TOP SECRET

National Geographic KIDS and authors’ Crispin Boyer & Suzanne Zimbler hit the mark with this new title. I was fascinated throughout the 192 pages. The hardback is one of those hard to put down books you’ll be going back to again and again. Each of the 8 chapters covers a different aspect of everything Top Secret:

  1. SECRET AGENCIES
  2. SECRET HISTORY
  3. SECRET IDENTITIES
  4. SECRET PLANS
  5. SECRET GADGETS
  6. SECRET PLACES
  7. SECRET CODES
  8. SECRETS ALL AROUND YOU

Full of colorful images along with fascinating insights and reveals, there are also fun secret codes along the way where you learn how to unravel a cipher. It’s a message written using a different order of the alphabet. The book starts out with CRACK THE CODE, a little practice with six common ciphers. I won’t be doing my grocery list this way but kids will have a new way of communicating secrets to their friends.

I started to compile a list of my 5 favorite secrets but stopped after reaching well over 2 dozen. Instead of any spoilers, here’s just a few of the fun reads:

  • America’s Fortress is a secret bunker located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I flashbacked 20 years ago when myself and a group of teachers were granted a tour. It was truly a special day. 350 people work there to keep our country safe and to track Santa Claus each December.
  • Tucked behind Lincoln’s head at Mount Ruhsmore is a secret chamber.
  • Skip over this section if you don’t want to know magician’s secrets. Many of them are explained. Now I know how that lady gets sawed in half.
  • Tools of the Tradecraft include a variety of spy tools. How about the UMBRELLA DART GUN, an ingenius LETTER REMOVER, or the disgusting DOO-DOO TRANSMITTER? Yes, pictures and full details are provided.
  • Full pages devoted to THE SECRET SAUCER, AREA 51, and INSIDE FORT KNOX had me smiling and wanting more.

There is so much to enjoy here for middle grade on up through adults. I’ll end this brief look with a secret code based on the ATBASH CIPHER summarizing my thoughts on TOP SECRET:

Z UFM, RNNVIHREV VCKVIRVMXY

I’m sure you are stumped so here’s the decoded version:

A FUN, IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

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

Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? 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 Middle Grade Book Reviews, non fiction | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

MMGM for May 3, 2021

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The flowers are a bloomin’! They also take you to fantastic MG reviews and special features.

8cGEy59RiAt ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m  reviewing  MAYBE MAYBE MARISOL RAINEY by Erin Entrada Kelly.

flower2June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic spotlights (with a GIVEAWAY) Author Janet F. Smart’s non-fiction, Fun Through the Seasons: Recipes, Crafts and Fun Facts for Kids-2.

8cGEy59RiSue Heavenrich at Archimedes Notebook reviews Cyberspies: Inside the World of Hacking, Online Privacy, and Cyberterrorism by Michael Miller.

flower2Completely Full Bookshelf is back with us this week with a recommend for Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

8cGEy59RiPatricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Leonard (My Life As a Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak.

flower2Rosi Hollinbeck has a review of 37 DAYS AT SEA by Barbara Krasner. Rosi also shares three helpful links for her writing friends.

8cGEy59RiMaria Antonia at OF BOOKS, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND TEA has a review of UNPLUGGED by Gordon Korman.

flower2Marielle Orff at Town Book Center has a selection of books centered on the theme of MIDDLE GRADE FAMILY LOVE. Great Recommends!

8cGEy59RiKaren Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads always has a great MMGM review. Check it out along with her other features this past week including a look at BEST NERDS FOREVER.

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 , , | 3 Comments

MAYBE MAYBE MARISOL RAINEY

Growing up is full of challenges like the one Marisol faces. She’s scared to climb the big tree in her backyard even though her friend Jada does it with ease. How will she ever get over her fear? A gentle story ensues making it a great starter book for jumping up to middle grade stories. Last Friday I featured another beginning middle grade book with Nina Soni as the MC.

What makes MAYBE MAYBE MARISOL RAINEY unique is Newberry winning author, Erin Entrada Kelly, was inspired to write the story based on her own childhood. Here’s the synopsis from Harper Collins:

Marisol Rainey’s mother was born in the Philippines. Marisol’s father works and lives part-time on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. And Marisol, who has a big imagination and likes to name inanimate objects, has a tree in her backyard she calls Peppina . . . but she’s way too scared to climb it. This all makes Marisol the only girl in her small Louisiana town with a mother who was born elsewhere and a father who lives elsewhere (most of the time)—the only girl who’s fearful of adventure and fun.

Will Marisol be able to salvage her summer and have fun with Jada, her best friend? Maybe. Will Marisol figure out how to get annoying Evie Smythe to leave her alone? Maybe. Will Marisol ever get to spend enough real time with her father? Maybe. Will Marisol find the courage to climb Peppina? Maybe.  

Short chapters with frequent illustrations opens this up to read-aloud opportunities both at home before lights out or the five minutes before the bell rings at school. Marisol has a loving family although older brother Oz can be a real pain in her side. Mrs. Rainey is a 7th grade science teacher while Mr. Rainey is away at work most of the time. Marisol wishes he were home more. There are frequent “Dad-Head” times when they face chat with him.

Marisol is a character whose story should be continued. Her likeable ways will especially appeal to girls who will want to be along for the ride when Marisol faces her next obstacle.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: May 4, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 160

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: MAYBE MAYBE MARISOL RAINEY by Erin Entrada Kelly

  1. Some of the names Marisol gives to objects will make you smile. She’s named the refrigerator BUSTER after Buster Keaton an actor from long ago. Not too many 8-years-olds would even know about silent movies but they are one of Marisol’s favorites.
  2. A realistic plot sure to please those looking how to face their fears. Something all of us have gone through.
  3. Friendships are so important and the one going on here is special. Supportive in all ways.
  4. The Magnolia tree is well portrayed and brought back memories when I’d visit cousins in Louisiana and Mississippi.
  5. Cats. And lots of them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly was awarded the Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe and a Newbery Honor for We Dream of Space. She grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and now lives in Delaware. She is a professor of children’s literature in the graduate fiction and publishing programs at Rosemont College, where she earned her MFA, and is on the faculty at Hamline University. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction and the Pushcart Prize. Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut novel, Blackbird Fly, was a Kirkus Best Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, an ALSC Notable Book, and an Asian/Pacific American Literature Honor Book. She is also the author of The Land of Forgotten Girls, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; You Go First, a Spring 2018 Indie Next Pick; Lalani of the Distant Sea, an Indie Next Pick; and Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey, which she also illustrated. The author’s mother was the first in her family to immigrate to the United States from the Philippines, and she now lives in Cebu. (For more about Erin and her Favorites visit her author web site)

I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Make a comment below and be sure to visit all the bloggers joining me on today’s MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY.

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Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Nina Soni Master of the Garden

Nina Soni returns in the third episode of her story. Check out my review of previous titles, Nina Soni Former Best Friend and Nina Soni Sister Fixer. This new tale comes at a perfect time as many of us are getting ready for gardening season. My dad taught me the ins and outs of getting a bumper crop and for Nina it’s her mom.

It’s Take Your Child to Work Day, and Nina, Kavita, and Jay are all going to work with Mom, a landscape architect, to learn how to start a garden. Naturally that’s not enough for Nina, who quickly develops big plans for a business selling the vegetables she plans to grow. But her plans don’t include managing the problems that inevitably arise, including rabbits, slugs, mosquitos, and more! (From Peachtree Publishing).

Set in Wisconsin, NIna’s Indian heritage is evident throughout especially with references to the many wonderful sounding culinary creations I’d never heard of but can’t wait to try. Of course you need food and that’s what makes this grow your own crops story fun and unique. I even learned a few things myself about the care and harvesting of vegetables.

Intended for early middle grade readers, the series is perfect for those needing a gentle introduction to longer plotted books. The illustrations also fit in nicely with the text.

I predict a lot more kid gardeners this Spring, inspired by the Master Gardener Nina and her precious plants. I’ll be out there too with my own tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers.

(NOTE: I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

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Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? 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 Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

MMGM for April 26, 2021

                      

 Click a checkmark to reach a blogger’s post.

greencheckAt ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m  reviewing RESCUE AT LAKE WILD by Terry Lynn Johnson.

greencheckNatalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles has a review and GIVEAWAY of Rescue, a historical middle grade by Jennifer Neilsen.

greencheckJune McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic is back this week with a link pack celebrating National Kids & Pets Day.

greencheckSue Heavenrich is over at Sally’s Bookshelf with a review of The Tiger’s Nest (#5 in the Explorer Academy series) by Trudi Trueit.

greencheckMichelle Mason’s YA Debut (YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED) is out this August, but today she has a roundup of upcoming MG debuts you should read.

greencheckPatricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews She Persisted: Claudette Colvin by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Chelsea Clinton, a new series about girls/women who’ve made a difference.

greencheckAlex Baugh at Randomly Reading is back with us today and also has some thoughts on RESCUE AT LAKE WILD by Terry Lynn Johnson.

greencheckMaria Antonia at OF BOOKS, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND TEA features the graphic novel: MEASURING UP by Lily LaMotte with art by Ann Xu.

greencheckRosi Hollinbeck has a review and GIVEAWAY of BUG BLONSKY AND HIS SWAMP SCOUT SURVIVAL GUIDE. Rosi also shares three links for her writing friends.

greencheckKaren Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads always has a great MMGM review. Check it out along with her other features this past week including her thoughts on THE CHANCE TO FLY.

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.

I’m ready for April to go away!. Too much snow around here!

Posted in MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

RESCUE AT LAKE WILD

Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis is not allowed to bring home any more animals. After she’s saved hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray tom cat that ended up destroying the front porch, Madi’s parents decide that if they find one more stray animal in the house, she won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.

But when Madi and her two best friends, Aaron and Jack, rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed, they find themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that’s putting the beavers and their habitats in danger. As Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, Madi must put her animal whisperer skills to the test in both raising the orphaned beaver kits and staying out of trouble long enough.

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MY TAKE: I can sympathize with Madi and her animal whispering ways. At about the same age I found a duckling alone on the street. No other ducks in sight. Next thing you know “Sydney” was in my bedroom closet happily exploring the tray of water. Took Mom about a half day to discover what I’d done. Beaver kits though are a much bigger challenge.

Madi narrates the tale and the journey along with her two friends is an enjoyable one to follow. The thirty chapters are short and the 208 pages move along at a quick pace. Readers will learn about the habitats and behaviors of beavers. When adults don’t seem to understand or care about the town’s poaching problem, these three kids stand up for the beavers and investigate who is behind the atrocious act.

Animal lovers rejoice. The story combined with Madi’s desire to be like Jane Goodall will win over many readers.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:

RESCUE AT LAKE WILD

1. You’ll long for summer and all the adventures that unfold. Children with goals can do some pretty amazing things.

2. Madi has both parents but they are so busy they don’t have time to find out what she’s up to. A common reality many 12-year-olds will find familiar.

3. The connection Madi had with her late grandmother was the only nudge she needed to follow in her footsteps. A passion often begins with the adults in your life.

4. Don’t miss the after story description of “The Dos Of Rescuing Wildlife.” Great tips and cautions.

5. Be sure to visit the author’s web site where you’ll find downloadable activities and an image of the beautiful full art work of the cover.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Lynn Johnson writes middle grade adventures based on her experiences living in the wilds of northern Ontario, Canada. She might have fallen through ice a time or two, been dragged by a dog team, blown up a wood stove, been attacked by a sloth (slowly), accidentally sprayed a crowd with muskrat glands, and chased a bear with a chainsaw. She owned eighteen sled dogs, and currently works as a Conservation Officer for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

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I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Comments can be made below. Check out all the other MMGM blogger’s by clicking here.

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

EARTH BOY

A new original graphic novel from the team behind the New York Times bestselling Plants vs. Zombies comics, Paul Tobin and Ron Chan!

Benson, young teen boy with dreams of venturing into space and becoming a Galactic Ranger, is given the chance to make his hopes a reality when he’s selected to join an elite academy full of strange characters and unusual alien classmates.

But when a combination of culture shock, bullying, and administrative secrets shake his confidence, Benson must dig deep and fight to prove he belongs.

MY TAKE

I don’t feature too many graphic novels with the piles of traditional novels on my desk waiting to be read. I’ll remedy that imbalance today with a look at EARTH BOY.

Benson has a tougher time fitting in than any present day middle schooler. Going off to a far away space academy without any friends present challenges. There are light years of nothing to do. Thank goodness the journey gets interrupted by a few unsavory aliens. That’s when Benson can show everyone he’s an Earth Boy with talent and leadership. Great lessons for any Earth Boy or Girl.

The artwork is beautifully presented and the story is a good one, too. Sometimes it gets a bit wordy, but the wild cast of characters along with lessons on facing adversity should appeal to science fiction fans age 10 and up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Tobin is a New York Times-bestselling author. His writing includes Bandette; Colder; and many other comic books, graphic series and works of fiction. Bandette, drawn by Colleen Coover, was awarded the Eisner Award for Best Digital Series in 2013; again in 2016; and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for Graphic Literature in 2016. Paul’s graphic novel I Was the Cat, created with artist Benjamin Dewey, was nominated for an Eisner in 2015.

(For more visit Paul’s author web site)

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Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? 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 Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

BENEATH THE WAVES

Happy Earth Day! What better way to recognize this important date than by introducing a new book from National Geographic KIDS. Beneath the Waves is a true celebration of our most precious resource.

The ocean is full of mystery and scientists are still uncovering its secrets, especially how we have to take better care of the space between our shores. The pictures are your guide, but there is much to learn from the blocks of text.

The closest shore from where I live is more than 1,100 miles away so it’s no surprise when I hear kids say “I’ve never been to the ocean.” This book will bridge the time until that happens and increase the desire to make their first visit. It may also inspire them to take the path of a scientist. Many are featured in the back pages including Enric Sala, a marine biologist; Conservationist Jess Cramp and her mission to protect sharks; and Environmental scientist Kristal Ambrose.

There are many inhabitants of the ocean you probably never heard of or seen pictured. The list for me kept growing with every turned page. Ever hear of a Sloane’s viperfish, a peacock mantis shrimp, or a vampire squid? Me neither until taking the journey through each section of the book.

Other features add depth to the visual feast. Some of my favorites were WHAT IS A BEACH?, WHY IS THE OCEAN SALTY?, THE MYTH OF MERMAIDS, and THE SEARCH FOR LONGITUDE. Excellent information you won’t forget.

Look no further if you need a gift idea for an ocean loving kid or adult from ages. Beneath the Waves is a perfect choice.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Featuring amazing animal profiles, whimsical poetry, stunning photography, and fascinating information about the wondrous creatures that call the ocean home, this beautiful collection celebrates the ocean and the amazing animal and plant life found in its waters, the role the ocean plays on Earth, and the importance of conservation.

Starting with the seashore and journeying through the ocean’s zones, readers will discover mangrove forests, coral reefs, and the deepest ocean depths. On this journey they will discover some of the extraordinary animals that live on shore and under the sea. Along the way, readers will enjoy poems, stories, fun facts, photo galleries, and more. Highlights include a foreword from explorer and renowned photojournalist Brian Skerry; an interview with National Geographic Explorer and marine conservationist Jess Cramp; a poem by former children’s poet laureate J. Patrick Lewis; the work of Explorer-in-Residence and ocean ecologist Enric Sala; and an afterword by renowned ocean conservationist Sylvia Earle. This keepsake treasure is sure to wow readers while also serving as an important reminder to protect this precious and wonderful resource.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Warren Drimmer writes books, magazine features, and online pieces for kids. A few of her favorites have been about a planet where it rains rocks, the chemistry of the perfect cookie, and the strangest secrets of planet Earth. 

Stephanie’s books cover everything from bugs to baby animals to brain science. Check out current and upcoming titles here!

Stephanie is a regular contributor to the Scholastic magazines SuperScience and Science World. Her column for National Geographic Kids magazine, Destination Space, follows a future astronaut as she visits the most bizarre—and 100 percent real—places in the universe. 

Her work has also appeared in Muse, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines, and in videos for TED-ed

Stephanie has her B.A. in biological anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. She has her M.A. in science journalism from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP). She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, non fiction | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

MMGM for APRIL 19, 2021

                             earth-day-clip-art-earth4

 Earth Day happens this Thursday. But today is all about great reviews and features. Click on a bluish sphere to reach a blogger’s post.

blue-bulletAt ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m  reviewing IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

blue-bulletJenni Enzor is featuring The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, a title you may have missed from the past.

blue-bulletPatricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Too Small Tola by Atinuke, a chapter book about the daily life of a girl living in Nigeria.

blue-bulletFaith Hough at Blythe & Bold has a review of The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, by Kate Milford.

blue-bulletMaria Antonia at OF BOOKS, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND TEA gives us a look at  THE SAFEST LIE by Angela Cerrito.

blue-bulletMark Baker at Carstairs Considers features a review of book 2 in the City Spies series, GOLDEN GATE by JAMES PONTI.

blue-bulletRosi Hollinbeck has a review of GONE TO THE WOODS: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen. Rosi also shares three links of interest for her writing friends.

blue-bulletStephanie Robinson at Fairday’s Blog features Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green. 

blue-bulletKaren Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads always has a great MMGM review. Check it out along with her other features this past week including thoughts on Hockey Night in Kenya.

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

IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS

I wracked my brain and couldn’t find another book like this—a sequel to a movie. That’s right. IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS is the continuation of gifted Emmett Charles coming of age story. If you missed the 2019 movie like I did—BOY GENIUS—no worries as the novel is a totally new story set at a summer camp for black excellence. Here’s the 2-minute movie trailer so you can meet the main character before reading my review of the book:

The story turns into a reflective journey for Emmett (or E as he prefers to be called). He questions who he is becoming and what it means to be a black youth in today’s world. The synopsis is spot on in its summary:

Emmett and his older brother Luke have always been “Batman and Robin,” though they’re quick to bicker about who’s who. Spending the summer at a historic Black summer camp seems like a wonderful adventure for the two to share, but since Luke is there as a junior counselor, he seems to spend all of his time being everyone else’s big brother, and ignoring Emmett. As Luke seems to be moving on to new adventures, Emmett struggles in unexpected ways, especially in swim class and the “It Takes A Village” entrepreneurship class. Without his brother to turn to for support, Emmett works to build a new crew of “superfriends,” who’ll help him plan something spectacular for the end-of-camp awards night and celebration. Along the way, Emmett learns that no matter what, there can be many ways to define family.

Camp is full of references to Black dancers, actors, scientists, and pop culture icons who defined excellence in their own fields. E is used to being the the smartest of all but realizing he knows little about these famous individuals from the past and present. Along with the fact he is surrounded by other brilliant and creative kids, this new learning has him rethinking everything. What is Black identity and how does it intersect with community? E will find that answer and more.

Emmett’s running commentary keeps the story moving through 44 chapters and an epilogue. Not a fast pace but a good one so readers can reflect on their own biases and perceptions of what it’s like growing up Black. Yes, there is a huge difference and stories like IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS succeed in moving the dial closer to understanding why.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: April 13, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 308

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

  1. I cringed at the scenes in the swim classes. Reminded me of myself clinging to the side of the pool afraid of drowning just like E. Thankfully I got over my fear. No spoilers as to whether Emmett succeeds.
  2. Charles became more than just a secondary character and roommate to E. His story would be an interesting one to tell in a future book.
  3. Captures the heart of middle grade relationships. Confusing and rewarding all mixed up in those 12-year-old minds.
  4. No need to hide your giftedness at this camp. Intellect was celebrated. The reminders of Black icons in all areas was a needed and interesting part of the story.
  5. An older sibling going away to school is often a concern of kids. The future is scary and you’re about to lose your safety net. This plot point was handled well and will be helpful to young readers in the same predicament. What you know isn’t always the whole story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of 8th Grade Superzero, which was named a Notable Book for a Global Society, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, an adaptation for Sesame Workshop’s Ghostwriter, and Operation Sisterhood. She is the coauthor of NAACP Image Award nominee Two Naomis, a Junior Library Guild selection, and its sequel, Naomis Too. She also writes nonfiction, including Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins, and Saving Earth: Climate Change and the Fight for Our Future.

Olugbemisola is a member of the Brown Bookshelf, editor of the We Need Diverse Books anthology The Hero Next Door, and teaches at the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing. She holds an MA in education, and has written frequently on parenting and literacy-related topics for PBS Parents, Brightly, American Baby, Healthy Kids, and other outlets. Visit her online at olugbemisolabooks.com and on Instagram: @olugbemisolarhudayperkovich.

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I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Comments are welcome below.

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