War Stories

Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Release Date: July 21/20

Reviewed by: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Gordon Korman’s War Stories is yet another way this Canadian author continues to be popular because he is constantly trying new things. I really enjoyed the intergenerational relationship between 14 year old Trevor  and his 93 year old great grandfather Jacob (also known as GG). The two have bonded over WW2 as his GG has regaled many a story of his experiences over in Europe. 

When his GG is invited to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Sainte-Regineto – it becomes an opportunity to relive Jacob’s steps and journey. Trevor’s father is concerned about Trevor’s fascination with WW2 but hopes that perhaps the trip will also show him the many atrocities and losses of WWII. As they begin retracing Jacob’s journey and follow the footsteps from the past, the present day journey Trevor and Jacob take become threatening and emotional. Not everyone in the town of Sainte-Regineto thinks that Jacob is a hero and a subplot emerges from a group that does not want his grandfather there using social media to warn Jacob to stay and go back home. 

Mr. Korman has done a masterful job providing alternating chapters of Jacob as a young 17 year old joining the infantry and seeing events take place through young Jacob’s eyes and then bringing us back to the same area in the present day.  As we get the backstory to Jacob’s heroics, losses and one significant event in his past that we find out late in the book he has been carrying around with him, we see the effects and emotional toil it has taken on him.  Trevor also begins to see the war through a different lens and has more and more questions as the trio get closer to Sainte-Regineto. He is experiencing first hand how the real war differs a great deal from his video games and a girl keeps popping up and seems to be following them. As they get closer and closer to Sainte-Regineto, the reader gets the back story as to why this trip was important to Jacob and the identity of the mysterious girl.

What makes War Stories special is the relationship between Trevor and his great grandfather and how both undergo an emotional change while reliving the past. It is a special story to have that close relationship and the banter they have with one another that is not often found in middle grade books. There is also the opportunity for readers who play war type video games to perhaps question more about the authenticity of the games and the real life emotional connections that are not there.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Notorious, Level 13 (Slacker #2), The Unteachables, Whatshisface

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED K-8

A Whale of the Wild

Author: Rosanne Parry, Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+, publisher Greenwillow Books and author Rosanne Parry.

Another survival story, this time from a whale’s perspective. A pod of Resident whales are on their way to feed on the Chinook salmon returning from the ocean. We meet Vega, a young female, too young to be a mother and too old to be considered a child learning the ways of their pod from her Greatmother, until one day Vega will be a wayfinder leading the pod to the precious salmon the pod needs. Through Vegas eyes we learn the ways of the Resident orcas and the special relationships between brothers and sisters. We experience the waters of the Salish Sea, other wildlife, and an earthquake that sends Vega out to the ocean that is rare for her species.

Fans of A Wolf Called Wander and those who love whales are going to enjoy this story not only of survival but the relationships within the pod. Readers will gain a great deal of knowledge about Resident orcas from the ways they communicate, the roles males and females have to how they interact with this ecosystem with other types of orcas and humans including intertwining the First Nations perspective and relationship to the land and animals. There is an abundance of back matter including information about orcas, salmon, the tribes of the Salish Sea Watershed, habitats, earthquakes, tsunamis and ways individuals can help. A unique addition for readers who love animals – a recommended addition for classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: A Wolf Called Wander, The Turn of the Tide, Written in Stone

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, Crochet: 25 Easy Patterns for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Basics While Having Fun

RECOMMENDED: Gr 4+

Scritch Scratch

Author: Lindsay Curry

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Release Date: September 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Creepy title, creepy cover with a creepy map and a creepy story – scary story readers will love this new book from author @lindsayncurrie coming out today.

Seventh grader Claire is all about science and not the scary, while her dad is all about the paranormal and runs a Ghosts Tour in the evenings in Chicago. When her dad’s driver cancels at the last minute Claire has been given no choice but to help out and join the tour one evening. Things seem to be going alright until she thinks she sees a small kid in the tour van but when she goes to investigate no one is there. Strange things start to happen at her house but Claire being of scientific mind knows there must be a rationale explanation and goes about using science theory to investigate this mystery of a boy in white who seems to be haunting Claire. With a mystery to solve, Claire involves her friends, her brother and even her first crush to find out the mystery of the boy in white who leaves clues behind providing Claire and her friends some insight to Chicago’s rich history of gangsters, ghosts and misfortunes.


Fans of the spooky will not be disappointed – there’s just enough scary to keep you quickly turning the pages and racing to see if Claire and her friends can decipher the messages before someone gets hurt. This book was one I was reading before it got dark and my imagination ran wild with scritch scratch noises but plenty of readers will love this book for those exact reasons. I liked how Currie interlaced actual Chicago history into the storyline – readers will no doubt investigate further when the book is completed.


I have found one can never have enough scary stories and this one will circulate from reader to reader never being on the shelf.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, Creed, and Hardwired

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Grade 5+

City Spies

Author: James Ponti

Publisher: Aladdin

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Reviewer: Laurie

Audiobook Cover

After discovering James Ponti’s Framed series (which I loved) I was excited to discover his first book in his new series City Spies. Action packed with smart characters with a sense of humour, kids are going to want to know how they can join the ranks and become one of the City Spies.

From the opening chapter, readers meet Sara who is currently talking to a lawyer as she is heading into court for hacking into the juvenile system to report her foster parents. When her public defender lawyer is interrupted by a smartly dressed lawyer saying he has been replaced, Sara is baffled. Even more baffled when after the public defender leaves the new lawyer asks her to hack into the system again!. Not sure what is going on, the lawyer using a fake name asks her to trust him. The next thing she knows he has convinced the judge to relinquish her into his custody and she is being whisked off to Scotland to train as a young spy – that is if she can pass the tests and be an asset on the team.

Upon arrival in Scotland, she meets four other young tweens/teenagers who go by their names from where they are from around the world (Rio, Sydney, Paris, Kat (Katmandhu). Sara will now be known as Brooklyn and the fake lawyer who recruited her is a master spy known as Mother. Under the guise of a local weather observation station, the group is part of a clandestine operation of MI6 and Brooklyn has been recruited quickly because of her hacking skills as a mission was already in place when their hacker left the team to join another local team. Their mission is to infiltrate a local global environmental summit and prevent The Purple Thumb a criminal organization from attacking.

I loved how there are several layers to the plot including Mother’s search for his kids and the many back stories to all of the five spies learning about their unique skill sets that they bring to the team. Although the story focuses on Brooklyn, the supporting characters are well developed and can see future books allowing them to be more of a focus. Mr. Ponti has set it up so there can be many ways this series can grow and engage readers.

Fast paced, filled with humour and a mystery to solve, this one won’t stay on the shelf long and the sequel City Spies Golden Gate is set to be released March 16/21 so you may as well order it at the same time! Move over Alex Rider – there are some new spies in town…

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Framed, Vanished, Trapped

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Grade 5+