An ecosystem is a fragile commodity. Disturb any of its parts and the results can be lionesscatastrophic for all. This reality is brought to life with the true story of Lady, the last lioness in Liuwa Plain National Park located in a remote section of Zambia.

It’s the story of how political decisions, conflict, and war can cause upheaval to a thriving ecosystem. There is also hope as scientists and the citizens of Zambia make efforts to restore the balance of life. It’s a project making huge strides.

Filled with stunning photographs and smart narration, this should be required reading for any young person studying ecosystems. It’s presented in an understandable way woven into Lady’s story of survival. She is truly a beauty in the wild.

I enjoyed the  African proverbs at the beginning of each chapters along with  details of how difficult it is to restore an ecosystem. A snapshot of the predators and herbivores present in the park today and a glossary were most helpful.  The book concludes on a hopeful but cautious note of how important humans are in keeping a thriving ecosystem. Civil instability and poaching are still problems to watch out for.

Thank you National Geographic and Bradley Hague for bringing this stirring turn around story of a land brought back from disaster. I hope the story in the future has a happy ending.


Rise of the Lioness by Bradley Hague (ages 8-12) — “Engrossing and masterfully executed” – starred review, Booklist

In western Zambia, the vibrant world of the the Liuwa Plains provides a perfect habitat for zebras, wildebeest and the mighty lions.  But poaching and war have severely damaged this isolated wilderness, reducing its lion population to just one:  Lady, the last lioness. Author Bradley Hague documents Lady’s fight for survival in this evocative narrative on the decline, fall, and rebirth of the Liuwa Plains. Follow Lady as she
grapples with an environment altered by human hands and discover how both Lady and humankind have struggled to restore balance to a damaged environment.  Hague seamlessly weaves together the tales of rebirth and survival in the natural world, reinforcing the importance of our roles as nature’s guardians and reminding us once again that when we take care of animals, we take care of ourselves. Booklist goes on to say in their starred review that “National Geographic’s trademark flair for breathtaking wildlife photos is well matched by Hague’s authoritative and well developed narrative.”


Enjoy your weekend. Have fun, relax, and READ!

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FROM THE GRAVE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I have a double payoff today: A review of  FROM THE GRAVE and a visit from the author, FTG-CoverCynthia Reeg.

Welcome to ALWAYS in the MIDDLE, Cynthia. I loved reading about the crazy creatures and many oddities in Uggarland. 

Thanks for inviting me. I’m so glad you enjoyed visiting my wacky monster world. That’s the writer’s challenge—to create a place so mesmerizing that it sucks the reader in no matter how goofy it is.

How did you go about putting this all together? Did the world building, character creation, and story happen all at once or did you develop them separately?

First came the idea for a fairly simple chapter book, featuring misfit monster characters with silly unmonsterly quirks. These monsters would endure bullying and segregation and eventually prove they could monster in their own way. I wanted to approach the issue of bullying and prejudice from a different, unexpected perspective, so that students could explore the issue in a whole new light—but experience an enjoyable read as well.

However, a simple story and MY characters never seem to mesh for long. When my characters show up, they start taking over the story. Before long, their back stories and personal connections led to numerous subplots and intrigue and stuff too scary and intense for most younger elementary readers.

So I mapped out a longer book with a fairly simple outline (I HATE outlines but I hate getting stuck worse!) and I started writing.

I do some character analysis before I begin a story, but I truly only get to know my characters as I write them. When their voices and gestures start leaking from my brain onto the page, then the story takes off.

As for world building, again I think through a number of things before I start writing such as—the vegetation, the social structure, the community, the educational system, jobs, transportation—including witches’ brooms, of course. I did research on monsters, myths, and looked at lots of illustrations. Principal Snaggle became this saber-toothed creature after I saw a picture in a how-to-draw-a-monster book. I just knew this monster would make the perfect evil principal—not that I’ve ever met any evil principals, of course.

I think the key for any writer is to Be open. Be creative. Be unafraid. It’s very hard for me to explain exactly how my world building works. I guess I’m more of a panster than I thought. Although I’m much more unorganized than a well-trained librarian who used to file upteen millonions of catalog cards should be, I do try to keep track of the details of my characters and setting in a notebook.

If you and your readers would like to see an example of how I let my mind wander to go about creating parts of a fictional world, visit my blog post: WORLD BUILDING: Inside an Author’s Mind (A Morning at the Dentist’s Office)

So it must be apparent by now that I do a bit of character building here, then some plotting there, along with a lots of impromptu setting creation. I dump them all in a big black pot and start stirring, and tasting, and adding more of each as needed—and toadstool gills and red newt eyes for color and texture, repeating over and over again: “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble…”

But most of all—I have FUN! If I the writer am having fun, it will come through in my words and kids will enjoy my story. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids!

I never expected a heartfelt story about monsters, but you pulled it off. What are your favorite themes from the novel?

Thanks again for the complementary words. As a writer (and maybe a regular person) I have trouble keeping my nose out of others’ lives. Like Malcolm has great hearing with his pointy ears, I’m pretty sensitive to other people’s emotional vibes. Creating approachable, vulnerable monsters was both a challenge and a passion for me. I wanted my readers to care about my characters as much as I do.

As for favorite themes in the book, I love the theme of believing in yourself. That’s always been rather hard for me. Even Granny Bubbie’s magic wouldn’t be enough for Frank if he wasn’t strong enough himself. Every writer needs to possess a strong dose of self-assuredness to carry her through.

The theme of friendship and family is also important to me. I’ve been lucky to have wonderfully supportive family and friends—a bonus for any writer. Friends and family are very important in the lives of middle grade readers as well.

But certainly the most important theme in FROM THE GRAVE is ending hatred and exclusion because of differences. To highlight this, I created a world of monsters where conformity and rule-following is extremely important. I wanted to show the absurdity of making mandates based on preferences and obscure reasoning. Each chapter in the story begins with a rule.

Some are nonsensical:

Monster Rule #33: Mayhem is appropriate only when those in authority determine it to be so.

Monster Rule #5: A monster is judged by his actions, so act up!

Some are simple:

Monster Rule #1: Follow the rules, or else!

Some are funny:

Monster Rule #55: Expect the unexpected and then eat it for lunch.

Some are alarming:

Monster Rule #71: Torture is often a necessary component of monster education.

All of them are rather extreme:

Monster Rule #13: Monster or die!

Of course, we need guidelines to create a safe and livable environment. What I wanted to present was a society that had established too many unnecessary rules and regulations on how its inhabitants should look and act. The punishment for violating these monster rules is termination. In this fantasy society, rather than looking for the talents and potential in an unconventional monster, the creature is automatically excluded—unless it can somehow conform.

As might be expected, monsters shy away from change (Monster Rule #913: A well-educated monster knows not to ask any questions.) But I’m hoping FROM THE GRAVE will provide not only an entertaining middle grade read but also serve as a catalyst for discussion on discrimination and intolerance in our own society.

FROM THE GRAVE releases tomorrow (October 18, 2016) What was the hardest part about bringing the story to this exciting time of publication?

See theme #1: Believing in yourself. Believing that the story had merit and would appeal to middle grade readers. Revising and revising and more revising to make it even better. Searching for the right editor who adored monsters and humor. Hooray for TJ da Roza at Jolly Fish Press! He’s the real magician who unleashed my monsters on the world.

I see this is MONSTER OR DIE Book 1. Any hints as to when we can read the second book in the series?

Book Two will be here for October of 2017 with more mayhem and mystery and a few new monsters as well!

Any words of advice for writers to better their craft?

Attend as many writing classes, retreats, workshops, conferences as you can. Many great online classes are available if you don’t live close enough to attend them in person. Anastasia Suen’s classes are awesome. As are those taught by Darcy Pattison.

Join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) so you can learn more about the world of writing for children and network with so many wonderful people. There you’ll find encouragement, support, camaraderie, and professional development.

Read, read, read and then read some more. Read for enjoyment. Read to study the craft. Read to keep current. READ!!!

Write, write, write and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Learn to LOVE revision. It’s the key to success.

For FROM THE GRAVE, I made a random vocabulary list of spooky, creepy, scary words. This helped jumpstart my brain. Don’t be afraid to play with words—create new ones, pair together unexpected words, choose the write words to build your world. That’s the only way I know how to truly make magic—one word at a time!

Thanks you so much for taking the time during your busy launch week!

FULL PLOT (From Cynthia Reeg’s Website) Monster is as monster does, but Frankenstein Frightface Gordon is totally the wrong shade of ghastly green—pale, baby blue, in fact—and he’s more concerned with keeping his pants neat and tidy than scaring the pants off his victims. But when a new law is passed to rid Uggarland of misfits such as Frank, he must decide if he will become the monster his parents can be proud of or be the monster he can be proud of. Trusting the most monsterly monster he knows, Frank looks to the grave and his dead grandmother to make his choice, entering into an adventure that most likely will seal his doom.

Or prove he is truly monster enough.


MY TAKE: FROM THE GRAVE is a unique tale of misfit monsters and the decisions they make based on their past and present. The writing is crisp as the POV shifts from Frank, a blue Frankenstein neat freak, and Malcom, a bully type troll. Their backgrounds clash to a fitting conclusion with one major plot point dangling for Book 2.

It’s fitting this comes out before Halloween, but read it any time of the year. You’ll be turning the pages hoping the best for this odd group of monsters in a world of misunderstanding.


  1. Kids who have ever felt hatred from those who fear differences will enjoy seeing it explored in this unique way.
  2. Oliver is a mummy who is always unraveling. He prefers the freedom without wrappings. I hope Oliver’s character continues to grow in future stories.
  3. The language of the monsters is marvelously creative and fun. New names for days of the week (MoanDay for Monday is quite fitting) as are new curses the characters use to describe their dilemma (Snotfargle and Ratzbotchin).
  4. You  feel compassion for the main trio of misfits along with Malcolm, the mean antagonist. Good stories like this one make you feel attached to the characters even if they are monsters.
  5. The cover is a colorful hint at what is ahead. Bravo to the artist.


I scooted in my now squishy shoes, past several more rows jammed with abnormal students of all ages. Our Odd Monsters Only class was a mishmash of grade levels. Age didn’t matter – only oddness. With a huff, I plopped down beside my best friend, Oliver.

“Here,” he said, handing me a large pile of mummy wrappings heaped at his side. “Use these to dry off. At least they’re good for that.”


Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


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DINING WITH DINOSAURS – A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching

Kids both young and old can’t get enough of dinosaurs. This unique addition comes at the dinosaurstopic in a fun way by pinpointing what these creatures liked to eat. Colorful drawings on each page are perfectly balanced with the text.

You’ll not only get a look at well known predators like T. rex. but also ones you’ve probably never heard before. Names like Saurornitholestes, Citipati, and Deinonychus to name a few. If you can’t begin to pronounce any of those, there’s a handy pronunciation guide in the back (I’ll give you sawr-OR-nith-oh-LEST-eez as the first tongue buster).

This page turning book is divided into sections highlighting the various ‘vores’ like carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore. There’s also a few made up vores – trashivores and sunivores. In numerous side panels a real scientist is interviewed giving their professional opinion to what was on the menu.

A final surprise is a look at the modern day world of vores and how they make up the food web. Add in the handy glossary and index to close out the book and dinosaur loving humans will have a hard to put down full course meal. Thank goodness we have a writer/illustrator like Hannah Bonner who can deliver each course with stylish surprises.

Here’s the official word from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS:

Dining with Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner (September 2016, ages 7-10) — “Five star fare” – starred review, Kirkus

Starving for dinosaur knowledge? In Dining with Dinosaurs, award-winning author Hannah Bonner serves up a full course meal of mouthwatering Mesozoic food facts.  Young readers will meet the “vores”: carnivores, piscivores, herbivores, insectivores, “trashivores,” “sunivores,” and “dinovores” and will most certainly be amazed, surprised and maybe even a bit grossed out when they learn what was on the prehistoric menu. In addition to Hannah’s whimsical drawings, the book also features “Ask a Scientist” vignettes, a glossary, a listing of correct pronunciations of the trickier words in the book and even a trip to the “GROSSERY” store.


Enjoy your weekend. Have fun, relax, and READ!

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MYSTERY & MAYHEM series for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I’m putting aside my fiction reviews this week to delve into what initially peaked my  interest in reading: the fantastic titles available in non-fiction. New out this week are the first two books in the MYSTERIES & MAYHEM series – SURVIVAL along with PIRATES AND SHIPWRECKS.


The stories included in each book make history come alive and have enough mystery and adventure to keep even the most reluctant reader interested.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2016   PAGE COUNT for each title: 128


5186ap8-jWL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_This book has five stories set on the high seas. Three are from the 1800s, and the remaining two from the 1500s and 1700s. My favorite of the bunch (Fiercer Than Most Men) tells the life story of Mary Reed who dressed as a man and became one of the most feared pirates. I’m sure she could take me down in about two seconds. The other stories are equally compelling. No Hollywood movie type tales here. They are each an accurate recounting of some of the most interesting events in our world’s past.

Full Plot (from AMAZON) Pirates and Shipwrecks: True Stories is the first book in the Mystery & Mayhem series for 9–12 year olds, which features true tales that whet kids’ appetites for history by engaging them in genres with proven track records—mystery and adventure. History is made of near misses, unexplained disappearances, unsolved mysteries, and bizarre events that are almost too weird to be true—almost! The Mystery & Mayhem series delves into the past to provide kids with a jumping-off point into a lifelong habit of appreciating history.

Each of the true tales in Pirates and Shipwrecks, including stories about pirate Barbarossa and adventurer John Franklin, is paired with interesting facts about the setting, industry, and time period. A glossary and index provide the opportunity to use essential academic tools. These nonfiction narratives use clear, concise language with compelling plots, drawing in both avid and reluctant readers.


Before the first of five stories is told, the author asks the question Would You Survive? 51ZonqgCOJL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_If they happened in present time, maybe, but not when each historical event occurred more than 100 years ago. Antarctica, the Pacific Ocean, Death Valley, or the Sierra Nevada Mountains are not places to be caught unprepared.

It’s a gripping and honest portrayal of what life must have been like in the face of death when technology or close-by help was absent. You may recognize a few of the names like Donner, Shackleton, or Bligh but their stories delve deeper into the times and reasons why they got themselves in such dire straights.

Full Plot (from Nomad Press) Tales of survival are as old as humanity! In Survival: True Stories, the second book of the Mystery & Mayhem series, readers discover accounts of survival that required innovation, a thirst for adventure, and even a bit of brutality. Whether it’s Shackleton on the frozen landscape of Antarctica or William Bligh and his loyal followers adrift in the Pacific after mutiny on the Bounty, survival is a fascinating topic for readers ages 9 to 12!

Each of the five true tales told within Survival are paired with interesting facts about the setting, the industry, and the time period. A glossary and index also provide the opportunity to practice using essential academic tools. These nonfiction narratives use clear, concise language with compelling plots that both avid and reluctant readers will be drawn to.


  1. A handy world map is displayed at the start of each story. There’s also a brief timeline to set the stage for what is about unfold.
  2. The chapters end with a look at what else was going on in the world during that same year. A real historical goldmine of events.
  3. A three page glossary of words is a nice addition so any unfamiliar words can be learned in an instant.
  4. The pages are laid out in readable fashion with plenty of space between paragraphs and large type.
  5. Great read-alouds for the classroom or the campfire! Also a perfect portal to get kids interested in history.


The 18 men crowded in the very small boat knew that they were going to die. They also knew, without a whisper of doubt, that their deaths were going to be slow and painful. After all, there was very little food in the boat and only a bit of water to drink. They were 3,000 miles from safety, across a wide ocean.

(You’ll have to read for yourself to discover how many of the men did survive…)


Tom McCarthy has been an award-winning writer and editor for more than twenty-five years. As an editor and ghostwriter for various publishers in New York City, Maine, and Connecticut, he developed and edited titles that have won such awards as Harvard University’s Goldsmith Award for Book of the Year; Readers Digest Top Five Summer Books; Sports Illustrated’s Top Books of the Year; and Esquire’s The Year’s Five Best Reads, among others. As the series editor for several best-selling collections, including Incredible Pirate Tales, Ghost Pirates, and Incredible Tales of the Sea, he has developed a knack for finding great stories for readers of all ages. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.


Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


Planning for the future

I’m already planning reviews for 2017. My new posting schedule is Monday (like always) and a weekend post on Friday morning.

I usually scribble my appointments and review schedule on a flimsy monthly page I print out from the computer. Recently I came across a new weekly/monthly planner I eventually purchased for my mom. I loved it so much I got one for myself. THE JOYFUL HEART PLANNER is creative and of course colorful. I like the coloring page that precedes each month and the spacious features to keep track of notes, budget, and whatever else.

productTake a look at the JOYFUL HEART PLANNER website to see more. If you need a fun, colorful way to plan the future, it’s one you’ll want to have on hand for next year.

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Wildfires are a powerful force of nature we increasingly see on the news each year. Some extreme wildfireof us might even witness one in our own community. Earlier this past summer I watched smoke come off the mountains to the west when campers failed to properly put out their campfire. Yes, nine out of ten wildfires are human caused.

EXTREME WILDFIRE is a fascinating look at fires – how they start, how brave firefighters take on the task of putting them out, and the benefits of forest fires. Revealing the science behind this is photographer and author Mark Thiessen who puts you smack in the middle of some of the world’s worst fires.

Here is a bit more about Extreme Wildfire from the publisher, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS:
In one moment, there’s a simple spark, and then roaring flames surge 200 feet into the air, devouring forests. Trees, from root to canopy, are burned to the ground. Airtankers and helicopters hover above, executing an air attack. Brave firefighters, equipped with flame resistant suits, leap from helicopters onto the treetops and descend to the blazing forest floor.

In this book, young readers will learn about the ecological impacts of wildfires, the ins and outs of fire science including tactics for prevention and containment, cutting-edge technology used to track wildfires and predict fire behavior, and about the impressive skill, survival tactics, and bravery required to control a wildfire. Also included are “Fire Facts,” Thiessen’s fascinating “Notes from the Field” and page after page of photographs’s from Thiessen’s 20+ years of photographing fires up close.  
From a searing expanse of flames in Russia to barreling blazes in California, no wildfire is too extreme for Mark Thiessen.  Based in D.C., he has traveled across the globe investigating dangerous infernos and working alongside courageous firefighting teams. 

fireSounds great and it is! Along the way Mark describes many of his personal experiences and close calls. Included are several side activities kids would enjoy (How To Train Like A Wildlife Firefighter was my favorite) and a feature called FAMOUS FIRES. This appears numerous times throughout the book. You’ll go back and relive the horror of such fires like YARNELL HILL in the mountains of Central Arizona (Summer, 2013), THE BIG BLOW-UP in Idaho and Montana (Summer, 1910), and BLACK SATURDAY BUSHFIRES in the Australian state of Victoria (Feb, 7, 2009).

Mark  Thiessen’s goal in writing this book was to tell the story of a firefighter’s job. Fighting fires is serious business and he has succeeded brilliantly.



I’m pleased author and photographer Mark Thiessen could stop by and answer a few questions…

After learning heat, fuel, and oxygen are needed to create a wildfire, I’m curious what is the fuel lighting your fire to document the work of firefighters?
When I was a newspaper photographer in Idaho I covered lots of forest fires and was drawn to wildland firefighters. They love the outdoors, have a thirst for adventure, are physically fit, and are amazed at seeing one of natures fiercest forces up close. You might say I was “bit by the fire bug”, a phrase used by firefighters who keep coming back year after year. All the same things that appeal to firefighters appeal to me.

For most of them it’s a seasonal job and could be the most exciting experiences they have in their life. Yet there is often no one around to photograph it for them. Very few photographers get access to the inner world of wildland firefighters. I want to show readers what that amazing world is like from the inside, right on the fire line.

It’s been a busy wildfire season in 2016. What changes have you witnessed the past 20 years in both the number of fires and how they are fought?
The west is getting hotter and drier. This results in fires that are bigger, more intense and exhibit more extreme fire behavior than ever before. Old “fire dogs”, the veteran firefighters with the most experience, say the largest fire they ever went to was 10,000 acres, now that’s the smallest fire they go to.

I’ve seen more and more people moving in wooded areas which are also areas prone to fire. People are going to live where they want to live, but local cities and counties must make rules to build a certain way and people living there now must change so they are building smartly. Fire costs are increasing because firefighters are no longer fighting fire but defending homes that are no longer defensible. Over half of the US Forest Service budget goes to fighting forest fires.

Do you have a favorite wildfire photo experience? One that stands out from the rest?
I was near San Diego, California when residents were being allowed back into their neighborhood after they had been evacuated 5-days earlier.  I went in with them. One portion of the neighborhood had nothing left but the chimneys. I was watching them realize that everything they had was gone. They were fishing through an ash pile that used to be their home looking for anything they can salvage…..a fork here…..a ceramic figurine there…. I’m always amazed how resilient these people are. They say, “These are things….these are just things. We’re all OK, we all have each other, and that’s what’s most important.”

What do you like to photograph other than fires?
I shoot a lot of science stories. You may have heard of filmmaker James Cameron’s creation of a submarine that would allow scientists to study the deepest parts of the ocean. I spent two months on a ship as his sub was tested and he dove it to the Mariana Trench 36,000 ft down.

What advice would you have for any of your young readers interested in photography or in becoming a fire fighter?
No matter what it is you decide to do in life, you have to love it. Then you have to be persistent. Success doesn’t come easy—obstacles are thrown in your path all the time. The people who aren’t passionate say, “Oh well, this isn’t going to work.” But the people who are passionate leapfrog ahead because they love it so much they overcome all the barriers in their way.







Thanks so much, Mark. With Fire Prevention Week coming up (October 9-15, 2016) I hope many will take the time to search out this fabulous new resource.

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MYSTERIES OF COVE: GEARS OF REVOLUTION for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

gears-of-revolution-blog-tour-imageBook Two in the MYSTERIES OF COVE trilogy has arrived and the adventure heads outside the mountain where dragons can end your life in an instant. I reviewed Book One, FIRES OF INVENTION last year and was anxious to read what happens next. I was not disappointed.

The young gifted mechanics, Trenton and Kallista, ride their mechanical dragonMysteries-of-Cove-BOOK2_new-692x1024-1 to find Kallista’s father and uncover the reasons why Cove was created. First stop – Seattle – but not like the one we know. Due to unsettling conditions Seattle is now an underground city. They find a puzzling set of clues and some intriguing weapons to build in this new city.

The mystery deepens and fire breathing dragons aren’t the only menace our heroes have to fight off. It is a classic Who do you trust? scenario and readers will enjoy guessing just which side of the good and evil fence each new character resides.

You could certainly jump in here without reading the first book as the author does a good job of filling in the missed details. But I wouldn’t. This new adventure is a smart, exciting, and one thrilling ride sure to be enhanced it you were there from the start. It will also have you fully prepared for Book Three when hopefully all of the dangling plot details will be resolved.

PUBLICATION DATE: September 20, 2016   PAGE COUNT: 352

FULL PLOT (From Amazon): After finding a compass and clues left by Kallista’s father, Leo Babbage, Trenton and Kallista head west aboard their homemade mechanical dragon to search for the missing inventor. The two teenagers hope to find answers about their mountain city of Cove, but instead, they find only a blackened forest, ruined buildings, and a small underground city

Almost immediately, Trenton and Kallista are caught up in a civil war between a clan of scavengers called Whipjacks and the Order of the Beast, people who believe that dragons are immortal and divine.

Stranded in a new city, the two friends meet Plucky, a Whipjack girl with mechanical legs, and Ander, a young member of the Order who claims humans are able to communicate with dragons. Can they trust anyone, or have they unknowingly stepped into a trap?

And high above in the sky, the dragons are gathering . . .


  1. Plucky is a great new female character with mechanical legs she built to get around. The accident causing her problem is revealed and it’s not something you’d guess.
  2. The curse of the second book in a series is no where to be found here. With new questions surfacing and a new setting, the tension continues from Book One.
  3. Parents are supportive and smart in the story and try to instill these traits in their children. It’s a different world to achieve this feat, but they pull it off.
  4. Trenton is thrust into a leadership role far beyond what any 13-year-old would ever imagine. His character grows in his understanding of himself and what his true quest in life is to become.
  5. Visual learners rejoice. The world building is perfect and the hands-on gadgets will have you dreaming of the creations.


Trenton pulled the flight stick backward, trying to break free.

The ropes twanged, but held.

From below, a mechanism began to reel them in. Kallista slashed with Ladon’s talons and Trenton swung the tail, but it was no use. There were too many ropes, and they were too strong.

“Hang on!” he screamed as they began to drop. They were going down.


J Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains. (From Shadow Mountain Publishing.)


Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


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An Astronaut Tells All…

Well, not quite everything, but Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut with three space walks 1466990396under his belt, does reveal the answers to questions young middle graders want to know.

Don’t expect a boring display of facts. The guide is 56 pages of photographs, fun illustrations, and of course explanations as to how our bodies adapt to the conditions, especially the lack of gravity.

If you have ever wondered…

  1. How do you go to the toilet in space?
  2. What does food taste like?
  3. Is it dangerous to burp in low gravity conditions?
  4. How does a person sleep in the space station?
  5. What happens if you have to go while you’re on a space walk?
  6. Why do astronauts sometimes have a puffy face?
  7. How do you brush your teeth without making a huge mess?

The importance of answers to these and many more oddities (Yes, flatulence is covered in detail) is because some day we’ll send humans to Mars. The one way trip takes six months and keeping astronauts fit and healthy is the first priority.

Middle graders with an interest in space will be the first to line up to read this unique book. For the rest of us it’s a fun diversion and one that will have you saying, “Oh, so that’s how it works in space!”

To view the inside visit Annick Press.

Order your own copy at AMAZON.


I’ll be back on Monday with a review and blog tour stop for MYSTERIES OF COVE: GEARS OF REVOLUTION:


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