Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Wonderling

The Wonderling Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

The Wonderling

Written by: Mira Bartok

Number of Pages: 450

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

This was such an unexpected delight! I went into it with zero expectations and was thoroughly entranced. Bartok has created a magical world reminiscent of a slightly steampunk Victorian society filled with villains and mysteries and peopled with all sorts of creatures from humans to regular animals to groundlings. Our main character, 13 (later known as Arthur and then the Wonderling) is a groundling, a hybrid creature part human and part animal (Arthur is part human and part fox.) He’s also an orphan living in The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, run by the evil Miss Carbuncle.

The orphans there are governed by fierce rules (no talking, no singing) and forced to work in the factory on the orphanage grounds. Life is pretty dreary until he makes friends with Trinket, a bird who has seen the outside world and begins to show Arthur how powerful hope can be. The two unknowingly start a resistance movement and embark on an adventure to find Arthur’s home outside the walls and tumble into Miss Carbuncle’s nefarious plans to abolish music forever.

I was constantly reminded of The Secret of Nimh (which I haven’t read in forever so that could be a completely unfounded comparison) and The Tale of Despereaux as I read, and there are many references to King Arthur. There’s definitely grand adventure and loads of heart in this fantastically satisfying tale. This is Bartok’s first book for young readers and I’m hoping it won’t be her last!

Adult Non-Fiction Book Review ~ Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness Book Review
















Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Braving the Wilderness

Written by: Brene Brown

Number of Pages: 208

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4.5/5

For anyone who isn’t yet familiar with Brene Brown’s work, let me be the first to introduce you. You can thank me later. Brown is a research professor, PhD and LMSW who has spent the bulk of her career studying shame and vulnerability. She’s got a couple of fabulous TED talks that are definitely worth your time and if you want a quick overview of her work, start with The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s a fast read but jam packed with lots to think about.  Her overarching theme is that we need to open ourselves up to being vulnerable in order to grow and love and basically live a truly full life. The rest of her books expand (and divert a little, though still heading in the same general direction) the thoughts laid out in TGOI. My favorite by far is Daring Greatly, but they are all fantastic.

In Braving the Wilderness she tackles the idea of vulnerability within our roles in society, particularly calling out the political climate we are currently facing. (Mud slinging, endless bipartisan arguing and finger-pointing are never courageous!) She calls on her readers to find the courage to stand alone and stand for what they truly believe, not just to fall into the mob mentality of agreeing with the groups that are the most vocal or even the most accepting. True belonging isn’t just being a part of a group but being part of a group that accepts you for you who are, your most vulnerable and authentic self. And finding that self is hard but necessary if we want to have any chance of making a difference in your own life or in the world. They’re lofty goals and ideas and she acknowledges the difficulty but she also manages to infuse each book with hope and makes it all seem realistically doable.

While her studies and findings are priceless and pretty groundbreaking, its Brown’s personality, charm, and personal vulnerability that make her works really stand out. She never fails to share personal experiences (negative and positive) to illustrate the concepts she’s teaching and her candidness makes you feel as if you’re sitting on the couch sharing stories with a friend. If you’re looking to make some changes in the new year, start by picking up one of Brown’s books and committing to really internalize just one concept she introduces. I promise, your life will never be the same.

Picture Book Review ~ Christmas Tree Tales

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Alright, I guess now that it’s December I can succumb to the holiday madness. I’d like to share a couple of my new holiday favorites…and no worries, there’s more to come!

Pick a Pine Tree Book Review

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by: Patricia Toht 

Illustrated by: Jarvis

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-9

Rating: 5/5

This book has made the rounds of the bookblogs and Instagram of late. And all and for great reason, it’s just lovely! So, if you haven’t had a chance to take a look at it yet, I urge you to get your hands on a copy. You won’t regret it.

The premise is simple but it’s beautifully executed. A family goes to the tree lot to find the perfect tree. After loading it onto the roof of the car they get it home and decorate the heck out of it with the help of friends and neighbors. The culminating effect is gorgeously glowing and a perfectly peaceful representation of the best of the season.  This is bound to become a Christmas classic.

Here are a few more images from the book.

Pick a Pine Tree Book Review 2Pick a Pine Tree Book Review 3

Red and Lulu Book Review
















Red and Lulu

Written and Illustrated by: Matt Tavares

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-9

Rating: 4.5/5

For a Christmas tree story on a much larger scale, look no further than this beauty. The title characters are two cardinals who’ve made their home in a neighborhood evergreen tree. They spend their days happily watching over the families that live nearby, and their winters listening to them singing O Tannenbaum while decorating the branches with lights. When Red heads out one day to find breakfast, the tree is cut down with Lulu still in it. Red searches high and low until he hears someone singing their song. Following the tune, he finally finds her (and their home) and a surprise bigger than he can imagine.

An author’s note gives details of the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I loved learning that the tradition began nearly 100 years ago and that the wood from the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those in need. It’s a fun perspective on a great tradition and a fun tale for readers of all ages.