually does a great job fitting the story that is being told.

Fish Girl is definitely not for your average middle grader, and that is okay. I think it teaches a lot to the reader, and it doesn’t feel heavy handed in its approach either. I will say I don’t think the art style will be for everyone, but I do believe there is a very special story being told in this book.


Huge thank you to Raincoast for organizing and allowing me the opportunity to participate in the blog tour. Still curious about Fish Girl? Please check out the other tour stops, and consider purchasing the book when it releases this March!
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ARC Review – Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

26312968Title: Grayling’s Song

Author:  Karen Cushman

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Like all Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, “Grayling s Song”delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. Lena DunhamIt s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools! Lacking confidence after years of being called Feeble Wits by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook!A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist.” 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I read Grayling’s Song in a day. While that is a positive in the book’s favour, it’s definitely not a new middle grade favourite for me. This definitely one of those novels where I feel like adults wouid have a deeper appreciation for the language and the story itself, and that makes it harder to recommend for younger readers.

There is a rich fantasy world in this novel that resembles medieval England. I really loved the setting and the way in which it captures the story. Cushman’s writing is very vivid, almost dreamlike, and she definitely challenges readers with her use of language. As an adult reading this novel, I can appreciate the use of language and the way in which it captures the world and the characters, but at the same time I feel like if I was a middle grader reading this book, I’d have a bit of a hard time with this book.

I admit though, I really did struggle at times with the characters. For me, the characters in this novel were missing a spark for me. They didn’t have the same kind of layering that I generally like in middle grade, so I found it hard to fall in love with them. For me the most memorable character was Pookia, whom I adored. I just thought he was such a delightful character!

Grayling’s Song is beautifully written and I do think it will have an audience with fantasy fans, especially older ones. There’s beautiful writing and a rich world in need of exploring. I just wish that I had personally enjoyed it more than I did.

ARC Review – Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett, Mark Beech

22522818Title: Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales

Author: Terry Pratchett & Mark Beech

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: This never-before-published collection of fourteen funny and inventive tales by acclaimed author Sir Terry Pratchett features a memorable cast of inept wizards, sensible heroes, and unusually adventuresome tortoises.   Including more than one hundred black-and-white illustrations, the appealingly designed book celebrates Pratchett’s inimitable wordplay and irreverent approach to the conventions of storytelling.

These accessible and mischievous tales are an ideal introduction for young readers to this beloved author. Established fans of Pratchett’s work will savor the playful presentation of the themes and ideas that inform his best-selling novels.

Huge thank you to Clarion Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Clarion Books and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Oh my goodness, I was not expecting to read this as quickly as I did. This is what happens when you’re doing laundry and you start a page turner. Every book in this story is a lot of fun, and each is more crazy than the next. I haven’t read a lot of short fiction by Terry Prachett, but I’ve read every Discworld novel published to date, and I’ve read a lot of his middle grade offerings — the man is a comedic genius, and these stories, which come from his earlier periods of writing prove that point further.

I just couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous a lot of the stories were in this collection. Dragons just wanting to be friends, the worst bus ride ever, to a really, really boring knight, Terry Pratchett’s characters are completely loveable as they are nuts. Some of the stories had me in complete giggle-fits, that’show much fun they were. PLUS! Their are stories of The Carpet People! I didn’t like that book at all, but I weirdly loved the short fictions about them in this collection, and it makes me wonder if I need to give that novel another chance since it was Pratchett’s first published novel.

If you are a Terry Pratchett fan or you wanted something fun for a middle grade reader who appreciates comedy gold, this book is fantastic. The humor is spot-on and crazy, and this book will simply make you grin from ear-to-ear, from start to finish.

ARC Review – The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris

8477401Title: The Perfect Place

Author: Teresa E. Harris

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Treasure’s dad has disappeared and her mom sets out to track him down, leaving twelve-year-old Treasure and her little sister, Tiffany, in small-town Virginia with their eccentric, dictatorial Great-Aunt Grace. GAG (as the girls refer to her) is a terrible cook, she sets off Treasure’s asthma with her cat and her chain smoking, and her neighbors suspect her in the recent jewel thefts. As the hope of finding their dad fades, the girls and their great-aunt begin to understand and accommodate one another. When a final dash to their dad’s last known address proves unsuccessful, Treasure has to accept that he’s gone for good. When she goes back to Great-Aunt Grace’s, it is the first time she has returned to a place instead of just moving on. Convincing, fully realized characters, a snarky narrative voice, and laugh-aloud funny dialogue make The Perfect Place a standout among stories of adjustment and reconfigured families.

Huge thank you to Clarion Books and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really wanted to like this book more than I did, and the beginning did keep me invested. But once I’d put the book down, I found I never found myself going back to it. I’d read a chapter… once a week? There’s just something about this book that just never took hold of my full attention.

Truth be told, The Perfect Place is a decent novel, but it’s one that really depends on the reader’s participation and whether or not they enjoy a lot of the challenges that are faced by Treasure and Tiffany. Thing is, both Treasure and Tiffany are wonderfully sympathetic characters, but I guess for me I was expecting a bit more than a lot of woes me. However, I found the characters pretty flat, with the exception of Auntie Grace, who for whatever reason I quite enjoyed. She was a bit too religious for my tastes, but she won me over when she dealt with the mean girls within the story. That, admittedly, was brilliantly done.

Then there’s the writing. It’s good, but nothing fantastic and in fact, it’s quite ordinary and plain. The writing was at it’s best when it was slathered in emotion, but at its worse when exposition was happening. I DO adore the fact that this is a diverse novel with two African-American heroines and I loved that they do persevere, but I wanted more from this story, and considering it took awhile for me to get into it, and to the point where I kept forgetting about it? That just isn’t a good sign for me.

I think a lot of the messages in this novel are great and I do think that this book will be quite loved by a reader who can instantly connect with Treasure and her family. For me, I wanted that connection, it’s just a shame (for me) that it never took hold. This is a good book (hence three starts), but I needed more of a solid connection between me, the characters and the writing. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as well as I wanted it to.