A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST

A sweet tale with two endearing characters. On the left is Sutton. She loves science, especially working on her mini-bot project. Sutton’s parents are divorced, and although Mom still lives in the same apartment building, her job pulls her away to study penguins in far off locales. She won’t even make it back in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.

The boy is Luis and he likes writing fantasy stories. His dad died long ago of cancer and Luis wants to know more about him. Luis is also allergic to bees and several foods. His mom watches him closely, but he’s a regular emergency room visitor.

These two very different kids don’t go to the same school nor are they related in any way. They why are they together? The reason is something many kids will relate to in a cringe worthy fashion: Their single parents are dating each other and it appears to be getting serious (insert eye roll).

The Seattle setting blends well with the story. The kids first meet when Luis’s mom and Sutton’s dad decide they should include the kids in a few of their activities—none of which go very well. When these two not very compatible youngsters get lost on a hike they’ll have to learn about each other if they ever expect to be found.

Alternating POV’s is a perfect way to reveal the thoughts of Sutton and Luis. It’s a quiet story that would make a great read aloud along with discussion of changing family dynamics.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: APRIL 14, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 224

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST by Joy McCullough

  1. Science gets a big flag waving support for girls. Both Sutton and her mother serve as great role models.
  2. Although this is a stand alone, the ending had me thinking what comes next for Luis and Sutton? The mark of a well paced story that pulls you in to a satisfying conclusion.
  3. The compass provides a nice connection and reveals much about each of the characters.
  4. Luis was my favorite character at first, but the character arc for Sutton brought them both to a photo finish.
  5. The parents and supporting cast supply much needed support for the kids they love. I also need to learn how to make Mrs. Banerjee’s special golden milk drink.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joy McCullough’s debut young adult novel Blood Water Paint(Penguin) won the Washington State and Pacific Northwest books awards, as well as honors such as the National Book Award longlist, finalist for the ALA Morris Award, a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and four starred reviews. Her debut middle grade novel, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Simon & Schuster) is a Junior Library Guild Selection. She writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate.

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I’ll continue this theme of single parent dating when I review SECOND DAD SUMMER this Friday.

Comments are always welcome below.

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

ICK!

You’ll be saying that over and over as you read this new title from National Geographic Kids. Disgusting, Gross, or Repulsive would also work. Don’t worry if you have to look away because the intended audience of kids 8-12 will fill you in on anything you missed. They’ll love learning about the yuckiest traits of 45 different animals.

Divided into three sections, you’ll journey through DISGUSTING DINNERS, DWELLINGS, and DEFENSES. Be brave and see if you can stomach the insights shared about these animals.

Here’s the Official Synopsis:

Get ready to be totally grossed out as you discover the incredibly icky ways animals eat, make their homes, and defend themselves.

From ants to zebras, you’ll discover some seriously strange animal behaviors. Slurp up soupy insides with houseflies, spit sticky saliva to build nests with birds, and fend off predators with poop-flinging caterpillars and farting snakes. And that’s just the tip of the dung pile! These yucky habits may seem surprising to us, but they’re totally normal for these animals. In fact, their survival depends on them.

Lively text, incredible photography, and all kinds of fun features make this book a must read for curious kids. Ready to chew some fingernails with cockroaches? Dive into the disgusting world of animals!

Each animal is given a two page spread like this one devoted to the Vampire Bat:

An in your face color image is surrounded by several text frames. On the left are the gross details and some stats for the creature’s Habitat, Size, Weight, Predators, and Life Span. More information is included on the right with a few more facts and some Extra ICK! There are 44 more animals to choose from including many with face twisting names: Bone-Eating Snot Flower Worm; Black-Necked Spitting Cobra; or how about an Eyelash Mite? ICK! is right!

Make it through all 112 pages and the details might inspire our next generation of scientists with a passion to discover the unique habits of animals. Final note: No lunch was lost in the creation of this review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 science books for children. She has always been fascinated by the natural world and is passionate about sharing its beauty and wonder with readers of all ages.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Union College in Schenectady, NY, and a master’s degree in science journalism

from New York University, Melissa worked as a children’s book editor for nine years before becoming a fulltime writer in 2000. She has written everything from board books for preschoolers to resources guides for educators.

Melissa believes that nothing brings nonfiction writing to life like firsthand research. While gathering information for her books, she has explored tropical rain forests in Costa Rica, gone on safari in East Africa, and swum with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands.

When Melissa isn’t writing or exploring the natural world, she spends time speaking at schools, libraries, and conferences for educators. She can’t imagine any job she’d rather have.

(For more about Melissa and her collection of books visit her web site)

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

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 , , , | 1 Comment

MMGM for July 6, 2020

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Throughout the summer months, I’m lending the top spot to one of our frequent contributors. Today the honor goes to Rosi Hollinbeck. Her blog, admired by many faithful readers, features reviews and giveaways, links to other sites with helpful writing advice, and she often shares her personal journey as an author. Be sure to follow Rosi so you don’t miss any of her posts, including today’s…

Click on each blogger’s CHECKMARK to reach their site.

greencheckRosi  takes the top spot with her review of 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin, a survival story like none other.

greencheckAt ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

greencheckNatalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles interviews debut author Ash Van Otterloo with a giveaway of her MG fantasy/contemporary Cattywampus.

greencheckSusan Uhlig is back this week and she loved The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.

greencheckCOMPLETELY FULL BOOKSHELF recommends When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed.

greencheckJenni Enzor features Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano.

greencheckFaith Hough at Blythe & Bold returns this week with What Happens Next, by Claire Swinarski.

greencheckPatricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Seed Savers: Heirloom (Book 3) by Sandra Smith.

greencheckMaria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea has On the Horizon by Lois Lowry.

greencheckMatt Sweeney at Woodpecker Books features a review of Paris on Repeat by Amy Bearce.

greencheckSierra Dertinger at Books. Iced Lattes. Blessed. gives us a peak at a new one—COOP KNOWS THE SCOOP by Taryn Sounders.

greencheckKaren Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another fantastic MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including AMERICAN DOG.

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 MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Mañanaland

After reading so many MG books recently with a 300-400 page length, it was nice to finally come across one with a more traditional page count. Yes, many kids read anything and devour books like candy. Then there are the others. More than half the young readers I come across reach for the books with a less bulky appearance.

Mañanaland is one they will pick up and read cover to cover. The story is special and you can’t help but get wrapped up in 12-year-old Max Cordoba’s tender but impactful voice. Set in fictional Santa Maria, the place will remind you of several South American countries where citizens must flea to obtain a better life.

Max loves to play fútbol (soccer), trade stories with his Buelo (Grandpa), and hang out with friends. Papa won’t tell him what happened to his mother who left when Max was an infant. He also has no birth certificate and may not get to play his beloved sport unless his age can be verified. When Papa goes to another city to hopefully have the problem taken care of, Max’s curiosity takes over and after a series of events finds himself accompanying a young girl to help her reconnect with an older sister and find freedom. Deep down Max hopes he can also find his mother.

Possibilities for discussion and contrasting the situation to one’s own culture are numerous. Mañanaland is a heartfelt coming of age story like none other.

Here’s the official synopsis:

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Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow.

If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own.

With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds.

This timeless tale of struggle, hope, and the search for tomorrow has much to offer today about compassion and our shared humanity.


BOOK BIRTHDAY: March 3, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 256

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT Mañanaland. by Pam Muñoz Ryan

  1. Max keeps a compass around his neck that his mother left behind. What he eventually does with the compass shows how much heart this boy really has.
  2. Max’s beloved dog has some surprises of her own.
  3. The realistic setting is enhanced when Spanish is spoken. Not to worry for those of us a little rusty after three years of High School Spanish, the English meaning is woven into the scene in a very subtle way.
  4. The plight of refugee immigrants is given a deeper understanding and one which all of us deserve to know.
  5. Family, Love. Friendship.

A FEW INSIGHTS FROM THE AUTHOR

Today, I cannot imagine not writing. But I have a very practical approach to it. It is my job. One that I love. I want to deliver, for my publisher, for my reader, and for myself. People frequently ask me, “What is your motivation to write?” The answer is simple. I want the reader to turn the page. (For more visit Pam’s Author Web Site)

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Please leave a comment below.

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

MIDDLE GRADE IN THE NEWS: July 3, 2020

  1. INTHE NEWSAre you looking for a site where you can view all your favorite blog posts in one location? Feedspot does that and much more. I get  daily emails from them with the current lineup of blog posts in children’s literature. You do have to sign up but it’s free. A great time saver!
  2. I recently reviewed the compelling INTO THE CLOUDS, the story of the many attempts to reach the summit of K2. Author Tod Olson has created a super cool scavenger hunt based on the book. It’s engaging and fun for middle grade on up.
  3. Here’s a list of books perfect for our times: 16 of the Best Anti-Racist Books for Middle Grade.

HAPPY 4th!


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

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 News | Tagged | 1 Comment

MMGM for June 29, 2020

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Happy 4th of July week!

Throughout the summer months, I’m lending the top spot to one of our frequent contributors. Today the honor goes to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal. Her blog’s theme is discovering books that are healing for children, especially those with special needs. She joins us almost every week with a great review and on Friday’s her post focuses on books for younger kids. Be sure to follow so you don’t miss any of her features, including today’s.

Click on each blogger’s fireworks to reach their site.

FireworksPat takes the top spot with her review of Most Likely by Sarah Watson. Perfect for the upcoming presidential election.

FireworksAt ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of CASEY GRIMESTHE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY by AJ Vanderhorst.

FireworksJune McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic has Part Two of her Poetry for Children feature.

FireworksMaria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea returns with a review of Wayside School: Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar.

FireworksMatt Sweeney at Woodpecker Books has the second book in the Wingfeather Saga, NORTH OR BE EATEN.

FireworksAlex Baugh at Randomly Reading has a review of WE DREAM OF SPACE by Erin Entrada Kelly.

FireworksFourth grade teacher Sierra Dertinger at Books. Iced Lattes. Blessed. gives us a preview of A DOG-FRIENDLY TOWN by Josephine Cameron.

FireworksRosi Hollinbeck features a review and GIVEAWAY of Lonely Planet Kids WORLD’S WACKIEST ANIMALS. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

FireworksKaren Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another fantastic MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including PRIMER.

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 MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

CASEY GRIMES—THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY

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This new fantasy adventure series centers around a boy who is invisible at school but very visible at home. The reason for his disappearing act is never explained, but I’m sure it will be explored further as the series progresses. Book 2 is already in the works as a sample chapter is shared in the back pages.

The plot of THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY takes off when Casey’s parents decide to take a kid free vacation. He and his younger sister are left in the care of a rather strange babysitter. Ms. Jones is loose with the rules and readers will be suspicious of her.

Casey goes off into the nearby woods to show his sister a tree he found. The big oak is full of mystery and it leads to an entirely different community—Sylvan Woods. The residents don’t seem to like “civilians”— people like Casey. There are also vicious monsters. Ones who would make a normal kid run home. These brave twosome stay and with the help of a spunky resident named Luci, they pretend to be her cousins and begin to unravel the secrets of Sylvan Woods.

Everything you’d expect in a fast paces fantasy is included:

  1. Magic (How it works and who’s in charge adds to the tension)
  2. Well-Developed Setting (Sylvan Woods captures the essence of world building)
  3. Complex characters (Both adults and kids. Readers will for sure find a favorite)
  4. Conflict (Almost every chapter has some, whether it be internal conflict or physical encounters)
  5. A Power Structure (No spoilers here)

Perfect for middle grade—not too scary but enough to keep you flipping the pages.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: APRIL 25, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 292

THE OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS

Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.

Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong.

Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but Butcher Beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.

undefinedFIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY by AJ Vanderhorst

  1. The relationship between siblings Casey and Gloria will make you smile at how real it is, even in the middle of a magical forest.
  2. I wanted to visit their tree, a testament to the enticing scenes created among the branches.
  3. Yikes, Butcher Beasts and Bog Creeps. These monsters have their own agenda. Glad I was reading from an imaginative distance.
  4. Surprises at every turn keep the plot moving at a quick pace.
  5. A great ending that leads to many possibilities for Book 2: CASEY GRIMES AT TRICKERY SCHOOL.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As you may have guessed, I write books. I’m also a husband, dad, and lifetime tree-climber. My debut middle grade fantasy novel, The Mostly Invisible Boy, explores a world of forest secret societies, Hyena Toads and—obviously—invisibility. If you haven’t read it yet, you should probably be doing that right now instead of reading this bio. 

When I’m not writing, I’m usually fixing my house, coercing—ahem, politely asking my kids to pick up their rooms, or pursuing one of my too-many hobbies. 

My wife and I live in a woodsy house with our six proteges and a ridiculous number of pets, including a turtle with a taste for human toes. This makes me an expert on wild, dangerous things—invisibility spells, butcher beasts, hungry kids, you get the idea.

For more be sure to visit AJ’s author website (see if you can find the hidden page!)

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I love comments and hope you have the time to leave one below

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

COOL MATH

A student hovers over a page of math problems from a book or worksheet. They’d rather be anywhere else. Math is boring. Math is useless. Math is a waste of time.

But wait, how can we turn around this young learner to say MATH IS FUN, MATH IS COOL? A good place to start would be with a unique approach known as COOL MATH. Here’s what to expect:

From core curriculum techniques such as multiplying multiples to calculating calculus and probability and division, right through to working out tricky statistics, formulas, and equations in or outside of the classroom, Cool Math will help you work your way out of everyday situations in a way that you’ll never forget.

This lively, engaging book is illustrated throughout to help bring math to life, and topics include how to tip, how to work out the distance of a storm, Fibonacci sequences, cracking codes, and many more! From simple multiplication to complex calculus, math has never been easier. With the Cool Math approach, it’s fun to learn and easy to remember, but difficult to forget!

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The tasks are fun and eye opening as to how numbers work in every day situations. Perfect for middle school! Some of my favorites included MULTIPLICATION MADE EASY (no pencils needed), HAPPY BIRTHDAY PROBABILITY, and PYTHAGOR-WHO? I could go on but to be honest all 50 activities are worth your time. They increase understanding and do it without a worksheet.

Scattered throughout is a DID YOU KNOW? piece highlighting interesting tidbits about the history and background of math concepts. Insightful reading by itself.

The book’s 6 x 8 inch size is handy to carry around or slide into a backpack. While we wait for those shuttered classrooms to open up, this would be a great summer companion. You’ll finally admit Math really is COOL.

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

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 , | 3 Comments

MMGM for June 22, 2020

Throughout the summer months, I’m lending the top spot to one of our frequent contributors. Today it’s June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic. Each week on June’s blog you might find author interviews, news about her own books, and helpful reviews from Picture Book on up. Of course on Monday she features Middle Grade and be sure to check out what she has for us below. Click on her gold star and do the same to visit all the other MMGM bloggers.

June has Part I of her Poetry for Children series, featuring A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak.

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have THOMAS WILDUS AND THE WIZARD OF SUMERIA by J.M. Bergen.

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles interviews Niki Katz with a GIVEAWAY of her MG humorous contemporary, The Stepmon Shake-Up.

Sue Heavenrich is working overtime with two posts! First you can find her at Archimedes Notebook with a wonderful bit of nonfiction about insect weaponry and the arms race…Beetle Battles! by Douglas J. Emlen.

Next, Sue jumps over to Sally’s Bookshelf where she review one of her faves… Stay, by Bobbie Pyron.

Michelle Mason’s son is back again and this week he’s reviewing EPOCA: THE TREE OF ECROF.

Matt Sweeney at Woodpecker Books has The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell.

Completely full Bookshelf returns this week and recommends Stargazing by Jen Wang.

Also returning is Sierra Dertinger at Books. Iced Lattes. Blessed. and her feature on Cleo Porter and the Body Electric by Jake Burt — science fiction (pandemic/virus related).

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews a silly and fun book, Egg or Eyeball? by Cece Bell.

Rosi Hollinbeck features a review of DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. Rosi also shares a set of links for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another great MG feature today and don’t miss her reviews from last week including THE AMELIA SIX.

Susan Uhlig sneaks in with a story she loved, DOG DRIVEN by Terry Lynn Johnson.

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 MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

THOMAS WILDUS AND THE WIZARD OF SUMERIA

The second installment in the Elandrian Chronicles series continues the fantasy adventure I first reviewed last year (Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows). Thomas’s friend Enrique is back along with another friend, Akhil. The boys are now 14 and ready for summer—a much needed break between their 8th and 9th grade year.

Girl friends are a part of their lives and I thought this might be inching into YA territory. Not to worry as this stays in the MG realm and should please readers age ten and up. Here’s the official background from Elandrian Press:

In Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria, three months have passed since Thomas and Enrique faced off against Arius Strong and prevented an all-out apocalypse. Three long, glorious, summer months – months filled with friends, family, magic, and Thomas’s first real kiss.

Unfortunately, the good times are coming to a rapid end. With a cryptic message from a mysterious hacker, Thomas discovers that his nemesis is pursuing an object even more powerful than the crystals. Arius will stop at nothing to find the treasure and destroy his enemies, and this time he’s not alone. Dark creatures with darker powers are flocking to Arius’s cause: shapeshifters, warlocks, even a sadistic killer in a schoolgirl outfit.

The forces of good are gathering as well, but with so much darkness at Arius’s disposal, the prospects for Thomas and his friends look increasingly grim. Will time run out before he sees through the lies and uncovers the next level of his destiny?

BOOK BIRTHDAY: APRIL 7, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 410

The journey begins with another fast teleport to the training compound on a tall mountain in China. There they train for the eventual encounter with Arius, a man who is bad as an antagonist can get. The pace isn’t exactly fast in the first two thirds of the book, but the last 100 pages make up for the slow start. Thomas is a likeable hero who longs to find answers to what happened to his dad.

You could begin the series here as hints at what has already happened are inserted when needed. But with the large cast of characters, it might help to start with Book One. Harry Potter fans will make comparisons but should also enjoy this very different look at a boy with magical powers.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT

THOMAS WILDUS AND THE WIZARD OF SUMERIA

  1. The relationship among Thomas and his friends is perfect. There’s frequent teasing but also passionate support for each other when needed.
  2. The added information about the mystery of Thomas’s father has me on hold until book three comes out next summer. It’s what a good series does—leaves you guessing.
  3. The action sequences are top notch and frequently have you on the edge of your seat. Learning new magic is never easy.
  4. Traveling to locales around the world in an instant is a brilliant part of each adventure. No security or seat numbers. In a blink you go from China to Mexico or wherever you want.
  5. The internal voice in Thomas shines throughout as he tries to understand his magical abilities and doing the right thing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.M. BERGEN

J.M.’s debut fantasy/magic series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five.

When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, napping, or dreaming up new adventures.

If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).

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