Author Archives: amandaflaker

What the Moon Said Review by Abby Bingham

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Review by 12-year-old, Abby Bingham.

When I read this book my heart just melted over Ester, a little girl from Chicago moon saidwho lived during the Great Depression. Ester doesn’t quite fit in with her family. Her ma is superstitious and is very strict. She believed if you do something wrong it could bring bad luck. For example, once Ester buttoned her shirt wrong and her ma made her go take it off , shake it out, and then put it back on. Ester found her mother’s rules to be difficult but they were deeply ingrained in her. After reading What the Moon said, I actually do some of the things Ma told Ester to do!

Life is hard for Ester and then one day her pa loses his job and they decide to move to a farm. Ester’s family is not happy but she is determined this is her chance to prove she is a hard worker and can do the job right. Ester has high hopes for a new life, but the farm isn’t everything she dreamed it would be. Ester continues to find peace with her mother and herself.

One of the reasons I loved this book is the emotions. I almost felt as if I was there feeling and hearing Ester’s thoughts. What the Moon Said is a book I definitely recommend because I know that you’ll fall in love with the characters , just like I did. You might even find a piece of yourself in one of them. I think everyone should read this book at least once in their lives. This book I will read again. I also hope Gayle Rosengren writes many more books.

 

 

 

Middle Grade: Interview with 12-Year-Old Abby Bingham

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Every now and again I like to discuss literature with a more sophisticated and saavy reader, so I asked 12-year-old Abby Bingham to stop by Novel Novice and share what she loves about Middle Grade books.IMG_3778

*What is your favorite thing about reading?

I love being able to feel like I’m in the book. I love to get to know the character like I’m their friend. When they have a decision to make sometimes I know them so well I can pretty much know what the choice will be.

*What are your top 3 favorite books?

What the Moon Said, Percy Jackson, and Island of the Blue Dolphin. What the Moon Said was an inspiring book and I really just fell in love with the little girl this book was about. Percy Jackson is a really great book because it’s full of adventure and mystery.  I love that in a book. Island of the Blue Dolphin was just a classic and anyone who has read it would agree. It’s based on a true story so knowing that this happened just makes me wonder what she really felt as she faced these trials.

*Why do you think it’s important for kids to read? 

Books can help kids set goals if they like a character’s values or choices they make on their adventure. It can be an escape out of this crazy world and into another. When I read it helps me expand my imagination and I know others are the same way.

*What do you wish authors would write more about?

GIRLS!!!! Fantasy is my favorite genre and most are about boys. I think a good moon saidfantasy book could use a strong girl. There could be a whole other point of view to a book like this.

*If your favorite genre were an ice cream flavor, what would it be and why?

Cookies and Cream because there is good and evil (black cookies and ice cream and cream) and combined they balance each other out. If you just had evil (the cookie) it would not be as good it could be bitter. Also plain old ice cream or cream is gross or too sweet, but hen all this comes together it kind of works in a weird fantasy ice cream kind of way. 

*If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one book, what would it be?

If I were stranded on a deserted island I would bring Island of the Blue Dolphins because I could get some good info from that book. This could teach me how to survive in the island. Or I would bring Percy Jackson and hope he will come and save me. Also I could escape from the fright of being alone on a deserted island because that would be some I would want to escape from.

Thanks for stopping by, Abby! We hope you’ll visit again soon!

The Wig in the Window Review

middle gradeI’m so excited about the release of The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher. When I find an adventure that has great action, believable characters (no stereotypes) and page-turning mystery, I’m hooked.

Official synopsis:

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a wig in the windowgame out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.”

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with Middle Grade mystery is the simplicity of the plots. When my 12 year old niece is insulted by an easily solvable story-line, it’s hard for me to get on board. But this is not the the case with The Wig in the Window. Kristen Kittscher takes her time with her characters, building an unforgettable friendship, with character flaws and motivations that weave complication in an adventure that takes the reader on a ride of hilarity, danger, and ultimately a test of loyalty.

Middle graders will love it, and any adult who loves mystery should pick it up too.

 

Middle Grade Monday is BACK!

middle gradeOur regular Middle Grade Monday post has been on a rather long hiatus and we’re finally back! Stay-tuned for regular reviews beginning next week. In the meantime, check-out these two exciting new Middle Grade titles, both released this month (reviews to follow in the coming weeks)!

The Wig in the Window

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a wig in the windowgame out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.”

The Thing About Luck

“There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what The Thing About LuckSummer must do to save her family in this novel from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.

Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan—right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.

The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.

Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished—but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.”

 

Best Middle Grade & Children Books of 2013

middle grade mondays bannerHere are the results (according to Goodreads). What do you think? Do you agree? What were some of your favorite books of 2013?

Winner 42,877 votes

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (Goodreads Author)

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven wil…more

All Nominees 99,649 votes total

210 votes

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
Rate this book

Frankfurt Book Fair 2013: Ferals Emerges as Hot Middle-Grade Property

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As I’ve been busy gearing up for a magical schedule in Middle Grade on Novel Novice for the New Year, I’ve left out some important MG news from the Frankfurt Book Fair in October! Check-out this exciting article from Publisher’s Weekly!

“One of the big children’s projects that has bubbled up at the German book fest is a series called Ferals that was acquired jointly in the U.S. and U.K. last week (by HarperCollins Children’s Books, which took world English rights), and has already been optioned for film (by Fox 2000). Ferals is also netting impressive foreign sales.

There is no author attached to the middle-grade project, which Chris Snowden at U.K. packager Working Partners sold. The London-based agency Rights People is handling foreign sales, and Charles Netleton, managing director there, said the author name on the series has not yet been decided but, as with many Working Partners projects, a pseudonym will be attached.

Speaking to those aforementioned foreign sales, Netleton said the pace of deals is striking, with multiple agreements closed, and others in the works, all within a week of submission. (So far, the series has been pre-empted in Germany and France; sold in the Netherlands and Israel; auctions are underway in Brazil and Spain; and offers are in from Italy, Norway, Hungary and Romania.)

The first book in the series, Crow Talker, is set for a global release in February 2015; it follows a boy named Caw who was raised by crows from the age of five. At 13, Caw is about to come into possession of his power as a Feral, a group which has the supernatural ability to connect and communicate with animals. Caw is also about to learn that not all Ferals want to use their power for good.”

Rachel Denwoord at HarperCollins Children’s in the U.K. and Erica Sussman at HarperTeen in the U.S. were the acquring editors.

Middle Grade Monday: Thanksgiving on Thursday

middle grade mondays bannerLooking for a fun (albeit, stereotyped) Thanksgiving middle grade read? Check out Jack and Annie’s next fantasy adventure in the best selling series, the Magic Tree House!

Official synopsis: Thanksgiving on Thursday

“It’s a time for giving thanks . . .

when the Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie back to 1621 on the first Thanksgiving Day. The Pilgrims ask them to help get things ready. But whether it’s cooking or clamming, Jack and Annie don’t know how to do anything the Pilgrim way. Will they ruin the holiday forever? Or will the feast go on?”

To learn more about this fantastic series, check out the Magic Tree House website, where parents and teachers alike will find plenty of interactive activities, lesson plans, and more to go along with these adventure-filled books!

Junie B. Jones Creator Barbara Park Dies at 66

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Today we honor and celebrate the life of middle grade author, Barbara Park. Children's author, Barbara Park has died at age 66. She was the author of the best selling "Junie B. Jones" series.Thank you for giving us our beloved heroine with a “big, fat mouth,” Junie B. Jones. You will forever be in our hearts!

Post from Publisher’s Weekly:

Children’s author Barbara Park, long appreciated for her stories that blend humor and heart, and best-known as the creator of irrepressible kindergartner Junie B. Jones, died on Friday, November 15, after a long battle with ovarian cancer.

Park was born Barbara Tidswell in Mount Holly, N.J. in 1947 and grew up there. She attended Rider College and, after transferring, she graduated from the University of Alabama in 1969. She was married later that same year and she and her husband Richard Park had two sons. She was a longtime resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Park has said that her writing career was largely born as a way to express her sense of humor. In high school she developed a love for reading and, “I had also begun to find myself quite amusing (though certainly not everyone agreed with me on that one),” she wrote in a Random House biography that answers questions from children. She had initially studied to become a high school teacher though she did not pursue the profession. Park tried her hand at writing a “funny” book while she was at home with her young sons.

Operation: Dump the Chump was the first manuscript that Park sent out to publishers and after three rejections from various companies, Knopf acquired the book, along with two others. Don’t Make Me Smile (1981) was Park’s first published novel, followed by Operation: Dump the Chump (1982) and Skinnybones (1982). Her novel Mick Harte Was Here (1995) was hailed in part for its message about the importance of wearing bicycle helmets.

She continued to write warmly received middle grade novels and in 1992 launched her bestselling early chapter series with Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. The series celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and boasts 29 titles and more than 55 million copies sold in North America alone. Reflecting on that milestone, Park told PW in an interview: “For 20 years I’ve gotten to laugh my way through my work,” she says. “For me, that’s a dream job.”

Book Review: Marco the Impossible

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Hannah Moskowitz has a bit of a cult following.  And after reading Marco marco-Bomb-mock-1PImpossible, I understand why. True, it is her first middle grade novel, and yes, it is my first time reading her work, but my fan status has officially been pledged and I can’t wait to delve into her previous magic.

From what I’ve gathered, Moskowitz is famous (or is it infamous?) for sad endings. But I’m happy to say that though Marco’s ending may illicit tears for some readers, it’s the happy kind (which in my opinion are the most cathartic).

The characters in this novel are real, fully fleshed, and capable of afflicting readers with the desire to plot elaborate schemes, solve everyday mysteries, and indulge in excessive moodiness and the ocassional sardonic response to common sense (all in the name of love).

Here’s the gist:

Stephen and Marco are best friends. With middle school approaching an end and high school on the horizon, the boys construct a complicated scheme to break into senior prom and give Marco a (very public) chance to confess  his overwhelming love for Benji (a member of the school band), before Marco moves away to go to a private school and never sees Benji again.

Narrated from Stephen’s point of view, the boys somewhat eccentric friendship is endearing from the first page. Yes, perhaps Marco is a tad too self-involved, but Stephen’s deconstruction of his best friend’s actions are hilarious and fitting. I loved knowing Marco (and his elaborate crush) through Stephen’s eyes.

Although some critics believe Marco Impossible belongs in the YA section of the bookstore, I felt the tone/voice of the novel was perfect for middle grade, especially those 7th graders who are already boarding on the MG/YA book line. The quality of writing is right up there with Rebecca Stead (and any of you who have read my interviews/reviews of her stuff knows what a compliment that is from me).

Read it. You’ll like.

Middle Grade Monday: CHARIS: Journey to Pandora’s Jar

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Thirteen-year-old Charis Parks has five days to save mankind. What she Charis: Journey to Pandora's Jarthought was mere mythology has become her reality … she alone must reverse the curse of Pandora’s Jar. If Charis is to fulfill her destiny, she has to face her fears against the darker forces of Hades and the blood-thirsty Erinyes Sisters who help him. Together with the gods and her best friend Gabe, Charis takes a fantastic journey to Pandora’s Jar, where she must release the only spirit that remains trapped inside – the spirit of Hope. Or else …

She’s been called the female answer to Percy Jackson. And I for one love the magic at work here: female heroine vs. 21st century Greek mythology. It’s the perfect read for children interested or flirting with Greek legends, yet vibe more in modern day suburbia; easy access to the ancient world of immortals and demi-gods.

I love when kids familiarize themselves with Greek legends because life is full of mythological references. From the Oedipus complex to Pandora’s box, these ancient stories have shaped our Western world view and informed many of our artists, writers, and philosophers. Just another great reason to read this book.

As an adult reader of middle grade, I can honestly say I loved the story crafting. Nicole Walters weaves together all the essential ingredients for a fantastic quest into a dimension that feels real, inviting, and full of danger – only the bravest souls dare enter.

Though the characters felt a bit underdeveloped (which is not uncommon for middle grade), it didn’t take away from the novel’s charm.

An enchanting and educational read. I recommend it.