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Welcome to Mabel's Fables Bookstore!

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Penguin Random House
October 2016
Young adult

Sixteen-year-old Libby Strout is looking for a fresh start. Following the loss of her mother, she spiraled into a horrible depression that ultimately led to her being labelled 'America's Fattest Teen' and the need for her to be cut out of her own house. Having lost an extreme amount of weight, and learning a lot through intensive counselling, she feels that she is ready for all the possibilities that high school has to offer: new friends, new perspectives, and maybe even new love.
Jack Masselin is just hoping to get through his last year in high school. With a cultivated swagger, boorish friends, and an on-again/off-again relationship with the hottest girl in school, he knows he's created a 'safe' identity for himself. But unbeknownst to even his closest friends and family, he can't recognize faces; even his own family are strangers to him. He knows that if anyone at school learns of his disability, all the stability he has built over the years will evaporate and he'll be a target.

But high school is not kind to girls who are overweight, especially not someone as big as Libby, and when a cruel prank in the cafeteria lands both Jack and Libby in trouble, they have some evaluating to do. As their punishments play out, an unlikely friendship begins to develop, discovering a safe outlet to share their deepest feelings. As their community therapy continues, both Libby and Jack have some tough questions to ask themselves, and each other. Most importantly, just what kind of person do they want to be?
Melissa's rave: Jennifer Niven's previous novel, All the Bright Places, was stellar, and her follow-up effort does not disappoint. I completely fell in love with Libby Strout. She might just be my new fictional hero -- she is courageous, bold, selfless, and wonderful. Frankly, I found her strength and resolve to not let negativity and hate bring her down nothing short of inspirational. In a time when there has been a lot of media attention, and social media dialogue about body positivity and self care, Libby Strout acts as a beacon -- illuminating all of the positive repercussions for loving yourself unconditionally.
The character of Jack Masselin is less easy to love immediately, but his journey is no less rewarding. As the 'unintended' bully, he sheds light into why bad decisions are made, and how fear can drive a person to self-loathing. For all of his attractiveness and swagger, he lacks the kind of confidence that glows from Libby, and it is truly a pleasure to experience how these two characters challenge and shape each other.
Sometimes, life deals us horrible experiences, and it is how we move on and grow from these blows that defines who we are meant to be. I am grateful for the heartfelt writing that shines throughout this novel, reminding us as readers that connecting to each other will always help us hold up our part of the universe. - Reviewed by Melissa Bourdon-King
Number of stars: 4.5/5
Find it in store: 14+
Perfect for fans of:  All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


By Patricia Reilly Giff
Age category in store: 10
Publisher: Penguin Random House (September 2016)

Judith stopped talking when her Mom took off to become a Hollywood star. Now she communicates through her cartoon drawings, and lives happily with her loving Aunt Cora and Dog (yes, this is the dog’s name) on an island in Maine. This year, urged on by her aunt, Judith will be changing from her special needs classroom into the big fifth grade class. Though she is very nervous that she won’t make any friends, she gradually forms a friendship with Mason, the boy she is paired up with for a class project and who is an outsider like her. When she finds a card from her mother hidden in her aunt’s room saying that her mother is living on the mainland, Judith runs away in search of her, leaving everything she loves behind. 

Lizzie's rave: Reilly Giff does such a wonderful job with imagery and setting that not only is it easy to picture the island, but it feels like you're actually on the island surrounded by these lovely characters. While this is not an action-packed book, it is a sweet and touching story full of acceptance of differences and the healing power of loving relationships. I did find that the characters were almost too perfect -- and unrealistic in their lack of flaws. That said, this is is an excellent book for reluctant readers; simple, short and sweet but nevertheless beautifully written. - Reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Female of the Species

Age in store: Young Adult (recommended for 16+)
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada (September 2016)

Briefly, what it's about: When Alex’s older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free on a technicality, Alex took justice into her own hands. Since then, she has exiled herself to the fringes of high school society -- the perfect vantage point to observe the interactions of her peers, watch their sometimes disturbing behaviours that have become so normalized in today’s world. Over the course of The Female of the Species, Alex slowly establishes an unlikely friendship with Claire (aka Peekay), who drinks, is pro push-up bra, unconsciously plays into the “boys will be boys” attitude, and essentially does everything she can to ditch the expectations and stereotypes of being the “preacher’s kid.” As their girls' friendship develops, Alex catches the eye of Jack, the town’s basketball star, with the looks, talents and popularity to go with it.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Alex, Peekay and Jack, this novel is a study of today’s society, specifically gender roles, double standards and rape culture.

Lizzie's rave: This is a phenomenal story that punches you in the gut, tears your heart into pieces and leaves you thinking about it long after the last page is finished. I’m not really sure if it is possible to put this intense and thought-provoking novel into words, but I can say that this is one of, if not the best and most memorable books I have read in several years. Everyone needs to read it.

Alex is the most interesting character I have come across in a while. I love how she thinks before she speaks, how she's fiercely loyal to her friend and how she refuses to shame the girl trying to sleep with her boyfriend. She is the perfect anti-hero -- even with her vigilante justice system, it is impossible not to like her. All the characters in this novel are well crafted, each with their own flaws and unique personalities.

Despite the underlying message about the need to speak up, this is not an “issues” book. McGinnis is honest and blunt and does not sugar-coat anything, but she also inserts beautiful sections that are full of joy and hope for the future. -- Reviewed by Elizabeth Ferguson

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Write This Down

Title: Write This Down 
Author: Claudia Mills (USA)
Age category in store: 11
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (September 2016)

Briefly, what it's about: Autumn loves writing more than anything else in the world. She has piles of journals filled with poetry, essays, stories and more, and she finds inspiration everywhere, including but not limited to Cameron...the dreamboat who sits beside her in journalism class. When Autumn's older brother Hunter discovers one of her "I'm in love with Cameron" poems and reads it out loud to his friends, including Cameron's older brother, Autumn is devastated. Hunter, her former protector and best brother ever, is now a boy who humiliates her and tells her she could never find success with her writing. Autumn vows to get published and prove him wrong. When an essay she writes about Hunter and their relationship wins a magazine contest, she's thrilled. But is she willing to share her family's secrets? 

Michelle's rave: Write This Down has a sweetness and innocence that makes it feel like it could have been written 50 years ago. Endearing Autumn spends her time with her nose in a journal and her best friend spends her time knitting. The girls have a really strong and supportive friendship -- it's wonderful to read about fully developed female friendships.A good chunk of this book is set either in a coffee shop, school gym, Autumn's house or classroom. There's a closeness between Autumn and her teacher that is lovely. Their shared passion for the written word and storytelling make this book ideal for a classroom setting. Regarding family values, I think it's important to have books that emphasize sibling relationships and how the characters get through life's obstacles.I especially appreciated the discussion/family meeting that happens with Autumn and Hunter's parents to address problems head on. I think it's an honest resolution and vital for young readers to see that open communication is an effective strategy to work through emotional struggles. -- Reviewed by Michelle Gram  

Numbers of stars: 4/5 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Another Me

Title: Another Me (September 2016)
Author: Eva Wiseman (Canada)
Age in store: 12

Briefly, what it’s about: In fourteenth-century Strasbourg, France, the Jewish population works and trades with the rest of the citizens, but lives in its own pocket of town. The community has always been relatively safe and children, like 17-year-old Natan and his younger brother, Shmuli, grow up happy. But in October 1348, everything changes. Rumours begin to circulate that the Jews are poisoning the well water, that they are the cause of the great plague. Natan however knows the truth. He can identify the people contaminating the water. They know he can and they don’t plan on letting him talk.  

Heather’s rave: Another Me both enthralled and angered me. I love reading historical fiction, I love learning about the past, but this one hit really close to home. I had never heard about the Jewish community of Strasbourg being blamed for the plague, nor did I know about their horrific fate. How can people be so blind to the truth, be so misled in their thinking? Author Eva Wiseman inserts her fictional tale into the true historical event with a deft hand and an interesting paranormal twist involving Jewish mysticism. She tells the story using two voices -- Natan’s and that of his first (and non-Jewish) love, Elena – which help to provide a wider perspective and deeper meaning to the historical background and to their day-to-day struggles. Another Me is not an easy read, but it is an important book. It will make readers think, it will make readers feel, and hopefully, it will make readers understand that differences should be embraced, not feared. - Reviewed by Heather Camlot

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Two Naomis (Lizzie)

Title: Two Naomis (September 2016)
Age in store: 10

Briefly, what it's about: Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith have absolutely nothing in common. When the relationship between Naomi Marie’s mother, Valerie, and Naomi Edith’s father, Tom, starts to get serious, the girls are each coerced by their parent into attending a coding class together so they can get to know each other better -- something neither of them wants to do. Brianna, Naomi Marie’s little sister, is too young to understand what is going on and is just happy to have more people to play with. She thinks it’s funny that both girls are named Naomi and occasionally refers to them as :black Naomi" (her sister) and "white Naomi" (Naomi Edith). Adjusting to their new family situation presents challenges and adversity. Eventually however the Naomis must face their differences, accept the changes that are happening, and realize that their new blended family is pretty wonderful in its own way.

Lizzie's rave: This is a wonderfully endearing novel about growing up, friendship and blending families. Authors Rhuday-Perkovich and Vernick do a great job navigating the emotional topic of post-divorce family life and the adjustments that must be made when parents start dating again in a realistic and upbeat way. The two Naomis narrate their story in alternating chapters; both characters are distinct and engaging, with flaws that make them totally believable.

I did find Naomi Marie accepted that she would be the Naomi to go by both her first and middle name rather quickly (or maybe I am just a much more unaccommodating person!). And I must confess, parents Tom and Valerie really irritated me, the way they just signed up their daughters for a class together without telling them the real reason until they got there, and the way they tell the girls they are getting married while standing outside city hall about 10 minutes before it happens. Despite these flaws, this is a book that will definitely resonate with many readers, particularly those who have experienced changing families.  

Rating: 4/5 stars