Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Honey (2015) by Sarah Weeks (Release Date: January 27th)

Honey (2015) by Sarah Weeks (Release Date: January 27th)Honey by Sarah Weeks
Published by Scholastic Inc. on January 27th 2015
Genres: Family, Friendship, Middle Grade, Realistic, Social Issues
Pages: 160
Goodreads
four-stars

For a girl like Melody and a dog like Mo, life can be both sticky and sweet. Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It's been just her and her father, and she's been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone Honey -- and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It's up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden. Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn't remember much from when he was a puppy . . . but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he's sure, will change everything. In HONEY, Sarah Weeks introduces two characters -- one a girl, one a dog-- who are reaching back further than their memories in order to figure out where they came from and where they're going. It's a total treat from beginning to end. (From GoodReads)

Suggested Age Range: 8 and up

Illuminations of Spirituality in Honey:

It can be tough living without a mother, even if Melody’s father is pretty cool and they get along just fine. But when Melody hears her dad call someone else “Honey,” she has to get to the bottom of the identity of this person.

I don’t blame Melody—especially when she is still struggling with the idea that she never knew her mother. That’s a space in her heart that can’t be filled by anyone else. This story explores that predicament, and it also highlights the importance of our relationships with others in the face of loss and misunderstanding. It also illuminates the significance of honesty and communication—a good reminder for both young AND old readers.

Can dogs dream? That question surfaces with Mo—the dog who is desperate to find the girl of his dreams and who just may very well lead him back to his original home. A home where he was loved and celebrated.

Melody’s perspective is interspersed with Mo’s throughout the story, and you might wonder how they are ever going to collide. Weeks weaves the two stories together magnificently, but I will say no more.

I have read so many middle grade books recently that highlight young characters in need of healing after losing a close family member or friend in their lives. The Secret Hum of a Daisy and Counting by 7s are two I can think of right off the top of my head. This seems to be a popular topic in children’s literature, because it’s something that young people, sadly, may be going through. These stories are important because they don’t sugarcoat the struggle to be happy after losing a parent or other loved one.

Creative Illuminations:

At 160 pages, Honey is delightfully short and sweet, but I actually would have welcomed more time with Skittle-loving Melody, Sweet Mo, and the Beauty Salon. It’s Bee-Bee, the Beauty Salon owner, who tells Melody a bit more about her mother. Readers who have lost friends or family might be reminded, through the story, that remembering and celebrating the memories of those we love is important. Whether it’s through writing about them, creating art, or just talking about them, this “remembering” is valuable.

The book ends with the 100 nail polish colors in Bee-Bee’s salon. Melody plays a role in creating many of these names, and young readers could even extend the list and create some of their own “shades.” I would definitely be interested in getting my hands on some of those polishes. These shades sound fantastic! If Sarah Weeks based the book on a real salon carrying the colors mentioned in the story, I think that salon might just receive some new patrons.

The Final Illumination:

This story might pull a few tears from readers, but though it has its sad parts, it ultimately ends on a sweet note, and many readers will be fondly thinking of the characters as they turn that last page and feast upon the names of those 100 bottles of nail polish Melody creates. I know I laughed and hoped for the best for Melody, her father, and Mo as I savored the book, and the community Weeks depicts in the story is a memorable one.

Melody names one of the nail polishes, “Silver Linings,” and Honey certainly shows how’s there a silver lining to any cloud—it’s just all in your perspective.

If you enjoyed, Pie, you should absolutely taste Honey! Of course I’m partial to any book with baking (and a pie shop, as in the case with Pie) but Honey is another delightful realistic narrative from a fantastic author.

Thank you Scholastic, for the e-ARC of Honey. This is in no way affected my honest review!

four-stars
What Katie Read

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie Lloyd

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie LloydA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Published by Scholastic Inc. on February 25th 2014
Genres: Family, Fantasy, Friendship, Middle Grade
Pages: 320
Goodreads

Suggested age range: 8 and up

Source: Copy Won from Emily at Oh Magic Hour

“Home isn’t just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you’re brave enough to love people.” (p. 302)

The Book: Felicity Pickle wants a home—but her family, which includes her mother, sister, and dog, Biscuit, has been prone to wander from town to town, until her mother gets the itch to pack up and move again. Settling in Felicity’s mom’s hometown for a bit, Midnight Gulch, means several things: Felicity finally has a best friend, she gets to live with her aunt Cleo, and her mom works in an ice cream factory that makes the town smell like waffle cones come evening time. Felicity has a magical way of seeing words and spinning them into poetry, but she fears public speaking; when her new best friend, Jonah, encourages her to enter the “Duel,” the town talent show, Felicity has to make a choice about whether she is going to face her fears or duck out. Will the town ever get rid of its curse? Will Felicity and her family finally settle down? A snicker of magic might be left in Midnight Gulch, and Felicity pursues that hope with everything she’s got in this delightful middle grade fantasy.

Spirituality in A Snicker of Magic: Where do I begin? This story reflects multiple spiritual dimensions, and certainly engaged my own spirituality as I was reading. Humans are built for relationship and authentic community with others, and this idea is woven throughout the narrative. Even Felicity’s longing for a home and community reflects an aspect of her spirituality—Jonah’s offering of friendship early in the story is almost impossible for Felicity to believe, but there’s a kind of “magic” still alive in Midnight Gulch. The mystery and role of “The Beedle,” for example, is another spiritual dimension of the book, which could certainly be discussed with readers more after the last page is turned. What about believing in people when they have given up on themselves? This is another valuable spiritual aspect of the story and could connect to readers in countless ways.

Exploring this Book with Readers: This book holds great potential for the upper elementary classroom and even beyond the classroom. It’s a pity I’m not teaching at the moment, for I know my 6th graders would have loved this story. The emphasis on playing with words and creating poetry in the narrative means that responses to this book could include the creation of poetry and other word inventing activities. For example, Felicity sees words over people—students could generate words for each other, and with those words, create poems or stories or artwork. The possibilities really are endless with the rich themes the book illuminates—I certainly intend to create some specific language arts curriculum with this book.

The Final Word: If you enjoy books like When You Reach Me, Hope is a Ferris Wheel, and When Audrey Met Alice, you will most likely enjoy A Snicker of Magic. This is a new favorite of mine! I first saw a review of the book on The Midnight Garden, and could tell this was a book for me. When I won a giveaway from my blogging friend, Emily, this was one of the books I picked. What a delightful surprise at such an enchanting and moving story! I had a kind of profound reaction to this book, that showed me even more strongly why spirituality and children’s literature is so fascinating to me. There is still so much I don’t know, but so many beautiful paths of exploration yet to discover.

What Katie Read
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