Review: The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

4 stars

This one was so cute and heartwarming. A classroom full of “screwups” for whatever reason are stuck with a completely apathetic, checked-out teacher. With a POV for pretty much every character in the book, I’m surprised it works as well as it does. But it’s lovely to see how this teacher who doesn’t seem to care at all wins over his class–and how they bring him back to the world of the living, little by little.

Some parts, especially in the last quarter of the book, seemed a little cheesy for my tastes, but kids’ll love this one. It’s funny and authentically middle grade, and there are a few moments that had me going, “YES!!!” and grinning like a maniac.

It would make a great classroom read-aloud, but would also be fun to read with your own kids. Lots of opportunities for discussion as well.

Review: The Terrible Two Get Worse by Mac Barnett and Jory John, Ill. by Kevin Cornell

4.5 stars

The Terrible Two Get Worse (link to Goodreads)

Look. There are books that are important for kids to read. Books parents or teachers will want to read with their kids so they can start a conversation about something true.

And then there are books that are just fun. Books kids and parents alike will like without trying. Books that can be read aloud, that will strengthen the bond between you and your kids.

The Terrible Two series is the fun kind of book. That said, this one does deal with ideas of tyranny and rebellion. The two prankster heroes are up against a rather humorless individual who is quite literally ruining school for everyone and running a rather successful fake news campaign to maintain his power.

Yes, it’s all rather low-stakes and silly. But it will matter to kids. And the humor is still sizzling, the writing smart, so you’ll like it too. This is the series I recommend most frequently because I have a hard time imagining many people who wouldn’t like it.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: The Scrivener’s Bones

4 stars (I really liked it).

Scrivener's Bones cover (link to Goodreads)

I am going to start with a series of confessions. I read the first Alcatraz book years ago and didn’t like it much. Sanderson’s sense of humor doesn’t really match with mine, so when he goes all zany, as he does, he loses me. I decided then not to read the rest of the series.

My 13 year old son has read the first three books and liked them, but the wait was so long before book 4 that he got too old for them and can’t remember now what happened in the first three and doesn’t care enough to reread them so he can finish the series.

A few months ago, I was able to read an advance copy of book 6 of this series. I remembered enough of book 1 to muddle through, but . . . it was a lot more interesting than I remembered. And suddenly I wanted to read the rest. So those are the confessions: I didn’t think I would like this, and I’ve read most of book 6 and you haven’t. So there.

Okay, so now on to the review. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I was never bored, and the humor worked for me. I liked the characters and the twists. It’s short and sweet, so I finished it in a day or two. I’m definitely reading the next one.

Review: The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

5 stars (I loved it!).

The Terrible Two cover (link to Goodreads)

Okay, so this is hilarious and delightful. The humor writing is top-notch, not merely zany or crazy like some middle-grade humor but subtle and surprising and *constant*. I mean it. I am in awe of how tightly written this book is.

I loved it as an adult. My third grader loved it. My older boys read it in a day. The first twist isn’t really surprising, but it’s not meant to be. It’s still funny.

Basically, for the uninitiated, the main character moves to Yawnee Valley, a city known mostly for its cows. He was established in the big city as the school prankster, and he hopes to keep that title here, even if he’d rather be anywhere else. But it appears someone else has already claimed the title: he shows up to his first day of school to find that someone has managed to get the principal’s car up the stairs of the school and has blocked the front doors with it.

It’s not really believable. Many of the characters and situations are larger than life. It doesn’t matter.

The illustrations are perfect, and they add to the appeal. But the audiobook is also excellent. I can’t decide which to recommend more. Maybe do both together?

Review: Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

5 stars: It was amazing!

Bob cover (link to Goodreads)

I love when reading a middle grade novel feels like hanging out with real kids. I love when middle grade is funny and heartfelt and earnest and exciting. This one ticked all the boxes for me. I didn’t miss that this is the second book by Rebecca Stead that I loved, and I noticed after reading that Wendy Mass is the author of a book my oldest son loved and read twice. I guess that’s going on my to-read list! This book would be appropriate for pretty much any kid old enough to listen to a novel.