Must Read Monday (63): Children’s Lit from Linda Williams Jackson, Caela Carter & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction! I am featuring a slew of wonderful sounding (and looking!) titles; genres from historical fiction to realistic fiction and humour from first-time novelists and seasoned authors including: Linda Williams Jackson, Caela Carter, Steve Moore, Stephan Pastis, and Darcy Miller.


Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
Publication: January 3, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.


Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
Publication: March 7, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

An achingly beautiful story in the vein of Rebecca Stead and R. J. Palacio about two foster children who want desperately to believe that they’ve found their forever home.

Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past—for only then can they really begin to build their future.


No Fear! (King of the Bench #1) by Steve Moore
Expected publication: March 28, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

From the nationally syndicated cartoonist of “In the Bleachers” comes a new, highly illustrated middle grade series about Steve, who plays the same position in every sport: bench-warmer. Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Timmy Failure, King of the Bench is an ode to teammates, underdogs, and bench-warmers everywhere.

Steve is King of the Bench. No brag. It’s just a fact. But this year, Steve and his friends are excited to try out for the Spiro T. Agnew Middle School baseball team. The only problem is, after watching another player get beaned by a fastball, Steve has developed a serious case of bean-o-phobia—the fear of getting hit by a pitch. If Steve ever wants to get off the bench and get in the game, he’s going to have to muster up some courage, and fast.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why Steve would write a book and tell total strangers all about the humiliating phobia that almost ruined his first year on the baseball team? Duh. It’s pretty much a rule that you spill your guts when you write a book about yourself.


The Cat Stole My Pants (Timmy Failure #6) by Stephan Pastis
Expected publication: April 25, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

In the sixth book in Stephan Pastis’s hilarious series, Timmy is being threatened and must rely on his new partner to solve the mystery and possibly save his life!

Timmy is in Key West, Florida, ostensibly for the honeymoon of his mother and Doorman Dave if they even got married, which Timmy doubts. Unfortunately for Timmy, crime doesn’t take a vacation. And because Total has fled to Cuba seeking political asylum, Timmy must rely on a new partner for help: Doorman Dave’s nephew Emilio. Meanwhile, a surprise newcomer shows up in Timmy’s life and, as if things couldn’t get more hectic, Timmy’s pants have been stolen by a six-toed cat.


Roll by Darcy Miller
Expected publication: May 23, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

A hilariously funny and poignant debut novel, perfect for fans of Jerry Spinelli, Kat Yeh, Gary Schmidt, and Rebecca Stead.

When Lauren (but call him “Ren,” pretty please) Hall sees birds falling from the sky, he knows something is wrong. But just as he’s starting to worry, he realizes that the birds are plummeting toward the ground on purpose. Turns out they’re Birmingham Roller Pigeons, and his new neighbor Sutton is training them for a competition. Sure, it’s strange, but Ren’s best and only friend Aiden has picked this summer to start hanging with the popular kids. So Ren starts training pigeons with Sutton—what’s the worst that could happen? A bird falls on his head? You’ll have to read Roll to find out.


Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis

timmyfailure528686922Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: September 27, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Banishment from his life’s calling can’t keep a comically overconfident detective down in the latest episode by New York Times bestseller Stephan Pastis.

This book was never meant to exist. No one needs to know the details. Just know this: there’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work. It’s a conspiracy of buffoons. He recorded everything in his private notebook, but then the manuscript was stolen. If this book gets out, he will be grounded for life. Or maybe longer. And will Timmy’s mom really marry Doorman Dave?

“Do you love others, Timothy?”

“I dunno. Do you?”

Oh, Timmy.

Five books into the eccentric and comical Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis and mysteries and misunderstandings are still running amok. In a previous post, I talked about my love of the series- the weirdness, laughter and strange sweetness of Timmy’s world. The aforementioned mix of traits are still alive and well with The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have; but in this title, we meet a few new great characters that show just how helpless, in denial (and extremely obstinate!) Timmy can be.

In The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have, a big change is looming for Timmy: his mom is set to marry Doorman Dave. Now, those familiar with Timmy’s great skill in avoiding big, personal issues, will know that Timmy will focus his attention on everything but the major issue at hand. Rather than face the impending wedding and life changes,  Timmy turns his attention on continuing detective work (surreptitiously) in the midst of being banned from doing any detective work. Throwing further wrenches into his plan to operate his spy work on the sly are cousins Merry and Larry- staying with the Failures and in Timmy’s room- before the big wedding. So, Timmy does the rational thing and decides to take over a garden shed at the Home Despot to continue his operations… Of course, being Timmy, he is waylaid by focusing on spurious dead-end cases and by the fact that his best friend Rollo Tookus is becoming chummy with (gasp!) Merry and Larry. Standing fierce by Timmy’s side through all of his mistakes (both small and…HUGE), though, is Molly Moskins- the tangerine-scented girl who loves Timmy. Pastis throws in a little surprise courtesy of Molly at the end, which I especially adored, as Molly Moskins has become a series favourite for me!

Overall, the Timmy Failure series, five books in, continues to surprise with Pastis’ particular brand of offbeat, very funny writing, and new characters who prove to be a real hoot. While Timmy himself is an ongoing puzzle, sometimes infuriatingly stubborn and oblivious, Pastis manages to balance those less-than-beguiling characteristics by matching Timmy against family and friends who push Timmy to show his vulnerabilities. Any readers who have enjoyed the previous titles in the series or Pastis’ other work with comic Pearls Before Swine will likely enjoy The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have. Readers who like series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Terrible Two, Big Nate, or Tom Gates, might especially be interested in giving Timmy Failure a read.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Comic Strips!

toptentuesday2Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s focus is all about our top ten favourites of a particular genre. I have decided to go with comic strips, as it’s a big bookish love of mine and something I don’t talk about too often here! My picks range from the classic to critically acclaimed, to series that just delight me to no end. So much wonderfulness in these strips, I highly recommend any of these strips to any humour/comics reader!

Here are my top ten- with the first two arguably tied for my all-time number one favourites:

Sherman’s Lagoon by Jim Toomey. I first started reading Sherman’s Lagoon about…15 years ago or so, and haven’t stopped or missed any of the collections. Zany, belly-laugh inducing, and consistently good. It is also a shared bookish favourite of my dad and I!
Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson. A superb comic strip: a deeply funny, wise and incredibly illustrated and written comic from the late Richard Thompson. All I can say about this one is to try it if you haven’t yet. A little taster of the strip is below.
Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. Out of any authors on this list, I think I have referred to Pastis the most, if not mostly for my love of his children’s series Timmy Failure. Pearls, as I probably mentioned in another post is sharply written, often caustic, but balanced with moments of sudden, intense thoughtfulness and consideration. And of course, it is a hoot as well.
FoxTrot by Bill Amend. I have loved this comic for years and years now! As with Sherman’s Lagoon or Baby Blues, this is go-to comfort reading (well, re-reading!). Amend does family dynamics so well, and makes the characters (who, as with the Simpson’s lot, don’t age) and their well-formed habits into fresh, just about limitless storylines.
Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. Long, long before I became a parent, I was a huge fan of Baby Blues. Kirkman & Scott make a strip generally about becoming parents and parenting (and the frustrations and utter joy of kids) so readable, crazily likable and relatable. I’ve read and reread the collections numerous times and they still make me laugh out loud.
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. The main characters are so utterly familiar to me, I can’t imagine growing up without knowing them and their quirks! Sally is one of my stand-out characters- so unexpectedly hysterical, I think, that she doesn’t get enough credit. And who cannot, at one time or another, relate to Charlie Brown’s ennui and agony, or Lucy’s temper and misplaced affections?
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. So much has been said and written about this critically acclaimed, beloved comic strip. I have grown to appreciate the wonder of this series- and the writing– even more as I get older.
Grand Avenue by Steve Breen. I wish the entirety of this series was available in print, but alas, only the first collection! Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Breen does a fantastic job in this series; a great premise with standout and very funny characters, this is a consistent delight to read.
by Jim Unger. We’ve all read at least a Herman comic at one point or another, haven’t we? I remember seeing dental-related Herman comic strips at my dentist’s growing up! (I always thought they were funny and true). So very dry and so very funny, Herman is a kick in the pants.
The Far Side by Gary Larson. Another critically acclaimed, much lauded, beloved comic strip series! I’ve been revisiting some of the collections this year; so consistently weird, dark and riotous.

Honourable mentions:
Mutts by Patrick McDonnell
Heart of the City by Mark Tatulli
Mother Goose and Grimm by Mike Peters
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley




What’s on your top ten this week? Be sure to check out some of the other great lists!

Must Read Monday (47): Looking at Fall 2016 Releases (Part 2)

Continuing on with a Must Read Monday feature on Fall 2016 releases!…

This week’s Must Read Monday is a little bit different. I’ve been looking through various sources (review journals, publisher’s sites, Goodreads, blogs, etc.) as is my norm, but my to-be read pile has grown tremendously in a short span! This is due, in part, to all of the incredible books that are slated for Fall 2016 release! Some favourite authors and/or illustrators are releasing new titles or sequels, and there are new-to-me and/or debut authors with terrific sounding and terrifically reviewed titles.

You can take a look at my picks for Part 1 here!

Here, in no particular order, are my picks for Part 2:


The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by HarperCollins Canada

Foxheart by Claire Legrand, illus. Jaime Zollars
Expected publication: October 4, 2016 by Greenwillow Books

Today by Julie Morstad
Expected publication: September 2, 2016 by Simply Read Books

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems
Expected publication: October 25, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by First Second

Mooncop by Tom Gauld
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Happy as a Clam: The Twenty-First Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Stephan’s Web: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Expected publication: November 22, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

*For the purposes of these posts, ‘Fall’ will include some August, September and October, possibly some November 2016 releases

Must Read Monday (12): Little Robot & Timmy Failure #4

I’ve been remiss with Must Read Monday for the last few weeks, so it’s nice to welcome it back for its twelfth edition!

Must Read Monday is where I spotlight current and/or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week, I am featuring Ben Hatke’s upcoming graphic novel release and the fourth Timmy Failure book from Stephan Pastis.

littlerobot23310721Little Robot by Ben Hatke
Expected publication: September 1, 2015 by First Second
Book Description:

When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!

Ben Hatke’s work– which includes the excellent Zita the Spacegirl series– is beautiful. His illustrative work is distinctive and stunning, always fresh and out of the ordinary. He also features adventurous and brave young female heroines as his protagonists which is awesome! By my love and appreciation of Zita alone- for both the artwork and the storytelling- I have pretty much placed everything to come from Hatke on my must-read list.

timmyfailureFOUR25241619Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection (Timmy Failure #4) by Stephan Pastis
Expected publication: October 6, 2015 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

In this fourth volume of Timmy Failure’s memoirs, Timmy is forced to hit the road in a cross-country trip that includes Timmy’s mom, Total the polar bear, Doorman Dave, and smells-like-a-tangerine criminal mastermind Molly Moskins. It’s a world gone mad, where good becomes bad, and Timmy Failure is a condemned man.

I have mentioned Pastis and Timmy Failure more than once on this site! I have loved Pearls Before Swine for a number of year and now I have the great Timmy to love. If you haven’t yet read this children’s series and are wondering ‘should I?’. Well, I would recommend it! Readers who enjoy Gordan Korman, Louis Sachar, Jennifer L. Holm, Jeff Kinney, Tom Angleberger, and altogether oddball, irregular, and unexpectedly riotous things (with some gut-punches of sadness), then this is for you.

If you’d like to join Must Read Monday, please do! Link up or leave a comment about what you’re looking forward to reading- I love to hear what other readers have on their radar!

At least the librarian said ‘please’??

What’s that? Time for another library-ish Pearls Before Swine comic? Coming up!


Pearls Before Swine comic by Stephan Pastis via Iowa Independent


That’s one way to deal with overdue items…

Happy weekend, all!

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. Comic via

Best of 2014, Part 3: Humour


While much of my 2014 reading from the humour genre came from rereads of my favourite comic strip collections, there were a few new standouts for me:

Tails Don’t Lie: A Decade of Dog Cartoons (70 in Dog Years) by Adrian Raeside I’ve long enjoyed Canadian cartoonist Raeside’s The Other Coast comic strip, along with his editorial cartoons. This was a terrific collection of his canine comics- genuinely funny and loving at the same time.

Breaking Stephan: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis Hullo, zeeba neighba! I missed the crocs. While I thought the previous Pearls collection- Rat’s Wars- was good, I thought Breaking Stephan was just great- fresher, sharper, more focused…and pee in the pants funny.

The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo. You can read more about this wonderful find in my review, and take a look at some of Climo’s beautifully drawn work on her site.

Lunch Wore a Speedo: The Nineteenth Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey Oh Sherman’s Lagoon, how I love you so! I have been a major (I’m talking major) fan of Toomey’s strip for over ten years now. I can’t get enough! I thought the last few collections- and running gags- weren’t as up to par, but this one one was a real treat- crisp jokes, belly-laugh inducing.


*Note: These are titles I have read in 2014; titles may have been published in previous years. Rereads are not included on this list.

Best of 2014, Part 2: Children’s Fiction and Young Adult











My picks for top 5 children’s and top 5 YA fiction I read this year:

Murder Most Unladylike (Wells and Wong #1) by Robin Stevens

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl #3) by Ben Hatke

Now Look What You’ve Done (Timmy Failure #2) by Stephen Pastis

We Meet Again (Timmy Failure #3) by Stephan Pastis

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (Origami Yoda #6) by Tom Angleberger

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing by C.K. Kelly Martin

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller


*Note: These are titles I have read in 2014; titles may have been published in previous years. Rereads are not included on this list.

Spotlight: The Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis


As a big fan of Stephan Pastis’ acerbic yet contemplative Pearls Before Swine comic strip, I couldn’t wait to read Pastis’ middle-grade Timmy Failure series.

I was in for a treat.

Our protagonist, Timmy Failure, comes from a long line of Fayleures (his ancestors changed the spelling of their name). He lives with his mother and his friend/detective agency partner- a fifteen hundred pound and not-so-inclined-to-work polar bear named Total. Timmy and his polar bear run a detective agency called ‘Total Failure”, and their business aims are global. Now, “Total Failure” is not the easiest business venture to sell in a positive light to folks, but good grief, does Timmy try.

As we quickly learn, Timmy is a seemingly oblivious, obstinate, bizarrely self-assured kid- even though he is a actually a terrible detective, with an unwitting penchant for using words incorrectly. He drives his teacher spare, ignores the romantic advances of the effusive and tangerine-scented Molly Moskins and makes terrible fun of Rollo Tookus, his only real friend at school.

By the second book, though, we learn that there may be more to Timmy then meets the eye. Now living with his mom at his Great-Aunt Colander’s mansion (replete with a dive-bombing lovebird named Torpedo Bob), we discover that Timmy is not as impervious- or immune to emotion- as once thought. Over the course of a school sponsored detective game, we start to see cracks in Timmy’s facade. Perhaps part of why Timmy presents himself as he does- as the smartest, brightest and best detective- is to mask his own fears and insecurities; concerns about his mother and who she dates…and serious worries about love and a certain girl named Corinna Corinna.

Do you need to have read Pearls Before Swine or be familiar Pastis’ work before diving into Timmy Failure? Not necessarily, though I think it helps break into the particular tone of his writing and approach: the substantial wordplay, pun gags, the mixture of hope and futility, the moments of surprising love and warmth, and the utterly compelling oddness of the characters- particularly Timmy and Great-Aunt Colander. I actually wish Colander had made an appearance in book three as I loved her warm interactions with Timmy so much in book two! As for whether or not Total is actually a real polar bear or Timmy’s best imaginary friend…well, I leave that open.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed the three books, and gotten some TERRIFIC belly laughs from Timmy’s shenanigans. Book three offers some revelations about Timmy and Corinna Corinna- and leaves room open for more madcap investigations. Readers of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda series and Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes might especially enjoy this series.


GREATNESS. Image via Pastis’ blog.