Author Archives: amandaflaker

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
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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.

Middle Grade Review: The Magicians Tower

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For those of you wondering what is going on with the Middle Grade posts, fear not! For I bring you tidings of more good MG titles to come! Over the past year and a half I’ve been in major transition, traveling/living everywhere from Italy, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and finally, back to Portland. Now that my life is *finally* coming to a more grounded consistency, the MG posts will once again continue on a weekly basis (perhaps even twice a week). And yes, all my promised reviews are coming! Stay tuned for more! But let’s pick back up with a bit of magic: The Magicians Tower.

Official Synopsis:

“Despite her extraordinary magical abilities and sleuthing skills, Oona Crate’s detective agency has failed to take off. But a new challenge captures her attention—The Magician’s Tower Contest.

Held every five years, no one has ever completed the array of dangerous tasks (such as racing on flying carpets or defeating a horde of angry apes). As the competition commences, a case emerges. A rare punchbowl—one with unparalleled magical powers—has disappeared from the carnival surrounding the Magician’s Tower. If Oona can find the culprit, she could use the bowl to answer her question about her mother’s and sister’s tragic deaths so many years ago—was she really at fault?

Full of magic, mystery, and fun, THE MAGICIAN’S TOWER continues the wonderful adventures of Oona Crate.

Let me start off by saying I’m new to this series.

I didn’t read book one, The Wizard of Dark Street so perhaps my The Magician's Tower (Oona Crate Mystery, #2)perspective is a bit unique in that respect (I have nothing to compare it to), but I will say this delightful book might just be one of my favorite Middle Grade reads of 2013.

Oona Crate is compelling, smart, tough, charmingly imperfect, and female, (always a refreshing combination of qualities in a main character). The tower competition will provide plenty of enjoyment for those readers who enjoy honing their powers of deduction, and the plot pace feels natural and unrushed. Solid writing here folks.

Of course, as the true fantasy fan that I am, I’d have to say what I liked most about The Magicians Tower is the element of fantasy tied in with our regular ol’ muggle world. Yes, the gates to Faerie are just at the end of the road (bared up and sworn to eternal protection by the wizards of Dark Street), but the constant lure of enchanted seems to seep through every chapter.

A perfect fall read, with a touch of magic. Read it. It’s worth the trip down the shady alley ways of Dark Street.

Middle Grade Monday: A Magical Fall Read

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Fall is officially here! And like many of you, I like to kick off the season with a The Magician's Tower: A Sequel to The Wizard of Dark Streetgood, cozy book. My current delicious fall read is The Magicians Tower, by Shawn Thomas Odyssey.

A sequel to the debut novel, The Wizard of Dark Street, Odyssey picks back up with his charming heroine, Oona Crate, and along with his lyrical descriptions, takes his readers through the ultimate wizard challenge.

My official review of The Magicians Tower will be published next Monday, but for those of you wondering what book to get your child for Fall (or if you’re currently looking for an appetizing Middle Grade book to sink you teeth into) I wanted to offer a sneak peak.

Throughout the month of October I will be posting/reviewing more Fall favorites (and new releases) so stay-tuned!

Happy Monday!

The Magicians Tower official synopsis:

Despite her extraordinary magical abilities and sleuthing skills, Oona Crate’s detective agency has failed to take off.  But a new challenge captures her attention—The Magician’s Tower Contest.

Held every five years, no one has ever completed the array of dangerous tasks (such as racing on flying carpets or defeating a horde of angry apes). As the competition commences, a case emerges.  A rare punchbowl—one with unparalleled magical powers—has disappeared from the carnival surrounding the Magician’s Tower. If Oona can find the culprit, she could use the bowl to answer her question about her mother’s and sister’s tragic deaths so many years ago—was she really at fault?

Full of magic, mystery, and fun, THE MAGICIAN’S TOWER continues the wonderful adventures of Oona Crate.

TIME FETCH Giveaway Winner!

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Congratulations to Stormi for winning a free copy of our August Middle Grade Time FetchBook of the Month, Time Fetch!

Stay tuned for more Middle Grade giveaways next month!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Time Fetch Giveaway!

Happy September, Everyone! Time Fetch

As an ending to our celebration of the August release of Time Fetch, we are giving away one free copy for a lucky reader!

To enter, complete the form below. Winner will be announced next Middle Grade Monday!

Good luck!