Review: Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

Just Beyond the Very Very Far NorthJust Beyond the Very, Very Far North
by Dan Bar-el

ISBN-13: 9781534433441
Publication date: October 6, 2020 by Atheneum BYR
Purchased by my school

Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.

And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.

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Once again this year I read The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el to my grade two students, and once again they loved it! So as soon as this sequel was released my school purchased it for me, and it did not disappoint! Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a fantastic follow up to Duane’s life in the very, very far north and my students were just as invested in this second visit with familiar friends as they had been with book one.

Duane and all his friends are back again for more adventures, and I loved that the chapters remained like mini stories. The shorter ones we finished in one sitting, the longer ones we broke up over two days (or even three sometimes!). As a teacher, I appreciate the obvious stopping points so that I’m not needing to decide in the middle of a chapter where I can leave off and not have the students upset, or forget what happened the previous day when we pick the book back up again.

My students loved the extra attention that Major Puff and Boo both received. Major Puff has to make some big decisions when it comes time for his migration (which is NOT a vacation), and Boo has a secret that is found out through not-so honest means. Handsome also gets a bit of a fun story near the end that my students were both saddened by, and happy for.Duane of course is front and center again, enjoying adventures, icicles and time with his friends. But this time, there is a new character – one who inserts himself into the friends decisions in a manner that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group. My students were so upset every time he appeared on page! (but in a good, this character is doing his job and we don’t like him because we’re not supposed to, kind of way) We had so many good conversations around this character: what makes a good friend, why he may be behaving the way he is, how Duane and the others can interact with him in a good way, is what this character is doing kind/nice/appropriate/etc. They loved arguing about him, predicting what he’ll do next and if the friends will realize what’s going on.

Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a wonderful book, and I cannot wait to read both stories to next year’s class!

Review: The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

The Very Very Far North The Very, Very Far North
by Dan Bar-el

ISBN-13:9781534433410
Publication date: Sept 3, 2019 by Atheneum BYR
Purchased by me
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

An inquisitive polar bear named Duane befriends an array of animals as he discovers where he belongs in this charming classic-in-the making that’s reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh.

In the Very, Very Far North, past the Cold, Cold Ocean and just below the hill that looks like a baby whale, you’ll find Duane and his friends.

Duane is a sweet and curious young bear who makes friends with everyone he meets—whether they’re bossy, like Major Puff the puffin, or a bit vain, like Handsome the musk ox, or very, very shy, like Boo the caribou. For these arctic friends, every day is a new adventure!

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My students loved The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el. I picked this one up at Indigo Books one day when I was searching for a read aloud that wasn’t too short, or part of a large series. The cover immediately drew my attention, and then the synopsis hooked me in. When I read it, I knew my students would be hooked – and they were!

Duane is just a precious main character. He has a bit of innocence about him as he explores his home and makes new friends. He’s gentle, and friendly, and is a fantastic narrator for the story. Each chapter is like its own mini story, a new adventure in Duane’s life that all adds up to a year in the very, very far north. The new friends are all introduced one at a time, often in quite interesting situations. My students enjoyed Twitch and Boo the best (outside of Duane himself of course) and loved guessing what would happen in the next chapter based on chapter titles.

The Very, Very Far North is a great read aloud for conversations around friendship and acceptance, science and art, and in a more curriculum related note, predictions, inferences, character building (traits in particular. Each character has such a wonderful and unique personality) and vocabulary (Handsome has quite a well-rounded vocabulary and he provided great opportunity to introduce new words to my students). Though aimed at middle grades, I read this with my grade one/two class. This one has earned it’s place on my yearly read aloud list!

Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Winterwood Winterwood
by Shea Ernshaw

ISBN-13: 9781534439412
Publication date: November 5th, 2019 by Simon Pulse
Purchased through Owlcrate
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

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I very much enjoyed Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw. The story takes place over less then a week, in a snowed in cottage area in the mountains. There’s a spooky,aggressive forest, a bottomless lake and a camp for wayward boys. Add in our main character Nora, and we have the makings of a moody, tense, mystery with a smaaaaall love story. Just the way I like it!

If you like character driven plots with wonderfully detailed backstory teased throughout, mysteries and only the simplest of teenage romance than I think you’ll enjoy Winterwood. The writing is beautifully descriptive and I lost myself in Nora’s witchy world. Oh yes; did I mention the witches? 😉

Review: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

The Creeping The Creeping
by Alexandra Sirowy

ISBN-13: 9-781481-418867
Publication: August 18, 2015 from Simon & Schuster BYR
Source: publisher
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

If you look for monsters, you’ll find them.

Eleven years ago, Stella and Jeanie disappeared. Only Stella came back. Now all she wants is a summer full of cove days, friends, and her gorgeous crush – until a fresh corpse leads Stella down a path of ancient evil and secrets. Stella believes remembering what happened to Janie will save her. It won’t. She used to know better than to believe in what slinks through the shadows. Not anymore.

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The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy is not my usual read. But between it and Survive the Night, I think I’ve managed to getout of my reader slump! There’s something to be said about reading books different from your usual. I’m not one to like horror – either movies or books – but The Creeping was horrifically great, and exactly what I wanted.

When Stella was six, she and her friend Jeanie went missing. Only Stella returned, with no memory of what happened. Now, years later, things start happening which bring up past events. It’s the anniversary of when the girls went missing and another girl has just turned up dead. Stella is rightfully freaked out! Especially with the return of Daniel, Jeanie’s older brother, who over the years has blamed, stalked and tormented Stella. With the help of an old friend, Stella is determined to fifure out what really happened the day she disappeared. But that’s not always a good idea.

I was holding my breath throughout most of this book, wondering at what would happen when Stella recovered her memories (if she recovered them) and who or what kidnapped the girls. Alexandra Sirowy does a fantastic job at setting the mood. The nights were dark and creepy, Stella’s thoughts and memories were sporadic and abrupt, the forest was looming and terrifying and the cast of characters were unforgettable. I could have done without some of the Sam/Stella romance, but it was realistic. Stella is in high school, trying to solve Jeanie’s disappearance, yes, but also navigating popularity, friends and boys. One doesn’t stop because the other starts. So Sam and Stella were believeable, if not my favourite parts. Zoey was not my idea of a best friend. I can see why Stella stuck with her, loved her and would do anything for her, but oh man was she bossy, rude and a bit self-absorbed. You basically have to trust Stella that she’s a good person.

4 heart
I was definitely surprised by the end of The Creeping. Even with everything seemingly wrapped up and explained, there is that small little tidbit left behind that makes you wonder: was it really? Could there be more to this? I was hooked from the beginning, and engaged until the end. I don’t suggest reading this one while you’re home alone in the dark, especially if you don’t like horror, but outside on a deck in the bright sunshine withpeople around? Go for it! If you like, horror? You’ll like this one.

ARC received from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Perfect Ruin Perfect Ruin
by Lauren DeStefano

ISBN-13: 9-781442-480612
Publication: October 2013 from Simon & Schuster BYR
Source: publisher
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan’s older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

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Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano is fantastic! The idea of a city that floats in the sky, on an island, not connected to anything or aware of the world below them? Crazy but wonderful. I highly enjoyed the mythology behind the city of Internment, and Morgan is a compelling main character.

Despite the method of their relationship, I enjoyed that Morgan and Basil are a stable couple, and Pen is an intense best friend. When the murders begin, the mystery surrounding the deaths, Judas and what can be found on the ground, below Internment, heats up. Morgan is swept up in events that are quite beyond her control. Morgan’s family has been through the wringer, and Pen has her own history that needs exploring. Lauren DeStefano does an awesome job in upping the suspense has Morgan gets deeper and deeper into the secrets of Internment, and in creating some interesting characters. The prince and princess of Internment are sufficiently creepy!

4 heart

Perfect Ruin manages to capture and maintain the reader’s interest through pretty great story-telling. I’m invested in these characters and want to know more about their backstories (Pen, I’m looking at you) and also what will happen next. I’m anxious for the sequel to find out what will become of Morgan and the rest of our cast of fugitives. There is so much potential for world building and character growth – I hope book 2 lives up to book 1!

ARC provided by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!