Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Hardcover/Library Copy
I was born just feet from the surface of the earth, completely unheard of for a dwarf, but it couldn’t be helped.
– first sentence
The dwarf’s name is Borlen and his nickname is Grump. This story is set in the same world as Rump, Jack, and Red and written by the same author, Liesl Shurtliff. I really enjoy this series and I am always happy to see a new book come out. The series takes fairy tale retellings to a new level. The characters are all part of the same larger world and I love the way Shurtliff weaves them all together.
Borlen is obsessed with the surface even though most dwarves are terrified of it. He always feels like a bit of an outsider. When he finally finds himself above ground, his first friend is Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.). Readers know she is the Evil Queen, but Borlen is fairly naive and thinks she is his friend (his only friend). And so, Borlen gets caught up in the Queen’s plot against Snow White.
I loved the characters in this story and the story itself. Grump is so complicated and conflicted but also very clever. At first Snow White seems like a self-centered, spoiled brat, but later we find out she is more complex than that. The crew that Borlen is a part of consists of seven dwarves – of course, one of whom sneezes a lot – go figure.
I highly recommend this book to readers in grades 4 and up, especially fans of fairy tale retellings. I read this as part of the Goodreads HA A-to-Z Challenge and for space #1 in the Snakes and Ladders game (book with a female author).
Audience: Grades 4-8
Format: Graphic Novel – Library Copy
Priyanka! Watch out for that tree!
– first sentence
Priyanka (Pri) has a lot of questions. Why did her mother leave India for the U.S.? What was it like there? Who is her father and what happened to him? But her mother doesn’t want to answer any of these questions. Pri is dealing with typical teen issues, learning to drive, dealing with bullies, and trying to figure out who she is. She finds a pashmina in a suitcase in the closet and it transports her to India in her imagination. This only fuels her desire to travel to India, but will her mom let her go?
I enjoyed this book. Pri is a multi-dimensional character – she has flaws but is still relatable. She is trying to figure out her identity while trying to fit into two different worlds. Her journey of self-discovery is heartwarming and her determination is inspiring.
The magical element to the story adds another dimension. The panels are black and white until Pri puts on the pashmina when they become full of color. Indian culture is woven through the story beautifully.
I highly recommend this book and it would be a great addition to any library serving elementary or middle school children.
This is book one in The Library series, about a magical library that helps spirits whose stories have been disrupted by supernatural events. After Marcus finds the key that opens the door to the library, he is confronted by a creepy old lady who demands that he “Surrender the key.” Along with his friends, Lu and Theo, Marcus must fight an ancient enemy and protect the library.
I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did an excellent job. The forward gave interesting information about the author and the other books in this series, complete with creepy laugh. The only slightly annoying part was when the narrator read for the librarian who has a Scottish accent. It was a bit distracting.
While this book was much shorter than what I’m used to, the length is perfect for young readers. I was a bit disappointed when it ended so soon. Middle-grade readers will want more of this scary, thrilling adventure. Some may find they want to leave the lights on after reading, but the story is worth it.
This book has also been released as Surrender the Key. There is one more book in the series so far (Black Moon Rising), and book 3, The Oracle of Doom, will be released in October of this year. After reading this book, I am interested in checking out other series by this author including The Pendragon series, and The Morpheus Road series.
Has anyone out there read either of those or something else by MacHale?
Recommended to: Readers in grades 5-8 who are looking for a scary adventure series.
This book is a bit complicated. The story is told through the tales of three sets of siblings: Venus & Swimmer escape from a slave ship in 1781 and end up in the Second World, Kinchen & Pip live in the Second World, and Thanh & Sang are trying to escape Vietnam with a few relatives, in the First World in 1976.
When Pip is taken by the Raft King, Kinchen must find and protect her younger brother. At one point, other characters tell the story of Venus and Swimmer and their journey. Then we learn about Pip’s experiences on Raftworld. Other characters are sprinkled throughout and we eventually meet Thanh & Sang and follow their adventure.
This book combines fables and magic with historical fiction. The Vietnamese family is trying to escape what is left of their country after the war in Vietnam. The original colonists of the Second World are escapees from slave ships who used magic to find a portal through from the First World. Inhabitants of the Second World include a large group of people who live on a group of connected rafts, islanders, sea monsters, people who can talk to sea creatures, and others who can walk through water.
I found this book overly long and it had difficulties keeping my attention. The child characters are too similar and I found myself forgetting who was who. The story will appeal to some kids, but I don’t think it will be overwhelmingly popular.
Recommended to: Middle School students who enjoy complex tales with multiple characters and a bit of magic.
Sam’s eyes were on the clock: 9:54.
– opening line
In this series, Sam and Martina use their brains and skills to solve puzzles that will help find an invention that could save or destroy our nation. After winning a contest, they are on a trip across the country, but it quickly turns into something far more important and dangerous. The founding fathers left clues to seven “keys” that will unlock Benjamin Franklin’s greatest invention, but, sinister forces are also searching for the keys. Sam and Martina get along like oil and water, but they must learn to work together to solve the difficult puzzles and avoid booby traps to find the keys first.
In this book (the first in the series), Sam and Martina are looking for Ben Franklin’s key. Throughout the book, we learn different facts about Franklin (thanks to Martina’s vast knowledge). Most of the story takes place underground as the kids evade the bad guys and try to survive the dangerous puzzles/traps. The keys are vitally important and failing to solve the puzzles could lead to death. Sam and Martina didn’t sign up for this, but they are determined to find the keys and thwart the bad guys.
This is a fun adventure/mystery story. Kids who enjoy solving puzzles or have an interest in history will love this book. There are three books in the series so far, but I’m assuming there will eventually be seven (for the seven keys). The keys are not all literal keys like Ben Franklin’s key – each one relates to the founding father who hid it. The second book to Thomas Jefferson’s Eagle’s Quill, and the third to Alexander Hamilton’s Ring of Honor.
Recommended to: Ages 9-13, fans of history and adventure stories.
The dreamer controls the dream.
Imagine having a friendly monster as your best friend and protector. Sophie’s parents own a dream shop in the basement of their bookstore where they secretly sell liquid dreams. Sophie’s best (and only) friend is a cupcake-loving monster named Monster, who she once pulled out of a dream. Monster is a bit sarcastic and a lot overprotective, but he would do anything for Sophie. Then, Mr. Nightmare arrives, the shop is robbed, and Sophie’s parents go missing. With the help of Monster, some new friends, and some fierce, but friendly creatures, Sophie just might be able to find and save her parents.
This is an enchanting and quirky story that reminds us it’s okay to be different. And our most courageous friends may look all fluffy and cute on the outside, but they have fierce hearts.
I listened to the audio and the narrator was excellent. I loved the voice she used for Monster. I highly recommend the book and the audio.
Recommended to: Ages 9-13, fans of fantasy and adventure stories.
Yes. There is a witch in the woods. There has always been a witch.
– Opening lines
Magical babies are dangerous babies, Glerk tried to remind himself, day after day. When he wasn’t cradling Luna. Or singing to Luna. Or whispering poetry into her ear as she slept.
A story can tell the truth, she knew, but a story can also lie. Stories can bend and twist and obfuscate. Controlling stories is power indeed.
– Chapter 38
Knowledge is powerful, but it is a terrible power when it is hoarded and hidden.
– Chapter 38
The village has always known about the witch, and about the sacrifice. Once a year, the Council of Elders takes the youngest baby and leaves it in the woods to appease the witch. But… the witch (Xan) has no idea why they leave the baby, so she takes it to the village across the forest and gives it to a loving home. Except for Luna… The witch accidentally feeds Luna moonlight (instead of the starlight she usually feeds the babies). The moonlight makes Luna magical. Luna grows up with Xan, Glerk (the swamp monster), and Fyrian (a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who thinks he is a Simply Enormous Dragon).
With characters like Xan, Glerk, Fyrian, and Luna, how could this story fail? The characters are amazing and the world is magical. People have been recommending this book to me all year, but I kept putting it off. I don’t know why, but the cover just didn’t appeal to me. Once I started reading it, I loved it.
Recommended to: Grades 5 & up. Fans of magical stories or fairy tales.
There should have been some sort of warning.
– First Sentence
“Everything is part of the same painting,” as my dad liked to say. “But we are each the artist of our own life. We choose what colors to use.”
– Chapter 1
Cassie is an eighth grader living with her father in Rome, having an ordinary, boring life (except for the fact that she is an American girl living in Rome). One day, Cassie’s father comes to school and yanks her into the car, speeding through the city, blabbering about how much he loves her, how he is going to fix things, and how he should have told her when she was younger. He finally tells Cassie that the Hastati are after her. Cassie has no idea what that means and she thinks he might be crazy, but then a motorcycle pulls up and the rider starts shooting at them. When her dad gets shot, Cassie takes him to the hospital, but he insists she must run to find Brother Gregorio for help. Cassie is terrified and runs to the only place she thinks might be safe, her friend Simone’s house. But when the danger follows her even there, Cassie and Simone must find Brother Gregorio and find out what all of this means.
In her dad’s notebook, Cassie finds this message:
The Guardian will be bound for life once the spearhead is used.
It turns out the Hastati are a two thousand-year-old organization entrusted with one important duty – protect the spear (The Spear of Destiny). The spear can shape destiny, but only certain people can use the power – and Cassie is the last of that bloodline.
I was just an average girl. Things like this were not supposed to happen to people like me. The palette of my life’s painting was gray or maybe a boring variety of beige, not psychedelic neon.
Well, this book starts off running and doesn’t slow down. Cassie is constantly trying to figure out who to trust and how to keep Simone and herself safe. They are racing to find the spear, but they aren’t the only ones. They must figure out baffling clues at every turn and stay ahead of the two factions fighting each other for control of the spear.
This is an edge of your seat adventure that will keep readers guessing until the end. I highly recommend it to kids in grades 4-8 who enjoy mysterious adventure stories with strong female heroines.
When the Iron Glory’s engines rumbled to life for its journey to the uncharted lands, it marked a new future for the world of Solace.
– First Sentence
This book is a fantastic companion to The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. It isn’t a sequel, it takes place in the same world with different characters.
Stella Glass is the daughter of two scientists who are traveling on the Iron Glory to explore the uncharted lands of Solace. No one has ever explored this far west beyond the mountains. The Dragonfly Territories and Merrow Kingdom have finally reached an uneasy peace. They worked together on this ship and representatives from both countries are onboard.
Stella is not permitted to go, but she has planned for months to stow away because she is terrified her parents won’t come back. On the first night, Stella finds out she isn’t the only stowaway. No children are allowed on the ship, but she sees a boy outside the engine room with his hands on the wall. His hands begin to glow, and then his eyes. Stella isn’t sure who he is or what he is up to, but when he passes out, she drags him to her hiding place in the cargo hold. Someone doesn’t want this voyage to succeed, but who and how can they be stopped?
So, in The Mark of the Dragonfly, we met Piper (a girl who connects to machines in an almost magical way), and Gee (a boy who can transform into a dragon). This book continues in the same fantasy steampunk world and the story is in the same heroic adventure vein. Again, I highly recommend it to students in grades 4 – 8. It is just as good as the first.
In the end it was the combination of the two, the end of my little war against Jamie, and the start of the big war, Hitler’s war, that set me free.
– Chapter 1
She was not a nice person, but she cleaned up the floor. She was not a nice person, but she bandaged my foot in a white piece of cloth, and gave us two of her own shirts to wear. Miss Smith was not a nice person, but the bed she put us in was soft and clean, with smooth thin blankets and warm thicker ones.
– Chapter 7
Huh, I thought. Imagine dressing up tables. Imagine wasting cloth to dress up tables.
– Chapter 18
I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn’t really trust Susan not to be like Mam.
– Chapter 26
Ada was born with a club foot, and because of this, her mom doesn’t let her leave the house. But that isn’t the worst of it. Ada’s mom (Mam) punishes her by putting her in a kitchen cabinet — sometimes overnight. Mam calls Ada rubbish and tells her no one wants her with her ugly foot. Ada “escapes” this abuse by going somewhere else in her head.
When Ada finds out her younger brother Jamie is to be evacuated with the other kids from his school, she is determined to go with them. The journey takes them to a small village where families have agreed to take in the evacuated children. Ada and Jamie end up living with Susan Smith, an old, grumpy spinster who doesn’t really want them.
Ada is a heart-wrenching character. She has been taking care of her brother all his life, but no one takes care of her. She has suffered unimaginable abuse from the woman who should love her the most. She doesn’t know how to accept love and kindness, and she doesn’t even think she deserves it. Her mother has told her that her foot is messed up because Ada did something wrong.
Susan has her own issues. She recently lost her best friend and suffers from severe depression. Having Ada and Jamie around gives her something else to think about and an important responsibility – a reason to get up every day and engage with others.
Wow. This book is powerful. It is set in England during World War II. I loved watching Ada’s development and bonding with Susan and others in the village. Despite everything Ada has been through (or maybe because of it), she is stubborn and courageous. She is also slow to trust and filled with self-doubt. The last chapter had me in tears.
I recommend this book to kids in grades 4-8 and their adults. I think it will touch their hearts in a major way.