7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

The Keepers: The Box and The Dragonfly by Ted Sanders Review

Series: The Keepers #1
Title: The Box and the Dragonfly
Author: Ted Sanders
Publisher: Harper Collins
Page #: 544
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Even before I had finished this guy I was handing it out to kids because I knew it was great.  If you have a child that really loves Harry Potter or fantastic worlds that are set within the real world this is definitely a series to check out.  The first two books in the series have been published and it is ongoing so if they like it there will be more books in the future.

This story follows two unlikely heros who are thrust into a world they didn’t know existed and it all starts with a warehouse full of stuff.  Aisles and aisles of boxes and bins filled with doodads and thingamabobs that to the untrained eye seem kitschy and out of place.  Both our protagonists have an affinity that has laid dormant in their genes which allows them to bond with one specific item in the warehouse.  Once bonded the item changes from a paperweight into a powerful magical item.  Each item is unique and each wielder is the only one able to use that particular item.

Little do the kids know that there are very powerful creatures who want to have all of these magic items to use as they see fit.  These creatures were once the makers of such items but have since lost the ability to do so.  They are trying to round up as many as possible to fortify their own power.  The kids will have to decide which side to fight for.  The side of humans who were given these gifts, or the side of the monsters who made them.

The first book is definitely a traditional set up.  We meet the cast of characters, learn how they got their items, what their items do, and get a taste of what the bad guys can do.  What stood out to me the most was definitely the world building.  Sanders has put in time and effort to create a history for the items in his world and to create rules for his magic that helps keep it in check.  I fell in love with the world long before I started to care for the characters and their individual plights.

It was fast paced and I didn’t mind that most of the book was learning about the world since it was such an interesting world to inhabit.  I definitely see the potential for these books to be great and I went and grabbed a copy of the second book and it is on my TBR for this year.  If you have a little one that likes action and adventure this is definitely a little known series to take a look at.  If they enjoy fantastic elements in a more believable and realistic world it is also a good one, as not everyone wants to deal with an entirely new world.

I will say that the bad guys here are a bit scary so it might be best to wait to read it until you are 10+, but it was not particularly challenging so if you have a brave 8 year old they would definitely be able to understand the book.  Perhaps it is one to read together, so that any scary moments can be discussed and snuggles can be used to build comfort.

The protagonists are both genders which I always appreciate.  While the main POV character is male (as is common for the genre) I actually felt the girl had more character to her.  She definitely had a bigger personality and it was their friendship that really held the story line together.  I believed that they trusted each other, while it started as simply discussing this weird thing they had in common, I saw their friendship grow and bloom over the course of the book.  It wasn’t instant friendship and I really appreciated that.

The other big thing that I loved was that they have families!  These weren’t orphans being signed up for a magic war with no one to miss or worry about them, they had parents who loved and cared for them siblings that counted on them.  Of course the very things they loved could also be used against them.  I hope that their families become a bigger part of the stories the more this series continues.  There is a lot that a family can do in the same way that freedom from the constraints of traditional family structures allows certain things, there is great power in having generations available as a resource.

This was one of the more interesting Middle Grade books I read last year, even though it took me the whole year to finish it.  I kept putting it down to read other pressing things (like books for my book club) but it was always by my bedside and I would read a bit here and there because it was so captivating.  I couldn’t just put it down and forget about it.

Do you guys have any suggestions for books that are similar to this one?  If so please leave them down below so that I can get myself a copy and read it to add to my repertoire of great Middle Grade Fantasy.  Along those lines, are there any stories you particularly want to hear me talk about?  I am always open to suggestions for things to look into.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Top 5 Middlegrade Books of 2017

The new year is beginning so I figured I would wrap up a couple of the books that I read last year that I think should be more popular than they currently are.

Now this book was originally published in 2016 but it came out in paperback last spring and is a really ambitious novel written through poetry.  I would say it is written in verse, but its more like a collection of poetry with a plot.  If you have a child who is interested in Japanese culture or who is mixed race, a child who feels very different from their peers or just one who likes stories set in the real world with real children, this is definitely worth picking up.  I did a full review of this book last year that you can look to for more thoughts on it.

I think for sure that this one was my favorite of the bunch but I’m not going to put these in any particular order because they are all worth picking up.  If you have a kid who loved Wonder and is looking for something similar, if you have a kid who is adopted, a kid with special needs, a kid who needs to learn a bit about differences then this is one to pick up.  I have been singing this books praises since long before it actually was released in September and of course I did a full review of it if you want to know more.  I think it should be a staple book in libraries and schools and definitely worth reading together as I loved it as an adult.

This guy technically came out in 2014 but the series is still ongoing and there was a new addition last year.  I was surprised that more kids haven’t been reading it.  It is slightly on the horror side for kids fiction as the plot revolves around ghosts and ghost hunters but the protagonists are the ones with the power.  Sure the ghosts are scary but the kids are trained to find them and stop them so they end up empowered.  If you are nervous about it I would give it a read yourself because I read it to my best friend and we both loved it.  Of course there is a full review to check out if it seems interesting to you or you think your kid might like it.

This guy might be the most well known of the bunch as it did receive the Newberry Honor and therefor is pretty prominently displayed in many book stores.  I want to point out though that this is a great book for all kids.  It would be a great story to read aloud as it is written similar to The Canterbury Tales where each chapter is told by a different character who happens to be sitting in the same inn.  There is really great young humor (A dragon who can’t stop farting fire) and some really poignant messages of acceptance and tolerance.  Worth the read, and if you can pick up a physical copy to look at you will be sure to appreciate how beautiful the art work is, as the book is fully illuminated.  Full review is right here if you want to know more.

I listened to this one through the audio book and loved it.  If you have a little one who struggles with reading, or you are looking for a great book to listen to on a long car ride this winter then I definitely recommend picking this one up.  This one will go out to anyone who is a fan of historical pieces like Anne of Green Gables or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as well as folks who like books about boarding school (although mundane ones).  This is a story of a group of friends whose headmistress passes away and they wish to solve the crime of her murder while hiding the fact that she was murdered in order not to be split up and sent back to their various homes.  There was a lot of really great banter in this one and is worth looking into.  This is the only one I haven’t done a full review of.  If you would like to know more about it then feel free to leave a comment below or to reach out to me on social media!

I wish a good year to all of you and your little ones.  I hope that we all read some really great books in 2018.

What were some of your kids favorite books of last year?  I don’t mind reading through back log so it doesn’t need to be new releases.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Reading Resolutions and Reading Challenges

The new year is just getting started and many of us feel that it is a great place to restart.  I am definitely an organize obsessed person, the sheer amount of color codes and systems in my weekly planner and bullet journals are a by product of that.

I am definitely one of those people who look at my reading and try and see if there are things I want to do differently, do more of, do less of, etc.  I usually set myself certain goals at the beginning of the year.  Most bookish people will use Goodreads which has a built in challenge where you simply choose a particular number of books to try and read in the year.  I have friends who use excel spreadsheets to track metrics like genre, author gender, author ethnicity, country of origin and a whole bunch more so you can make it as simple or complex as you want.  When it comes to kids though I find that they need a bit more structure.

I am a believer that resolutions and challenges when it comes to reading can be very helpful in diversifying reading and pushing your own boundaries.  Whether you have a voracious reader or a reluctant one gamifying reading by creating goals, adding friendly competition, and/or providing some structure to the books for the year to come can be an interesting way to change up the way your children read.

I personally use the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge and have for the past few years.  As an adult it helps me pick books to read both from my existing TBR that I might otherwise overlook again and again for something else as well as pushing me to read outside of my comfort zone.  If you read it might be a fun game to play together or put siblings up against each other.  Read together, read separately, have physical rewards or create an artistic display of the books you read.  It makes reading fun, builds good patterns and adds incentive.

In case you missed it, I did also post a summer reading challenge post which is a great resource of different challenges that you can use or adapt to be yearly challenges and worth the look.

f I’ve been tempted to make my own challenge but I am not entirely sure I could create such a beautiful thing as the many that you can on Pinterest.  I don’t have the necessary computer programs.

Have you tried reading challenges, or do you prefer to just read on your own unhindered with restrictions.

2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

January 2018 Book Releases for Children

I’ve been working on a way to share the books that are coming out each month for kids with you guys and it has been hard to find a system that I like, I am going to keep playing around with it but for me, browsing the cover art is helpful since they tell you a lot about a book and also lets you know whether your kids will be interested in it.

This month I tried making a Pinterest Board that would allow you to scroll through the covers and click on something interesting.  The link brings you right to the Goodreads pages for the titles which include the release dates, reviews, genre denominations and links to buy the books.  Let me know if this works for you guys because aesthetically I do think that it is a great idea.

As far as new releases go, there were significantly fewer this month.  Which makes sense as most people don’t want to spend money after Christmas, they did all their shopping the last few months and are backing up, but there are a few books coming out that are worth looking at.

Again, let me know how you feel about this format of release round up and any other commentary, suggestions, or critiques are welcome as well.

Happy New Year!


7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

Books for the Budding Environmentalist

I have spent the last month or so trying to decide how best to structure the blog going forward.  I have always known that I wanted to post Mon/Wed/Fri but I wasn’t sure what to do to help stream line my content.

I work best in some sort of structure and I think that what I will be doing moving forward is making each day have a theme.  Friday’s theme will focus on Young Readers.  This is a wide theme, it could include Middle grade book reviews, lists of content that best suits the young reader genre, or anything that for children who have learned to read on their own and are expected to do so for school.

Starting it off this month I wanted to talk a bit about some middlegrade books that I recommend for parents who want their kids to be ecologically conscious.

Some folks may have heard of this one, but I was surprised to find that Carl Hiaasen is not as well known.  I read this one when I was a child (and if you need some quality early 2000s film then the movie adaptation is pretty great as well) but all of Hiaasen’s books have some element of animal activism.  This one involves a group of kids who are attempting to save endangered owls from losing their habitat when a popular breakfast joint wants to expand and build a parking lot.  It discusses why it is important to protect animal rights and the “evils” of big business … a.k.a. greed.  I really enjoyed the book and there are a number that he has written so if this particular plot doesn’t work then just looking at his back catalog is definitely worth while.

If you have a more mature tween or a teen who is interested in environmental post apocalypse situations then this one is definitely worth a look.  There is a bit of high tension between humans and some violence so I would definitely reserve it for the older kids but it is still a great look at the issues that fossil fuels have on our water.  The story follows one girl in a world where all of the water has become poisoned and humans are fighting to survive as their crops are destroyed and the drinkable water is difficult to find and controlled by a few very powerful individuals.  The protagonist was lucky enough to have a safe place to hole up but there are strangers moving toward her and she fears what that might mean.

This is another older book so it may difficult to find in main stream stores but it was one that I really enjoyed.  The protagonist of this story volunteers his time at a veterinarian’s who takes in birds of prey injured by the wildfires that have been threatening the local forests.  It involves discussions on the forestry industry, community service with animals, and the tension between business and nature in a rural Montana community.  If you can get your hands on a used copy then it is definitely a worthwhile book for animal lovers, prospective vets, or folks who want to learn more about the dangers of forest fires to natural habitats.

If your kid is interested in renewable resources and the depletion of fossil fuels then this dystopia might be one that they enjoy.  It takes place just ten years in the future when all oil and gas has been used up.  It follows how the world copes with the sudden loss of energy in a not so great way.   It is another one that has more interpersonal violence and would be better for more mature young readers and teens but is worth a read for anyone looking for a more realistic dystopia, no offense to The Hunger Games.  There is also an element of climate change and extreme weather caused by the over use of fossil fuels so it would also be good to look at if you wanted to discuss more sustainable practices in the home environment.

This last one is definitely the oldest book on this list (being younger than I am but not by much) but it is one for any kids who prefer mysteries to science fiction.  This particular Joe Bass Adventure revolves around an old boat maker whose daughter was found drowned after raising awareness of the dangers of DDT being sprayed on the crops in her area.  This would be a good choice to discuss the use of chemicals and pesticides which has greatly fallen to the way side.  If you want to discuss why organic food is healthier or why it is important to always wash your fruits and vegetables the environmental aspect of this.  It is also good to discuss the danger that comes with being the face of a movement.

This was definitely an interesting collection to pull together.  If you guys have any other good suggestions for books that discuss issues with the environment for young readers I would love to hear your suggestions.  There were a fair number of young adult books but finding some that were appropriate for younger readers was a bit difficult.  I don’t think I was as interested into them when I was that age, I was definitely more of a fantasy reader though so that isn’t super surprising.

If you have any suggestions for collections I should pull together in the future or books I should check out then also feel free to pass it along.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Great Spooky Middlegrade Books/Series

These are the recommendations I have been waiting for.  As a child I couldn’t get enough of the horror genre … and that may have pervaded into my adulthood as well.  I want to talk about some hidden gems in the kids section that are on the scary side but definitely worth picking up around this time of year.  Whether it is just meant to be a good spooky tale or an outside reading project any of these books are worth a look.

It has been a long time since I saw a horror book in the kids section that doesn’t try to tamp down the scare factor and mix in some adventure … at least as far as the cover is concerned.  Took has one of the simplest … spookiest covers out there at the moment.  It is befitting a ghost story … or is it a witch story … both?  This story involves the very real fear of being a new kid in town alongside some scary local legends.  When the protagonist’s little sister starts acting strange, talking to her doll more than the real people around her, and finally disappearing into the woods he realizes that the stories kids have been telling him, might not be hazing pranks but may actually be true.  This is perhaps the scariest story on this list … at least in its simplicity.  It is the basic ghost story that you will find in the adult section as well.  This one is definitely meant for the horror buff, or for the brave kids who want to try something a bit more real.


I have posts where I discuss this new series by D. J. MacHale.  He was one of my favorite children’s writers growing up and he also wrote for and produced some of my favorite spooky television shows including Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Ghostwriter.  Am I dating myself here?  You might see this one in bookstores as Surrender the Key instead of Curse of the Boggin, they are the same book, there was just a title change between the hardcover and paperback editions.  This one is about a young boy who inherits a key, and a monster who can take the form of anything it chooses that sorely wants it.  How does a young boy outsmart a centuries old baddie who can better be described as simple bad luck.  Give it a try, and step into The Library where all sorts of mysteries throughout time are begging to be solved.

Yes, this might seem like a bit of a throw away recommendation.  Goosebumps have been a staple of the children’s section for more than 20 years at this point, but I want to throw out there the particular brand of Goosebumps books that took a page out of Choose Your Own Adventure novels.  Rather than a happy go lucky romp into space here you must choose between saving your best friends or investigating the weird man who took your backpack.  This particular one stuck with me as a kid, I still remember the scenes where the protagonist was seperated into all of its component pieces but maintained sentience enough to register that their eyes were in seperate jars from their mouth, their hands, and their feet.  A great adventure than can last from a few page turns to a good while if you play your cards right.  Just Beware because any mundane choice you make could be THE END!

We all know how terrifying the monsters our brains come up with in our sleep can be.  This story follows a young boy who cannot remember having a restful night’s sleep.  However, the real nightmare begins when the monsters that plague his dreamscape somehow finds its way into the real world.  This on top of a new stepmother he is pretty sure is a witch, a new house he is pretty sure is haunted, and the usual growing pains that a young boy suffers it is definitely a book worth a little bit of a shiver.  Just don’t read before bed, or you might give yourself Nightmares!


Growing up is hard, it is even harder when the end of the world has come via zombie hordes.  This was a new release when I started working in the kids section and it had hit the ground running.  The other really interesting thing about this one, it is a graphic novel.  As you would think, zombies and the fight against the inevitable is definitely stuck right in the middle of the horror genre.  How does a rag tag team composed of your average-joe, the nerdy best friend, a reformed bully, and the token love interest fair during the zombi-pocalypse.

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Halloween Craft and STEM Books for Kids!

I really want to talk about some great books that include all sorts of crafts, activities, and science experiments and what better time than just before Halloween.  If I could get my hands on all of these and had all the time in the world, you know that I would be making all sorts of crazy crafts, interesting meals, and just all out fun science.

So Harry Potter in itself is not necessarily very spooky.  It may contain witches and wizards but unless your fear is existential (which tbh everyone’s is from time to time) then it isn’t your first thought for Halloween … or maybe it is.  In any case, this guy is a great cookbook if you want to cook up some witchey treats for a Halloween party, or just to pack into lunch boxes throughout the upcoming week.  Plus, its fun to do with the kids themselves.  They can get dressed up and pretend they are playing with some sort of gross experiment foods.  All around good time for everyone involved.  If you love HP then you should check out some of the other books with crafts or some hard core science based on the HP world.

As a quick transition, I want to put out a good kit if you have a science oriented kid without wasting all of the ingredients.  Science experiments you can eat is a great book for a parent who wants to let their kids explore scientific theories but doesn’t want to throw out half of their pantry every other day.  Dress up as a zombie chef who wants to elevate the flavor profile of the zombie hordes and throw some chemistry knowledge down.  You might learn a thing or two as well (like how to make mayonnaise from scratch).

Along the same lines here is a great book with every day science experiments that are easy and fun to do.  Rather than being food oriented these are more of your traditional learning experiences.  Make some goop, learn about electricity, or throw together some chemical reactions while having fun and making a mess.  This is a great book for some mad scientist parties.  I remember doing experiments like this in elementary school and even in high school the flashiest chemistry experiments were the best.  You learn the most when you are having fun, mad fun.

If your kid is less interested in science but you still want to make things together this is a great option for crafting.  Help them decorate the house with spooky ghosts, or make gifts for their friends to bring to school!  I was definitely a crafty, artsy kid and I would have loved making these cute little nick-knacks.  Plus, it is free.  If you really like what is in here then pinterest is a great resource where parents and teachers alike bring you some of their favorite spooky crafts.

Now I admit that the last one is not as Halloween themed as the rest.  I just really recommend this book.  The autumn is a time to enjoy the last remaining bits of temperate weather before playing outside becomes miserable.  This book has a lot of really great learning tips and fun ideas for parents who want to take advantage of that.  It has tips for all seasons and while some seem pretty straight forward, sometimes just having a list of the options in front of you is a great way to jump start some fun.  Go on a ghost hunt outside and learn about hibernation, the leaves changing colors, migration and countless other natural phenomena specific to this time of year.  Then read up on great experiences that you yourself might want to take part in before you grow up.

2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

New Releases in Children’s Literature October 2017

I wanted to bring together a bunch of the releases for the month, I slightly underestimated just how many books come out in one month for kids.  I don’t know if October is just a heavy month for book releases, gearing up toward Christmas and all that or if this is the sheer volume of new releases in the section every month.  I suppose if I do continue with this section I will get an idea.

There was a lot of work put into a post which is little more than a glorified list, but because I had to work so hard to compile all of these new releases I figured there would be some value in making a nice easy to parse format for others.

I wanted to do a visual version with the covers, but this post is long enough with the titles, series and authors.  If you are interested in looking at all of the beautiful covers I highly recommend clicking the links through to their Goodreads pages because the art is always great.

Without further ado, the new releases, a.ka. publishers, take my money:


October 3


The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3) by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated Edition by J. K. Rowling
The War I Finally Won (War that Saved My Life #2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Black Moon Rising (The Library #2) by D. J. Machale
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
Red Moon Rising (Survivors: The Gathering Darkness #4) by Erin Hunter
Robots & Repeats (Secret Coders #4) by Gene Luen Yang
Predator vs Prey (Going Wild #2) by Lisa McMann
Who Gives a Hoot? (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet #3) by Jacqueline Kelly
The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea
Ghosts of Greenglass House (Greenglass House #2) by Kate Milford
Touchdown Kid by Tim Green
The Serpent’s Shadow: The Graphic Novel (Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan
Sting (Loot #2) by Jude Watson
The Unlikely  Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
Timeless:Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic (Timeless #1) by Armand Baltazar
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Max Tilt: Fire the Depths (Max Tilt #1) by Peter Lerangis
The Doldrums (Doldrums #1) by Nicholas Gannon
How to Catch a Dino Thief (Dino Riders #4) by Will Dare
Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy (Charlie & Mouse #2) by Laurel Snyder
Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke
Voyage to Avalon (Mice of the Round Table #2) by Julie Leung

Picture Books

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful by Nancy Tillman
I am Gandhi by Brad Meltzer
I am Sacagawea by Bran Meltzer
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo
I’m Not a Scaredy-Cat: A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave by Max Lucado
The Bad Mood and the Stick by Lemony Snicket
Remembering Vera by Patricia Polacco
Pup and Bear by Kate Banks
Odd Dog by Fabien Ockto Lambert
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
ABCs of Physics by Chris Ferrie
ABCs of Science by Chris Ferrie
Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman
Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro
Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen
Pierre The Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower by Hiro Kamigaki
Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim
The Great Puppy Invasion by Alastair Heim
Willa and the Bear by Philomena O’Neill

October 10

Middle Grade

Making Mistakes on Purpose (Ms. Rapscott’s Girls #2) by Elise Primavera
Spy School Secret Service (Spy School #5) by Stuart Gibbs
The Silver Mask (Magisterium #4) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race (Mr. Lemoncello’s Library #3) by Chris Grabenstein
Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar
Monster Notebook: A Branches Special Edition (The Notebook of Doom #13) by Troy Cummings
The Wildcat’s Claw (Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts #6) by Varian Johnson
Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #4) by Kate Dicamillo
The Land of Flowers (Thea Stilton: Special Edition #6) by Thea Stilton
Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Tentacle and Wing by Sarah Porter
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
The Chocopocalypse by Chris Callaghan
The Downward Spiral (Lock and Key #2) by Ridley Pearson
The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
Laura Ingalls is Ruining my Life by Shelley Tougas
Watchdog by Will McIntosh
The Gnome Exchange Program: North Pole Rescue by Matt Caliri
Peter Powers and the Sinister Snowman Showdown! by Kent Clark
Saturdays with Hitchcock by Ellen Wittlinger

Picture Books

Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
Grandpa’s Ghost Stories by James Flora (Reprint)
Bizzy Mizz Lizzie by David Shannon
Rory the Dinosaur needs a Christmas Tree by Liz Climo
Superheroes Club by Madeleine Sherak
Larry Gets Lost in San Diego by John Skewes and Eric Ode

October 17

Middle Grade

Phoebe and Her Univorn in the Magic Storm (Heavenly Nostrils #6) by Dana Simpson
Miss Tracy is Spacey! (My Weirdest School #9) by Dan Gutman
Tales from a Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe (Dork Diaries #12) by Rachel Renee Russell
Frank Einstein and the Bio-Action Gizmo (Frank Einstein #5) by Jon Scieszka
Wallace the Brave by Will Henry
The Player King by Avi
The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott
Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny (Bunjitsu Bunny #4) by John Himmelman
Miriam’s Secret by Debby Waldman
The Girl Who Knew Even More (Munchem Academy #2) by Commander S.T. Bolivar III
Applewhites Coast to Coast (Applewhites #3) by Steaphanie S. Tolan and R.J. Tolan
Harper and the Circus of Dreams (Harper #2) by Cerrie Burnell

Picture Books

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, Kerascoet
Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me by Ainsley Earhardt
Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha (Reprint)
My Journey to the Stars by Scott Kelly
Windows by Julia Denos
The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie
Book or Bell? by Chris Barton
What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? by Virginie Morgand
Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood

October 24

Middle Grade

Revenge of the Space Pirates (Galactic Hot Dogs #3) by Max Brallier
Lawn of Doom (Plants vs. Zombies #8) by Paul Tobin
Journey to the Crystal Cave (The Adventures of Sophie Mouse #11) by Poppy Green
Death and Douglas by J.W. Ocker
Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library (Fairday Morrow #2) by Stephanie Robinson
The Piper’s Apprentice (The Secrets of the Pied Piper #3) by Matthew Cody
The Whiz Mob and the Frenadine Kid by Colin Meloy
Wings for Wyatt (Tales of Sasha #6) by Alexa Pearl
Reign of Outlaws (Robyn Hoodlum #3) by Kekla Magoon
Ruby and Olivia by Rachel Hawkins

Picture Books

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero
Fergus and the Greener Grass by Jean Abernethy
I Am Life by Elisabeth Helland Larsen
Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty

October 31

Middle Grade

The Wildwood Bakery (Owl Diaries #7) by Rebecca Elliott
Team BFF: Race to the Finish! (Girls Who Code #2) by Stacia Deutsch
Super Rabbit Racers! (Press Start! #3) by Thomas Flintham
Curse of the Harvester (Dream Jumper #2) by Greg Grunberg
Jacky Ha-Ha: My Life is a Joke  (Jacky Ha-Ha #2) by James Patterson
CatStronauts: Space Station Situation (Catstronauts #3) by Drew Brockington
The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Little Bigfoot, Big City (The Littlest Bigfoot #2) by Jennifer Weiner
The Audition (Audition #1) by Maddie Ziegler
The Fourth Ruby (Section 13 #2) by James R. Hannibal
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange
Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Picture Books

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey
Give Thank You a Try by Bill O’Reilly and James Patterson
This is Not a Normal Animal Book by Julie Segal Walters

7-12, Books, Hi-Lo

Black Moon Rising: The Library Book 2 by D. J. MacHale Review

I have now had the pleasure to read the advance reader copy of both books in this series, which feels like a dream knowing that MacHale wrote my favorite series from childhood.  I have some mixed feelings on it, but I will tell you about the good and the bad as we get there.

Title: Black Moon Rising
Series Title: The Library
Author: D. J. MacHale
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Page #:
Genre: Middlegrade, Horror, Action/Adventure

Growing up D. J. MacHale had a huge influence on me and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized just how much.  I didn’t know that he had written for shows that I was obsessed with growing up (Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Ghostwriter are both shows I have very vivid memories of loving) plus Pendragon was my be all and end all series as a kid (Yes, I even liked it better than Harry Potter if you believe that).  I hadn’t really touched any of the books that he has written since Pendragon though.  This was partially due to my focus during this period of time being college and literary fiction and classics dominating most of my reading.

When I saw the first Library book sitting on the back room of the Barnes and Noble I worked at I snatched it up immediately.  I read it in one sitting.  So when I saw the sequel up on Netgalley I through my lot in and came up a winner.  I enjoyed this one just as much, read it in one sitting as well.  The problems I had were minor and more or less related to picky adult things.  I am certain that kids would not have the same issues but I figure I would explain my thoughts just the same.

There was a handful of times throughout the book that some pop culture reference was made and it didn’t jive with me very well.  The most notable would be a mention of the app. Temple Run.  The problem I have with a reference like this is that it very specifically dates the book.  Temple Run is a game that was quite popular for a while, and may still be popular, but applications like this one come in and out of fashion so quickly that in even a year it is possible kids won’t get the reference.  Now, there isn’t really a great way of knowing whether something will have longevity, I am sure people were discouraged from mentioning Pokemon in the 90s for the same reason, but that is a franchise that is still going strong.  No offense to Temple Run, but I don’t personally see it surviving in the same way.

Now, why is this a big deal?

I see this series having the ability to become a serious contender with R. L. Stine’s Goosebump series which has stood the test of time.  Children from several generations have chosen their own scares or bit their nails right along with Mr. Stine, and there wasn’t much out there similar to it.  The Library has the potential to do that.  This is not only because it has very strong horror elements and themes, the size and difficulty of the texts being relatively low (aimed closer to the 7-10 market but good for all young readers if they are interested), and the ability to dip in and out of the series without missing plot.  Each book is a contained story within itself.  You can read it in order, or you can jump around and either approach works.  If the books date themselves too harshly they won’t be able to stay on bookstore shelves as a staple series for 20 years, they will become too far distanced from the readers.

This issue is one that is clearly rooted in my want for this series to succeed.  Children of today will have no issue with this, in fact they will relate to the characters more because of references like this.  I just fear for its future.

The second minor issue I had was in a detail that I might be the perfect reader to notice.  There is a character in this story who likes playing with fire crackers.  This isn’t a big deal, a lot of kids like playing with explosives, especially the trouble making types, the problem comes in when this fact is paired with the setting of the book.  The characters in this book are housed in Western Massachusetts (where I currently live and grew up coincidentally) and all manner of fire crackers and fire works are highly illegal in our state.  You are not allowed to carry them over State lines even if you are traveling from one state where they are legal to another.  Now this could be easily rectified by simply integrating the added danger that not only is he playing with explosives, but contraband explosives.  Again, a little detail, that most people would not notice but one that warrants mentioning.

With all of this said and done, I want to talk about the things I enjoy.  The premise of these books is amazing in my opinion.  MacHale is an endless fountain of creativity from my perspective.  He can come up with so many interesting and complex ideas that include morals and empathy in stories with heart pounding suspense and vivid visuals.  His background in writing for T.V. definitely helps him here.  If you have a reluctant reader, who doesn’t like books because they are boring, hand them one of these and watch how quickly he can consume them.  When the pacing is correct and the subject matter helps propel the story along it is hard to put the book down.

I saw the twist at the end coming.  I have to say that I saw it and then thought he was going to do something different, and was a bit disappointed when it was what I originally thought.  However, my ending may have been a bit too dark for a kids book (although that never stopped Roald Dahl).  The threat in these books feels life threatening which helps the story maintain an element of fear even when the subject matter is something as well known as witches.  I approved of the way it ended, even if I did see it coming, there are certainly kids who might not.  There are kids who will follow all of the Red Herrings placed before them.  This is the fun, the parcing out of the real whodunnit.

The returning cast of characters were all as quirky as I remember them from the first one.  I will definitely hold a place in my heart for The Librarian (won’t elaborate less I spoil something).  I like how the two best friend characters in this series are able to actively participate in the adventures which is markedly different than Pendragon, but also creates a new dynamic.  The “magic” of the universe is also well established and set within its own rules which is greatly appreciated.

This was a good book, I will read more in the series as they come out and hope that they continue to improve.  Is this series going to usurp Pendragon, no, not in my opinion.  If you want to hear me talk about that I did a reread of the whole series in college with some of my friends and you can watch our discussions of those here!  I did a review of the first book in this series as well.  It is always hard to review a sequel because I don’t feel comfortable talking too much about the plot and mechanics.  I tried to stick to structure and key elements of the story here and hopefully was able to convey my feelings.

I recommend you guys pick this one up if you have a little one who loves horror, or needs something smaller and fast paced to get them through a book.  It might be a great read aloud bed time story if you are a parent who is really great at ominous voice work.  I am excited to see what kids have to say about it, so let me know what they think if you can!  The book will be out next Tuesday! 10/3/17


3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

Graphic Novel Recommendations for Kids: Fantasy

One of the biggest booming industries in the middle grade genre at the moment is that of the graphic novel.  Now of course,  comic books have always been a beloved pastime of the young nerd in training but the cultural ideas around comics and graphic novels has been shifting and with that has come a whole new genre of books available to kids both avid readers and those who require something a little easier.

My younger brother was never a big reader like most of the women in my family (I still believe part of that has something to do with cultural gender norms) but most of it had to do with his struggle to read and his preference to other ways of passing the time.  I was a kid who would read for hours with no issue, or play video games, or all manners of arts and crafts.  He was a bit more focused in the things he liked to do and was adamant against any other suggestions.

However, he did follow my love of super heroes and so comics were a good way to get him reading when he wouldn’t be interested in a regular book.  Now I don’t think that kids should read graphic novels alone, but getting them to read a story is a win in my book and here are some action packed adventure suggestions for anyone who should want them.

For anyone who has never seen one of my recommendation posts, clicking the cover photo will open the goodreads page for that book so you can read more.

I have a full review of this guy on the blog already if you missed it but the tl;dr version of it is: This is a great action story set in a steam punk world where most folks live on giant flying ships separated from those on the ground by giant dangerous storm clouds.  Our rambunctious female protagonist is more than ready to come of age to inherit her father’s ship as she has been a constant troublemaker on the ship, unable to really find her own niche.  The world is rich and varied, the characters are incredible bright and well fleshed out both visually and through their characterization.  This might be worth the look for any young girls (or boys) who are interested in mechanical engineering or robotics.

Now I can’t completely vouch for the graphic version of this book because it is an adaptation of a Newbery Award winning book by the same title.  The reason I am throwing it in here as an option is to show how there are graphic novel versions of a lot of really well written and complex stories.  For kids who have a hard time parsing through language the graphic version may be a good option for them (even classic children’s books like A Wrinkle in Time have graphic versions)  This story is an adorable one about a child who lives in a graveyard and raised by the spirits who reside there.  Neil Gaiman is a master of fantastic fiction for both children and adults and will appeal to folks who enjoy a little bit of creepiness in their books as well as a lot of heart and humor.  Worth the read for adults as well in my opinion.

This one is great for slightly older kids (7th grade and older)  It discusses what it is like to go through puberty, to begin to feel a bit out of place in your school and your family, and what it is like to be an outcast.  Anya needs a new friend, she just didn’t realize that she would find one … at the bottom of a well.  This is a cute little story and the art is simplistic for kids who don’t care about the massive color spreads.  It is an original graphic novel (created to be a graphic novel specifically) and is also highly recommended for adults in my opinion.  It captures the feeling of young children (especially girls) very well.  The younger kids may not fully relate with Anya and most of the beauty in this one comes through how relateable of a story it is.

Doug TenNapel has several graphic novels made for kids and I would recommend all of them.  I was a kid who loved interesting weird stories (maybe a little scary) so I was most drawn to Ghostopolis.  A young boy is accidentally transported to the realm of the undead and this is the story of his misadventures attempting to leave … while also fighting the evil ruler of Ghostopolis.  It also has a really cute story involving the ghost of the protagonists grandfather and I really appreciated the way that generations and familial ties are used in this story and it would definitely be loved by an child who is worried about the afterlife or how their family members who have passed away are after death.  (Even if their city is ruled by an evil dictator)

This may be the most well known title on this list but I figured I would throw it out there for anyone who hasn’t stepped into the world of middle grade graphic novels.  This was the series that my brother loved and really got him interested into the genre.  This is a more traditional fantasy story about some kids who are on a quest to save their mother from the demons who lured her into a mysterious world on the other side of an out of place door in their basement.  It calls upon so many stories of children falling into fantastic worlds, as well as the idea that they are gaining self sufficiency from their parents while still needing them.  It has great monsters, interesting allies, and is all around fun to read.  This is a must read in the genre, if you aren’t at all interested, I would still highly recommend getting it as an example of everything graphic novels can do.

I want to make this into a series where I discuss different subgenres within the graphic novel arch.  There are great graphic novels on many different subjects and while I am limited to those that have piqued my interest any good bookseller can show you the best way to find graphic novels for kids.  If you have more specific questions about the books that I discussed here or want to hear my thoughts on a different title please let me know down below and I will do my best to compensate you.