Praise

LAST-BUT-NOT-LEAST LOLA

red star“Lola Zuckerman’s unquenchable high spirits are dampened when her parents each take a business trip at the same time. While they are gone, Lola’s grandmother comes from Brooklyn to babysit seven-year-old Lola and her older brother, and while Grandma is affectionate, fun-loving, and unintentionally funny, she doesn’t quite know how to give the just-right good-night kiss. Lola also is worried that her grandma might not understand that Lola isn’t trying to cause problems at school. For the week her parents are gone, Lola’s life includes envy, grief over her own willful destruction of another’s property, and a pet dog who reveals where Lola hid Grandma’s awful after-school snack. Pakkala perfectly captures the competitive jealousy that sparks among little girls as they claim best friends, as well as the supportive tone of a good teacher caring for well-intentioned but accident-causing pupils. Hoppe’s smart cartoon spot illustrations suit the fast-paced, emotionally resonant, and sometimes silly story, further qualifying Lola as the up-to-date heir of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona stories. Sweet Lola, who never means to but routinely gets in trouble, will be a comforting character for emergent readers, especially those who sometimes have a hard time not making mistakes.”
—Booklist, starred review (LAST-BUT-NOT-LEAST LOLA AND THE WILD CHICKEN)

red star“Children will root for Lola as she tries to mend fences, save the planet, and come out on top. The lessons of recycling are creatively explored, showing readers big and small ways to help our planet. Those who have enjoyed “Clementine” will welcome this contemporary tale as it tackles family, competition, friendship, and the environment. The pencil drawings are energetic, and the list of Lola’s classmates gives a real sense of what the child is up against. A great choice for early chapter-book readers.”
—School Library Journal, starred review (LAST-BUT-NOT-LEAST LOLA GOING GREEN)

“Debut author Pakkala handles sibling rivalry and the pain of losing a friendship with intuition and a light touch, while Hoppe’s feisty b&w spot illustrations subtly enhance Lola’s overall enthusiasm. Deadpan humor and a charming heroine carry this breezy read, first in a planned series.”
    —Publishers Weekly, (LAST-BUT-NOT-LEAST LOLA GOING GREEN)

“I am in love with Lola Zuckerman. Like Ramona Quimby and Judy Moody, Lola is both hilarious and heartfelt. The world of her family and friends is filled with joy and sweetness, and I can’t think of any young reader who won’t delight in being a part of it.”
—Lauren Tarshis, author of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

“That Lola! You’ll cross your fingers for her. You’ll root for her. She’s terrific! I loved reading about Lola. You will too.”
—Patricia Reilly Giff, two-time Newbery Honor-winning author of Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods

“Lola Zuckerman may be last in the alphabet but she’s first in our hearts! This is a funny, heartfelt book, with a main character who’s lovable from A to Z!”
—Tommy Greenwald, author of Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading

JASMINE AND MADDIE

“Jasmine has moved from New Hampshire to Clover, Connecticut, looking for a fresh start.  Her father’s death from cancer filled her with a rage that culminated in a physical assault on a girl where she used to live.  Now her mother is working two jobs and they live in a trailer park, which Jasmine finds humiliating.  Her anger smolders.  In contrast, Maddie appears to have it all – caring parents, three siblings, a beautiful home.  Yet Maddie has her own issues – she harbors a one-sided sibling rivalry exacerbated by an identity crisis, and she is further humiliated when she doesn’t make the soccer team and her best friend does.  Maddie and Jasmine’s Emily Dickinson project brings the two girls together.  Over the course of the story, both girls act out, seek forgiveness, and then turn around to repeat the same mistakes.  This is a sometimes painful story tempered with honesty, growth, and a true effort to move on in an imperfect world.”
—School Library Journal Online

“The spot-on cover will entice readers who will identify with the pain of middle school.”
—Kirkus Reviews

red star“This is a delightful book of growing up and finding out exactly who you are and where you fit in the middle school society.”
Kristine Johnson, Teacher, West Lake Junior High, Granite Media, starred review

“Much can be said for this quaint little story of two girls on opposite ends of the spectrum. While both characters physically remain opposites, Pakkala did a stunning job of portraying their similarities in character. There is a lesson to be learned here. Middle grade students (especially) need to hear stories of others their age overcoming differences and accepting all for who they are.

Both girls feel betrayed by the live that was chosen for them. They both long for something someone else has. They both act out, they both lie and they both hurt.

I like how Pakkala added the boy drama from each girl’s perspective, as well. Every good middle grade story has it and Pakkala added just enough to intrigue but not overwhelm the main theme of the book.

I was intrigued by Ian’s character and hope that Pakkala has a story for him sometime soon!

If you have the opportunity, I would recommend this book. From a teachers perspective(5th-7th), it could be used as a read aloud or just be part of the classroom library.”
    —Tara Looney, Looney’s Literacy Blog

“Heart-wrenching, poetic, funny, and emotionally true, JASMINE AND MADDIE is an edge-of-your-seat read, a beautifully crafted story of two teen girls who need each other more than they know. I loved it.”
    —Patricia Reilly Giff

“Every character in JASMINE AND MADDIE — including not only the main characters but their family, friends and teachers — is drawn with such warmth and loving care that they feel like people you might meet (and would love to meet!) in real life. The chapters alternate between Jasmine and Maddie’s points of view, which not only shows how hard it is for two people to understand each other, but also adds to the story’s suspense. Added bonus: a generous touch of humor throughout! JASMINE AND MADDIE is a winner!”
    —Suzanne Harper, author of The Juliet Club 

red star“This is a cute book about two eighth grade girls who come from very different backgrounds but find they really have a lot in common after all.

Jasmine moves to Clover with her mom after her dad dies. Although they could stay with her uncle in the next town over, Jasmine’s mom wants to be independent. In order to do that, they have to live in the trailer park and mom has to work two jobs. Jasmine puts up a wall around herself so that no one sees the real her.

Maddie comes from the picture perfect family but as the middle child, she feels like she doesn’t have any special place in the world. When she doesn’t make the soccer team along with her best friend, Kate, she feels like she has no friends at all.

Because they share some classes, Maddie and Jasmine who would be unlikely friends, find out that they are more alike than they are different.

This was a book I really enjoyed reading and I highly recommend it.”
   —Laurie Rottmayer, Rottitude.com, starred review

red star“Jasmine just moved to town and lives in a trailer park, which she finds super embarrassing. Maddie lives in a large house with a big family where she is not as perfect as her older sister who sets the ideal example in her home. When Jasmine starts the eighth grade at their small Connecticut school all the popular girls just flock to Jasmine. Maddie however, has one good friend who is usually too busy to hang out with her, which makes Maddie jealous of how easily Jasmine has blended into their school. Jasmine is sympathetic of Maddie’s awkwardness, but not sympathetic enough to not steal from her because she is more affluent than Jasmine. Jasmine liked to think of it as Robin Hood stealing from the rich, and all she wants to do is help her mom pay the bills.

This is a story about friendship and coming of age trials told in alternating perspectives between Jasmine and Maddie. This is a very realistic portrayal of the middle school ups and downs girls have and how everyone feels awkward about something, be it where they live, how they live, how they dress, who likes or doesn’t like whom, etc. Just because Maddie lives in a big house and her family has a decent amount of money, doesn’t mean she is automatically happy. Jasmine is going through some sad times after the loss of her father and we see the state of her family grieving and the problems of other families in her trailer park.

The two girl’s stories are united by poetry assignments in their English class. We get to read the poems they are studying and the poems they are writing and see some true emotional outpouring. The book climaxes with a Poetry Café at the end of the book where all their grieving and frustration can be read aloud. This is a quick, light read for middle-readers that young adults will also enjoy because of the timelessness of feeling so emotionally raw. A highly recommended realistic fiction read.”
    —Clockwork-Serenity, starred review

red star“Briefly, What It’s About: Maddie is living at the crossroads of teen angst and middle-child oblivion. She has every material need covered that should constitute a safe and popular ride through grade eight. But as she quickly learns, life doesn’t always go to plan and an incident leaves her on the outs with her best friend Kate.

Enter Jasmine. Moving to a new school is difficult enough, but hiding the fact that she lives in a trailer park makes it even harder to find new friends.  Like two fiery comets on a collision course, Jasmine and Maddie meet head-on with explosive results. With preconceived notions of how their world is supposed to spin, Maddie and Jasmine must take the time to slow things down or risk being flung out into the outskirts of the middle-school stratosphere.

Loretta’s Rave: For someone who usually avoids anything with even a whisper of teen angst, I really enjoyed this book. I felt thrown into the middle of teen-land where uncertainty is the flavour of every waking moment. The author did a really good job of getting inside Maddie and Jasmine’s heads and captured the level of anxiety that almost every teen experiences; how the most minute problems become huge and a how being a third wheel is sometimes an unstable and frightening place. Maddie is nuts for poetry. She’s an artsy kid who has yet to find her tribe and just thinks she’s weird. I loved that Emily Dickinson was introduced as a stable constant in her life. This book is loaded with friendship and self-discovery, that precarious path that comes with navigating right from wrong, and big life moments.”
     —Mabel’s Fables Bookstore, starred review