T5W – And Now I Can’t Get Natalie Merchant Out of My Head…

Hi all! Wow, it’s been AGES since I did a Top 5 Wednesday! I’m going to do a delayed post from last week, since I really like that topic, so…

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday Topic is: Books For Which You Are Thankful

I have quite a lot of books that I love, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I think I’ll aim for books that have made a real difference in my life.

Fatso Jean, the Ice Cream Queen (Maryann MacDonald)

6-12-2017 1-27-43 PMDescription from Amazon: A misfit in a neighborhood filled with athletic youngsters, nine-year-old Jean seeks solace in eating ice cream, until the teasing of the “Mean Team” leads Jean to set up her own business making ice cream.

My Review: Strange pick, I know, but this was the very first book I read where I actually empathized with the main character. I myself was a large little girl who just wanted to fit in and have friends. This book taught me that you should love yourself, regardless of how you look, and that confidence in yourself is the key to living the life you want.

The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)

The_Tower_TreasureCondensed Description from WikipediaThe Hardy Boys are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives. They live in the city of Bayport on with their father, detective Fenton Hardy, their mother, Laura Hardy, and their Aunt Gertrude. Frank, the older brother, is eighteen (sixteen in earlier versions), and his younger brother Joe is seventeen (fifteen in earlier versions). 

The Hardy Boys are constantly involved in adventure and action. Despite frequent danger, the boys “never lose their nerve … They are hardy boys, luckier and more clever than anyone around them.” They live in an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue: “Never were so many assorted felonies committed in a simple American small town. Murder, drug peddling, race horse kidnapping, diamond smuggling, medical malpractice, big-time auto theft, even (in the 1940s) the hijacking of strategic materials and espionage, all were conducted with Bayport as a nucleus.” 

My Review: This was the series that made me fall in love with reading. The original books are perfect for middle grade kids: easy to read/follow and filled with thrilling adventures and mysteries. Over the years, they’ve transitioned to include books for younger and older kids as well. To this day, I own over 200 of these books and I wouldn’t give them up for the world. 🙂

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)


Condensed Description from WikipediaThe novels chronicle the life of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrow the wizard governing body known as the Ministry of Magic, and subjugate all wizards and muggles, a reference term that means non-magical people.

My Review: Well, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t in SOME way impacted by Harry Potter, but this was such a HUGE part of my life during college that I still to this day read the fanfic, buy all the new books and movies, and receive the merchandise from friends. I’m not QUITE as obsessed as I used to be, but I still really love the HP universe.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Daniel Quinn)

ishmaelDescription from Goodreads: TEACHER SEEKS PUPIL. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person. – It was just a three-line ad in the personals section, but it launched the adventure of a lifetime… 

My Review: There are some books that have to hit you at the right point in your life in order to make an impact. This is one of those books and it hit me at just the right moment: early college days, just learning to think for myself instead of believing what everyone else told me. I don’t remember a lot of what the book discusses, but I DO remember it being one of the first books that I actually thought about in depth (and not just because I was assigned to do so). It made me feel like reading could actually have a meaning besides just having fun or learning information.

Hyperbole & a Half (Allie Brosh)

2D9725260-coverDescription from Goodreads: This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative–like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it–but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.

So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book: Pictures, Words, Stories about things that happened to me, Stories about things that happened to other people because of me, Eight billion dollars*, Stories about dogs, The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

My Review: This is one of my go-to books when I’m feeling blue. I’ve done a full review of it here. This book has gotten me through many a tough day; days when all I wanted to do was sleep, but was disgusted with myself for not doing something with my life instead of sitting around like a lump. I will forever be grateful to Allie for putting herself out there and helping me realize that I wasn’t alone.

What are some of the books YOU are thankful for?


Obscure Kid Lit

Hey guys! Atlas Obscura has declared this week to be Children’s Literature Week! They are celebrating by asking everyone to send in submissions answering the question “What are the books you remember reading as a kid that have stuck with you, but that hardly anyone else seems to remember?” (go to their article here)

Sounds like fun, right? Well, I’ve been a bibliophile for a LONG time and have WAY too many books to submit, so I’ve decided to share them with you instead! 😀

Note: Descriptions in italics are all from Goodreads or Amazon.

One Shots

Fatso Jean the Ice Cream Queen (Maryann MacDonald)

6-12-2017 1-27-43 PMChubby nine-year-old Jean lives in a neighborhood where the children thrive on doing wheelies on their bicycles, performing backdives from the diving board, and deciding who belongs to the Hot Shots, the Normals, and the Nerds. Jeans considers herself a Nerd, since the only thing she does well is eat ice cream. Even though the other children call her Fatso Jean, the Ice-Cream Queen, she can’t give it up. She does, however, turn the craving into a way to earn money to go to Fat Camp. In the process, she loses weight, makes friends, and gives her money to Jimmy, a young diver headed for the Special Olympics. — This was probably the first book that really impacted me. Being a chunky/nerdy gal myself, it was nice to have someone to identify with and inspiring to see her pull herself up and out of victimhood.

The House on Parchment Street (Patricia McKillip)

267715While staying with her cousin in England, a young girl helps him find a way of helping the troubled ghosts inhabiting the cellar of the house. — I LOVED this novel when I was a kid! A spooky mystery set in England with a girl protagonist who is spunky and doesn’t back down from a challenge? Yes please! The mystery in this one was pretty decent for a middle grade book. I pick it up from time to time (yes, I still have it) and always find it a pleasurable read.

Space Station ICE-3 (Bruce Coville)

890838Rusty McPhee has discovered a dead body being dissolved in the Waste Converter Tanks of Space Station ICE-3. But the body is fully converted before he can show it to anyone, and no one will believe his story–because all 25,000 people on board the orbiting colony are accounted for and safe. Rusty isn’t willing to let the mystery go without answers. — This was probably the very first murder mystery that I ever read. Unfortunately I got rid of my copy ages ago, so I can’t recall all the details, but I DO remember that it was very exciting. Mysteries are still my favorite genre today, so thanks for the intro, Mr. Coville! 🙂


Wayside School (Louis Sachar)

563859(Description from the 1st novel) There’d been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was supposed to be built with thirty classrooms all next to each other in a row. Instead, they built the classrooms one on top of the other … thirty stories tal! (The builder said he was very sorry.) That may be why all kinds of funny things happen at Wayside School … especially on the thirtieth floor. You’ll meet Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher of all, terrible Todd, who always getss sent home early, and John who can read only upside down – along with all the other kids in the crazy mixed-up school that came out sideways. But you’ll never guess the truth about Sammy, the new kid … or what’s inside for Wayside School on Halloween! — This series was hilarious to me as a child; so much so, that I recently bought it for my niece. (Yes! They still sell it!) This is a fun little series and I highly recommend it for elementary kids.

My Teacher is an Alien (Bruce Coville)

823706(Description from the 1st novel) Sixth grade is just out of this world… Susan Simmons can tell that her new substitute teacher is really weird. But she doesn’t know how weird until she catches him peeling off his face– and she realizes that “Mr. Smith” is really an alien! At first no one will believe her– except Peter Thompson, the class brain. When Peter and Susan discover Mr. Smith’s horrible plans for their classmates, they know they have to act fast. Only they can get rid of their extra-terrestrial visitor– and save the rest of the sixth grade class from a fate worse than math tests! — This one was actually decently popular with my age group, so some of you might remember it too. 🙂 I started this series on the second novel by mistake (My Teacher Fried My Brains), so I read the entire thing out of order. It was still awesome. If your kid has an interest in aliens and you don’t want to chance giving them something iffy, this is a good series to start them on.

AI Gang (Bruce Coville)


(Description from the 1st novel) When their scientist parents are assigned to a top secret project on a small, remote island, the five members of the A.1. Gang have to come along, and find themselves trying to stop a spy from destroying the project. — Can you tell yet that I really liked Bruce Coville? 😉 This was a really great series; in fact I loved it so much that I still have my original copies! A good mixture of action and realistic sci-fi, though maybe a touch out of date for new readers considering they were written in the 80s. 😉

Flying Dutchman (Brian Jacques)

7997(Description from the 1st novel) A boy and dog trapped aboard the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, are sent off on an eternal journey by an avenging angel, roaming the earth throughout the centuries in search of those in need.  Their travels lead them to Chapelvale, a sleepy nineteenth century village whose very existence is at stake.  Only by discovering the buried secrets and solving the dust-laden riddles of the ancient village can it be saved.  This will take the will and wile of all the people-and a very special boy and dog! — I will admit, I probably first picked up this book because of the hunky boy on the cover, but boy am I glad I did! This is one of my all-time favorite series from when I was a child. All of the books are very thoughtful, with interesting plots and nice characters. But what else would you expect from Brian Jacques, right? 😉

Circle of Magic (Tamora Pierce)


(Description from the 1st novel) With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they’ve ever been accepted? — This series is actually really well known, so I don’t know if it counts, but it was one of my favorites (and still is), so I’m adding it anyway. 😉 I really enjoyed reading about these kids and watching them grow into their powers. Plenty of action, but a lot of heart too. A great introduction into the fantasy genre!

How about you? What are some of your old school favorites?