Book Review: Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

I have been slowly making my way through my backlist of NetGalley titles, attempting to alternate between some new and upcoming releases with titles that have been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for some time. All things considered, many of these “older” books have still be published within the last year, but I’ve missed the opportunity for release day (or close to release day) hype. My bad. (<— do people still say that?)

Over the Christmas holidays, I finally dove into Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman. It’s not one of my regular genres (middle grade fiction) but something about the description called to me when I first requested it. Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I’m an almost 40-year-old woman. I’m not in middle school. I’m not even sure my children still qualify as middle-school aged (although I think if J. gave this one a chance, he’d enjoy it.) All that being said, I’m not the target audience for this book, and still it mesmerized me.

There is a reason Kadarusman is a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist and this title was issued the JLG Gold Standard. It’s poignant and eloquent, simple without pandering, and absolutely engaging. Touching on issues of conservation, extinction, family roots, secrets, bullying, and neurodiversity, it’s a heart-warming richly crafted novel for the young (but not too young) reader. The publisher describes it as “A moving coming-of-age story wrapped up in the moss, leaves, and blue gums of the Tasmanian rainforest where, hidden under giant ferns, crouches its most beloved, and lost, creature.” I think it was absolutely brilliant (and may gift some copies to elementary teachers I know!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC; Pajama Press
ISBN: 9781772780543

Note: Amazon’s recommended age level is 8 – 12, grade level 4 – 7

A Boy, A Book, and A Little Bit of Heartbreak

My youngest son, 11, claims to not enjoy reading, but when he finally sits down with a book, he gets lost in the pages. He’s still been reading “No Better Friend“, a biographical story by Robert Weintraub, for a school project. In short, it’s “the extraordinary tale of friendship and survival between a man and a dog in World War II.”

When we were looking for a biography, he had two requirements:

1. There had to be a dog in the story

2. It couldn’t die.

He approved the description from Amazon so we bought the book. He heard the word “survival” and reason failed – I’m not actually sure how he believed a dog that was alive in the early ’40s would still be here today. He’s been so gripped by this one, that he didn’t see the end coming.

He was sent off to do some reading and I knew he was in the last chapters. All of a sudden he storms out of his room yelling “Doggo died!”. Now at first I had a moment of panic because our old smelly beast had been hiding in his bedroom with him, but no, that impression was cleared up immediately when the smelly beast followed him out.

My bewildered mind was still trying to process the situation when a book came sailing past my head and said boy plopped himself into a chair in the corner and burst into tears. I’m now befuddled and slightly amused.

He’s experienced his first heartbreak at the hands of a book. I wanted to wrap him in a great big bear hug while my shoulders silently shook with laughter and a stray tear found it’s way onto my cheek. We tried to discuss the story and pull apart his feelings, but he needed to let his tears wash some of the pain away. He now understands why I sometimes cry when I read.

He understands the wonder of the word on page and how we can become enmeshed and entangled in a world not our own. To say this book had an emotional impact is an understatement. In our case, he was so highly engaged in the true story of Judy (Doggo) and Frank (the British Radarman) that his young heart was bruised with the loss of a friend. (Mama was just happy that he learned about some of the atrocities of WWII and life as a POW.)

In my books, any story that can evoke such genuine feeling is a win. Not only did it capture the tale of loyalty and friendship of the characters, it spurred loyalty in the reader – a spirited 11-year-old boy. That, my friends, is a well-written story – well-written, indeed!

Book Review: The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson by Quinn Sosna-Spear

The one benefit to not feeling quite myself is the need to rest, and what better way to rest than with a good book or two or three while tucked into bed in a quiet (or not-so-quiet) house – without the guilt of tasks remaining undone. Doctor’s orders and all that. One of the titles I dove into was “The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson” by Quinn Sosna-Spear. I’ll admit that one of the reasons I requested this book, besides my quest to encourage a love of reading in my youngest (I’ve given up on the oldest), was the eye-catching artwork design on the cover of this tween-novel. (PS, click the link for the author’s website – it’s gorgeous!)

Beautiful Cover Art –
Riveting & Imaginative Children’s Fiction

This magical debut novel targeted for the Middle School sector was released today! It is a well-written story with elements of mystery, adventure, family, friendship, acceptance, love, loss, and healing. Set in an incredibly fantastical land with enchantingly descriptive elements and people, the writing is engaging enough to capture the attention of the pickiest young reader while remaining sophisticated enough to appeal to grown up readers who enjoy a touch of whimsy.

The plot follows the road trip-style adventure of two tweens who embark on their journey for two very different, personal reasons. The riveting escapade is balanced with colourful scenery, elements of humour, and personal introspection. I was both charmed and surprised. I loved the quirky odd characters and wish we had the opportunity to get to know them a little better. The ending caught me by surprise and left me a little bereft, yet touched – not because it was poorly written, but because I was so engaged with the tale.

This title was a page turner, for sure! We’ll be adding a hard copy of this novel to our shelves at home and I can only hope that it will be as big a hit with my boys as it was for me. A recommended read for any tween or adult readers who enjoy imaginative and extraordinarily curious fiction along the lines of Neil Gaiman or Roald Dahl.

I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers