Once upon a time – Winnipeg Free Press

The third edition of the Summer Reading Challenge for Kids launched in June, and over the past few weeks our group of voracious young readers who registered for the challenge have been taking a critical look at the books curated by McNally Robinson Booksellers. Now, they’re ready to share some of their thoughts in the reviews below.

The Summer Reading Challenge continues until the end of August, so there’s still time to take part. To register, visit wfp.to/kidsbookclub and sign up — you’ll recieve email updates about deadlines for submitting reviews as well as reading resources that pair with each book. The full reading lists for the three age groups (7 to 9, 10 to 12, 13 to 15) are also available on that page.


The Undercover Book List
By Colleen Nelson
Pajama Press, 264 pages, $22


Lyla Bemister

When Jane’s best friend Sienna moves away, Jane doesn’t think she will ever find a new friend that loves books as much as Sienna. But that changes when she finds out Sienna has left a note in one of her favourite books Lair and Spy. The note is asking whoever finds it to join a secret book club.

When Tyson gets detention he goes to the library and finds the note. Will he join the secret book club? Will he be Jane’s new friend? Or will he stay the same?

I give this book 5 stars. I love the characters, especially Jane because she shares my love of reading. My favourite part is when Jane finds out that Tyson is the one who has been replying to the notes.

★★★★★ of 5 stars

— Lyla Bemister, age 11


The Undercover Book List involves two main characters, Tyson and Jane. It all starts when Jane’s best friend moves away. As she’s driving away, her friend gives Jane a clue that leads her to their favourite book in the library and the chance of meeting a new friend.


Amy B.

Known as the school prankster, Tyson thought the library book was a chance to pull a prank on Jane. Little do they both know they are starting on an adventure that would lead them to finding the friend they both need.

I loved this book and would give it 5 stars out of 5. I liked how the author slowly brought the least likely characters together. One of my favourite moments is when Tyson starts to find joy in reading. This book kept me on the edge of my seat. Every chapter brought a different point of view and opinion, making it fresh and entertaining at every turn. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good twist!


— Amy B.

Personally, I liked Tyson’s perspective more because I felt more like him and he seemed more fun. Not going to lie, Jane was a little boring because she was too set in her ways. I didn’t like that Tyson was a bully, not cool at all.

I would suggest this book to people who like mysteries and books about friendships coming from the most unexpected places! If I was on the Kids Lit Quiz team I would be so much like Hillman because my stomach gets upset when I am nervous. Out of all the books that X and Y suggested, I had heard about Holes and Wonder. I also have read some Harry Potter books. I was happy to add to my book suggestions pile.

Overall, this book was a great read and I thought it was amazing. Hope you enjoy!


— Lillian Cadeau, age 11


Bear in the Family
By Eric Walters
Orca, 89 pages, $8


Stephanie Boon

I read Bear in the Family by Eric Walters. I give this book 4 stars. It was a good story and I learned about animals too. Sometimes I could imagine a picture in my head just from the words. There was suspense and I was waiting to find out what was going to happen next.

★★★★ of 5 stars

— Stephanie Boon, age 7


Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief
By Cathon
Owlkids Books, 48 pages, $19

Poppy and Sam is a mystery book. Poppy and Sam live in a pumpkin house. I liked it because it had a happy ending. The drawings are beautiful and the plants are pretty. I liked it when you found out who the thief was.

★★★★ out of 5 stars

— Elly Lyons, age 7


Weenie Starring Frank & Beans: Mad About Meatloaf
By Maureen Fergus, Alexandra Bye
Tundra, 56 pages, $17

This book was very funny. I loved it. It was about a weiner dog who loves meatloaf, and his two friends Frank (a cat), and Beans (a guinea pig). I think mostly 6 to 8 year olds would like this graphic novel, but whoever wants to read it can! What I liked best about this book was when Weenie wanted to catch a wild meatloaf.

★★★★★ out of 5 stars

— Jonah Sawatzky, age 9



Emily Whiteside

This book is about a wiener dog that eats his owner’s meatloaf and he tries to sneak into the store to buy another meatloaf. It was funny and I just liked it!

My favourite character is the guinea pig because he is cute and fluffy! His name is Beans. The cat, named Frank, is very grumpy.

Weenie really likes meatloaf. Weenie calls Bob his No. 1 dad. Bob is their owner. Weenie hates the mailman.


— By Emily Whiteside, age 7



Lyla Bemister

Peanut Butter and Chaos
By Anita Daher
Great Plains, 176 pages, $13

When a boy named Sam gets struck by lighting, everything he sees is pixels. But then he meets Flum, who is from a parallel world and can’t find their way home. Will Flum find their way home? Will Sam’s sight go back to normal? I give this book 4 stars because I like the fantasy and adventure in it.

★★★★ out of 5 stars

— Lyla Bemister, age 11


This is a book about science and magic. I would recommend this book if you like science fiction. I will read this book again. Once you start reading you want to read more and more. What was not very good about this book was that it went by very fast. There were not as many details and explanations as there could have been. This book is very fun to read and it was not boring.


— Sophie Lyons, age 10


The Great Bear
By David A. Robertson
Tundra, 240 pages, $22


Joshua Whiteside

The Great Bear is a good book. The book is about Morgan and Eli travelling back in time and finding out more about the past in Misewa, seeing young Ochek and finding more about Mason, who started the White Time, and learning about the Great Bear. The plot was well done, but it was confusing at times and that’s why I thought it was not as good as the first book. Although it is a book of thought; what I mean by that is that after you read the book you start to think, wonder, imagine about all sorts of things, like how tough it must be for Morgan and Eli to be foster kids. That must be so hard on them. Morgan is a kid who has been through a lot and Eli is still a kid who has been through tough times, but Eli is a lot more optimistic.

My mom got me the first book for my birthday and of course she got me the second book for my next birthday! I would rate this book 3 stars out of 5. A good book!

★★★ out of 5 stars

— Joshua Whiteside, age 9


Beatrice and Croc Harry
By Lawrence Hill
HarperCollins, 384 pages, $23

Beatrice is the main character, who finds herself alone in the jungle with no memory of anything except for her name. She meets the crocodile who is named Croc Harry, and over time they become friends. This book is about Beatrice getting her memories back and trying to find her way back home.

I’d rate this book a 5 out of 5 stars because I really enjoyed it. It was cheerful and funny at the start. The suspense of Beatrice not knowing anything except for her name kept me reading until the end. The only thing I didn’t like was how it was a little confusing near the beginning, but over time the story started to flow and you could understand the big picture better.

★★★★★ out of 5 stars

— Amy B.


The Fabulous Zed Watson
By Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester
HarperCollins, 304 pages, $13


Atticus Penner

This novel is about a character named Zed Watson and their neighbours Gabe and Sam, who are on the hunt for The Monster’s Castle, a lost book they must race against time to find so that a greedy historian doesn’t find it first. I like this book for a lot of reasons, but one is the diverse characters like Zed, who identifies as non-binary. There are not many characters like Zed in books I’ve read, and it gave me a new perspective on the world.

This book is also jam-packed with action, drama, comedy and clever wordplay like “Theydies and Gentlethems!” I really hope that the authors make more books about Zed Watson!

★★★★★ out of 5 stars

— Atticus Penner, age 9

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