Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Book Review Club (September 2021)

Welcome to the September 2021 edition of The Book Review Club. We're back after our summer hiatus! September is a busy month, right? Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Patriot Day, Yom Kippur, Autumnal Equinox. And then there are the odd celebrations like Nat'l Happy Cat Day, Internal'l Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Punctuation Day. :) Anyway in the midst of all this busy-ness, what better than some recommended books to read?! We've compiled terrific reviews of terrific books. Enjoy!


by Eric Walters (MG, Contemporary)

THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES tugs hard at your heartstrings. It's the story of two children forced by negligent parenting to grow up far too soon. It's also a story of friendship, resilience, survival and success. And there's humor. And a protective dog named Candy.

Determined to stay out of foster care, Robbie, an eighth-grade boy, keeps his home life secret. His widower father struggles with mental illness which manifests itself in mood swings and unpredictable behavior. Robbie's father disappears for days at a time, leaving Robbie to fend for himself. Robbie studies hard, does chores around the house and works part time at a local butcher shop. His goal is to get to university and be a somebody. See what I mean about heartstrings? You just can't not root for him. 

Enter a new student at school. A feisty, outspoken, tough girl. Harmony is living in a new foster home while her single mom is in rehab (again) dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. Harmony provides most of the humor in the book. 

After a rocky start, the two form a friendship where they're able to share their secrets and help each other through tough times. "Maybe we feel tired because we have to think about things other kids don't have to think about." (pg 118) "You and I know we're broken...If you're broken and you know it, you have to get up every day and work harder and longer than everybody else if you want to get anywhere." (pg 298)

The title? Robbie makes jam sandwiches for lunch every day. They're cheap and easy, but he's sick of them. Hurray for Harmony who figures this out and exchanges sandwiches regularly with Robbie at the school lunch table.

THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature. It also received a starred review from SLJ. Well deserved!

This story is based on the author's own life. No wonder if feels so authentic. I can imagine THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES starting conversations about poverty, friendship, unreliable adults,  difficult home lives, secrets and more. Highly recommended.

(Dear FCC: library)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Jody Feldman: THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (mystery/thriller)


Jenn Jilks: NOT A HAPPY FAMILY by Shari Lapena  (mystery)

Lucy Sartain: FALLING by TJ Newman (thriller)

Sarah Laurence: CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr (literary)


Margy Lutz: RIVER FOR MY SIDEWALK by Gilean Douglas (memoir)

Patti Abbott:  BRING YOUR BAGGAGE AND DON'T PACK LIGHT by Helen Ellis (humorous essays)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


  1. Great review. Can definitely see how it would tug at the heartstrings.

  2. Thanks for hosting, Barrie!
    This is a great spot to find books to read.

  3. Wow! I was almost finding this premise hard to believe until you disclosed that the story was semi-autobiographical. It reminds me of a really good YA, What I Carry by Jennifer Longo about a teen aging out of foster care. That author didn't grow up in foster care but she wrote the novel for her adopted daughter. Thanks for sharing his story!

    Quick note on my review tags: Cloud Cuckoo Land is literary fiction, but it has 3 genre-skipping storylines: historical, contemporary, and future.

  4. As a teacher and principal I saw so many children struggling because of difficult home lives. That makes school so much more important for them as a haven of understanding. I think I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch from first through sixth grade except for the one year I worked for a short time in the cafeteria and got a free hot lunch. - Margy

  5. Book club is back! Yay!

    Sounds like a great book. I'm so glad MG and YA have more diverse characters these days, so all kids can relate to the struggles. I think the only foster child I read about as a kid was Anne Shirley.

    1. Hi Stacy!!! Good to see you!! I think that may be true for me, too....that Anne Shirley was the only foster child I read about. There was a family at my elementary that, looking back, I bet did foster care. But I didn't realize it at the time.


Comments are always welcome!