Category Archives: Middle Grade

Book Review: The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky

book reviews banner2
M.P. Kozlowsky’s new middle grade adventure, The Dyerville Tales, is a beautiful story about hope, magic, and love.

dyerville talesVince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and his father in a fire when he was young, but beyond that, his life hasn’t been much of a fairy tale. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was remanded to a group home, where he spun fantastical stories, dreaming of the possibility that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. But it’s been a long time since the fire, a long time since Vince has told himself a story worth believing in.

That’s when a letter arrives, telling Vince his grandfather has passed away. Vince cannot explain it, but he’s convinced that if his father is somehow still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for his grandfather’s small hometown of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a story that could not possibly be true, a story of his grandfather’s young life involving witches, giants, magical books, and evil spirits. But as Vince reads on and gets closer to Dyerville, fact and fiction begin to intertwine, and Vince finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

M. P. Kozlowsky, the author of Juniper Berry, has crafted a powerfully imaginative novel of the spaces in life where fantasy and reality intersect, a touching story of the things we give up to recover the things we’ve lost.

Kozlowsky elegantly captures the battle between hope and belief and magic we feel as a child, and the brutal onslaught of reality and disappointment that we face as we mature. Left orphaned at a young age, Vince is even more susceptible to this depression — and yet, armed with the waning belief that his father is still alive, and the stories his grandfather has left for him, Vince soldiers on. He faces his fears and anxieties, and embarks on an incredible journey.

Along the way, Vince learns that hope and belief and magic are not something he has to give up in order to grow up. He learns that sometimes hope is the most powerful magic of all.

The Dyerville Tales is in stores April 22nd.

Book Review: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

book reviews banner2
Journeys – both physical and mental – abound within the pages of Kenneth Oppel’s The Boundless, a stunning new middle grade saga that combines action, adventure, and magic into one thrilling story.

boundless, theAll aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

Though intended for a middle grade audience, The Boundless contains plenty of content to entertain and engage readers of just about any age. Woven into the story are themes about family, love, friendship, coming of age, and courage. Oppel brings these themes together seamlessly with a story that is packed with action, intrigue, and a touch of magic and whimsy.

As captivating as The Boundless (the train) is to its passengers, so is The Boundless (the book) captivating to Oppel’s readers. The writing is just lovely, and the storytelling engaging. It’s easy to get swept up in the extravagance and adventure of Oppel’s story.

The Boundless is in stores April 22nd.

Book Review: Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

book reviews banner2
During a dark time in world history, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne shows one boy’s determination and unrelenting hope in a beautiful portrait of love, strength, and how far we’ll go to save the ones who hold most dear.

stay where you are and then leaveThe day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight—but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret mission. Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by—a hospital treating soldiers with shell shock. Alfie isn’t sure what shell shock is, but he is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place. . . .

Boyne paints a captivating portrait of life for one boy during World War I – capturing the terror of Alfie’s neighbors, the fears and anxieties of his mother, and the realities that — while soldiers went off to war — back home, life moved on. Income, food, rent, all the necessities of daily life still needed to be addressed amidst this greater turmoil.

Woven in between his portraits of life during the war, Boyne shows one boy’s determination to help his family and bring his father home safely. It shows the courage of children during trying times. And it shows that adults don’t always know best, even if they think they do. Alfie is a glowing example that children are stronger than we so often give them credit for being, and are often braver in their innocence than adults are in their knowledge.

Stay Where You Are & Then Leaveis in stores March 25th.

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

middle grade mondays banner

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!

Holiday Shopping Guide 2013: Middle Grade

nn holiday shopping guide
Today, we wrap-up our 2013 edition of a holiday shopping guide with a look at some of our favorite middle grade books from recent years. These are great gifts for the young readers in your life!

Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle breadcrumbs

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

doll bones counting by 7s real boy, the

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Wildwood Peter Nimble apothecary

Wildwood by Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis
Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

marco-Bomb-mock-1P Time Fetch Planet Thieves

Marco, Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz
The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick
The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos

The Fellowship of Alient Detection school of good and evil Lokis-Wolves

The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson
The School of Good & Evil by Soman Chainani
Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

SideKicked2 The Spindlers

Sidekicked by John David Anderson
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

For the comments: Which other middle grade books would you add to this list?

Junie B. Jones Creator Barbara Park Dies at 66

middle grade mondays banner

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

middle grade mondays banner

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

middle grade mondays banner

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.