Saturday, August 27, 2022

HURRICAMP A MG Book Review by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta


It’s summer, and eleven-year-old Laura Newman, “Noodle” to her friends, is excited to arrive at Camp Hillside, where she’ll stay for four weeks. Unfortunately, the trip goes awry before it even begins. Noodle’s sister, Jill, can’t come to summer camp with her, which means Noodle is going to be left by herself for an entire month. Wallowing in her loneliness, Noodle writes letters and ignores the other girls in her cabin. After two weeks of feeling sorry for herself, a hurricane changes Noodle’s routine. With Hurricane Hilda on the way, Noodle’s cabin, the Sandpipers, is moved into a basement after their cabin nearly collapses. Forced into close confines, Noodle starts to open up to her cabinmates. As the Sandpipers grow closer, they begin to rely on each other and bond over food fights, skunk attacks, and failed pranks. Told through Noodle’s perspective and sprinkled with illustrations, Hurricamp is a tale of one girl’s wacky summer.

Perfect for middle schoolers, Noodle’s adventures are as unpredictable as they are memorable. Noodle’s witty and at times cynical monologue guides readers through her burgeoning relationships with fellow Sandpipers and gives insight into her emotions. But the best part of Noodle’s narration would have to be her clever alliterations and comparisons. Using analogies that won’t fly over the heads of young readers, Hurricamp features all manner of scintillating language. Take, for instance, this short and yet powerful example from page 48, in which Noodle is praised by her cabin counselor:

            “It felt like the sun shone straight down on me.”

Even without a cast of intriguing characters and Noodle’s revealing dialogue, Hurricamp would still be engaging. As the 162 pages of Hurricamp may prove a challenge to elementary-school readers, six illustrations are spread throughout this novel, providing relief without being distracting. And, of course, that’s to say nothing of the mischief that the Sandpipers engage in. Noodle’s adventures serve to add even more fun to Hurricamp, but they’re also a valuable lesson about what happens when rules are broken. For example, the Sandpipers’ food fight results in finding a bear licking up their mess in the morning.

With Noodle’s immersive descriptions leading the way, Hurricamp introduces a theme that many middle-schoolers are beginning to struggle with: self-reliance. While at first Noodle uses all her free time writing letters to her parents to complain, she matures as the story progresses and learns to solve her own problems. For example, after their cabin is soaked by rain after its roof springs a leak, Noodle immediately takes charge and gets help. While Noodle’s self-confidence grows and she becomes more optimistic, her cabinmates take notice. She quickly becomes the leader of her cabin, and gains popularity at camp.

            The other Sandpipers all serve important parts in this book, and the author Steph Katzovi does a great job of introducing them and more importantly distinguishing each one. All of the girls in Noodle’s cabin are introduced in one scene, the stereotypical camp introductory activity in which everyone shares their name, where they’re from, and an interesting fact. While this set-up might seem chaotic, Noodle’s internal monologue eases each introduction. In just three pages, Noodle familiarizes herself and her audience with her cabinmates and counselor. However, each of the Sandpipers’ contrasting personalities make introducing them an easy task. From Noodle’s best-friend, Aries, to her nemeses, Holly and Tara, not a single Sandpiper fades into the background over the course of this story.

In conclusion, this novel teaches kids to problem solve and improvise while taking Noodle and the Sandpipers through a crazy series of adventures. Noodle’s inner monologue, each of her friends’ bold personalities, and the everyday obstacles the Sandpipers face all make this book a realistic and yet engaging tale. With a blend of wit and whimsy, Hurricamp is sure to please anyone who’s gone to camp or wished they could’ve.

Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres 

who is more than happy to share his opinions on books.
 In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running. 
He is a ninth-grade student in Charlotte, NC. 


If you are interested in winning this book, please leave me a comment with your name and email address by Wednesday, August 31. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, you can enter by sending me an email. Share this post on social media or follow my blog and I'll put your name in twice. 

Congratulations to school librarian, Tammi Truax, who won THE OCEAN CALLS. 

Don't forget to visit Greg Pattridge's blog for more book reviews. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

THE OCEAN CALLS: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Tina Cho's book, THE OCEAN CALLS, (Penguin Random House, 2020) about the Korean Haenyeo scuba divers is informative, beautiful, and engaging. The illustrations by Jess X. Snow carry readers through this story of a young girl learning to face her fears and dive into a new adventure. As Tina explains in the back matter, the story was inspired when she watched the haenyeo tradition in South Korea.


This day-in-the-life story begins with Dayeon and her grandmother stretching and preparing for the day. Dayeon tells her, "I want to be a haenyeo like you...You're like a treasure-hunting mermaid."

But Dayeon remembers how frightened she was the previous summer when she jumped off a big rock. The sharks and other sea creatures that lurk in the ocean frightened her. With her grandmother's reassurance that she will teach her everything she needs to know, the two prepare for their dive. 

They each carry the tools they'll need: Grandma has what she needs to pluck treasures from the sea and Dayeon brings tools to bring treasures from the shore.

I love how the illustrator created mermaids out of their shadows!

Grandma brings up the treasures she finds--sea urchins and other sea life which she will sell or cook--and Dayeon watches. She slips into the ocean and brings pretty shells back to her grandmother who invites her to dive with her.

"What if I can't breathe? What if a shark comes? What if I can't escape?" Dayeon replies. 

The two walk into the water. When Dayeon can no longer feel the bottom, she locked hands with Grandma. "Take a deep breath, calm your mind, and then we'll dive."

Down, Down, Dayeon and Grandma dove, but...Dayeon swam right back up.

The two dive down again and Dayeon holds her breath longer, goes deeper, and sees more sparkling treasures. When dolphin arrive--a sure sign that hungry sharks will follow--they resurface and are rescued by a boat full of haenyeos. 

In the satisfying ending, Dayeon realizes that she feels at home in the sea--just like her grandmother, and the Korean "mermaids" who have gone before her. 


THE OCEAN CALLS  is a great book for K-third graders. It will be a good addition to oceanography studies as well as conversations about Korea, grandparents as role models, and women's roles. Tina has a complete discussion guide here.

Here is a youtube video about Haenyeo women:

And a video of Tina reading her book:


Please leave a comment with your email address if you are new to my blog. U.S. addresses only. If you decide to subscribe to my blog or are an educator, I will enter your name twice. Just let me know what you do in the comments. Giveaway ends August 26.  

Monday, August 8, 2022


I am happy to announce that Annette Whipple, author, and speaker is Write2Ignite's next Master Class teacher. Check out her wonderful books!


WHO? Award-winning Annette Whipple, the author of 11 books with 4 more under contract.

WHAT? Writing Nonfiction for Kids and Teens. 

WHERE? On Zoom!

WHEN? September 10, 2022 

WHY? As Annette wrote in "5 Steps To Research When You're Not an Expert," 

For many of us, our goal in writing for all audiences (both Christian and general) and about all topics (both fiction and nonfiction) is to glorify God. Then the work we put into the writing is worth it (even if it is never published). 


BONUS #1: Editor Wiley Blevins of Reycraft Books will be visiting the Master Class to tell YOU how to submit your manuscript to HIM!

And editor Rachel Pfeiffer of Clubhouse Jr. magazine will be there, too, to tell YOU what she’s looking for in nonfiction articles and how to submit to HER. (Can I tell you a secret? I write nonfiction for Clulbhouse Jr. and it’s one of the best ways for Kidlit writers to break into this coveted magazine!)

BONUS #2: We'll be giving away several of Annette's books including, SCURRY, RIBBIT, and WOOF

TO REGISTER: Click here


On a personal note, I am going on vacation for two weeks so you won't be hearing from me for a little bit. I'm going to unplug and enjoy the Canadian Rockies on board the Rocky Mountaineer!

Rumor has it we'll be walking on an ice field. I better go pack some warmer clothes!

Congratulations to Beth Anderson who won F is for FEATHERS and to Danielle Hammelef who won Beyond the Stars.

Friday, August 5, 2022


I've experienced some recent issues with Blogger. Since Feedburner is no longer working, I am switching to so that you can receive notifications of blog posts. I think most of you did not receive my 2 previous blogs so I'm linking to them here. I extended each giveaway--but enter soon!

F is for Feathers: An Informational Picture Book and Giveaway

Beyond the Stars: A MG SciFi/Fantasy Book and Giveaway

If you are new to my blog, please sign up (top right-hand corner) and will send you an email requesting that you confirm your subscription. Please take the time for this last step. 

Thank you for following my blog! Your support means a lot to me. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Blog Alert!

I've experienced some recent issues with Blogger and found out that Feedburner was no longer working. I think most of you did not receive my 2 previous blogs, so I'm linking them here now. I extended the giveaways. 

F is for Feathers: An Informational Picture Book and Giveaway

Beyond the Stars: A MG SciFi/Fantasy Book and Giveaway

I hope y'all get this post!

Monday, August 1, 2022

F is for Feathers: An Informational Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Along with the many fine books that Sleeping Bear Press publishes, they also have a line of alphabet books. Two years ago I reviewed H is for Honey and T is for Thor and today I'm bringing you a new title, F is for Feathers: A Bird Alphabet.  I have featured both the author, Helen Wilbur, and the illustrator, Andy Atkins on my blog. I am happy to share another one of their beautiful STEM books.

Each of the alphabet books in this series combines poetry that is accessible to younger readers and text that 2-4th graders will understand. 


From the publisher's cover sheet:

Grab your binoculars, this new alphabet tour by Helen L. Wilbur is a grand exploration into all things birds! With over 10,000 bird species on Earth, there is plenty to explore. The featured creatures vary in size, shape, color, and abilities. And besides being beautiful to look, at birds are a critical part of our ecosystems and support biodiversity on our planet.

Every page teaches about either bird anatomy, types of birds, or a vast variety of related concepts such as their behavior and language, geographic range, migration, threats, and the role of an ornithologist. 

Here is some of what I learned and enjoyed in F is for Feathers.

B is for Beak

Did you know that the shape and size of a bird's beak depend on the food it eats?  

Catching insects in the air,
cracking nuts and seeds,
sipping nectar, peeling fruit,
breaks show how each bird feeds.

C is for Chickadees and Caching 

Chickadees cache hundreds of seeds and insects each day and remembers them in the winter. Did you know that chickadees add more dee notes to the chick-a-dee-dee to give out a predator call?

F is for Feathers

Soft and bright, strong and light,
perfectly designed for flight,
for keeping warm and dry and sleek,
feathers make all birds unique.

H is for Habitat

J is for Jays

Jays, ravens, crows and magpies belong to the corvid family of birds. Corvids can be loud and annoying and are treated as nuisance birds. But cross them at your peril. Crows can remember your face and they carry grudges.

L is for Lovebirds

Although this entry focused mostly on lovebird parrots, it also mentioned other bird families that begin with courtship. One of the birds that Helen Wilbur mentions is the sand crane. Here's a video of cranes I've seen in Florida. Skip the ads and enjoy!

N is for Nests

Who doesn't remember the joy of finding a birds nest? My grandchildren have been enjoying watching brown thrashers build their next inside their stacked garden in Charlotte, NC.

Photographs courtesy C. Kasten

When I think of nests, I also think of my FB friend, Melodye Shore who posts beautiful pictures she takes of hummingbirds from her garden in coastal Orange County, California. 

This verse in F is for Feathers reminded me of the bluebird boxes I saw on a golf course in Tennessee.
Come along the bluebird trail,
nesting boxes in a row.
Safe and warm in cozy homes,
little baby bluebirds grow.

U is for Updraft

This page definitely belongs in a book about birds. The text discuses how birds ride on spiraling thermals enabling to soar over many miles during migrations.

Z is for Zones

In this perfect ending to this beautiful and informative book, the information on this page discusses the four north-south flyway zones in North America and how important they are to migrating birds.


This book is a shoo-in as an important resource for elementary school educators. The front matter includes a beautiful illustration of the parts of a bird and a glossary. The back matter include suggestions on identifying and helping birds.


Leave a comment by August 8 if you are interested in winning this book. Please leave your name and email address if you are new to my blog. If you prefer, drop me a note here. If you are a librarian or educator, your name will be entered twice. U.S. addresses only. 

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