Mapmakers and the Lost Magic by Cameron Chittock & Amanda Castillo

Mapmakers and the Lost Magic

Information

GoodreadsMapmakers and the Lost Magic
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Alidade is tired of living in a small village ruled over by the cruel Night Coats, who prevent anyone from leaving. Running into the forest, she discovers a secret treehouse where a group of Mapmakers once worked to protect the Valley. Now, if Alidade wants to free her home from the Night Coats, she will have to take up the ancient art of mapmaking.

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Review

Mapmakers and the Lost Magic possesses an intriguing premise, but ultimately proves a lackluster story that relies on tired tropes and does nothing original with them. Alidade lives in a valley ruled by the Night Coats, a group of guards whose sole duty seems to put down the locals and make them dig dirt in a pit (for unknown reasons). Alidade longs for more, however. She longs for travel. And, so, after running away yet again, she stumbles upon a magic treehouse and learns that the valley was once free, and once guarded by the Mapmakers and their magical companions–now lost to time. Alidade has to unite the villagers to stand against the Night Coats and reclaim their land. It all sounds good. It just…feels really boring in practice.

The concept of a village that lives isolated from the rest of society and is oppressed by outsiders is nothing new. To stand out, Mapmakers and the Lost Magic really had to do something different, whether that meant creating especially lovable characters or providing a plot twist on the old tale. It does not. Alidade is a one-dimensional character whose sole point of interest is that she seems to be the only villager who has ever thought of leaving. Her friend is the standard homebody who distrusts adventure, but is loyal to Alidade. The plot is standard and predictable. Even the art does not make the story feel more magical.

I really wanted to see more depth in Mapmakers and the Lost Magic. I wanted to know more about the Night Coats, who they are, how they came to power, and what they are even doing bothering to police a small village of people who are not even interested in rebelling. What is their overall goal? Are they hiding something bigger? Is someone in the capital leading them in their nefarious deeds–whatever those are? I have no idea. The Night Coats are in Alidade’s village, and they are a nuisance, and aside from some commentary about humans always seeking power, that is all readers get because, in the end, the Night Coats are just around to give Alidade an antagonist.

The rest of the story is just as underdeveloped and lackluster. Politics and history are glossed over with the barest minimum needed to give Alidade a reason to try to become a Mapmaker. Her victory over the Night Coats is swift, confusing, and so easy it feels anti-climatic. Do I want to read a sequel to this book? No, not at all.

Mapmakers and the Lost Magic has a lot of promise, but it does not live up to that promise. If you are seeking an insightful book on politics, power, and oppression, other books have done a similar plotline and they have done it more effectively. With all the compelling middle grade graphic novels out there, this one is not really fleshed out enough or original enough to feel necessary.

2 star review

Remarkably Ruby by Terri Libenson

Information

GoodreadsRemarkably Ruby
Series: Emmie & Friends #6
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Ruby and Mia used to be best friends, but now Mia seems to find Ruby embarrassing. While Mia is sort of popular and running for student president, Ruby prefers to fade into the background. She’s even hesitant to join poetry club–even though she loves poetry. In this sixth installment of the Emmie & Friends series, the background character known as Baked Bean Girl finally gets to tell her own story.

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Review

I associate Terri Libenson’s Emmie & Friends series with empathetic looks at the middle school experience. The books (each one can be read as a standalone) generally focus on concerns like outgrowing friends and making new ones, finding one’s identity, and navigating one’s place in school and at home. So I was incredibly excited when I learned that the background character formerly known as Baked Bean Girl (because she was always running to the bathroom after having a fiber-filled snack) was finally getting her own book and her own story. I was not disappointed. Remarkably Ruby is a heartfelt story about repairing friendships and finding one’s voice.

As with most of the other books, Remarkably Ruby follows two perspectives. Ruby tells her side of the story–feeling lost now that her best friend Mia refuses to talk to her anymore. And Mia explains how, from her perspective, Ruby is just too embarrassing to have around, especially now that Mia is running for student president. Ruby wants things to go back to the way they were, while Mia just wishes Ruby would leave her alone. The dual narrative allows readers to see how Mia thinks she is right and reasonable, even though her actions clearly hurt Ruby.

Ruby, however, has a lot of growth of her own, making the leap to join the newly formed poetry club, and even volunteering to read some of her work aloud at the talent show. Ruby will feel relatable to many readers as she struggles to feel comfortable at school, especially since she towers over many of her peers and feels a bit awkward in her body. She just wants to find a place where she feels she belongs, and the empowering part of her story is that she does start to take steps to find that place. Ruby’s courage is inspirational, and thinking about it admittedly makes me feel a bit teary-eyed.

As with the other books, Remarkably Ruby ends with a twist that gives new meaning to the stories the readers just read. This one truly shocked me! So even readers who are accustomed to Libenson’s narratives may find this one a welcome surprise.

Remarkably Ruby is another engaging installment in the Emmie & Friends series. As always, I appreciated Libenson’s commitment to depicting all of her characters sympathetically, allowing readers to enter in their experiences and try to understand what they are going through. Middle school is not easy. But Libeson’s books invite readers to understand that everyone has their own unique story, and their own struggles. The books remind readers to be kind, and to not make assumptions about what other people are experiencing. I love that the series is ongoing, as the message to reach out and to choose empathy never grows old.

5 stars

Cookies & Milk by Shawn Amos

Cookies and Milk by Shawn Amos

Information

Goodreads: Cookies & Milk
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2022

Summary

Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson just knows his summer is going to be terrible when he learns that his recently divorced dad expects him to help open a new chocolate chip cookie store. Who ever heard of store that sells just chocolate chip cookies? And they only have six weeks to do it, right in the middle of Sunset Boulevard. Despite Ellis’ reservations, however, he soon begins making friends and learning that a little bit of kindness–and some really great cookies–just might be able to transform a neighborhood. Set in 1976, this middle grade historical fiction is loosely based on the author’s own experiences growing up with Wally Amos, founder of the Famous Amos cookies.

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Review

Cookies & Milk is a fun historical fiction based on the author’s experiences growing up with the founder of the Famous Amos cookies. Though at time the writing lacks fluidity and the structure is not entirely cohesive, younger readers will likely find the story humorous while some older readers will delight in the nostalgia of reliving the 1970s. One thing is for sure, though: this book will leave readers wanting chocolate chip cookies!

The premise of Cookies & Milk initially drew me in, promising me a cute coming-of-age story complete with one of my favorite things–dessert. However, the book is about much more than opening a storefront. It also deals with Ellis and his dad’s attempts to navigate through divorce; the revelation of family secrets and heartbreak; Ellis’ journey to finding his identity as he meets Black musicians, works on his Afro, and is inspired to wear a dashiki; the experience of being one of the few Black kids in a predominantly white neighborhood; and the power of kindness to create a community. In other words, there’s a lot!

Unfortunately, though I loved all these elements, sometimes the book showed itself to be a debut effort as the elements do not all seamlessly come together. The story feels like it skips and jumps a bit, moving from Ellis’ childish antics that result in ruined cookie ingredients, to his admiration of the mysterious DJ Wishbone, to his serendipitous meetings with a down-on-his-luck homeless man, a surfer dude who is all about the love, and a motherly neighborhood lady (all of whom, of course, turn out in the end to help make the cookie business a success). It felt a bit like the author knows the ingredients to a heartwarming middle grade story, but just needs a bit more practice to blend them all together.

The most joyful part of this story for me, though, was all the great 1970s references, and Ellis’ exuberant embrace of them all. Watching him discover the “funk” at a local radio station, make his Afro fabulous, and delve into his family history to decide who he wants to be was all a delight. It seems like the author thinks of the 1970s very fondly, even as the book does not shy away from depicting how difficult it could be to live in a mostly white neighborhood. The end message is positive, though: spreading kindness can make a world of difference.

Cookies & Milk admittedly does read rather like a debut book, one that could use a little polishing. However, the premise is fun and I think the humor will still appeal to younger readers. Pick this one up if you are looking for a historical fiction with a sweet twist!

3 Stars

Race for the Escape by Christopher Edge (ARC Review)

Information

Race for the Escape book cover

Goodreads: Race for the Escape (or The Escape Room)
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Netgalley from US Publisher
Publication Date: July 5, 2022 (US)

Official Summary

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Review

Race for the Escape has such an excellent premise I had to request it from Netgalley: a group of kids go to an escape room but then discover it’s more than just a game: there’s some important Answer they need to find, and if they don’t, it could literally cost them their lives. Unfortunately, the premise is the best part of the book. A confusing, nonsensical plot, an inability to make me actually care about the characters, and a lackluster ending make this one a hard pass from me.

I spent most of the book vaguely confused by what was going on, in that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. As a brief example, one of the rooms in the escape room (which is really more of an escape building) catches on fire, and once the children figure out where the exit is, they are all relieved and move on as if they are perfectly safe. It is not once brought up that one of the rooms is the building is STILL ON FIRE and, you know, fire spreads. Usually I attribute illogical in middle grade books to the author assuming a young audience won’t care, but I am pretty sure even a middle schooler understands that if one room in a building is on fire, you need to get out of the building entirely, not just that room.

Weird situations like this throughout the novel had me scratching my head and, sadly, not finding the whole escape room concept that clever. I was looking forward to the puzzle aspect of the novel, and there are a few riddles and games and such, but when the whole overarching plot doesn’t make sense, it’s hard for small puzzles and clues to really elevate the book.

I also struggled with the characters. Protagonist Ami is fine, and she randomly exhibits useful talents that make her fun to root for, but something about the writing meant I never really connected with the other characters, and when they start getting picked off by the real dangers of the escape room I . . . simply did not care. I do think some reviewers are going to call this book “dark,” especially because it is a middle grade novel, because of the whole “kids dying” aspect. But I just shrugged my shoulders and kept on reading because the stakes never really felt that high to me, and I was never actually invested in the kids.

Finally, the ending really ruined the book for me. On one hand, the ending makes some of the nonsensical things that occur previous in the book actually make sense. On the other hand, it’s extremely preachy (and about something that’s sort of obvious). I hate lesson books as an adult, and I think kids are also sensitive to this, so fans of the book are going to need to be readers who don’t mind books that have a message the author wants to hit them over the head with.

I think the whole escape room premise will draw in a lot of readers, and many of them may still like the book in spite of its other flaws, if they think escape rooms are cool enough. This one was definitely not for me, though, which is disappointing.

Briana
2 star review

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A. F. Steadman

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief

Information

GoodreadsSkandar and the Unicorn Thief
Series: Skandar #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Skandar Smith dreams of leaving the Mainland to join the Island as a unicorn rider. All he has to do is pass the Hatchery exam, and he will be one of the chosen few to travel to the island and hatch a real, life unicorn. But not the type of unicorns people on the Mainland thought were cute (and imaginary). Real life unicorns are vicious, violent creatures who can control the elements, and share that magic with their bonded riders.

But the Hatchery exam does not go as planned, and Skandar finds his world shrinking–until a stranger knocks on his door at midnight and smuggles him onto the Island. People are disappearing, and a mysterious figure known as the Weave is stealing unicorns. And Skandar might be the only one who can save the Island.

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Review

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief proved a bit of a rollercoaster read for me. While it starts out feeling a bit slow and rather derivative, over time the pace picks up and the action drew me in. I initially thought I would end up DNFing the book, but discovered that I eventually enjoyed it for what it is–a fun middle grade fantasy that does not try to do much of anything new, but does relish in bringing out all the old favorite tropes. A solid read I think tween readers especially will enjoy.

The main draw for Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is presumably the “twist” on unicorn lore–the book makes a big deal out of noting that unicorns in this world are not the cute, rainbow-pooping creatures trending in pop culture right now, but rather vicious monsters who can kill. There are actually numerous fantasy books were unicorns are presented as wild and dangerous, so it’s not that original. However, I will accept that today’s tweens are so immersed in the glittery kind of unicorns that this might seem incredibly weird and innovative to the target audience.

And that’s the main draw, initially. “Look how scary these things are!” the book shouts. “They shoot lightning! They can trample you to death!” The dangerousness of unicorns is so hyped up, I began to wonder exactly why the protagonist wanted a unicorn of his own. Unicorn riders are treated as international celebrities, and audiences gather worldwide to watch the riders and their unicorns fight it out to see who will be in charge of the unicorn Island. But…it all seems so bloodthirsty! Why should I sympathize with Skandar wanting a unicorn of his very own so he can try to kill or maim another rider just so he can be on TV?? But this is to wonder too much. I think it’s just supposed to be like Pokemon, where you watch “caring” humans battle and injure their beloved animals and cheer them on instead of reporting them to the authorities responsible for animal welfare. So, if you or your child likes Pokemon, maybe Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is for you!

Despite all the hype about these bizarrely non-sparkly unicorns, however, the beginning feels slow. I felt like I could have been reading just about any other middle grade fantasy and getting a similar experience. The worldbuilding tried for something unique, but making the boarding school be a series of treehouses did not feel all that innovative. Then, once the pacing picked up, it felt choppy, with Skandar and his friends too easily completing different tasks that should have been impossible for a bunch of new students with almost no training.

By the middle of the book, however, I did somehow find myself immersed. I began to get more interested in the question of who the Unicorn Thief was, and what their end goal is. The pacing was still a bit uneven, with Skandar and his friends again completing tasks with a bit too much ease. But I enjoyed the action and the drama for what it was, without worrying too much that the book and its elements do not particularly stand out from similar titles.

If you enjoyed middle grade fantasy, and are looking for your next read, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is worth a try!

4 stars

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by by Tọlá Okogwu (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun
Series: Onyeka #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Publisher
Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Official Summary

Onyeka has a lot of hair­—the kind that makes strangers stop in the street and her peers whisper behind her back. At least she has Cheyenne, her best friend, who couldn’t care less what other people think. Still, Onyeka has always felt insecure about her vibrant curls…until the day Cheyenne almost drowns and Onyeka’s hair takes on a life of its own, inexplicably pulling Cheyenne from the water.

At home, Onyeka’s mother tells her the shocking truth: Onyeka’s psycho-kinetic powers make her a Solari, one of a secret group of people with super powers unique to Nigeria. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies…

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Review

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is a unique and fun-filled adventure about magic and finding a place for oneself sure to appeal to fans of magic school stories. Onyeka, upon suddenly finding the hair she’s always hated and struggled to manage is magic and that her abilities are related to her missing father, is whisked off to her home country of Nigeria, where she must navigate controlling her new powers while also making friends and adjusting to living in a new place.

The descriptions of the magic academy and of Nigeria will draw readers in and make the story feel real, as do the little hints of darkness scattered about: the fact that the children at the academy must live away from their parents, the idea they don’t know everything about their powers, the suggestion that something terrible has happened to Onyeka’s own parents.

Yet the darkness is balanced by Onyeka’s resilience, making her a character to root for, while her new friends are brave and loyal and just about everything one could hope for in a support group.

I do think:

1) the mentions of Onyeka’s hatred of her own hair could have been toned down. I appreciate it as a central theme of the story; I simply mean that the character seems to bring it up every 2 pages, and I believe the author could have created the same effect and explored the same things while cutting a few of these references.

2) the pacing feels a bit off. It took me a while to get into the story at the beginning, and then things begin to happen extremely quickly, and then the whole book ends on a cliffhanger. This is by no means a standalone book; expect it to end seemingly in the middle of the story, just as events start to really start going somewhere.

Overall, this is an immersive tale that feels fresh, and it will likely keep a lot of readers on the edges of their seats. Just wait for the sequel to be released if you’re the type of person who likes to read a full story all at once.

Briana
3 Stars

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Swim Team

Information

GoodreadsSwim Team
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: May 2022

Summary

Bree cannot wait to start at her new school, Enith Brigitha, and join the Math Club. But then she learns that the only elective still open is Swimming 101–and Bree can’t swim. With the help of her elderly neighbor Etta, however, Bree takes the plunge and even joins the school swim team. The Mighty Manatees are counting on her and her teammates to bring home the State Championship, and save the pool from being sold for a smoothie shop. But the team is having growing pains, and if they cannot work together outside the pool, they may not be able to work together in the pool.

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Review

Swim Team is the perfect middle grade graphic novel! With an endearing protagonist, relatable middle school experiences, and fun look at the trials and triumphs of competing on the school swim team, this book takes the classic tale of friendship growing pains and makes it feel fresh. I adored meeting Bree and all her friends, and especially loved the relationships both between Bree and her father, and between Bree and her elderly neighbor Etta. This is a story about community and courage–and I definitely want more!

Swim Team hooked me from the start when it opened with Bree and her father moving to a new home in Florida–and showed Bree excited for her first day of school instead of dreading it. Her upbeat, can-do attitude, even with a bit of first day jitters, intrigued me, showing that Johnnie Christmas might be doing something a bit different here. Bree’s winning personality really grounds the story, as readers get to see her struggling with relatable scenarios like the fear of embarrassing herself in front of her classmates, or disappointment when her dad has to work all the time and barely gets to spend time with her anymore. Bree’s story shows that everyone experiences difficulty and disappointment, but, with the help of her friends, her community, and her courage, she can make it through.

So this is a feel-good story from the start, but all the characters just make it better and better. The book shows Bree’s friendship drama with the girls on the swim team–an aspect of most contemporary books set in middle school–but I truly adored Bree’s relationship with her elderly neighbor Etta. Intergenerational friendships are not often shown in books, and it was truly moving to watch Etta agree to mentor and train Bree, so that Bree could have opportunities she was denied. Etta is shown as a full person, with her own interests, friendships struggles, and memories. She’s not just some stereotypical old person that happens to live in Bree’s building, nor is she a convenient plot device to get Bree on the swim team. I love Etta. Maybe Etta should get her own book. Just a thought.

I highly recommend Swim Team! It’s a heartwarming story with a winning protagonist and a relatable storyline. It is sure to charm readers of all ages!

5 stars

The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis

The Raven Heir

Information

GoodreadsThe Raven Heir
Series: The Raven Crown #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Gift
Publication Date: August 2021

Summary

Cordelia lives in an enchanted forest with her triplets Giles and Rosalind, her mother, older brother, and a servant. The triplets have been hidden away from the outside world for years, not knowing that one of them is heir to the Raven Throne. But then a group of men breach the castle, determined to take one of the triplets for the throne. But the triplets are just a pawn in an unending war. Taking the crown would mean certain death. So, when their mother and brother are taken prisoner, the three flee into the forest. Only by restoring their connection to the land can they save their mother–and maybe the kingdom.

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Review

The Raven Heir has a fascinating premise. Three triplets live in the forest, unknowing that one of them–the eldest, whichever that is–is actually the heir to the Raven Throne. But, for now, they live a sheltered life where their mother protects their home with magic and Cordelia learns to shapeshift into various animals, while Giles writes songs and Rosalind practices swordplay. Their life is shattered when a group of knights comes to take one to act as a puppet ruler. But however wonderful the premise, the execution falls short. I thought the politics were nonsensical, the characters annoying, and the plot too episodic and fast-paced. I wanted to love such a magical-sounding book, but I found myself desperately hoping the book would just end already.

Logic is one of the aspects of a book I highly value, and any politics that do not make sense are likely to make me immediately skeptical of a book. The Raven Heir does not have logical politics. Or, at least, I do not think it does; they are too thinly sketched for readers to have any deep understanding of what is actually happening in the kingdom. One gets the sense that the author wanted to provide just enough information to explain why the triplets have to flee, but that fleshing out an actual political landscape was deemed unnecessary. The idea is basically that a group of knights have to kidnap a triplet to act as ruler, while they actually rule behind the scenes. Other factions favor other puppet rulers. I…really did not understand why a group of men had to kidnap a random child at all. If they are all fighting for the throne, and everyone knows the child ruler is a farce, one of them can just fight for the throne and sit on it themselves. That is normally how new dynasties start, isn’t it? The strongest army wins. No need to chase a bunch of children through the forest.

Aside from that, the characters were really, really annoying. Even though there is an armed force at the gates, none of the children takes it seriously and Cordelia decides to just leave the castle and wander around their camp. This naturally leads to disaster, creating a series of events where Giles and Rosalind also do not take their imminent deaths seriously, instead choosing to dilly dally in the forest while being chased by armed soldiers, shout at the tops of their voices while they are being hunted, and generally squabble about everything instead of working together to make a plan and survive. It ends with an out-of-the blue betrayal just for dramatic effect. I did not care about any of the triplets and certainly did not care if they managed to save the kingdom or not.

The plot pacing was really fast-paced, with the children going through a series of episodes to constitute a grand adventure of some sort, before they reached the dramatic climax. Because the pacing is so fast, the children seem to get out of each situation with unbelievable ease. Rosalind, for instance, is apparently, as a child, equal to nine fully trained knights in battle. How convenient. I simply could not suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy this tale.

The idea of a shapeshifting protagonist is cool, but it is not enough to outweigh the other aspects of the work. I can see this book being received more favorably by the children it is intended for, however, since they may not care as much about logical politics or even having child protagonists exhibit more believable training. There is only book one in a series, but I do not see myself continuing any farther.

2 star review

A Taste of Magic by J. Elle (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: A Taste of Magic
Series: Park Row Academy #1
Age Category: Middle grade
Source: Netgalley from Bloomsbury for review
Publication Date: August 30, 2022

Official Summary

Twelve-year-old Kyana has just discovered she’s a witch! This means classes every Saturday at Park Row Magic Academy, a learning center hidden in the back of the local beauty shop, and Kyana can’t wait to learn spells to help out at home. The only downside is having to keep her magic a secret from her BFF, Nae. But when the magic school loses funding, the students must pay huge fees at the fancy school across town or lose their magic! Determined to help, Kyana enters a baking contest with a big cash prize. Will she be able to keep up her grades while preparing for the competition and without revealing her magic? What about when a taste of magic works its way into her cupcakes?

Exciting up-and-coming author J. Elle combines the perfect balance of real-world issues and magical mishaps to create real magic. 

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Review

A Taste of Magic is a fun middle grade fantasy that will bring a touch of the familiar to readers who love a good story about a child discovering they have magic and then learning how to use it.

The book starts out with elements similar to middle grade stories, but a few chapters in, it branches out in something a bit more unique. And Kyana helps the book stand out with her strong personality and determination to excel at magic and help her family. There’s also a new take on the idea of a magic school here in that, one, there’s a small school for each neighborhood in the city instead of one large school and, two, Kyana’s school has the misfortunate of being painfully underfunded compared to some of the other school’s. The story becomes one that is as much about Kyana’s community and her mission to get her school its fair share of funding as it is about the magic of, well, discovering you have magic.

Add in a subplot about baking, which ties in a bit to Kyana’s skills with potions, and some cool magical cats, and you have a book that is sure to please a ton of readers. (And there are recipes in the back of the book! Not that I ever personally remember to get around to trying any recipes listed in the back of books . . .)

There are a couple of what I personally consider to be major plot holes in the book (which I won’t elaborate on here because I want to avoid spoilers, but you can DM me on Twitter or something if you really want to know!). I assume the hope is that the target audience won’t notice or care. Considering none of the current reviews on Goodreads mention these plot holes either, I also have to assume I am, once again, the only person scratching my head at the clear lack of logic in a book.

Overall, the book is solid, and I think it will really resonate with its target audience. I love the main character and her heart, and I love that there’s a slightly different take on how to learn magic here.

Briana
3 Stars

Pet That Cat!: A Handbook for Making Feline Friends by Nigel Kidd, Rachel Braunigan (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: Pet That Cat!
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Quirk Books for review
Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Official Summary

A fun and informative handbook for young readers on understanding and caring for our feline friends from the kid behind the popular Twitter account I’ve Pet That Cat!

Pet That Cat! A Handbook for Making Feline Friends is an illustrated guide to understanding, befriending, and caring for cats by Nigel Kidd and his mom, Rachel Braunigan. 
 
This fact-filled and fun guide features:
   • A guide to cat body language—what does it mean when your cat’s tail looks like a question mark or is puffed up?
   • Helpful tips on how to safely interact with new feline friends. Hint: Let them approach first!
   • Advice for adopting and caring for your own cat. Choose the perfect cat for you!
   • Stories of cats throughout history and myth-busting facts—did you know every cat has a unique noseprint?
   • A cat personality quiz and your very own Cat Tracker to record all the feline friends you meet!

This kid-friendly handbook pairs charming illustrations with an interactive format. With step-by-step guides, fascinating stories, and tips from cat experts and Nigel, Pet That Cat! is a must-have handbook for feline fans of all ages.

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Review

Pet That Cat! is an excellent introduction to cats that will be a hit with anyone who enjoys cats, whether they already have one or are dreaming of adopting one. A mix of information and fun activities keep the book engaging.

The book starts out with some pretty basic information, like how to approach someone else’s cat to pet it, so it would be a great gift for a child (or even an adult!) who wants to adopt a cat or their own or will be soon. However, the information gets more in-depth after the first chapter, including the history of domesticated cats, some fun stories about famous cats, tips on reading the body language of cats, caring for your cat, etc. My parents had cats when I was growing up, so I am not a complete cat newbie, and there is lots of information here I found fun to read.

The end of the book also has some just-for-fun activities, like a guide to picking a (silly!) cat name and a quiz for figuring out what type of cat you are like. There’s also a little notebook section at the back where you can keep track of the cats you meet and try to see if you can find a lot of different breeds of cats to meet/pet, so that could also be fun for a young reader who would like to adopt a cat of their own but probably won’t be anytime soon due to veto power of parents/guardians.

Fun facts and lively illustrations add some interest to the book, and the overall effect is very cute. Definitely a recommended read.

Briana
4 stars