Collection 1: #TopTens – Children’s Fiction Part 1

Welcome to my new collection of blog posts! This collection will be all about my favourite books in specific genres. My goal is to collect awesome books together to provide some new to-read novels for readers! There will be multiple parts to each collection since I have read so many good books by so many fantastic authors.

So to start us off, I’ve decided to introduce you to some epic children’s fiction novels. I’ve mixed in both chapter books and picture books for your children and middle grade enjoyment!

And here… we… go…

 

1. Unlimited by Kevin Miller

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Unlimited is a tale following a group of boys on a school field trip. These super smart boys embark on a journey to transmit a radio signal with their new radio station and creative show! But things go weary, since everyone is not totally impressed by this comedy/horror radio show over the airwaves…

This book is one of my top books of 2018 (and ever, to be honest). It blew me out of the water and really impressed me that it transcended the middle grade novel stigma! It was highly enjoyable and one of my top must reads. If you love adventure mixed with a pinch of comedy, then this book is for you!

Amazon.com – Unlimited

Amazon.ca – Unlimited

Briar’s Reviews #BookReview Unlimited by Kevin Miller

 

2. We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

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This tantalizing tale follows a ninth grade student named Will during the September 11th attacks. I read this book as a child and again recently as an adult. This book really impressed me with how it brought up the topic of such a tough time in history to children. I found it super respectful and a wonderful talking point. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking to explain one of history’s most tragic moments.

Amazon.com – We All Fall Down

Amazon.ca – We All Fall Down

Briar’s Reviews #BookReview We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

 

3. Hercufleas by Sam Gayton

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If you’re looking for an epic superhero tale, check out this super silly, teeny, tiny story! Hercufleas is a flea, and boy is he fantastic! This hero wants to help save the day from the big baddies, and they are much bigger than him! This middle grade novel is quite long, but is a truly remarkable read. It’ll keep you hooked, giggling and having a good time all throughout! I’d highly recommend this super fun book to introduce some very important themes, such as – it doesn’t matter how small you are, you can still do great things!

Amazon.com – Hercufleas

Amazon.ca – Hercufleas

#BooKReview Hercufleas by Sam Gayton

 

4. Ugly by Robert Hoge

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This motivational and inspirational tale is one of my most visited reviews on my blog! And for good reason! This truly unbelievable story is all about the author, Robert Hoge! He had a tumour on his face, which drastically changed his life – in both good and bad ways! His beautiful story is told perfectly for the eye’s and mind of a child, and it moved me! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I will always recommend this incredible must read! Stories like this don’t come along too often!

Amazon.com – Ugly

Amazon.ca – Ugly

Briar’s Reviews Book Review: Ugly by Robert Hoge

 

5. Pandora’s Lunch Box: Don’t Open! by Richard Clark

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Richard Clark is the king of middle grade fiction (and picture books, but that’s in another list!). Pandora’s Lunch Box is a satire/parody of myth Pandora’s Box. This time around, Pandora’s Box is actually a lunch box! Pandora’s lunch box is suspenseful, magical and hilarious! If you’re looking for something you’ll be able to laugh at (due to unexpected adult humor through the satire of the myth) then I’d highly suggest this short yet sweet novel!

Amazon.com – Pandora’s Lunch Box

Amazon.ca – Pandora’s Lunch Box

Briar’s Reviews – Goodreads Review

 

6. Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold

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Yes, I know, a Christmas book this early?! It’s never too early to prepare for the holidays! Olive, the Other Reindeer is my childhood favourite that I became instantly obsessed with! Remember that famous like.. “all of the other reindeer”? Well, what if that line was misunderstood?! Olive, the super, cute dog is ready to join in reindeer games with her unique skills! This short picture book will make your day and bring lots of goofy giggles!

Amazon.com – Olive, the Other Reindeer

Amazon.ca – Olive, the Other Reindeer

 

7. Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe

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Another childhood favourite of mine (that we read almost every year in elementary school) is Bunnicula! This series is a fantastical novel that introduced me to horror (despite it not being that scary). This bunny with fangs has it’s own super, insane book that will blows your socks off! It’s unique and crazy – what bunny has fangs?! I’d highly recommend this series if you’re running out of good reads or want something a little different!

Amazon.com – Bunnicula

Amazon.ca – Bunnicula

 

8. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

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One of my favourite childhood authors was Robert Munsch, and perhaps his greatest book (in my opinion) is The Paper Bag Princess. I read this book over and over to my reading buddy and I kept my copy until it literally fell to bits because I read it so much! Princess Elizabeth is supposed to marry a prince when a dragon attacks! She must outsmart the dragon, all the while wearing a paper bag! This creative story is a picture book and it’s a definite must read that I highly recommend!

Amazon.com – The Paper Bag Princess

Amazon.ca – The Paper Bag Princess

 

9. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

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This is one of the earliest books I can remember from my childhood, and I still have it to this day! A little bunny is the main character of this picture book and all he wants to do is run away from his Mom! This story was published decades ago, but is still a classic! If you’re looking for a sweet read with lots of re-read value, and an instant classic – check this super cute book out!

Amazon.com – The Runaway Bunny

Amazon.ca – The Runaway Bunny

 

10. Grandma and the Pirates by Phoebe Gilman

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Grandma and the Pirates was my go to bedtime read as a kid. It’s hilarious and inspiring! Grandma makes some incredible noodle pudding, and it attracts some crazy pirates! They steal Grandma, and Melissa must save her! I always found this book to be so strong and made me feel like the hero at the end! Melissa was a smart girl who had to beat pirates! It’s a short picture book with lots of potential! I’m honestly surprised it has so few reviews on Goodreads to begin with! Everyone in my school had read this book a million times over back in my elementary school days! Check out what I declare the best book EVER and my instant classic from my childhood!

Amazon.com – Grandma and the Pirates

Amazon.ca – Grandma and the Pirates

 

 

That’s all for my first edition of #TopTens. I have more children’s books for another round, and many more genres to come – romance, horror, fantasy, etc. Let me know if you want to see a specific genre, or if you have book recommendations for me to read! If you have books I haven’t included, comment below and tell me what else to include!
I hope you enjoyed this and found some new books to read. Let me know how your reading adventures go!
For another day,

Briar

xoxo

 

Photos from Goodreads.

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#BookReview Unlimited by Kevin Miller

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Unlimited by Kevin Miller is a must read fiction novel for all young readers!

I always loved middle-grade fiction, and this book proves my point! Some of the best creative plots come in the form of middle grade fiction, and I wish this would have been a book my teachers read to us in grade school. My grade 6 teacher always brought in cool books like this, that opened your imagination to a whole new world!

This book was full of silly adventures and a radio broadcast! I LOVE radio broadcasts, so seeing a book all about one made my heart grow ten sizes! I had to pick this book up ASAP and it was worth every second that I read it!

Hijacking a radio station does seem like something the crazy kids around my neighborhood would do, and the antics Kevin writes about are just awesome! Not only is this book funny and action packed, it also helps represent marshes and wildlife (who doesn’t love a little bit of education in their books?).

In my opinion, this book is a must read and a highly recommended book. It’s fun for kids, is a fantastic addition to a library’s collection and would be a great way for parents and kids to bond over!

Kevin Miller is insanely talented and I would love to read more by him and see more of his books on shelves lining the libraries of my city!

Five out of five stars!!!

I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads.

 

Check out Kevin on his website: http://www.kevinmillerxi.com/

Give me a shout out on twitter using the hashtag #briarsreviews if you read this post! @ReviewAlholic

Check out another review you might enjoy! #BookReview Life Seemed Good, But… by Richard Bell

 

Photo from Goodreads.

#BooKReview Hercufleas by Sam Gayton

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Hercufleas is the cutest book I’ve read this year, and it deserves so much more recognition than it’s getting!

Sam Gayton has created hit that Disney might want to steal in the future! This off the beaten path “Hercules” re-telling (in a way) is one of the best action novels I’ve ever read and enjoyed – and it’s a middle grade novel! This book outdid so many adult action novels and it wasn’t even aimed at my age group! I can see so many adults reading this to their kids and getting a lot out of it as well! There was a few silly adult jokes you can pick up on, but they are harmless and adorable!

The theme behind this book about how a hero comes in all sizes was also a beautiful tale to tell. It seems so silly to write a book about a flea, but the story worked and it was phenomenal. Mix in all the “flea” jokes along the way, and this book hits it out of the park. The ending is a little bittersweet or sad, but the ending worked well. The story pays off and is woven perfectly for the target audience. Sam mixing in enough “adult” humor or silly jokes also makes the book grow to a higher level of enjoyment.

I did find about 4/5ths through the novel I got a little bored, and it winded down really slowly. If it have kept the pace and excitement up, it might be a five out of five for me. Instead, I give it four out of five because it was just fantastic! I couldn’t find any other problems with this novel while I was trying to pick it apart to find any cons for the readers.

Overall, the hero and heroine learn lessons about themselves, the theme is a tale as old as time and the story was unique and fun! What more can you ask for in a middle grade novel?

Four out of five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads.

 

What is your favourite children’s or middle grade novel? Comment below!

Check out Sam Gayton on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4880860.Sam_Gayton

Use the hashtags #Hercufleas & #BriarsReviews to talk about this review on twitter with me! @ReviewAlholic

Did you enjoy this review? Check out another you might enjoy! #BookReview We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

#BookReview We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

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This #ThrowbackThursday is from over a decade ago for me. Oh how time flies!!!

We All Fall Down by Eric Walters is a tale of struggle in a fictional version of a real event.

Warning: Spoilers below.

Eric Walters came to my elementary school (yeah, I feel old, I read this YEARS ago initially) and brought a giant amount of his books. I ended up reading quite a bit by him and I wish I could find more because I remember loving him. The worst part about this book for me (back in the day of course) was one of my bullies in school did a book review on it as well and used his book review to make fun of me for reading the book. Which basically left me with a sour taste in my mouth for this book (despite it not being this book’s fault).

But now for the real review…

This book is sad. Really sad. But when you look at the events it is based off of, it’s understandable why it’s so sad. Especially when it’s introducing a young audience to such a big event! But I think Eric did a great job with this novel. When I first read this book when I was younger I did NOT understand how big this event was. I was pretty young and didn’t understand what explosions and twin towers were (I was more focused on Power Rangers, Sailor Moon and if there was a new Disney movie coming out). Having this book and having conversations with my parents, teachers and classmates involving this situation was a BIG step for me – and I applaud this book for making it possible.

Overall, this is a unique book. I like that it brings tough events up to a younger audience and leaves room for conversations. Is it totally realistic? Absolutely not. Did it need to be? No. As a kid, I don’t think I would have been prepared for these characters to die – I couldn’t contemplate death. Having bad things happen within the realm of reality was a much better alternative.

This book isn’t just made for kids as I keep saying, but as someone who read it as an adult and as a child, I truly respect it. It’s hard to write a book about real events, have it written in a respectful and truthful way, and have it be good. Good job Eric!

Five out of five stars.

Find Eric Walters on Goodreads: Eric Walters on Goodreads

Visit his website: Eric Walters.net

Or give him a shout out on Twitter! @EricRWalters

Enjoy my reviews? Check out my Goodreads page! Briar’s Reviews on Goodreads

Give me a shout-out on Twitter! Let me know your recent reads!!! Or give me some recommendations!  Briar’s Reviews on Twitter

Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

In honor of the Netflix release of A Series of Unfortunate Events, here is a throwback review of The Bad Beginning!!

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review:
Title: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Date Read: October 4th – October 12th, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 12th, 2016

Introduction: I went to a local bookstore and saw that quite a few books in this series was on sale. Since I read these books a long time ago when I was younger, I figured rereading them now as an adult would be fun. I also figured since a new Netflix series is going to be coming around soon that I should go over this book series so I can watch the show!!!

Spoilers Ahead?: Yes.

Quick Summary: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire face a horrible tragedy – their parents have passed away in a tragic fire and they must go live with the horrible, no good Count Olaf (who is not only a Count but an actor as well). When Count Olaf finds out that Violet has money from their parents in an account, he tries to marry her to acquire this money.

Evaluations: This book is an incredible children’s read that adults can also find humorous. For children, this book is full of action and adventure, and the situations seem “realistic”. They might have a horrible four times removed third cousin that could take them in!! Reading this book was quite nostalgic, but I find that it still stands. While it’s quite foolish and silly, it makes for a great adventure. Overall, I really enjoyed re-reading this book. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Jim Carrey as Count Olaf since the movie that was made was actually quite funny (and great in my opinion), but this book will make a great television series!

Plot: As an adult, the children seem boring. They have faced horrible circumstances and it seems like the children are to young to deal with it. For a child, this seems like a great adventure story. These kids have been put through terrible times, but they still fight back in child-like ways. If the reader goes into this book expecting it to be like Harry Potter (where it translates well for both adults and children) then the reader will not be impressed. This book was aimed at children, not adults, so most of the plot seems unrealistic and unimpressive. The kids are whiny, they’re constantly wallowing in distress, and they complain how they want their parents back – but aren’t mots kids like that? I work with kids, and when they have a bad day they act that way. Overall, the plot is not written to be a fantastic, adult novel. This is a children’s novel, so adults beware.

Characters: Violet, Klaus and Sunny are interesting characters within the story. I do not relate to them as much as I did when I was a kid (I used to think I was just like Violet, and now looking at these characters I can’t relate at all to any of them). Violet seems to be older and “wiser” in mature situations, Klaus seems to be more intelligent but whinier, and Sunny bites and can’t speak well. To a kid, this is essentially an Avengers roster of your average every day kids. To adults, it’s three archetype children. As an adult, I also noticed that after their parents die the children are almost perfectly fine. How I understood this concept, is that a child cannot grasp that death is forever, but an adult can. An adult understands these intense feelings, but a child cannot grasp it until it happens. So while many of the situations that occur may seem out of place for an adult, you still need to realize it’s aimed towards children. This is simply an adventurous novel for kids to read.

Count Olaf is strange, but I love him. He’s a wacky character and keeps the novel interesting. He brings a lot of the twists and turns about that keeps the reader interested. Yes, he’s inappropriate when you look at it from an adult point of view (why would he want to marry a pre-teen?..) but in a child’s point of view he’s a great, wacky villain. I like to compare him as the child’s Joker (from Batman). Wacky and strange, but they keep it interesting (of course the Joker is more intense and R-rated, but hopefully you get the point).

Themes/Creativity: This book is definitely creative! It brings a crazy and wacky plot together with some relatable child characters and then finishes it off with some silly villains. The only theme I might find in this book is family sticking together, but I’m sure there’s more hanging around for those theme heavy readers.

Uniqueness: Is this book unique? Absolutely! A book with thirteen novels in the series that kept changing it up is definitely unique. It fits in it’s own little category alongside novels like Harry Potter, Eragon and The Wizard of Oz for must reads! I would definitely recommend parents try to get their kids into reading with this series!

Strengths: This novel is definitely aimed at children! It does a great job mixing in child problems, silly villains and adventures for your child reader.

Weaknesses: This book might be considered unrealistic for adults. It definitely doesn’t transcend into the older age groups for a good, relatable read.

Score: Three out of Five.

I find that the relatable-ness factor brings this book down in score, and that the children are sometimes incredibly annoying for an adult audience.

Book Review: Ugly by Robert Hoge

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Edition photos via Goodreads.

Book Review:
Title: Ugly
Author: Robert Hoge
Date Read: September 28th – October 4th, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 6th, 2016

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. When I read the synopsis of this novel I was incredibly intrigued. A memoir of the life of a child that went through surgeries due to birth defects seemed realistic and interesting. Most school aged children (and even adults) feel like they don’t fit in, so reading a story about a life long battle with trying to fit in and how Robert Hoge managed to keep going made my heart warm.

Spoilers Ahead?: Yes.

Quick Summary: Robert Hoge was born with a few issues – he had a tumor on his face and his legs did not form correctly. As a small child, he went through surgeries to remove parts of his legs (to the knee and above the knee), remove the tumor on his face and realign his facial features to appear more ‘normal’. Throughout his life Robert had to learn how to adapt – like walking with mechanical legs, deal with bullying, and making life decisions regarding future surgeries. This story is uplifting and inspiring to read, and this version of the story is written as a kid friendly story.

Evaluations: I loved this book – it was inspiring, beautifully written and aimed at the right audience. This easy read was made so children would be not only interested but able to understand. Robert Hoge uses metaphors and similes to explain how it feels to be different, which I think will help the audience grasp a better understanding. Overall, I’m impressed. I would definitely suggest that anyone read this novel, and if possible that school’s should adapt the book into their reading curriculum. If more people understand, perhaps there would be less bullying and hate in this world.

Plot: The content of this story revolves around Robert Hoge’s life and his struggles. It starts from when he was born, to when he was in his pre-teens. If anything, I would have liked to see what his struggles look like now, but I don’t know if that would have worked with the audience he was writing to. Children want to hear about lives similar to theirs, so perhaps it was for the best.

The plot moves quick enough to keep the reader interested. I was more than impressed with how the story was adapted – a child could easily read this book and understand, but as an adult I also enjoyed the novel. It’s hard to find stories that translate well for both kids and adult. I applaud Robert on how well he wrote this story.

I haven’t been able to find any problems with the story itself. It’s a great narrative with lots of substance – not only is there a story to be told, but Robert explains how he feels, and how the reader might feel. His metaphors work well with the audience – making a clay head that’s perfect, but suddenly there’s a giant piece of clay in the middle – and he continues to reference them throughout the novel for further understanding.

Overall, the context of the words in this book are excellent. The author tells a great story, and the fact that it was a true story, a memoir, that makes it even better.

Characters:  The “characters” of the story are mainly Robert and his family, with a splash of friends, schoolmates, doctors and teachers. All the characters are realistic in the setting (and of course they are all real life people as well). You can’t tell if they were portrayed the way they actually were, but everyone seems to be acting realistically. No character seems out of place or unrealistic within the context of the story.

Robert’s character (of himself) also acts realistically for his age. I’ve found in some memoirs that when the author writes about themselves that the child version of themselves acts like an adult. Child Robert acts like a child, which is refreshing. Little Robert isn’t having intense emotions similar to an adults, he is acting and thinking like a child throughout the novel. A+ for characterization!

Themes/Creativity/Uniqueness: If this novel would have been Young Adult or aimed at the Adult audience (which Robert Hoge has an “Adult” version of this novel that you can also check out) there probably could have been more themes implemented. This book doesn’t deal with some of the emotional pain and bullying that most likely happened. The pain isn’t discussed as much as it probably happened, either. But, this book wasn’t aimed at an audience  that needs to feel that pain just yet. For the audience it’s made for, it does it’s job. It explains how he was bullied and puts a light spin on the names he was called.

The main theme of this story seemed like “Be yourself” or “Nobody is perfect”. Robert could have gotten more surgeries to look more “normal” but he didn’t want to. Why would he want to go through more pain, time out for surgery, and the possibility for further injury just to look “normal”. Everyone has their differences, and Robert constantly highlights this throughout the book. Nobody is truly normal – there are individuals with physical, mental, physiological and psychological changes out there. There are no two people alike – even twins are different with their personalities and interests. If people weren’t quick to judge and accepted differences, perhaps this world would be a better place.

Overall, the themes and creativity within this book were tremendous. Yes, I would have liked Robert to expand on many topics, but this book wouldn’t have adapted well for children if he did.

Strengths: Robert’s ability to write to a younger audience but have an adult audience enjoy the book as well is perhaps the greatest strength. He rivals JK Rowling with that ability, and he deserves the recognition. He also deserves a lot of credit for being able to write a story about being different and have it so warm-hearted. He put such a wonderful spin on something that could have been very terrible for him. I appreciate his work, and he deserves lots and lots of press for this book.

Weaknesses: His weaknesses within this book are mainly the themes and context that readers wanted – but readers need to be aware that this specific version of the story was adapted for children. Yes, I would have liked to see more of the struggle of his story and understand what he went through (the bullying, the pain, the thought process), but children don’t always understand those aspects of an adult’s story. Adults understand adults, children do not understand adults.

Score: 5 out of 5.

Robert Hoge’s book is inspiring and uplifting. This inspirational read is truly a gem and I would love for more people to read this book. It addresses many topics that schools are trying to plant within their curriculums – embracing differences, dealing with bullying, and adapting to change. This book was incredible, and I can not give it enough stars or great reviews.

 

Photo from Goodreads.