RILEY MACK STIRS UP MORE TROUBLE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

It’s the start of another year of reviews for MMGM here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE and time to announce the winners of my first giveaway. As announced last week ROSI HOLLINBECK won the first part of the contest and a $25 Visa Gift Card. You can catch Rosi’s fun and informative blog at THE WRITE STUFF.

Here are the results of the drawing for part two of the ARE YOU KIDDING? contest:

A Dozen Hardback MG Books: SA LARSEN (Find her blog here)

$25 Visa Gift Card: MARCIA STRYKOWSKI (Find her blog here)

$25 Amazon Gift Card: MICHAEL GETTEL-GILMARTIN (Find his blog here)

Congratulations to all and once you send me your address, I’ll send out your prize. What’s next? I’m planning already!

Now, let’s jump into this week’s review. I’m a bit late getting to this series as it has been buried on my TBR list for a year. I chose to read the second book (The first, RILEY MACK AND OTHER KNOWN TROUBLEMAKERS was released in 2012). It didn’t matter that I’d missed that one as character backgrounds are slipped in along the way.

Okay, let me get a few things out of the way. The plot is far-fetched as are many of the adult and child characters. I was shaking 9780062202970_p0_v2_s260x420my head a few times at the unbelievable dialog on many of the pages. Similar to the recent GREAT GREENE HEIST, I moved beyond those concerns  and just enjoyed the story. The tale borders on the impossible in more ways than one, but it’s fun following Riley Mack as he attempts to make right too many wrongs.

PUBLICATION DATE:2013   PAGE COUNT: 324

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):

Briana Bloomfield, the talent Jake Lowenstein, the genius “Mongo,” the muscle Jamal Wilson, the fifth grader —and—Riley Mack, the fearless leader

Together, these five are the Known Troublemakers, stirring up trouble in the name of justice. Wherever a wrong needs righting or an innocent kid needs protecting, Riley and his friends will be there, ready to use their problem-causing expertise for the greater good.

Only this time, injustice strikes a little too close to home. School’s out for the summer, and somebody’s polluting the gang’s favorite swimming hole. And if that wasn’t enough to ruin the vacation, one of the Troublemakers is in serious trouble, and all of Riley’s efforts to help are only making things worse. With ten thousand dollars and the fate of his friends and family on the line, Riley will have to think fast if he hopes to pull off his most daring caper yet!

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT RILEY MACK STIRS UP MORE TROUBLE by Chris Grabenstein

  1. Riley has a touching relationship with his dad who is stationed in Afghanistan. It’s what so many kids have to go through in the U.S. as a parent they adore is so far away. Riley mimics his dad’s army way of communicating, especially in the few opportunities they get to talk with each other.
  2. The humor had me laughing several times. Most of it comes from Riley’s mom or one of the other adult characters. The gags might go over a young reader’s head. For example, would they giggle at Mrs’ Mack’s request of a screwdriver (the kind used for screws) and everyone mistakenly assumes she’s ordering a drink by that name. I doubt it, but it was funny.
  3. Despite failing numerous times, Riley keeps coming up with new ideas. Success can only happen if you keep trying.
  4. The mystery in the story does its job. The outcome will have you guessing until that AHA moment when the various subplots come together to make a satisfying whole.
  5. Plenty of technology here for tech loving kids.

FAVORITE LINES:

Riley Mack’s extraordinary awesome talents weren’t the kind he could showcase on TV or at a school talent show.

If he did, he might end up in detention hall.

For life.

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Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

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Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

A Year of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Are You Kidding?

photoFifty-two reviews in one year. It’s been a fun ride and one that will continue. This week though it’s time to celebrate with my first ever monster-size giveaway. But first a look back at the titles…

  1. IDA B
  2. DEAD END IN NORVELT
  3. BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE
  4. FAKE MUSTACHE
  5. RUNAWAY TWIN
  6. OUT OF MY MIND
  7. RULES
  8. GRAVE IMAGES
  9. THE WEDNESDAY WARS
  10. THE GIVER
  11. SCHOOLED
  12. LIAR & SPY
  13. WHEN YOU REACH ME
  14. OKAY FOR NOW
  15. JACKIE AND ME
  16. THE SEVENTH LEVEL
  17. THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY
  18. THE PET WAR
  19. 33 MINUTES…
  20. PHINEAS L. MACGUIRE ERUPTS
  21. FREAKIE FAST FRANKIE JOE
  22. ROAD TRIP
  23. THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
  24. FURIOUS JONES AND THE ASSASSIN’S SECRET
  25. ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER
  26. THE KINDLING
  27. TURN LEFT AT THE COW
  28. HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
  29. I AM NOT JOEY PIGZA
  30. BOOM
  31. DESTINY REWRITTEN
  32. CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING
  33. THE ADVENTURES OF BEAN BOY
  34. BETTER TO WISH
  35. THE 9 LIVES OF ALEXANDER BADDENFIELD
  36. ANDI UNEXPECTED
  37. CHASING THE MILKY WAY
  38. THE GREAT GREENE HEIST
  39. MIDDLE SCHOOL- HOW I SURVIVED…
  40. THE LAST BEST DAYS OF SUMMER
  41. JACK STRONG TAKES A STAND
  42. SOPHIE HARTLEY AND THE FACTS OF LIFE
  43. SORRY YOU’RE LOST
  44. NICKEL BAY NICK
  45. THE SPY CATCHERS OF MAPLE HILL
  46. EVERYBODY BUGS OUT
  47. THE SHORT SELLER
  48. ABSOLUTELY ALMOST
  49. IT’S NOT JUST A DOG
  50. DIEGO’S DRAGON: SPIRITS OF THE SUN
  51. A HITCH AT THE FAIRMOUNT
  52. RILEY MACK STIRS UP MORE TROUBLE (Holding this review for next week)

Now on to my first “Are You Kidding” contest to thank past, present , and new readers. It’s actually two contests. One is complete (Yes, I’m sneaky at times). For the past year I’ve been holding a secret contest that only I knew about. The winner is my most frequent visitor, the loyal reader who commented more than anyone else. Congratulations to this active follower who will receive a $25 Visa Gift card! Drum roll…

****Rosi Hollinbeck****

Pause while she screams “ARE YOU KIDDING?” No, I’m not.

The second half of the “Are You Kidding” contest begins today and will run all week until 8 p.m. Eastern, Sunday, September 21st. The winners will be announced on Monday, Sept. 22nd.  To enter just add your name to the comments on this post and you don’t even have to say anything intelligent. An “I’m in” is fine. Yes, Rosi, you’re also eligible for this contest.

I’ll assign a number for every entry (one per person) and throw the number into a giant twirling metal cage.

wheel

Okay, maybe not as impressive in picture form, or as clean as a Rafflecopter drawing, but I like the sound when it spins around.

The winner will receive all 12 middle grade hardbacks:

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Yes, every last one! The pages have only been opened once, so they are like brand new. You could fill a shelf and the stories will keep you occupied for the rest of the year – probably longer.

If you don’t snag the GRAND PRIZE. I’ll twirl the cage for two more numbers. The 1st runner-up will get a $25 Visa Gift Card and the 2nd will be enjoying a $25 AMAZON gift card. And I’m still not kidding.

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

I can’t stay any longer. I’ve got to devour that cupcake and start on my next set of 52 reviews.

Categories: Book Lists, Contests, Reviews | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

Rewriting Is a Must

After making changes to my manuscripts, I put them away for 2-4 weeks to give me some distance. I finally reached the point of no changes with one of them. Realizing as I read the final page, the story truly was done. It’s ready for the world.

keyboardThe other two I keep going back and forth, spending several weeks with each, always finding something that isn’t quite right. But I keep at it because eventually they too will join the other. Yes, writing is a journey, but I find myself enjoying the ride.

Rewriting though is not something I was trained to do. Get it right the first time and turn it in was my motto. Now I savor the chance to change a line, a word, or a scene to make it just right so that readers will experience what I feel. Memorable story telling comes not from the idea but from the way it’s told. I’m so glad to have the motivation to reach that pinnacle.

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The prizes have been wrapped (yes that was plural), and I’m ready to light the one-year candle for my year with Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays. The countdown is at four days until you’ll be saying “ARE YOU KIDDING?”

Categories: Editing, Writing | Tags: | 4 Comments

A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Although Jim Averbeck has written numerous children’s books, A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT is his debut MG novel. 51CikMVMbtL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Did he miss the memo on word counts? This one stands at over 60,000 words – probably not one for reluctant readers who typically don’t touch anything thicker than their index finger. With that said I thoroughly enjoyed this unique tale. Younger readers may not get the film connections, but older Hitchcock fans should eat this one up.

CONNECTION SIDELIGHT: The title is what first pulled me in. As a teen I had lunch with my aunt at the Fairmont Hotel. I felt very special sitting in that iconic hotel. Years earlier I met Hitchcock, well sort of. I was  on the tram ride at Universal Studios. The tram stopped and you could hear a pin drop. From under a tent appeared a man, standing only six feet from me.

I tugged on my mom’s arm and said, “Who’s that old guy?”

She replied, “The great Alfred Hitchcock.”

Mom could have said John Smith because it meant nothing to me. I waved anyway and with his eyes pointed right at me, he returned a short salute before retreating. It was the next year I saw my first Alfred Hitchcock movie, FAMILY PLOT, his final film and the one he had been filming that day we made eye contact. I’ve seen quite a few other Hitchcock films since then, but perhaps my favorite is REAR WINDOW.

With that short detour, let me return to Jim Averbeck’s story set in 1956. It’s a unique mystery featuring an 11-year-old boy and his unlikely new companion, Alfred Hitchcock. This one begins as young Jack sits at his mother’s funeral which is what happened in another MG title making its debut this year (SORRY YOU’RE LOST). I hope this isn’t a trend.

PUBLICATION DATE:2014   WORD COUNT: 60,096  READING LEVEL: 4.6

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  After the mysterious death of his mother, eleven-year-old Jack Fair is whisked away to San Francisco’s swanky Fairmont Hotel by his wicked Aunt Edith. There, he seems doomed to a life of fetching chocolates for his aunt and her pet chinchilla. Until one night, when Aunt Edith disappears, and the only clue is a ransom note written…in chocolate?
Suddenly, Jack finds himself all alone on a quest to discover who kidnapped Aunt Edith and what happened to his mother. Alone, that is, until he meets an unlikely accomplice—Alfred Hitchcock himself! The two embark on a madcap journey full of hidden doorways, secret societies, cryptic clues, sinister villains, and cinematic flair.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT A HITCH AT THE FAIRMOUNT by Jim Averbeck

  1. Much of the action is centered at the Fairmont Hotel, but when Hitch and Jack journey  to some of San Francisco’s iconic sights, the excitement and fun increases. Cable car rides, Nob Hill, Union Square, Chinatown, Cliff House, and of course the Golden Gate bridge. Each site made me want to revisit this grand city.
  2. There is a great section in the back with the background on the story and it helped connect the dots for me. Also included is information on every Hitchcock film referred to in the book as each of the 35 chapters is the name of a Hitchcock movie. Perfect place to start if you have no connection to this popular director’s works.
  3. I guessed the big plot reveal early on but getting there was loads of fun. The thrilling conclusion was well worth the wait.
  4. Although this a fictional account of Hitchcock, the author did his research to combine the director’s TV personality with that of his regular one. It was heartwarming that a famous director would take young Jack under his care and together they go over clues to solve the disappearance of Jack’s aunt.
  5. Jack’s voice is believable and it doesn’t take much into the book before you like spending time with this young protagonist.

FAVORITE LINES:

(The latin phrase occurs several times in the first two thirds of the story, giving a hint of its eventual importance)

Jack traced the blocky letters of the Latin phrase with his finger. “Ipse Dis,” he said. My father may have been worthy man, but he certainly wasn’t lucky.

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ARE YOU KIDDING? No, I’m not and next week is a celebration of my first year in MMGM. It’s my debut contest and the payoff is huge for three lucky readers. See you then if not before!

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

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Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Putting Down a Book I was Supposed to Love

I’ve been reading fast and furious – not hours a day but whenever there are 15-20 minutes of spare time. My goal in 2014 was to read 24 MG titles. So far I’ve more than doubled that with the 50th about to be opened. Many of those completed have been used for review purposes, while others are enjoyed, but maybe less so. Not every book is discussed here, especially if I have more negative than positive to share. I know how much work it is to create and tell a story and me bashing a book isn’t going to help.IMG_0246

What are the turnoffs? What makes me get partway through a novel and decide – It’s not working? ­ The answers are easy and as I write my own stories it has helped provide the needed focus to not make the same mistakes.

The Unlikeable Protagonist   If I am going to choose to spend my time with a book, I have to connect with the main character. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, old or young, set indoors or out. By the time I get halfway through the book there’d better be a connection. I want to stand behind the MC and twist, sigh, maybe even scream to have that individual reach their goal. Otherwise, it’s a yawn.

Lack of Humor   I’m not talking about a gut splitting romp. Humor, especially when not expected, can bring charm to a serious story. When I smile or laugh, the story has me.

Plot Holes   We’ve all been there. You reach the last page of a fairly good book and you wonder if someone stole the final chapter. What happened to the important plots and subplots I just spent hours learning about? I want them resolved and tidied up by the time I get to THE END.

No Conflict  The MC goes to school, says hi to friends, does well on a test, attends choir practice, kisses Mom when he/she gets home, practices soccer, goes to sleep. Oversimplified for sure, but these types of stories have no stakes. I want conflict, and then I’ll join the ride, turning each page until it gets resolved.

There are a few other situations that raise a red flag, but not enough to dislike a story:

  • MG voice that sounds more like high school
  • Unrealistic paths to getting out of a problem
  • Dialog that could be two adults talking to each other instead of two 11-year-olds
  • Stories about bullies (for a while I thought this was becoming its own genre)
  • Prologs

No, I’m not asking for much in the stories I read and write. What are your turn-offs?

My first contest offer is only 12 days away. It will have you saying ARE YOU KIDDING? Stay tuned for more details.

 

Categories: Reading, Writing | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

DIEGO’S DRAGON Book One for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I was thrilled to win a copy of the first of three DIEGO’S DRAGON books. The story had me hooked and set 343_Diego_Cover_08_29_11up what a great series should do – make you want to read more. The dragon is truly magnifico and many chapters will have you on edge. I am currently mentoring a young Latino boy, so this book was a perfect window to their customs and the importance of family.

Kevin Gerard has written a tale that will be enjoyed by readers for years to come. The novel centers on Diego, the eleven-year-old protagonist, and that alone puts it solidly in the MG category. But some schools/parents at this level may frown on the use of a few scattered curse words. Nothing too heavy and it certainly puts the realistic tone to the dialog.

Overall, the book is a quick read and will appeal to dragon loving readers whether male or female. Your time with this fantastic tale will be well spent. Also available are Book Two: DRAGONS OF THE DARK RIFT and Book Three: BATTLE AT TENOCHTITLAN.

 

PUBLICATION DATE: 2010   Pages: 173

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  An eleven-year-old Latino boy wins a district-wide writing contest for sixth graders. When an author visits his school to award his prize, Diego Ramirez has no idea how much his life is about to change. Nathan Sullivan hands Diego his statue, a handsome, glistening black dragon. He shakes his hand and leaves him to his friends. The students crowd around Diego, asking for permission to hold it. After hearing the name Magnifico spoken aloud by family and friends, Diego awards it to his new dragon. If he only knew how fitting the name was, he might have known what lay ahead. Magnifico is the leader of the Sol Dragones, dragons that live within the magical fires of the sun. Nathan Sullivan is the earth’s connection to the mysterious creatures. It is his task to find Magnifico’s guide. As Magnifico comes to life he becomes quite mischievous, playing tricks on Diego to embarrass him. As he discovers his bloodline, however, Diego assumes greater control over his dragon and his destiny. In the climactic journey, he frees his people and suffers a terrible loss by guiding Magnifico to their goal.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT DIEGO’S DRAGON (Book One) by Kevin Gerard

  1. There are few if any recent books with a Latino hero and Diego’s Dragon does a superb job of rectifying that situation.
  2. Your pulse will rise when the dragon takes flight with Diego hanging on. The author’s words provide a vivid picture each time the dragon is in the air.
  3. I like good endings and this one has a great one. Every plot point is considered and nicely concluded.
  4. The other characters also shine: Diego’s parents and Raquel, Diego’s first crush.They too are smart and care deeply for Diego and the decisions he must make.
  5. Diego’s older brother is straying away from the family and younger brother he once cared about. Diego still feels a connection to his brother and that love becomes the center of the story.

FAVORITE LINE:

Every thought slammed together against his skull like a pinball machine gone mad.

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Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

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Only two weeks to go until the huge ARE YOU KIDDING? contest is revealed. It’s the first one for this blog and not one to be missed.

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

WINTER SKY for Marvelous Middle Grade MIDWEEK

I’m a few weeks ahead with my MMGM posts so I’m throwing this one in midweek. It’s nice to be ahead, but with 9780385371933_p0_v1_s260x420revisions on my own writing looming, it won’t be long before I’m back to my old ways. Anyway, enjoy this review of a sweet story about a girl, her fighter fighting father, and the scruffy dog she finds in the dead of winter.

PUBLICATION DATE:2014   WORD COUNT: 24,361  READING LEVEL: 3.8

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  Sirens! A scary sound, especially to Siria, whose brave pop is a firefighter. Siria loves everyone at Pop’s city firehouse. She also loves to study the stars. Her mother named her after the brightest start in the winter sky.
When Siria hears sirens, she sneaks out to chase the trucks, to bring Pop and the other firefighters luck. She’d be in big trouble if she ever got caught. Good thing her best friend, Douglas, is always by her side.
As Christmas approaches, Siria suspects that someone in the neighborhood is setting fires. She has to find out who’s doing it. When clues point to a surprising suspect, she realizes that solving this mystery will take all kinds of courage.
Patricia Reilly Giff, the author of many beloved and award-winning books, is at her best in this action-packed story. In Winter Sky, friends, family, and a very special dog help Siria see how brave she really is.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT WINTER SKY by Patricia Reilly Giff

  1. Siria is a strong female protagonist who has a lot of freedom to roam. I didn’t like some of her choices, but it was interesting to see her spunky and brave personality get  through several tough situations.
  2. It’s nice to have a story where the dad is the single parent. I’ve read so many books recently where the father is no where to be found. Siria’s mother had previously passed away. The love Siria has for her Pop is heartwarming.
  3. Without giving anything away I was surprised with the ending. Seemed like we were heading down one road to resolution of the problem when suddenly there was a detour.  Surprise your readers is advice I’ve heard and its certainly in play here.
  4. Siria was named after a star and the theme runs throughout and connects her with the past. I enjoyed the snippets about the star patterns in the sky. I’ll be looking for Sirius next time it’s dark enough to see.
  5. This one will be a hard sell for boys looking for a short book, a dog story,  or one with a lot of action. Reserve it for the quiet girl who might connect with the anxious inner thoughts Siria has about her family and life.

FAVORITE LINES:

The star was called Sirius.

“That’s what we named our daughter,” the mother said. “Siria, for the brightest star.”

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Keep coming back because in mid-September I will be unloading the biggest contest in the more than two year history of this blog… Okay, it’s my first giveaway, but it will still have you saying ARE YOU KIDDING?

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

ABSOLUTELY ALMOST for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

One of the first critiques I ever received was from a published author. Long story how this came to be so I’ll just tell you what she told me. My chapters were too short and I needed to read more middle grade books to see how they were set up. My chapters ranged from 2-7 pages. She also warned me I needed to have the inciting event in the first 10% of the book. I graciously thanked her for the wisdom she provided and rewrote the entire story with longer chapters along with hooking the reader on page 3. Oh well, turned out to be my practice novel. Since then I’ve learned rules are meant to be broken by established authors if the story begs for that to happen.

In Lisa Graff’s newest, ABSOLUTELY ALMOST, not only do we see short chapters (some only one paragraph) mixed in with 18225037longer ones, I was still waiting for the inciting event half way through. Ten-year-old Albie is an unlikely protagonist. He struggles to be school smart, which he isn’t; struggles to be cool, which he isn’t; and struggles to understand the world and the choices people make. He does break through a bit with this last struggle. The reviews have been stellar for this story and it took some time before I could get my reaction in line. I do believe Albie’s tale may be a tougher sell for your average middle grade reader. There’s not much action here and Albie doesn’t do much but live his own life. Sometimes we need this type of quiet story in our always on world

I’ve had many Albies in the classroom and in my mentoring work. What they need is a remedy called success and success of any kind.  Albie gets that from his “Not a Babysitter” Calista and several of his teachers. The Albies I’ve crossed paths with would have benefited from this story. It might also work with readers who may not be able to relate to kids like Albie. That’s where the power of this story lies – with understanding that we all are different learners. Expecting kids to all be at a certain point because of their age is set up for failure. Line up 30 kids for a 50 yard dash and they will all finish at different times. Its no different for any other pursuit. Albie demonstrates that principle beautifully.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2014  /  289 Pages

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT ABSOLUTELY ALMOST by Lisa Graff

  1. Told from the perspective of Albie, his voice rings with honesty and his ten-year-old way of thinking will remind you that there are a lot of things confusing to someone so young.
  2. Everyone needs a hero in their life. The one person who stands behind you and says “Yes, you can succeed.” Albie has his nanny, Calista, who provides the right light so Albie can find a little success.
  3. The father is one you will have a growing distaste for. I think he wrote the book “How Not to Parent Your Child.” What I did like is that Albie caused him to change for the better, or at least we hope so.
  4. Albie’s math club teacher is a person you’d hope most kids have in their school life. He’s someone you can rely on to be there when needed. His math jokes were also entertaining.
  5. I’d enjoy seeing this book used in a classroom with a diverse group of kids from all ability levels. The rich discussion could start with a simple question “What does being cool mean to you?”

FAVORITE LINE:

The only thing wrong with my brain was my brain.

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Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

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Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Middle Grade: What’s popular this year?

I’ve never had a problem creating story ideas. So far the three I’ve finished have been contemporary stories. I’ve got another one of those swimming around in my head along with a fantasy and one quirky historical fiction. It got me thinking and looking for the answer to the question proposed in this post. Are the genres of books I’m writing and want to write popular?  I went right to my favorite source. No, not AMAZON, but The New York TImes best seller list for middle grade books. Their results encompass a far broader research base.

The current list will be printed this Sunday, although you can already find it online. It’s an eclectic mix of genres. Fifteen titles and only six were ones I’d read. That might sound shockingly low for someone like myself approaching fifty MG titles this year, but not after you read the results.

Two non-fiction titles appear, both from American Girl Publishing – THE CARE AND KEEPING OF YOU 1 & THE CARE AND KEEPING OF YOU 2. There are two movie spinoffs – FROZEN (A novelization of the movie) and a fun looking graphic novel, STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY RETURN OF THE PADAWAN. Historical Fiction is well represented with two Rush Limbaugh titles, along with THE LONG WALK TO WATER and INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN. Of course Rick Riordan makes the list with THE STAFF OF SERAPIS, a 60 page short story fantasy adventure.

The six titles familiar to me: Three MG Contemporaries – WONDER, COUNTING BY 7’s, and OUT OF MY MIND, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL (MG FANTASY), ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO”S LIBRARY (MG Mystery),  and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (Animals).

None of the 2014 titles I have so far reviewed made the list, but that is to be expected. MG titles typically take time for librarians, parents and young readers to spread the word. The NY TIMES list did make me feel comfortable with my writing choices so far. Conclusion:  Write your story and make it the best possible no matter what the genre. The list will look different a year from now.

HERE IS A LINK TO THE FULL NEW YORK TIMES LIST FOR MG.

or

FOR YOU YA READERS, THEY HAVE A LIST FOR YOU, TOO

Categories: Book Lists | Tags: , | 4 Comments

THE GIVER for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This was always a favorite read-aloud in my middle grade classroom.450a319f8da0884ee0da7110.L With the movie’s release last Friday, I had to pull it off the shelf and visit Jonas and his dystopian world once more. I wanted to remind myself of each plot point to eventually see what modifications the movie made, which was on the drawing boards for 15 plus years. Fans of the book have already voiced their displeasure at the increase in Jonas’s age from 12 to 16. I’m sure the producers wanted to reach a wider audience base. Also, with the relatively short nature of MG books, additional material was written to make it a full blown movie. Today’s review is all about this Newbery classic, but here are two links where the author,  Lois Lowry, talks about the movie: BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE  &  NEW YORK TIMES INTERVIEW

PUBLICATION DATE:1993   WORD COUNT: 43,617   READING LEVEL: 5.7

FULL PLOT (From Amazon):

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

  1. Jonas. If the world had a few more like him just maybe there would be more kindness, less wars, and a thoughtful appreciation for what we have.
  2. This is one of those stories that will touch you in different ways at different stages of your life.
  3. One of the best  things you can do is a writer is to surprise your readers. Lois Lowry does that numerous times making this a page turning experience. It’s hard to put down. Early on you can probably guess the decision Jonas will make. It’s the mark of a superb writer that we get there in such unexpected ways.
  4. Rich discussions can take place with this tale. Was the ending what you expected? Could our present culture benefit from any of the characteristics of this dystopian society? What is the most valuable gift in life? How important is individualism?
  5. The ending can be interpreted in two different ways: Pessimism or Optimism. No matter which you choose as a reader there will still be a sense that the characters reached a stage of happiness they had never known before. I know we get more of an answer in book three, THE MESSENGER, but for now  my vote is for an optimistic future for the main characters.

FAVORITE LINES:

For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing.

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Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

MMGM2

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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