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Welcome to Mabel's Fables Bookstore!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Sun Is Also a Star

Doubleday Canada
November 2016
Young adult

Just twelve hours before her family is scheduled to be deported back to Jamaica, 17-year-old Natasha Kingsley decides to visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the hope that a miracle will happen, that her family will not be forced to leave their home because of her father’s mistakes.
In a few hours, Daniel Jae Ho Bae has his alumni admission interview with Yale, where his parents want him to fasttrack his way into the pre-med program, regardless of his desire to become a writer. Instead of staying home and listening to his mother’s endless stream of questions, Daniel decides to opt for sanity and spend the day outside, wandering around until it is time for his interview.
When Natasha and Daniel unexpectedly meet on the street, both are changed forever as they spend what they envisioned to be the worst day ever discovering that everything truly does happen for a reason.

Lizzie's rave: I will be the first to admit that I am a skeptic when it comes to insta-love stories, but I was happy to be proved wrong by Nicola Yoon. Natasha and Daniel’s relationship evolves in a very authentic way, is anything but smooth and will leave readers rooting for them until the last page. The characters are funny, flawed, charming and utterly relatable. Perhaps one of my favourite parts of this novel is how Yoon intersperses the story with little “fact” pages about other characters, science and history.

The Sun Is Also a Star doesn’t shy away from difficult topics such as family dysfunction, discrimination, race, prejudice and betrayal, and deals with them in a smart, beautiful and honest way. This is a poignant and thought-provoking book that is a must for Young Adult readers! - Reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Age in store: 14+

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Threads

Disney-Hyperion
November 2016
Middle grade

Threads weaves together two stories of struggle. Clara, who recently lost her sister, and Yuming, who lost her freedom. 

While shopping, Clara finds a note and a photo tucked inside a purse in the clearance bin.The note is a desperate plea for help from Yuming: "22 children in here -- young boys and girls. Trapped. Working day and night on purses...few hours outside of Beijing." The factory is thousands of miles away from Clara's home in Illinois, but, driven by the memory of her sister, Clara fiercely believes there is a chance to free Yuming and the other children. 

Yuming understands the huge risk she was taking when she stuffed the note into a purse she'd just made. She could have been beaten or scarred in the face like another child who tried to escape. But her options have run out. She is frantic to get out of the deplorable and terrifying living conditions and back to the rice fields, where she lived with her family before she was kidnapped. If something doesn't happen soon, she will have to find another way. 

Loretta's rave: I'm raving! Threads is terrific. The two stories felt so real that I was committed for the 24 hours it took me to finish the fast-paced novel. This is a story about a rescue attempt, aimed at healing Clara's grief and Yuming's desperation. The book doesn't solve any of the questions it brings up about child labour and could have perhaps been stronger had it delved more deeply into the issue. But that didn't take away from the fantasy of the story for me, which was two girls driven to find answers in their lives. There is certainly enough in this novel for teachers and parents to start a great discussion with young readers.The emotional pull of Threads is powerful and beautifully crafted. - Reviewed by Loretta Garbutt

Number of stars: 4.5
Age in store: 11
Perfect for fans of: Trash by Andy Mulligan and The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
Farrar Straus & Giroux
October 2016
Middle grade

Gertie Reece Foy is on a mission and her missions always work, no matter what. But this one, to be the best fifth grader in the world, isn’t going as planned, thanks to Mary Sue, the seat-stealing new girl who has a famous movie director for a father. Gertie’s mom left when she was just a baby and Gertie believes that if she can complete her latest mission, her mom will realize how wonderful she is and just have to take her back. Even as her plans fail one by one, Gertie remains optimistic and continuously throws herself into the mission with gusto.

With the help of her best friend and sidekick, Junior Jr. (named after his father, whose given name is Junior), Gertie will do everything she can to thwart Mary Sue and her clique and become the best fifth grader in the world!

Elizabeth's rave: This is a wonderful debut from Kate Beasley and I would not be at all surprised if it was the beginning of a series. Gertie has wonderful determination, independence, creativity and spirit that put her in league with Ramona, Pippi, Harriet and many other young literary heroines. Yet underneath her blustery exterior is a sweet girl who is lonely and yearns for her mother’s love and approval. My only reservation with this novel is that at times Gertie and her classmates’ manner of speech and actions seem more like Grade 3. The illustration of Gertie on the cover doesn’t help this either, since she looks like she is five or six years old. Nevertheless, this is a perfect read-aloud book that will have both adults and kids smiling throughout.  - reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson

Number of stars: 4 / 5
Age category in store: 9


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Friend or Foe

Friend or Foe by John Sobol
Canadian
Groundwood Books
October 2016
Picture book


Digging down to the truly archetypal, John Sobol gives us a story of sincerity and gravity that a child can perfectly understand. Our hero is a mouse and our object a cat, who may be a friend or predator. With clear, strong words and stark illustrations by Dasha Tolstikova, Friend or Foe tells about the day the lonely mouse decided to make a change, to dare the long journey through the castle, to risk its life to find out if maybe, just maybe, a friend exists.
 
Steve's rave: "This is how it was," says John Sobol at the start of the picture book. It is a poetic beginning to a powerful story. If we continue to see children's literature executed with this kind of panache, things may never be the same. 
I don't think I've ever been more invested in the struggle of a children's book character. Here is a story that doesn't dance lightly along its necessarily simple plotline, nor tug at it cheekily, winking at us, the adult readers who have to endure enforced simplicity. A pen is a elemental tool, but you can do magical things with it. And that is what Sobol has done with this simple story. It demands your sympathy. It grips you tightly. It builds to a suspenseful climax, and it gives you an ending that is a resolution and yet an imperfect one -- like that of all the very best storytellers. I've summarized this book to adults, who've then stared at me a moment and begged to hear how it turns out. Friend or Foe? is a truly wonderful accomplishment. -- reviewed by Steve Nesbitt
 
Number of stars: 5 / 5
Age category in store: 5
Perfect for fans of: We Found a Hat by John Klassen, The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ghosts

Scholastic Canada
September 2016
Middle grade

Catrina's little sister, Maya, has cystic fibrosis, and to ease her respiratory difficulties, the girls' parents have decided to move the family to breezy, salty-aired Bahia de la Luna, a (fictional) beach town in Northern California. Cat is pretty miserable about leaving her friends behind and resents having to meet new people. As the girls start to explore their new home, they meet their neighbour, who lets them in on the town's secret: there are ghosts in Bahia de la Luna -- loads of them. Cat wants nothing to do with them, but Maya is fascinated by the idea. Is Catrina able to set aside her own fears and preconceptions to help her sister? 


Michelle's rave: With Ghosts, Raina Telgemeier fully develops a layered relationship between sisters and explores the themes of fear, logic, sickness, fantasy and cultural identity. I love how actual ghosts are ever-present in Bahia de la Luna because of the constant fog and that as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) approaches, the ghosts ready themselves to interact with the living in a safe and comforting way. Maya is very aware of mortality; her curiosity and openness of death, whilst keeping a positive outlook on life, is really courageous and brave. She's an incredibly likable character. Catrina goes through quite the journey, learning to think less about herself and more about her sister and the needs of her family, as well as connecting with her own heritage. All in all, I love. -- Review by Michelle Gram

Number of stars: 4/5
Category in store: Jr. graphic

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Best Man

The Best Man by Richard Peck
Dial Books
September 2016
Middle grade

Elementary school is a time of major life lessons in a child's life, but 12-year-old Archer Magill isn't the only one in his family learning and growing. When new student teacher/National Guardsman Mr. McLeod show up in class, he quickly makes it onto Archer's list of role models, alongside Archer's architect grandfather, his vintage-car restoring dad and his baseball-executive uncle. Mr. McLeod also makes an impact the world over when his lockdown welcome (he was wearing his National Guardsman fatigues after all, any principal would have made the same mistake) goes viral and his good looks and physique illicit marriage proposals from as far away as North Korea. But there's only one marriage proposal he'll consider, and sweetly naive Archer aims to help -- once he understands exactly what's going on.

Heather's rave: The Best Man is a quiet triumph. Richard Pecks expertly explores family dynamics, school hijinks, odd-couple friendships, gay marriage, media frenzies and small-town living through the eyes of gentle-natured Archer, who admits he isn't exactly the quickest kid around. Actually, his friend Lynette's the one who pointed it out, but he seems quite content with her evaluation. Peck's writing is well-paced, the story a rollercoaster of emotions with plenty of laughs, the characters strong and nicely drawn. The coming-of-age tale never talks down to its audience or pushes with lessons in morality. Rather, delicate subjects -- from bullying to homosexuality -- are handled with what reads like much insight and experience. A wonderful addition to classroom libraries and a great choice for reluctant readers. - Reviewed by Heather Camlot

Number of stars: 4/5
Category in store: 11
Perfect for fans of: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson, Better Nate Than Never by Tim Federle.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Beautiful Blue World

Wendy Lamb Books
September 2016
Middle grade

Twelve-year-old Mathilde and her best friend, Megs, have been together forever. But that friendship will soon be tested by the war being fought between their country, Sofarende, and neighbouring Tyssia. 

The Army is looking for children to help the war effort and will pay their families handsomely. Although Mathilde doesn't consider herself academically smart like Megs, she agrees to take the Army's exam in the hopes of protecting her mom, dad and siblings from starvation. Mathilde is shocked when she is chosen; neither she nor her family knows where she'll be sent or if she will ever see them again. Not only will Mathilde have to say goodbye to Megs, but to her childhood.

Loretta's rave:  Beautiful Blue World somewhat reminded me of a young version of Meg Rosoff's, How I Live Now Mathilde is directly involved in the war, but details are vague. We only know about the deeply affected lives. Imagine armies using the supple minds of young children in strategic maneuvers to help their cause. The idea is disturbing, yet brilliant.  And the topic is very current; it could be situated in many places in today's world. Mathilde can be any child who has been taken from her family. 

As a character, Mathilde is a very likeable. She doesn't believe she has the smarts like Megs or the other kids in her class who ace the exam, but she's chosen for a gift she doesn't realize she possesses. She's strong and loyal, and seeing war from her perspective is captivating. She faces fear, self doubt and guilt, all the while knowing there is no going back. 

My only complaint is that the novel didn't reach the emotional depth I felt it should and could have had. Still, Beautiful Blue World will open up great discussions in the classroom and at home. I look forward to the sequel.

Number of stars: 4.5 / 5
Age in store:  11 yrs