Category Archives: Middle Grade

Best Middle Grade Books of 2014

best of 2014
Yesterday, we posted our picks for the Best YA Books of 2014. Today, we’re spotlighting our favorite Middle Grade Books of 2014. In no particular order, here are our picks:

hook's revengeHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I adored this whimsical twist on the classic Peter Pan story, in which Captain Hook’s daughter comes to Neverland to exact revenge on the crocodile that killed her infamous father. Schulz has crafted an insanely clever and witty story, and the book’s illustrations add just the perfect extra touch of whimsy. Funny and heartfelt, this is a book both kids and the adults in their lives will enjoy.

fleabrain loves frannyFleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

This charming tribute to Charlotte’s Web is full of heart and history. Rocklin brilliantly marries a wealth of historical information about the polio epidemic and the creation of the polio vaccine, with a sweet story about one girl’s unique friendship with a magical flea. Rocklin lovingly captures Franny’s journey from polio patient to hero.

Night Gardener, TheThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Auxier weaves a dark and twisted tale about an enchanted manor, and the two orphans who become unlikely heroes against a mysterious evil. I love Auxier’s writing, and he crafts the perfect moody atmosphere for his story. And if you’re worried this tale might be too dark for your kids, don’t be. Auxier certainly weaves a dark story — but it’s never inappropriate for the book’s intended audience.

stay where you are and then leaveStay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

A brilliant historical drama about one boy’s quest to learn the truth about his deployed father’s fate during World War II. The book is a beautiful portrait of love, strength, and how far we’ll go to save the ones we hold most dear. Boyne paints a captivating portrait about life during the war, captured through the lens of one boy’s determination to find his father and save him.

rain reignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin

As if anything written by Ann M. Martin wouldn’t be brilliant? Rain Reign is a beautiful story about a girl on the autism spectrum, and the unique bond she shares with her dog. The book shows us her anxieties and her fears and her struggles, but also her strength, determination, and bravery.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsCartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of this book, which bears echoes of A Little Princess — as one girl is transported from her home on the plains of Africa to the confines of a boarding school in England. With a message that is ultimately liberating and reassuring, the book shows that there are different ways to be yourself and find freedom, while conforming to society’s needs for children to grow up.

For the comments: What are your favorite middle grade books from the past year?

Book Review: Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

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A beautiful tribute to love, friendship, family, and Charlotte’s Web, Joanne Rocklin’s Fleabrain Loves Franny is a charming and whimsical read that will appeal to readers of all ages.

fleabrain loves frannyThis gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.

Rocklin has captured the essence of childhood friendship and imagination. With Fleabrain Loves Franny, she pays homage to Charlotte’s Web — while giving her own smarter-than-usual insect a life of his own.

But while her unique and magical friendship with Fleabrain offers the book much of its charm, the real appeal of Fleabrain Loves Franny is seeing Franny overcome the challenges of her illness. After recovering from polio, she is left unable to walk — and many of her friends refuse to see her, fearing she is still contagious (she’s not).

As much as Fleabrain Loves Franny is a whimsical account of a girl’s friendship with a brilliant flea and his magical serums, the book is also an historically accurate look at the polio epidemic and the hard work that would eventually lead to the March of Dimes foundation, the polio vaccine, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming at once, Fleabrain Loves Franny is certainly SOME BOOK! It is in stores now.

Blog Tour Q&A + Contest: Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson

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Today, I am so pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, featuring an exclusive Q&A with the author about his whimsical new middle grade series.

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pennyroyal academyI love the idea that a princess can be a hero. How did your definition of a princess, as we see in PENNYROYAL ACADEMY, come about?

Pennyroyal Academy began as an animated television series. In the early days, it was a pretty straightforward parody of “Disney princess culture.” The initial idea I had was that Cinderella and Princess Peach (of MarioKart) lived together as roommates, and then it became “What if all the princesses lived in the same place?” which then led to the idea of a military-style princess training academy. But as I started planning to write it as a book, I realized there might be a way to do the idea with a bit more substance. So I tried to strip away a lot of the parody elements and general silliness and create a more substantial world around the idea of a princess training academy. I focused in on Grimms’ Fairy Tales because they’re such dark, rich, substantive stories. I knew that if the girls in my book were going to train to become princesses, they would need an enemy to fight against. That led me to the idea that only a princess can defeat a witch. They are the last line of defense for the people of this world when the witches start rolling in. What I particularly liked about this as an overarching conflict was that it allowed me to create a world that joined all the Grimms’ tales together. Cinderella and Snow-White both live in the world of Pennyroyal Academy. Maybe not at the same time or in the same place, but the characters in my book have heard of and idolize these princesses of the past. Think of them as the George Patton and Douglas MacArthur of this world. Legendary military heroes, only in horse-drawn carriages instead of tanks.

MALarson_authorphotoYou’ve written a lot for children’s television, including Disney. Did your experience in children’s TV influence your work on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY? In what ways?

I never would have thought of the idea if not for my television writing. Before I moved to Los Angeles, I was writing dark, indie screenplays that no one would ever want to produce or probably even watch. When I moved out west, a friend of mine who I’ve known since kindergarten was an animator at Cartoon Network, and the show he was on needed writers. I wrote a couple of spec scripts and got the job. I’ve never been particularly picky about what age level or genre I write for, so animation writing, happily, became my job. And the best way to have longevity in a TV career is to create your own show. I was constantly trying to think of ideas to pitch, and Pennyroyal Academy was one of them. In more general terms, writing for children’s animation has been invaluable. You have to churn out so many scripts and concepts that you quickly learn to not be too precious about your ideas. And you deal with so many notes from so many different parties that you learn to accept rejection as just something that happens. A lot. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the day when you’re someone who comes up with stories. Some will work, some won’t.

Family was a theme that really stuck with me, reading PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—both the family you’re born with, and the family you make for yourself. What sort of impact did your family have on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY?

Even thought I’ve spent my career up until now writing for film and television, I always wanted to write books. My mom took my brother and I to the library all the time when we were kids. At first I would leave with a stack of Garfield books or whatever, but then on one visit I noticed a book with a picture of a rabbit on the front. It was Watership Down. I read that book over and over again, not even really understanding what it was about. I just knew it was magic. That was the switch flip that made me want to write books. My mom has done home daycare my entire life, so there were always dozens and dozens of books around the house, but it was those regular trips to the library that got me hooked. My dad was a radio DJ and a massive movie buff, so he was the driving force behind my love of cinema and music. To this day, Apocalypse Now is one of my top three films, and my dad showed that to me at a very young age. So his love of story also influenced me pretty heavily. I also have one brother who is just under two years older than me so needless to say, his interests were my interests. He introduced me to Stephen King when I was very young, and I became addicted to that sensation of being scared by a book. There’s a short story of his called “Graveyard Shift” that haunts me to this day. My brother also got me into Bunnicula and countless other more age-appropriate books. But you can see how vividly I connect stories to each member of my family.

We hear a lot about different fairy tales throughout PENNYROYAL ACADEMY. What were your favorite fairy tales growing up?

I have to admit, my exposure to fairy tales came primarily through Disney. I love most of the Disney fairy tales, actually. I think they get a bit of a bad rap these days. Sleeping Beauty is one of the most gorgeous things ever put on film, and The Little Mermaid will always be my favorite animated film. I didn’t sit down and read Grimms’ Fairy Tales until I started writing this book. And then I completely fell in love. Now I’ve read them all multiple times in multiple translations, and gotten into the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault and Oscar Wilde. There are little fairy tale Easter Eggs all throughout Pennyroyal Academy, most from fairly obscure Grimms’ stories. Everything from character names to scenes to subplots. I wanted the reader to be able to feel the fairy tales throughout the story, even if they aren’t familiar with the fairy tale itself.

I am hopeful that there will be a sequel to PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—it feels like we still have SO much to learn. Assuming there will be another book, what can readers expect?

I don’t want to say! I’m such a proponent of going in cold, knowing nothing. I guess I’ll say that there are even more Brothers Grimm elements in the second book, so fairy tale fans will have lots more Easter Egg hunting to do. And there might be giants. Maybe. We’ll see.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Song that can always get you dancing?

I loathe dancing. And yet “Groove is in the Heart” gets me every time.

Favorite Halloween candy?

Anything with peanut butter. In fact, hold the candy and just give me a jar.

Starbucks beverage of choice?

Boring. Venti Americano.

French fries or tater tots?

Tater tots are the one true prepared potato form.

Skill you wish you possessed?

Dancing.

Favorite member of the Avengers?

EMMA PEEL. I know that’s not what you meant, but there is no denying she is the greatest Avenger of all time.

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Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

Enlist today at PennyroyalAcademy.com!

Blog Tour Schedule:

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You can enter to win a Pennyroyal Academy Recruitment Kit by filling out the Rafflecopter form here!

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about the bookAnd here is more about Pennyroyal Academy, which is in stores now:

pennyroyal academyPennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy masterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.

about the authorM.A. Larson (www.malarson.com) is a film and television writer who lives with his wife, daughter, and two dogs in a canyon in California. Larson has written for Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney UK, Discovery Kids Channel, The Hub, and Nickelodeon. As a writer on the cult sensation “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, he has been a guest at “brony” fan conventions from Paris, France to Dallas, Texas. Pennyroyal Academy is his first novel.

Worst Witch Series Halloween Giveaway

halloween reads
We have a wonderful Halloween giveaway for you today, celebrating the BRAND NEW covers for the beloved Worst Witch middle grade book series by Jill Murphy. I grew up reading these books, and simply ADORED them. That’s why I’m so excited to see them packaged with shiny new covers, that still harken back to the editions I read, while having a fresh look for new readers.

worst witch1 worst witch2 worst witch3 worst witch4 worst witch5 worst witch6

To celebrate the new covers, we’ve teamed up with Candlewick Press to offer one of you lucky readers a chance to win all 6 books in the Worst Witch series, featuring the new covers!

We’re giving away one set of all six books to one winner, with a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here & tell us below why you want to win the new Worst Witch books for your chance to win! The contest runs through midnight (PT) on Wednesday, October 22nd.

And if you just can’t wait, here are the titles & order of all six books in this beloved series:

  • The Worst Witch #1
    ISBN: 9780763672607
  • The Worst Witch Strikes Again #2
    ISBN: 9780763672577
  • A Bad Spell for Worst Witch #3
    ISBN: 9780763672522
  • The Worst Witch at Sea #4
    ISBN: 9780763672539
  • The Worst Witch Saves the Day #5
    ISBN: 9780763672553
  • The Worst Witch to the Rescue #6
    ISBN: 9780763669997

About The Worst Witch:

Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, and she’s making an awful mess of it. She’s always getting her spells wrong and she can’t even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?

For the comments: Did you read the Worst Witch series growing up? Who would you share these books with now?

Book Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

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There’s a reason Ann M. Martin is in a class to herself when it comes to writing some of the best middle grade fiction of the last few decades. It’s because she is simply that good, and nowhere is that more clear than in her newest book, Rain Reign.

rain reignRose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

Martin has beautifully captured the thoughts and struggles of a young girl on the Autism Spectrum. Through Martin’s diligent work and thoughtful writing, readers glimpse Rose’s struggles and worries and thoughts. Martin allows us to see the world through her eyes.

The story itself is a simple one, yet the power of Rain Reign is in Martin’s masterful storytelling. Through Rose’s story, she captures readers’ hearts and gives them a reason to emotionally invest in the outcome. We need to know what happens; we need to see Rose through this struggle.

Filled with heartache and heart, Rain Reign is a captivating story of soaring brilliance. It reminded me, once again, of why Martin’s books were such a huge part of my childhood, and why they have stuck with me as an adult. Rain Reign is in stores today.

Get ready for Nick & Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove

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Today, I have the pleasure of sharing a really fun middle grade series with you — just in time for the release of the FOURTH book! I’m talking about Nick & Tesla, 11-year-old sibling super-sleuths.

The books are charmingly-written adventure mysteries, and each one includes a variety of interactive how-to projects. It’s the perfect way to show young readers that there is more to reading than just the words on the page — that reading can open the doors to new activities, new knowledge, new skills, and more.

Nick & Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove comes out October 7th — but here’s a refresher on the first three books, in case you’re new to this fantastic series.

nick tesla 1Nick & Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Nick and Tesla are bright 11-year-old siblings with a knack for science, electronics, and getting into trouble.

When their parents mysteriously vanish, they’re sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a brilliant inventor who engineers top-secret gadgets for a classified government agency. It’s not long before Nick and Tesla are embarking on adventures of their own—engineering all kinds of outrageous MacGyverish contraptions to save their skin: 9-volt burglar alarms, electromagnets, mobile tracking devices, and more.

Readers are invited to join in the fun as each story contains instructions and blueprints for five different projects.

In Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab, we meet the characters and learn how to make everything from rocket launchers to soda-powered vehicles. Learning about science has never been so dangerous—or so much fun!

nick tesla 2Nick & Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage

Nick and Tesla are bright 11-year-old siblings with a knack for science, electronics, and getting into trouble.

When their parents mysteriously vanish, they’re sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a brilliant inventor who engineers top-secret gadgets for a classified government agency. It’s not long before Nick and Tesla are embarking on adventures of their own—engineering all kinds of outrageous MacGyverish contraptions to save their skin: 9-volt burglar alarms, electromagnets, mobile tracking devices, and more. Readers are invited to join in the fun as each story contains instructions and blueprints for five different projects.

In Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, the brother-and-sister duo unleash a swarm of battery-powered gizmos (which readers can make at home). Learning about science has never been so dangerous—or so much fun!

nick tesla 3Nick & Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle

After foiling a gang of kidnappers and fending off an army of robots, 11-year-old siblings Nick and Tesla Holt could use a little rest! But as their third mystery opens, they discover there’s a spy in their midst, searching for secrets in the home of their beloved (and slightly crazy) Uncle Newt.

Is it the new laboratory assistant? The exterminator? The housekeepers? Or someone completely unexpected? To expose the mystery agent, Nick and Tesla must engineer all kinds of outrageous contraptions, from code wheels and fingerprint powder to spy cameras and burglar detectors. Best of all, instructions are included throughout the story, so you can build the projects, too!

nick tesla 4Nick & Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove

Bright siblings—and amateur inventors—Nick and Tesla Holt are back in this fourth installment of their whiz-bang middle-grade series. This time, the twins are out to save science itself, as they race against the clock to figure out why a robotic assortment of history’s greatest scientists and inventors keeps going haywire. Is this sabotage, robo-geddon…or something more sinister? To unravel the mystery, they’ll have to keep adding all-new gadgets to their cyborg glove as they stay one step ahead of a hidden adversary.

Together with zany scientist Uncle Newt and their friends Silas and DeMarco, Nick and Tesla won’t give up until an answer is found…but can they do it before time runs out? In this book, readers will learn how to construct a super-cyborg gadget glove that has four incredible functions: LED signal light, ultra-loud emergency alarm, handy sound recorder, and UV secret message revealer. Science and electronics have never been so much fun!

 

 

Book Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

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Peter Pan is kind of a jerk, and there’s no one better to let you know why than Jocelyn Hook, the daring (and, let’s admit it, much more kind-hearted) daughter of none other can Captain Hook. Her saga of surviving (and escaping) finishing school, and her quest to avenge her father’s death against the Neverland’s tick-tocking crocodile make up the rollicking adventure, Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz.

hook's revengeTwelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

Schulz has captured all the joy and magic of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story, and reconfigured Neverland for an all new set of adventures through Jocelyn. Schulz writes with a witty tone, her cantankerous narrator imbuing the story periodically with even more color and humor — as Jocelyn navigates the trials and tribulations of finishing school, pirating, and revenge.

There is much to say about Hook’s Revenge, but I’ll start with this: it’s a delightful story, filled with charm and wit, endearing characters, imaginative plot twists, and plenty of humor. Schulz’s charming storm is lovingly enhanced by John Hendrix’s wonderful illustrations — each one filled with action, emotions, life, and all the tiny details that bring moments from the text to life.

Hook’s Revenge is simply a delight to read. Funny and charming and magical — everything a book should be. It is in stores now.

Book Review: The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

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A charming new middle grade adventure from author Kelly Barnhill awaits readers within the pages of her latest book, The Witch’s Boy.

witch's boyWhen Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?

With a deft hand, acclaimed author Kelly Barnhill takes classic fairy tale elements–speaking stones, a friendly wolf, and a spoiled young king–and weaves them into a richly detailed narrative that explores good and evil, love and hate, magic, and the power of friendship.

A powerful story about family and friendship, love and magic, The Witch’s Boy is as delightful for adult readers as it will be for younger audiences. Barnhill weaves an enchanting story in a fantastical realm that readers will love discovering, with plenty of adventure and intrigue mixed in for good measure.

The writing itself is smart, beautiful, and lyrical — drawing in the reader with each careful turn of phrase. And that’s good, because the story itself starts out slow — so as Barnhill’s writing hooks you, it takes a while for the pace to catch up. But once it does, the characters and the magic of the story will really keep you hooked, as each new chapter unfolds.

Get bewitched by The Witch’s Boy, when it hits stores on September 16th.

More from author Lisa Schroeder: Charmed Life Series

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Besides last month’s new release The Bridge from Me to You, author Lisa Schroeder has FOUR new middle grade books coming out this year (three are already in stores). Here’s a look at the four-part Charmed Life series:

charmed life1Caitlin’s Lucky Charm

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

Caitlin would stay at summer camp forever if she could. Her new best friends in the world, Hannah, Mia, and Libby are there. And at home? Everything’s different: Her dad is worried he might be losing his job; her mom is repainting the whole house and making the kids volunteer at a soup kitchen; and Caitlin is starting sixth grade at a new school, where none of the girls are as fun or friendly as her Cabin 7 BFFs. But Caitlin has a good-luck charm — or a good-luck charm bracelet anyway. The Cabin 7 girls bought it together, and Caitlin is taking the first turn wearing it. She’s sure it will help turn her luck around . . . but when?

charmed life2Mia’s Golden Bird

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

Mia loves two things: surfing and photography. When she breaks her foot, she tries to stay busy, making scrapbooks, but she’s still bored. Then one day Mia’s scrapbooks catch someone’s eye: the famous actress Lacy Bell! Lacy likes to go birdwatching with her grandma. She offers to pay Mia to be their photographer. It’s perfect — until the kids at school start gossiping. Mia’s glad she has her BFF’s charm bracelet — she’s going to need it!

charmed life3Libby’s Sweet Surprise

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

When she’s not hanging out at her family’s sweetshop, Libby loves walking her dog around London. She always meets the most interesting people — like Cedric, who’s her age and also has a dog. They become fast friends, until Libby finds out his family are the new owners of a competing store! Libby tries to keep her parents’ business a secret, because she really likes Cedric and wants to be his friend. But the secrets start adding up, and Libby needs the charm bracelet she shares with her besties to bring her some luck . . . right now!

charmed life4Hannah’s Bright Star
(In stores October 28th)

Four best friends, one lucky bracelet, and an utterly charming new middle-grade series!

It’s finally Hannah’s turn to wear the lucky charm bracelet–and not a moment too soon!

Hannah’s parents have a surprise for her, and she’s sure it’s her dream come true: a horse of her own. Instead, they’ve gotten her a mule!

Everyone says she can still ride the mule, even in the 4-H parade, but how silly will that look? Hannah is so embarrassed, and she needs the luck from her Cabin 7 BFFs’ charm bracelet more than ever!

Book Review: Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

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Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of Katherine Rundell’s beautifully charged new novel, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsEven a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this lovely and lyrical novel from the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure.”

Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive?

From the author of the “witty, inventively poetic” Rooftoppers comes an utterly beautiful story that’s sure to be treasured.

I was immediately captivated by Will’s life on the African farm — the freedom and feeling of joy she finds in each little corner of her world. I could feel, smell, taste her world — the dust, the food, the animals, the savannah. Will’s Africa came to life for me within the pages of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms – so much so, that like Will, I felt cooped up and trapped by the stark contrast she faced in her English school.

With echoes of A Little Princess, Rundell uses Will’s experience being forced from her home in Africa to a constrictive school in London to illustrate the harshness of growing up. The fear that we will lose ourselves in trying to become who society wants us to be.

But ultimately, the message of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is liberating and reassuring. Yes, we have to make sacrifices in life. Yes, growing up is hard and sometimes painful. But it does not mean letting go of the past; of who you are. It is about a shift in how you approach the world; in facing the change you can’t escape while remaining true to yourself.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is in stores August 26th.