The Boxtrolls (Guest Review)


This review is brought to you by the lovely 8 year old who lives in my house. We’ll call her C. for anonymity’s sake.

Book: The Boxtrolls by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. It’s best for kids in grades 4-6. Strong sense of humor and some gross language. There is a corresponding movie, but we haven’t watched it yet.


Dickens Three (DT): What do you think this book is about?

C: an 11 year old that has an awewsme adventure.

DT: What did you like about the book?

C:mostly every thing

DT: Was there anything you didn’t like about the book?

C:snatcher and his thieves that try to get the  innocent boxtrolls

DT: Is there anything Boxtrolls makes you think about or want to talk about?

C:at the end the dad stops liking cheese more than his daughter

DT: How many stars would you rate The Boxtrolls?


*We don’t write reviews for money, but for the love of books. If you buy Boxtrolls through the link above, the kid gets the money to buy more books.


Hannah Coulter (Review)

coulterHere’s the sad thing: 90% of me loved Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry for 166 out of 186 pages.  Sure, I had my persnickety criticisms and misgivings. The author- a man- was less than credible as the main voice- a woman- in the book. This is actually the #1 criticism  I heard from friends in response to my overwhelming praise, and I totally agree.

Secondly, there are certain lovely passages that could benefit from a lighter touch as far as feelings and themes are concerned. Sometimes I wanted to say, “We get it. Love is a room and they’re entering into it together by grace. We don’t actually need to hear this over and over again.” See, I told you. It’s a persnickety criticism.

But on page 166 I reached the chapter, “Okinawa”. This chapter was a hard-hitting and thought-provoking essay from Wendell Berry on the nature of war. I would have been happy to read it, but it needed to die on the cutting room floor of this novel and make its way  to a non-fiction collection. To cram it into Hannah Coulter was sort of a literary tragedy.

All these things aside, I still wholeheartedly recommend this book. It has more to say about the nature of community, tradition, and grief than any other book I’ve read. Hannah Coulter, in its best moments, makes me question my ideas of parenting, marriage, and membership in all the loveliest ways. It makes me want to dig deeply into the heartfelt sorrows and joys that this life has to give, and to leave “openhanded, with only the ancient blessing, ‘Good-bye. My love to you all.'”

If the Okinawa chapter were cut as it should’ve been, I could see granting this book 4/5 stars. As is, as of course it must be taken, I give 3.5/5 stars. Grab some friends to read this book together and talk about what it means to stay in one place, raise a family, live a full and good life. You’ll probably also want to start a garden.


** I don’t get paid to write reviews, but if you purchase the books via these Amazon links it will contribute a few pennies to fund my book habit.

Rebecca Stead

Am I the only one who thinks the best way to encounter a new author is to binge-read more than one book from their roster? I was interested in Rebecca Stead initially from the Newberry list, so I started with “When You Reach Me .”


Review (When You Reach Me ): The book starts off pretty slow. Pretty real slow. All the clues and signs are there building toward a grand climactic realization- and it’s a g00d one- but the story very nearly lost me along the way.  This is admittedly an adult perspective. I only have so much patience for 6th grade insecurities.

3.5/5 stars and expect to talk to your 4-6th grader about crushes, socio-economic differences, and time travel. A great companion read would be Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

I probably wouldn’t have gone looking for “Goodbye Stranger,” but I’m so glad it was within reach. This young adult book is modern, but restrained.

Review (Goodbye Stranger): The true heart of the book is friendship- what it’s worth and how to keep it. The set of Bridge, Emily, and Tabitha is established early on and manages to survive the strains of 7th grade and flourish in the tough and tricky times. The love interests are there, but they are thoughtfully portrayed, and the slippery slope of cell phone photos was helpful to me as a parent.

I would hand “Goodbye Stranger” to a kid 7th grade and up and hope to talk about the following: cell phones, social justice, and friendship. 4/5 stars.


** I don’t get paid to write reviews, but if you purchase the books via these Amazon links it will contribute a few pennies to fund my book habit.