Monthly Archives: January 2021

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

by Varian Johnson
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Maureen and Francine Carter are starting sixth grade. Suddenly Francine wants to be called Fran by their friends, and is trying to be her own person, which makes Maureen feel left behind and sad at the loss of their previously close bond. She and Francine are not in all the same classes and she was even signed up for Cadet Corps, which her parents think would help with her self-confidence. But she’s so bad at marching that she’s in danger of her first non-A report card grade ever – unless she runs for sixth grade student council. The only other person running for president is, of course, Francine. Fighting and smear campaigns ensue and their parents try to find ways to end the rivalry, but in the end the girls have to get to a place of apology and forgiveness on their own. 

For fans of: Raina Telgemeier (Sisters, Drama, Smile)

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity by Amy Alznauer

by Amy Alznauer
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Alznauer, herself a mathematician, portrays this 19th century math genius growing up in India. She tells of his family, how he didn’t speak until he was 3, how school bored him and he went to a new one each year until finally a teacher saw his potential and encouraged his brilliant questions about math and numbers. Somehow he was able to connect with professors at Cambridge and trade ideas with other fine minds of his time. Daniel Miyares’ beautiful illustrations more than do the story justice – they bring it to life.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

by Louise Fitzhugh
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I read this one as a kid and boy did I not remember most of it! The scene where she climbs into the dumbwaiter and spies on her neighbor was the one that mostly stayed with me, but even that lacked a lot of details. I remembered nothing about Harriet having a nanny, who plays a huge role in the story, or the main plot of how Harriet’s spying loses her her close friendships as well as even her enemies among her classmates, few as they are. Overall I’d say it holds up better than a lot of children’s books.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

by E.L. Konigsburg
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I remembered loving this one as a kid and the re-read did not disappoint. I was a sucker for kids running away and specifically their economy (The Boxcar Children, My Side of the Mountain, and even on the economy side, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, were in this category). I loved Claudia and Jamie’s story, and remembered it better than I did Harriet the Spy, but still forgot details like the fact that they had two whole other brothers. (I also didn’t remember how well Claudia and Jamie complement each other, but that’s sort of beside the point.) I loved especially how they hid in the bathroom stalls after the Metropolitan Museum of Art closed and then slept in the antique beds. They were very clever and I also loved the mystery of the angel statue and how Claudia and Jamie eventually figure it out, though I have to say that I did not recall them taking a taxi to Mrs. Frankweiler’s house and basically accosting her. But overall, except for a few things, it holds up well and is clearly a classic for a reason.