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1. Middle Grade Round Up: Mini Reviews

I don’t get around to reading as much middle grade as I’d wish to, but I’ve really lucked out so far this year. Every middle grade I’ve read has been so charming and heartwarming. A real highlight has been Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, but today I’m bringing you two other 2015 MG’s I’ve really enjoyed.     Title: Echo Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan Rating: 3.5 A lovely story and beautifully told, this book tells the tales of 3 different children in different times and place in the world all connected by one magical harmonica. Friedrich in pre-WWII Germany is first hand witness to the slow motion horror of Hitler’s rise to power and gradual degradations to his family.  Mike in a Depression era orphanage fights to keep his little brother from being adopted without him. Ivy in WWII era California comes up against the harsh racism of segregated education and the horror of... Read more »

The post Middle Grade Round Up: Mini Reviews appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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2. Review of the Day: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

NestThe Nest
By Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
$16.99
ISBN: 978-1-4814-3232-0
On shelves October 6th

Oh, how I love middle grade horror. It’s a very specific breed of book, you know. Most people on the street might think of the Goosebumps books or similar ilk when they think of horror stories for the 10-year-old set, but that’s just a small portion of what turns out to be a much greater, grander set of stories. Children’s book horror takes on so many different forms. You have your post-apocalyptic, claustrophobic horrors, like Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. You have your everyday-playthings-turned-evil tales like Doll Bones by Holly Black. You have your close family members turned evil stories ala Coraline by Neil Gaiman and Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. And then there are the horror stories that shoot for the moon. The ones that aren’t afraid (no pun intended) to push the envelope a little. To lure you into a false sense of security before they unleash some true psychological scares. And the best ones are the ones that tie that horror into something larger than themselves. In Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest, the author approaches us with a very simple idea. What if your desire to make everything better, everyone happier, released an unimaginable horror? What do you do?

New babies are often cause for true celebration, but once in a while there are problems. Problems that render parents exhausted and helpless. Problems with the baby that go deep below the surface and touch every part of your life. For Steve, it feels like it’s been a long time since his family was happy. So when the angels appear in his dream offering to help with the baby, he welcomes them. True, they don’t say much specifically about what they can do. Not at the beginning, but why look a gift horse in the mouth? Anyway, there are other problems in Steve’s life as well. He may have to go back into therapy, and then there are these wasps building a nest on his house when he’s severely allergic to them. A fixed baby could be the answer to his prayers. Only, the creatures visiting him don’t appear to be angels anymore. And when it comes to “fixing” the baby . . . well, they may have other ideas entirely . . .

First and foremost, I don’t think I can actually talk about this book without dusting off the old “spoiler alert” sign. For me, the very fact that Oppel’s book is so beautifully succinct and restrained, renders it impossible not to talk about its various (and variegated) twists and turns. So I’m going to give pretty much everything away in this review. It’s a no holds barred approach, when you get right down to it. Starting with the angels of course. They’re wasps. And it only gets better from there.

It comes to this. I’ve no evidence to support this theory of mine as to one of the inspirations for the book. I’ve read no interviews with Oppel about where he gets his ideas. No articles on his thought processes. But part of the reason I like the man so much probably has to do with the fact that at some point in his life he must have been walking down the street, or the path, or the trail, and saw a wasp’s nest. And this man must have looked up at it, in all its paper-thin malice, and found himself with the following inescapable thought: “I bet you could fit a baby in there.” And I say unto you, it takes a mind like that to write a book like this.

Wasps are perhaps nature’s most impressive bullies. They seem to have been given such horrid advantages. Not only do they have terrible tempers and nasty dispositions, not only do they swarm, but unlike the comparatively sweet honeybee they can sting you multiple times and never die. It’s little wonder that they’re magnificent baddies in The Nest. The only question I have is why no one has until now realized how fabulous a foe they can be. Klassen’s queen is particularly perfect. It would have been all too easy for him to imbue her with a kind of White Witch austerity. Queens come built-in with sneers, after all. This queen, however, derives her power by being the ultimate confident. She’s sympathetic. She’s patient. She’s a mother who hears your concerns and allays them. Trouble is, you can’t trust her an inch and underneath that friendliness is a cold cruel agenda. She is, in short, my favorite baddie of the year. I didn’t like wasps to begin with. Now I abhor them with a deep inner dread usually reserved for childhood fears.

I mentioned earlier that the horror in this book comes from the idea that Steve’s attempts to make everything better, and his parents happier, instead cause him to consider committing an atrocity. In a moment of stress Steve gives his approval to the unthinkable and when he tries to rescind it he’s told that the matter is out of his hands. Kids screw up all the time and if they’re unlucky they screw up in such a way that their actions have consequences too big for their small lives. The guilt and horror they sometimes swallow can mark them for life. The queen of this story offers something we all can understand. A chance to “fix” everything and make the world perfect. Never mind that perfect doesn’t really exist. Never mind that the price she exacts is too high. If she came calling on you, offering to fix that one truly terrible thing in your life, wouldn’t you say yes? On the surface, child readers will probably react most strongly to the more obvious horror elements to this story. The toy telephone with the scratchy voice that sounds like “a piece of metal being held against a grindstone.” The perfect baby ready to be “born” The attic . . . *shudder* Oh, the attic. But it’s the deeper themes that will make their mark on them. And on anyone reading to them as well.

There are books where the child protagonist’s physical or mental challenges are named and identified and there are books where it’s left up to the reader to determine the degree to which the child is or is not on such a spectrum. A book like Wonder by R.J. Palacio or Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper will name the disability. A book like Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis or Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan won’t. There’s no right or wrong way to write such books, and in The Nest Klassen finds himself far more in the latter rather than former camp. Steve has had therapy in the past, and exhibits what could be construed to be obsessive compulsive behavior. What’s remarkable is that Klassen then weaves Steve’s actions into the book’s greater narrative. It becomes our hero’s driving force, this fight against impotence. All kids strive to have more control over their own lives, after all. Steve’s O.C.D. (though it is never defined in that way) is part of his helpless attempt to make things better, even if it’s just through the recitation of lists and names. At one point he repeats the word “congenital” and feels better, “As if knowing the names of things meant I had some power over them.”

When I was a young adult (not a teen) I was quite enamored of A.S. Byatt’s book Angels and Insects. It still remains one of my favorites and though I seem to have transferred my love of Byatt’s prose to the works of Laura Amy Schlitz (her juvenile contemporary and, I would argue, equivalent) there are elements of Byatt’s book in what Klassen has done here. His inclusion of religion isn’t a real touchstone of the novel, but it’s just a bit too prevalent to ignore. There is, for example, the opening line: “The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels.” Followed not too long after by a section where Steve reads off every night the list of people he wants to keep safe. “I didn’t really know who I was asking. Maybe it was God, but I didn’t really believe in God, so this wasn’t praying exactly.” He doesn’t question the angels of his dreams or their desire to help (at least initially). And God makes no personal appearance in the novel, directly or otherwise. Really, when all was said and done, my overall impression was that the book reminded me of David Almond’s Skellig with its angel/not angel, sick baby, and boy looking for answers where there are few to find. The difference being, of course, the fact that in Skellig the baby gets better and here the baby is saved but it is clear as crystal to even the most optimistic reader that it will never ever been the perfect baby every parent wishes for.

It’s funny that I can say so much without mentioning the language, but there you go. Oppel’s been wowing folks with his prose for years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cunning turn of phrase when you encounter it. Consider some of his lines. The knife guy is described like “He looked like his bones were meant for an even bigger body.” A description of a liquid trap for wasps is said to be akin to a, “soggy mass grave, the few survivors clambering over the dead bodies, trying in vain to climb out. It was like a vision of hell from that old painting I’d seen in the art gallery and never forgotten.” Or what may well be my favorite in the book, “… and they were regurgitating matter from their mouths and sculpting it into baby flesh.” And then there are the little elements the drive the story. We don’t learn the baby’s name until page 112. Or the very title itself. When Vanessa, Steve’s babysitter, is discussing nests she points out that humans make them as well. “Our houses are just big nests, really. A place where you can sleep and be safe – and grow.”

The choice of Jon Klassen as illustrator is fascinating to me. When I think of horror illustrations for kids the usual suspects are your Stephen Gammells or Gris Grimleys or Dave McKeans. Klassen’s different. When you hire him, you’re not asking him to ratchet up the fear factor, but rather to echo it and then take it down a notch to a place where a child reader can be safe. Take, for example, his work on Lemony Snicket’s The Dark A book where the very shadows speak, it wasn’t that Klassen was denying the creepier elements of the tale. But he tamed them somehow. And now that same taming sense is at work here. His pictures are rife with shadows and faceless adults, turned away or hidden from the viewer (and the viewer is clearly Steve/you). And his pictures do convey the tone of the book well. A curved knife on a porch is still a curved knife on a porch. Spend a little time flipping between the front and back endpapers, while you’re at it. Klassen so subtle with these. The moon moves. A single light is out in a house. But there’s a feeling of peace to the last picture, and a feeling of foreboding in the first. They’re practically identical so I don’t know how he managed that, but there it is. Honestly, you couldn’t have picked a better illustrator.

Suffice to say, this book would probably be the greatest class readaloud for fourth, fifth, or sixth graders the world has ever seen. When I was in fourth grade my teacher read us The Wicked Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden by Mary Chase and I was never quite the same again. Thus do I bless some poor beleaguered child with the magnificent nightmares that will come with this book. Added Bonus for Teachers: You’ll never have to worry about school attendance ever again. There’s not a chapter here a kid would want to miss.

If I have a bone to pick with the author it is this: He’s Canadian. Normally, this is a good thing. Canadians are awesome. They give us a big old chunk of great literature every year. But Oppel as a Canadian is terribly awkward because if he were not and lived in, say, Savannah or something, then he could win some major American children’s literary awards with this book. And now he can’t. There are remarkably few awards the U.S. can grant this tale of flying creepy crawlies. Certainly he should (if there is any justice in the universe) be a shoo-in for Canada’s Governor General’s Award in the youth category and I’m pulling for him in the E.B. White Readaloud Award category as well, but otherwise I’m out to sea. Would that he had a home in Pasadena. Alas.

Children’s books come with lessons pre-installed for their young readers. Since we’re dealing with people who are coming up in the world and need some guidance, the messages tend towards the innocuous. Be yourself. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Friendship is important. Etc. The message behind The Nest could be debated ad nauseam for quite some time, but I think the thing to truly remember here is something Steve says near the end. “And there’s no such thing as normal anyways.” The belief in normality and perfection may be the truest villain in The Nest when you come right down to it. And Klassen has Steve try to figure out why it’s good to try to be normal if there is no true normal in the end. It’s a lesson adults have yet to master ourselves. Little wonder that The Nest ends up being what may be the most fascinating horror story written for kids you’ve yet to encounter. Smart as a whip with an edge to the terror you’re bound to appreciate, this is a truly great, truly scary, truly wonderful novel.

On shelves October 6th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus,

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3. My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith

It's summer, 1941 and there is nothing 12 year old Karl Friedmann enjoys more than being part of the Deutsches Jungvolk, anticipating the day he'll be old enough to join the Hitler Youth.  But on the day he wins a badge for achievement during some war games, he is also forced to fight another boy, Johann Weber, whose has just received word that his father was killed in the war.  Suddenly, fighting feels more like bullying.

At home, Karl knows his older brother Stefan is the family rebel, always getting into trouble and was even sent away to a boot camp for a week, where the Gestapo had beaten him and shaved his head.  When Karl notices an embroidered flower sewn into Stefan's jacket, he wants to know what it means.  But before that happens, the Friedmann's receive a telegram that their father has been killed flying for the Luftwaffe.  Their mother falls into a terrible depression, not speaking and refusing to get out of bed, so it is decided that the family would go stay with their grandparents in a village near Cologne.

Once there, Karl is kept out of school to prevent him from participating in Jungvolk activities and it doesn't take Stefan long to hook up with some friends who are also rebellious troublemakers.  One day, Karl decides to go out for a ride on his bike, but he has an accident, colliding with the beloved car of Gestapo Commander Gerhard Wolff.  Luckily, Karl is wearing Jungvolk uniform, but Wolff still seems suspicious of the Friedmann family, anyway.  Karl also makes friends with Lisa, a girl who isn't afraid to let her hatred of Hitler and his whole Nazi regime be known.  And when he notices that the embroidered flower has been cut out of Stefan's jacket, he is more curious than ever about his brother's activities and friends, suspecting anti-Nazi undertakings.

Slowly, Nazi brutality forces Karl to rethink his own beliefs and patriotism.  He learns that Lisa's father was taken away one night because of his beliefs and she has no idea where he is or if he is alive.  Instead of feeling proud that his father sacrificed his life for the Fatherland like he is supposed to, Karl feels grief and sadness, and wonders what was it all for.

Karl's suspicions that Stefan is involved with a resistance group are conformed when his brother's finally confesses to him that he is a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely bound group of anti-Nazi young people who are trying to enlighten the German people to the truth of Hitler and his ideas.  Unfortunately, Commander Wolff also suspects Stefan of resistance activities and periodically shows up to search the house.  One night, he finds one of the anti-Nazi leaflet that had been dropped by RAF planes in Karl's copy of Hitler's book Mein Kampf.  Stefan is placed under arrest and taken away.

Now, Karl and Lisa decide to become their own Edelweiss Pirates and paint anti-Nazi messages around their village, and to find a way to free Stefan from Gestapo headquarters.  And although they are a resistance group of two, Karl is still wracked with guilt since it is because he chose to save the leaflet without telling anyone and feels it is his fault his brother has been arrested by the Gestapo - again.  

Like Dan Smith's last novel, My Friend the Enemy, My Brother's Secret is a thought-provoking story loaded with action, excitement, and nail-biting tension.  Karl's life felt so simple and straightforward before news of his father's death arrived.  But his hesitant feeling about having to fight Johann Weber at the beginning of the novel, clearly indicates that there exists a slight crack in his loyalty to Hitler and everything the Führer stands for.

There aren't too many books about young people in Nazi Germany who were involved in the Hitler Youth groups, so it was interesting to read this coming of age novel and to witness Karl's complete turnabout as he begins to see and experience the Nazis for the cruel people that they could be if you opposed them.  It is also interesting to see how easily the Nazi could sow an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and suspicion to keep people in line.

Dan Smith always includes nice historical information in his novels which give them such a sense of reality.  There weren't many youth resistance groups in Nazi Germany, besides the White Rose (Weiße Rose) in 1942 Munich, and the Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten), who, as Smith demonstrates through Stefan, were not pro-Allies even though they were anti-Nazi.  Like Stefan, many young people who were part of the Edelweiss Pirates quit school in order to avoid having to join the Hitler Youth, which was mandatory.

My Brother's Secret is a well-written, well-researched, eye-opening, gripping novel with a lot of appeal.  Karl is a protagonist that goes from unsympathetic to sympathetic as the action unfolds and as he learns valuable lessons about courage, loyalty, friendship and brotherly love.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC sent to me by the publisher, Chicken House Books

(People tend to think of the Swing Kids (Swingjugend) as a resistance group but they were really a counter-culture group without a political agenda, with a common interest in jazz and dancing.)


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4. MMGM Links (8/24/15)

Still battling deadlines. NEVERSEEN has become like a stubborn child that keeps coming out of its room at night to ask for drinks of water and I want to shout GO TO BED, LITTLE BOOK. I think we're almost there--and getting close on LET THE WIND RISE. But until then--brain scattered. Doing my best.

This week's MMGM links:

- Alex at Randomly Reading is feeling SUNNY SIDE UP. Click HERE to see why.
- Molly at My Cozy Book Nook is lost in THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS. Click HERE to see why. 
- Jess at the Reading Nook is sparked with enthusiasm for THE LIGHTNING QUEEN. Click HERE to see why.
- Rosie Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--OUT AT HOME. Click HERE for details. 
- Greg Pattridge is celebrating two years of MMGM with a DOUBLE GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details.   
- Dorine White is sweet on ANNA, BANANA, AND THE FRIENDSHIP SPLIT. Click HERE to read her review. 
- Kim Aippersbach is in flutters for DRAGONFLY POOL. Click HERE to find her feature. 
- Katie Fitzgerald is going OUT OF BOUNDS. Click HERE to see why.   
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.   
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.   
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!


If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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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5. #724 – Fowl Play by Travis Nichols

fowl play
Fowl Play
Written & Illustrated By Travis Nichols
Chronicle Books        8/04/2015
978-1-4521-3182-5
40 pages         Age 7—12

Just what kind of monkey business has befallen Mr. Hound’s shop? Who has broken his window? And most importantly: why?

“Luckily, our team of plucky detectives has been chomping at the bit to take on their first case. When Mr. Hound hires them to investigate, they hoof it to his shop. And once they get sleuthing, wild horses couldn’t drag them away from the scent of a clue. But is it all just a dog and pony show to distract them from the truth

“Idioms are everywhere in the Gumshoe Zoo detective agency’s hilarious first case as they attempt to get to the bottom of Mr. Hound’s mystery.” [inside jacket]

Review
The Gumshoe Zoo Detective Agency has finally received their first case: someone has broken Mr. Hound’s shop window. But why? Each member of the detective agency is on the case, each having something to say:

“Hmm . . . Yes. There’s something fishy going on around here.”

This is said by Quentin, a goat. All of the Gumshoe Zoo detectives are animals. But Quentin’s fishy statement was overheard by Reggie, who happens to be a fish. Quentin quickly saves face.

“”Oh! No offense, Reggie.”
“None taken. But you are right. There is some definite monkey business at hand, my friend.”

Reggie agrees with Quentin, but makes his assessment within earshot of Steve, a monkey. And so it goes through the line-up of detectives, each one making a clichéd remark that indicts a fellow detective, yet none take offense at the off-handed remarks. The detectives are too glued to the case to become offended at these idioms. Then a clue is found that opens up the case and makes an unexpected turn. The detectives are not confused. They immediately figure out what happened at Mr. Hound’s shop. They quickly deduce who threw a can of tomatoes through the shop window. The answer is not a pretty picture.

fowl2

Fowl Play is the first of a series that will have children quickly understanding parts of speech, such as the idioms used in Mr. Hound’s case of the broken window. The story is hilarious, not just because of the witty idioms, but also because the comic book illustrations are terrific. Fowl Play is one unusual book but it does its job. Teachers will have loads of fun integrating this series into their lesson plans. Kids will love the humor and the illustrations of the detectives.

The Gumshoe Zoo detectives are: Josie (a rat), Morgan (a chicken), Sharon (a duck), and Mike (a bull), in addition to the detectives referenced above. Of course, the victim, Mr. Hound, is a dog. The case does not end as one would expect. In the middle of an interview for W-IDM Channel 4, an urgent situation develops downtown . The Mayor, a cat, wants the Gumshoe Zoo detectives on the case. This case will not be as easy as Fowl Play and Mr. Hound’s idiom filled broken window. According to the final page, this case will be a “beast of oxymoronic proportions.” This is one case I am anxious to read and one new series I think will be an educational blast.

fowl1

After the Fowl Play mystery is solved, the definition of “idioms” and the meaning of each idiom used in the story is given in a mish-mash style perfect for this comically fowl story. This section is worth reading for the humor and the explanations. Kids will love the references and may just find themselves using an idiom or two in their speech.

Fowl Play is No Sweat for this Author!

FOWL PLAY. Text & illustrations copyright © 2015 by Travis Nichols. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Mighty Media Kids, an imprint of Mighty Media Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Buy Fowl Play at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunes BooksIndieBound BooksChronicle Books.

Learn more about Fowl Play HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Travis Nichols, at his website:  http://iamtravisnichols.com/
Find more children’s books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

ALSO BY TRAVIS NICHOLS
Monstrous Fun: A Doodle and Activity Book
Uglydoll: My Hero?
The Totally Awesome Book of Useless Information
. . . any many more

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Fowl Play by Travis Nichols, and received from Chronicle Books, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Filed under: Books for Boys, Children's Books, Comics, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: animals, Chronicle Books, Chronicle Kids, crime, Fowl Play, Gumshoe Zoo Detective Agency, idioms, mysteries, Travis Nichols

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6. The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito

On the day that Jolanta brings a little food, some used clothing and a few vaccinations against typhoid fever to 9 year old Anna Bauman's youth circle in the Warsaw Ghetto, she decides to go home with Anna.  Quietly talking to her parents, Anna knows something is up.

After Jolanta drops off a paper for Anna's mother one morning, she begins to stay home as her mother makes her memorize a new name and other information.  Soon, she is no longer Jewish Anna Bauman, rather she is Catholic Anna Karwolska.  A few days later, Anna and her parents go to a home in the ghetto, where Anna is washed clean of ghetto dirt, and soon the leader of her youth circle, Mrs. Rechtman, shows up to take her away.

Wearing a new school uniform, Anna and Mrs. Rechtman go to the administration building, a building that straddles the ghetto and the streets beyond it.  Swiftly, Anna is passed to a woman who takes her into an office, where she must hide under the desk and wait for someone to come and get her.  The wait is long, but finally a teenage girl carrying a large box arrives and tells Anna to follow her.  They walk out of the building to the streets beyond the ghetto.  From here, Anna travels with the girl to a farmhouse, where she is surprised to find out that the box she and the girl carried so carefully contains a baby that has also been smuggled out of the Ghetto.

At the farmhouse, Anna is taught the traditions, the prayers and the catechism every Catholic child would know, including when to stand or kneel in church.  She is drilled over and over, until she responds automatically to being Ann Karwolska.  Afraid she is going to forget who she is and who her family are, Anna only allows herself to be Anna Bauman at night when she is alone in bed.

Eventually, Anna is sent to a Catholic orphanage away from Warsaw.  Keeping her secret, Anna adjusts to like in the orphanage, even though one girl, named Klara, seems to be out to get her.  Does Klara know her secret?  Hopefully not, because one day, Nazis arrive at the orphanage, pillage it and steal all the food that the nuns used for feeding the children, but not before terrorizing everyone.

Eventually, Anna is fostered out to a family that really welcomes her, and where she feels somewhat safe and comfortable.  Yet, Anna still makes it a point to remember who she is and where she came from when she is alone at night, never telling anyone her secret.  But, as Anna discovers, Stephan, Sophia and their son Jerzy are harboring a secret of their own - a very dangerous secret.

If you have ever wondered what happened to the children that Irena Sendler smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto, this is the book for you.  Based on fact, Angela Cerrito has imagined the life of one young girl who survives the Holocaust thanks to the courageous efforts of Sendler and the network of people who were helping her.  It is clear from the start that the lady Anna knows as Jolanta is one of the code named used by Sendler.

And while The Safest Lie doesn't have a lot a action, it does have a lot of suspense, nail-biting tension and shows the reader just how careful and clandestine people in the resistance needed to be.  Anna's story is fictional, but Cerrito has certainly captured all the tension, fear, constant hunger, and suffering that the Jewish children experienced during the Holocaust.  But she also shows the difficulty and mixed emotions parents must have felt when their children were offered the possibility of safety if they were willing to temporarily give them up.

The Safest Lie is a work of historical fiction but it is based on the hundreds of transcripted interviews with children who survived the Holocaust that Cerrito read and which give the novel its sense of authenticity.  Be sure to read Cerrito's Author's Note at the end of the book about her meeting Irena Sendler

There is an extensive Educator's Guide for The Safest Lie available to download from the publisher, Holiday House


This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher.

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7. Review: The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I noticed The Girl Who Rode the Wind while trolling the shelves of my local library.  How could I ignore a book with a horse on the cover?  When I read that the book features Italy’s Palio, the world’s oldest, most dangerous horse race, I had to check it out.  I had just seen a video short about the race, and I’d read about it when I was a kid.  I have always found the race interesting, so I couldn’t wait to read this.

I have to admit that I was not immediately caught up in the plot, and I thought about putting it down.  But then Lola describes an altercation with a bully, and I was hooked.  After the academic achiever is suspended from school, her grandmother proposes a trip to Italy for the summer.  Her grandmother hasn’t been back to her homeland since just after WWII, and she’s finally ready to face her past.  She rarely discussed her childhood in Siena, and instead focused on the present and the family business; training racehorses.

The story revolves around horses.  Lola wants to work with them when she’s older, but her father won’t hear of it.  With her grades, he expects her to be a doctor or a lawyer.  The only time Lola is happy, however, is when she’s with the horses.  She’s angry because her older brothers are working on the track, training to be jockeys.  Her father was a jockey, and Lola wants to be one, too.  She doesn’t particularly want to go to Italy with her grandmother, but her father is so disappointed with her behavior that he refuses to allow her to help out at track over the summer.  Suddenly, a summer in Siena doesn’t sound so bad!

Lola meets a local boy whose father trains racers for the Palio.  They become friends, and Lola is invited to help work the horses.  As Lola learns about the race and makes friends with the other exercise riders, her grandmother slowly opens up about her own past, and her history with the Palio.  Her family bred horses for the race, and her older brother was a winning jockey several times. Then the war came, along with unbelievable hardships.  The race was canceled, and it was hard to feed themselves, let alone the horses in their care.  Her father was forced to join the army, even though he didn’t believe in the war, and her brother joined the freedom fighters.  By the end of the war, her nonna’s world was torn apart, and she fled Italy for America and the chance to start over.

I did have a few issues with believability.  I found it so difficult to swallow that a 12 year old American girl would be allowed to excise the horses, let alone ride in a dangerous race like the Palio.  Think of the bad press if she was injured, or worse, during the rough, no holds barred race.  Another thing that irked me was that everyone spoke English, a huge convenience for Lola, since she didn’t speak Italian.  This is the second book I’ve read this summer that the youthful protagonist was in another country, and everyone else spoke English.  It wasn’t believable in the first book, and I didn’t like it here, either, but that is a pet peeve of mine.  

Despite the highly unlikely premise, this was an enjoyable read. The horse races were exciting, and Nonna’s acceptance of the past, after so many years of guilt, was touching. Lola’s struggles with bullying rang true, and her father’s insistence that she become a doctor or a lawyer instead of a track rat gave Lola another conflict to solve. There were also great characters, including the horses.

Grade:  B

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

An epic, emotional story of two girls and their bond with beloved horses, the action sweeping between Italy during the Second World War and present day.

When Lola’s grandmother Loretta takes her to Siena, Italy, for the summer, Lola learns about the town’s historic Palio races – a fast and furious event where riders whip around the Piazza del Campo, and are often thrown from their horses while making the treacherous turns. Lola is amazed to learn her grandmother used to take part in these races – and had the nickname ‘The Daredevil’!

Nonna Loretta tells Lola that she used to race in a rival team to the boy she loved – who was captured by the Nazis in 1941. Lola develops a bond with a beautiful racehorse. She jumps at the chance to enter the Palio – can she win, in honour of her grandmother? And can she uncover the mystery of the boy’s capture and fate all those years ago?

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8. MMGM Links (8/17/15)

Still battling deadlines, so the links may be iffy--but here they are: this week's MMGM links!

- Mark Baker is raving about THE SYNDROME. Click HERE to read his review. 
- Jess at the Reading Nook is cheering for THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH. Click HERE to see why.
- Rosie Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--RUBY ON THE OUTSIDE. Click HERE for details. 
- Cindy at Cindy Reads is sweet on MAKE LEMONADE. Click HERE to see why.
- Greg Pattridge is spotlighting THE GLASS GAUNTLET. Click HERE to read his feature.   
- Andrea Mack is spilling secrets about MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS. Click HERE to see why.   
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.   
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.   
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!


If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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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9. #722 – (NatGeoKids) Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth by Steve Tomecek & Fred Harper

cover
Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth: All About Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, & Even DIRT!

Written by Steve Tomecek
Illustrated by Fred Harper
National Geographic Society      6/09/2015
978-1-4263-1903-7
128 pages      Age 8—12

“Geologist Steve Tomecek, aka The Dirtmeister, and his sidekick Digger unearth all kinds of amazing information in this comprehensive book about geology. Clear explanations of geologic processes will teach future geoscientists the fascinating topics while fun facts and simple experiments reinforce the concepts. So grab your shovel and get ready to play IN THE DIRT.” [back cover]

Review
Divided into ten relatively short, but in-depth, color-coded chapters, (such as “The Dynamics of Soil,” “How it (Earth) All Began,” and “Digging Old Dead Things”), Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth will teach kids a lot about geology and how it helps answer many questions. While very educational—teachers will love it—the kid-friendly book is equally entertaining. Kids are at the center of Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. In fact, each chapter begins with a question put forth by a middle-grade-aged kid:

“Is that you down there, Dirtmeister?
I thought I recognized your dirtmobile.
My name is Richie and I have a quick
question . . . How did the Grand Canyon
get to be, you know, so grand?”
(Richie, in chapter 6, “What Goes Up Must Come Down”)

Other kids ask questions about such things as volcanoes, earthquakes, the shape of the continents, if can rocks make other rocks, and if dinosaurs are really extinct. The questions are interesting and the answers fascinating and fun. The Dirtmeister adds “cool” facts he calls “Dirtmeister’s Nuggets,” short biographies of important people, and simple experiments that let kids see geology at work. The illustrations are cartoonish and the images of Dirtmeister and his sidekick Digger are quite expressive. The art, especially the first spread of each chapter and its graphic novel layout, help draw in the reader and make the book feel personal, as if Dirtmeister is talking directly to the you. The remaining of the book is filled with photographs, illustrations, diagrams, and text that answers each question and then digs a bit deeper.

introI thoroughly enjoyed reading Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth from cover-to-cover. Being a National Geographic Kids publication I should have realized, even before turning to page 1, that I was in for a humorous, engaging, and educational read with incredible illustrations by Fred Harper. Geology, heck science of any kind, was never this easy to understand or could grab me from start to finish. I was amazed at geology’s reach. Topics included not just how to find Earth’s age, but how she came into existence.

The variety of subjects, tied into the Earth’s soil and its importance to humans, makes Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth ideal as an adjunct middle grade science text. I think elementary teachers could also find ways to utilize this book in their science classrooms. The entire book is kid-friendly and larger words are defined (in context). Home-schoolers should not miss a page of Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Earth. The author has correlated each chapter with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)* and STEM** Science Standards, both for grades 3 to 8. These follow the final chapter. There is also an extensive Index.

From volcanoes spewing hot lava and earthquakes splitting open Mother Earth, plus experiments such as designing rocks, building sediments, and simulating the Big Chill, Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth is probably the dirtiest middle grade book ever written—parents and teachers will approve. Oh, yeah, so will kids!

*NGSS was developed by the National Research Council and are based on the Framework for K—12 Science Education.  Website:  http://nextgenscience.org/

**STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Teachers can find relevant information on STEM at the National Education Association (NEA), PBS, and at Teach.com.

DIRTMEISTER’S NITTY GRITTY PLANET EARTH:  ALL ABOUT ROCKS, MINERALS, FOSSILS, EARTHQUAKES, VOLCANOES, & EVEN DIRT! Text copyright (C) 2015 by Steve Tomecek. Illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by Fred Harper. Photographs copyrights vary and are listed in the book. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.

You can buy Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksNational Geography.

Learn more about Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth HERE.
Information for Teachers and Librarians HERE and HERE.
National Geographic + Common Core is HERE.
More for Kids from National Geographic Kids HERE

Meet the author, Steve Tomecek, at his website:  http://www.dirtmeister.com/
Meet the illustrator, Fred Harper, at his website:  http://www.fredharper.com/
Find more books at the National Geographic Kids website:  http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/

ALSO BY STEVE TOMECEK
Dirt (Jump Into Science®)
Moon (Jump Into Science®)
Sun (Jump Into Science®)
Rocks and Minerals (Jump Into Science®)
Stars (Jump Into Science®)
Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids Everything)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth: All About Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Even DIRT! by Steve Tomecek & Fred Harper, and received from National Geographic Society, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Big Bang, Digger, dirt, Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth, earth, Fred Harper, geology, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Society, Steve Tomecek, The Big Chill, The Dirtmeister

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10. MMGM Links (8/10/15)

I'm currently juggling not one but TWO deadlines, so to say my brain's a bit mushy is a total understatement.

BUT, somehow I still managed to put together a quick giveaway to celebrate the release of EVERBLAZE in paperback (details HERE) and I made an attempt at this week's MMGM links!

- Mark Baker is drawn to IT'S A MAGICAL WORLD. Click HERE to read his review. 
- Jess at the Reading Nook has an interview with author SE Grove. Click HERE for all the fun.
- Dorine White is reviewing THE GLASS SENTENCE--with a GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details. 
- Cindy at Cindy Reads is seeing stars for STARGIRL. Click HERE to see why.
- Greg Pattridge is highlighting THE BLOOD GUARD. Click HERE to read his feature.   
- Laurisa White Reyes is feeling good about THE GOOD LITTLE BOOK. Click HERE to see why.   
- Susan Uhlig has two features--UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER and CASTLE HANGNAIL. Click HERE for her thoughts. 
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.   
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about 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 on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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. Monday Mishmash 8/10/15


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. Our Little Secret Cover Reveal  Last Thursday was the cover and blurb reveal for Our Little Secret, which releases September 15 through Limitless Publishing. This is a YA contemporary romance under my pen name Ashelyn Drake. 
    Becca Daniels needs to get a passing grade in Trig. Becca Daniels wants to spend more time with her best friend Tori’s twin brother Toby. What she has is a brain that refuses to understand math and a best friend with a strict “No dating the brother” rule. When her grade hits rock bottom, Becca has no choice but to get a tutor. Lucky for her, Toby is a math genius and more than willing to help her out. Turns out Becca isn’t the only one who hates Tori’s dating rule. What starts out as an innocent tutoring session quickly evolves into late night texts and hidden kisses. But the closer Becca gets to Toby, the greater the risk that she’ll lose her best friend. When their secret relationship threatens to destroy more than just her friendship with Tori, Becca will have to figure out how much she’s willing to risk to keep the guy of her dreams. 

     Add the book on Goodreads
  2. Piper Morgan Joins the Circus Cover Reveal  Stephanie Faris has a cover reveal today for Piper Morgan Joins the Circus. How adorable is this cover? 
    When Piper Morgan has to move to a new town, she is sad to leave behind her friends, but excited for a new adventure. She is determined to have fun, be brave and find new friends.
    And after learning her mom’s new job will be with the Big Top Circus, Piper can’t wait to learn all about life under the big top, see all the cool animals, and meet the Little Explorers, the other kids who travel with the show. She’s even more excited to learn that she gets to be a part of the Little Explorers and help them end each show with a routine to get the audience on their feet and dancing along!
    But during Piper’s grand debut, her high kicks and pointed toes don't go quite as planned. After causing a dance disaster, she has to prove to everyone--especially queen of the Little Explorers, Lexie--that she belongs in the spotlight.
  3. Leap Books Seek Submissions  Since Seek is open to unagented submissions, my inbox has been flooded! lol I'm blown away by how many submissions I've received. Guess what I'll be busy reading this week. I'll be announcing my first acquisitions soon too. :)
  4. Galley Proofs  The galley of Our Little Secret has been proofed. Eeeee! I'm so excited for this book. I just loved this story so much.
  5. Ashelyn Drake Blog Has Moved  After a run-in with Wordpress on my cover reveal day (AHHH!!!) last week, I decided to move Ashelyn's blog to Blogspot. I'm much more comfortable on Blogspot. Ashelyn's website will remain on Wordpress and there is a link to the new blog in the menu bar there now. If you'd like to follow Ashelyn's blog, you can find it here.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. MMGM Links (8/3/15)

AHHH--how is it already August?????

I'm still very much drowning in deadlines (when will they ever stop) but here's this week's MMGM links!

(Oh! Also, tomorrow is EVERBLAZE's paperback release day. So make sure you check back for a special giveaway!)

- Michelle Mason wants you to know that YOU'RE INVITED. Click HERE to read her review. 
- Kim Aippersbach is exploring 100 CUPBOARDS. Click HERE to see why!
- Molly at My Cozy Book Nook is spending time with THE FAMILY UNDER THE BRIDGE. Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Cindy at Cindy Reads has two things to talk about, INSIDE OUT and THE DESCENDANTS. Click HERE to check it out
- Greg Pattridge is getting LOST IN THE SUN. Click HERE to read his feature.   
- Laurisa White Reyes is giving us all the dirt on FUZZY MUD. Click HERE to see why.  
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.  

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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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13. Stephen Fraser: Middle Grade Perfection: What We Can Learn From Classic and Best-Selling Books

Stephen Fraser joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as an agent in January 2005. He worked most recently at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where he edited such creative talents as Mary Engelbreit, Gregory Maguire, Michael Hague, Ann Rinaldi, Kathryn Lasky, Brent Hartinger, Stephen Mitchell, and Dan Gutman. He began his career at Highlights for Children and later worked at Scholastic and Simon & Schuster. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, he has a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston. He represents both children’s and adult books in a wide range of genres.

Lin calls him a leading light in our field, and tells us he is very helpful, very concrete, and very specific. He also wears some very dapper bowties.

Stephen says an agent is supposed to be impartial about the books he represents, but he does admit he loves middle-grade fiction the best, growing up he read everything, and his inner eleven-year-old is still an active connoisseur of MG manuscript submissions.

"Some of the strongest books in the whole canon of children's literature rest in middle grade."

What are some of the writing rules that 12 classic or beloved middle grade books teach us?

Here are six of the books and their lessons:

Every time an editor asks you to revise, see this as an opportunity to make a perfect book with carefully crafted writing like in Charlotte's Web.


Some of the best novels can be brief, like Stone Fox. It's a satisfying narrative with true drama. Books for middle grade readers can have real drama in them and be story-packed. 


The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, celebrity can get a book published, but it can't keep it in print for forty years. This book stays, Stephen says, the lesson here is to let imagination ride high in your story. 


Louis Sachar, you may already know, takes about a year to write a book, but Holes took him two years. What he does so well here, Stephen says, is maintain the hilarious voice of hapless Stanley. Humor if done well can fuel an entire novel. As a side note, Stephen says, consider taking two years to refine your novel and you may just win the National Book Award and the Newbery. And an Emmy.


In Missing May, the setting is as much a character as the human main characters. Do yourself a favor and invoke a rich setting to help bring your story to life and set it concretely in the reader's mind.


Sarah, Plain and Tall, is Stephen's favorite book in the universe. This short novel, clocking in at a mere 58 pages, rewrote the tradition of middle grade fiction. Every word resonates so that you almost feel like the book is illustrated, but there are no pictures! It's the writing that is that good. Originally this book was planned as a picture book, but the author felt there was more story to tell. Every book, says Stephen, should have this level of imagery.

Stephen leaves us with a Henry James quote: "Remember that your first duty is to be as complete as possible. Remember that your first duty is to be as complete as possible—to make as perfect a work. Be generous and delicate and pursue the prize."

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14. Alison Weiss: Ten Things You're Doing Wrong in MG

Alison Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press. She was previously at Egmont for 6 and half years.

Missing the Middle Grade Mark: Common Mistakes to Avoid


  • Your character is too young or to too old.
  • Your voice isn't authentic. 
  • Your dialogue doesn't sound natural or natural to your characters. 
  • Your vocabulary is too sophisticated. 
  • You're putting characters in situations that don't make sense.
  • You're writing what you think is a middle grade experience, not what's actually a middle grade experience. 
  • Your book lacks conflict.
  • Your making choices that will date your book.
  • Your book is too long.
  • You don't know the market.
  • Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
  • You aren't asking your questions when you have the chance.

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15. Meg Wolitzer Keynote - Switching Hats: Writing for Adults and Young Adults

Meg Wolitzer has written novels that blow the minds of adult and young readers alike. Her adult work includes The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife.

Her YA novel is Belzhar, and for middle grade readers she has The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.

She talked to us about writing for both adults and younger readers.

She started by describing a horrible question people ask writers at parties: "Would I have heard of you?"

The right answer ... "In a more just world, yes."

Her world involves going back and forth from one literary world to another.

"Being a writer is really about freedom," she said. "All of you should have the freedom to say I want to write the next Hunger Games. Then switch and say I want to write the AARP games. A scary tale."

Meg had a secret weapon in the fight to become a writer: her mother, an 85-year-old writer who is still publishing books.

"My mother was the only writer in town, and the exciting thing for me was that the checkout person would let us take out as many books as we wanted."


People often ask what's going to happen to books, but Meg feels encouraged. It's natural to see narrative all around in the world (including in one-celled amoebas). And the stories we tell are very reflective of us.

"A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is," she said, "a boullion cube of concentrated sensibility."

She gave us great advice about how we should approach our writing.

"Be who you are, but much more so on the page. That's how a book starts to take shape. That's how a writer develops," she said. "Write what obsesses you." 

Another way to do this is to write the book you would have loved to read as a teen. She once had a book taken from her because it was for older kids, and it suddenly became irresistibly alluring.

She also had the help of others when she first started writing stories, which she'd dictate. One was about truckers, and included the dialogue, "Get on the rig, Mac." 

Meg's mother also wrote for adults and for children, and began her work around the time the women's movement started. Meg also became a feminist. (One of her mother's first published stories was titled "Today a Women Went Mad in the Supermarket.") 

Writing tortured Meg's mother, who typed on a quivering Smith Corona. But it showed Meg writing was something you could do. She did have to get over the sex scene her mother wrote in her first book—something she was teased for by the neighborhood toughs, who went into the store and bought something from the literary fiction section, which makes her laugh now. 

She encouraged us not to be afraid of what we write, and not to avoid something that makes us feel uncomfortable. When she writes her adult novels, she doesn't think about audience, except that she's the ideal reader for her kind of books. She doesn't have to worry about any of the content or emotional complexity. All her adult editor wants is to know that the book is meeting the expectations Meg had when she set out. 

When you write, you should be able to do it freely without fear of being judged or found lacking. And in one sense, she writes adult work for herself today, and kid lit for the person she used to be. She is mindful of making her work have a rhythm that will work for her readers. 

With "Belzhar," she was looking to create what obsessed 15-year-old Meg, not just the arty summer camp girl, but someone who was waking up to an emotional world for the first time. It's inspired by Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," which struck her hard when she read it. 

It's about a girl who was sent to a school for emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers. The students there are all reunited with the things they've lost, taking the short view of their sorrows. The characters she creates are filtered through her own humanness. It's taking them and making them us. We're all different, and every novel has lots of ways in. Points of view can vary. 

But we should only write about what's important to us, she said.

Switching hats means we have a lot of roles. The one we occupy among our friends and family. The one you wear when you write autobiographically. The one you wear when you're writing about about growing up in the 12th century.

"Write about what obsesses you because that is the one that people will identify with," she said, "and that will be one I definitely want to read. 




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16. The World's Most Wonderful Rotem Moscovich: Editors Panel

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Rotem is a senior editor at Disney Hyperion and the bee's knees.

Her answer to the question, what makes a compelling book is: "Emotional connection, whether picture book or novel. And how is this book different? A new voice, or point of view? Does it impress me?

Dream project? Rotem says: Really want to find a middle grade novel that makes you cry... and is happy, like Anne of Green Gables. For picture books it has to be AWESOME.

Wendy asks if there was a book that hooked you from the beginning and went on to do well in the market/critically?

Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz is the book that comes to mind first for Rotem, and she's happy to announce the sequel will be out in September.


What's the difference to you in a project where you acquire it, but it needs a lot of work, vs. a project you don't accept?

"It's having the vision of how to help the author make a book sing. The book has to go to the right editor and the right house, it's an alchemy."

A book you wish you could have worked on? Rotem says, Dory Fantasmagory, it's hilarious.



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17. #TBT in B&W






































Maggie meets her grandmother, and Oliver gets a scolding. (From MAGGIE & OLIVER OR A BONE OF ONE'S OWN.)

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18. Writer Wednesday: Open Submissions Approaching!

If you read last Wednesday's post, then you know that I'm now the acquisitions editor for Leap Books' middle grade line, Seek. I also mentioned that while Seek is only open to agented submissions I'd be holding an open submissions period in August. Well…

From August 1 to August 14, I'll be accepting unagented submissions. If you have a middle grade title (geared toward tweens) you can query me at kellyhashway.leapbooks@gmail.com. Please make sure your query includes the 
following:

  • Subject line: Open Submission: TITLE OF YOUR BOOK
  • Query in the body of the email
  • synopsis and first three (3) chapters of your book (as Word attachments)

That's it! Please only query me at the Leap Books address above. Queries sent to 
my regular email will be deleted unread.

Not sure if your book is a good fit for Seek? Here's what I'm looking for:

I am looking for immersive middle grade fiction stories of approximately 30-40,000 words, in all genres, with characters that LEAP off the page. Submissions should demonstrate:

  • strong, polished writing

  • engaging and age-appropriate storytelling that will appeal to the target audience

  • solid character development

  • powerful world building

  • an exciting plot

***Preference for mystery, contemporary, and fantasy at this time.***
Good luck!

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19. Review: Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye Stranger affectingly and realistically tells the intertwining stories of three young teenagers navigating the confusing and tumultuous time of early adolescence. Bridge, an accident survivor is looking for meaning on why she’s still here. Sherm is dealing with the aftershock of a family betrayal. And an unnamed 9th grader (written in a surprisingly effective second person) is grappling with a potentially friendship-ending mistake. The story is about how life gets so suddenly and shockingly complicated in middle school. And it is about how teens deal with the newness, rawness, and intensity of their emotions. Best friends can suddenly betray. A beloved grandparent can walk out on his family. A boy can text you asking for “a picture ;)” but what does it mean? Throughout reading this book I couldn’t help pausing repeatedly to think, “Man, it is so stressful to be a teenager.” The narrative seamlessly intertwines to show... Read more »

The post Review: Goodbye Stranger appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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20. MMGM Links (7/20/15)

I'm back in the deadline cave again (story of my year) so these are a bit rushed. But hopefully they're not too flawed.

On to the MMGM links!

- Molly at My Cozy Book Nook joins the MMGM fun with a feature on RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL. Click HERE to welcome her to the group!
- Cindy at Cindy Reads is thirsting for more after reading A LONG WALK TO WATER. Click HERE to see what she thought.  
- Greg Pattridge is highlighting THE PAPER COWBOY. Click HERE to see why.  
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--BLUE BIRDS. Click HERE for all the details. 
- Mark Baker is raving about THE HEROES GUIDE TO STORMING YOUR CASTLE. Click HERE for his review. 
- Dorine White is revealing the shiny cover for THE DIAMOND LOOKING GLASS. Click HERE to check it out. 
- Jenni Enzor is cheering for THE DETECTIVE'S ASSISTANT. Click HERE to see why. 
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.  
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!


If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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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21. Guest Post: Channeling Your Middle Grade Voice with Rachele Alpine!

rachelepic

Amie here first: Today we have a guest post from the truly hilarious Rachele Alpine — her new middle grade, Operation Pucker Up just hit shelves, and after you read this, you won’t want to miss it… The full title of her post is: Channeling Your Inner Middle Grade Voice By Using Your Old Diaries: AKA… Revisiting the Most Awkward Years of your Life!

Time and time again I hear authors say that when you sit down to work on a book not to worry about what other people are going to think, forget the trends, silence your inner editor and just write what you love.

Operation Pucker Up Postcard FrontWrite what you love. What a freeing way to think.

So that’s exactly what I did when I wrote my debut MG novel Operation Pucker Up. I wrote what I loved. Or more specifically, I wrote a book the middle school version of me would have loved.

But middle school was a long time ago, so in order to reminisce about those wonderful years of cringe-worthy moments, I went straight to the source.

My middle school diary. (Click on each of these images to see a larger version.)

Diary1

So sophisticated and chic. The teddy bears with the red hearts just scream maturity. And while I thought the lock was sure to protect all my secrets, it was no match for the pair of scissors my sister used and then so sneakily stapled and taped back together thinking I’d never suspect a thing. No, seriously. She didn’t think I’d notice. She put it right back in the hiding spot I used and acted all innocent when I found it. Newsflash…I noticed!

diary2

After my sister discovered the diary, I was very careful about when I’d let another set of eyes look at it. I wrote a note to myself inside the cover with instructions as to when I could share this diary:

Diary 3

It’s kind of sweet to think about how the younger version of myself wanted to share these words and experiences with my future kids. I just hope the middle school version of myself wouldn’t have minded that instead of sharing my diary with only my kids, I shared some of my experiences with potentially thousands of kids who will pick up Operation Pucker up and read it. Whoops!

Diary4

I found a lot of good material when revisiting these pages. My diary reminded me of all those mixed up feelings that I was going through when I hit middle school, and I drew from those when developing the main character, Grace, in my book. Grace is cast as Snow White in her school’s play, only to remember that Snow White is kissed by Prince Charming. She’s never kissed anyone before, and is terrified at the thought of having her first kiss on stage. Her friends launch Operation Pucker Up, a plan to get her her first kiss before she has to have it on stage. Sure enough, the plan gets out of hand and Grace feels like everything is moving too fast and her friends are trying to make her into someone she isn’t. My middle school self could definitely relate to Grace’s feelings, as I worried about the friendships around me and how everything was changing.

Diary 5

In the book, Grace goes to her first boy/girl party, and I pretty much struck oil with all the information I provided for myself in my diary when my own experience going to my first boy/girl party. I had created a list of questions/worries before I went to the party and afterwards, I filled it all out. Talk about the perfect glimpse into the head of a middle schooler!

Diary6Diary 7Diary 8Diary 9

Throughout the book, Grace is trying to figure out the confusing world of boys and first kisses. The road to love is often rocky and traumatic in middle school, as evidenced from my love of a “younger” man. Yes, it is true, I was in sixth grade in love with a boy in fifth grade. Gasp! Just call me a cougar! Looking back now I can laugh, but it does remind me of how major things could seem when you were young.

Diary 11Diary 12Diary 13

I love the fact that the awkward, confused, sensitive middle school version of myself provided inspiration and information for books I would write in the future. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have material for the next few decades with everything that I so honestly and openly chronicled while growing up. As I work on my next MG novel, I plan to continue to dig through all of my diaries and see what I can find. I’ll draw from those moments, remember them, use them, and then thank God that I don’t have to live through them again!

Canary-2Rachele Alpine is a lover of gummy candy, bad reality TV, and coffee…so much coffee. She’s the author of the MG novels Operation Pucker Up (Simon & Schuster) and You Throw Like a Girl (Simon & Schuster, 2017), and the YA novel Canary (Medallion). You can visit her website, check out her pictures on Instagram, like her on Facebook, or send her a tweet on Twitter @ralpine.

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22. Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Back in 1902, E. Nesbit wrote a book called Five Children and It about five brothers and sisters: Cyril, 10 and called Squirrel; Anthea, 8 and called Panther; Robert or Bobs, 6;  Jane, 4;  Hilary, the baby called the Lamb because his first word was Baa.

The family had just moved from London to the countryside in Kent and it is there that the children discover a Psammead (Sammy-ad) or sand fairy living in their gravel pit. The Psammead is a rather disagreeable, grumpy creature, centuries old, but who has the power to grant wishes.  The problem is that each wish only lasts until sunset.  The children wish for all kinds of adventures but when one goes terribly wrong, the Psammead agrees to fix it only if the children promise never to ask for another wish but the children decide instead they never want to see their sand fairy again.

Nesbit wrote two sequels to Five Children and It, one in 1904 called The Phoenix and the Carpet and one in 1906 called The Story of the Amulet.  Though they featured the brothers and sisters, it is only in the 1906 novel that the Psammead is again featured.

Fast forward to 2014.  Once again we meet the five children and their Psammead in Kate Saunder's novel Five Children on the Western Front, her novel inspired by Five Children and It.  The story opens with a Prologue in 1905.  The children are staying in London with Old Nurse while their parents are away with the Lamb.  The children have found the Psammead in a pet store and now he lives in Old Nurse's attic.  One afternoon, when the children are granted one more wish, they find themselves in the study of their old friend, the Professor named Jimmy in the year 1930.  While the children are happy to see him, he is in the position of knowing their future and his tears makes for a very poignant beginning.

The main part of the novel begins in October 1914.  Cyril (now 22), Anthea (is 20), and Bobs (18 years old) are now young adults, Jane is 16 and in high school, the Lamb is 11 and there is a new addition to the family, 9 year old Edith or Edie, as she is called.  To everyone's surprise, once again, the Psammead is found sleeping in the gravel pit of the house in Kent.  The Lamb and Edie have always been envious of all the adventures their older siblings had with the Psammead and are very excited to see him back.  That is, until they learn that he can no longer grant wishes.  It seems the Psammead is stuck in this world until he makes amends for his rather cruel wrongdoings centuries ago when he was the ruler of his kingdom, and the only wishes that are granted are some of his own and always have to do with his past behavior.

At the center of the novel, however, is the Great War and how it impacts everyone's life, even the Psammead.  With England at war with Germany, Cyril can't wait to enlist and do his part for England.  Bobs is still at Cambridge, postponinging his enlistment until he is finished; Anthea is in art college in London, and doing volunteer war work, where she meets and falls in love with a wounded soldier who just happens to be helping the Professor with his research which just happens to be related to the Psammead.  Anthea is forced to see her young man secretly because  she knows that her mother wouldn't approve of him since he is out of their class.  And poor Jane desperately wants to go to medical school, which her mother refuses to allow, afraid she won't ever get married if she does go.

Very often, when one author attempts to write a novel based on another author's characters, it just doesn't work.  No so with Five Children on the Western Front.  I thought Kate Saunders did an exceptional job capturing the personalities of each of the children and the curmudgeony Psammead originally created by Nesbit.  It is easy to believe that these are the people the children would have grown up to be.

Saudners has also done a good job depicting the impact of the war on both the home front and the Western Front.  Food shortages, lawns turned into potato fields, young girls driving ambulances in London and in France, life and deatth in the trenches are all there.  Saunders has also shown how the Great War was a dividing line between the traditions of the Edwardian era (represented by the children's mother) and modernity(represent by the children), especially in the ideas about class structure and the position of women in society.

There are lots of humorous bits mixed in with the more sober moments, and the scenes of war are not a so graphic that they will scare young readers.  The new addition of Edie is charming, especially her unconditional love for the Psammead, with whom she spends a lot of time just chatting and oddly, for such a grump, he seems to enjoy her company as well.

I have to confess that it has been a long time since I read Five Children and It and probably won't re-read it now that I've read this novel.  However if you want to read it, you can download it for free at Project Gutenberg.  Five Children on the Western Front was published in England and I had to buy a copy through the Book Depository (free shipping), but it can be bought at Amazon.  Hopefully, it will make its way across the pond soon, for everyone's enjoyment.

Five Children on the Western Front is highly recommended for anyone who like a well-done combination of speculative fiction and  historical fiction, and a novel with heart - bring tissues.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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23. Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

I’m thrilled to be part of The Girl Who Could Fly blog tour!  In celebration of the upcoming release of The Boy Who Knew Everything, I have a copy of The Girl Who Could Fly up for grabs, and the publisher asked bloggers to answer this question:

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

With all of the health issues in my family right now, I would want the the ability to heal.  First, I’d fix my hip, so I would be ready to hit the road and get my mom squared away, too.  I’d stop by the barn and give some pain relief to all of the older horses, because they, unfortunately, develop arthritis and life-altering illnesses, too.  Then off I’d go, healing anyone or anything in pain or suffering from an illness.

Which superpower would you choose?

About the books:


You just can’t keep a good girl down . . . unless you use the proper methods.

Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie.

Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her turns are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops.

Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma’s at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities.

School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences.

Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore.

At turns exhilarating and terrifying, Victoria Forester’s debut novel has been praised by Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga, as “the oddest/sweetest mix of Little House on the Prairie and X-Men…Prepare to have your heart warmed.” The Girl Who Could Fly is an unforgettable story of defiance and courage about an irrepressible heroine who can, who will, who must . . . fly.

There is a prophecy.

It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change . . . .

The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world-and themselves.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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24. MMGM Links (7/27/15)

Here's this week's MMGM links!

- Molly at My Cozy Book Nook is back again with a feature on UNDER THE EGG. Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Cindy at Cindy Reads is spreading some love for BEEZUS AND RAMONA. Click HERE to see why
- Greg Pattridge is catching A HANDFUL OF STARS. Click HERE to read his feature.   
- Katie at Story Time Secrets is caught up in A TANGLE OF KNOTS. Click HERE to see why. 
- Andrea Mack is feeling KINDA LIKE BROTHERS. Click HERE for her review. 
- Natalie Aguirre has a guest post from by David Fulk and a GIVEAWAY of RAISING RUFUS. Click HERE for all the fun.
- Laurisa White Reyes sees lots of promise in PROMISE. Click HERE to see why.  
- Jess at the Reading Nook is swept away by ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE. Click HERE for her feature. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.  



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (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 for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

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 (7/27/15) as of 7/27/2015 8:50:00 AM
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25. Review: The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I read The Girl Who Could Fly because I received a copy for a blog tour.  I love middle-grade books, and since it’s been a while since I read one, I was excited to start this.  I loved the author’s voice, especially while Piper is still at the family farm.  She’s a surprise to her older, salt of the earth parents, and when the lively, happy Piper is born, they are taken aback.  They are, while not joyless folk, serious and dedicated to the land that has been in the family for generations.  They don’t need much and are content to get by, farming the land, tending their livestock, and fitting, uneventfully, into their community. 

Then along comes Piper.  She floats.  Her mother Betty immediately realizes that her daughter isn’t “normal.”  To a woman who embraces being normal and not tempting fate, who relishes doing things as they have always been done, Piper is an unexpected hiccup in her road of normalcy.  Betty decides that it’s best to keep Piper on the farm, homeschooled and doing her chores, so that the neighbors don’t start gossiping about them.  Piper upsets her plans one summer day, when she watches a momma bird push her babies out of the nest.  Piper wonders if she can fly too.  And once Piper sets her mind to something, nothing is going to get in her way until she accomplishes it.

An unfortunate event at the Fourth of July picnic, the first that Piper’s been allowed to attend, has disastrous consequences.  The entire community learns that Piper can fly.  Soon, the entire world knows.  When Dr Letitia Hellion and her crew from the top secret institute I.N.S.A.N.E. show up at the farm, promising to school Piper in her abilities, and to keep her safe, the McClouds have no choice but to let their daughter go with them.  What Piper finds isn’t exactly the paradise she’s been promised, but it takes the help of a mean supergenius to figure out that she’s actually a prisoner and not a student at the high tech facility in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by miles and miles of snow and ice. 

I loved Piper and Conrad.  Piper is completely guileless, the total opposite of Conrad.  Conrad is frustrated and just plain mean, and Piper’s happy  attitude grates on his last nerve.  He picks on her mercilessly, and Piper, who doesn’t have much experience in social settings, first tries to win him over, and when that doesn’t work, tries to ignore him.  Of course he gets her into trouble every chance he can, until one disturbing event makes Piper realize that all is not as it seems at the institute.  Conrad and Dr Hellion have been locked in a battle of wits for four years, and Conrad believes that with Piper’s help, he’ll finally get the best of her.

I liked how Piper fought to be true to herself, even at a terrible price to herself.  While she yearns to fit in, she begins to realize that being who she is is more important that being popular.  Her sunny disposition does endear her to others, regardless of how hard they try to resist.  I liked the message that being different isn’t bad, and everyone deserves a chance to be who they really are.

The Girl Who Could Fly is a quick read, with action, adventure, and danger.  It’s also about learning to get along with others despite their differences, and the importance of being yourself.  I am looking forward to The Boy Who Knew Everything, because I enjoyed Conrad so much.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:


You just can’t keep a good girl down . . . unless you use the proper methods.

Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie.

Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her turns are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops.

Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma’s at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities.

School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences.

Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore.

At turns exhilarating and terrifying, Victoria Forester’s debut novel has been praised by Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga, as “the oddest/sweetest mix of Little House on the Prairie and X-Men…Prepare to have your heart warmed.” The Girl Who Could Fly is an unforgettable story of defiance and courage about an irrepressible heroine who can, who will, who must . . . fly.

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