LIGHTNING GIRL: SUPERHERO SQUAD

Last Monday I reviewed Lightning Girl, the first book in this entertaining series from British star Alesha Dixon. There are actually four books but only the first two have made their way across the pond for North American readers.

In Superhero Squad, Aurora now has her power although not always at the exact moment she wants. 9kAOCbLffkaUUGe9Sp1l_v-immNLKSVpsFNo_RvilH_jsFYF8HME737osWHE_XXxqLBPg5CXJjo1ICtYvUxkBa3BS2DQBwyWkVokBmPj57FvDtQbQPJeaWzoUDJn44EK_vbbb2EqYUGDA9nrOrpgqMMfp0J_HR6cpDHrRz85jG1FF-WzIUeo2lwNAJ82ne0Her fame has skyrocketed but being famous takes its toll. After a much needed break with her eccentric Grandma on a picturesque seaside home, she heads off to the superhero summit below the streets of London.

Surprises abound with a cast of intriguing characters, including two new super powered friends. You’ll be right alongside Aurora as she decides who can be trusted?  Eventually, shocking secrets are revealed about her family and the world may still be in danger when one of the bad guys escapes.

The length (320 pages) shouldn’t be a problem given the fast pace and cute drawings thrown in every few pages. This should appeal to both girls and boys who enjoy a bit of magic in a fun premise. Here’s the official back cover blurb:

Superheroes from all over the globe are gathering at a top secret summit; Aurora hopes she’ll find some friends who know all about the pressures of being the most in-demand new hero in town. But when a crime is committed and there are rumblings that the culprit could be Aurora, can she unmask the real villain and clear her name?

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Join us next Monday for another edition of …

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 or author 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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MMGM for February 17, 2020

                

Happy MMGM and President’s Day! At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have yet another superhero book with LIGHTNING GIRL by Alesha Dixon. You can reach it with one click on the button.

June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic has Someplace to Call Home, written by one of her favorite adult historical fiction authors, Sandra Dallas.

Andrea Mack at That’s Another Story is featuring a review of the wonderful More to the Story by Hena Khan.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading My Jasper June by Laurel Snyderhas.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea features All of Me by Chris Baron.

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL has a nonfiction book, Stand-up!: Be an Upstander and Make a Difference by Wendy L. Moss.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews THE LAST LAST-DAY OF SUMMER by Lamar Giles. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

A Garden of Books chose a book that might make you think of October and Halloween with Ghost and Bone by Andrew Prentice.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another fantastic MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including ITCH.

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 Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lightning Girl

I was a little leery on two fronts after receiving a copy of this British import, sporting a brand new cover for American audiences. First off, it appeared to be a familiar story line where the MC discovers she has a super power and goes on to save the world. Then comes the sneaky ploy by publishers to sell more books by getting a name from the entertainment industry as the author, one that parent/librarian book buyers will recognize (i.e. Neil Patrick Harris, The Property Brothers, Madonna, Will Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, etc.).

Here we have superstar Alesha Dixon who may not be as familiar to American audiences. You can currently see her as a judge on America’s Got Talent Champions. Leading up to this she gained fame as a dancer and a platinum selling artist (both with the group Mis-teeq and as a solo artist). She’s also known for her work on British television.

Despite my misgivings I opened up Lightning Girl and you know what? It’s quite good!

The fast pace along with the first person narration by the endearing Aurora Beam made for a winning combination. What propelled it past the stereotypical story line was the problems she faced with both family and friends. Aurora finds out her Mum and Aunt also have super powers. Then her parents decide to separate and Aurora has so much on her mind she begins to ignore past friendships, becoming a loner at school.

Fun, black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the chapters. The story shines in more ways than one and it would also make for a great read aloud. Here’s the official back of the book blurb:

lightning-girl-cover.pngAurora Beam has just had some BIG NEWS. Her Mum is a secret superhero and now Aurora’s own powers are starting to show — sparks of lightning are shooting out of her fingertips!

It’s a lot to take in. She can’t even do a cartwheel. HOW CAN SHE BE A SUPERHERO?

Then an evil supervillain pops up with a plot to steal a very precious stone. Can Aurora save the day, helped (or more likely hindered) by her fierce friends and a very snooty ostrich?

 

PAGE COUNT: 320 Published in America: 2020

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LIGHTNING GIRL by Alesha Dixon

  1. Every aunt should have a pet ostrich. Here we have the eccentric Aunt Lucinda and Alfred. They provide quite a few comedic moments and some evil tension.
  2. Dad has no superpowers. He’s the curator of precious stones at a local museum. He’s embarrassing but also a loving support for Aurora.
  3. Mum is the one out saving the world while Aurora stays back to deal with all the problems her superpower has brought. A nice twist that made the story rise above the rest.
  4. We need strong female characters and you’ll find several in Lightning Girl.
  5. It’s a series with great potential for character growth and story lines.

FIRST LINE: No one ever warned me that when you get angry, bright sparks might explode from your fingertips.

You can find Alesha Dixon on Twitter and INSTAGRAM.

Order your own copy of LIGHTNING GIRL.

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Comments are always welcome! Leave yours below.

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BREAKING THROUGH…

How FEMALE ATHLETES SHATTERED STEREOTYPES in the ROARING TWENTIES

breaking through

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Opportunities to watch our modern day female athletes excel at their chosen sport are available without a problem. It could be a superstar in tennis, basketball, golf, and soccer or a world class athlete in the Olympic Games. They’re truly outstanding and inspire young girls to follow in their footsteps.

But what these young women are able to do in 2020 is thanks to those who laid the groundwork one hundred years ago. With BREAKING THROUGH we can now celebrate this other time. Here’s the the official description:

Award-winning author Sue Macy offers a fresh and timely account of women in sports in the pivotal decade of the 1920s, and how their determination, talent, and defiance in the face of criticism promoted women’s rights, redefined femininity, and changed the course of history. Featuring bold and talented female athletes, this book documents how the social issues and morals of the decade — from politics to segregation to the media — helped shape the changing narratives around women and alter the course of history entirely. It is a fascinating window into a rich and seldom explored history, and also a topical reminder of the many discussions surrounding femininity and the role of women that continue today. Featuring a foreword by Muffet McGraw, the lionhearted Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach, this is an excellent selection for Women’s History Month (March) and National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb 5, 2020). 

Arranged in five chapters, each covering two years of the decade, it’s likely you will not have heard of these superstars of the past. Such greats as sprinter Wanda Danley, basketball star Kathy Miller, or track standout, Norma Zilk are just a few of the athletes who appear with fascinating stories of their struggles and triumphs.

Also included are the critics, those who did everything in their power to make sure sports were for men only. Thanks to many women athletes and others who insisted on equal opportunities, it is a much better world today. But there’s still a ways to go, especially in the area of equal pay on par with what men earn in the same sport.

Each chapter ends with a summary of other events that took place during the period. A perfect historical accompaniment.

Breaking Though ends with four pages of defining moments in women’s sports from the 1890’s right up to present day. It’s an eye opening account that you might consider reading before delving in to the 1920s.

Make sure this one is in your library. Budding superstars along with their parents and teachers, will benefit greatly from the stories told here.

A book long overdue!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SUE MACY is the author of close to two dozen books for children and young adults, many of which focus on sports and women’s history. Her nonfiction picture books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult social histories have been named to many Best Books lists and have garnered many awards from state and national organizations. A graduate of Princeton University, Sue spent much of her early career at Scholastic Inc., supervising classroom magazines and serving as editor in chief of the best-selling Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. She lives in Englewood, New Jersey. (For more visit her author website)

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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 or author 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 Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release, non fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

MMGM for February 10, 2020

           

It’s Valentine’s Week and the love continues for MG books. At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have LOVE SUGAR MAGIC—A MIXTURE OF MISCHIEF by Anna Meriano.

June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic has a S.T.E.A.M. feature on a book entitled, ‘Kid Scientists’.

Susan Uhlig had a blast reading The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander and is excited for the sequel. Sue was also the winner of my recent giveaway of Greenhorn!

Sue Heavenrich at Sally’s Bookshelf is back this week with a featured review of Chirp, by Kate Messner.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews and has a GIVEAWAY of TROWBRIDGE ROAD by Marcella Pixley. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea is going with a Newbery challenge and Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Newbery winner 1984).

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL has the final book in a trilogy, Riders of the Realm: Beneath the Weeping Clouds, Book 3 by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading contributes another great review with Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

A Garden of Books  has chosen The Lifters by Dave Eggers for her review this week.

SPOOKY MG has an interview with author Sarah Cannon about her new middle grade release tomorrow, TWIST.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another fantastic MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME.

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 , , | 1 Comment

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC–A MIXTURE OF MISCHIEF

Welcome to another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

I’m following up my interview last Friday with author Anna Meriano. The third in her series of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC books has been released and I have a review of A MIXTURE OF MISCHIEF coming right up…

x300-2No need to worry if you’re new to the series. The tale reads fine on its own with tidbits from the previous books thrown in. They will certainly entice new readers to find the magic in those as well. Here’s the book jacket background for A MIXTURE OF MISCHIEF:

It’s spring break in Rose Hill, Texas, but Leo Logroño has a lot of work to do if she’s going to become a full-fledged bruja like the rest of her family.

She still hasn’t discovered the true nature of her magical abilities, and that isn’t the only bit of trouble in her life: Her family’s baking heirlooms have begun to go missing, and a new bakery called Honeybees has opened across town, threatening to run Amor y Azúcar right out of business.

What’s more, everyone around her seems to have secrets, and none of them want to tell Leo what’s going on.

But the biggest secret of all comes when Leo is paid a very surprising visit—by her long-lost Abuelo Logroño. Abuelo promises answers to her most pressing questions and tells Leo he can teach her about her power, about what it takes to survive in a world where threats lurk in the shadows. But can she trust him?

The setting in a bakery will have your mouth watering to get a bite of the delicious breads and treats the family makes. Fortunately recipes for Leo’s Piñata Cookies and Caroline’s Cinnamony Churros are included in the back pages.

Leo’s birth power is revealed and it’s quite surprising. The frustration she goes through getting it to work along with who to trust in her circle of family and friends makes for a splendid plot mover. Is it her grandfather the one with bad intentions or maybe one of her cousins? Leo has a tough time figuring it all out.

It’s the family connections I enjoyed the most. Loving parents and older sisters are always nearby with subtle nudges as to what is wrong and right. Leo wants the bakery to thrive and with the mystery of who is trying to ruin the business has everyone on edge. Told in third person, the 22 chapters are a testament to family and relationships. A sweet story in more ways than one.

The magic will also have you looking at your spice rack a bit differently.

PUBLISHED: February 4, 2020  PAGE COUNT: 304

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LOVE SUGAR MAGIC – A MIXTURE OF MISCHIEF

  1. Leo is a great character with a lot of heart. She makes the typical mistakes any young girl might make but also learns from her sometimes hurtful reactions.
  2. Her cousin JP was a nice addition to the story. He’s clueless as to how all this magic works, but his gentle personality and humor make Leo appreciate him more than ever.
  3. Leo’s family have nice character arcs, especially her sisters and Mama. It’s nice to see someone other than the main character have a change in how they see themselves.
  4. Abuelo Logroño has just the right amount of creepiness as the grandfather. He’s scary but not enough to give anyone nightmares.
  5. Oh that bakery bread! From the first chapter onward you know the pangs of hunger will be a special accompaniment as your mind unravels the plot.

All ABOUT ANNA MERIANO (from her author website)

I grew up in Houston with an older brother and a younger brother and a large but close-knit network of aunts, uncles, and cousins spreading across the state of Texas. I graduated from Rice University with a degree in English, and earned my MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. There I was lucky to meet CAKE Literary founders Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, who started me on the Love Sugar Magic journey.

I live in Houston with my dog Cisco. I have taught creative writing and high school English and currently work as a tutor for students of all ages across Houston. In my free time I love knitting, playing full-contact quidditch, and singing along to songs in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language.

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I received a copy of the book from Walden Pond Press for my honest critique. Comments are welcome below.

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An Interview with author, Anna Meriano

Happy Friday Everyone! Joining us today is Anna Meriano, author of the LOVE SUGAR MAGIC series. Here’s a quick background:

The series centers on Leo Logroño, the youngest in a family of Mexican-American sisters in small-town Rose Hill, Texas. Leo’s family runs the beloved Amor y Azucar panaderia, and it’s truly a magical place. TRULY. Little Leo learns in book one that she and her sisters are the next generation of bakery brujas, and each of them is imbued with a special power of her own. But no one told Leo, because she’s too young to use her magic. So of course she dives headfirst into it, and chaos ensues. In book three, titled A Mixture of Mischief (released this past February 4), it’s spring in Rose Hill, and the bakery’s got some stiff competition in the new Honeybees across town. Plus, Leo still hasn’t figured out what her magical powers are. Will a visit from her long lost Abuelo finally clear things up?

Hi Anna! Thanks for joining us on ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.

Tell us about your journey. How did a girl from Texas end up being a writer?

AnnamerianoI started writing at a young age (like, “drawing squiggles on a sheet of paper and calling it a story” young), and officially decided I wanted to become an author around fourth or fifth grade when I read The School Story by Andrew Clements. I was lucky to have teachers and professors who let me write fiction for my finals, and parents who could support me when I went to graduate school in New York, and I was very lucky to meet CAKE Literary founders Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra who started me on the LOVE SUGAR MAGIC adventure.

It really is the connections you make in life that can make a difference. Was the original plan to make LOVE SUGAR MAGIC a series?

Yes! I think so! I’m 99% sure that was something I discussed with Dhonielle and Sona in our first ever meeting about the project. The idea of Leo discovering her family’s baking brujería opened up too many interesting avenues to be a standalone story.

Food is the centerpiece of this series. Does this come from your own culinary experiences?

Well, I am not a cook or a baker myself, but I do think food is intimately connected to family and culture, and many people have some connection with a certain food that makes them feel safe or loved. So I do put my feelings about food into the books, and I do give Leo’s family some signature dishes that my family also cooks (like the migas in the first book), but a lot of Leo’s food traditions are specific to a family of bakers, which my family is not.

Many of my readers are authors or on the road to being one. What does your writing process look like?

It looks a little different every time, but for this series I usually worked from an outline and wrote the manuscript in order from beginning to end by hand. Then I typed it all up, often while making large-scale changes like deleting scenes or fixing plot holes or switching the order of things. Then I got feedback and worked on revisions.

For this book specifically I also gave myself permission to throw in things just because I wanted to. Since it was the end of the trilogy, I let myself explore tangents and topics that had been on my mind while writing the other books, but had never made it in. I did still end up cutting some of those things, but others became important character motivations or even arcs.

Your main character, Leo, wants to discover her magical power. What would be the magic power you’d choose for yourself?

Oooh, no spoilers but I would really like to have Leo’s power… I would also definitely like Marisol’s power of conjuring up small items, which is the one I would actually have if I followed the rules of my own magic system. Or, if I could pick any power at all, I would like to have pyrokinesis like the Human Torch!

Yes, there are times Leo’s newfound ability would come in handy. What is on the horizon for your writing career?

I’m venturing into YA soon with a contemporary novel about a muggle quidditch team (title forthcoming), which is scheduled for fall of this year! I’m not sure yet what’s next for me in middle grade, but I’ve got several possible projects I’m excited about.

Thanks for your time, Anna. You can find Anna at https://www.annameriano.com/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AnnaMisboring.

Hurry back after the weekend for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and my review of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC A Mixture of Mischief. If you plan on posting something middle grade related next week here are the details on how to join the celebration:

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 or author 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 Interviews, New Release | Tagged , , | 2 Comments