Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen
Publisher: Yearling
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Childrens (Grades 3-7)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about “the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth.” “Wealth?” I said. “It’s groovy, man,” said Arnold.

If I’d known what was coming, I might have climbed on my mower and putted all the way home to hide in my room. But the lawn business grew and grew. So did my profits, which Arnold invested in many things. And one of them was Joey Pow the prizefighter. That’s when my 12th summer got really interesting.

A lawnmower leading to a fantastical situation? No way!

This is a fun little read. I dearly loved Hatchet by Paulsen, so when I saw this one, I had to pick it up. I’m glad I did. It was cute, funny and relatable.

The young man doesn’t think he’s all that special and he’s surrounded by characters, but when he’s given a lawnmower, he thinks he has no idea what do to with it. Then he decides to use it. His world opens up.

I liked that the young man realizes his power – he can help people and make a little money to get a new inner tube for his bike tire – with the help of the lawnmower. I liked that he came into his own and all because he found something that made him special. Kids do have super powers – they’re ingenious and caring.

The cast of characters around him and the situations he ends up in are fantastical, but sure to appeal to younger readers. How could one kid manage all this? That’s what makes it great.

If you’re looking for a book that features a kid, a lawnmower and even a prize fighter (don’t believe me? You’ll have to read it for yourself!), then this might be the book for you.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Publisher: Yearling
Genre: Contemporary, Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

How much trouble the Penderwicks get into?
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The Penderwick’s Summer takes an unexpected turn when the place they had planned on vacationing at is unexpectedly unavailable. When Mr. Penderwick hears of Arundel cottage, he books it sight unseen. From the moment they arrive, the Penderwicks are awed by the beauty of Arundel and are itching to explore every inch of the estate. As I read, I shared their excitement. I could clearly picture the grounds and the mansion in my mind and couldn’t wait to find out what adventures awaited the Penderwicks! Even better, Jeffrey turns out to be a great friend. Despite a rocky start, the Penderwicks welcome him into their group with open arms.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Tifton, Jeffrey’s mom, is less than thrilled to see the sisters roaming around her property. She is determined to win a prestigious garden competition and wants the girls to keep to their side of the wall. However, the Penderwick sisters can’t turn down the possibility of a good adventure. Will their curiosity get them into more trouble than they bargained for?

The Penderwick sisters are certainly an entertaining bunch! Each sister has a distinct personality. Rosalind is the oldest and is the voice of reason and caretaker of her sisters since their mother passed away. Skye the next oldest. She is a bit of a tomboy and definitely the most outspoken of the group. She often doesn’t think before she speaks. Consequently, her mouth frequently gets her into trouble. Then comes Jane. She has an amazing imagination and has her heart set on becoming an author. She is very dedicated to her craft, and I have no doubt that she will be successful! Batty is the youngest. She has a way with animals and a special bond with their loveable dog, Hound. I like them all immensely and couldn’t possibly pick a favorite!

Jeffrey had no idea how much his life was going to change when the Penderwicks arrived! Jeffrey seems very lonely to me. He has no close friends and his mother has future all planned out. Mrs. Tifton wants Jeffrey to go to a military academy. Jeffrey wants to study music. Despite her stiff and strict exterior, Mrs. Tifton means well. She truly loves her son and he loves her, but she doesn’t see how unhappy Jeffrey is. However, their relationship is not broken beyond repair! They just need to have a long, honest conversation. I kept my fingers crossed that they would make the time to talk. Fortunately, with a little help from his new friends, Jeffrey just might find the courage to talk to his mom about his dreams.

The Penderwicks is such a sweet story. While it is definitely character driven, the plot is interesting, if a bit slow at times. In the space of a few weeks, the Penderwicks find themselves experiencing heartbreak, running from a bull, tracking down lost rabbits, and facing the wrath of Mrs. Tifton!

I truly enjoyed reading The Penderwicks. It is a heartwarming tale perfect for young and old alike. I’ve grown attached to the sisters and look forward to reading more about them in the next installment of this charming series!

The Skirt by Gary Soto

The Skirt by Gary Soto
Publisher: Yearling
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (82 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Miata Ramirez is scared and upset. The skirt she brought to show off at school is gone. She brought her forklorico skirt to show off at school and left it on the bus. It’s not just any skirt. This skirt belonged to Miata’s mother when she was a child in Mexico. On Sunday, Miata and her dance group are supposedgoing to dance forklorico, or traditional Mexican folk dances; and that kind of dancing requires a skirt like the one Miata lost. It’s Friday afternoon. Miata doesn’ t want her parents to know she’s lost something again. Can she find a way to rescue the precious skirt in time?

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How far would you go to correct an honest mistake?

Miata was good at a lot of things, but keeping track of important possessions wasn’t one of them. I appreciated the fact that her biggest weakness was something that mattered so much to the storyline. It was also interesting to meet a character who had so much trouble remembering where she put stuff that she honestly did mean to keep safe. This isn’t something I’ve seen written about a lot for this age group, so I was glad to run across a character who has trouble with this part of life.

There was what I thought of as a fairly obvious solution to the main character’s dilemma that she never seemed to catch onto. As much as I enjoyed watching her and her best friend, Ana, try to figure out how to find her folklórico skirt again before big dance on Sunday, it would have been nice for her to try an easier method for getting it back before they dove into the more complicated plans.

One of the other things I adored about this book was Miata’s relationship with Ana. They were supportive of each other no matter what was happening in their lives. I also liked the fact that both of these girls always treated each other with kindness and respect even when they were a little annoyed with one another for completely valid reasons. They were great role models of how friends should behave.

I’d recommend The Skirt to anyone who has ever struggled with a bad habit that they can’t quite seem to quit.