Tag Archives: middle grade

Middle Grade March Wrap-up – Part 1

Over the month of March, I decided to try and read a lot of middle grade. It was inspired by a lot of Booktubers who were doing similar, but also by the first book I finished in the month, All The Ways Home by Elise Chapman (which I keep hinting at and there will be a review closer to its release). Split into two posts, I thought it would be fun to share with you all the middle grade reads I checked out and some quick thoughts. I ended up reading six books, but will only be discussing five between the two posts.

The War I Finally Won
(The War That Saved My Life #2)
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I ADORED the first book in this series, but if I am being honest, I don’t feel like Ada’s story necessarily needed a continuation. This sequel has Ada and her brother Jamie with a legal guardian while World War II rages on. This is a hard one to talk about if you’ve never read the first book (which I highly recommend you do), but this one was a surpisingly slow sequel where I feel like it took its sweet time to get to the story it truly wanted to tell. I gave the first book a five star when I read it, but this one wasn’t the same spark for me. 3.5/5 Stars

The Golden Door
(The Three Doors Trilogy #1)
by Emily Rodda

I wanted to love this book so badly and I had a hard time with it. It’s likely more me than the book because I’ve been in such a weird fantasy slump and just not picking up fantasy books that spark joy in me. This one is such an old school sword, sorcery and dragon story for a middle grade audience and its fabulous in that regard for making that old school genre accessible. I thought the plot was very D&D and the characters just didn’t excite me. However, having since read it, I have recommended it a lot at work, especially for reluctant male readers! But yeah, this sadly wasn’t a hit for me. 2.5/5 Stars

To Night Owl from Dogfish
by Holly Goldberg Sloan &  Meg Wolitzer

A friend of mine described To Night Owl from Dogfish as “The Gap Parent Trap” and it 100% is. This addictive little book about two girls going away to a sleepover camp while trying to keep their dads in a relationship so that they get to become sisters is both funny, heartbreaking, and just charming all around. Avery and Bett will make you grin from ear to ear that’s how wonderful this story was. I think about it a lot and how much fun I had reading it, or how much I thought Bett’s grandmother was just the absolute best grandmother in a book ever. This sweet contemporary book knocked my socks off and I hope more folks check it out. 5/5 Stars

That’s it for part one! I hope you stay tuned because on Friday, I’ll share the other two wonderful reads I checked out for Middle Grade March!

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ARC Review – Megabat and Fancy Cat (Megabat #2) by Anna Humphrey & Kass Reich

Title: Megabat and Fancy Cat (Megabat #2) b

Author: Anna Humphrey & Kass Reich

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Daniel Misumi has just moved to a new house. It’s big and old and far away from his friends and his life before. AND it’s haunted . . . or is it?

Megabat was just napping on a papaya one day when he was stuffed in a box and shipped halfway across the world. Now he’s living in an old house far from home, feeling sorry for himself and accidentally scaring the people who live there.

Daniel realizes it’s not a ghost in his new house. It’s a bat. And he can talk. And he’s actually kind of cute. Megabat realizes that not every human wants to whack him with a broom. This one shares his smooshfruit. Add some buttermelon, juice boxes, a lightsaber and a common enemy and you’ve got a new friendship in the making!

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have not read the first Mega Bat book, but now I kinda want to. This is a chapter book series that I’m positive you don’t need to read in order, but considering how fun this book was, I wanna check out the first book. I can totally see why kids would love this chapter book series — it’s funny, clever, and super duper sweet.

This is a quick read, and Daniel, our main hooman character is wonderful. This book has a wonderful lesson teaching what it means to be different and how to love comes in different forms. Mega Bat and the cat’s relationship is funny and I love how the author teaches these lessons through the two characters. Also I LOVED the artwork in this book and I think it reflects the characters and story well. It’s cute, detailed, and very soft looking.

I look forward to sharing this series with parents and kids looking for chapter books that are great for beginner readers moving into that realm. It’s so so so so adorable!

ARC Review – The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time.

Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. When the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.

This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts. 

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada!

Sam’s Review:

On my way to Montreal in February I decided I needed to read a new Ashley Herring Blake book. Both Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the Word and Girl Made of Stars got five stars from me because they left me an emotional train-wreck. Her books are challenging but they also give me hope, and The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James is no exception.

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James follows Sunny, a girl who got a recent heart transplant. Having a new heart, Sunny believes that she feels different about herself, that she wants life to be something different. When her biological mother comes back into her life a new girl begins to challenge her perceptions of the world, Sunny’s world is turned upside down. Sunny’s story is beautiful and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Sunny spends a lot of this book feeling confused about who she is, who she loves, and what kind of a person she is allowed to be. Her adoptive mother shelters her because of her transplant, but even in that situation, there’s clearly more to it.

The writing in this book is stunning and Sunny’s voice is one that will definitely capture readers. I spent my last morning in Montreal tearing up simply because there is such a huge emotional punch throughout the story, and it doesn’t stop. I love when a book gives me so many emotions from start to finish, and there were parts of this book where I felt my heart beat faster and faster. This smart middle grade book will teach so many people about empathy and what it means to get a second lease on life, even at a young age.

I cried during The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James and I am not afraid to admit that. What I hope is that more people open their minds to more queer middle grade. Stories should transform our lives, and I think this book offers a transformation that readers will never forget.

ARC Review – Click by Kayla Miller

Title: Click

Author: Kayla Miller

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I had never heard of Click until it appeared on my doorstep. I’m a bit out of the loop when it comes to middle grade comics at the moment, but I liked this one a lot. I thought Olive was a cute main character, and her need to be loved by her friends is something I think many folks can relate to. When her friends all pair up for the school talent program, she feels lost and as though there is no place for her.

I enjoyed this, though I wish there had been a bit more characterization among Olive and her friends. It felt a little flat at times, though admittedly this is a very plot-driven story. I just found as cute as it was, I didn’t necessarily connect with any of the characters while reading it. However, I think the story has so much for children to relate to, and I love that Olive does find her strength in this story.

This is a book about valuing friends and finding your place in them. I think a lot of young readers are definitely going to connect with Olive, her family and friends as well. I am looking forward to continuing the series with Camp, and seeing how much Olive grows in the next story!

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!

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.