Corners – Corrina Austin

“Corners are something you fix up … and sometimes, you can’t fix people.”

Ten year old Davy doesn’t have any friends and has just been banned from the local swimming pool for the rest of the summer. It’s 1969, the summer he meets thirteen year old Ellis, who teaches him about corners. The two weeks he spends with Ellis change Davy’s life in ways he doesn’t anticipate.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book. Ellis had a sadness that radiated from her, even as she made small corners of her surroundings more beautiful. Hannah, Ellis’ grandmother, was an absolute sweetheart. Davy’s mother, a single parent, is doing her best trying to provide for her small family. Mr Mosely, Davy’s mother’s landlord, had his own struggles.

This story is told in two timelines. Davy is recalling this time in his childhood to his son, who is now the age Davy was in 1969. While I found the progression of the story of Davy’s childhood interesting, it didn’t read to me like he was telling the story to his son. The language didn’t feel conversational.

Adult me figured out what was behind Ellis’ sadness early in the book and knew how the story would end from the get go. Child me probably would have been surprised by both of these revelations.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dancing Lemur Press and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everyone needs their own special corner…

It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.

The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners” – forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others.

Davy begins to wonder, though. Why does Ellis want to be his friend? Why doesn’t she ever smile? And is Davy just one of Ellis’ “corners?”

Gregory and the Grimbockle – Melanie Schubert

Illustrations – Abigail Kraft

There’s nothing adults want to do more than to wipe the smudge below 10 year old Gregory’s left nostril, but it’s not a smudge at all. It’s actually a mole and is about the only extraordinary thing about Gregory, who has hardly any friends and quite tenuous relationships with his mother, father and older sister, Marjory. That is, until the night he meets Grimbockle, a Bockle, riding his trusty steed cockroach, and his life is never the same.

Bockles fix the invisible (to hoo-mans) threads that connect people called exoodles. When relationships are strong then so are their exoodles. When they’re not, exoodles get thinner and fray. Grimbockle is on the maintenance team and through the course of the book Gregory’s eyes are opened in a way no human has ever experienced before.

Children will really enjoy the friendship between Gregory and Grimbockle and their expeditions on the Exoodle Expressway to fix exoodles. The various paint buckets that Grimbockle uses throughout the book reminded me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Melanie Schubert has almost certainly been a big fan of Dahl growing up.

The quirky way the Bockles speak almost felt as though I was listening to Dahl’s BFG. I found some of their speech annoying, mostly the constant use of “I is”. If I wasn’t as familiar with the language Roald Dahl used I probably would have found it cute but each time I read “hoo-mans” I kept hearing the BFG calling Sophie a “human bean”, and anything that reminds me of Mr Dahl is never going to be able to compete. I know it’s not a fair playing field but no one will ever be able to out-Dahl Roald for me.

I loved the message of the exoodles and I really loved that children are empowered in this book. They’re taught that there are things they can do to improve the quality of the exoodles in their own lives. For both children and adults I felt the image of threads that grow stronger or weaker with our actions was powerful and memorable.

During the reading of this book I had a slump and was having trouble concentrating for a few days. Today after a hug and some kind words from a friend I could visualise my exoodles getting stronger and afterwards I was able to concentrate again and finish this book. It seems appropriate that this is the book I was reading when this happened.

It has me thinking about my own exoodles, which ones need fixing and what I can do to help mend them. I expect any reader will feel the same and while it sounds so simple, a smile, a hug, a note or some kind words really can make the world of difference.

My favourite character in this book was Gregory’s neighbour, old Ethel, whose mission in life seems to be pouncing in front of him as he walks past and trying to pull the mole off his face. I really liked Abigail Kraft’s illustrations. While the description of the Bockles was lovely to read, Abigail’s illustrations brought them to life in a lighthearted way. This book even has its own soundtrack by Jared Kraft that you can download.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, New Wrinkle Publishing and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ten-year-old Gregory is about to find out that the enormous mole stuck straight beneath his nose is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.

What’s more? The Grimbockle is just one of the many strange little creatures called Bockles tending to the mysterious threads that connect all humans from one to the other. It is a very important job and one that has long been carried out with incredible secrecy …

… that is, before tonight.

The Girl Who Said Sorry – Hayoung Yim

Illustrations – Marta Maszkiewicz


This book!!! Oh, my goodness!!! Please buy a copy for EVERY. SINGLE. GIRL. you know!!! By girl, I’m talking ages from newborn to 100 plus years old.

As girls we grow up being taught so many conflicting things and then told to apologise, well, basically for being a girl. We’re too fat. We’re too thin. We’re too quiet. We’re too loud. It’s the real Neverending Story.

In The Girl Who Said Sorry, girls are not told to be sorry for who they are! Let’s just celebrate that for a moment … While encouraged to own their mistakes and ensure their choices and words don’t hurt anyone, they’re told IT’S. OK. TO. BE. UNAPOLOGETICALLY. YOURSELF. Hallelujah!!!

This is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. So simple yet so profound, I want to read this book over and over again until I unlearn all of the sorry conditioning I’ve ever been exposed to. Can you imagine a world where girls don’t apologise for being who they are? I can’t, but I desperately want to!

Hayoung Yim, this book makes me so proud to be a woman! Thank you!

Marta Maszkiewicz, your illustrations are exceptional! They’re so soft yet so strong at the same time, and they capture the feel of the book brilliantly.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book. If there was an option to give more than ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, I’d be giving this book every star I could find.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Too girly or too boyish. Too thin or too fat. Too quiet, too loud. Be ambitious, but don’t hurt feelings. Be inquisitive, but don’t interrupt. Be outspoken, but don’t be bossy. Most of all, be yourself – but be a lady.

What’s a girl to do in a world filled with contradicting gender expectations, aside from saying sorry?

The way we teach politeness norms to children is often confusing, changing based on gender – and can have lasting effects. And while everyone should be courteous and accountable for their actions, apologetic language out of context can undermine confidence and perceived capability.

Within the subtle yet beautiful illustrations and powerful rhyme of The Girl Who Said Sorry developing girls will learn that self-expression and personal choices can be made without apology, and with confidence.

50% of profits from this book is donated to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign dedicated to empowering young girls to take action on global issues.

The Monster at Recess – Shira C. Potter

The Monster at Recess has an inviting bright and cheerful cover featuring a cute, diverse assortment of monsters that capture your imagination before you even read the blurb. Shira C. Potter has written an uplifting book that will resonate with young girls, especially those who don’t feel like they belong.

Sophie attends Grey Stone Day School. The monsters at Monstamasta Day School share the same playground as the students at Sophie’s school but have recess at a different time, as girls at Grey Stone aren’t supposed to talk to the monsters. Sophie’s school is filled with drab grey and black, and she’s envious of the various monster colours.

Sophie doesn’t fit in at her school, even after she convinces her mother to dye her naturally red hair brown to match the other girls. She is bullied, ignored and gossiped about. When Sophie meets Zaragilda, a purplish pink monster with red stars on her face, she finds a new friend and discovers that being different isn’t so bad after all.

The messages about making judgements about other people based on their looks and reputation, the constraints of conformity versus the freedom of being yourself, the damaging effects on self esteem of bullying, and having the courage to go against the grain are vital and made clear to the reader.

I appreciated the positivity and hope found in this book, and the encouragement to be yourself. One of my favourite things about this book was learning that it was the bullies who were the real monsters, not the colourful monsters the girls were taught to fear. I want this book to find its way into homes, libraries and schools, and into the hands of lots of young girls, particularly those who have experienced bullying or feel different from their peers.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet misfit Sophie, too used to bullies at Grey Stone Day School. Her classmates Julia and Molly tease her to no end and her teacher, Mrs. Cook ignores the bullying.

The playground at Grey Stone has a special secret though: it’s shared with the students of a monster school!

Craving acceptance and diversity, and trying to defeat her feelings of fear towards these strange and colourful monsters, Sophie bravely steps into the unknown and meets a little monster at recess – and makes her first friend. Through her friendship with the monster, she develops stronger feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem. In addition, she learns to stand tall and to appreciate differences and she discovers that sometimes you really can turn lemons into lemonade.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks – Sabrina Benaim

poetry and i usually don’t mix / we repel like opposing ions / my synapses don’t fire / when sparked by verse / however / a flame was lit at the start / kindled by depression and anxiety / yet heartbreak’s oxygen did not fan the flames / satisfied yet / desiring more like / explaining my depression to my mother / a conversation

i don’t know sabrina benaim / never heard her voice / yet depression and i are old buddies / we dance around each other / and make somber music / in the dark recesses of my mind / we love yet hate / one another but / we continue our duet

at times i am sure my getaway car / has obscured my shadow in dust / then i turn the corner / and the sunlight causes me / to glance behind with horror / my shadow has grown large / absorbing the light / and creeps closer / as it follows / sabrina you exhale with eloquence / shine light upon the dark / adjust focus so we can see / the hope depression conceals

anxiety can pick me / out of a line up / loneliness of knowing / in a crowded room / i’m the only one / from my tribe / despair at lack / of understanding / treated like a curiosity / different / not enough

heartbreak / a foreign land / i am an alien there / yet made clear / by hearing sabrina

dark / depression / loneliness / heartbreak / anxiety / despair / swirl into one / flood of emotion / aching / desert of nothingness / numbness / muddy clay that distorts / yet resilience / hope / light

gratitude / netgalley / gratitude / button poetry / gratitude / independent book publishers association / my thoughts for free / lasting impression / set aside other words / drink in this offering / to be returned to again / and again / to sip / to guzzle / to absorb / no regrets

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views. 

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder