MMGM for 1-6-2020

 

IT’S THE NEW YEAR’S FIRST MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

Today at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m reviewing THE ATEBAN CIPHER Duology by A.L.Tait.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea starts the new year off with a graphic novel review, Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.

A GARDEN OF BOOKS reviews Cub by Cynthia Copeland, a graphic novel memoir set in the 1972. In it, Cindy navigates 7th grade and becomes a cub reporter for the local newspaper.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading continues our MMGM New Year’s celebration with Stargazing by Jen Wang.

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL starts her review year off with a gripping and timely read, Allies by Alan Gratz.

Story Links joins us with a review of the historical novel, When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll.

Faith Hough at LIFE’S AN ART! reviews Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano, by Marthe Jocelyn.

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 THROW LIKE A GIRL.

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.
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MMGM ENTERS THE MARVELOUS 20s

2020.

Just saying the year sounds so unbelievable. Seems like yesterday we celebrated  the new millennium. Well, it’s time to move forward with more reviews, more Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays, and someday my own story for the world to enjoy. These 20’s may not be roaring like they were 100 years ago, but I like to think they’re going to be marvelous.

A good friend commented to me over the holidays, “There doesn’t seem to be a book you don’t like. All of your reviews are heavy with praise for whatever published story you write about at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.”

I let her in on a little secret: I don’t love every MG book I pick up. Last year I read over 120 middle grade books and posted 100 reviews. I’m very careful about which books I choose to read, but even I sometimes miss the mark. Those 20 plus books I never reviewed were ones I couldn’t find five things to like about the story.

Writing is difficult. Whatever heaps of criticism I could pour on a book would not change the fact it is already published. I’m here to recommend books I enjoy. Ones you’d want to give to your own children or students. Those with mystery, great characters, humor, and adventure. Books you can’t wait to turn the page and have you guessing right to the end.

Which brings me to my first MMGM review for 2020—a double dose from Australian author A.L. Tait: THE BOOK OF SECRETS and THE BOOK OF ANSWERS.

Out-now-in-the-USA

THE BOOK OF SECRETS gets the story moving from the get-go with these enticing first lines:

Gabe stared in horror at the small book in his hand. The light from the low fire danced across its golden cover, setting off a shower of sparkles from the rainbow of jewels that adorned it. Its beauty dulled only in one corner, stained by a dark, spreading smudge of blood. 

Gabe knows nothing beyond what goes on inside the monastery walls. He arrived as an infant and never knew his parents. Some day he’ll become a full fledged monk. Gabe is obedient and follows the rules—at least until he’s given the task of safeguarding the book.

When Gabe is asked to hide and protect this special manuscript and do so beyond the boundaries of the monastery, the journey doesn’t go well. He’s captured by a rowdy band of thieves and soon, to his shock and dismay, learns their secret: they’re all girls!

The adventure and mystery that follows focuses on the Ateban Cipher, the book Gabe has been given to protect. It has images of trees and plants and words that don’t make sense. Told in third person and staying close all the way with Gabe, the story is engaging and just the right length. He learns the truth behind most of the secrets but leaves a major one for THE BOOK OF ANSWERS.

Here’s the official background blurb from Kane Miller Publishing:

Forced to flee his home to uncover the secrets hidden in a coded book, sheltered orphan Gabe discovers a world of danger, intrigue, adventure and unexpected friendship. When a dying man hands him a coded manuscript, Gabe is hurled into a quest that takes him beyond his monastery home and into a world of danger, political intrigue and adventure. Gabe learns that survival must be earned and that some of life’s biggest lessons are not found in books … and that the biggest secret of all may be his own.

The BOOK OF ANSWERS picks up where the first novel left off. The character arcs continue to evolve as Gabe and his new friends take a treacherous journey to an imposing castle. It’s there where Gabe has been told to take the book.

The plot twists and danger throughout make this a real page turner. Just when you think things are heading toward a resolution, another tension filled problem is thrown at the group. Gwyn, their leader, is one tough cookie and Gabe is always trying to figure out how she got such an take over attitude. He also knows she’s his best bet for survival.

Gabe will uncover many more answers along the way including his heritage, the book’s purpose, and his own future. The only real answer I can give you is to give this series a try. It will be time well spent.

Here’s the official background on THE BOOK OF ANSWERS

Gabe and his companions journey to a remote mountain citadel where they learn the secret of the mysterious, encrypted book that Gabe has been tasked with protecting. But with their enemies close behind them, and new dangers lying ahead, Gabe discovers that the biggest secret of all may be his own.

di48R8RLTSIX MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT di48R8RLT

THE ATEBAN CIPHER DUOLOGY by A.L. Tait

  1. The perceived medieval time period comes to life with crooked leaders, secret passageways, and a young boy learning how the outside world works. It all blends together perfectly.
  2. The huge tree the girls live in was a marvelous touch of setting the right tone for their existence. I’d have loved to explore the insides of the tree myself. Give credit to the author for that feeling.
  3. The meaning of family gets a whole new look for Gabe as he witnesses the bond these girls have and how unlike their life is to his upbringing in the monastery. The dedication page before the story starts sets the mood: “For all the girls who go where they want, when they want. Or will, one day.”
  4. The young characters include the four girls along with Gabe and another boy who  joins them under different circumstances. Six characters is a big task to ensure each one has a unique personality and focus. It’s pulled off without a hitch.
  5. Humor helps break up the serious nature of the story. From their wardrobe to Gabe’s nickname, Sandals, the scenes often had me smiling
  6. A book leading into a sequel should be one of excited anticipation. I was lucky to start book two immediately following the first and it did just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her author website)

Allison Tait (A.L. Tait) is the internationally published bestselling author of middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles and the new Ateban Cipher. A multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with more than 25 years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing, Allison lives on the south coast of NSW (Australia) with her family.

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I received copies of the books for my honest critique. Feel free to comment below..

 

 

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THE HEALING STAR

The bond between a child and grandparent can be special, none more than with Julia and her grandmother. This wildly imaginative fantasy will have readers saying many times “I didn’t see that one coming!” Hearts will also feel a little warmer after reaching THE END.

coverFINAL_0722_web_A.Kidd.jpgJulia has a problem, and she can’t just sit around and watch it take its course. Her beloved Grammu is sick and seemingly headed to her final resting place. The remedy for this dire reality is the only one this kickboxing fourth grader thinks will work: catch a falling star—a sure way for wishes to come true. Her big wish is to keep Grammu alive forever.

The third person narration flows nicely as Julia faces one adversity after another. It’s her spunky attitude and a beagle loving companion that help keep her dream alive.

Here’s the official synopsis for THE HEALING STAR:

Feisty fourth-grader Julia’s best friend in the entire universe is her grandmother. Julia and Grammu share secrets while cooking soup together, stay up late eating junk food and watching scary movies, and go stargazing on Blackberry Hill. They even wish on the same star every night.

But everything changes when Grammu catches the disappearing disease: little by little, she’s turning invisible. If Julia can catch a falling star, then her wish to save Grammu will come true. All Julia needs to do now is find the legendary ladder to the stars…

What Else I Liked

The fantasy elements are all neatly tied into the story. Magical clouds, a video game parlor in the sky, and that ladder you have to climb to reach the stars. The journey is full of adventure and you’re never sure who can be trusted.

Helping support Julia are Pete, her often flatulent beagle, and best friend extraordinaire, JG.  Julia isn’t perfect and will even steal a star if it means saving her grandmother. But in the end it is a story about family and how we truly can keep those connections in your heart forever. Perfect as a read-aloud or to read alone for any 3rd-6th grader.

I received an ebook of this title from the author for my honest review.

Connect with A. Kidd via her FACEBOOK page.

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Coming up this Monday is our first edition in the new decade 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.

 

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MMGM for 12/30/19

    

IT’S THE FINAL MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY in 2019!

In less than 48 hours  we can say HAPPY NEW DECADE. Click on a blogger’s 2020 to read their post.

Today at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m celebrating my second anniversary hosting MMGM with a big THANK YOU to all our bloggers the past year.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos.

Mark Baker at Carstairs Considers gives us his take on Legacy by Shannon Messenger.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading has for her last MG post of the year reviews The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews including MIGHTY MOE.

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.
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AN MMGM THANK YOU!

I’m wrapping up my second year as your Marvelous Middle Grade Monday host. It would be impossible to carry on this tradition, born out of the wishes of author Shannon Messenger, without the support of those who participated in 2019. I’ve listed your names below.

A little gift is in order. I have acquired a rare set of MMGM sticky notepads. These 3 x 4 inch notes have been the hit in my neighborhood. I’ve put a little message of cheer and stuck them to every door in a three block radius. It warms my heart to hear the neighbor say, “Get off my porch—No, wait, what the heck is an MMGM and where do I get my own pack of the stickies?”IMG_2842.jpg

Sorry, you can’t unless you joined our marvelous group of middle grade bloggers in at least one of the 52 Mondays. If you see your name or blog below, all you have to do is email me your address (to: gpcolo [at] gmail [dot] com) and I will send you your very own pad of these one of a kind beauties. You’ll be the envy of friends, family, and a few strangers.

So a big thank you to this great MMGM family of bloggers:

Let me know if I missed anyone! Have a great new decade and I hope to see you all back in 2020!

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MMGM for 12/23/19

        

IT’S ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

HAPPY HANUKKHA and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

I present my GOLDEN CUP AWARDS at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE. They’re the memorable moments I’ve had reading MG Literature the past year in 14 categories.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews has The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.

The Anxious Bookworm takes a look at THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR by Sophie Anderson.

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL features a review of Birdie by Eileen Spinelli.

Completely Full Bookshelf recommends Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

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 THE 12th CANDLE.

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.
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The 2019 Golden Cup Awards

I’ve wrapped up my reading for the year and that means it’s time to reveal my favorite moments in Middle Grade literature. cupThe big name award groups recognize their favorite books, but my Golden Cup Awards look within the stories to find the best in fourteen unique categories.

Without further delay,  here are my GOLDEN CUP AWARDS for 2019:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE VOICE (FEMALE PROTAGONIST)-TIE:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE VOICE (MALE PROTAGONIST)-Tie:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE SETTING (TIE):

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE BOOK WITH DIVERSE CHARACTERS:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE OPENING LINE:

You’ve probably been to Eerie-on-Sea, without ever knowing it. (From MALAMANDER)

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE COVER: 81-tgKlOUkL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE ENDING:

rcjGggkKiFUNNIEST READ:

rcjGggkKiSADDEST READ:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE READ-ALOUD:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE ANIMAL CHARACTER:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE CHARACTERS FROM HISTORICAL FICTION:

rcjGggkKiFAVORITE FRIENDSHIP:

rcjGggkKiMOST DISTASTEFUL CHARACTER:

What were your favorite MG moments from 2019?

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