Graveyard Girls #1: 1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War – Lisi Harrison & Daniel Kraus

“Legend has it that every year, on the anniversary of his death, one girl sees a flash of lightning – just like Old Sparky – and hears the thonk-thonk of Hoke’s wooden leg getting closer. Then – poof! She’s never heard from again.”

Sixth graders Whisper, Frannie, Sophie and Gemma are the Grim Sleepers. For the past two years they have had monthly sleepovers where they take turns telling scary stories. In Misery Falls, Oregon, though, the scariest story of all is that of Silas Hoke, the town’s infamous murderer.

Each year, the town hosts Hoke Week, a series of events leading up to the anniversary of his execution. This year, it’s the 100th anniversary since Silas’ death and the “atmosfear” is decidedly spooky.

The first in a new five book series, this was a fun read. The four Grim Sleepers are:

💀 Whisper, the track star. Whisper lives with her father and Miles, her ten year old brother. Unfortunately, Tina, her father’s girlfriend has also moved in and she’s brought Paisley, her daughter, and Rayne, her son, with her. Paisley is one of the popular girls in Whisper’s class. Ugh!

💀 Frannie, the actress. Frannie has twin baby brothers, Sami and Balthazar. She doesn’t want to speak about her falling out with Miranda.

💀 Sophie, the straight A student. Sophie puts an immense amount of pressure on herself to be as good (or better) than Jade, her older sister.

💀 Gemma, the leader. Gemma is the Grim Sleeper who truly believes in the supernatural. Layla, her mother, and Harmony, her aunt, run a metaphysical supplies store called Spirit Sanctuary.

Although she’s not one of the four friends we meet in the beginning of the book, Zuzu quickly became my favourite character. She’s creative and she’s into horror movies. There’s a big part of herself that she keeps hidden and I can’t wait to see her character grow throughout the series.

Although it’s beyond a cliché at this point to have a friendship group consisting of the leader, the dramatic one, the jock, the smart one and the creative one, middle grade readers likely won’t have come across this too many times yet. Despite the cliché, I liked the girls. They each have their own struggles relating to school or family and being able to read chapters from all of their perspectives helped me to care about what happened to each of them.

I may have missed something but throughout the book Frannie keeps the details of the falling out between her and Miranda a secret from her friends. Later, though, we’re told that the whole school knows the story.

One of the characters plays Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, which I’d never heard played on the piano before. I’m exhausted and all I did was watch someone else play it.

I’m looking forward to continuing this series.

I know this town. Its corners. Its alleys. Its hiding spots. Most of all, its dead ends.

And Misery Falls is one giant dead end. Escape is impossible.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Union Square Kids, an imprint of Union Square & Co., for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Whisper, Frannie, Sophie, Gemma, and Zuzu, five friends who tell eerie tales by night and navigate middle school drama by day.

Misery Falls, Oregon, is abuzz as the 100th anniversary of the electrocution of the town’s most infamous killer, Silas Hoke, approaches. When a mysterious text message leads the girls to the cemetery – where Silas Hoke is buried! – life can’t get any creepier. Except, yes, it can thanks to the surprise storyteller who meets them at the cemetery, inspires the first-ever meeting of the Graveyard Girls, and sets the stage for a terrifying tale from Whisper that they’ll never forget.

This slightly scary, extremely addictive story is the first in a five-book series by New York Times bestselling authors Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus.

Spellbound – Jess Townes

Illustrations – Jennifer Harney

Willow is a magical only child who’s used to having her family’s undivided attention. Then Rowan is born and Willow’s family fall under his spell. 

Willow does everything in her power to avoid succumbing to Rowan’s wizardry. 

But Willow knew her spells wouldn’t last forever.
If she wanted to stop Rowan, she had to take away his magic.
And she knew just how to do it. 

I felt bad for Willow. She’s jealous of her new sibling and the adults around her are so besotted with Rowan that they ignore her. The only attention she gets is negative. When she’s not behaving badly, it’s almost as if Willow has perfected a vanishing act.

Willow ultimately discovers that siblings aren’t so bad after all but it’s probably just as important for parents to read this book so they’re reminded to be sensitive to the feelings of their children when new members are introduced to the family.

Jennifer Harney’s illustrations were really cute. The colour palette is lovely, with plenty of yellows and purples. I loved the way magic was portrayed and could definitely see myself living in Willow’s home amongst the trees.


Thank you so much to NetGalley and Union Square Kids, a subsidiary of Sterling Publishing, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A funny, fresh twist on new-sibling relationships and the magic of love.

Willow’s world is perfectly magical, until Rowan is born. When her new baby brother seems to enchant everyone he meets, Willow becomes convinced he is an actual, real-life wizard. Can Willow put a stop to his hocus pocus, or is Rowan’s magic too powerful to resist?

Author Jess Townes brings fresh and expressive writing that’s sure to appeal to young children, while illustrator Jennifer Harney’s unique and colourful art style brings this wonderful, whimsical story to life.