Book Review: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner (3.5/5)

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I have been putting off reviewing this book for two months now…for no particular reason. It’s time I post this review!

Trash Can Days features a multiple-first-person-POV writing style. The entries include diary excerpts, online chats and emails. I imagine they may have different fonts in the actual novel that will illustrate this scattered storytelling style quite well!

There are four main characters in Trash Can Days: eighth grader Hannah, her seventh grader brother Jake, their friend Danny and seventh grader Dorothy Wu. Each of them struggle with unique problems — thus, the beauty of the multiple POV’s. You can only understand these problems if you see them from each middle schooler’s eyes. Popular Hannah struggles with friendships and boyfriends. Jake finds Danny drifting apart from him. Danny feels torn between his Mexican identity and being Jake’s friend.

And then there’s Dorothy Wu. Oh, Dorothy. If there’s one character in every book that you must love, it’s Dorothy. She’s weird, lonely, brilliant and admirable. She’s not afraid to be herself. And that’s something you can’t say about every 12-year-old Asian-American girl, pressured by society, parents and peers. I greatly admire Teddy Steinkellner’s ability to infuse such personality into the character of Dorothy. In fact, I think the reason I enjoyed the book was for Dorothy’s moments!

That being said, Trash Can Days was not phenomenal. It has moments of emotion and catharsis for each of the four main characters, but the story feels disjointed at times and the ending doesn’t seem quite as fulfilling as one might expect. There’s also violence and language in this book. It wouldn’t be suitable for elementary school children. But the social situations, peer pressure, bullying and social outcasting (of Dorothy Wu) is, sadly, a somewhat realistic portrayal of what my middle school was like.

Trash Can Days’ target audience is a bit vague. It’s definitely not YA…Yes, it’s still middle grade. Personally, I will probably not be re-reading Trash Can Days, though I did screenshot some of Dorothy Wu’s funniest words. (I’m reading this on Kindle on my phone.) And I wouldn’t recommend this to the children in my life (who are all elementary-school-aged). In conclusion, I think middle schoolers and high schoolers would find Trash Can Days enjoyable.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: Remembering Wonderland! 

Book Review: The Books of Elsewhere #1: The Shadows by Jacqueline West (4.5/5)

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The Books of Elsewhere is absolutely amazing. I’m afraid I have to compare it to Harry Potter. It’s just as brilliant as Harry Potter, only with more of an appeal towards the middle grade audience. Jacqueline West has infused her words with wry humor, chock-full-of-personality characters (especially the talking cats), a suspenseful plot, imagination and strong underlying messages.

Here’s the premise: 11-year-old Olive is the only child of two mathematicians. Thing is, she’s not good at math at all! Instead, she has something of a wild imagination. When her family moves into an abandoned house on Linden street, she’s the only one who senses something strange and spooky. The paintings, the cats, the rumors. But Olive only finds out how strange and spooky when she discovers the secret – the paintings are portals to a place called Elsewhere. And someone in the house wants to get rid of her family….

From the first line of The Books of Elsewhere, I knew I’d love this book. West has a very original writing style that’s both down-to-earth and amusing. But that’s not all – there’s a wonderful plot and very real characters. I imagine elementary school kids, middle school kids and anyone older will greatly enjoy The Books of Elsewhere. Speaking of which, my nine-year-old brother just ran off with my copy of the book…

***copy provided by Creative Kids Magazine

Read more of my reviews here on my blog: https://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

Update: ALL the books on my list

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Netgalley Titles

  1. Thin Space
  2. The People in the Trees
  3. Peregrine Harker and the Black Death
  4. Parallel Heart
  5. The Boy Who Could See Demons
  6. Aimless Love
  7. For the Good of Mankind
  8. Born to Blog
  9. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
  10. The Heart of the Matter
  11. Unexplained Fevers
  12. Gene Keys
  13. Sons of Liberty
  14. Amandine
  15. The Goddess in Every Girl
  16. Eat Move Sleep
  17. The Best of Connie Willis
  18. PS – You’re Invited

Creative Kids

  1. The Books of Elsewhere #1
  2. The Dark Unwinding

Leisure Books (Not Obligated to Review)

  1. Timeless (won from Figment contest)
  2. Timekeeper (won from Figment contest)
  3. Change Anything (library book)
  4. Dragon Slippers (library book)
  5. Leviathan #1 (library book)
  6. How to Find an Agent (library book)
  7. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning (ordered from Amazon)
  8. Reckless (ordered from Amazon)
  9. another library book…I forgot the title of…
  10. The Tragedy Paper (won from Figment contest)
  11. The Wind in the Willows (recommended by a friend)
  12. Angels and Demons (recommended by a friend)
  13. The Da Vinci Code (recommended by a friend)
  14. The Lost Symbol (recommended by a friend)
  15. Inferno (recommended by a friend)

Update: Last Batch of Books from Creative Kids

As July rounds the corner, my term on the Creative Kids National Magazine editorial staff is coming to an end… Over these four years, as an Advisory Board member (2009-2011) and senior contributor (2011-2013), I have greatly enjoyed the experience of reviewing books, submitting creative works and collaborating with the other advisory board members. If you haven’t heard of CK, look it up! And if you’re a kid, submit something! Creative Kids National Magazine is unique in that it’s the nation’s largest completely by-kids-for-kids magazine.

The end of this experience also correlates to a turning point in my life (turning 18). I hope this is when my writing transitions successfully from children’s/teen’s into adult anthologies.

But before my term ends, I have a batch of MG/YA books to review. They just arrived in the mail today. I’m always so excited to get books in the mail. Yeah, yeah, eBooks are good and economical and all, but…paper…shiny new cover…real ink… I’m devoting a blog post to this!

1. The Books of Elsewhere (MG, fantasy) <– I have great hopes that my little brother will enjoy this

2. The Dark Unwinding (YA, steampunk) <– I’ve only dipped my toes into steampunk and I really, really hope that steampunk will prove awesome and unconventional. Maybe I might try my hand at steampunk!

Thank you, Creative Kids! I have appreciated the extraordinary opportunity and hope Creative Kids will continue inspiring creative kids! Goodbye and best wishes.