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1. Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was offered a copy of Hook’s Revenge for review, and how could I possibly refuse? Pirates!  Sword play!  Adventure! It was a no-brainer to load this on my Kindle and start reading.   Following Jocelyn, Hook’s 12 year old daughter, on her grand adventure to Neverland, I was captivated from the first page.  Jocelyn is a rough and tumble girl, with no patience for manners, baths, or hair brushing.  She’s brave and intelligent, but when she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies to learn how to behave in polite society, she bristles at every lesson.  She gets off on the wrong foot with her classmates, and once they discover that she’s the dreaded Captain Hook’s daughter, watch out!  Nobody wants to be her friend, and one of her roommates begins bullying her unmercifully.  While there is little that Jocelyn is afraid of, she is miserable and friendless at school.

Then Jocelyn meets Roger, the cook’s helper.  Suddenly, everything seems bearable again.  That is until the horrible Prissy finds a way to hurt Jocelyn by having Roger dismissed from his position at the school.  Dreadfully unhappy, Jocelyn makes a wish, and ends up receiving a mysterious letter from her father, delivered by Edger, a talking bird.  Before she knows it, she’s been whisked off to Neverland to face her father’s nemeses – Neverland’s crocodile.  Will she be able to carry out his final wish and defeat the monster that devoured her dad?

I enjoyed Hook’s Revenge because Jocelyn is such a capable girl.  She doesn’t sit around and wait for someone to come to her rescue.  Instead, she creates her own opportunities for rescue and adventure, relying on her bravery and intelligence to make her own luck.  Unlike her father, she’s a kind girl, though she longs to step into Captain Hook’s shoes, and be as terrifying as her father was.  The captain of her own ship, with Smee and the rest of her motley (a barely capable crew) at her command, she sets off to face the crocodile.  What she doesn’t expect is how terrifying the beast is, or how many dangers she’ll face during her quest.  She faces cannibals, rival pirate crews, and the Fairy Queen with equal aplomb, but will it be enough to see her safely to the end of her adventure?

Hook’s Revenge is a fun read with a humorous and droll narrator.  I really liked Jocelyn.  Peter Pan makes a few guest appearances, as do the Lost Boys, and it was interesting seeing Neverland through fresh eyes.  There’s room for a sequel, so I hope I’ll be able to spend more time with Jocelyn soon.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

 

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink. So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate—here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited. The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

The post Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. Happy Book Birthday to The 8th Continent by Matt London!

Happy Hour banner

featuring

Matt London

8CIt’s always fun to celebrate an author’s debut novel, and this one’s in the family; Matt London is a dear friend of mine, as well as Jordon Hamessly London’s other half. Matt’s one of the hardest working writers I know, and I’m so excited that people finally will be able to read his novel. Tomorrow, his first book, The 8th Continent, will start finding its way into the hands and hearts of middle grade readers — as well as older readers who love a good adventure story and anyone who hasn’t quite grown up.

Yep, I’m definitely the latter. While I was reading an advance copy of The 8th Continent last weekend, it kept reminding me of favorite stories from my childhood. I used to love adventure books starring smart kids like the Danny Dunn series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams; the Alvin Fernald books by Clifford B. Hicks; the Three Investigators by Robert Arthur, Jr.; Matthew Looney by Jerome Beatty, Jr.; and of course, the Tom Swift books by Victor Appleton. It also captured the same humor, epicness, and thrills of one of the best cartoons of all time, DuckTales, and the fun and gee-whiz factor of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Spy Kids.

I know I’ve just horribly dated myself, but what I’m getting at is I loved The 8th Continent, but 10-year-old me would have been obsessed with it. Oh, for a time machine…

The 8th Continent has broad appeal in the age of its readers and their interests, but if your kids love science, technology, and biology, you have to give them this book. There are lots of teachable moments throughout, from little quizzes forced upon the main characters — 10-year-old Evie and her 11-year-old brother, Rick — to discussions you can have with young readers about ecology, zoology, and even morality and family dynamics.

There’s also plenty of action and excitement with some tense chapters that will keep you turning the pages, and Matt sure knows how to turn a phrase. His liberal use of goofy similes always made me smile, and I often laughed out loud. One of my favorite sentences: “And then he saw it, a vacant white socket behind the wires, looking at him like a surprised ghost.” So adults will enjoy reading this adventure with their kids, too, and it could also be an introduction to other stories they’ll like: Matt has filled the book with sly nods to books like The Wind in the Willows and Charlotte’s Web, and when kids pick up on them, they’ll probably be grinning as much as I was.

But wait, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

Evie and Rick Lane are determined to transform the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a real life pile of floating garbage — into an eighth continent, using a special formula developed by their father. This new continent will be a place where their family can live free from the intervention of Winterpole, a global rule-maker run by bumbling bureaucrats. But eleven-year-old pink-and-plastic-obsessed Vesuvia Piffle, the secret mastermind behind the villainous Condo Corp, also has her sights set on this new land, and she wants to use it to build a kind of Miami-on-steroids. Now, it’s a race against time and across the world as the kids gather the items they need to create their continent. Because whoever controls the eighth continent controls our future. And the future can’t be both “green” and pink.

In honor of Matt’s release day, I’m giving away one hardcover copy of The 8th Continent (open internationally). To enter, just leave a comment saying what you would do with your own new continent and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below. And be sure to wish Matt a happy release day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats again, Matt! I’m really glad I won’t have too long to wait for the next book. :) I think this is a charming and clever series that will stick with kids for a long time and one day be remembered as a childhood favorite by a geeky 36-year-old reader like me.

EC MyersE.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and the public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, as well as numerous short stories. His new novel, The Silence of Six, a thriller about teenage hackers and government conspiracies, will be out on November 5, 2014 from Adaptive Books. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at http://ecmyers.net and on Twitter: @ecmyers.

 

 

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3. #659 – Fat and Bones and other stories by Larissa Theule & Adam S. Doyle

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Fat & Bones: And Other Stories

Written by Larissa Theule
Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle
Carolrhoda Books            10/01/2014
978-1-4677-0825
Age 8 to 12           104 pages
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“Welcome to Bald’s Farm. Well, perhaps it’s not Bald’s Farm anymore. The old man has kicked the bucket, setting off a wave of conflict from the muddy pig pen to the tall wheat fields. In this darkly funny, slightly supernatural chain of tales, no creature is safe. Not Leonard Grey, a spider with sophisticated tastes. Not Esmeralda, a resentful one-footed pig. Not Tulip, a plant with a mean streak. And as for Bones, the old man’s son, and Fat, his winged rival? They’ll learn that danger lurks in the strangest of places . . .”

Opening

“Fat stood on the topmost branch of the tree, gazing in the direction of the farmhouse.”

The Story

Bones is the son of his father, the farm owner, who has most recently passed away. Fat is the former farmer’s fairy. They hate each other with a passion usually reserved for love. Now that Bone’s father has died, Bones will run the farm and his first priority: get rid of excess Fat.

In the span of one day, Bones tries to take out Fat, who tries to take out Bones. The pigs must move around on less and less feet to supply Bones with his favorite meal of pig foot stew. Pa may be dead, but Bones is still hungry. Ma, who is crying herself blind ventures out to the pigpen to grab a foot. Which one does she get?

Leonard’s family thinks he is the strangest spider that has ever spun a web. He cannot sneak and lives alone. He reads poetry while drinking herbal tea. Down below, Fat is making a new potion and needs the fresh blood of a spider. Leonard picks this moment to prove he can sneak. He cannot.

The Dead Man Song is for Priscilla Mae, the escaped spider for which Leonard has found love. She sees a group of animals honoring the dead farmer’s passing. Jimmy’s in Love pits mouse against mouse for the love of a mouse across the kitchen floor. Cat lurks on the floor, waiting for a wandering mouse. Sometimes he greets the mouse.

“Good afternoon, mousie-pie.”

Sometimes he pounces. Occasionally, that tricky cat does both. A mouse just never knows. Jimmy decides to take a chance but the floor is full of water—salty, tear stained water. Daisy and Tulip are the best of friends, sharing a puddle. All is well, until little sprouts move in and choke the water supply. Daisy and Tulip argue over how to get the sprouts to leave. The differences could mean the end of Tulip or Daisy.

Finally, Dog Alfred visits his Ma. Ma wants Alfred to go home. Alfred is sneezing. He has a cold. Alfred is upset, (and sets up Ma to speak a line of funny I love)

“Ma,” he said, [pleading voice] “I came all this way. I can’t go home now.”
“You live next door,” she said.

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories

Review

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is a fast read with only 104 pages. On those 104 pages, every word counts thanks to wonderful writing and editing. Each story has something to teach kids. In Leonard Grey III, Leonard learns it is okay to be yourself and love is better than alone. Fat feels morally obligated to care for his neighbors, even when he is the one who injured said neighbor. Be nice to others; get to know your neighbors; be responsible for each other. Esmeralda must decide which is more important, her jealousy and “revenge” or the good of the group. Fat and Bones is philosophy 101 for the middle grades.

I am not a fan of the cover. The moon grinning as it does is eerie, but that is the intent. The illustrations use dark tones of green, grey, and black. The image is often part of the shadow or obscured by it. I am sorry to say, I am not a fan of these illustrations. I love the individual stories. I enjoyed the way one story depends on the other. What happens in one story—or does not happen—affects another story, which affects another, and so on, yet none may be the wiser. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories play this out for kids in a way they can understand.

Humor plays a big part, easing what are actually dark themes of death, jealousy, war, and dejection into an enjoyable, funny story, odd as that may sound. Some kids may not like the darker, philosophical themes, while others will love them. I think the older the child, the more they will enjoy Fat and Bones.

These Seven stories, all intertwined, are a great read. Each story has a unique mix of characters from the Bald Farm. Each has their own plot, conflict, and resolution, yet the stories build on each other, need each other to live. There are many things kids can learn from these stories while reading a funny, heart-felt whole divided into parts that seem to stand on their own—because they do. Older kids will enjoy this book. Adults will enjoy this book. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is the author’s debut.

FAT AND BONES AND OTHER STORIES. Test copyright © 2014 by Larissa Theule. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam S. Doyle. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.
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Purchase Fat and Bones at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryLerner Booksyour favorite bookstore.
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Learn more about Fat & Bones: And Other Stories HERE
Meet the author, Larissa Theule, at her twitter page:    https://twitter.com/larissatheule
Meet the illustrator, Adam S. Doyle, at his website:    http://adamsdoyle.com
Find other middle grade novels at the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://www.carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

fat and bones
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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: Adam S. Doyle, Charolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Debut Book, fairies, farm life, feuds, Larissa Theule, Lerner Publishing Group, middle grade novel, pig foot stew

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4. THE COPERNICUS LEGACY: RELIC HUNT IN NEW YORK CITY!

Looking for a fantasy read that’s great for the classroom this fall? One stellar recommendation is The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by bestselling author Tony Abbott – now in paperback!

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A perfect pick for kids who love Percy Jackson, Kingdom Keepers, or Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy is a Da Vinci Code-style story for young readers. The book follows four kids who stumble upon a powerful ancient secret of the famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. Protected by notables throughout history, it now falls to our young heroes to become guardians of Copernicus’s secret, racing across the globe, cracking codes, and unraveling centuries-old mysteries in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of a vast and evil shadow network called the New Teutonic Order.

It’s the worldwide adventure and historical scope that makes the series both page turning and educational, earning it many great reviews including a starred review from Kirkus: “With engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like. Equal parts edge-of-your-seat suspense and heartfelt coming-of-age.”

There’s even a downloadable Common Core-aligned activities guide and star map poster so you can bring the adventure into the classroom.

Veteran children’s book author Tony Abbott is no stranger to epic adventure series having written over a hundred books including The Secrets of Droon. The Copernicus Legacy will include six full-length novels and six shorter novellas, each told from the perspective of one of the kids. The first novella, The Copernicus Archives #1: Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, is available now and the next full-length novel, The Copernicus Legacy #2: The Serpent’s Curse, will be out on October 7.9780062194466_p0_v1_s260x420

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To celebrate the launch of the next books in this exciting series, on Saturday, September 13th, Tony Abbott will be leading a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where four lucky winners of a national sweepstakes will work together to find hidden clues amongst the exhibits, crack codes, and earn prizes. You and all readers across the country will have another chance to win a trip to New York for the second Relic Hunt starting October 7 at www.thecopernicuslegacy.com!

After the Relic Hunt, Tony Abbott will be signing copies of The Forbidden Stone at 2:30pm at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan.  The Barnes & Noble event is open to the public, and we invite you to join us there for a pizza party! It’s no mystery—the whole family will be in for good food and fun!

 

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5. Thursday Review: CONSTABLE & TOOP by Gareth P. Jones

This was one of those total surprises for me. I found the book in my library's ebook selection and thought: ghosts? Victorian London? a murder mystery? Sign me up. And then, all through the book as I kept getting more and more absorbed, I kept... Read the rest of this post

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6. Also Known as Elvis: Review Haiku

If you didn't
already love Skeezie Tookis,
you will after this.

Also Known as Elvis by James Howe. Atheneum, 2014, 288 pages.

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7. It's Release Day Times Two!

Today I have not one but TWO books releasing into the world! First up is my YA contemporary romance, Perfect For You.

Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker? 

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She's torn between Ash, the boy she's been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn't intend to, could end badly if she isn't careful. PERFECT FOR YOU is a teen romance from bestselling author Ashelyn Drake, where one girl will risk everything to find her perfect match.

Check out the opening pages below:



Need to know what happens next? Click here to buy the book for only $2.99 on Amazon.

Up next is Into the Fire, a YA romantic fantasy.
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

Here's a video of me reading the opening pages:



You can get more of Cara and the other phoenixes for only $3.19 on Amazon or $3.49 on B&N.

Look for a SWAG and gift card giveaway this Friday! 

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8. Middle-grade BFFs

The friends you make in childhood can be the best ones of your life. The following books highlight unlikely friendships that are made to last.

curtis madman of piney woods Middle grade BFFs   Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Madman of Piney Woods (companion to Newbery Honor Book Elijah of Buxton) takes place in 1901, with the American Civil War a not-so-distant memory for Buxton’s elders. For thirteen-year-old black Canadian Benji Alston, though, daily life involves coping with two irritatingly gifted younger siblings and dreaming of becoming a newspaper reporter. Benji befriends Alvin “Red” Stockard, an Irish Canadian boy who lives in nearby Chatham, and the two uncover the mystery and tragedy surrounding the supposedly mythical Madman of Piney Woods. A profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel about family, friendship, community, and the power of words. (Scholastic, 9–13 years)

hahn where i belong Middle grade BFFs“How come some kids are lucky and others aren’t?” asks Brendan, the (unlucky) protagonist of Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn. Abandoned at birth by his mother and now, on the verge of failing sixth grade, living with an apparently unloving foster mom, Brendan finds refuge in a secret tree house he builds in the woods, and in tentative friendships with a girl named Shea and with an old man in the woods, whom Brendan initially believes is the “Green Man.” This is quintessential middle-grade realistic fiction, with an unvarnished depiction of the miseries that can be visited upon a quiet sixth grader and the succor that can be found in the hard-won friendship of peers and the attention of understanding elders. (Clarion, 8–11 years)

french my cousins keeper Middle grade BFFsWhen his cousin Bon comes to live at his house, eleven-year-old Kieran is mad: Bon is “weird.” He has a long braid and tattered clothing; smells of sweat and pee; and talks in an unnaturally precise manner, all of which make Bon a target of the cool-kid bullies at school (and ruining Kieran’s chance of hanging out with the cool kids himself). Bon’s only friend is another newcomer, Julia, and Kieran is jealous of their friendship: he wants to be friends with Julia. Bon keeps a notebook filled with fantastical drawings and tales of Bon the Crusader, Kieran the Brave, and Julia the Fair; as the protagonists grow into Bon’s roles for them, My Cousin’s Keeper by Simon French becomes a story of kids who dare to imagine worlds and become who they need to be. (Candlewick, 8–11 years)

turner circa now Middle grade BFFsIn Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner, main character Circa’s father is killed by a tornado while delivering an old photo he’s restored. Then Miles shows up on her family’s doorstep, a boy with amnesia whose only clue to his past is the photograph he’s holding — the very one Circa’s father was delivering when he died. As Circa and her mother care for Miles they uncover a strange series of coincidences, and Circa begins to think the digital changes she and her father made to photographs have come to exist in real life. Does this mean she can bring her father back? Gentle quirkiness and light humor appear throughout Turner’s tale of grief, healing, and friendship. (Disney-Hyperion, 9–13 years)

From the September 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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9. Middle Grade Recommendation – The Girls of Gettysburg

Title: The Girls of Gettysburg Written by: Bobbi Miller Published by: Holiday House, September 2014 Themes: Mighty girls, The Battle of Gettysburg, Civil war Ages: 8-12+ Historical Fiction Opening Lines: Annie sank lower in the water, like a frog in … Continue reading

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10. MMGM Links (9/8/14)

I SWEAR I'm going to catch up and start doing MMGM shout outs again--soon! But once again, this week all I have are links:


-
 Amara Jabber is spotlighting THERE'S A DEAD PERSON FOLLOWING MY SISTER AROUND. Click HERE to see what she thought. 
- Janet Smart is gushing about HANK ZIPZER: THE CURTAIN WENT UP, MY PANTS FELL DOWN. Click HERE to read her review.
- The B.O.B. is seeing stars for PROTOSTAR. Click HERE to see why.
- Claire Caterer is caught up in THE HOUSE OF SECRETS. Click HERE to see what she thought. 
- Reader Noir is raving about NEST. Click HERE to see why.
- Suzanne Warr is cheering for THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR. Click HERE to see her review.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing and GIVING AWAY a copy of THE RELIC OF PERILOUS FALLS. Click HERE for all the fun.
- Michelle Mason is loving ALL FOUR STARS. Click HERE to see her feature.  
- Greg Pattridge is caught up in A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT.  Click HERE to see why.  
- Kim Aippersbach has chills for SCARE SCAPE. Click HERE to read her review.  
- Michael Gettel-Gilmarten is featuring HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL. Click HERE to see what he thought 
- Annie McMahon is showcasing TURNING ON A DIME. Click HERE to see why. 
- Andrea Mack is highlighting OUT OF MY MIND. Click HERE to see her review. 
- Dorine White has chills for MADDI'S FRIDGE--with a GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details. 
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Jennifer Rumberger always has an awesome MMGM feature on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week. 



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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11. #654 – Rhyme Schemer by K. A. Holt

rhyme scheerx
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Rhyme Schemer

Written by K. A. Holttop-10-use-eb-trans
Chronicle Books 10/01/2014
978-1-4521-2700-2
Age 8 to 12 176 pages
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“Kevin has a bad attitude. He’s the one who laughs when you trip and fall. In fact, he may have been the one who tripped you in the first place. He has a real knack for rubbing people the wrong way—and he’s even figured out a secret way to do it with poems. But what happens when the tables are turned and he is the one getting picked on?”

Opening

“First day of school.
My favorite.
Easy prey.

Giant John.
A parade float of himself.

The Story

Kevin, the class bully, is in seventh grade. He loves picking on certain kids. His teacher, Mrs. Smithson, does not like him, but does like to send Kevin to the principal’s office. She also turns a very blind eye when Kevin is no longer the bully, but the bullied. At home, Kevin is the accident baby with four “P” brothers: Patrick, Paul, Petey, and Philip. Mom and dad are both busy physicians with little time for home or Kevin.

Kevin keeps a notebook of his days at school, writing them in verse. Petey, in charge of driving Kevin to school, is a bully himself. When he notices Kevin’s notebook, Petey makes terrible fun of Kevin and then chucks the notebook out the car window. Kevin searches but cannot find it. Robin, who fits perfectly between the boy’s bathroom sink pipes, finds the notebook. It becomes blackmail. Robin wants to be the Poetry Bandit. Robin is a little jerk.

Mrs. Little, the librarian, knows it is Kevin tearing out pages from classics, circling and adding a letter or two, creating a unique poem, and then posting it at school for all to see. Mrs. Little soon takes to Kevin. She encourages Kevin to stop defacing school property and use paper other than pages from children’s classics for his unique poetry. As long as Robin has Kevin’s private notebook, sharing it at random, Kevin is nervous. There are a few bombs in the notebook that Kevin does not want exploding at school.

Review

Written in verse, Rhyme Schemer is a fast read. It is also an extremely enjoyable read that kept me laughing, sometimes loudly. Kevin is not a bad kid. His home life looks ideal to others, but reality is another matter. His parents are rarely home and brother Petey—who hates Kevin—is especially mean whenever possible. Bullies beget bullies. Kevin enjoys picking on his classmates. He meets with the principal much too often.

Kevin is not the classic bully who is mean and full of hate that spews out at other kids. Kevin is frustrated and trying to get his parent’s attention. His home life is mostly unfair and soon school will become unfair. The teacher ignores Robin’s attacks at Kevin, whether it is passing mean notes during class or ignoring a physical confrontation—where Kevin does not retaliate. She really does not like Kevin and then favors Robin, mainly because his father holds an important position.

I really like Kevin. He is a character you can easily favor, wanting him to catch a break. He’s a likable kid. Kevin pays a big price for defending Kelly, but he gains a friend, his first. I understand Kevin. He is the baby in a large family, but instead of being spoiled, he is picked on, sometimes harshly for no real reason. In a house full of people, Kevin is alone. What must it be like to have four brothers, all wanted, and with planned-out names beginning with a “P” (I wish I knew why), but he is the accident with a name beginning with the wrong letter. This alone must make him feel alienated from his family. Kevin deals with school unfairness and home by becoming a feeling-less, like stone.

Kids will like Rhyme Schemer. They will like Kevin. Kids will see a bully from a new perspective. The text is funny in so many places, and even sad in a few. Ms. Holt’s writing style is enjoyable and kid like. Kevin is the narrator, but I wonder if he is also the author and Ms. Holt his conduit. Kevin wrote several Odes to his principal’s tie. Some are in the story and some are at the end of the book. Don’t pass these by.

“[Clearing throat noise here.]
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O, Principal’s tie
You make me want to puke
Because you are the color of
Squishy, moldy fruit”

Reluctant readers will also find Rhyme Schemer easy to read. At the end, I was not ready to stop reading. I wanted more. There are no unanswered questions, no threads laying in wait for a resolution; I simply want to read more of Kevin’s poetry. Rhyme Schemer is one of those rare books that stay with you, long after the last page flips over. I hope to read Kevin’s eighth grade notebook.

RHYME SCHEMER. Text copyright © 214 by K. A. Holt. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Read a excerpt of Rhyme Schemer HERE (no cost)

Buy Rhyme Schemer at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Booksyour favorite bookstore.
Learn more about Rhyme Schemer HERE
Meet the author, K. A. Holt, at her website:   http://kaholt.com/books/
Find more middle grade books at the Chronicle Books website:   http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

Also by K. A. Holt

Brains for Lunch

Brains for Lunch

Mike Steller Nerves of Steel

Mike Steller Nerves of Steel

 

 

 

Coming Fall 2015 – House Arrest – Chronicle Books

 

 

rhymer schemer

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

I really like the author information on the back inside book jacket.
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K. A. Holt is a writer
a mama
a bad (but fearless) cook.

She has written three
(three!)
books for kids.

Also?

She shelved books
in the library
during grade school.

Ms. Holt claims
(claims!)
she never had a detention.

Believe what you want.”


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Poetry, Reluctant Readers, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: absent parents, bullied, bullier, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, K.A. Holt, middle grade novel, poems, poetry, seventh grade

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12. My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith

One summer day in 1941, while Peter Dixon, 12, is in the woods checking his snares to see if he's caught a rabbit to supplement the meager amount of food her and his mam get with their ration coupons, the air raid siren goes off.  Not knowing what to do, Peter starts running for home and the safety of their Anderson shelter, but before he gets there, a German plane crashes so close to him, Peter is knocked out.

It doesn't take long for the whole village to come out to see what happened, including all the children who want to try to get souvenirs from the wreckage.  And that's how Peter meets Kim, a girl about his age, with short hair and dressed like a boy.  The two become instant friends.

Peter and Kim decide to go back to the wreckage that night to look for their own souvenirs, even sneaking inside the plane.  After almost getting caught by the soldiers guarding the plane, the two end up with a gun belonging to one of the dead Germans in it.  Running off towards the woods to hide, they stumble upon a third German from the plane, who had parachuted out but was badly hurt.

Seeing the gun, the German begs them not to hurt him and they decide to take him to Peter's hiding place in the woods.  They clean him up and over the next few days, they learn that his name is Erik, and the three become friends, as much as that can happen when you can't speak each others language. Hiding and feeding Erik is difficult but Kim is afraid the army will shoot him on the spot and she is convinced that if they take care of Erik, than the same kindness will be shown to her brother Josh, in the RAF, or Peter's father in the army if they shot or injured and found by the enemy.

Peter, however, just wants his dad to come home.  Than maybe Mr. Bennett, who owns most of the land surrounding the village, who stop coming around to see his mother so much.  And maybe the older boys in the village will stop bullying him so much about his mother and Mr. Bennett.

Things get more complicated, but in the end, all the elements of this story come together in an exciting, maybe a little predictable, but definitely satisfying denouement.

I found myself immediately pulled into My Friend the Enemy.  It is a compelling story right from the start.  Peter is a sensitive boy, a bit of a loner and rather timid who seems to have spent much of his time with his dad, the gameskeeper for Mr. Bennett's land.  Kim, on the other hand, is a confident girl. a bit of a tomboy, and not the least bit afraid of standing up to bullies older and much bigger than she is.

It is also an exciting story, with plenty of action and historical detail.  Times were tough during the war, food was in short supply and people lived their lives in fear of bombing raids.  Smith incorporates all that into his story, giving the dilemmas Peter wrestles with - to help a German soldier, to steal food from his mother to feed Erik, to accept Mr. Bennett's help even as he begins to suspect the bullies are right about him and his mother - a very realistic quality so  necessary in good historical fiction.

I did like that it takes place in the same north-eastern area of England as Robert Westall's book and, in fact, My Friend The Enemy did remind me somewhat of books by this favorite author.  Unlike the Blitz in London, the north eastern coast was one of the places that was bombed only because German planes were dumping them to lighten their load as they returned home from a bombing raid, a fact Dan Smith includes in his novel, but not a place you read about much in WWII books for young readers.  My Friend The Enemy gives readers another perspective on the war as it happened in England.

Young readers will definitely find this a book to their liking, especially readers interested in WWII and what like was like on the home front for kids around their age.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC obtained from NetGalley

0 Comments on My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith as of 9/5/2014 10:18:00 AM
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13. Brown Girl Dreaming: Review Haiku

To be young, gifted,
black, and Jackie Woodson.
Yes, it will make you cry.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Paulsen/Putnam, 2014, 336 pages.

0 Comments on Brown Girl Dreaming: Review Haiku as of 9/5/2014 8:22:00 AM
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14. The Book Review Club - Anna Was Here

Anna was Here
Jane Kutz
middle grade

I'm stretching ye olde reviewing skills again with my first review after the summer siesta of the Book Review Club. Fortunately, Jane Kurtz makes my work so much easier. Anna was Here was a fun, entertaining, timeless story. Dare I say, it's a meat and potatoes book cloaked in chocolate pudding. They don't get any better than that!

Plot synopsis: Anna, daughter of a minister and university professor, must move to Kansas when her father accepts a temporary post as pastor to an ailing church in a small town. Catch: the small town is filled with relatives and uneasy family history.

This story is as much about mending broken ties in a community and family as it is about the change and discomfort that comes from a big move and new start. What struck me is how evenly balanced this story is. All of the parts - character, plot, setting - work in harmony. None is louder than the others. They each take center stage for appropriate but not prolonged solos.

While there is a religious element to this story, Kurtz does an excellent job of, again, balancing. Religion doesn't take over. The story doesn't become about religion, or faith, or belief, or what one person believes in lieu of another. Rather, it remains another story element, nicely blended, fulfilling the role Kurtz sets out for it, which is, interestingly, both dividing and unifying. 

All of that got me to thinking about voice. I've heard the term described as so many different things, not the least of which is the tone of a piece, or an author's style. Anna was Here made me rethink those. After all, they already have their own iconic terminology. But voice is still missing its fundamental definition (at least for me, it was). So I came up with my own: voice is the result of a writer's blend of style, tone, character, setting, plot, and the various other parts of story. In other words, voice isn't any one thing. It's what is created when all of the parts are blended and create something greater than the sum of those parts = voice.

I'm pretty sure I haven't reinvented the definitional wheel on voice, but it finally makes sense to me. Thanks Jane Kurtz!

Other fall delights, are a finger's stretch away at Barrie Summy's blog. Happy reading!

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15. Tell Me: Review Haiku

There is SO MUCH
going on in this book -- yet
it never feels cluttered.

Tell Me by Joan Bauer. Viking, 2014, 272 pages.

P.S. This jacket? What does this jacket have to do with the book? Purposeful bait-and-switch because HEY THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING might not fly off the shelves?

0 Comments on Tell Me: Review Haiku as of 9/3/2014 6:18:00 AM
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16. Gary Robinson's SON WHO RETURNS

The cover for Gary Robinson's SON WHO RETURNS is sure to catch the eye of readers interested in stories about Native peoples. Because it is a photograph, one might assume it is a work of non-fiction, but it isn't. Instead, it is the story of Mark Centeno. He is 15 years old. His dad is Mexican and Filipino; his mother (she died of cancer when he was 10) was Chumash and Crow.

Mark is kind of a surfer dude. He loved hanging with his buddies in California, and is unhappy living in Dallas. He convinces his dad to send him back to California for the summer, to live with his mother's Chumash family on their reservation.

Nana (his grandmother) and his aunt meet his plane and he starts to learn a lot about his Chumash heritage. When he was younger, his mom had told him some things, but as the story unfolds, he learns a lot more. As the cover suggests, dancing is part of what Mark is going to learn about. By the end of the story, he's a pretty good Traditional dancer and knows several songs in that category.

Early on, Mark learns that his cousin, Adrian, is actually his half-brother. When Mark first talks with him, Adrian is getting ready for an upcoming pow wow. Mark asks him if a choker is part of his costume. Adrian is incensed that Mark has used the word "costume" rather than regalia. It is moments like that by which Robinson (the author) imparts a lot of solid information to us (the readers)--information that bats down stereotyping and bias that is all-too-rampant in society.

Robinson also introduces readers to some of the identity politics that run through Native communities. Another character in the book is Charley. He's Lakota from Pine Ridge. Mark meets him when he registers to dance for the first time. Charley looks down on Mark, saying (p. 75):
"You know, powwows aren't really meant for California Indians. You're all mostly watered-down mixed breeds. You should leave this stuff to real Indians like me."  
I'm glad to see Robinson take up this fraught topic. I think Native kids (like Mark) who are new to powwow dancing, or who are mixed, will like reading how this identity politics will all get sorted out, and many will love seeing references to Gathering of Nations. Non-Native kids will get a glimpse into the not-monolithic world of Native people.

Son Who Returns was published in 2014 by 7th Generation. It is in their Pathfinder series of books for reluctant teen readers.

0 Comments on Gary Robinson's SON WHO RETURNS as of 9/1/2014 8:47:00 PM
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17. MMGM Links (9/1/14)

Bit of a smaller list given the whole "holiday weekend" thing, but I still put together the MMGM links:


- The B.O.B. is discussing THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Click HERE to see what she thought of the book and the movie.
- Bookish Serendipity is FINDING RUBY STARLING. Click HERE to read her review. 
- Amara Jabber is gushing about THE BLACKWELL PAGES. Click HERE to see why.
- Suzanne Warr is cheering for PRINCESS POSEY AND THE MONSTER STEW. Click HERE to see her review.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing and GIVING AWAY a copy of THE SECRET AT HANEY FIELD. Click HERE for all the fun.
- Jess at the Reading Nook is digging THE SWAP. Click HERE to see her feature.  
- Greg Pattridge is captivated by DIEGO'S DRAGON.  Click HERE to see why.  
- Rcubed is highlighting THE GREAT GREENE HEIST! Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Jennifer Rumberger always has an awesome MMGM feature on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week. 



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

0 Comments on MMGM Links (9/1/14) as of 9/1/2014 8:35:00 AM
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18. #647 – The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

guardian herd 1 starfire

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The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

Written by Jennifer Lynn Alvareztop-10-use-eb-trans
Harper/HarperCollins Children’s Books      9/23/2014
978-0-06-228606-2
Age 8 to 12              272 pages
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“Once every hundred years, a black foal is born, prophesied to either unite or destroy the five herds of flying horses that live in the land of Anok. He is fated to become the most powerful Pegasus in all of Anok. Star is this black foal. Even though Star has malformed wings that make him unable to fly, the leaders of each herd will take no risks and want to execute Star before his first birthday. With the help of his friends, Star must escape the clutches of the powerful leaders. His epic journey of self-discovery turns into a battle between good and evil that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.”

Opening

“Star trotted through the dense pine forest, alone.”

The Story

The Pegasi of Anok (mythical winged horses), consists of five herds each with their own leader—the over-stallions—and their own land. None crosses the borders without permission. Wars have been raging between these herds for hundreds of years. Star is a black foal born into the Sun Herd, led by Thunderwing. When Star’s mother died birthing Star, Thunderwing’s mate adopted him, much against her mate’s wishes.

Star, a black foal, was born under the Hundred Year Star. If he can remain alive until his first birthday, he will receive the star’s power, and then become either a destroyer or a healer. No one knows which he will become, not even Star, and this terrifies the over-stallions of each herd. The last black foal born under this star all thought would be a healer. He was a good weanling, but when he received the power, he became a destroyer and wrecked havoc in all the land of Anok. It is up to the over-stallion of the guardian herd—Thunderwing—to kill the black foal before his first birthday, or to let him live and receive his ultimate power. Thunderwing is as scared as the others are and plans to execute Star before his first birthday.

Only Star’s three friends and his adopted mother believe Star will be a healer and seek to keep Star alive so he can receive the power of the Hundred Year Star. The other weanlings (those under one-year of age) bully Star and his three friends, mainly because he cannot fly. He does not fit into his wings, and must walk every like a common horse—a terrible insult to a Pegasus.

One particular weanling has it in for Star and tries to kill him. But in doing so, he crosses into another herd’s land, starting a war. Between this new war and the majority of pegasi wanting him executed, Star knows he must be on his own. Can Star survive without his friends, tend to his own food and water, and remain hidden from all other pegasi? Whether or not Star can survive on his own will greatly determine his future. With five herds looking for him, Star’s odds of survival are slim.

Review

The Guardian Herd has every element a kid wants in an adventure. The author has created an imaginative, highly stylized world kids will appreciate. There are great characters that are easy to understand and like, even the terrifying bully Brackentail. This adventure has tons of action, some with violence. The violence is not bad until the final battle, making this book more appropriate for middle graders on the older end of their age-range.

There are many characters is The Guardian Herd. So many that the author starts with five pages of descriptions so kids know the herds and the pegasi in each herd. I found this section a tad overwhelming and skipped it altogether. I had no trouble remembering who was who and where they belonged. The only thing this list does, in my opinion, is make the story seem cumbersome and it might scare off a reader or two. I would drop it or place it at the end of the story.

Star is a wonderful character. Despite his worthless wings and inability to fly, Star has a warm personality, respects and honors his friends and adopted mare, and is braver than one would think given his situation and fate. Star is a character whose side you will quickly take up. When off on his own, Star’s humor—or the author’s humorous writing—had me in stitches. I loved his friend Crabwing and the things they did in and around the bay.

Granted, there is a huge war near the end of the story and the violence can be just shy of young adult territory, but I do not think it will give any kid nightmares, especially when the scenes that follow these battles are as strong and easy to envision. Once these scenes begin, the war becomes a distant memory. I think these final scenes will override any violent scenes a kid may linger on. The ending is extremely well written and strong. It was nothing as I imagined it might be. I cannot explain any further without spoilers, so this will have to do: the ending is fantastic. If the author does not hurry up and finish the next book, I may start stalking her blog.

The Guardian Herd may not be a New York Bestseller, yet, but it will entertain, and possibly teach your child a few things about friendship, respect, and loyalty. If not, they will still be completely engrossed for a few hours with an imaginative world that actually resembles our own world in many ways. I highly recommend this series for kids age 10 and up. Adults who love fantasy adventures will also enjoy The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire. This is Jennifer’s debut novel with HarperCollins—her first traditionally published book!

THE GUARDIAN HERD #1: STARFIRE. Text copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Advanced Readers Copy received from the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.

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Get your copy of The Guardian Herd: Starfire at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryHarperCollinsyour favorite book store.

Learn more about The Guardian Herd: Starfire HERE

**Also Available in Audio

Meet the author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at her website:    http://www.jenniferlynnalvarez.com/

Find more exciting stories at the HarperCollins website:    http://www.harpercollins.com/

HarperCollins Children’s Books is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Here is a twelve-year-old kid’s view of The Guardian Herd #1:  Starfire. Read Erik’s review HERE

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Also by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

The Pet Washer

The Pet Washer

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Reviewed HERE

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guardian herd starfire

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: children's book reviews, Guardian Herd, HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins Publishers, Hundred Year Star, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Land of Anok, middle grade novel, Pegasus, Starfire

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19. #640 – Jackpot: An Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel (#10) by Karla Oceanak & Kendra Spanjer

coverx

Jackpot: An Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel (#10)

Written by Karla Oceanak
Illustrated by Kendra Spanjer
Bailiwick Press                   6/10/2014
978-1-934649-49-7
Age 7+           160 pages
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“Finding a dinosaur bone is like hitting the jackpot, right? Dino fossils are worth millions! Plus you get to b famous! You’re minding your own kid business when bam!—out of the mud pop fortune and glory. Ka-ching! That’s how I thought it would go, anyway, after my best friend, Jack, and I found a fossil in our neighborhood ditch. But as usual, grown-up rules made things way too complicated.”

Opening

“I wish we could play outside. This morning, I said that. I mean, I actually heard my own voice speak those exact words. Me. Aldo Zelnick.”

The Story

Aldo and his best friend, Jack, actually did go outside to play. It was cold and muddy causing the boys to slip and slid right into a neighborhood ditch. This is when Jack finds a big rock that, when cleaned, is much better than a rock. It is a fossil—a dinosaur fossil, right from their own backyard.

Aldo believes the fossil is worth millions of dollars and holds this hope out to the very end. Jack is thinking only of fame. A famous paleontologist, a famous middle grade paleontologist, would be cool, he thought. Jack holds out this hope to the very end. This is the only contention between Aldo and Jack: fame or fortune, but why not both!

The boys head to the natural history museum to find out what kind of fossil they found and, for Aldo, how much it is worth. Aldo thinks the museum will pay him on the spot—they do not. But, it is a dinosaur bone and the ditch might just have more bones. Now the boys must get the neighborhood to consent to digging up the ditch, and then find the rest of the dinosaur. Once done, Aldo and Jack will go on tour with their fame and fortunes. If only they can keep everyone out of the ditch until excavation day.

Jackpot_AldoZelnick_Denver_Museum

Review

When we last read about Aldo he was skiing in Ignoramus. Since then, Aldo and Jack have changed only incrementally, as they normally would. I like that the authors are not maturing the characters quickly. Of course, with twenty-six books, they have lots of room to let the characters blossom slowly. Still, Aldo may be in college by the time “Z” hits the shelves. Aldo is still using his diary to write about his life and then—oh, I meant his journal, so sorry. Sometimes a good character just sticks with you and Aldo is one of those characters. He also wants you to know he is an artist and draws some terrific scenes that help readers visualize his stories.

In “J,” for Jackpot, Aldo and his best friend Jack finally go outside to play. They do not pick the best day, as it is cold and the ground is muddy and slippery. Aldo and Jack slip and slide into a neighborhood ditch. In the ditch Jack loosens a great looking rock. The rock turns out to be a dinosaur bone and more could be in that ditch. Aldo thinks this is great fortune, as in money. Jack thinks this is fortunate, as in fame. He would love a dinosaur named after him. Aldo would probably like a bank, or at least the largest vault, named after him. They have hit the JACKPOT!

As in books A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, J (for Jackpot) is crazy and funny with loads of mishaps, misunderstandings, and a girl interfering—or trying to—with Aldo and his journals. Jackpot is not a graphic novel. It contains enough text to keep the story on track and moving, but not so much as to crowd out the wonderful illustrations meant to be from Aldo. I love the detailed illustrations that greatly enhance the story. Aldo and Jack both sport Indiana Jones hats (fedoras). Kids will love the black and white “doodles” Aldo draws on nearly every page.

spread 1

I enjoyed Jackpot, reading it in one sitting. Middle grade kids—especially reluctant readers—will love this series. The characters are believable, multi-dimensional, likable and in many ways familiar to everyday life. Reluctant readers will appreciate the story staying on track and the short chapters. Kids can stop reading at any point, and when ready, easily reemerge back into the story. This is most terrific for reluctant readers who are at a distinct disadvantage with continuing a book midway through.

As far as the actual writing is concerned, the story stays on point even when Aldo goes off on a tangent. Aldo’s tangential thoughts are about money. In several illustrations, Aldo has made long lists of numbers needing added to project his coming wealth. The characters, especially Aldo and Jack, are easy to care about as the story progresses. If you have been reading the alphabet series known as Aldo Zelnick, you already care about Aldo and Jack, but the author makes no assumptions and brings new readers into the fan club.

Jackpot is the tenth book in Aldo’s series. I like that each of these books introduces new words that begin with that book’s letter. Jackpot, then, has words beginning with the letter “J.” Examples include jabbering, jack squat, jicama, and several French words like Joie de vivre and jugo de naranja. There is a glossary in the back, which defines each “J” word. In the text, the highlighted words are marked with an asterisk (*).

Jackpot_AldoZelnick_BaconBoy_IndianaJones

The Aldo Zelnick series is similar to The Wimpy Kid except that Jackpot, and every book thus far, have better defined illustrations. I like the “J” words in Jackpot. The glossary defines each of these words. I also like reading the comic Bacon Boy by Aldo Zelnick. How often do you get two books in one and both books are terrific? Aldo and Bacon Boy have a lot in common. I think Bacon Boy is Aldo and a safe, funny way for Aldo to document his childhood. Kids will laugh their hinnies off, no external exercise needed.

JACKPOT: AN ALDO ZELNICK COMIC NOVEL (#10). Text copyright © 2014 by by Karla Oceanak. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Kendra Spanjer. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Bailiwick Press, Fort Collins, CO.

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Purchase Jackpot at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryBailiwick PressYour Favorite Bookstore.

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Learn more about Jackpot HERE.

Meet the author, Karla Oceanak, at her website:  http://www.karlaoceanak.com/

Meet the illustrator, Kendra Spanjer, at her website:   http://www.kendraspanjer.com/

Find more Aldo Zelnick books at the Bailiwick Press website:   http://www.bailiwickpress.com/

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Also by Karla Oceanak & Kendra Spanjer

Ignoramus:  An Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel (#9)

Ignoramus #9

Hotdogger  (#8)

Hotdogger (#8)

Read Hotdogger Review HERE.

Read Ignoramus Review HERE.

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jackpot

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Reluctant Readers, Series Tagged: Aldo Zelnick, Bailiwick Press, children's book reviews, comics, Karla Oceanak, Kendra Soanjer, middle grade books

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20. Monday Mishmash: 8/25/14


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. My Mom's Birthday!  Today is my mom's birthday! Happy birthday, Mom! You're the best mother, friend, and beta reader I could ever ask for.
  2. Booking Events  I'm booking author events for the fall. I've got at list of signings planned and I will start working on booking school visits soon. :)
  3. Perfect For You Pre-order  Perfect For You is now up for pre-order and it's only $2.99! I'm excited. You can order it here.
  4. Perfect For You Release Day Blitz  In addition to the blog tour, there will be a release day blitz for Perfect For You. Want to sign up? Click here.
  5. Curse of the Granville Fortune Blog Tour Signups  The Curse of the Granville Fortune Blog Tour will run from October 20 to November 2. If you'd like to sign up, click here.

    That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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21. MMGM Links (8/25/14)

Have not met my word count goals for this weekend, thanks to an unpleasant incident involving a ridiculous amount of cat poop (don't ask), so I'm throwing these links together a bit hastily so I can get back to writing. Sorry if there's any mistakes, and thanks to all of you for supporting MMGM! I swear I'll get back on track soon. In the meantime, here you go!


- Amara Jabber joins the MMGM fun with a feature on the HEROES OF OLYMPUS series. Click HERE to welcome her to the group! 
- Suzanne Warr has chills for ICE DOGS. Click HERE to see her review.
- Sherrie Peterson is interviewing author Laurisa White Reyes. Click HERE for all the fun. 
- Heidi Grange is shining a spotlight on A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT. Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Reader Noir is cheering for SISTERS. Click HERE to read their feature.  
- Kim Aippersbach wants you to discover a new Science Fiction novel by Monica Hughes. Click HERE to see what it is.  
- Greg Pattridge is highlighting ABSOLUTELY ALMOST.  Click HERE to see why.  
- Susan Olson is raving about THE PIRATE'S COIN: A SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS ADVENTURE. Click HERE to see her review.  
- Michelle Mason is interviewing author Jen Malone and GIVING AWAY an annotated e-ARC of AT YOUR SERVICE. Click HERE for details. 
- Dorine White is revealing the cover for ARRGH! Click HERE to see the shiny
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Jennifer Rumberger always has an awesome MMGM feature on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week. 



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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22. Dash by Kirby Larson

Last year, Kirby Larson introduced us to Hobie Hanson and his dog Duke.  Hobie somewhat reluctantly volunteered Duke to be part of the country's Dogs for Defense program.  This year, Larson introduces us to Mitsi Kashino and her dog Dash.

It's January 1942, one month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  So far, things haven't been very different for Mitsi, 11, and her family, Japanese Americans living in Seattle, Washington.  But on the first day back to school, after the Christmas holidays, all that suddenly changes.  First, Mitsi's two best friends aren't at their usual meeting place, and at school they give her a cold shoulder.  Other classmates also ignore her in class and at recess.  On the way home from school in the rain, she is surrounded by a group of high school boys, who trip her causing her to fall and who tear up and kick everything in her school bag into puddles.  Luckily, a new neighbor, Mrs. Bowker comes along and breaks it up.

Change becomes even more apparent.  Cameras and radios had to be turned into the government, some of the Japanese men are being taken away by the FBI and even Mitsi's grandmother, Obaachan, must register as an alien because she was born in Japan.  Getting to know Mrs. Bowker seems to be one part of Mitsi's life that is pleasant, that and the comfort of her beloved little dog Dash.

But then April comes and with it the news that the Kashino family, along with all the other Japanese American families living in Seattle are to be sent to an internment camp for the duration of the war.  Each family member can being just one suitcase.  Naturally, Mitsi assumes she can bring Dash with her, but when she finds out that no pets are allowed in the camp, she is devastated.  What can she do with Dash to keep him safe?  Knowing that Mrs. Bowker lives alone, and might want some company, Mitsi asks her if she would be willing to take care of Dash temporarily.  Luckily, kind-hearted Mrs. Bowker agrees.

Losing everything, including her dog and her two best friends was a hard blow for Mitsi.  Now, Mitsi and her family must adjust to their new life behind a barbed-wire fence, surrounded by soldiers with rifles watching their every move.  One bright spot for Mitsi are the wonderful letters she receives from Dash, telling her about life with Mrs. Bowker.  But even that isn't quite enough to pull Mitsi out of the depression she falls into.  But a new best friend just might do the trick.

I have always believed that every persons experience of World War II is similar but different from everyone else.  And each novel I read reflects that.  Dash is based on a true story and much of what Mitsi does is taken from that story, giving the novel its sense of reality.

Dash spends a lot of time what life was like between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and life in an internment camp.  It would seem that it took a while after the initial shock of the bombing on December 7, 1941 for people began to be aware of such anti-Japanese feelings that they could turn on old friends and neighbors so vehemently, as it did with Mitsi and the kids she went to school with.  In that respect, Larson gives the reader a good picture of what it was like.

Larson also gives a good depiction of the internment camps, which were really fit only for the horses many of them were meant to house, and life was always dirty and unpleasant.  She really conveys the sense of betrayal, loneliness and the fear of the family coming apart that Mitsi experiences on top of losing everything she has known her whole life.

I like the way Larson shows the reader that even in times of great distress and hardship, good things can happen and in the end this is a story about the strength of family, the value of true friendship and learning to appreciate what is really important.

Dash will be of special interest to anyone who is a dog lover, or has an interest in WWII history on the home front.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was obtained from the publisher

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23. #643 – The Pushcart War: 50th Anniversary Edition by Jean Merrill & Ronni Solbert

PushcartWar
The Pushcart War: 50th Anniversary Edition

Written by Jean Merrill
Illustrated by Ronni Solbert
The New York Review Children’s Collection   9/16/2014
978-1-59017-819-5
Age 8 to 12             230 pages
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“Do you know the history of the pushcart war? The real history? It’s a story of how regular people banded together and, armed with little more than their brains and good aim, defeated a mighty foe.”

Opening

“The Pushcart War started on the  afternoon of March 15, 2026, when a truck ran down a pushcart belonging to a flower peddler.”

The Story

The Pushcart War began on a normal New York City day. The streets were jammed with cars, taxis, and delivery trucks that ranged from the normal size to the mammoth trucks with tires large than your car. It was taking up to four hours to travel four city streets. Tempers are running high, especially for Mack, a truck driver, who, despite his parents being pushcart peddlers, hated pushcarts. That day, with pure intention, deliberately ran into Morris the Florist (no known relation). Thanks to Marvin Seeley’s photo of the onset of the Daffodil Massacre, we know how the war started.

THE PUSHCART WAR. Text copyright © 1964/1992 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations copyright © 1964/1992 by Ronni Solbert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review of Books, New York, NY.The trucks don’t want the pushcarts on the road and blamed them for the congestion. For some reason, these light, tiny, carts bothered the heavy, huge trucks. The peddlers couldn’t let the attack of Morris the Florist go unanswered, but lacked the funds the truck companies enjoyed. instead of a major affront, the peddlers decided to use pea shooters and pins to deflate the trucks tires, causing mass congestion and anger people to the point of voting trucks off city streets. For a while it worked and no one could figure out how the tires all went bad within minutes of each other. Until a mechanic found a pin.

A single pin, or many pins does not reveal the culprit. One the newspapers ran the story, children began shooting truck tires for fun, unwittingly taking up the cause for the pushcart peddlers. Unfortunately, Frank the Flower was spotted and arrested for killing a truck tire with a pea shooter. He confessed to all 18,991 flattened tires.

“All 18,991?” asked the Police Commissioner as if he had not heard correctly the first time.

“I cannot be sure down to the last tire,” said Frank the Flower. “But I have been at it several days now.”

“But 18,991 tires!” Aid the Police Commissioner.

“It was nothing,” said Frank the Flower.

Well, kids took up the cause and to stop them the city began taxing tacks, which made the British upset since they are the world’s top producers of tacks. This got Washington involved. New York City becomes embroiled in the Pushcart War, though this name is not used yet. The Big Three Truck Companies: Leaping Lemas, Mighty Mammoths, and Tiger Trucking held a secret meeting to wipe out the pushcarts and the Pushcart King. What will happen to New York City in 2026? Will the pushcarts survive? Will the British calm down? Will Frank the Flower, who single-handedly killed 18,991 truck tires, ever leave his jail cell? What will happen to Mack, the trucker who put Morris the Florist into the hospital and started the war?

THE PUSHCART WAR. Text copyright © 1964/1992 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations copyright © 1964/1992 by Ronni Solbert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review of Books, New York, NY.Review

“The Big Three,” comprised of three delivery truck firms LEMA (Lower Eastside Moving Association) also called “Leaping Lemas,” and Tiger Trucking or “Tiger Trucks,” and Mammoth Moving, which used three sizes of trucks: Baby Mammoth, Mama Mammoth, and the Mighty Mammoth. These are the bullies of the story. For once, the bullies are not too big to fail.

The Pushcart War is a fun read. The humor is terrific and kept me groaning and laughing every few pages. The pushcart peddlers are a colorful bunch of characters especially The Pushcart King. The name to Maxie Hammerman because he fixes all of the pushcarts or builds new ones from scratch and is the only one in New York City capable of making the pushcarts correctly. When the trucking bullies decide to kidnap and dispose of The King—thinking he is the mastermind behind the campaign to rid the city streets of their trucks—Maxie has a surprise of his own. This is one of the best scenes of the story. It felt like I was reading the script from the movie called The Sting.

THE PUSHCART WAR. Text copyright © 1964/1992 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations copyright © 1964/1992 by Ronni Solbert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review of Books, New York, NY.

Kids will enjoy this futuristic farce of a “true tale.” The author casts herself as the futuristic novelist reporting on The Pushcart War ten years after the dust has settled and people are ready to hear about the war once more. City kids play a large part in the war, keeping the mayor and police commissioner completely puzzled. Written in 1964, the author envisions a New York City sixty years down the road. I find it interesting that there is no grand technology like cell phones and computers. The biggest difference is the extremely crowded streets, excess number of delivery trucks, and prices remaining similar, if not lower than the prices of her current time. (Apples are 5 cents).

The Pushcart War has style. The illustrations are black and white line art similar to what one would find in a newspaper only upgraded several times over. I love the illustration of Frank the Flower shooting his peashooter for the first time and Mr. Jerusalem who, after struggling over the morality of shooting truck tires, finds he is not only a terrific shot but enjoys his mission. Mr. Jerusalem quickly becomes the top tire executioner.

THE PUSHCART WAR. Text copyright © 1964/1992 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations copyright © 1964/1992 by Ronni Solbert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review of Books, New York, NY.The Pushcart War is a classic tale of the big bully taking on the little guy and finding the littlest guy can outsmart, outthink, outwit the big dumb bully with grace and class. It should be required reading for every middle grade student. There is a little sociology, psychology, criminology, and a few other “ologies” worth reading. I love The Pushcart War.

THE PUSHCART WAR. Text copyright © 1964/1992 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations copyright © 1964/1992 by Ronni Solbert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review of Books, New York, NY.

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Buy The Pushcart War at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryNew York Review of Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Pushcart War HERE

Meet the author, Jean Merrill, from New York Times:   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/books/jean-merrill-childrens-book-writer-dies-at-89.html?_r=0

Meet the illustrator, Ronni Solbert, from NYRB:  http://www.nybooks.com/books/authors/ronni-solbert/ 

Find more classics at The New York Review Children’s Collection website:  http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/childrens/

The New York Review Children’s Collection is an imprint of The New York Review of Books:   http://www.nybooks.com/

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Also by Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars 3/10/2015

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars
3/10/2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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pushcart war

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: bullies, children's book reviews, Jean Merrill, middle grade novel, mighty trucks, New York Review of Books, outwitting an opponent, pushcarts, Ronni Solbert, standing up for what is right, The New York Review Children’s Collection

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24. Smek for President: Review Haiku

Some prior knowledge
is helpful, but you'll still root
for Tip and J.Lo.

Smek for President by Adam Rex. Disney, 2014, 272 pages.

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25. The End of the Line by Sharon E. McKay

It is Fall 1942 and the Nazis have been occupying Holland since Spring 1940.  Beatrix, 6, and her mother are Jews who have been running and hiding from the Nazis for that long.  But now it is time to hid Beatrix in a safer more stable place.

Sitting on the tram, on their way to meet the woman who would take Beatrix to safety, her mother is suddenly taken away by the Nazis who regularly board and search the trams looking for Jews.  Beatrix is left sitting on the tram by herself.

Brothers Lars, 63,  and Hans Gorter, 65, both life-long bachelors, work together on a tram - Hans driving it while Lars collects tickets.  When it looked like the Nazis were also going to take Beatrix away, Lars suddenly told them that she was his niece.  The war and all the rumors they had heard about Nazi treatment of Jews suddenly became real for the brothers.

Now, these kind, well-meaning though naive brothers must learn how to care for a little girl, who has been traumatized by the loss of her mother and who must become someone different than who she really is - if only for the duration of the Nazi occupation.  Luckily, Hans and Lars have help from their elderly neighbor Mrs. Vos, 80, and from a new, younger neighbor, Lieve van der Meer, 30, who husband is rumored to have escaped Holland and is flying for the RAF.

Why would two older men who have made it a point to always live quietly and keep a low profile, suddenly risk everything, including their lives, for a little girl they know nothing about?  That is the question at the heart of The End of the Line and Canadian author Sharon McKay answers it eloquently as the story of Beatrix and her new uncles unfolds.

There are lots of books about Jewish children who were rescued by people during the Holocaust and who did what they did simply because they believed it was the right thing to do.  But these stories are generally written from the point of view of the child.  What makes The End of the Line stand out is that it is written from the point of view of the two brothers. and yet it is a thoroughly appealing, totally engaging book for young readers accustomed to reading about protagonists their own age.

Living under Nazi occupation meant living under a daily shroud of fear and anxiety, never knowing if you were going to be singled out at any given moment.  There are plenty of these moments portrayed in the story of Hans, Lars and Beatrix, like the time Beatrix whispers Geb Achting, Yiddish for be careful, to a young Nazi soldier.  However, the story offers more insight into what it was like for the brothers in order to survive the war and the occupation of Holland, from dressing Beatrix as she grows, managing to find food when there is almost none to be had, even to buying her a doll to cuddle and comfort herself with may be new experiences for Hans and Lars, but keeping her safe from the Nazis turns out to be instinctual for these kind brothers.

The End of the Line is an interesting supplement to Holocaust literature written for young readers by an author who is part of the Canadian War Artist Program and has already written books about child soldiers in Uganda, young girls caught in the war in Afghanistan and short stories dealing with the Holocaust with Kathy Kacer, another Canadian artist who also writes books for young readers about the Holocaust.  This should be a welcome addition to any library.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was received as an E-ARC from NetGalley

You can find more information and a very useful lesson plan for The End of the Line from the publisher HERE

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