Explorer Academy—CODEBREAKING ACTIVITY ADVENTURE

91OeYn7-CZL._AC_UL436_.jpegUnlock ancient puzzles and secrets introduced via supercool codes and ciphers in this companion book to the new Explorer Academy series.

In the first activity book based on the Explorer Academy, kids test their knowledge of ancient codes and ciphers in a series of head-scratching puzzles designed to outwit even the most clever cryptographers. When kids successfully navigate the codes, they are rewarded with a first-class tour of the Academy.

Kids will have a blast, teaming up with the characters from the series and learning firsthand from the world’s most renowned scientists, explorers, conservationists, photographers, and journalists. It’s a far-flung adventure, too, traveling to historic and majestic locations around the globe.

I previously featured THE NEBULA SECRET and THE FALCON’S FEATHER, The first books in the EXPLORER ACADEMY series. The plot follows young Cruz Coronado as he’s accepted into a special school for budding explorers. The adventures are exciting and surprises await in each chapter.

If the fiction books haven’t reached the top of your to be read pile, you can still enjoy this set of code-breaking activities. Included are more than 70 different types of codes to test out your skills in six separate missions. You’ll learn and practice how to decode word patterns, different types of ciphers, Morse code, Semaphore, and various picture codes. They are challenging and if they get the best of you, solutions are included in the back pages. (I know I peeked a few times!)

The future explorer in your family has all they need in this nifty guide. If they make it to the end successfully, an Explorer Academy certificate from the school’s president is the payoff.

But don’t let the kids have all the fun. It’s also great for adults.

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

If you would like to join the MMGM parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews, or anything middle grade related also count). Email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com

Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book or author you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.

Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, non fiction | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

MMGM for 9/16/2019

            

IT’S ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

CLICK ON A RED BOOK TO REACH A BLOGGER’S POST.

I’m featuring THE 12TH CANDLE by Kim Tomsic at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.

June McCrary Jacobs has a S.T.E.A.M. feature on a children’s cookbook, Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook.

Sue Heavenrich at Archimedes Notebook reviews a nonfiction MG book: Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers, by Anita Sanchez.

Elizabeth Van Tassel at Thorn & Vine returns to the MMGM family this week with a review of The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading has Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo on this week’s edition of MMGM.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea has a double feature with mini-reviews of Desirable by Frank Cottrell Boyce; and A Royal Gift by Marietta Moskin.

Stephanie Robinson at Fairday’s Blog features Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. Welcome back!

The Mad Scibrarian has a great review of THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING by Cory Leonardo.

Christi Murray at A GARDEN OF BOOKS reviews the audio book version of  Malamander (Legends of Eerie-by-the Sea Book 1) by Thomas Taylor.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review and GIVEAWAY of Cody and the Heart of a Champion. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including FREE LUNCH.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

THE 12th CANDLE

It’s another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE and what better way to celebrate than a featured review of THE 12th CANDLE by Kim Tomsic.

x510Middle school meets magic in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about a girl whose life flips when she wishes on an enchanted candle—perfect for fans of Sarah Mlynowski and Wendy Mass.

Sage Sassafras’s life is cursed! No, really. Since birth, Sage has been plagued by the Contrarium Curse that’s set her at odds with classmate Priscilla Petty.

Every time something goes right for Priscilla, it goes terribly, horribly wrong for Sage. And things always go well for Priscilla.

Sage blames the curse for all her middle school misery—from losing a friend to failing gym to gaining a reputation as the girl whose daddy’s in trouble. So when Sage is given a magical candle on her twelfth birthday, she seizes the chance to turn her luck around—with a wish to reverse the curse.

But when the consequences of her wish take a terrible turn, Sage has to team up with her worst enemy—before she’s doomed to a life of opposites forever.

TO BE PUBLISHED: October 8, 2019   PAGE COUNT: 336

MY THOUGHTS: Reaching a dozen birthdays and thinking of it as the time between childhood and teen years is the perfect draw to this story. Sage’s first person narration covers all of the fears and excitement of friendship, family, and doing the right thing. What a great name, too—Sage Sassafras.

The story has a contemporary feel but with the added elements of wishes and curses. Sage’s mom is overwhelmed with financially keeping the family going while Sage’s father is serving time as a convicted bank robber. Not the best scenario you’d want hanging over you at middle school.  A nasty feud with classmate Priscilla centers around pranks and putdowns. How they begin to see each other in a new way is helped along with a few plot twists, especially those surrounding the special 12th candle.

The forty chapters flow along nicely and emerging readers should not be scared away at the page count. The story keeps tugging on you to read more. Of course it helps to have engaging characters who all change in their own way. Heartwarming, smart, and fulfilling, put this one high on your Fall reading list.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:laugh2

THE 12th CANDLE by Kim Tomsic

  1. I love to read books set in my home state. With references to Denver, Cherry Creek Mall, and a few others, it was nice to look out the window and smile that the story unfolded not too far away.
  2. The secondary characters were strong in their own way, especially Justin, Priscilla, and Mrs. Rimmels. A great supporting cast made possible by the author’s gift of making them seem real.
  3. Middle school can be difficult journey. From changing clothes for gym class to unsettled friendships, young readers have a friend here to provide a little therapy for their worries.
  4. One plot point was left unresolved which provides an opportunity for classroom discussion with What do you think will happen next?
  5. The story wrapped me up in something this world could use more of: Kindness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR,

Kim Tomsic was “made” in France, born on an American military base in Italy, and has lived in various parts of the United States. She has been the new-girl at many schools which is probably why she is now a declared extrovert and enjoys helping others connect. Although Kim admires nice shoes, she’s super-awkward in heels and can usually be found in flip-flops and on her way to a yoga class.

Fast facts: Kim is a reader, writer, dreamer, believer, exclamation point abuser, lover of peanut M&Ms, devourer of ling-hi-muis, and fan of all things children’s literature. She is active with the SCBWI and serves as Co-RA for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. Kim is also on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Haiti, a 501 (c) 3 charity organized to provide Haitian students the opportunity to go to school. Kim claims two super-powers: parallel parking and fierce loyalty. She has one husband, two children, and two dogs—all keep her laughing. (For more visit Kim’s author website)

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Comment below. I enjoy reading each one!

If you missed my Friday review of MALAMANDER, the first book in a fantastic new series, take a look at it here.

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

MALAMANDER

Malamander.jpgMuch buzz has preceded the release of this new trilogy:

  • World rights were acquired in 2018 at an eight publisher, six figure auction.
  • Rights were sold in twelve territories.
  • Sony has since bought the film rights.

The series begins with Malamander but will lead right into Gargantis, scheduled for release in May, 2020. Is it worth the hype? Definitely.

THE PLOT It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them. The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish, part-human monster whose egg is said to make dreams come true — is rearing its scaly head. As various townspeople, some good-hearted, some nefarious, reveal themselves to be monster hunters on the sly, can Herbert and Violet elude them and discover what happened to Violet’s kin? This lighthearted, fantastical mystery, featuring black-and-white spot illustrations, kicks off a trilogy of fantasies set in the seaside town.

MY TAKE: The The English coast is the perfect setting for this tale and the story sucks you in like an Eerie-on-Sea undercurrent.The two young main characters, Herbie Lemon and Violet Parma, have you caring about them deeply by the climatic finale. The tightly written chapters and cliffhanger endings makes it at times a difficult one to put down.

Herbie works at the hotel as a ‘Lost and Founder.” He’s in charge of anything left behind by customers. His life had a strange beginning having washed up on shore twelve years prior in a crate of lemons (the comical reason for his last name), but the girl who climbs through his window seeking help has an equally mysterious past.

Together they start unraveling the mystery and secrets of what happened to Violet’s parents. This means uncovering what is know by the residents including author, Sebastian Eels; Mrs. Fossil who collects trinkets on the beach; Lady Kraken, the owner of the hotel; and Jenny Hanniver who runs the Eerie Book Dispensary.

The satisfying conclusion wraps up the present story but leaves enough questions that  the rest of the series will be a real treat to read..

Malamander is a perfect addition to Middle Grade Lit’s Fall season.

FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT MALAMANDER by Thomas Taylor

  1. Herbie Lemon is a boy who approaches life in more of a found than a lost direction. He’s not afraid to speak up when challenged but also has fears like any 12-year-old would have. Herbie is one of the more endearing characters to be featured in an MG book the past several years. You’ll love his first person narration
  2. Young Violet is equally impressive. She is much more impulsive than Herbie, making their work together all the more fun and page turning.
  3. The magic and humor.
  4. The Eerie Book Dispensary is a wonderful trigger for the story. A place where you don’t choose a book—the book chooses you.
  5. That there was nothing I didn’t like about the book.

A FEW THOUGHTS FROM AUTHOR, Thomas Taylor

I’ve always lived near the sea, and seaside towns have always featured in my life, but it was only a few years ago that I finally came to live in one. Being a hundred paces from the beach, all year round, allowed me to discover the strangeness of coastal life for myself. Because there’s a secret life to seaside towns that you don’t discover if you only go there in the summer and sit in the sun — a secret life of weird weather and mysterious tides that is packed with potential for adventure. (For more visit his author web site)

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

If you would like to join the MMGM parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews, or anything middle grade related also count). Email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com

Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book or author you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.

Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

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

MMGM for 9/9/2019

            

It’s National Teddy Bear Day! Click on one of our cuddly guests to take you to a blogger’s middle grade post.

I don’t have a teddy bear story at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE, but I do have a review of THE FIRE STALLION by Stacy Gregg

June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing , and Stitch-Metic features a middle-grade cookbook compiled by Williams Sonoma of California entitled, The Complete Junior Chef Cookbook.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading has an interesting book featured this week, Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends has a review of The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal features Just South of Home by Karen Strong, a compelling story about a town haunted by it’s racist past.

Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven spotlights Babymouse: Queen of the World, by Matthew and Jennifer Holm.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews 20 Recipes Kids Should Know. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

Sue Morris at Kid Lit Reviews has a review of The Jumbie God’s Revenge, written by Tracey Baptiste.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and her review the past week of BUTTERFLY YELLOW.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

THE FIRE STALLION

Welcome to another edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! I’ll be back Friday with another fantastic new book, MALAMANDER. Today though is devoted to THE FIRE STALLION.

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Twelve-year-old Hilly has landed her dream job, riding on the set of Brunhilda, an epic film based on the fearless warrior of Icelandic legend. Norse fire ritual tells that on mid-summer’s day, animals and humans can shape-shift and one night Hilly finds herself connected to the young warrior and her fire stallion. As the two girls’ lives intertwine, Hilly soon realises that they’ll both have to risk everything for the love of their horses…

Inspired by real-life historical events, The Fire Stallion is an epic tale…

MY THOUGHTS: Author Stacy Gregg knows her horses. Since 2007 she has written more than twenty equine inspired stories. Her current offering has a dose of magical realism.

Hilly accompanies her mother on a trip to Iceland—quite the change from their homeland in New Zealand. Hilly could use a change of scenery after losing her special friend. Mom is working on a film set of a major movie being made about the life of Brunhilda.  Hilly connects with Gudrun, an older woman who is the historical advisor for the film. Gudrun feels the movie depiction is inaccurate based on her research. She teaches Hilly how to go back in time where she experiences the real story by becoming Brunhilda. This happens in brief visits so the plot unfolds back and forth during these two time periods.

I enjoyed the present better than the past with details about making a motion picture and Hilly working as the horse rider stand-in for the main star of the film. Her love of horses comes through these scenes as does her time shape-shifting into Brunhilda.

The many characters, Icelandic terminology, and the intertwining story lines will be a bit much for emerging readers. Those more adept at intricate plots and who have a passion for horses will enjoy every page of this adventure. The gripping finale leaves one unanswered question for readers to mull over. Hopefully a sequel will carry on the story of present day Hilly.

PUBLISHED: 2019  PAGE COUNT: 304

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUTlaugh2

THE FIRE STALLION by Stacy Gregg

  1. The connection one can make with a horse is brought forth in all its heartwarming and heartbreaking splendor. The cover hints at this special bond.
  2. Living in Iceland brings many challenges, the first is revealed in the opening pages: How do you sleep at night when daylight refuses to go away?
  3. Hilly tells the story and her narration is full of emotion and confusion.
  4. You’ll find only 16 chapters, perfect for anyone who prefers longer reads compared to the current trend of short 3-5 page chapters in middle grade books.
  5. A different font is used for the two time periods. It was a nice reminder of where you are at and where the story is headed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a young girl living in New Zealand Stacy Gregg wanted to be two things when she grew up – a horse rider and a writer. She now considers herself very, very lucky to be both at once!

Becoming a writer was the easy part – all she needed was an exercise book and a pen. Stacy wrote loads of poetry and short stories at school and then became a journalist, writing features for magazines and newspapers and working as a fashion writer (v. glamorous and lots of fun!) before her first book in the  Pony Club Secrets series was published in 2007.

Since then Stacy has written 24 books. Her stories had taken her all over the world from Arabia to Italy, Spain and Russia. Her latest novel, The Fire Stallion, is set in Iceland and there is a new book due soon set in Berlin and Poland – Prince of Ponies. Stacy also does a picture book series based on the adventures of a very naughty miniature pony called Mini Whinny! (For more visit Stacy’s author web page)

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I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Comment below, your thoughts are much appreciated!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

SPEED DEMON

Author Fred Bowen not only writes great sports stories for middle grade readers but he also pens a sports column for kids in the Washington Post.  Books in his sport series cover baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. Fred’s web page has a full title list of more than twenty books.

speed demon.jpgSPEED DEMON is his fourth book with football as the focus. The story is fast paced and centers around fourteen-year-old Tim as he begins classes at an elite school. Tim is fast, faster than any other student. After he breaks the school record in the fifty yard dash, coaches take notice and convince him to try out for football. But is this what he really wants? Tim’s mother, who was a doctor before she passed away, thought football was too dangerous. His Dad just wants to support him in whatever he chooses to do.

Football wins out and Tim’s journey the first season as a wide receiver on the Junior Varsity team brings surprising results. Although Tim is older than most MG characters, his story is all about football and perfect for kids either playing or wanting to play. The 144 pages are an easy read for ages 7-12 and have no no romantic elements or language. In the back of the book is a summary of some of football and track’s greatest speed demons.

Football season is upon us and Speed Demon will for sure keep your budding superstar reading long after watching or playing America’s wildly popular pastime. What they’ll find is a honest look at the sport in today’s world. Bravo, Fred Bowen, keep them coming!

Peachtree Publishing supplied an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews, or anything middle grade related also count). Email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com
Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book or author you’re featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , | 2 Comments