Review: Mixture of Mischief

“Leo opened her mouth to protest – closing down would mean losing a half day’s profit! – but her voice didn’t seem to be working, so all that came out was a squeak.” page 96

A Mixture of Mischief (Love Sugar Magic #3) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2020.
MG fantasy, 292 pages.
Lexile:  not yet leveled
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 8.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

A mysterious new shop is opening that copies the menu as Leo’s family bakery, her friends are all gaga over her slightly older cousin, and her estranged paternal grandfather is trying to contact her. Meanwhile Leo is desperate to prove herself as both a baker and a bruja who can stand on equal ground with her older sisters. Can she figure out her birth order magic and master recipes for sugar and magic without whipping up a bunch of new troubles? Only with a heap of love from her family and friends, of course!

Love Sugar Magic #3: A Mixture of Mischief by Anna Meriano.

I wish this had been a quartet. While I enjoyed this final installment in the Love Sugar Magic trilogy, there were a few differences. The first two books didn’t exactly center on holidays but each included a specific celebration: Dia de los Muertos and Dia de los Reyes. This one encompassed Easter, but the celebrations around it were barely touched on.

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Board Book Review: Feast for 10

This classic board book follows a large family as they prepare a dinner for ten.

Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell.
Clarion, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1993.
Board book, 28 pages.
Not leveled.

Follow one family from store to sitting down at the table as they prepare for dinner and count to ten – twice!

Feast for 10 cover resized
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell.

This book mesmerizes my toddler who will sit and flip through the pages over and over again.  Our most recent pre-reader loves that she can participate by counting the numbers, and it’s been helping her recognize number words too.

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Review: A Sprinkle of Spirits

“A tiny voice in Leo’s head whispered to her to flip the book shut, to lie, to hope she had read everything all wrong. But more secrets and denial weren’t going to help anything, and tricks couldn’t get her out of this problem.” page 154

A Sprinkle of Spirits (Love Sugar Magic #2) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2019.
MG fantasy, 314 pages.
Lexile: 820L .
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 9.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book.

Leo is very excited to learn more about magic, especially her special talent, but she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind. When a magical mystery occurs, of course everyone assumes Leo’s experimenting again – but if she didn’t do this, when who did?

Love Sugar Magic #2: A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano.

The first book in this series takes place around Dia de los Muertos, and this second one is set around Dia de los Reyes. Both Latinx holidays that involve baking, and are important not only for Leo’s family, but also to the social lives of their small Texas town. I wonder when the next book will be set!

Dia de los Muertos is one of the most well-known Latinx holidays in the USA. White authors have done that holiday before (usually problematically such as Telgemeier’s Ghost) but most don’t step into less-pintrestable holidays. So this series is a great, visible example of why #ownvoices authors matter.

The magic system continues to be complicated compared to some other series but we get to learn a lot more about it this time, and it continues to be internally consistent, which is the first rule of good magic worldbuilding. An 11-year-old puzzling things out on her own with a book in a language she doesn’t know, compared to a young bruja apprenticing in her generational magic family, have very different levels of information access.

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Review: A Dash of Trouble

“Half worried from Caroline’s talk about secrets, half furious that she was being left out again, Leo felt her bad feelings swell like cake in an oven.” p 21

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2018.
MG fantasy, 314 pages.
Lexile:  850L  .
AR Level:  5.3 (worth 9.0 points)  .

Leonora Logroño is desperate to convince her mother that she’s old enough to finally help out at her family’s bakery as they prepare for the big yearly Dia de los Muertos festival.  She’s crushed to hear she’s still too young, but even more surprised to find out that the women in her family are secretly magical baking brujas.  She just has to tell her best friend, and that leads to just one tiny spell…

LSM1 A Dash of Trouble
Love Sugar Magic #1: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano.

These days I have an entire shelf devoted to diverse MG fantasy novels, and it brings me such joy to see titles and new series coming out every year.  Fantasy literature was a passion I discovered in elementary school, and a big disappointment as a school librarian was not being able to find books representing every student for genre literature.  Continue reading “Review: A Dash of Trouble”

Review: Little Book of Life Hacks

“Getting your most important (or tedious) task out of the way will create a powerful momentum for the rest of your day.” page 187

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Not leveled.

An illustrated guide to a wide variety of diys, life-hacks, how-tos, and helpful tips.

Little Book of Life Hacks resized

It seems to be a pattern that I discover famous people and trends through reading.  This was a random pick at the craft store – however not chosen to be diverse (like my Target Picks), just a book I grabbed on a whim because the artwork was so cute.

The cover is really appealing although it doesn’t photograph well.  The gold elements are shiny and there is a lot of texture.  This book is easy to pick up, read a few pages, and put down, although I read through it traditionally the first time.  One element I disliked, is that while there are page numbers, only about half of the pages are numbered.  So it was difficult to refer to a specific page.

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Review: The Shadow in the Moon

“I tell my family I am thankful for them, especially wise Ah-Ma. Maybe even for my little sister.” page 27

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, Massachsetts, 2018.
Picture book fiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  640L  .
AR Level:  not yet leveled
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the author as a part of the 2019 Multicultural Children’s Book Day, in exchange for an honest review.

The story of a young girl in the modern day celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, including her grandmother’s telling of the traditional story of Chang’e and Hou Yi.

the shadow in the moon cover resized

Our family loves learning about different holidays.  We are Christian and American so you can guess that we celebrate Christmas and Fourth of July.  We’ve been lucky enough to access community gatherings or have friends invite us to many other celebrations, including the Lunar New Year.  But none of us had ever heard of the Mid-Autumn festival before.

Looking for other books on the topic, I could only find a half-dozen books about this specific festival, some of which didn’t have reviews.  There were two by big-name authors – both Grace Lin and Amy Tan have written picture books on the topic.  All of which is a rather lengthy notice that this is a welcome addition to our holiday bookshelf, and sorely needed.

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Review: Lion Dancer

“Today it is very hard for me to sit still. Chinese New Year starts tonight. And tomorrow morning, I will dance in the street.” page 7

Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low, photographs by Martha Cooper.
Scholastic, New York, 1990.
Nonfiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  540L  .
AR Level:  2.9 (worth 0.5 points)  .

The is the story of six-year-old Ernie Wan’s first Lion Dance, which he’s been preparing for since he was three.  For the Chinese New Year, he will perform on the streets of New York City.

Lion Dancer cover resized

Ernie is one-fifth of a loving family.  His father is, according to the dust jacket text, “a kung fu master” so studying kung fu is very important to his family.  (I put that portion in quotes not because I disbelieve his qualifications but because I wasn’t sure if that’s how he would describe himself.  Often the jacket text isn’t written by the author so it’s difficult to tell just how accurate this might be.)

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Review: Mochi Queen

“In the kitchen, the rice cookers set on timers were already steaming, filling the kitchen with the smell of rice. My mouth watered.” p. 53

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (Jasmine Toguchi #1) by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic.
Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillian, New York, 2017.
Elementary fiction, 115 pages.
Lexile:  560L  .
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 1.0 points)  .

Jasmine and her Japanese-American family are getting ready for the New Year.  That means lots of cousins, mochi-tsuki, Obaachan coming to visit, and two more years before Jasmine is old enough to make mochi with the women.  Rather than wait two whole years, she has an idea…

Jasmine Toguchi 1 Mochi Queen

In the last few years we’ve been seeing a big rise in the number of early elementary chapter book series featuring diverse characters, and I am over the moon about it.  As you’ve heard me rant before, it’s crucial to have diverse books at every reading level, including the very earliest.  Working a little understanding of different cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles into early fiction also helps students out when they later encounter the same topics in middle school or high school, and it sets a foundation for tolerance and acceptance.

Series like this one are particularly great because they can be read aloud to children over a range of ages, and information about Japanese-American culture is seamlessly woven into the storyline.

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Review: Yes, My Accent is Real

“My dad was always curious about humans, how we react in different situations. He asked us hard questions at a young age, and even better, he listened carefully and respectfully when we answered.” p. 39

Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar.
Atria Paperback, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 (my edition 2016).
Personal essays, 245 pages.
Not leveled.

At only 34, Nayyar is best known for playing the role of Rajesh, an Indian immigrant and astrophysicist with selective mutism, on the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Yes My Accent is Real resized

I have a soft spot for diverse celebrity memoirs, especially if I happen to actually know who the celebrity is.  This was one of those guilty pleasure books that you know won’t be very filling but want to read anyway.

The format was unusual – more like short essays punctuated by “A Thought Recorded on an Aeroplane Cocktail Napkin” every so often.  They are roughly chronological (although this isn’t an autobiography) and roughly written, so I believe Nayyar wrote this himself (or if not, his ghostwriter owes him a big refund).

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Review: The Year of the Dog

“But my friends didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” p. 19

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2006 (my edition 2007).
Realistic fiction, 140 pages + excerpts.
Lexile:  690L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 3.0 points)  .

In the Year of the Dog, Pacy is supposed to find her best friend and figure out her talent.  But what could it be?

The Year of the Dog cover

This is one of those books that I’ve had for a while but didn’t pick up.  I may have been saving it or planning to wait until we got another in the series, I’m just not sure.  Anyway, this story tells about one year in Pacy’s life, starting with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Dog and ending with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Pig.

An aspect of this I didn’t expect was how there were stories embedded into the larger narrative, just like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  These stories were realistic fiction instead of fantasy, but they worked the same way and I greatly enjoyed them.  The stories allowed Pacy to be connected even if many of her relatives live far away.

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