MMGM for November 28, 2022

It’s the last MMGM for November. Enjoy these middle grade reviews and features by clicking on each blogger’s star.

At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH and the FORBIDDEN FORTRESS.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire. Such a heartwarming animal story that will remind you of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review of WHERE SNOW ANGELS GO. Rosi also shares 3 links of interest for her writing friends.

Valinora Troy shares her thoughts on Knights of the Borrowed Dark.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with Yesterday’s review of HONEY AND ME.

———————————————————————

(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)
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)
Posted in Book Lists, Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH and the FORBIDDEN FORTRESS

The popular series is back with an 8th installment. More than 7 adventurous years featuring 4 main characters. How many have your read?

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH       
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE 
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE NIGHTMARE KING 
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE COSMIC BEYOND       
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE MIDNIGHT BLADE
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD 
THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE DOOMSDAY RACE 

I’ve only read the first and of course the most recent for today’s review, but it was fun to revisit the series. More so for the intended audience. The adoration of middle grade readers are evident in this press release:

The Last Kids on Earth series now has over  10 million copies in print , a toy line, and a video game released in June 2021 from Outright Games.

The star-studded Netflix animated series was a warded a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program. Developed by Atomic Cartoons, the series features the voice talents of Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, Catherine O”Hara, and may others.

The newest, THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE FORBIDDEN FORTRESS, continues the out of this world story. Okay, actually in this world, but a crazy one after a monster apocalypse started it all. Jack, pictured lower left, narrates each adventure. In book one he created his team and they continue to fight the monsters. There’s Quint, his best friend; reformed middle school bully, Dirk; Jack’s loyal pet monster, Rover; and the fiercest girl Jack knows, June.

Here’s what to expect:

Picking up after  Quint and Dirk’s Hero Quest, the Last Kids are happily reunited—but quickly faced with a monstrous new mission. Inside an other-dimensional fortress, the evil Thrull, alongside a vile new villain, is carrying out a sinister plan. Jack, Quint, June and Dirk must make their own plans to infiltrate the stronghold before Thrull gets any closer to completing the mysterious Tower, a structure that could ultimately spell doom for this dimension.

Blending the traditional and graphic novel approach works well, satisfying those who like plenty of cartoon like illustrations and those who prefer the text based story telling method. The books have also motivated a lot of kids to read, especially those who otherwise avoid books whenever possible.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH and the FORBIDDEN FORTRESS ends on a cliffhanger so fans can expect more in the Fall of 2023.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE FORBIDDEN FORTRESS

  1. Jack is an often amusing narrator, coming up with the perfect line to ease the tension: Another George Washington quote jumps into my head. Or maybe it was Ryan Seacrest. Yeah, probably Seacrest—
  2. Fast paced with scares that aren’t too scary for the middle grade set.
  3. June is a strong female character always ready to take on the next challenge. She makes a great companion to Jack.
  4. The black and white illustrations flow well with the text. They add to the story without getting you sidetracked in the plot.
  5. Always an over the top introduction to science fiction, but so much fun.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR

Max Brallier    (maxbrallier.com) is the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty books for children and adults. His books and series include the Last Kids on Earth, Eerie Elementary, Mister Shivers, Galactic Hot Dogs, and Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? Max lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.     
Douglas Holgate  has been a freelance comic book artist and illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia, for more than ten years. He’s illustrated books for publishers including HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, and comics for Image, Dynamite, Abrams, and Penguin Random House. 

*********************************

Comments are welcome below. Be sure to visit all the other posts by MMGM bloggers this week.

Posted in MG Fantasy, Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

SNOOPY CANNONBALL!

It’s amazing that the first Peanut’s strip appeared on October 2, 1950 in seven newspapers. Now 72 years later the group feels like old friends.The creator of Peanuts would have turned 100 years old tomorrow (November 26). What better way to celebrate his legacy than to present the 14th collection of his work.

SNOOPY CANNONBALL! features the iconic beagle and all the other characters you’ve come to love both through the comic strip and TV. Each cartoon is presented for the first time in color and the results bring even more admiration to the series.

From Charlie once again trying to kick a football before Lucy tricks him to good old Snoopy taking on any sport, the light humor is perfect for the 7-12 age group. Even those those of us a little older will feel a nostalgic connection to the gang. The 176 page paperback is the right choice to fill spare moments or take on a trip. You’ll be smiling for sure!

*****************************

Coming up next week is another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY! It’s here I share highlights from other individuals blogging about middle grade books. Many of the posts will have reviews, interviews, and tips on writing. Take a look at PAST MMGM POSTS.

It’s easy to join the lineup. All you have to do is 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 don’t forget to say what 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.

*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 | Tagged , | 4 Comments

MMGM for November 21, 2022

It’s Thanksgiving week. No turkeys here in any of these Middle Grade Reviews and Features, but you will have to click on each one to see a blogger’s POST.

At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of THE SECRET LETTERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix, the first book in the new MYSTERIES OF TRASH AND TREASURES Series.

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles has a guest post by Jessica Vitalis and a GIVEAWAY of The Rabbit’s Gift.

Brenda @ LOG CABIN LIBRARY shares her post on Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels, Volume 2 by Serena Blasco.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews I Survived the Wellington Avalanche, 1910 by Lauren Tarshis, an exciting historical survival series for middle grade readers.

Sue Heavenrich is over at Archimedes Notebook with some infographic books.

Faith Hough reviews What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review of HERO FOR THE HUNGRY. Rosi also shares 3 links of interest for her writing friends.

Valinora Troy checks in with a review of THE LAST FALLEN STAR by Gracie Kim.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with Friday’s review of SPY SCHOOL PROJECT X.

———————————————————————

(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)
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)
Posted in Book Lists, Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

THE SECRET LETTERS

An attic can hold many secrets, including the letters 12-year-old Colin finds in a stranger’s house. It’s his summer job helping Mom in her business of helping people get rid of junk. Should he throw them away? Maybe not.

Upon reading a few of the letters, Colin finds a back and forth exchange between two best friends, Rosemary and Toby. His first look convinces Colin he must keep the letters and find out why these two stopped being friends way back in the 1970s.

An engaging story becomes even better by adding another character. Here we have Nevaeh who lives in the same town. She also finds a letter, but this one sounds like a confession to a crime. Her dad is the “Junk King” given he is in the junk hauling business. He thinks the guilty party is Colin’s Mom.

The letters eventually lead to the friendship of Nevaeh and Colin. As more clues unfold, the letters are found to be connected in unexpected ways. Together they try and solve the mystery, hopefully somehow tracking down Rosemary and Toby who might have answers.

Two modern day kids trying to make sense of the 70s made this one of my favorite reads this year. The focus on treatment of women in the last century will be eye opening for young readers.

The fast paced read alternates between Colin and Neveah’s third person narration. This first story in the MYSTERIES OF TRASH & TREASURE series will leave you anxious to see what comes next.

FIVE MORE THINKS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE SECRET LETTERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix

  1. The small town of Groveview, Ohio provides the perfect setting for this engaging plot. It works so much better than having the setting be a large city. Neighborhoods and family are front and center.
  2. I finish reading some mysteries and although they are well written, the likelihood of the event happening is slim. With The Secret Letters I was in all the way and found it very believable.
  3. If you lived in the 1970s, you’ll get a nostalgic feel for the era. Others will learn about such things as Pong, the Bicentenial Quarter, and many 70s television shows. The author has a great summary of all the highlights covered in the story in her back pages notes.
  4. The anxiety Nevaeh and Colin bring forth is about family and friendship. It’s one that will resonate with readers.
  5. The two families are quite different, but you come away knowing that there is compassion and love coming from each.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

She has since written more than 40 books for kids and teens, including Running Out of TimeDouble Identity; Uprising; The Always War; the Greystone Secrets series; the Shadow Children series; the Missing series; the Children of Exile series; the Under Their Skin duologyand The Palace Chronicles. She also wrote Into the Gauntlet, the tenth book in the 39 Clues series.  Her books have been honored with New York Times bestseller status, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award; American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers notations; and numerous state reader’s choice awards. They have also been translated into more than twenty different languages.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio. They are the parents of two grown kids.

(For more about her books and events, Visit Margaret’s Author web page)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Comments are welcome below. Be sure to also visit the other MMGM bloggers posting today.

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

5,000 AWESOME FACTS (About Animals!)

You will definitely find the unexpected when opening the pages of this National Geographic KiDS title focusing on animals.

What I expected to find was page after page of facts grouped around a particular animal. Ones like “50 Terrific Facts About Tigers” and “50 Roly-Poly Facts About Hippos” did make the final cut. But then we have over 100 other categories that the creative team put together to provide variety and fun. A few of my favorites were:

  • 100 Eye-Popping Facts About Animal Vision
  • 35 Loud Facts About Musical Animals
  • 35 Facts About Tiny But Mighty Creatures
  • 15 Mature Facts About How Long Animals Live

Animals loving readers will for sure spend hours of time filling up their brains with these fascinating facts. The 224 pages are packed with colorful photos and backgrounds. I also appreciated the thorough Index where users can find the page(s) featuring their favorite animal.

As I absorbed every fact while reading the book, the author part of my brain kicked in with this question: How did they ever go about putting this together? I found an answer on the final page:

“Just how did we get 5,000 awesome facts about animals into this book? First, we came up with a list of all kinds of critters and their cool and crazy habits, habitats, and traits: from hovering hummingbirds and precious pets to burying beetles and gigantic gorillas, from creatures that swim in the sea to those that fly high. Then we figured out how to fit all these facts about Earth’s amazing animals on the pages. It was kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle! Some topics have 15 facts. Some have 25. Some even have 100! We carefully researched each and every fact to make sure it’s absolutely true. And we illustrated and designed the pages so well that you’ll never want to stop looking at them. Then we added up all the facts to get to 5,000. It didn’t take 5,000 people to make this awesome book—but it did take a colossal crew of writers, editors, photo editors, and designers—the most awesome book team around!”

Wow! The making of this creative endeavor didn’t happen overnight. 5000 AWESOME FACTS (About Animals!) is a great gift for any middle grade reader.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Coming up next week is another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY! It’s here I share highlights from other individuals blogging about middle grade books. Many will have reviews, interviews, and tips on writing. Take a look at PAST MMGM POSTS.

It’s easy to join the lineup. All you have to do is 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 don’t forget to say what 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.

*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 Uncategorized | 3 Comments

EXPLORER ACADEMY-THE FORBIDDEN ISLAND BLOG TOUR + a Giveaway!

Buy | Goodreads | Trailer

A heart-pounding final showdown changes the life of Cruz Coronado forever in the seventh and final book in this thrilling fact-based fiction series.

Amid assignments that take the Explorer Academy recruits from the iceberg-filled waters of Antarctica to the bone-dry deserts of Argentina, Cruz Coronado is scrambling to complete the last piece of the cipher. With Nebula agents and the elusive explorer spy still out there, his opportunity to recover his mother’s world-changing formula is slipping away. But as Cruz has learned from his time aboard Orion, true explorers must never give up.

Even after completing dozens of high-risk missions and traveling to all seven continents, Cruz could never prepare himself for one ultimate surprise.

Explorer Academy features: Gripping fact-based fiction plot that inspires curiosity with new technology and innovations; amazing inventions and gadgets; a cast of diverse, relatable characters; secret clues, codes, and ciphers to track down within the text; vibrant illustrations; elements of STEAM; National Geographic explorer profiles in the “Truth Behind” section.

Check out the Explorer Academy website featuring videos, comic shorts, games, profiles of real-life National Geographic Explorers, chapter excerpts and more.

​​​​​​​

Praise:

“Sure to appeal to kids who love code cracking and mysteries with cutting-edge technology.” 

Booklist

“A perfect blend of adventure with real science and technology!”

New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan

“A fun, exciting, and action-packed ride that kids will love.”

—J.J. Abrams, director and screenwriter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost, Alias

“Inspires the next generation of curious kids to go out into our world and discover something unexpected.”

—James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and acclaimed film-maker

About the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

TRUDI TRUEIT has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of writing began in fourth grade, when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play. She went on to be a TV news reporter and weather forecaster, but she knew her calling was in writing. Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences, and her fiction novels include The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular, and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Her expertise in kids nonfiction encompasses books on history, weather, wildlife, and earth science. She is the author of all the narratives in the Explorer Academy series, beginning with Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret. Trueit was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Everett, Washington.


GIVEAWAY

  • Three (3) winners will receive the COMPLETE 7-book Explorer Academy series and an Explorer Academy map, showing all the places around the world that Cruz and his classmates visit over the course of the series!
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/27 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Giveaways | 3 Comments

MMGM for November 14, 2022

Our second MMGM of the month brings a cornucopia of Middle Grade Reviews and Features. Click on each to see a blogger’s POST.

At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of THE RABBIT’S GIFT by Jessica Vitalis.

Brenda @ LOG CABIN LIBRARY features The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai. A tearjerker of a story but oh such a sweet boy.

Linda Browne has posted her October Bookcase Bizarro reviews for us to enjoy. Included are COUNTING BY 7s and SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN along with a non-fiction title.

Carol Baldwin shares SUPERPOWER? A MIDDLE-GRADE STEM BOOK REVIEW by ELLIOTT KURTA, AUTHOR INTERVIEW, and GIVEAWAY!

Valinora Troy reviews RAGGEDY CHAN and NINE-TAIL FOX.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene.  It is a story about a a girl who is the ears for her deaf parents and sister and warns them of Nazi danger. 

Sue Heavenrich has a MG novel to share over at Archimedes Notebook: The Trouble with Robots, by Michelle Mohrweis.

Faith Hough is talking about The Secret Garden, and The Secret Garden Devotional, by Rachel Dodge.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review of UNDERCOVER LATINA by Aya De León. Rosi also shares 3 links of interest for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with Thursday’s review of HEDGE OVER HEALS.

———————————————————————

(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)
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)
Posted in Book Lists, Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

THE RABBIT’S GIFT

French folklore inspired the unusual plot of THE RABBIT’S GIFT, a fantasy full of purple carrots, cabbage-like plants called Chou, and rabbits. How they all fit together is quite unusual: Humans trade the carrots for Chou. Important because babies are grown in the plant and delivered by rabbits.

Dual narratives include Quincy who is a smaller than usual rabbit. The other voice is Fleurine, a twelve-year old inspiring botanist whose mom is the current ruler of the mythical country.

Fleurine secretly tries to grow purple carrots so she can have a baby sister. Her Maman doesn’t want another child and believes her daughter should stop this infatuation with science and follow in her political footsteps.

Meanwhile, the human demand for babies has dropped, and the rabbits are starving. Quincy decides to take matters into his own paws and sets out for the city, determined to find seeds and let the rabbits grow their own carrots. But that goes awry when he inadvertently leads Fleurine back to the top-secret Warren where the Chou are kept before delivery. This pits them against each other and jeopardizes the future of the entire country––for rabbits and humans alike.

There’s no clear antagonist/protagonist as both Quincy and Fleurine at times can be looked at either way. It’s an engaging way to tell a story as you move from one viewpoint to the other.

THE RABBIT’S GIFT is a story full of friendship, misunderstandings and adventure that is sure to please fantasy readers. The author’s previous book, The Wolf’s Curse, is a companion to The Rabbits Gift. You can read each one on their own as the first deals with end of life while the present is about a new life.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE RABBIT’S GIFT by Jessica Vitalis

  1. I’m not a big fan of footnotes but the ones provided here are fun and informative. A perfect way to discover more about a character’s perspective.
  2. Longer chapters are welcome for the established reader as they get wrapped up in a fantasy world.
  3. Both Quincy and Fleurine are likeable despite their misguided actions. The author does a great job with their character arcs.
  4. Finding a place in one’s community is a marvelous theme that will resonate with young readers.
  5. Very lush and impactful imagery throughout. A good candidate for a read-aloud..

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

About the Author: JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer on a mission to write entertaining and thought-provoking literature. She founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new fantasy books. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient and featured on CBCs Here and Now. Her first novel, The Wolf’s Curse, published in 2021, and a standalone companion novel, The Rabbit’s Gift, came out on October 25, 2022. 

BONUS INTERVIEW with JESSICA VATILIS

  1. This book is a stand-alone companion novel to The Wolf’s Curse, meaning that the stories share commonalities, but you don’t need to read The Wolf’s Curse in order to fully enjoy The Rabbit’s Gift. Tell us more about how you came up with the idea for The Rabbit’s Gift.

I knew when I finished writing The Wolf’s Curse that the characters had reached the end of their journeys, but I wanted to stay in the same magical world. I’ve always thought of Wolf as my “death book,” and I was fascinated by the idea of writing a book that examined the opposite. Of course, a “birth” book didn’t feel right for the middle grade market.

It wasn’t until a friend pointed me toward an 1896 French film, La Fée Aux Choux, that I figured out how to make the concept work. La Fée Aux Choux, which is arguably the world’s first narrative film (and made by the world’s first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blaché), was lost or damaged, but it was redone in 1900 and features a fairy harvesting babies from cabbages. I reimagined the mythology to fit my story world, and The Rabbit’s Gift was born! It’s set in the same world as The Wolf’s Curse, but it takes place in a different country with different characters and different magical rules.

  1. The Rabbit’s Gift is written from dual points of view. Quincy Rabbit begins the story by musing that “sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is which side you’re on,” while Fleurine’s point of view opens with the admission that she once would have considered Quincy a villain. What do you hope readers take away from this exploration of heroes and villains?

At the start of the story, Quincy sets out to steal a bag of the purple carrot seeds the rabbits need to survive and Fleurine steals a Chou from the rabbits; since their actions set off a nearly catastrophic chain of events, it would be easy to label both of them as villains, but I can also make the case for how they both think they are behaving heroically. Rather than following the traditional model of writing a story with a clearly defined protagonist and an antagonist, I really wanted to explore the power of perspective to help readers understand that things aren’t always as black and white as they might seem.

  1. Quincy Rabbit comes from an enormous family, whereas Fleurine is an only child. In what way do their familys’ expectations and dynamics drive the story?

Quincy is a runt and often feels targeted by his stronger, older brother. The Committee that runs the Warren also seems to keep a closer-than-usual eye on Quincy. It’s the pressure to want to prove his worth that leads him to set off on his adventure. On the other hand, Fleurine is driven by the constant pressure to follow in her mother’s footsteps even though she’s much more interested in the forbidden study of botany than politics. Their focus on their own unhappiness leads them to make some really big mistakes, and it’s not until they stop trying to change things that are out of their control and learn to embrace the lives they have––especially their friends, family, and community, that they finally find true happiness.

  1. Rabbits and humans have a symbiotic relationship in The Rabbit’s Gift; in what way does this mirror the real world?

One of the things I was interested in exploring in this book was the interdependence between man and nature and how delicate that balance can be. In The Rabbit’s Gift, human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits, In return, rabbits receive the purple carrots essential for their survival. While humans in the real world obviously aren’t dependent on rabbits for babies and wild rabbits aren’t directly dependent on humans for their survival, human actions like pollution, overpopulation, urban sprawl, and deforestation have direct consequences on the entire planet; I hope this story helps readers become more aware of the extent to which our actions impact our futures. 

  1. The Rabbit’s Gift is set in the mythical country of Montpeyroux, where they are suffering from drought, overpopulation, and hunger. Yet they cling to the status quo and refuse the scientific advances that might be able to help solve their problems, fearing that changes to the natural order might be disrespectful to the Grand Maman in the Moon. What message are you sending to young readers?

This story is intended to be a fun, magical twist on traditional French mythology. That said, it’s always been my mission to write stories that are both entertaining and thought provoking, and this book was written during the pandemic. Although it was written before we had access to the vaccines and boosters that significantly reduce the chance of severe illness and death, the debate about whether these vaccines would be safe and those who would and wouldn’t take them, was already raging. At the same time, I was also reading articles about efforts to combine human and animal cells; while none of these issues are central to the heart of my story, I did want to acknowledge that science isn’t black and white; along with the benefits comes a whole lot of responsibility as well as moral and ethical debates about its safety, efficacy, and our moral obligations.

  1. Socio-economic issues often come up in your work. Why is this important to you to explore?

My childhood was spent living on the fringes of society. I’d moved nearly 24 times by fourth grade; we stayed in a camper pulled behind our Buick, a school-bus, and a one-room cabin with no electricity or running water. I left home at the age of sixteen and went on to put myself through university and then business school. I’d grown up believing that it was up to me to create the life I wanted to live. That still holds true, but now that I’m older, I can see how my privilege opened doors for me and how our society is set up to reward the wealthy and penalize the poor. It’s important to me to write stories that help young readers begin to understand and identify the imbalances in our society and how it’s important to work together for the common good.

  1. You’ve said that you have a “literary godmother” in Newbery medalist Erin Entrada Kelly. How did that relationship come about?

I’d been writing for thirteen years and was in the process of switching agents when Erin put out a call for manuscripts to critique with the writing class she was teaching; I jumped on the chance to get feedback from an author of her caliber. She not only loved my manuscript but passed it on to her agent, who offered representation the very next day. It’s safe to say that Erin single-handedly changed the course of my career!

  1. Can you talk a little bit about Magic in the Middle and what you hope young readers will gain from watching these book talks?

Magic in the Middle is a natural extension of my passion for middle grade fantasy; it’s a free series of monthly recorded book talks that teachers, librarians and caregivers can share with their middle grade readers to introduce new books and get kids excited about reading. (As an added bonus, I often include short video messages from the authors themselves!) To learn more, visit my website at www.jessicavitalis.com.


COMMENTS ARE WELCOME BELOW AND BE SURE TO VISIT ALL THE OTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE BLOGGERS POSTING MIDDLE GRADE CONTENT THIS WEEK.

Posted in MG Fantasy, Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

THE ANTIRACIST KID

How does someone not old enough to vote make the world a better place? They might want to start with this new book focusing on the tools to combat systemic racism and injustice. Three sections help plant the seed:

– Identity: What it is and how it applies to you
– Justice: What it is, what racism has to do with it, and how to address injustice
– Activism: A how-to with resources to be the best antiracist kid you can be

The ANTIRACIST KID recommends you not go it alone. Recruit family, friends, and others in the community to push toward positive change. Filled with artwork, each section has a helpful “Putting it All Together” summary you can use to review what you’ve read. You’ll also meet three young activists:

Biracial Ruby is Black, and a cisgender female (one whose gender identity corresponds to the sex assigned at birth). Dani is Taíno and Seminole, nonbinary, and uses they/them pronouns. African American Shawn is Gambian, and Dominican, has ADHD, and lives with his two moms.

THE ANTIRACIST KID is the perfect starting point for a discussion with family and classmates, especially those 10-12 years old. Even adults will learn a few things reading this short manual (128 pages). A strong addition to classrooms, libraries, and at home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer, twin sister, first generation American, cisgender mama, anti-bias antiracist (ABAR) educator. She is the author of the #1 New York Times and #1 Indie Best Seller, This Book Is Anti-Racist, a book for young folks [and everyone] to support waking up, taking action, and doing the work of becoming antiracist.

She has been working with children and families for nearly two decades and worked as a Montessori educator for fifteen years. She enjoys exploring social justice with young folks, especially the history of racism and resistance, economic justice, and socially and personally constructed identities. Tiffany also likes working with educators and supporting them building strong, authentic communities in which every child can be seen and valued. 

Tiffany lives on the homeland of the Pocumtuc, Nonotuck, and the Nipmuck with her two young storytellers, husband, a small dog with a big personality, and a turtle she’s had since she was nine years old. (Author website)

***************************************

Coming up next week is another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY! It’s here I share highlights from other individuals blogging about middle grade books. Many will have reviews, interviews, and tips on writing. Take a look at PAST MMGM POSTS.

It’s easy to join the lineup. All you have to do is 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 don’t forget to say what 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.

*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 , | 1 Comment