Middle Grade Review: Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen

Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz

Genres: Middle Grade, Humor
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

When you’re a Buttman, the label “bully” comes with the territory, and Bernice lives up to her name. But life as a bully is lonely, and if there’s one thing Bernice really wants (even more than becoming a Hollywood stuntwoman), it’s a true friend.

After her mom skedaddles and leaves her in a new town with her aunt (who is also a real live nun), Bernice decides to mend her ways and become a model citizen. If her plan works, she just might be able to get herself to Hollywood Hills Stunt Camp! But it’s hard to be kind when no one shows you kindness, so a few cheesy pranks may still be up her sleeve. . . .

This was a moderately funny book, but most of the humor relied on classist stereotypes that made me uncomfortable. Kids will probably enjoy this modern update of The Worst School Year Ever, but it shouldn’t be considered the meat-and-potatoes of their reading diet.

Continue reading “Middle Grade Review: Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen”

Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

y648Series: The Herdmans
Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked. It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.

This book didn’t age quite as well as some of my other childhood favorites. It has the 70s written all over it, prejudice abounding. Reading it out loud to my class, I had to censor quite a bit. I skipped an entire two pages of Imogene Herdman making fun of fat kids because I didn’t want to make my overweight students uncomfortable. Also a lot of the language and stuff doesn’t resonate with kids anymore. They were completely unoffended by the Herdmans stealing pennies out of the birthday jar, because what the heck are you going to buy with a penny anymore? Continue reading “Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”

Review: Hope Never Dies

Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

36531052Genres: Mystery, Humor
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

If you’re looking for a funny, campy, bro-mance mystery, look no farther! Hope Never Dies is written like an old-time noir detective film, except that it’s starring Joe Biden.  Continue reading “Review: Hope Never Dies”

Review: The Princess Bride

21787The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything. 

This is one of the very few cases where I actually enjoy the movie more than the book, which, if anything, is a testament to how fantastic the movie is, because this is easily one of the funniest books I have ever read.

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Calendar Girls September: Best Contemporary

The Calendar Girls theme for this month is “Best Contemporary Novel.” I don’t really understand what people mean when they say Contemporary, so I did a tiny smidge of research. (Seriously, tiny.) I’m going with the boring definition of “set in modern times”. Hope that’s what we’re going for. Otherwise, I’m going to be a VERY odd-duck out.

In fact, maybe I’ll ask twitter. Hang on, be right back.

Since nobody responded within 15 seconds (what are their PROBLEMS????) I’m just going with that definition.

Okay. I’m ready. You ready? I’m ready.

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Review: My Lady Jane

22840421My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Series: The Lady Janies
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not this.

In a good way.

My Lady Jane was the most outrageous, hilarious Tudor novel I have ever read. The synopsis says “only a passing resemblance to actual history” which is completely accurate. But that’s a big part of what made this book so enjoyable. As a Tudor England fanatic (or at least a former one) it was so refreshing to read a book that was, first of all, about JANE GREY of all people, and second of all, not so caught up in the scandal of who was sleeping with who in court. Instead this novel was about the major political issue of the day, Catholics vs. Protestants, but re-imagined with fantasy elements that make it more fun for the non-Tudor-obsessed reader.

Continue reading “Review: My Lady Jane”