Review: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball by S.P. O’Farrell

Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier’s Ball

Author: S.P. O’Farrell

Published: May 13, 2019

Publisher: Brandylane Publishers

Number of Pages: 138 Pages

Format: Hardback

Source: Purchased

Simone LaFray had never questioned one thing – the character of her father. A fourth generation chocolatier and proprietor of a world famous patisserie, in her eyes he could do no wrong. However, her eyes were trained to see everything that was wrong. A covert agent with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this extraordinary 12-year-old was living a double life, walking in the veiled footprints of her mother, icing eclairs, dusting pastries, and darting between the shadows. What could be sweeter? When a notorious thief returns to Paris seeking revenge against her mother, a series of unforeseen and potentially devastating events ensue, leaving Simone to question everything. Her father can’t be the man they say he is, can he? Her concealed life is evaporating, the store hangs in the balance . . . and did I mention she needs a ball gown? Life in a French patisserie may not be as sweet as you thought. Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier’s Ball pulls the invisible girl out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but is she ready?

Immediately, I found this book to be incredibly interesting and a really fun read for a middle-grade book!  Simone LaFray is a cross somewhere between Harriet the Spy, Artemis Fowl, and Sherlock Holmes, she notices everything, misses nothing, and is fantastically intelligent!  Simone is an agent for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and following in her mother’s footsteps.  The setting of this book is Paris (I’ve been reading a lot of books set in Paris recently), which is a beautiful backdrop for such a lighthearted story.  Simone’s family owns a patisserie, which is absolutely the dream!  It’s a great place for the story to occupy, with so much beautiful imagery included in the narrative, so many French street names, and an independent, headstrong character in Simone who navigates the city with ease.

This is a short book, but it is packed with fun themes, charming characters, and adventurous espionage!  I would recommend this to all middle-grade readers looking for a quick spy novel with a strong heroine!  I loved this book from start to finish and I am so glad I picked up a copy for my collection! 


Review: The Colossus of Roads by Christina Uss

The Colossus of Roads

Author: Christina Uss

Published: May 5, 2020

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books

Number of Pages: 224 pages

Format: Hardback

Source: Edelwiess+

Eleven-year-old Rick Rusek is determined to improve the traffic conditions in Los Angeles– his parent’s failing delivery catering service, Smotch, depends on it.

“Traffic is a puzzle with one correct solution. And I’ve got to solve it!”

Rick has been studying maps and traffic patterns for years, and devises solutions to improve Los Angeles’ notoriously terrible traffic that he calls his Snarl Solutions. He has big ideas, but not enough resources– until his artistic friend, Mila brings him to a Girl Scout meeting.

Every week at Miss Diamond’s art studio, the scouts paint recycled traffic signs with their own designs. The signs will be hung all over Los Angeles to beautify the city with art. But Rick, The Colossus of Roads, has ulterior motives . . . He will restore the signs to their original glory and find a way to install them strategically to rectify the traffic. Anything can be hung with duct tape!
But of course, it’s not that easy. SPLAT (Stop Poor LA Traffic), BLAM (Bike-Loving Amazing Mamas), and the TCD (Traffic Calming Division) have their own methods of curing the city’s dilemma and will undermine Rick’s efforts however they can.

Will Rick be able to clear the notorious traffic problem on Sepulveda Pass in time for his parents to deliver Polish food to the movie studio and land the catering contract they need to keep their company afloat?

Written by Christina Uss, the acclaimed author of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle, which was selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List and was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year.

This book is a wholesome, coming of age book about appreciating talent, delicious food, and solving big problems with creativity and ingenuity.  These are the values I want to instill in my son and this is a perfect book to accompany those lessons he is learning in real life!  I found this book to be charming and a great read for middle grade readers!  The punny title also warms my heart, even though I’m not always a fan of puns!

Rick is a regular kid with a stomach that limits some of the things he can do.  He also has a really great talent for art, specifically street art.  When I say street art, I mean making art with street signs!  This book absolutely inspired me to see the beauty in roadside art and has me yearning to take a road trip!  Rick is such a well written, feel good character who wants to do what is best for his family, no matter what it takes!  Reading through Rick’s failures, his triumphs, and his journey was really special!  I love the setting in Los Angeles, one of the most traffic jam prone cities in the country!  This is a great book for middle grade readers and would be a perfect family read! 

The author is a skilled writer and you can really see her passion for the craft through her prose! 

I live in a city that has a major part of Route 66, the original Mother Road of the United States!  We have so much fantastic art in our community including murals, sculptures, and creative road signs!  My son is also going to read this book and we are going to go on a hunt to find all of the cool street art in our community!  A local artist and his collaborators put up fund road signs in the 1990s in our community as well!  Some of the more fun ones are below! Be sure to click on the pictures to see more great photos of these unique signs!

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss+ for this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and have given this review of my own accord! 

What cool street art is in your community?  I would love to see it!