Tag Archives: grandparent

Wishes Are Free by Diana Mercedes Howell cover shows a girl holding a dandelion, standing in front of a white picket fence with a cluster of buildings in the distance.

Review: Wishes Are Free by Diana Mercedes Howell

Wishes Are Free by Diana Mercedes Howell cover shows a girl holding a dandelion, standing in front of a white picket fence with a cluster of buildings in the distance.

Wishes Are Free
Diana Mercedes Howell
Published September 15, 2022

Amazon | Goodreads

About Wishes Are Free

Friends are everywhere if you have a big heart and know where to look.

California, 1959. Spunky ten-year-old Rose O’Reilly feels abandoned when her best friend from birth moves two thousand miles away. Determined to find a new best friend, she turns to Grandpa, whose wife – his own best friend – has recently died. They hold chat cafes in the kitchen on Sundays and with Grandpa’s help, Rose discovers friends can be found in unexpected places, from a lost dog to a boy with cerebral palsy.

But there is still an achy hole in her heart. She asks Venus, the Evening Star, for a new best friend, for Grandpa to come to live with them, and for a dog of her own. She has nothing to lose because wishes are free.

My Review

Rose is a precocious ten-year-old navigating a new school year without her best friend. Adrift and unsure, she looks to her grandfather for advice and a listening ear. I liked that the story doesn’t revolve around her grandfather’s advice. He doesn’t solve any problems for her; he really just offers her more ideas to think about or a new way to look at something. It’s up to Rose what she does with his counsel.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Rose and her brother, Jeremy. They bicker but share some tender moments, too. Rose also explores a new friendship with Anthony, a boy with Cerebral Palsy who owns a dog she likes. I wish Anthony had been included in scenes other than those in his house. Restricting Rose’s time with him to his own house made it seem like he was shut in or unwelcome in
other parts of her life.

In a couple of scenes, Rose confronts a neighborhood bully, and some of the language used to describe him is a little bit off-putting. He seems to be the only plus-sized character in the book and is always shown eating something as well as being mean to her. It came off as a negative stereotype to me, though
it was probably unconsciously done.

In one part, Rose gets in trouble at school, and her dad feels really disappointed. Her grandfather points out that her dad may feel the pressure of old stereotypes as an Irish man. Not long ago, the Irish faced discrimination and negative stereotypes. That understanding carries forward in the way Rose’s family empathizes with other immigrant workers in their community and values and appreciates them.

On the whole, I thought this was a sweet historical novel about friendship, family, and childhood discovery.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Rose’s friend has Cerebral Palsy.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Rose catches a boy and girl kissing in a movie theater.

Spiritual Content
Rose begins making wishes on Venus, the Evening Star. Rose attends a Catholic school. A boy makes a joke that if frogs got married, they couldn’t get divorced if they were Catholic.

Violent Content
Rose worries about a classmate whose father is rumored to have beaten him and his family.

Drug Content
Adults drink beer at a party.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of WISHES ARE FREE in exchange for my honest review.

Review and Blog Tour: The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm

I’m super excited to be part of my first ever Rockstar Blog Tour. Yay! When I saw the invitation to review The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm, I really couldn’t resist. I had so much fun reading the first book about Ellie and her grandfather-trapped-in-a-teenager’s-body that I absolutely had to find out what happens to them next in this book, The Third Mushroom. Read on for my review, some information about the author, other stops on the tour and a chance to win your very own copy of the book!

The Third Mushroom
Jennifer L. Holm
Random House
Published on September 4, 2018

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads  | AudibleiBooks | TBD

About The Third Mushroom
Ellie’s grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist . . . in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. His feet stink, and he eats everything in the refrigerator–and Ellie is so happy to have him around. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach! And when Ellie’s cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick, the stakes become even higher. But is the key to eternal life really the key to happiness? Sometimes even the most careful experiments yield unexpected–and wonderful–results.

My Review
I loved The Fourteenth Goldfish with its zany characters and love for science, so when I saw this sequel, The Third Mushroom, I pretty much HAD to read it. Ellie’s grandpa still cracked me up with his goofy blend of grandpa-slash-teenage-boy-ness. I loved the way he referred to hormonal issues as “The Puberty” and his cute relationship with the librarian.
There’s one part (I don’t want to give away what happens) that’s super sad. I wasn’t prepared for it, and it brought back the memories of my own similar experience. Those scenes were tough to read because they were so moving, but overall, there’s a positive message through it. (I’ll add a spoiler section to the end since it might be something you’d want to know about before reading if you’ve got a sensitive kid who’s just been through what Ellie’s experience.)
I also liked the way the story addressed the shifting relationships Ellie experiences. I so remember that stuff happening in middle school and how disconcerting it could be.
Science again plays a fun and interesting role in the story, as Ellie and her grandfather enter a science fair together and learn about various scientists who’ve made important contributions in the past. The end of the book includes a short list of resources to learn more about the scientists and discoveries mentioned in the book, which I thought was a nice touch as well.
Overall, if you enjoy spunky, fun stories, The Third Mushroom is a great pick. You can find my review of The Fourteenth Goldfish here.

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Cultural Elements
Ellie and her family are white. Her best friend is a boy named Raj, who dresses as a goth.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Ellie goes on a date with a boy and holds his hand. She feels a little disappointed that she’s not more excited about the whole thing, and the possible romance kind of fizzles out.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content

Drug Content
Ellie learns a bit about the invention of penicillin. She and her grandfather discover a compound that seems to have some regenerative capabilities. See spoiler section at the end of the post for more details.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and purchase items from Amazon.com, I will get a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. This helps cover the costs of running my blog.

About Jennifer L. Holm

Website | Twitter | Facebook |  Goodreads

Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series — the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. Her new novel is THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Visit the Other Stop on The Third Mushroom Blog Tour

Week One:

9/3/2018- Beagles & Books– Review

9/4/2018- BookHounds YA– Excerpt

9/5/2018- The Story Sanctuary– Review

9/6/2018- Rhythmicbooktrovert – Review

9/7/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

Week Two:

9/10/2018- For the Love of KidLit– Interview

9/11/2018- YA Books Central– Interview

9/12/2018- The OWL– Review

9/13/2018- Book-Keeping– Review

9/14/2018- Two Points of Interest– Review

Enter to Win a Copy of The Third Mushroom

Three winners will each receive one copy of The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spoiler Alert – super sad scenes

I mentioned above that something happens in the book that’s sad and was hard for me to read because I didn’t expect it and it brought back my own memories of a similar event. What happens is that Ellie’s cat gets seriously injured. The family isn’t sure what happened, but they suspect he was hit by a car. Desperate to help him, Ellie asks her grandfather to inject the formula they’ve discovered into the cat near his damaged spine. It’s too late for the poor furry little guy, and shortly after that, Ellie and her family make the difficult decision to put him to sleep. She grieves for the loss, feeling alternately lost, hurt, angry, etc. Ultimately, she ends up rescuing another cat who’s about to become homeless and realizes she still has love to share and another cat needs her.

It so reminded me of my own experience losing a cat – I particularly identified with feeling like the heart was missing from my home. I hated being home in an empty house without a cat. Which is how I started visiting an animal shelter just to see kitty faces. And how my next cat won me over. You can see a picture of both my rescue cats on my Instagram.

Anyway – normally I don’t post spoilers, but if you’ve been through the experience of losing a pet recently, this part of the book will either be healing or too much. It happens near the end of the book, and is only the focus of a few scenes, but like I said, it’s pretty moving.