HARDCOURT

Basketball fans from middle grade on up will be enthralled with stories as to how the NBA developed into one of the best professional sports organizations. Prolific sportswriter Fred Bowen, who has written more than 25 titles for MG audiences, begins the journey with THE TIP-OFF, a chapter on the rough beginnings for the league right after World War II.

From there, the technique of naming each section like the progression of a game continues with FIRST QUARTER and ends with AT THE BUZZER. It’s a creative way to present the content. I’ve been a basketball fan since I was a kid and was amazed at what I didn’t know.

Topics like how the 24-second clock and 3-point line got its start, along with a look at The Harlem Globetrotters who helped pave the path of desegregation for the league. Not left out are the iconic players from the 1940s likedominant center, George Mikan, the Olympic Dream team of 1992, and current names like Steph Curry. James Harden, and LeBron James.

I thoroughly enjoyed the description of how the Ice Capades ended up helping the league evolve and Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point record one-game scoring feat. A full chapter on Bird and Magic (Larry Bird and Magic Johnson) also revealed the history of these players.

There are no photographs, but that’s okay because bold full-page illustrations are spread throughout. They are beautiful to look at and team up with the text to make HARDCOURT a winning non-fiction selection.

Fred Bowen below tells about the importance of losing in sports:

About the Author and Illustrator

Fred Bowen is the author of Gridiron and more than twenty additional children’s books about sports, and for the past twenty years has written the weekly KidsPost column in The Washington Post. Fred lives in Maryland with his family. Visit him at FredBowen.com.

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for The Bell Rang, which he also authored, received the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s BarbershopSweet Clara and the Freedom QuiltBefore She Was Harriet, and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome. One of their recent titles is Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, which received four starred reviews and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book.  He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at JamesRansome.com

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Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration.

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)
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MMGM for January 17, 2022

Click on

to reach a blogger’s post.

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At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of TIDESONG by Wendy Xu.

June McCrary Jacobs has today’s blog tour stop for Author Gwen Richardson’s Boss Women:  Seven African-American Women Who Built Their Businesses From the Ground Up. Included is an Author Guest Post and a generous giveaway.

Carol Baldwin features an INTERVIEW WITH MONICA ROE, AUTHOR OF AIR, and a GIVEAWAY– PART II.

Sue Heavenrich has a fun chapter book for ages 7-10s at Sally’s Bookshelf this week, The Daily Bark: The Puppy Problem.

Max at COMPLETELY FULL BOOKSHELF returns with a second look at a truly lovely novel: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. 

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey by Renee Watson.  It is a chapter book series about brave women inspired by the NYT bestseller, She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton.

Valinora Troy features a review of The Last Cuentista – a finalist in the Cybils EMG Spec fiction category.

Maria Antonio shares another title in a feature called 100 Years of Newbery Books. Today it is ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson.

Rosi Hollinbeck shares her review of Mystery on Magnolia Circle by Kate Klise. Rosi also has three links for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to take a look along with her other reviews last week including OPERATION DO-OVER.

(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)
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TIDESONG

Although I prefer the more traditional way of storytelling, kids often have a preference for graphic novels. For one, they are easy to read. And two, they are visual just like this generation of middle grade readers. When I saw this new one come across my desk, the story line captured my attention.

Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy—the best magic school in the realm—even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.

Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.

Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t—beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?

Sophie is an endearing protagonist. She stumbles through many mistakes along the way but tries to make things right. A grandmother and Great Aunt are tough on her with demands that are rather mean and unrealistic, but it was nice to see a few of the adults admit their lack of respect and apologizing.

The art work is colorful and depicted each scene perfectly. Some are full page with no text and they will have you gazing at them a bit longer. Seeing magic, witches, and dragons visually on a page adds to the attraction of Tidesong.

The title will appeal at first to girls but boys would also enjoy the plot and characters. TIDESONG is a simple story that delivers some important lessons. Recommended for graphic lovers along with those who have never picked up a novel of this type. You just may get hooked.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: November 16, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 240

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT TIDESONG by Wendy Xu

  1. Sophie’s self talk was a real highlight. She reflects on her errors and tries to figure out a better way to solve her dilemma.
  2. A heartwarming ending with every plot point wrapped up and delivered.
  3. The best part of the graphics were the scenery whether it be with characters or not. The ocean and small town fit right into the graphic format.
  4. The message that just because a school has a fancy name and stellar reputation doesn’t mean it is for everyone.
  5. Lir came through as one of my favorites. He’s a dragon out of water and can’t get back to the sea or even know where to start. He’d make a strong MC in his own book!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wendy Xu is a bestselling, award-nominated Brooklyn-based illustrator and comics artist.

She is the creator of the middle grade fantasy graphic novel TIDESONG (2021 from HarperCollins/Quilltree) and co-creator of MOONCAKES, a young adult fantasy graphic novel published in 2019 from Oni Press. Her work has been featured on Catapult, Barnes & Noble Sci-fi/Fantasy Blog, and Tor.com, among other places. (For more about Wendy and her work, visit her Web Page)

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I received a copy of the book from Harper Collins. Comments are welcome below.

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

REAL WORLD SCIENCE BOOKS

After reading this three volume set from Nomad Press I understand how the scarecrow felt after getting his brain. I’m a lot smarter and it was fun getting there!

Great for ages 12 and up even if science is not a favorite subject. The hands-on activities alone will cause even the most reluctant to enjoy the world of science.

Each volume begins with a timeline of events leading right to the present. QR codes can be found throughout with links to articles and some very cool videos to excite the learning bug in every reader. Just frame the square image on your phone’s camera and off you go for the extra treat. All the books include a glossary, resources (including the QR code’s web address), and a handy index to find a topic.

THE SCIENCE OF FASHION is where you discover how how science, technology, and engineering make the entire fashion industry possible! Hands-on activities will have you creating a loom or natural dyes. You can also use the scientific procedure to learn more about the integration of science and fashion in the process of making things we wear and use every day.

THE CHEMISTRY OF FOOD is a natural for this series. Beginning with the Periodic Table of Elements in a colorful two-page spread, five chapters will have you looking at food in a whole different way. Chemicals in our food and the reaction when cooking, along with what makes food healthy make up the first part of the book. It continues on with a look at flavor and texture. Using salt and ice to make ice cream or observe the caramelization of sugar were two of my favorite activities.

THE PHYSICS OF FUN This branch of science has never seen such a creative and motivating presentation s as the one in this final book. Chapters center around Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Trampolines, Sound and forming a band, and why video games need physics to work.It’s an action packed display and will certainly have you prepared for that first Physics class in High School.

Teachers can download a free Classroom Guide for each book in the set. Middle school was never this fun!

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Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration.

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)
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MMGM for January 10, 2022

It’s NATIONAL CLEAN OFF YOUR DESK DAY!

That task would take me all day so I’m reading another MG title instead. Click on a book to find one for yourself.

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At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of RILEY’S GHOST by John David Anderson.

June McCrary Jacobs spotlights a craft book for kids, I Am Not a Sock; and announces the release of her two new story collections for children ages 6-10, ‘Banjo & More Pet Stories’ and ‘Carter’s Cookies & More Family Stories’.

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles has a guest post by debut author Nancy Tandon and her agent Charlotte Wenger and a giveaway of Nancy’s MG contemporary The Way I Say It and a query critique giveaway.

Jennifer Bohnhoff is back this week with a review of Erin Soderberg Downing’s When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Peach Pie, #1 in her new series The Great Peach Experiment.

Maria Antonio has a post about BIRDIE’S BARGAIN by Katerine Paterson.

Carol Baldwin shines the light on a debut MG novel, Air by Monica Roe. Included is a GIVEAWAY of the novel.

Rosi Hollinbeck is back from a holiday break with a review and GIVEAWAY of CRESS WATERCRESS by Gregory Maguire. Rosi also has three links for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to take a look along with her other reviews including yesterday’s CODE NAME SERENDIPITY.

(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 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

RILEY’S GHOST

Author John David Anderson is not afraid to branch out and try different genres. The one common thread most of his books have are kids who don’t fit in to the norm. Contemporary stories like Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, about three boys and the special bond they had with a teacher. Posted, a second school story and how the power of words can make a difference. And ONE LAST SHOT, a boy whose love of miniature golf helps explain the puzzling aspects of his family.

Then came other genres. STOWAWAY, a space adventure. And now a magical realism with RILEY’S GHOST.

Riley Flynn is alone. 

It feels like she’s been on her own since sixth grade, when her best friend, Emily, ditched her for the cool girls. Girls who don’t like Riley. Girls who decide one day to lock her in the science closet after hours, after everyone else has gone home.

When Riley is finally able to escape, however, she finds that her horror story is only just beginning. All the school doors are locked, the windows won’t budge, the phones are dead, and the lights aren’t working. Through halls lit only by the narrow beam of her flashlight, Riley roams the building, seeking a way out, an answer, an explanation. And as she does, she starts to suspect she isn’t alone after all. 

While she’s always liked a good scary story, Riley knows there is no such thing as ghosts. But what else could explain the things happening in the school, the haunting force that seems to lurk in every shadow, around every corner? As she tries to find answers, she starts reliving moments that brought her to this night. Moments from her own life…and a life that is not her own.

Upper middle grade from 12 and up with a love of ghost stories would be the best audience for the story. There are moments of harsh language more appropriate for those nearing the PG-13 stage. It’s also not intended for kids with a more reluctant attitude toward reading. This type of reader will look at the thickness of the book (368 pages) and move on.

Riley’s backstory is spread out over the entire book flashing back to scenes with her classmates and family. It ties in nicely with the ghost story and how Riley has some similarities with the ghost, although they had me reading these scenes fast so I could return to the action at hand.

Getting trapped in a middle school might be a 13-year-old’s worst nightmare. But the doors do unlock eventually in a way never expected and will have you thinking about other kids who might be trapped by the ghosts of their past.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: RILEY’S GHOST by John David Anderson

  1. Many kids in middle school come home to an empty house for a few hours. It’s a common occurrence in my community and I’m glad to see it portrayed so realistically here.
  2. Riley’s whole life evolved around her friend Emily. Now that Emily has other interests, it’s a harsh reality shared by kids who must to deal with losing a friend in their growing up years. Handled admirably in this plot.
  3. Anger management is a theme and we get to know Riley on a different level. She deals with the bully’s in a harsh way (e.g. stabbing a boy in the hand with her pencil). She has learned better ways to react but hasn’t quite mastered them.
  4. Not too scary. Instead the plot goes for an understanding of how we treat others can have long lasting effects.
  5. I felt sorry for the ghosts, Heather and Max. Their backstory does provide the healing Riley so desperately needs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, One Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (For more visit the author’s web page).

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I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Please comment below!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , | 9 Comments

WHICH BIRD ARE YOU?

That is the question 5th graders at Galen Elementary explore on their week-long field trip to Camp Discovery, an outdoor education experience. The four main characters pictured on the cover fit neatly into each bird category causing some problems when they try to complete a compass and mapping task.

One of their teachers tells the class a tale passed down from his grandfather. It’s about a kingdom of birds where each type of bird rules one of the four corners in the continent of Aviara. They no longer get along and must discover a solution or face even more dire consequences. The birds discover as do the kids the key to working together in solving problems.

The story takes readers through 127 pages going back and forth from the present to the telling of the story about the kingdom. It’s a unique and realistic way of depicting the way we act.

You might see yourself in one or more of these personalities:

Take charge, confident eagle

Fun loving, talkative parrot

Caring and helpful dove

Logical and questioning owl

If you aren’t sure, head over to whichbirdareyou.com where you can take a short quiz about which bird you might be (or your family, friends, or favorite politician). For a more about the book and a video visit Merrick Rosenberg’s author site.

Which Bird Are You? would work best in a classroom as a read aloud and discussion tool. Even families would understand themselves and others better by reading this book.

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Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration.

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)
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MMGM for January 3, 2022

It’s another year of MMGM—my 5th year hosting!

Click on a party hat to get the party started:

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At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER by Shawn Peters.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews They Only See the Outside by Kalli Dakos, poetry written in free verse that dives into the emotional life for those 7-10.

Valinora Troy was a judge in the Cybils Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. Today she shares some of her favorites that did not make the final cut.

Jennifer Bohnhoff starts the year off with a review of THE DREADED CLIFF by Terry Nichols.

Maria Antonia has a post about SPY SCHOOL AT SEA by Stuart Gibbs.

Carol Baldwin takes us back to an interview with Joyce Hostetter. In it she discusses BLUE, COMFORT, and AIM.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to take a look along with her other reviews last week including Jadie in Five Dimensions.

(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 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER

I was looking for something fun and different to begin my review year and THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER came through in super hero ways. The cover alone is enough to make one curious.

Logan is a twelve-years-old orphan who narrates the story. His thoughts are directed toward the younger brother he has never met. He knows there is a brother because Logan was found abandoned at the L.A. airport when he was three wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “World’s Best Big Brother.”

Now he’s just trying to get through his days at the orphanage. When Gil and Marcie take him in as a foster, Logan discovers a whole new world filled with comic book heroes. Here’s the synopsis from Harper Collins:

Logan Foster has pretty much given up on the idea of ever being adopted. It could have something to with his awkward manner, his photographic memory, or his affection for reciting curious facts, but whatever the cause, Logan and his “PP’s” (prospective parents) have never clicked

Then everything changes when Gil and Margie arrive. Although they aren’t exactly perfect themselves—Gil has the punniest sense of humor and Margie’s cooking would have anyone running for the hills—they genuinely seem to care.

But it doesn’t take Logan long to notice some very odd things about them. They are out at all hours, they never seem to eat, and there’s a part of the house that is protected by some pretty elaborate security.

No matter what Logan could have imagined, nothing prepared him for the truth: His PP’s are actually superheroes, and they’re being hunted down by dastardly forces. Logan’s found himself caught in the middle in a massive battle and the very fate of the world may hang in the balance. Will Logan be able to find a way to save the day and his new family? 

You won’t find anyone like Logan Foster in the MG category. His eidetic memory gives him the ability to remember every detail of what he sees, reads or hears. He often passes the time by reciting memories and making lists. He can’t even ride a bicycle, but his impressive mind has him promoted to High School.

The chapters aren’t numbered but instead labeled with the date and time. Logan’s narration moves along at a fast and often laugh out loud pace. The only slow point was a big tell-all midway through the story where Logan is given the reasons behind all the super hero commotion. It picks right back up and Logan will win your heart. You’ll have to wait until the end to find out if his super hero parents are going to send him back to the orphanage.

Earthquakes, Lava, and a whole batch of memorable characters (some rather deadly) will have readers anxiously awaiting a sequel. A great start is had here.

Release Date: January 18, 2022 Page Count: 272

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER by Shawn Peters.

  1. Elena is a high school friend. Her character provided help and inspiration to her much younger new classmate. It worked on all levels and Elena’s personality shined.
  2. The cover is a winner with Logan and his popcorn more worried about what he’s gotten himself into with his new foster parents.
  3. The Los Angeles setting worked perfect to bring out the madness of what is happening.
  4. The author set us straight on the difference between comic book heroes and real superheroes. It masterfully played into the main plot.
  5. Family, friendship and a whole lot of fun. As Logan would put it succinctly, “That’s a fact.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Shawn Peters

I’ve written a little bit about a lot of things in a lot of places. Ads for huge premium cable networks and all kinds of small businesses. Movie ideas that ended up on the shelf and domestic date-nights that ended up in the newspapers. Columns about fantasy sports and books about a neurodiverse hero in the making. I live in Massachusetts with my wife, who is the best 5th grade teacher on the planet, my two kids, a dog and a cat that made me retype this by walking across the keyboard. (for more visit Shawn’s author web site)

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I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Comments are welcome below!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

An MMGM Thank You

I’m taking a pause in the MMGM weekly post to enjoy the holidays. It’s been the most viewed year ever and a big thanks go to all the visitors and especially the bloggers who keep the interest in MG books going strong. I appreciate everyone who has participated this year (All 30 of you!) and hope to see you back in 2022!

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles

June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, & Stitch-metic

COMPLETELY FULL BOOKSHELF

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal

Maria Antonia at of books, photography, and tea

Rosi Hollinbeck

Faith Hough at Blythe and Bold

Jenni Enzor

Melina Lobo at Meli’s Book Reviews

K.A. Cummins

Sue Heavenrich

Sue Kooky from Kitty Cat at the Library

Kim Aippersbach

Stephanie Robinson at Fairday’s Blog

Susan Uhlig

Andrea Mack at That’s Another Story

Mark Baker at Carstair’s Consders

Michelle Mason

Alex Baugh at Randomly reading

Marielle Orff at Town Book Center

Rosanne E Lortz

Beth Schmelzer at Books by Beth

S.W. Lothian

Valinora Troy

Susan Olson at Time Travel Times Two

Librarian Chris Holliman

Jennifer Bohnhoff

Carol Baldwin

Michelle Isenhoff

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