*ALWAYS in the MIDDLE* is your home for…
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CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction Nominees
IT’S ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!
This was the fourth book I’d read in 2018 where a family grieves over a deceased parent. Here we go again is all I could think, but INKLING approaches a tough issue in a very different and creative way.
In the beginning, young Ethan Rylance finds a ink blot loose in his room. The blot slipped off a drawing board in his Dad’s studio—a graphic artist and storyteller who has been in a a slump since his wife died. The blot appears dangerous at first, but Ethan soon finds out it is quite friendly and names the blob, Inkling. His new friend feeds off the print in books or magazines, erasing whatever he spreads across (at least everyone assumes Inkling is a he). Inkling can also change into any shape or word to communicate.
The secret doesn’t last as friends and family get a look at the creature. Some will use it for their own gain while Inkling knows his real purpose is to somehow heal this family. Readers will get attached to this sweet and often amusing tale. The fantasy tugs your heart and provides a smile at a time when most needed.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS from Penguin Random House
The Rylance family is stuck. Dad’s got writer’s block. Ethan promised to illustrate a group project at school–even though he can’t draw. Sarah’s still pining for a puppy. And they all miss Mom. So much more than they can say.
Enter Inkling. Inkling begins life in Mr. Rylance’s sketchbook. But one night the ink of his drawings runs together–and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything.
Ethan finds him first. Inkling has absorbed a couple chapters of his math book–not good–and the story he’s supposed to be illustrating for school–also not good. But Inkling’s also started drawing the pictures to go with the story–which is amazing! It’s just the help Ethan was looking for! Inkling helps the rest of the family too–for Sarah he’s a puppy. And for Dad he’s a spark of ideas for a new graphic novel. It’s exactly what they all want.
It’s not until Inkling goes missing that this family has to face the larger questions of what they–and Inkling–truly need.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018 PAGE COUNT: 272
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:
- The pages of the book are ink blotted giving you the sense of truly being in the story.
- Ethan’s younger sister has Down’s Syndrome, but it is never portrayed as a disability. You just have to take more time with Sarah.
- Rickman, a cranky old cat who provides humor and serves as a feline menace to Inkling.
- A scene at the end hints at a sequel. I would welcome more time with this family.
- The story is fast paced with a thrilling conclusion. It will for sure become a favorite for teachers, parents, and kids.
HOW KENNETH OPPEL BEGAN HIS WRITING CAREER:
I was born in Port Alberni, a mill town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia but spent the bulk of my childhood in Victoria, B.C. and on the opposite coast, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At around twelve I decided I wanted to be a writer. I started out writing sci-fi epics then went on to swords and sorcery tales and then, during the summer holiday when I was fourteen, started on a humorous story about a boy addicted to video games.
It turned out to be quite a long story, really a short novel, and I rewrote it the next summer. We had a family friend who knew Roald Dahl – one of my favourite authors – and this friend offered to show Dahl my story. I was paralysed with excitement. I never heard back from Roald Dahl directly, but he read my story, and liked it enough to pass on to his own literary agent. I got a letter from them, saying they wanted to take me on, and try to sell my story. And they did.
Colin’s Fantastic Video Adventure was published in 1985, in Britain and Canada and the U.S, and later in France. It was easily the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me — and it gave me the confidence to think I could make writing my career. For more visit Kenneth’s author web site)
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.
Attention! All budding engineers should get a copy of this book. It will confirm you are on the right career path. It might even entice those who had never even thought about a career in engineering to give it a go.
Divided in to three sections, the first 35 pages are about the field of engineering. There are many different kinds of engineers but they all have the same purpose: to solve problems. You get a chance to practice with a build it project in the field of Mechanical, Acoustical, or Structural Engineering. You then learn about the eight steps used by engineers when tackling tough problems.
Sections two takes up the center of the book and is filled with 14 fun, wacky projects to test your engineering genius using the eight-step process. You are given 24 hours to complete each one. Afterwards you turn the page and discover how real engineers and explorers solved the same problem. My favorites were Sweet Security where the objective is to protect your candy stash; and Special Delivery (Transporting an object between two windows).
The final section looks back at past engineering successes and failure, along with what we will be working in the future. A handy Find Out More reference page and a bold, colorful glossary round out the fun learning.
SOLVE THIS! will appeal to both girls and boys and the only problem you’ll have is getting the book out of their hands.
All About the Author
Although making books since the age of nine, Joan Marie Galat wasn’t published until 12 years old, when she became a weekly newspaper columnist. Today she is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, with new titles scheduled for release in 2018. She is the author of Day Trips From Edmonton and Give Yourself a Pep Talk, as well as the Dot to Dot in the Sky series. Her kid’s titles explore astronomy, mythology, light pollution, history, and nature. Joan’s books have taken her to many places, including Seoul, South Korea where she spoke at a United Nations event in 2016.
Joan operates MoonDot Media, a communications business offering writing, editing, and training solutions in broadcast, print, and multi-media. A keynote speaker and frequent presenter, Joan loves to share her passion for nonfiction, fiction, and storytelling.
(For more visit Joan’s web site)
Coming up next week is another MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, 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). Email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
(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).
Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and for spreading the middle grade love!
*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.
Here are a few news and special feature articles I’ve enjoyed recently:
Can diversity in children’s books tackle prejudice? Find out in this probing article from CNN.
- Publisher Weekly is out with their 14 best middle grade titles for 2018. I’ve only read half of these. There go the holidays!
- I bet you didn’t know today is National STEM Day. Here are five ways to celebrate with kids along with some equally fun resources.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back Friday with a review of SOLVE THIS!
WELCOME TO ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!
The Children of Exile series closes with this heart pounding finale. Each book is narrated by one of the young characters. In book one, Children of Exile, twelve-year-old Rosi, led the charge. Her friend, Edwy, took over in book two, Children of Refuge. In Children of Jubilee the final book, (releasing tomorrow, November 6th), Edwy’s older sister—thirteen-year-old Kiandra gives us her narrative.
Three viewpoints provided much depth to the series. It was interesting to read their first person reactions to the other characters. With Kiandra, she is the tech nerd, and finds her older brother Enu’s tough guy approach quite irritating. When all the kids are captured by the evil Enforcers and taken to another planet, the scenes are terrifying. It’s gut wrenching to experience the feeling of what they go through thanks to the top notch writing. The Enforcers mean business and you can’t resist.
This sci-fi thriller will appeal to both boys and girls and all three read well as a standalone. I in fact started with Book 2, before going back and reading Book 1, and then the final. The author does a great job filling in the blanks along the way in case you missed a plot point.
Surprises abound with new characters and settings. Nothing is quite what it seems. It made me glad to be a simple human on good old planet earth. Here I can enjoy the great ride present in each of the Children of Exile stories. It would be a perfect book for a parent and child to read at the same time—a thought provoking tale sure to bring about much discussion.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018 PAGE COUNT: 320
FULL PLOT (From Margaret Peterson Haddix)
Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.
But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: CHILDREN OF JUBILEE
- This is my favorite cover of the three. It hints at a planet with two different sides. What you see is not always what you get.
- Kiandra is a problem solver. Her outward toughness and inner fears will remind you of many girls at this age.
- Alcibiades is the new creature/character and he brings a helpful hand (I mean tentacle) to the adventure.
- Little five-year-old Cana provides a soft spot and also bravery to the unthinkable situation she is in.
- The theme of seeing each other in different ways, but also understanding other’s actions is the full encompassing feeling you get after completing the series.
FROM THE AUTHOR, Margaret Peterson Haddix:
When my daughter was in third grade, she brought home a list one day that described what everyone in her class wanted to be when they grew up. Most of the kids clearly picked the same jobs their parents held. But a few went for the fantastical. One kid said he wanted to be a spy; another was longing to be a professional dirt-biker; another saw himself as a future movie director. And I looked at that list and thought, “Yep, I’m with the dirt-biker and the spy.” (For the full story visit Margaret’s bio page).
***I received a galley of this title in return for my review. Leave a comment below. I enjoy reading all of them!***
Racism… Shootings of black youth… Treatment of deaf and deafness… White privilege… First crush.
Wow… a lot of topics to throw into one story—perhaps too many.
Jilly is a white middle school girl who reflects on the happenings in her life. She has a new baby sister who is deaf and Jilly has her own ideas about how to deal with the disability. Next she witnesses racism in her own family and through the eyes of the deaf community. She also has a liking for a deaf black boy she meets online via a chat room set up for a massively popular fantasy series.
What Jilly says will either match what young audience are thinking or make them realize they had never thought about it that way. This is where the power of Jilly P resides. The story is best read in a classroom or with family. Talking to others about these topics will give readers the chance to reflect and maybe begin to make change—just like Jilly’s family does in a bold way.
The Author notes were quite helpful in framing the reasons and connections as to why the story was written. It might be something you read before starting the first chapter.
The ending is not one I enjoy in books where there’s a sudden rush to push the story forward three months, then nine more months, three more months, and finally three more years. I’d much rather read a sequel.
Overall a great springboard for a discussion on these current topics in our communities.
Year Published: 2018 Page Count: 256
Summary (Via the author’s web site):
The way the world sees you changes how you see the world.
Jilly thinks she’s figured out how life works. But when her sister Emma is born Deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn. The world is going to treat Jilly, who is white and hearing, differently from Emma, just as it will treat them both differently from their Black cousins.
A big fantasy reader, Jilly makes a connection online with another fantasy fan, Derek, who is a Deaf Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for help with Emma but doesn’t always know the best way or time to ask for it. As she and Derek meet in person, have some really fun conversations, and become friends, Jilly makes some mistakes . . . but comes to understand that it’s up to her, not Derek, to figure out how to do better next time — especially when she wants to be there for Derek the most.
Within a world where kids like Derek and Emma aren’t assured the same freedom or safety as kids like Jilly, Jilly is starting to learn all the things she doesn’t know – and by doing that, she’s also working to discover how to support her family and her friends.
All About Alex Gino
Alex Gino loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. They would take a quiet coffee date with a friend over a loud and crowded party any day. Alex is proud to have been an activist and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities since 1997. Born and raised on Staten Island, NY, they now enjoy living in Oakland, CA. Alex is author of middle grade novels You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! and the Stonewall Award-winning George.
(I received a galley for my honest review)