*I received a free copy of these books with thanks to the author and Amanda Dissinger at Algonquin Young Readers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
I am utterly thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Adele Griffin’s Blackberry Farm series, and to share my thoughts with you on Books 1 and 2 in the series respectively!
The Becket List blurb: Everything is changing for Becket Branch.
From subways to sidewalks to safety rules, she is a city kid born and raised. Now the Branch family is trading urban bustle for big green fields and moving to help their gran on Blackberry Farm, where Becket has to make sense of new routines, from feeding animals to baling hay.
But Becket is ready! She even makes her own “Becket List” for How to Be a Country Kid. Things don’t always work out the way she planned, but whether it’s selling mouth-puckering lemonade, feeding hostile hens, or trying to make a new best friend, Becket is determined to use her city smarts to get a grip on country living.
Get ready to yell “Beautiful Alert!” along with Becket as she mucks through the messy, exuberant experience of change she didn’t ask for, in a story that sparkles with quirky characters, cheerful humor, and unexpected adventures.
My review of The Becket List:
In this first Blackberry Farm story, the Branch family are moving from the city to the countryside, and lively, outgoing Becket Branch is coping far better with the change than her twin brother, Nicholas, and their older sister, Caroline. Or at least, she is until she discovers that not everyone is as enthusiastically all-in as she is, and that things don’t always go according to plan… even if you have a list!
Becket is an endearing main character and narrative voice. She is super positive and well-meaning, and has a sunny, bright attitude to life that is joyously infectious. It is also easy to see how she could get annoying at times… she is very LOUD!
This is a lovely middle-grade story about settling in, making new friends, and learning to appreciate the ones you already have. It is very easy to read and ideal for readers who enjoy stories like Enid Blyton’s, all about children having gentle, countryside adventures with little adult interference (although the Branch parents are far more responsible and involved than any in Blyton’s books!).
Minishine’s thoughts: This book is defo FIVE STARS! Caroline is my favourite character and I like how she acts, and how Nicholas acts, and I like how Becket is so loud and also that she loves animals. It’s about a girl who used to live in the city and then they all move to the country, like in my favourite Faraway Tree books! She finds it easy at first but then she has to be brave because change is HARD. Mr Fancypants is a funny name for a dog and I like how they describe him, even though he’s not like our dog, Murphy. I love all the pictures on every page, but I do wish they could all be in colour, like the front cover, because the book suits lots of bright colours… BEAUTIFUL ALERT!!!
Babybows’ thoughts: Ten thumbs up for the whole book! I mean, one hundred! Nobody is my favourite character because I like them all. I like all the pictures too and I like the story. I wish I had hammies and hamblings!
‘I hadn’t put “Find a New Best Friend” on my list—and now here she is, Frieda Franca, with her own alpacas and bouncy dog. I wish Mr Fancypants had a little more bounce for a play date with “Beautiful Alert” Oro. Then again, Frieda’s been a country kid for longer than me. Of course she’d already have the perfect dog. It doesn’t make sense to be jealous.– Adele Griffin, The Becket List
Except maybe I am, a little.’
Get it here: The Becket List on Amazon
All Pets Allowed blurb: New dog, no tricks!
Becket Branch has one birthday wish—a dog! Dogs are outgoing and friendly, and they live life loud, just like Becket. Becket’s twin, Nicholas, wants a pet more like him—a peaceful, quiet indoor cat. When their parents take them to the shelter to choose a dog and a cat, it should be Becket’s biggest BEAUTIFUL ALERT ever. But Becket’s dream dog, Dibs, turns out to be a super-shy scaredy-pooch. Meanwhile, Nicholas’s kitty, Given, loves being the center of attention and greeting visitors to Blackberry Farm.
Can Becket and Nicholas learn how to love Dibs and Given as they are—even if they aren’t exactly the pets the twins dreamed of?
With black-and-white drawings throughout by award-winning illustrator LeUyen Pham (Real Friends), this second volume of the Blackberry Farm series offers a gentle message about embracing new friends who may not match preconceived expectations.
My review of All Pets Allowed:
Becket and the Branch family return for another adventure, and this time the twins are turning ten!
Becket is desperate for a big twin-ten birthday party, with lots of guests and noise and games, and her ultimate present of the perfect Beautiful Alert! dog. Nicholas, her twin brother, who prefers quiet family time and cats, is not so sure. Luckily for the Branch twins, their parents are ready to grant both pet-wishes, but are Becket’s Dibs and Nicholas’s Given the ideal companions they were hoping for, or will they find out that it is okay to have different tastes and personalities after all?
Another lovely family-and-animal adventure story from Adele Griffin, in which Becket learns to appreciate other people (and animals) just as they are, see things from other points of view, how to work as a team and how to ask for help when needed (although, being Becket, it’s more telling than asking!).
I would have loved a wild, loud, extroverted heroine like Becket in my childhood. Looking back it seems like most of the “good” characters in my favourite books were quite quiet and sensible: the Pevensies; Joe, Beth and Fanny; Val Taylor; Veronica Weston; 3/4 March girls… the closest I really got to a literary harum-scarum was Anne Shirley or Jo March! That’s not to say that Becket is a ‘wild child’ either though – she shows great responsibility and thoughtfulness, and a willingness to learn and grow, that make her a wonderful role model for those children who happen to have a little trouble with VOLUME CONTROL!
Minishine’s thoughts: I still really like Caroline… she reminds me of me! Becket wasn’t really very kind to Nicholas at the beginning of the story but then she started listening to him properly and that was better. My favourites are the animals, though, definitely. I love both Dibs AND Given and I think I would get on well with both of them. Our dog Murphy is very playful and clever, but chews stuff up. And one of our cats is a bit grumpy but sensible and kind, and the other is not very clever but super cuddly and loving and scared of everything, so I think that you can love all different personalities different but the same. Which is kind of what Becket found out too. I hope there will be more Becket books because all the family are so lovely and interesting and I want to see what Becket learns next.
Babybows’ thoughts: They ARE all good characters, but the animals are the best definitely. I was sad about Mr Fancypants getting old, but I like the new pets too. I wonder if they’ll just keep on getting more and more pets now? Maybe they could get a big smelly pig to look after?! That would be SO funny!!!
‘”Follow your heart, Nicholas,” says Mom.– Adele Griffin, All Pets Allowed
“Follow my heart a little bit, too,” I add.
Nicholas’s voice is very small. “Okay,” he says. “As long as it’s not too noisy, and you keep Travis away from me, and I don’t have to play any ball sports, I guess I’ll be fine.” He looks at Mom. “So I take it back. We don’t need a family party. I’m cohosting with Becket. Top Ten Ten Takeover! Just like how we planned.”
“Thanks, Nicholas!” When I fling out my arms to hug him, I knock his fidget spinner out of his hand. Nicholas catches it just in time. “This will be the best party ever, promise!”
Nicolas nods and clears his throat. “Best party ever,” he echoes, but his owl-wide eyes look like he’s imagining all the ways it will go wrong.’
Get it here: All Pets Allowed on Amazon
Adele Griffin is the acclaimed author of Tell Me No Lies and Be True to Me, as well as Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both finalists for the National Book Award as well as the middle grade series The Oodlethunks and Blackberry Farm. She lives with her husband and children in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her online at adelegriffin.com or on Instagram: @adelegriffin.