Jolly Time Books: Kelly’s Adventures 1-3 Boxed Set is a collection of three short novels for children by Karen S. McGowan and Dennis E. McGowan. It’s about a girl named Lizzy Jolly, who lives with her brother, her quirky parents, and—most important—a short-haired dachshund named Kelly. Lizzy starts out very insecure, feeling bullied at school, but after her family moves near Washington D.C. she starts an exciting life learning piano, becoming student council vice-president, and touring the White House. Along the way she hangs out with friends, gets good guidance from teachers, and loves her cute, trouble-making dog to distraction.
Jolly Time Books: Kelly’s Adventures Boxed Set is a really fun set of books! It offers a lot of laughs, a pair of amusing parents that just had me chuckling my way through the pages, and a thrilling conclusion of a hiking trip gone wrong that turned this sweet tale into an exciting adventure story at the last minute. Although Lizzy narrates how she feels, with a sincere tone that made her seem exactly like any girl you know, the many pictures of Kelly the dog serenely doing a variety of little activities emphasized that this dog is the central identity of the family. She brings out things about each family member and if they have relationships—good or bad—going on with each other or with anyone else, Kelly is sure to bring that out. There are no secrets in the Jolly family, thanks to Kelly, and the openness and tone of gentle humor in this leisurely paced book is something children can appreciate. Karen S. McGowan and Dennis E. McGowan are good at entertaining kids.
Kassy O’Rourke, Cub Reporter is an entertaining children’s mystery book by Kelly Oliver. 12-year-old Kassy (named after Kassandra in Greek mythology) has big plans to win an award by writing the best story in her school newspaper so she can impress her dad, who has recently broken up with her mom. She wants her parents back together. When a cougar cub goes missing from her mother’s petting zoo, Kassy finds the story is right under her nose. But first, she’ll need to navigate a number of disasters, escape from a locked shed, learn the truth about her brother’s involvement, and get the help of some friends to save the day and find the cougar before Agent Pinkerton Killjoy shuts down the petting zoo.
Kassy O’Rourke, Cub Reporter is a whole lot of fun and delivers in every way an adventure story should. The twists and turns in the mystery are clever and unpredictable, and the sprinkled references to Star Wars and Greek mythology give a distinctive quirky flavor to the book. Kassy’s first-person voice bubbles throughout the book as sassy, down-to-earth, and delightfully frank about how she feels. An aspect I found especially endearing was how Kassy’s solving of the pet mystery led her into a better understanding of the people around her. Her new sister’s development into a friend added a lot of complexity towards the end of the story—as did Butler and his older brother Oliver, two lively boys who came in handy whenever Kassy needed them. Kelly Oliver builds more than a detailed mystery. She also creates a heartwarming world populated with believable characters who feel like people you know.
Believe: What Do You Do When Your Dream is Bigger Than You? by Kirstin Leigh is a Christian middle-grade story about a 12-year-old girl named Kristi Kate who wants more than anything to be a big star. Songs just come to her. She lives to perform. And she’s super-excited about the premiere at her school of a musical that she wrote! But everything is ruined when her father’s plane crashes in a tiny town in Alabama. Kristi is beyond devastated, but when she starts to make new friends in the town, it isn’t long before she realizes maybe all this happened for a reason. There’s a church that needs to be revitalized. Does God have a special plan for her in this place?
Believe took me on a charming journey with a young girl who has so much to offer the world—and at the same time, so much to learn. If you just can’t resist a feel-good small-town story with a great message, this book is picture-perfect. Kirstin Leigh creates some complex characters with real flaws, real relationships, and real growth journeys that—often literally—sing off the page and straight into your heart. There are authentic disappointments and achievements, such as Kristi’s struggle to get her father to accept her dreams and her hard work pulling all the kids in the town together for a big show, and Kristi is a strong main character. She splashes across the page like a shiny ribbon of optimism and she comes to understand that God’s plan is driving her life and her dreams in a relatable way. A well-written book sprinkled with songs and “God ideas” that will encourage girls to unlock their potential and grow their faith.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.