The Kids of Cattywampus Street | A Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing The Kids of Cattywampus Street, written by Lisa Jahn-Clough, and illustrated by Natalie Andrewson. I picked this one up because I had been looking for a whimsical book to read. So when I found this one, I just knew I had to pick it up. Not to mention that Lemony Snicket himself liked the novel! Anways, let’s get into it!

The Kids of Cattywampus Street by Lisa Jahn-Clough: 9780593127568 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In this delightful chapter book filled with black-and-white pictures, you’ll meet Jamal, Lindalee, Hans, Matteo, and others–the kids who live on Cattywampus Street, not far from the Waddlebee Toy Store. Each of the eleven chapters in this magical, mysterious, silly, scary, happy, and sometimes sad chapter book tells an utterly unforgettable tale about one of the kids. Whether it’s about Jamal and his magic ball, which knows how to find him after its been stolen away; or Charlotta, who shrinks so small that she can fit inside her dollhouse; or Rodney, whose pet rock becomes the envy of all the kids on Cattywampus Street, here are stories sure to charm, captivate, and engage all readers of chapter books, even the most reluctant.

First let’s talk about the plot. The Kids of Cattywampus Street promises wacky tales about children that live on Cattywampus Street, or somewhere near it. The stories are also said to have some sort of connection to a toy store called The WaddleBee’s Toy Store. While the tales present in the book are bizarre, they don’t necessarily tie into each other. I was hoping for the stories to be connected in some way, but that wasn’t the case. Furthermore, the stories felt unoriginal, and already-done-before.

In addition, the characters had beautiful designs, but not all of them were likeable. There also wasn’t much character development, nor were there any learning opportunities present for children. 

The dialogue felt bland and tried too hard to be funny. For example, there was a typical mean kid and their ‘sidekicks.’ When a character was crying, the words ‘Boo Hoo’ were used to enunciate her sobbing. (I hope that makes sense!)

Moreover, I really struggled with the writing. It would always reveal the events that occurred before it happened. This left no space for the readers to predict or imagine what would happen next. 

Fortunately, the illustrations were stunning! They were whimsical and vibrant, which I’m sure young readers will love.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The Kids of Cattywampus Street. (Pun intended.) While I disliked the writing style, I adored how bizarre and vibrant the book was. This novel is perfect for kids transitioning from picture books, to chapter books!

Age Rating: 9 and up

TW: Some scenes might scare younger children

Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars

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What is your favorite short story collection? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have an amazing day!

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Sugar and Spite | A Review

Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. I hope you enjoy!

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?

Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion. And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks. But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…

First let’s talk about the plot. Sugar and Spite promises a magical enemies-to-friends story. And well, I’m happy to say that it delivered! Young readers will find this short and sweet novel both immersive, and exciting. 

Furthermore, the characters were very three dimensional! In many cases, I’ve found that middle grade protagonists don’t have much personality. Thankfully, Jolina and Claudine were very intriguing characters. The side characters also added quite the amount of liveliness to the story too. Jolina’s relationship with her grandfather was absolutely adorable!

In addition, I really liked how the dialogue was done. Many Fillipino phrases and words were used, which is great as it allows people to understand more about The Philippines. Moreover, the character interactions also felt very authentic and real.

“Your being brown doesn’t make you ugly. Mom always says we’re beautiful.”

― Gail D. Villanueva, Sugar and Spite

Unfortunately though, I didn’t love the writing. At times, the storyline became too confusing. The world building was done poorly as well. The only things the audience knows about the magic system is that it aids people, and that it’s passed down by generation. (I’m not entirely sure though, so please take what I said with a grain of salt.) However, I loved the talk about colorism and classism. The book promotes the idea that no one should be discriminated against, regardless of socioeconomic status, or race. And I think that’s such a beautiful message!

Overall, I really enjoyed Sugar and Spite! It’s educational and exciting. Younger kids will surely enjoy this story to the fullest!

Age Rating: 8 and up

TW: Natural disaster, bullying

Final Rating: 7/10, or 3.5 stars

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What is your favorite Middle Grade novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have a fabulous day!

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A Place Called Perfect | A Review

Hi all! Today I’ll be reviewing A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan. I hope you enjoy!

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Violet never wanted to move to Perfect. Who wants to live in a town where everyone has to wear glasses to stop them going blind? And who wants to be neat and tidy and perfectly behaved all the time? But Violet quickly discovers there’s something weird going on – she keeps hearing noises in the night, her mum is acting strange and her dad has disappeared. When she meets Boy she realizes that her dad is not the only person to have been stolen away…and that the mysterious Watchers are guarding a perfectly creepy secret!

A Place Called Perfect delivers a creepy and whimsical tale on friendship, and fighting for what you believe in.

The synopsis was said to be a book fans of Roald Dahl would like. I’m happy to report that this pitch is quite accurate! However, it did miss the mark for me in some places.

One aspect of the book I didn’t like were the characters. The main character Violet can’t do much on her own. She always needs the help of a boy whose name is…Boy. This annoyed me as young children, specifically young girls, will read this and see a girl their age constantly being saved by a boy. Here is a quote from page 237 in which I feel has some sexist undertones. For context, the main character Violet says this line. “I think I prefer the gate.” To which Boy responds. “Don’t be such a girl.” Boy laughed. It’s almost as though Boy is using the word ‘girl’ as an insult. The line was unnecessary, and adds nothing to the story. There was another line similar to this one. I can’t remember the page, but for context, Violet is cold. To which Boy responds, “Boys don’t get cold.” I just don’t think these comments are needed, especially in a children’s book. Overall, the main characters Violet and Boy were written very poorly. It’s such a shame because A Place Called Perfect had so much potential for witty banter.

Luckily, the side characters, specifically the Archer brothers, add a lot of creepiness to the story. The background characters also have this bizarre monotone expression to everything. It’ll only make you want to read on!

The dialogue, as mentioned earlier, contained a few sexist remarks. This unfortunately was a big turn off for me.

On a better note, the writing was deliciously eerie and gripping. It definitely reads like a thriller-mystery. The book is also quite easy to read, which is a plus since the target audience is under thirteen. My only complaint is that the pacing felt off at times. It went from 0 to 100 far too many times, and the transitions weren’t very smooth. Nevertheless, Helena Duggan still delivers a great story!

The overall enjoyment level of this book is fairly high. It was engaging, but could easily become boring for those who don’t love thrillers. All in all, if you’re looking for a creepy story to read on a rainy day, I highly recommend A Place Called Perfect!

Age Rating: 10 and up

TW: Some scenes might scare younger children, mind control, some violence

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

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What’s your favorite mystery novel? Have a great day!

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Journey To The Center Of The Earth | A Review

Hi everyone! Today I bring you the long awaited review of ‘Journey To The Center Of The Earth’ by Jules Verne. After six long months, I finally finished it! I didn’t DNF it, I just got carried away into other books. (And that’s on reading 4 books at the same time.) For those of you who don’t know, this novel is a 295 page classical adventure that takes place in, for the most part, Iceland, England, and the center of the earth.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne - Penguin Books New  Zealand

When German professor Otto Lidenbrock stumbles upon a mysterious, ancient manuscript, it’s the first step in an epic adventure-one which will take him to the planet’s very core! Lidenbrock, together with his nephew Axel and Icelandic guide Hans, mounts an expedition downward through the layers of the Earth, coming face-to-face with strange creatures, overcoming terrific obstacles, and discovering truly wondrous sights.

First, let’s talk about the initial premise of the story. A journey into the earth sounds exciting and fun! I for one have never heard of such a unique plot, so I was rather intrigued to see how it would turn out! However, the plot execution is where the novel falls a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely did enjoy reading this classic, but the ending is what really bummed me out. The story had so much potential to grow! There were so many amazing species they talked about, and even saw, but never really discovered. Then again, there is only so much you can do in 295 pages. So overall, the plot execution was just okay. Not incredible, but considering the fact that this was most likely THE FIRST adventure novel out there at the time, I’ll give Mr. Verne a pass.

The characters where actually really interesting. First we have Professor Lidenbrock, who is absolutely hilarious. The novel is told through the eyes of Axel, the professor’s nephew. His sarcastic and rational reactions to his Uncle’s outgoing and determined behavior keeps the story lively and interesting. Hans, their Icelandic assistant, literally saves their butts ten times in row, and it gets even funnier every time. Overall, the characters were simple, yet well-crafted. Not to mention that despite being published in the early 1860s, there were no sexist or racist remarks made by the author in the novel! That pushed me to give this book an immediate extra star.

“Is the Master out of his mind?’ she asked me.
I nodded.
‘And he’s taking you with him?’
I nodded again.
‘Where?’ she asked.
I pointed towards the center of the earth.
‘Into the cellar?’ exclaimed the old servant.
‘No,’ I said, ‘farther down than that.”

― Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

The dialogue was absolutely hilarious! I never ever got tired of it. The language was so easy to understand, yet it was very descriptive. Speaking of descriptive, Journey To The Center Of The Earth had me playing a literal movie in my head. It was so descriptive, but in a great way! You also learn A LOT about geology and science. However, due to the stressful situations the characters go through, it isn’t nearly as boring as reading a high school geology textbook. (No offense.)

The writing style was surprisingly simple yet energetic. It was quite easy to understand. So if classics intimidate you due to their formal and hard-to-understand nature, this book is a wonderful place to start!

I must say, I really did enjoy Journey To The Center Of The Earth. In my 2021 Winter TBR Post, I talked about how I’ve been reading this book for a while now. The reason behind that is because adventure is simply not my style. I love realistic fiction and contemporary, so that’s why I decided to take a break from the novel for a while. Nevertheless, it was an incredibly spontaneous read, and I highly recommend it to anyone eager to read a good classic novel. If classical reads aren’t your style, this is the story that will hopefully get you out of your comfort zone! (In a good way of course.)

Journey To The Center Of The Earth is a charming classic that everyone should read!

Age Rating: 10 and up

Final Rating: 8/10 or 4.5 stars

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Have you read Journey To The Center Of The Earth? If not, what do you think of classical novels? Let me know in the comments down below! Take care and have a fabulous day everyone!

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