Tag Archives: middle grade

ARC Review – Who in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? by Rebecca Tinker

Title: Who in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Author: Rebecca Tinker

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A skilled thief on a mysterious mission, Carmen Sandiego is endlessly pursued by ACME and Interpol. But the woman in the red fedora is always one step ahead! In this novelization, based on the Netflix animated series, Carmen shares her own backstory for the first time ever. Now, it’s time to find out…. Who in the world is Carmen Sandiego.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Growing up, I was a huge Carmen Sandiego fan. I loved the cartoon, the game show, the education games, everything with her name on it, I was a fan. I was so excited when Netflix announced that they would be creating a new storyline for the iconic thief and that Gina Rodriguez would be the lead.

This book is an origin story of sorts. It looks at Carmen’s background to how she got into becoming a thief, and her relationship with “Player.” There’s not really much to this story, though it was a quick romp to say the least. I liked how the relationship between Carmen and Player was portrayed, I loved how action-packed this story was as well!

There’s not much too this book, and since I haven’t watched the Netflix series yet, I’d be curious how the book and show work together. I think if you’re a young reader, Carmen is a fun role model to have, especially as a feminist icon. However, if you’re looking for something deep, this book is not it. If you want a fun, fluffy, romp, then give it a try!

Advertisements

ARC Review – Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

Title: Ruby in the Sky

Author: Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When Ruby Moon Hayes, twelve, and her mother move to tiny Fortin, Vermont, Ruby is surprised to make friends at school and in the neighborhood, where a reclusive lady hides a huge secret.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Holy cow, this book is a punch in the feelings. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s debut novel Ruby in the Sky is an amazing achievement in middle grade, as its a story that has so many layers in it, and each is done flawlessly.

This is the story of Ruby, a young girl who has had it rough and struggles to now find her voice. Her father is out of the picture, her mother has moved her to a new city in hopes for them to have a better life, until a situation at her job forces her into the court system. On top of being at a new school, Ruby is immediately ostracized by the female students in her class for being “weird” and she makes a wonderful friendship with a new Syrian immigrant named, Ahmed. On top of making friends with the town “Bird Lady,” Ruby’s journey of self-discovery is truly something special to read about.

Ruby in the Sky is one of those books where I was engaged from the first page. Ruby is a difficult character in that she doesn’t allow herself to truly be known by the reader. She provides bits of information as the story goes on, building to a larger picture. She has amazing growth in this story, something that had such a spark when I read this book. I loved her friendship with Ahmed, and when it fell on hard times, I was rooting for both of them to find each other again.

I loved this book so much. I cried, it left me thinking about the kinds of challenges that children face, and the way in which we as adults may not be as empathetic as we should. Ruby is a wonderful heroine and her story is one I know I won’t forget for a very long time.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The House in Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee

Title: The House in Poplar Wood

Author:   K.E. Ormsbee

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: For as long as the Vickery twins can remember, they’ve only ever been able to leave the house together once a year, on Halloween. The rest of the year, Lee and his mother serve Memory, while Felix and his father assist Death. This is the Agreement.

But one Halloween, Gretchen Whipple smashes her way into their lives. Her bargain is simple: If the twins help her solve the murder of local girl Essie Hasting, she’ll help them break the Agreement. The more the three investigate, however, the more they realize that something’s gone terribly wrong in their town. Death is on the loose, and if history repeats itself, Essie’s might not be the last murder in Poplar Wood.

Simultaneously heartwarming and delightfully spooky, The House in Poplar Wood is the story about a boy’s desire to be free, a girl’s desire to make a difference, and a family’s desire to be together again.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I love a K.E. Ormsbee middle grade novel. Would you like to know why I love her books? Her middle grade novels always have a large mystery in need of unraveling, with wonderfully mysterious child characters who often adventure into the unknown and always come out stronger in the end.

Gretchen, Lee and Felix were so memorable. I do want to praise the disability representation in this book as Felix is blind in one eye and Lee is deaf in one ear. It’s done very well and these two characters are portrayed as though its a part of who they are and its very normalized. Felix and Lee are twins and they are intriguing at times because they were separated in a peculiar way that I do not want to spoil. In fact, that particular moment in the novel made me really feel for the boys!

Then there is Gretchen, who is strong-willed and not afraid of much… well, until a bit later in the story. She gets some interesting growth in the novel and while her behavior is not always likable, its makes sense in the process of the story. Actually, a lot of this book is a slow read, but it’s the engaging, mysterious kind of slow that keeps you interested, wanting to understand more and more about the world, the characters, and the murder of local girl, Essie Hasting, which is a huge part of Gretchen’s narrative.

This is very much a fall read, and one that I think will appeal to those who love the idea of a slow burn mystery. This is not a fast-paced middle grade read, but rather the kind of book that takes its time setting its atmosphere and tone, which are a large draw in this story. Ormsbee is a beautiful writer, and I love her worlds so much! If you like peculiar characters and an eerie but interesting world, check outHouse in Poplar Wood.

ARC Review – Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

Title: Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist

Author:  Sylvia Acevedo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.   With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was an unexpected read that ended up on my door step. Someone who’s opinion I highly trust said it was a non-fiction book that I would likely adore. She was 100% right about that, as Path to the Stars explores the life of Sylvia Acevedo and her story of being a girl scout who loved science and wanted it to become a part of the Girl Scouts mandate.

I loved this book. I think Sylvia Acevedo’s story is one a lot of young women can easily relate to. She was lucky to have so much support from her loved ones, and trying to fit all the things that she loves into the world and giving it to those who may not have that opportunity, she wants to make that a reality for young girls everywhere. I loved learning about her traditional upbringing and I liked how this book covered her childhood right up to her first few years at college.

Having a background to her life and seeing what she has accomplished is so inspiring, and what I love is that this book teaches the value of moving from a lack of privilege, to a place of privilege, and being able to use it to give back to those who lack opportunities or are denied chances to be included because of family life and socio-economical issues. I think Path to the Stars is a thoughtful memoir that I hope any younger readers check out, and hopefully they will feel inspired by Acevedo’s life as much as I did reading this book.

 

ARC Review – After Zero by Christina Collins

Title: After Zero

Author: Christina Collins

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can’t be taken back. Five tally marks isn’t so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away. But now months have passed, and Elise isn’t sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher’s stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she’s ever hoped for… 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

After Zero is a book with an interesting premise: Elise is a young girl with selective mutism and her school questions why this is the case. They are frustrated by her lack of speaking, but don’t necessarily go about things in the most positive of manners. This is a middle grade book that is very emotional, and one I flew through in nearly a day.

I loved Elise and I loved being in her mind. While this book doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or conversations, it’s interesting to see how a character with selective mutism interacts with their fellow classmates, family members and school faculty. Elise writes her feelings out, she is still emotionally a very expressive young girl, and the author makes Elise’s story all the more interesting because we are only given such a limited scope of details. As the reader, it’s like you have to build friendship and trust with Elise before she even opens up to you and I appreciate that tone of voice and distance in a story like this. In that regard, it creates a great mysterious atmosphere.

This book is a intriguing look at children’s mental health issues. This book is written with passion, tenderness, and and tons of empathy. This book shows how Elise’s actions affect others and those around her. I think this book will be a fantastic tool to teach kids about empathy and how mental illness affects children during traumatic and difficult times. This is a fantastic debut, and one I hope many will share with this kids.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The League of Lasers (Star Scouts #2) by Mike Lawrence

Title: The League of Lasers (Star Scouts #2)

Author: Mike Lawrence

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Avani has found the one place in the universe where she fits in: Star Scouts. The League of Lasers is the second volume of this action-packed graphic novel series by Mike Lawrence.

During a troop meeting, a robot messenger delivers Avani some exciting news: she has been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts known as the League of Lasers. She is eager to join their ranks, but first she has to survive her initiation challenge.

Stranded on an uncharted planet, Avani must contend with the methane atmosphere, hostile frog-like inhabitants, and her dwindling supplies of food and water. But even worse: her arch nemesis, Pam, is stranded there, too.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Back in the Spring I was invited to do a blog tour showcasing strong females in comics, and somehow I missed out on including Star Scouts. Sadly, I hadn’t read the first volume of this, and truthfully that might be why I liked, but didn’t love this.

I will say, I LOVED the designs of the space aliens in this book. They were colourful, quirky and so cute looking! I thought the characters were pretty engaging as well, especially our heroine, Avani, who is just so strong-willed and passionate. The characters were very fun and engaging, and I can totally see why kids would love this series.

I may have to do a reread of this one at some point and once I can get my hands on the first book. I think truthfully that was what hampered my enjoyment, and given it always has lots of holds at work, I suppose I really should just put myself on the list.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Tiny Infinities by J.H. Diehl

Title: Tiny Infinities

Author: J.H. Diehl

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Alice’s dad moves out, leaving her with her troubled mother, she does the only thing that feels right: she retreats to her family’s old Renaissance tent in the backyard, determined to live there until her dad comes home. In an attempt to keep at least one part of her summer from changing, Alice focuses on her quest to swim freestyle fast enough to get on her swim team’s record board. But summers contain multitudes, and soon Alice meets an odd new friend, Harriet, whose obsession with the school’s science fair is equal only to her conviction that Alice’s best stroke is backstroke, not freestyle. Most unexpected of all is an unusual babysitting charge, Piper, who is mute—until Alice hears her speak. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book was very much a slow burn for me as far as middle grade reads are concerned. This is a book about loss, change, friendships, and swimming. When Alice’s father leaves her family, she decides to take refuge in his old Renaissance tent in the backyard. Her summer is showing constant change, as she meets a new girl who loves science, but is a bit odd. She meets a girl who is a mute that she attempts to befriend, and she spends her days learning that perhaps difference and change isn’t such a bad thing.

Alice’s story is one I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to. She’s learning to deal with her family getting a divorce, she’s determined to try and stop her world for changing. Alice is lovable as a heroine — she’s stubborn, determined, and a bit shy. She’s a character I think a lot of readers will connect with because she goes through events in her life that are challenging, and there is such an unknown feeling to the changes she encounters.

I also really liked the writing in this book, even if the story was a tad slow. I did find Harriet, Alice’s newfound friend, to be a bit of a difficult character. At times she read very robotically, though that may stem from the fact that she is very intelligent and somewhat socially awkward. I think she’s a character kids may have some trouble with just because her vocabulary is so advanced compared to other children in the story, but I think given how she is portrayed, it makes a lot of sense.

I enjoyed my time with Tiny Infinities. I loved it’s message about how adapting to change can be wonderful and rewarding, and I loved that as a middle grade story, it had subject matters that kids could relate to, but they were still complex enough to be challenging. I definitely look forward to recommending this to more patient middle grade readers. I don’t recommend this for readers looking for a fast paced adventure, because that doesn’t exist here.