Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: The Wild Book by Juan Villoro

Good morning, Monday! Which means it's time for another exciting week of kidlit...or fence working for me...but I'm sticking with kidlit. Today's book is another translation, this time coming from South America. This one has tons of imagination and well, just take a look for yourselves.

by Juan Villoro
Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Restless Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

From one of Mexico’s foremost authors comes a wondrous adventure story of a boy who goes to live with his kooky, book-obsessed uncle in a library where books have supernatural powers.

“We walked toward the part of the library where the air smelled as if it had been interred for years….. Finally, we got to the hallway where the wooden floor was the creakiest, and we sensed a strange whiff of excitement and fear. It smelled like a creature from a bygone time. It smelled like a dragon.”

Thirteen-year-old Juan’s summer is off to a terrible start. First, his parents separate. Then, almost as bad, Juan is sent away to his strange Uncle Tito’s house for the entire break! Who wants to live with an oddball recluse who has zigzag eyebrows, drinks fifteen cups of smoky tea a day, and lives inside a huge, mysterious library?

As Juan adjusts to his new life among teetering, dusty shelves, he notices something odd: the books move on their own! He rushes to tell Uncle Tito, who lets his nephew in on a secret: Juan is a Princeps Reader, which means books respond magically to him, and he’s the only one who can find the elusive, never-before-read Wild Book. But will Juan and his new friend Catalina get to The Wild Book before the wicked, story-stealing Pirate Book does?

An unforgettable adventure story about books, libraries, and the power of reading, The Wild Book is the young readers’ debut by beloved, prize-winning Mexican author Juan Villoro. It has sold over one million copies in Spanish.



This is one of those books, which I'm glad found its way to an English translation. Adventure, imagination and magic flow wonderfully to create a tale worthy of getting lost in.

Eleven -year-old Juan's life is falling apart. Not only has his father left them for some woman in Paris, but his mother isn't able (mentally or time-wise) to give much support or, in Juan's case, some needed love. Instead, she ships him off to his really strange uncle until she can get life back into some sort of order. As Juan steps into the house packed to the gills with dust and seemingly unordered books, he's not sure what to think. As he wanders the halls, rows, and rooms, he begins to notice that the books are moving. And that's when the adventure begins.

The beginning of this one had me wondering if I'd enjoy the book. The flow is a bit choppy as we meet Juan just as his life is turning upside down. It's not a happy beginning but chaotic, and while it made it a little hard for me to sink in, it does bring across Juan's feelings and the general atmosphere well. It's hard not to sympathize with Juan and hope things get better quick. As soon as Juan gets to his uncle's house, everything takes a huge turn. Imagination takes flight, and the tale right with it. After this, I was completely sucked in.

I simply enjoyed the free adventure in these pages. There's magic, which is simply amazing in and of itself as the books react to Juan. There is a little explanation from his uncle, but it's not clear (even to Juan) what his uncle means by it. And it doesn't have to dig deep, either, because adventure doesn't have to. There are moments of tension, seemingly impossible situations, magical surprises, and tons of adventure. Add a new friendship and the magic of working together, and it's definitely a fun read for more than fantasy fans.

And here he is...

Juan Villoro’s journalistic and literary work has been recognized with such international prizes as the Herralde de Novela, Premio Xavier Villaurrutia, Rey de España, Ciudad de Barcelona, and Vázquez Montalbán de Periodismo Deportivo, and Antonin Artaud. He has been a professor of literature at UNAM, Yale, and la Universidad Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona. He is a columnist for the newspapers Reforma and El Periódico de Catalunya.

Sneak Peek: Whisper by Tracy Bilen with Giveaway!


by Tracy Bilen
YA Romantic Thriller


Stop him.

After her friend Samantha is murdered, seventeen-year-old Olivia is the only one who still hears her voice.

Years ago, Jacob closed his eyes. In a park. Playing hide-and-seek. His little brother is still missing. And Jacob’s mom is the FBI agent who couldn’t find him.

Now Jacob has dreams he can’t explain. And draws faces of those about to die.

In a town terrorized by a serial killer, Jacob meets Olivia. Sparks ignite.

Until the voice in Olivia’s head echoes the warning in Jacob’s dream…

You’re next.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play



My dad used to tell me there are people inside of marbles. They were always talking to him. Whenever I wanted to play a game, he would pick the one with marbles. Only we wouldn’t actually move the marbles. My dad would just stare at them. Finally I stopped asking to play games. But that didn’t matter. My dad would still get out the game with the marbles, and he’d put the marbles in their little resting spots and watch them. And listen.

At Samantha’s house, her three-year-old sister, Cara, is playing a marble game with one of her friends. They’re off in a corner by themselves, probably wondering why all these people are stuffed inside the house, wearing dark clothes, crying randomly, and talking in hushed voices. Cara wasn’t at Samantha’s funeral. Does she understand that her sister is never coming home?

I move away from Cara and fill a plate with cubes of cheese, triangles of salami, and round crackers. I chew, swallow, and make small talk. But mostly I just stare out the window at the pool and remember the last time I was here. Sixth grade. A pool party for Samantha’s birthday. She and I were friends then. We stopped being friends sometime in seventh grade. I think it had something to do with green slime, a ham sandwich, and a guy we both liked, though I’m not really sure anymore. It all seems pretty stupid now, which gives me a lumpy ache in my throat, and makes me feel like a fraud for being here. But the whole junior class was at the funeral, all ninety-eight of us.

Make that ninety-seven.

Plus a good part of the rest of the high school. And although not everyone made their way here after the funeral, the house is still packed, with people spilled out onto the lawn, hovering by the pool, and clutching their paper plates as if they’re life preservers.

My best friend, Julia, slides up next to me. Her chestnut brown hair is arranged in its usual French braid, except a lot of strands that she missed are poking out today. She takes a loose bit and wraps it around her finger.

“Brings back memories, huh?” she says, following my gaze to the pool. “Remember that sleepover in sixth grade?”

“Yeah, that was fun.” Except now my brain jumps right from sleepover to sweet dreams. The Sweet Dreams Strangler.

I shake my head, trying to blot out the images seared into my mind by the news media. Images of Samantha, lying in a field wearing a beautiful dress, her head on a pillow, hair neatly arranged, hands folded.

Beautiful. But dead. Strangled. I don’t know what to say, even to Julia. I look back out the window. A cardinal is perched on the feeder, picking through seeds, scattering debris on the ground.

“It sure is stuffy in here,” Julia says.

I’m about to agree when a wall of cold air hits me. “Mrs. Young must have read your mind. Wow. That feels good.”

Julia scrunches up her face. “What are you talking about?”

“The air. She turned on the air. Don’t you feel it?”

“No. Are you under a vent or something?” Julia peers up at the ceiling.

“Here, switch places with me.”

“It’s just as hot here—”

“It’s just as cold—”

We say it at the same time. “I guess it’s just your wishful thinking.” Julia pats my shoulder. “Enjoy. I’m going to get some more to drink.”

I nod and head across the room, by the TV, where hopefully it’s warmer.

Goose bumps pop up on my arms. I rub them, but it doesn’t help.

Next to me Josh Wallace tosses a cube of cheese into his mouth. Is that sweat dripping off his forehead? Why am I the only one shivering?

I spot a decorative blanket on the couch. Should I? I tap Marcus on the shoulder. “Sorry, could you lean forward? I just need to get something behind you.” I tug at the blanket and drape it over my shoulders.

Julia is back with a drink in her hand. “Why do you have a blanket wrapped around you? Are you feeling okay?”

“Not really,” I answer. “What’s that noise?”

“What noise?”

“That buzzing sound. Is that the TV? Maybe someone turned it on without switching on the cable box.” I fumble with the buttons on the TV. An image flashes across the screen, and a voice blares.

Funeral services were held today for Samantha Young, the fourth victim of the Sweet Dreams Strangler.

Mrs. Young hovers in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. All the color drains from her face.

I can’t seem to move. Julia turns off the TV. The buzzing grows louder, and then I realize that it’s voices I’m hearing, lots of them, all blending together into one big buzzing sound.

And then the buzzing fades away until I hear only one voice.


It’s not real. I know it’s not real.


It’s not real because the voice is Samantha’s, and Samantha is dead.


It’s not real because the voice is not coming from a person. It’s coming from a fricking figurine on the mantel. From a yellow bird with black wings and a black head. I pick up the figurine, and I hold it in my hands. This is what my dad meant when he said there were people living in marbles. And then it speaks again.

Olivia! Stop him!

Even though I’m kind of expecting it, Samantha’s voice scares me all the same. It makes me jump and my hands open up and that figurine smashes on the floor and breaks. And I’m a little glad because maybe now the voice will stop. But suddenly I’m burning up, the salami and cheese rumbles around in my stomach, and before I can sit, the room spins all around me and darkness sets in.

And here she is...

Tracy Bilen is the author of What She Left Behind and Whisper. She is a high school French teacher in Michigan where she lives with her husband and children. Tracy studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and taught Spanish at a high school ski academy. She loves biking, traveling, and red velvet cake.

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Review: Adventure Boys! by Nicole Duggan


Crafts and Activities for Curious, Creative, Courageous Boys 
by Nicole Duggan
Rockridge Press
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
174 pages

Activities that foster creativity, curiosity, and courage in boys ages 6 to 12

Discover exciting new kinds of crafts for kids. Whether your boy adventurer likes to play outside, work with his hands, get creative, or do all three at once—Adventure Boys! has all kinds of awesome ways for him to play.

Empower boys and encourage them to try new things. Whether it’s creating a backyard racetrack, developing coding skills, or building a neighborhood book exchange, this standout among books of crafts for kids will teach them just how amazing they can be.

Go beyond other activity books for kids with:

  • Outdoor skills―Boys will have a blast getting outside as they try activities like building a tree house or growing plants.
  • Handy crafts—This collection of crafts for kids encourages constructive play by showing them how to create everything from air-powered race cars to musical instruments.
  • Creative activities—Inspire creative thinking in boys as they learn how to create stop-motion videos, dye their own clothes, and more.

Help boys discover the excitement of trying new things with these super fun crafts for kids.



Summer fun and adventure keeps boredom at bay as this book sparks all sorts of ideas to keep boys (and girls) entertained.

After a short letter to the reader, the author simply dives into creativeness. The book is divided into 25 chapters with general themes from clay crafts to story telling to clowning around and more. In each chapter, there are several activities, which relate to the theme. At the end, ten well-known adventurers from history are presented and quickly summarized. It's definitely a broad scope and incudes something for just about everyone.

Most activities are described in two pages...some only one. Each activity is introduced with a title and quickly presented in one sentence before diving in. There's a clear and colored 'What You'll Need' list, which makes it easy to see if the materials are available right away or see if everything is on hand before beginning. Then, the activity is listed step-by-step, each with a sentence or two. Accompanying illustrations help make it clear what to do and keep the entire thing light and fun.

I love the huge variety of possible activities. While some are definitely more adventurous, others are quieter. Some are more advanced and require lots of time and work, while others can be done quickly and easily. Some teach. Some are pure fun. It's not a book, where every activity will probably be used, but there's definitely something for every personality, purpose and situation.

The text and illustrations are great for middle school kids. Everything is neatly and obviously laid out. I did find many of the descriptions a bit vague, though, and wished more than once that there was just a sentence or two more, since not only my kids but even I had to think it through and experiment to see what was meant. And some things are definitely not just for the kids (like building a treehouse) and require parent know-how...which isn't a bad thing, either.

It's a fun book for summer and sparks ideas to keep boredom at bay.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Review: Wicker Village by Michael J Moore


Nightmares in Aston, #1
by Michael J. Moore
World Castle Publishing
Middle Grade Thriller
151 pages

Wicker Village is a trailer park with a dark secret that eleven-year-old Juanito Hernandez wishes he hadn’t discovered. He’s only lived there a week, yet the horrors within continue to find him—from a human-shaped swarm of bees, to a video on his phone that speaks directly to him, and then mysteriously vanishes. Soon his new friends begin to experience the same horrors, and the visions turn to threats. Juanito doesn’t blame his parents for not believing him, however, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re in very real danger.


Beginning with the feel of a Goosebumps meets Goonies, this book slides into a slightly darker direction to leave chills and thrills.

Juanito and his family haven't lived in the trailer park for long before he runs into a human monster made of bees. Still struggling with the entire idea of moving away from the house and his friends, he's not ready to believe that there are monsters, too. But strange things are definitely going on, and the more he tries to get to the bottom of it, the stranger it gets.

This book starts out as a solid middle grade and holds all sorts of adventure and spooks. I enjoyed getting to know Juanito, and it was no problem to root for him from the beginning on. The writing flows nicely, and it has exactly the chill factor, which middle graders will enjoy. It's enough to scare but not so much so that it goes over board. Friendship is key, and even topics like bullying come into play. But this one is more about the spook and fun factor.

While the first half of the book has the usual atmosphere and style that's to be expected in this type of middle grade read, it takes a slightly darker turn in the later part. Not only do things get a bit deeper than usual for this age group, but some harder directions are hit upon (for example, the 11-year-olds drink alcohol in the forest). More sensitive readers should be made aware of this. But for those who enjoy dark twists and turns with adventure, friendship, and even, at times, a fun ride, this is a read to enjoy.

And here he is...

Michael J Moore is an author from Washington state. His books include Highway Twenty, which appeared on the Preliminary Ballot for the 2020 Bram Stoker Award, the bestselling post-apocalyptic novel, After the Change, which is used as curriculum at the University of Washington, the psychological thriller, Secret Harbor and the middle-grade story, Nightmares in Aston. His work has received awards, has appeared in various anthologies, journals, newspapers (i.e. the Huffington Post) and magazines (i.e. the Nation), on television (with acclaimed newsman, Carlos Watson) and has been adapted for theater.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Review: Be Your Own Best Friend Forever by Gary Robinson


by Gary Robinson
7th Generation
Picture Book
ages 5 to 10

Jayla knows to ignore voices that tell her she isn't good enough. She doesn't listen to the voice of self doubt and instead listens to her voice of self love, teaching herself to be her own best friend.



                                      * self-empowerment
                                      * tons of energy and positivity


Bright illustrations, tons of positive vibes, and mounds of words of encouragement ensure self-doubt fades away.

Jayla is a girl just like any other girl. And like any other girl, she hears all those words, which put her down and make her feel bad about herself. If she lets them, that is. But Jayla knows how to force those words away and shares how she does it.

This is a book for those kids, who let the bad comments around them eat away at them. In other words, most. Jayla is a power house of positive energy on every page, and it sets the right atmosphere to support the message. While starting with the negative words, where they can come from, and what their value truly is, the book then slides into how to deal with these words. It builds self-esteem and explains why kids should love themselves. 

Now, this one is preachy, and that's something I usually steer very clear from. It bugged me a bit in these pages, and the idea of being your own best friend forever hit me as a bit over the top. At first. But then, I realized that I do know some girls who would love this book. I could see this one really speaking them, and they definitely need to hear the message again and again. Especially girls in elementary or beginning middle school will see themselves in Jayla and understand the very direct words. I do see some girls gripping this one tight and reading it when they feel down or to help build themselves up. So, I do recommend this one.

And here he is...

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Gary Robinson (Choctaw/Cherokee descent) has participated in the production of dozens of Native American educational, informational, and documentary television projects and worked to create Native American content most of his adult life. He is the author of sixteen books, including eight PathFinders teen novels. He lives in Santa Ynez, CA. For more information, visit his website at

Guest Post : Bad Fairy Strikes Again by Elaine Kaye with Giveaway!


***99 CENTS***

 A Bad Fairy Adventure (Book 2)

Middle Grade Fantasy

The Wild Rose Press

Pages: 60

Ages: 7-12

Will Thistle ever escape the nickname Bad Fairy?

Thistle Greenbud thought the nickname Bad Fairy was behind her, but she can't escape it. Someone is spreading a rumor about her that just isn't true and can ruin all of her hard work in getting into Advanced School. What fairy would do such a thing?

As if that's not bad enough, Thistle's dad goes missing. Not a single fairy in Tinselville has seen him. He's vanished like pixie dust. Her mom is distraught, and Thistle is worried. Where could he be?

Thistle and the Flutters, along with Dusty and Moss, are on both cases. Can they find out what happened to her dad and solve the Bad Fairy rumor? Thistle hopes so!

Amazon / Nook / iBooks / Goodreads

Elaine Kaye Interviews Dusty the Fairy

Elaine Kaye is interviewing Dusty, one of the fairies in Bad Fairy Strikes Again, Book 2 in A Bad Fairy Adventure series. Dusty is Moss’s best friend and Thistle’s ex-bully. Now, Thistle and Dusty are good friends, but ssh! They don’t want their friends to know that just yet.


Elaine: Have you and Thistle done anything exciting lately?

Dusty: We went on a stakeout!

Elaine: A stakeout where?

Dusty: At an old abandoned house in the woods by the library. Brownies used to live there, but they left a long time ago.

Elaine: But why did you and Thistle have a stakeout?

Dusty: We wanted to find out what Viner and Needles were up to.

Elaine: And did you?

Dusty: *rubs his hands together* We sure did!

Elaine: *waiting* Well, are you going to tell everyone?

Dusty: No way! They’ll just have to read Bad Fairy Strikes Again to find that out. Isn’t that why you wrote about Thistle’s adventure in the first place?

Elaine: That is why I wrote it. You’re right.

Dusty: It sure was exciting, though.

Elaine: Were you scared?

Dusty: A little, but I had my friends there with me—Thistle, Moss, Lacey, and Rose.

Elaine: The five of you make a good team.

Dusty: *smiles* We do. We’re always ready for an adventure.

Elaine: And I’ll always be ready to write about your adventures.


We are nearing the edge of our village limits when we see the abandoned house hidden in tall weeds. The night grows darker as we huddle in a fern thicket. “It sure is spooky out here,” Lacey whispers and shifts closer to Moss.

“Let's move in closer,” Dusty says. “Moss and Lacey, you go to the other side of the house. Find a crack in the wall to see inside. Thistle and Rose follow me.” He looks back at Moss. “If you see anything strange, flick your flashlight on and off three times.”

“Then what?” Rose asks, munching on another berry.

“We’ll meet…um…” Dusty looks around and then points. “Over by that fern thicket. Is everyone clear?”

We nod and fly as low to the ground as we can. Once we reach our positions, we hunker down and wait. Time goes by as slow as a worm while we wait. It gets darker. After a while, boredom creeps in.

“What's that?” Rose points behind us.

Dusty and I turn to see a shadow coming out of the woods, heading straight for us. Boogles! No, wait. There are two shadows!

Get Book 1 for 99 CENTS!

BAD FAIRY: Amazon / Nook / iBooks / Kobo



PRIZES: 3 signed paperback picture books (Pea Soup Disaster, The Missing Alphabet, Slow Poke), three handmade bookmarks, plus a goodie bag and worksheets.

Eligibility: International


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Elaine Kaye is the author of A Bad Fairy Adventure series AND A Gregory Green Adventure series. She first created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup, thus inspiring the story Pea Soup Disaster.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher’s assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Review: Gutter Girl by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

 Today's read snuggles up into warm feelings and takes a fun swing into crushes, love and romance. High school style, of course. You may have noticed that I don't hit this genre very often. Usually, I'm into a bit more action/fantasy and 'dark' tones when it comes to romance. Or a bit of ridiculous comedy is nice, too. But I do enjoy a pinch of sweetness every now and then. 

The blurb won me over on this one—Mr. Perfect meets Goth Girl. I was hoping to wouldn't be too cliche or gooey...or even too issue centered, since it does hit upon bi-polar issues as well. But I ended up enjoying this one quite a bit.

Twin River High, #1
by Lynn Rush and 
Kelly Anne Blount
Entangled Publishing
Young Adult Romance
294 pages

MAY 10th!!!

Star football player Jace Rovers has a secret. And not just any secret—a shocking secret… He writes romance. The kind with swords. And dresses. And kissing.

Nobody knows. Not the other kids at Twin River High. Not his overbearing parents. And certainly not the millions of fans who’ve read his book on the writing platform Scribbles. And that’s the way he plans to keep it.

Except suddenly one of the other football players grabs his notebook in jest and starts reading a kissing scene out loud…and Jace knows he’s busted.

But then McKenna Storm, resident goth girl who avoids the spotlight like a virus, snatches up the notebook and tells everyone she's the author. And lucky for Jace, she later agrees to continue the ruse...for a price.

Heck, he'd give her anything not to reveal his secret. But when they start to fall for each other, he knows he'll have to keep the biggest secret of all—his darkest character is based on her…

GOODREADS   /   KOBO    /    AMAZON   /    B&N


                                      * hits upon Bi-polar issues
                                      * friendship and respecting personal space
                                      * sweet romance
                                      * high school setting
                                      * not as in-depth a read as first appears


Trust, opening up, finding ones-self, knowing when to seek help, true friendship, and chasing dreams all mold into a cute romance, which leaves a smile on the face.

McKenna has one goal—leave town as soon as graduation hits. Since her family rammed disaster around her sixth grade year, she's been keeping her head low, trying to stay invisible, while dealing with her mother's disease while keeping life going alone. She's almost made it until keeping her head down causes a collision in the school's hallways and her notebook gets switched with the one guy she's secretly liked...well, forever. Not that she's ever really played with the idea that'd they'd be together. She's not that stupid. But she doesn't know all sides of him, either. No one does. And that might just turn everything upside-down.

After reading the blurb on this one, I expected a slightly edgier read with depth thanks to some of the issues. This, however, is not the case. The romance starts almost right away, and it's pretty clear where everything's going. There are several cliches—the popular jocks, cheerleader girls, geeks—and the reactions are nothing surprising. But despite the lighter side of things, this romance works and was easy to read. It just wasn't what I was expecting.

McKenna has problems at home. Big ones, but what these really are and how they exactly play out dribbles in little by little as the story unfolds. This tale is more about the romance, anyway, and it is sweet, predictable, and simply a nice high school relationship. That both sides have something to hide and aren't ready to step out of the masks they've been living behind, suits the age group well. There isn't much dark brooding or heavier scenes. Rather, the problems both sides face run more on the sidelines of the romance drama. This creates an easy to read and digest romance for younger teens and tweens. 

I did enjoy it quite a bit, found both characters to root for, and let the cliches simply unfold with all of their fun and sweetness. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Review: Glow by Ruth Forman

 Yesterday was release day for today's review. This board book is a companion read to Curls, which I reviewed back in February. (You can see that post here

by Ruth Forman
Illustrated by Geneva Bowers
Little Simon
Board Book
ages 2 to 4

Jeffrey Salane at Little Simon has bought world rights to two board books, Curls and Glow, by author and poet Ruth Forman (l.), illustrated by Geneva Bowers. Curls celebrates hair and Glow celebrates skin tone. Publication is planned for spring 2021 and summer 2021, respectively; Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan represented the writer, and Kate Kendrick at Astound represented the illustrator.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /    B&N    /    KOBO    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY


                                     * wording borders on poetry
                                     * brings across atmosphere and feelings nicely
                                     * great as a bedtime read


Sticking to few words and allowing the atmosphere to take over, this is a lovely read, especially before bedtime.

I did have the chance to review the companion book, Curls, and truly enjoyed and appreciated the way the author set the tone in those pages and celebrated something as wonderful as curls. This book again uses imagery as well as descriptive words to bring across a feeling of pride, joy and satisfaction. And it does it well. Each word is carefully chosen and is delivered as a poem. The scenes come to life through the illustrations, while the words set the tone.

I enjoyed how the book started with the excitement of a day and slowly headed toward a bath before sliding into the bed for a good night's rest. It awakens positive and self-confident feelings, while setting the perfect tone as a bedtime read.

While I do enjoy this one, it wasn't quite as well done as the other board book. I believe the author wanted to awaken joy and pride in a similar way as Curls, but if that is the case, it wasn't as clear nor did it encompass the same variety. This one comes across with a wonderful sense of satisfaction and good feelings... and that's wonderful, too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Review: That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar


by Supriya Kelkar
Simon & Schuster 
Middle Grade Magical Realism
352 pages
ages 8 to 12

MAY 18th!!!

Bollywood takes over in this contemporary, magical middle grade novel about an Indian American girl whose world turns upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into glamorous song-and-dance routines during everyday life.

You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents don’t get along, and it looks like they might be separating.

Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens, something magical, maybe. When Sonali gets upset during a field trip, she can’t bury her feelings like usual—instead, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood song-and-dance routine about why she’s upset!

The next morning, much to her dismay, Sonali’s reality has shifted. Things seem brighter, almost too bright. Her parents have had Bollywood makeovers. Her friends are also breaking out into song and dance. And somehow, everyone is acting as if this is totally normal.

Sonali knows something has gone wrong, and she suspects it has something to do with her own mismanaged emotions. Can she figure it out before it’s too late?



                                         * addresses problems such as parental divorce and friendship troubles
                                         * India and culture
                                         * magical elements mixed with reality

I have a soft spot for Bollywood and was thrilled to get my hands on this ARC, hoping that it would hold all the magic and fun of the productions. This book not only does that but so much more.

There's one big rule in Sonali's family—never give outsiders a reason to gossip and embarrass the family. In other words, keep your mouth shut about personal issues. This works fine, normally, but with her parents' increasing fights and sudden pause from each other, Sonali's walls are needing extra fortification. Add that her best friend seems to have found a new friend she likes, her falling grades...and well, it's a bit much. But she can take it. Unfortunately, as she learns to hold it all back, strange things start happening...things no one else notices. But could her world really be turning into a musical, Bollywood reality?

There are several tough themes in this book, ones very fitting for the age group. While facing parents' separation and divorce is a common issue, this one also addresses the problem of changing friend groups and learning to stand up for what you really think. Sonali has a lot on her plate, but the problems are ones many readers will identify with.

I love Sonali's glow. I'm just going to call it that because her personality...even when she's bottling things really a shining one. She's a positive person, who cares very much about those around her. She loves fun and joy and happiness, and is silly in her own way. Those around her are also very supportive people, but even when there is a lot of positivity, it doesn't mean it always radiates through everything or makes life perfect. But it's this glistening inner part of Sonali, which allows the magical elements to hold the perfect fairy tale atmosphere and Bollywood to come across as if it naturally should be there. The mix of magic and reality is simple well done. Plus, the addition of some of India's culture was nice. 

There is a lot going on in these pages thanks to the various issues, and that did mean a little less depth for some of the side characters. There were a couple, I would have loved to get to know a little better. The ending also hit a little off. At first, I thought it might be too quick, but this really isn't the case. It rounds of nicely and wraps things up well. But the main message of the book warped slightly. While Sonali learns her lesson and has a chance to correct her mistakes, one of her parents happens to have the exact same trouble that she does. While this mistake is admitted at the end, it's treated as if its too late and while admitted, the parents doesn't even think of trying to find a way to make amends. It reflects the reality of such situations and, of course, has it's own important meaning, but it cheapened the overall lesson for me.

But this was an awesome read, and I have no doubt any middle graders who know anything about Bollywood will enjoy it. 

And here she is...

Born and raised in the Midwest, Supriya Kelkar learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. She is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya’s books include AhimsaThe Many Colors of Harpreet SinghAmerican as Paneer Pie, and That Thing About Bollywood, among others. Visit her online at