CYBILS FINALISTS Part One

Yesterday I featured the CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction winner, The Parker Inheritance. Today and tomorrow I’m reviewing the other finalists beginning with these two selections…

THE DOUGHNUT FIX and HARBOR ME

Doughnut Fix.jpgTristan (Tris) is a boy with a problem many MG kids can relate to: His parents suddenly decide to move to a new town. After living in New York City, Tris is used to big city life. His best pal is there and everything he loves from the sports to the restaurants is right under his nose. It all makes the switch to small town Petersville the worst thing that has ever happened in his 12 years.

Tris narrates the story in past tense and is the kind of kid you know will do well in life. He’s considerate of others and deals with his problems in a charming way. Instead of sulking like his younger gifted and talented sister, Tris makes a new friend and gets to know the main street—the only street in Petersville. And it doesn’t have a single restaurant! There he meets Winnie, a shop owner, who stopped making her famous chocolate cream donuts many years ago. Thanks to his Mom, Tris has become quite the cook and his favorite is dessert. With a copy of Starting your Own Business for Dummies, Tris sets out to open up his own doughnut stand.

This is a rare MG tale with no divorce, bullies, or fantasy worlds.  It’s Tris dealing with his often hilarious four-year-old sister and seeing another side of his other sister as they each deal with their new setting in different ways. He also gets a new vision of friendship. His plan for opening a business is recapped after the story’s completion for those wanting to start their own business. Even better—a sequel is in the works.

Now, about that cover… yes there is a raccoon toward the latter half of the book loose in their house, but it is far from the focus of the story. The animal may become more prominent in book 2, but it makes no sense to feature it in this first effort.

THE DOUGHNUT FIX is a fun story that moves along at fast pace. You’ll be pleased to have spent time with this family and the icing on the doughnut are the included recipes.

THE OFFICIAL PLOT (From Amazon)

Tristan isn’t Gifted or Talented like his sister Jeanine, and he’s always been okay with that because he can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie and he lives in the greatest city in the world. But his life takes a turn for the worse when his parents decide to move to middle-of-nowhere Petersville―a town with one street and no restaurants. It’s like suddenly they’re supposed to be this other family, one that can survive without bagels and movie theaters.

His suspicions about his new town are confirmed when he’s tricked into believing the local general store has life-changing chocolate cream doughnuts, when in fact the owner hasn’t made them in years. And so begins the only thing that could make life in Petersville worth living: getting the recipe, making the doughnuts, and bringing them back to the town through his very own doughnut stand. But Tristan will soon discover that when starting a business, it helps to be both Gifted and Talented, and It’s possible he’s bitten off more than he can chew…

ABOUT JESSIE JANOWITZ (From her website)

In high school, I fell in love with the French language (and French pastry!), and when I went to Princeton for college, I majored comparative literature because it allowed me to study French plus everything else I was interested in, including Creative Writing.

After college, I taught in a French public school high school for cooking and restaurant service. Then I sold translation rights for a publishing house. This led me to law school, which I loved. One of the many cool things about the U.S. legal system: it’s built on stories!

Eventually, thanks to my family, I found myself back reading and writing stories, ones for kids because those are the ones I’ve always loved best.

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Every child has worries no matter their race or socioeconomic status. The half dozen fifth and sixth graders in Ms Laverne’s class are fortunate to have her as their teacher. She is soft-spoken and full of understanding. But how can she teach when deportation, race, parent incarceration, and poverty are in the forefront?

The solution is to give this group one hour per week in a room by themselves to talk. No  teachers present. The result is an awakening for all as they support one another in their individual struggles.

Haley narrates the story from her perspective. She is the mixed race red-headed girl with a father in jail. The story begins at the end of this special year and then goes back to recount what happened. A hand held recorder with the voices of her classmates is all she has to remember. It also gave her the voice to share her own troubles

The writing is purposely poetic and flows in smooth waves. It’s a story full of contemporary topics facing too many kids today. The concept of freedom alone would bring a lively discussion and deeper thought for all. It is fiction but the set-up of putting six kids alone in a room would never fly in my school district.  Nevertheless, Harbor Me is a story that will force you to rethink and relate more to these tough issues facing our youth.

THE OFFICIAL PLOT (From Amazon)

It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

A FEW WORDS FROM JACQUELINE WOODSON ABOUT HARBOR ME

Where it takes place:

In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn

Where I wrote it:

In Brooklyn and while I was traveling around the country.

Why I wrote it:

I have so many questions. Sometimes, writing is the only way I can answer them.

(For more about Ms. Woodson and her books check out her website)

 

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MMGM for February 18, 2019

                  

Happy President’s Day! I have a review of the CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction winner, THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson. Click the presidential seal to reach my post and do the same for each of the features and reviews below.
Joanne R. Fritz at My Brain on Books joins us with a review of SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly.
Sue Heavenrich at Sally’s Bookshelf stops by again with a review of Lost in the Antarctic: The doomed voyage of the Endurance, by Tod Olson.
June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic’ has a S.T.E.A.M. feature on an amazing book, ‘Apollo 8:  The Mission That Changed Everything‘, by Martin W. Sandler.
Rosi Hollinbeck reviews and has a GIVEAWAY of  FANTASTIC FAILURES by Luke Reynolds. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie.
Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea has Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt.
Dorine White at The Write Path has an interview with Emilio Iasiello, author of The Web Paige Chronicles.
Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends reviews Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Pierce.
Alex Baugh at The Children’s War has The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods.
Janet Smart at Creative Writing In The Blackberry Patch is featuring CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Bonnie Graves.
Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week.
Andrea Mack at That’s Another Story is featuring THE THEORY OF HUMMINGBIRDS by Michelle Kadarusman.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
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THE PARKER INHERITANCE

WELCOME TO ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

And it’s a special one! Congratulations to Varian Johnson and THE PARKER INHERITANCE, the winner of 2018’s CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction Award.cybils-2018-300x168.png

I previously reviewed two of the CYBILS Finalists: In December I featured FRONT DESK and last September I gave a thumbs up to THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL. Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll have brief reviews of the other four finalists. But today is all about our winner!

In the past three years I’ve read Middle Grade books exploring a number of heavy topics. Racism, gay acceptance, police violence against black youth, bullyiThe-Parker-Inheritance-final-cover-689x1024.jpgng, and sexism come to mind. There have also been much lighter fare devoted to friendships and the occasional mystery. The Parker Inheritance takes all of these topics and threads them into one glorious story all of us should read.

Set in the fictional town of Lambert, South Carolina (although based on the author’s hometown, Florence, SC), it’s the present day story of Candice and her new friend Brandon as they research the past and a letter Candice found in her Grandmother’s attic. She not only wants to clear her beloved grandmother’s name for some wrong doings, but also discover if there really is a huge amount of money hidden somewhere in the town. To do so she and her friend will have to solve a puzzle.

This leads the sleuths to the ugly past of Lambert and a separate story set mostly in the 1950s. The cover depicts this splendidly with the split visual of old and new. On the left side of cover you can barely make out the characters from this other time period, Beautiful Siobhan standing under the PJ’s sign and mixed race Reggie shining shoes. They are in love and events soon to unfold will tear them apart, but also provide the connection to the modern day story.

The casual reader will have an almost impossible time figuring out the puzzle, but it is fun trying. This is one of those rare books I couldn’t wait to return to so that more of the mystery would be revealed. It’s an eye opening account of growing up a different color than white in the south. Things have improved but we still have a long way to go.

You may need a scorecard to keep up with all the character names and the length might scare away emerging readers, but the story is one you will long remember. The themes are ripe for discussion and the end result will be a greater healing of the differences that often divide us in this country.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2018   PAGE COUNT: 352

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

THE PARKER INHERITANCE

  1. The two friendships in the story were a touching reminder of the importance in having someone you can lean on.
  2. The back and forth writing in two time periods is a difficult one to pull off.  There is usually a drop off in interest as one story is interrupted by another. Here though, the two tales are woven into one in an intriguing and page turning way.
  3. Although fiction, the book does give you real life events like Brown v. Board of Education and African American tennis player, Althea Gibson, winning her match at Wimbledon.
  4. The puzzle was a fun way to pull in readers. The end result is the real story of intolerance in 1950s America. A time period we should never forget.
  5. The author does a six and half page Q & A in the back of the book—further insights into topics and events in the book. Very revealing!

FAVORITE LINES

She ran her thumb over her grandmother’s handwritten words.
Find the path. Solve the puzzle
What if her grandmother hadn’t made a mistake? What if there was a treasure?
What if her grandmother had put the letter there, on purpose?
For her?

THE OFFICIAL BLURB (From AMAZON)

When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again? 

 

A QUOTE FROM Varian Johnson

As I wrote The Parker Inheritance, I found myself thinking even more about the power of perception. How it could be a danger to those without power . . . and also how we could manipulate that perception to create a level playing field. What if we dressed in a different way? Talked in a different way? Had different friends? How much of yourself is worth giving up if it allows you a chance to be successful? To live without fear? To survive?

Even after writing the book, I don’t have any real answers. But I hope as others read the novel, they begin to consider their own perceptions. Those in positions of power often see their mistaken viewpoints as mere inconveniences, or as life lessons. But for the powerless, that same misguided viewpoint may very well be the difference between life and death.

(For the full background on the event in the author’s life that became the jump start for The Parker Inheritance, visit Mr. Johnson’s website)

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Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

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RUNNING WITH WOLVES

51nakfqnq9l._sx332_bo1,204,203,200_In this compelling memoir, wildlife experts Jim and Jamie Dutcher, tell their fascinating story of living with a pack of wolves. They trade off narrating their unique experiences with these misunderstood creatures. It’s not a dry retelling of facts, and you come away with an appreciation and respect for wolves.

The story though goes much deeper as we learn about Jim and Jamie’s lives before a chance encounter brought them together. There are stories of how they became enamored with wildlife in their youth. We also get a peek at their careers—Jim as a film maker for National Geographic and Jamie caring for animals at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Their love of animals goes beyond wolves.

But this unique experiment in Idaho is the the heart of the book. In a large enclosure set up in the majestic Sawtooth Mountains, first Jim and then Jamie begin observing and living with a pack of wolves. The six-year adventure brings a deep understanding for themselves and now young readers. Wolves reputation as savage beasts is forever squashed by their tale.

A black and white picture begins each of the 14 chapters and many will have you smiling or staring at them in awe. An eight page spread of colored pictures show life at wolf camp and a yearbook style look at the over dozen wolves they came to know as family.

Running With Wolves is a book to celebrate and share. Be sure to checkout their website, Living with Wolves, where the mission statement will hopefully bring results:

Living with Wolves is a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging the public worldwide in education, outreach and research to promote truth and understanding about wolves, while encouraging coexistence and inspiring people to take action to protect them.

(I received a copy  of the book for my honest review)

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews, or anything middle grade related also count). Email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com
Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

 

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CYBILS MG Fiction Winners: A Look Back

The big announcement comes tomorrow with the crowning of the 13th Cybils MG Fiction winner (along with all the other categories). I’ve been involved in the judging the past four years.

I couldn’t name all the previous winners so I put together this graphic. 2006 is in the upper left corner, and if you follow the rows from left to right you’ll end up at 2017’s winner in the lower right corner. It would make a great library of reading for any lover of Middle Grade.

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MMGM for February 11, 2019

                   

Happy early Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air for this week’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. I have a review of COGHEART by Peter Bunzl. Click on the heart to reach my post and do the same for each of the features and reviews below.
June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic’ features  a short story collection, Indian Shoes, written by Author Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Jim Madsen.
Michelle Mason at Musings of a Young Adult Writer stops by again with a review of THE REVENGE OF MAGIC by James Riley.
Welcome to Author Stephanie Robinson at Fairday’s Blog. She will be posting a once a month MG book review. First out of the gate is a feature on the book MUSIC BOXES by Tonja Drecker.
Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Finding Langston, a coming of age novel by Lesa Cline-Ransome.
Dorine White at The Write Path has Foiled by Carey Fessler. There is also an Author Interview and Giveaway!
Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews One-Third Nerd by Gennifer Choldenko.
CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction Chair, Alex Baugh, joins us this week from The Children’s War with a review of How I Became A Spy by Deborah Hopkinson.
Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends reviews a classic—The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Rosi Hollinbeck reviews A LONG LINE OF CAKES by Deborah Wiles. Rosi also has some not to be missed helpful links for writers.
Faith Hough at Life’s An Art! has a review of SWEEP, by Jonathan Auxier.
Suzanne Warr at Tales From The Raven can’t wait to share Inkling by Kenneth Oppel with our MMGM community this week.
Susan Uhlig introduces us to THE TURNING, a magical book about selkies
Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in MMGM Links | Tagged , | 2 Comments

COGHEART

A book recommendation question I received from a parent went something like this:

“What middle grade books have a 13-year-old main character? My 12-year-old reads every book but is not ready for YA. Still though, they like to read about characters slightly older than themselves.”

UK middle grade readers are already familiar with COGHEART, the first book in an adventure series Cogheart_new_cover.jpg released in 2016. This week the  story makes its US debut and WOW, what a fun, exciting ride we get. The setting is England’s Victorian times around the year 1896.

Lily and Robert answer the age request with flying colors. Both thirteen, they come together along with a wise cracking mechanical fox in a life or death dilemma. Bad guys (with mechanical parts themselves) chase them for answers they don’t have about the perpetual motion machine Lily’s father created.

The adventure explodes at a frantic pace, filled with airships, cogs, clocks, and great character arcs. The setting is real but the world around it is a steampunk wonder I enjoyed getting to know. Perfect for middle grade readers, the tale is one you’ll totally get wrapped up in and be thankful you did.

U.S. PUBLICATION DATE: 2019   PAGE COUNT: 368

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

COGHEART by Peter Bunzl

  1. If you want  primer on how to write action scenes look no further. Cogheart has some of the best.
  2. Knowing there were two more books in the series, I wanted a satisfying ending to the first and I wasn’t disappointed.
  3. Clocks of all sizes come into play here, including one with a BIG name—BEN.
  4. Death, grief, and family are an important part of the story, but are all handled in way kids will relate to.
  5. A stunning cover that begs to be opened. The story delivers each and every image in an adventure like none other.

THE OFFICIAL PLOT

Cogheart_smallLily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox – Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian steampunk adventure story, featuring two friends, murder and mayhem, airships and automata, and an over-opinionated mechanical fox!

A COGHEART VIDEO TEASER

THE AUTHOR on his decision to set the story in A Victorian World

Having decided to write about automatons I had to find a world they would fit in. I thought – what if I set the story in a time over a hundred years after the invenPetertion of the first automaton, in the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, possibly by then, in this fictional world, automatons might have got so good they could do anything.

I also knew I wanted to write a big action adventure story with these fantastical elements in, and I decided I could bring these together more easily in a ‘steampunk’ setting. So it’s a Victorian world with airships and steam-driven and clockwork machines – rather than merely a factual representation of historical Victorian life.

(For more FAQ’s, freebies and a full bio visit Peter’s website)

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I was given an ARC for an honest review.

Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comment link below.

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