Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy Book

March 23, 2021 Reviews 5

Yes, I know I’m STILL working my way through all my Cybils reviews. I just don’t want to leave any of these books out! So, even though the awards have been doled out, I still want to feature some very quick reviews of the nominees I read since there were so many good ones. I’m calling this the Long-Titles Cybils List. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction.


Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy BookA Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese
Illustrator: Jessica Roux
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on April 14, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 224
Source: The Publisher
My rating:
4.5 Stars

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father's anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called "A Game of Fox & Squirrels," Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

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This book is powerful and important, and covers the topic of abuse, which isn’t often covered in middle grade. Unfortunately, many kids live in abusive situations, and they need books where they can see themselves and find hope for a better future. I will say that, for kids who are sensitive, it might be difficult to digest, but I think that books like this are needed. It was very obvious to me that Reese came from a difficult background herself because she portrayed the emotions of constantly walking on eggshells around a difficult family member perfectly. Samantha and her sister have struggled between love and fear when it came to their dad, and now that they’ve gone to live with their aunts, they’re just looking for a way to move forward and feel safe. Samantha struggles to trust, and when her aunt gives her a game called Fox and Squirrels, the fox in the game starts visiting her. He seems friendly, but there’s something sinister underneath. Via the fox, Samantha learns to stand up for herself and deal with the emotional baggage that comes with dealing with a controlling presence in her life. She also finds hope through her relationship with her aunts. The story has some difficult moments as Samantha relives her father’s violent temper, but it also shows how the human spirit can overcome. Samantha’s aunts are just what she needs—finally has a reason to feel safe and hopeful about her future.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in order to read it for the Cybils Awards. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy BookWishes and Wellingtons by Julie Berry
Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers on October 13, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: Library
Cover Artist: Chloe Bristol
My rating:
4.5 Stars

From award-winning author Julie Berry comes a brand new middle-grade fantasy adventure full of humor and heart.

Maeve Merritt chafes at the rigid rules at her London boarding school for "Upright Young Ladies." When punishment forces her to sort through the trash, she finds a sardine tin that houses a foul-tempered djinni with no intention of submitting to a schoolgirl as his master.

Soon an orphan boy from the charitable home next door, a mysterious tall man in ginger whiskers, a disgruntled school worker, and a take-no-prisoners business tycoon are in hot pursuit of Maeve and her magical discovery. It'll take all of her quick thinking and sass to set matters right. Maeve Merritt is one feisty heroine you won't soon forget.

First published as an Audible Original in 2018.

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This story is utterly delightful! Maeve is the type of spunky main character who doesn’t put up with anything. She doesn’t follow rules very well, and I’ll confess that at first I found her the teensiest bit unlikable (for instance, I wished she’d given her friends a bit more credit and trusted them more), but it’s a testament to Berry’s writing that I was completely won over in the end. When Maeve finds a djinni in a sardine can, she suddenly finds herself under attack from all sides. She has to figure out the best way to use her wishes and how to keep the djinni safe and hidden in the meantime. The book is full of fun moments, friendships, humor, magic and adventure!


Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy BookMulrox and the Malcognitos by Kerelyn Smith
Published by Fog Field Press on March 29, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 382
Source: Purchased
Cover Artist: Matt Rockefeller
My rating:
4.5 Stars

A bad idea is nothing to worry about… until it knocks on your door.

Mulrox the ogre harbors a secret desire to become the world's greatest poet. Unfortunately, all of his ideas are rotten.But when his terrible ideas come to life, Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to protect the very ideas he loathes-the malcognitos as they call themselves. Accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas, Mulrox must travel to the malcognitos' realm, uncover the mystery of the beast hunting them, and return home in time to deliver the best poem of his life.

Fans of L. Frank Baum, Bruce Coville, and Roald Dahl will delight in this middle-grade fantasy novel about embracing your imperfections. If you like prophetic rodents, spellbinding sneezes, and ferocious sheep, you'll love this book.

Join Mulrox and his friends for a wild ride full of antics, strange new creatures, and lots of bad poetry.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about ogres, but I was surprised how much I ended up loving Mulrox! It’s a fun and unique story with a lovely reinforcement of the message that “no idea is a bad idea.” Mulrox wants nothing more than to be a poet, but he just can’t manage to write anything he likes. He’s got a whole notebook full of rejected poems and scribblings, but none of it will win him the big competition so he can save his home. When a bunch of crazy characters called malcognitos show up, they send him off into the forest and then into a strange realm where he has to save them from disappearing. The story feels a teensy bit long in the middle, but I quickly forgave it that flaw because it’s full of quirky characters and madcap adventures, and shows that creative inspiration can come from anywhere!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in order to read it for the Cybils Awards. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy BookCleo Porter and the Body Electric by Jake Burt
Published by Feiwel & Friends on October 6, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Library
Cover Artist: Brian Edward Miller
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Jake Burt's Cleo Porter and the Body Electric is a futuristic middle-grade novel about a girl who lives in a hermetically sealed housing development.

A woman is dying. Cleo Porter has her medicine. And no way to deliver it.

Like everyone else, twelve-year-old Cleo and her parents are sealed in an apartment without windows or doors. They never leave. They never get visitors. Their food is dropped off by drones. So they're safe. Safe from the disease that nearly wiped humans from the earth. Safe from everything. The trade-off?

They're alone. Thus, when they receive a package clearly meant for someone else--a package containing a substance critical for a stranger's survival--Cleo is stuck. As a surgeon-in-training, she knows the clock is ticking. But people don't leave their units.

Not ever. Until now.

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This is another book that really surprised me with how much I loved it. For some reason, the cover made me think it was going to be another superhero chosen-one story, but it wasn’t that at all. Yes, Cleo goes on a quest, but it’s a quest to leave her world’s absolute quarantine in order to save just one person who she believes is in danger. Mind you, the book was written well before COVID, so it felt sort of eerie to be reading a book set in a futuristic world where everyone lived in total and complete quarantine—literally no one ever leaves their own apartment. But when Cleo gets an accidental shipment of life-saving medication, she realizes that the intended recipient might die without it, and she sets off on a dangerous journey into the underbelly of her automated apartment complex. Her robotic companion Yorick adds a fun touch to the story and the story ends up taking many unexpected twists along the way. I think kids today will get a kick out of seeing quarantine taken to an extreme!


Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy BookAnother Dreadful Fairy Book by Jon Etter
Series: Those Dreadful Fairy Books #2
Published by Amberjack Publishing on January 7, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Adam Horsepool
My rating:
4 Stars

The magical Grand Library of Elfame is in danger! The fearsome bugbear Norwell Drabbery wants to remove books he deems “damaging,” and even threatens to close the library altogether. Shade may not be your average fairy—but she’s a champion librarian and bibliophile who won’t let censorship and suspicion ruin her dream to instill a love of books into the community of Elfame. With her friends the fast-talking Ginch and the silent but resourceful Professor, she sets out in search of help from a secret society charged with saving rare books.

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The best thing about this fun series is the ironic, goofy narration style. In case you didn’t catch this based on the title, the narrator is quick to point out that this is a dreadful fairy book—like, really terrible. That tongue-in-cheek narration style carries us through Shade’s quest to save Elfame’s library from the evil clutches of those who want censorship. Shade and friends end up on a grand adventure filled with humor and surprises. The book has many of the original characters, but also introduces us to some hilarious new friends. This is definitely not your average fairy tale—it flips the typical tropes and turns them into the unexpected!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in order to read it for the Cybils Awards. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think? I wanna know!

5 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of Cybils Nominees: A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Wishes and Wellingtons, Mulrox and the Malcognitos, Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, and Another Dreadful Fairy Book”

  1. ShootingStarsMag

    I love that you’re doing reviews for all of these because I love MG fiction. Another Dreadful Fairy Book sounds super fun! I’m pretty sure Wishes and Wellingtons is on my wish list already, but I definitely want to read that.

    -lauren

  2. trin carl

    I knew as soon as I saw Wellingtons in the title-it had to be a british title. I was in britain in 2011 and i’m always looking for words to add to my vocabulary from there. Sounds fun! I will write it down.Hope your days are good and you’re keeping busy.

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