Yolanda Ridge

Children's Author

The League of Unexceptional Children

Title: The League of Unexceptional Children

Author: Gitty Daneshvari

Illustrator: James Lancet

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 0316405701

Not only do I love the concept of this book, the execution is great too! I listened to the audiobook on a summer road trip with my sister, 9-year-old niece, and two 10-year-old sons (yes – twins). It kept the kids engaged the entire time and made my sister and I laugh out loud on several (okay, many) occasions.

The start is a bit slow but once the “unexceptional children”, Jonathan and Shelley, are introduced the reader is drawn immediately into their world. Making the point that not everyone is exceptional – and nor they don’t need to be – does not get in the way of a great adventure story that involves saving the Vice-President of the United States.

I’m not sure if I missed any great visuals by not reading the actual book but the audio narrator is amazing and the voices she does really brings the story to light. Prepare to laugh and cheer for the unexceptional.

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OCDaniel

Title: OCDanielocdaniel-9781481455312_lg

Author: Wesley King

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9781481455312

Based at least partly on the author’s own experience with obsessive compulsive disorder (as outlined in the author note at the end), this book is a must read for all school aged kids. With up to 20% of children experiencing some type of mental illness, OCDaniel shows why some people chose to keep their “craziness” hidden while providing  hope for affected kids, their friends and family.

But that’s not why you should read this book (and recommend it to all the young people in your life). You should read OCDaniel because it is entertaining, touching, insightful, and commassionate. You should read it because there’s football. You should read it because there’s a mystery. You should read it because you will fall in love with Daniel, Psycho Sara, and all the other realistic characters in this book (especially best friend of the year – Max!)…. But most of all, you should read OCDaniel because it is so darn good!

Without spoiling the ending, you will route for the Elephants even if you don’t like football and have no idea what a kicker does. And the mystery will definitely keep you guessing even though the actions of one character’s mom stretches credibility.

A mix of Wonder and Fault in our Stars, and just as well written, OCDaniel will not disappoint in any way. Highly recommended!

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Bad Luck

Title: Bad Luck61ffvSyhgZL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

Author: Pseudonymous Bosch 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 0316320420

If you are 10-years-old (or have a 10-year-old in your life) and you haven’t yet read The Secret Series, stop surfing this blog immediately and go check out The Name of this Book is Secret. There’s a reason these books are best sellers: they’re funny, contain a compelling and complex mystery, and introduce us to a unique cast of characters. In other words, all the secrets to literary middle grade success!

In The Bad Books, we meet the little brother of my favourite character from The Secret Series, Max Ernest. Unlike the rest or his family, Clay is a relatively “normal” kid. But when he gets in trouble at school, he’s shipped off to Earth Ranch summer camp, which is anything but normal. In Bad Luck, things on the volcanic island get even more magical and Clay and his friends must solve the mystery of the strange cave drawings and the hijacked cruise ship to save a kidnapped dragon.

The kids are quirky, clever, cheeky, and relatable (except, maybe, for Clay’s magical ability) and the adults are outrageously eccentric. The narrative style is fresh and funny – particularly the footnotes. Bad Luck works as a stand alone book (although you really should read Bad Magic too). The ending also sets things up for a third book in the series which I can’t wait to see on the shelves. Highly recommended. Get reading!

As an aside, the title of this book really appealed to me as I have just been outfitted with my second cast in as many years. This one is on my right hand, making it particularly difficult for me to write (and do other things)… So please forgive me for the infrequent postings. I’ve been playing with new book ideas, getting to know a new critique group, working with a new (to me) editor on Inside Hudson Pickle, and now dealing with this new challenge. Thank goodness for Dragon Dictation (and having lots of great books to read)!

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Publishing Contract for Inside Hudson Pickle

It’s official! My middle grade novel, Inside Hudson Pickle, will be published by Kids Can Press in Fall of 2017!

A huge thank-you to my agent, Amy Tompkins, for making the deal. I can’t wait to start working with the talented folks at Kids Can Press!

Photo on 2015-10-29 at 5.32 PM

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Guatemala

Here’s an exciting message to receive from a reader… my books are going to Guatemala! I hope they are enjoyed by this lovely family. Happy summer reading everyone!

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Extraordinary

85aa7143d67567dd5b1308d2fb2ff962-w204@1xTitle: Extraordinary

Author: Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9781632204028

First, I have to start with a disclaimer: there is no way I can objectively review this book. It was written by my critique partner and great writing friend, Miriam Spitzer Franklin, and I’ve the pleasure of reading it at various stages of production. The novel has undergone extensive review numerous times and Miriam has worked tirelessly to tell this beautiful story of friendship, hope, disability, and self discovery.

The journey to publication has not been easy for Miriam or this book but I’m so glad she persevered. Extraordinary is a beautifully written, contemporary middle grade novel about two best friends, Pansy and Anna. At a basic level, it is about what 10-year-old Pansy is willing to do for Anna – to become an “extraordinary” friend – after Anna suffers severe brain after contracting meningitis. But underneath all the acts of bravery – cutting off her hair, rollerblading, and more – is Pansy’s ultimate desire to get back the friend she misses so much. Through her journey, Pansy realizes that wishing for something doesn’t necessarily make it come true and that being extraordinary means so much more than taking risks and trying new things.

Aimed at eight to twelve year old readers, this book is heart warming, authentic, and highly recommended (despite my lack of objectivity)! Check it out – you won’t be disappointed!

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The Walking Fish

9780990782933c1-300x300Title: The Walking Fish

Author: Rachelle Burk & Kopel Burk

Publisher: TumbleHome Learning

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 987-0-9907829-3-3

This middle grade novel, aimed at students in grades 4-7, got off to a slow start for me. There was a typo on the first page. And the “action” starts with a collection of groan-worthy puns that define the relationship between the main character, Alexis (“Minnow”) and her fingerless, fish-loving grandfather who doesn’t make an actual appearance in the book until the last couple pages.

The puns continue past the first page but the slow part is almost immediately replaced with a fast-paced adventure. First, Alexis finds the fish in a pond outside her family’s summer cabin at Glacial Lake. Then, she and her friend, Darshan, are immediately drawn into the mystery of where the walking, blind fish came from. The truth is pursued through boat and helicopter rides, cave exploration and spelunking, with a greedy, back-stabbing, chairman of the the Environmental Science Department at Glacial Lake University (in other words, the boss) thrown in for good conflict.

The science in this book is accurate, well presented, and not overwhelming. The narrative is clear and Rachel Burke does a good job of incorporating interesting characters that challenge Alexis as a friend, daughter and scientists while also introducing her to the first twinges of romance. But the best character, by far, is Alexis herself who is fearless and relentless in her pursuit of the truth – all initiated by an authentic grief that accompanies the death of “her fish”.

The ending was not completely satisfying or realistic. Why doesn’t Alexis, after being so feisty and forthcoming throughout the novel, tell everyone the truth about her scientific discovery when she’s rescued from the cave? It is only when two other students at the University come forward with the truth about the boss that everyone magically forgives Alexis. And then suddenly, everything is neatly tied up – and I mean everything, even the big mouth on the big boss – and Alexis gets the credit she deserves.

Minor quibbles aside, The Walking Fish is a great read. It will especially appeal to those with an interest in science – like me – but there is enough action and character development to keep everyone turning the page. Recommended.

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World Book Day

9780385674058_0Happy World Book Day!

I’m not dressing up for the occasion (although many people in the UK do – very cool!) But I am reading. And since my morning radio show asked everyone what book was on their bedside table, I feel compelled to share:

My books;

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

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Annaleise Carr: How I Conquiered Lake Ontario to Help Kids Battling Cancer by Annaleise Carr and Deborah Ellis

 Oliver’s books;

A Pair of Docks by Jennifer Ellis

50 Climate Questions: A Blizzard of Blistering Facts by Peter Christie and Ross Kinnaird (illustrator)

Spencer’s books;

Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3 Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

50cq– The Black Circle: The 39 Clues (book 5) by Patrick Carman

Now I happen to think that everyday should be book day… but I’m very grateful to the organizers of World Book Day. Enjoy your read!

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When the Worst Happens

Title: WHEN THE WORST HAPPENS: Extraordinary Stories of Survival

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi1403562658

Publisher: Annick Press

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 978-1-55451-682-7

This great non-fiction offering from BC author Tanya Lloyd Kyi challenges readers to think about what they’d do if they were facing life and death. Along with engaging artwork by David Parkins, the text provides practical survival tips such as finding friends, going back to basics and getting zen (my personal favourite).

But what really makes this book riveting reading for someone who will probably never get trapped in a mine or on a floating chunk of ice are the real life stories of young people who have faced these types of scenarios. These personal vignettes are told through a fast paced narrative that encourages readers to skip ahead pages (literally) so they can find out what happened. Interspersed with interesting facts about the bodies response to stress, fear, and deprivation (and starvation, dehydration, altitude sickness, insomnia, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, injury…) geographic descriptions and historical facts that put dangers into context, this format also allows the stories to serve as examples of each chapter’s learning point.

With the perfect mix of good story telling and education, When the Worst Happens is highly recommended for 9 to 12-year-olds (and above) – whether your an adventure seeker, bad luck finder, or armchair crusader.

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The Hypnotist

Title: The Hypnotists

Author: Gordon Kormanm4575_hypnotistsbo_4cc

Publisher: Scholastic

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9780545503228

In honour of my sons’ birthday, I thought I’d post a book by one of their favourite authors, Gordon Korman.

With so many great titles to choose from, I had trouble narrowing it down to one feature book by this prolific story teller. My whole family is a huge fan of the 39 clues (the audiobooks are highly recommended for a long car rides), Spencer loves The Everest Trilogy (and Titanic and Dive and Island...) and Oliver is really looking forward to the release of Masterminds.

But the concept of The Hypnotists, where a 12-year-old mind bender masters his talent and learns how the gift of hypnotism can be used to destroy (or save) the world, is pure genius. We are currently listening to the audio version of The Hypnotists (after reading it several times) and reading (well, my son is re-reading) the next book in the series, Memory Maze, which is just as engaging as the first.

Luckily, Gordon Korman likes trilogies so we can probably look forward to another book in this series too. In the meantime, check out any of this author’s titles – you will not be disappointed!

You will not be disappointed, you will not be disappointed, you will not be…

 

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