GLASS SLIPPERS

It’s another month of Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays!

The name Cinderella brings many fond memories of her tale from both young and old. She lived happily ever after…or maybe not as we find out in this imaginative and suspenseful new extension of the original classic.

Come to find out there was another step sister. Tirza (pictured front and center on the cover). Tirza has lived in the castle with Cinderella since her sisters were banished to a far away place. She’s still ashamed at what her family did to Cinderella, now known as Queen Ella. The queen has tried to convince the populace that Tirza is not like the rest of her family.

No one has believed her, especially the King. The situation worsens when those iconic glass slippers are stolen and the number one suspect is Tirza. Despite trying them on Tirza insists she did not steal them. As the tension mounts Tirza seeks out the real thief, but does she believe her sisters or the Queen about the facts they put forth?

The surprising answer is found toward the end of this fast moving story. The first person narration by Tirza is wonderfully engaging. I didn’t begin my reading with much anticipation, but the plot won me over and will appeal to young and old.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: April 5, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 272

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT GLASS SLIPPERS BY Leah Cypress

  1. I discovered this is the second in the SISTERS EVER AFTER series following the original THORNWOOD—about Sleeping Beauty’s younger sister. What a great way to capture new readers when they are already familiar with the original character. I hope to see more.
  2. There is one boy character, Aiden, who may or may not be Tirza’s friend. Having a male secondary character will add to the appeal for those young readers who always ask me when they see a cover like this—Are there any guy characters in this book? Aiden adds even more mystery to the story.
  3. Yes, there are mice but thankfully they aren’t singing in this tale. GLASS SLIPPERS is a mystery and one you’ll constantly be re-guessing who is the real guilty party.
  4. Be aware there is blood but not in a way that will scare the intended audience. Its true effect is one of the many twists you will discover.
  5. A fairy tale for those who don’t normally read these type of stories. (I’m talking to myself here)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Cypess

I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at  Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

I live in Silver Spring, Maryland (right outside of Washington, D.C.) with my husband and four children.

(For more about Leah visit her author web site)

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Comments are welcome below.

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REBEL GIRLS—AWESOME ENTREPRENEURS

This series returns with another winning entry. Twenty-five women are profiled who have had success launching new products, building their own businesses, and investing. It’s truly inspiring.

Each successful woman gets her own two-page spread. On one side of the page you’ll find a colorful illustration of the successful person and a quote. Here’s a sample from engineer and entrepreneur. Kathy Hannun. She’s the co-founder of Dandelion Energy, the largest geothermal heating and cooling company in the U.S.

“You practice. you persist, you gain skills, and you become better.”

Great advice for sure. On the opposite side of the page is the individual’s amazing story of success. A perfect dose of motivation for young girls who are beginning to have their own dream of being a positive force in the world.

Most names you won’t recognize, but after reading their story you’ll never forget them. There’s Julie Chen who launched her own eco-friendly paper company and when the pandemic hit her sales of toilet paper quadrupled. Or how about Maria Theresa Kumar, co-founder of a nonprofit organization that helps get Latinx people excited about voting and making change. My favorite though is Melanie Perkins who despite setbacks has become the leader of the world’s most valuable company with a female founder, CANVA.

Another plus is the chance to hear more by getting the Rebel Girls app. There are numerous links to extras featured there.

After the featured portrayals readers have a chance to write their own story and draw a portrait. No problem if you don’t know anything about the business world or building your own business as each are detailed and explored in the closing pages.

This title will be available on May 10th but you can get information how to order along with a view of the entire series here.

An important resource for any girl.

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

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)
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, non fiction | Tagged | 1 Comment

MMGM for April 25, 2022

One last round of great MG reviews and features this month. Click on an April Showers Umbrella to see each post.

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At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE by Sonja Thomas.

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles has a a guest post by debut author Christina Matula with a giveaway of her MG contemporary The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei.

Young reviewer Elliott Kurta returns with a post on Carol Baldwin’s blog. He gives us his thoughts on THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTERS by Doreen D. Berger. A GIVEAWAY is included!

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Book’s Heal reviews Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, a chapter book series—four stories in one book about life in Nigeria.

Andrea Mack takes a look at Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca.

Maria Antonia has a post about ONE KID’S TRASH by Jamie Sumner.

Valinora Troy reviews EUDORA SPACE KID by David Horn.

Rosi Hollinbeck features a review of WEIRD KID by Greg Van Eekhout. Rosi also shares three links of interest for her writing friends.

Welcome back to Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven. She shares a a discussion of some authorly and book-writing insights gained from her game development experience.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with her other reviews from last week including Friday’s CONSIDER THE OCTOPUS.

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(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)
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)
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SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE

Welcome to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

A science loving girl and her diabetes stricken cat, bring new meaning to friendship and family in this debut. Mira is 12-years-old and the summer before seventh grade is going downhill quick. Her beloved cat, Fig Newton, is sick and she’ll need thousands of dollars for the treatment. Despite her parents wishes to give the cat away, Mira is going to somehow earn that money and make Fig well once again.

Set in Florida, it’s a lonely time as Mira’s always best friend Thomas has moved far away to Washington D.C. She soon realizes long distance friendships are not easy as Thomas finds a new friend and communication with Mira lessens as the weeks pass.

Making things worse—not only is her cat sick, but Dad is unemployed and money is tight. Mira also discovers her nemesis, a girl who always beats her in the yearly science competition has moved into Thomas’s house down the street. A house where she spent many hours having fun with what seems like her now former best friend.

Mira puts her Einstein loving mind to work and experiment ways to make her cat and family feel better along with trying to understand herself. Along the way she picks up her own new unlikely friend, has many questions about the existence of God, and sees her future in a whole new way.

The first person narration stretches over 38 chapters. It’s a heartfelt look at what is often most important in a young person’s world: Family, pets, and friends. The length of this contemporary story will be a bit too long for many 8-12 year olds (over 350 pages!), but avid readers will be find it to be a good escape.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE

  1. The story is packed with interesting scientific facts and names of famous scientists. You might be motivated to research these careers and findings after you finish this book.
  2. Girls rejoice! You don’t have to feel alone if you are a science loving kid. Mira is destined for a career as a scientists and/or astronaut. A great role model for those STEM based careers.
  3. Sometimes first impressions of a situation or another person are not what they seem as Mira discovers. A perfect lesson for those facing similar circumstances.
  4. Mira is biracial but it is not the focus of the story. She’s just a strong. persistent girl searching for answers.
  5. One of Mira’s experiments is on the effects of music changing a person’s moods. You might be reaching for your own song after reading this one.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SONJA THOMAS (she/her) writes stories for readers of all ages, often featuring brave, everyday girls doing extraordinary things. Raised in Central Florida—home of the wonderful world of Disney, humidity, and hurricanes—and a Washington, DC transplant for 11 years (go Nats!), she’s now “keeping it weird” in the Pacific Northwest.

Ruled by coffee & cats, a few of her favorite things are

  • dancing to music blasting in the living room 
  • traveling to new places and buying a magnet before leaving
  • snuggling with her furry friend, Gabbie Lu (just don’t let her roommate’s 3 other cats know!)

She’s a contributing author for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl MagicSir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence is her debut middle grade novel.

For more about Sonja, visit her author web site.

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Comments are welcome below!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

STAR SWITCH

Here comes another British import I’m sure will find a welcome audience in North America. I previously featured UK TV personality, Alesha Dixon, and her LIGHTNING GIRL Series. This time she collaborates with author, Katy Birchall, in a fun body switching plot.

Spoiled and obnoxious teen superstar, Naomi, is the biggest singing sensation in the world. She’s also tired of the constant touring and her life being over-scheduled. Naomi is 13 years old with no true friends.

Ruby is a normal girl and is Naomi’s biggest fan. She secretly sings and dances to her songs not wanting to have her large family make fun of her. As the youngest person in the house, it’s hard to get anyone to even know she even exists.

Something weird happens when they both happen to be reading the same passage in a book and wake up as each other. They’re the only ones who know what has happened while those around them never guess there has been a switch. Comical outcomes are the result as Ruby navigates superstardom while Naomi enters a school for the first time in her life.

Told in alternating viewpoints, the story moves along at a brisk pace as the girls try and figure out how to get their own bodies back. Being in another person’s shoes brings about understanding of another person as well as themselves.

Best for girls 10-13, I did try and hand over my copy of STAR SWITCH to a 12-year-old boy to read. He looked at me like an alien had invaded my body and walked away quickly. Oh well, it was worth a try. Now my copy is being circulated in the neighborhood, where you’ll find the target audience in numerous households. The reactions have been a hearty thumbs up.

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

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)

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MMGM for April 18, 2022

I found all the Easter Eggs! Click on each one to crack open some great MG reviews and features.

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At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of FALLING SHORT by Edward Cisneros.

Carol Baldwin shares Issue 61 of TALKING STORY, a newsletter she writes with Joyce Moyer Hostetter. This edition has a guest post by Monica Roe, author of the recent MG release, AIR. You can also enter a special GIVEAWAY. It ended on April 16th but Carol is extending the deadline for our readers. Just email jctalkingstory@gmail.com by Tuesday the 19th and mention MMGM.

June McCrary Jacobs is celebrating Earth Day 2022 featuring three S.T.E.A.M. book reviews curated from previous posts on her Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic Blog.

Sue Heavenrich is over at Archimedes Notebook with a review of How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps, by Pamela S. Turner.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Book’s Heal reviews Tiger Honor, the high-adventure sequel to Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl. It includes Korean mythology and is a Rick Riordan Presents novel.

Maria Antonia features a review of OPERATION DO-OVER by Gordon Korman.

Valinora Troy has the cover reveal for the second book in her middle grade fantasy series. Be sure to check it out!

Alex Baugh is over at THE CHILDREN”S WAR with a review of Always (Book #7 in the Felix and Zelda Family of Books) by Morris Gleitzman.

Rosi Hollinbeck features a review of CRASHING IN LOVE by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Rosi also shares three links of interest for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with her other reviews from last week including Thursday’s WILD RIDE.

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(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)
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)
Posted in Book Lists, Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

FALLING SHORT

A friendship between two opposites provide a heartwarming, memorable reading experience.

Pictured on the left is Isaac. He lives and breathes basketball and is a budding superstar. On the right is Marcos. Academically gifted, he avoids sports and embarrasses himself at anything athletic. But these two sixth graders have been best friends since kindergarten.

One thing they do have in common is their parents are divorced or heading that way. Isaac’s father doesn’t live with them anymore as his drinking habit has led to frequent loud disagreements with his wife. Meanwhile, Marcos could never connect with his athletic father who remarried and has another son who may live up to his expectations.

These two besties are determined to help each other excel at what they aren’t good at. Could Issac possible get better grades and Marcos make the basketball team? Easier said than done despite the change of appearances on the cover.

Taking turns narrating 54 alternating chapters turns into a perfect way to bring out the emotion in each of these kids. They’ll do anything for each other, including sacrificing their own strengths if it will help their friend.

Sports fan and those middle graders who do not like to read have a new friend in FALLING SHORT.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: March 15, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 304

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: FALLING SHORT by Ernesto Cisneros

  1. You’ll learn about two former NBA stars that Marcos tries to emulate: Mugsy Bogues, the shortest NBA player in history; and Rick Barry whose trademark underhand free throw was a sensation.
  2. Despite their fathers being far less than a good dad, it doesn’t matter to Isaac and Marcos. They just want to bond with their father, and many young readers will see themselves in the portrayal.
  3. The great message that friendship is truly a gift and important for every kid.
  4. A rare look at the emotions of two middle grade boys who still have both parents (When usually in MG lit there is a dead or missing parent). This one will be hard to keep on the shelves as it garners new fans.
  5. I often find that the second book by an author is disappointing. Mr. Cisneross is far from that assumption. His first, Efron Divided, was a success and FALLING SHORT is on equal footing here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (Ernesto Cisneros)

I am a 20-year veteran teacher currently serving the city of Santa Ana: the colorful but mostly dismissed section of Orange County, California.  I teach reading and writing to local students at an inner-city intermediate school.  

I hold an English degree from the University of California, Irvine; a teaching credential from California State University, Long Beach; as well as a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from National University.

(For more about the author visit his web site)

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Comments are welcome below!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

BREAKING NEWS

Things don’t usually come to a screeching halt at the RAT, also known as Ridgewood Arts & Technical School, Ridgewood City’s most prestigious progressive institution. But that’s what happens when Headmistress Hardaway interrupts class and announces, “A scandal has rocked the fundraising committee!” Everyone is a suspect and Hunter Jackson, student council special investigator, vows to root out the student who’s heartless enough to steal donation money. He’s not alone. Ridgewood Roar news editor, Anthony Ravello, and the rogue, indie-press pioneer, Liberty Lennon, plan to do some journalistic digging of their own in a race against each other to scoop the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to their faithful readers…or at least their versions of it. With the truth getting murkier by the day, students at the RAT gobble up news bytes and wash them down with locker-side gossip as they try to unmask the classmate responsible for the missing funds.

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This upper middle grade story is told from three different perspectives. Using student newspaper articles. recordings, and other narratives the mystery of who stole the $1000 unfolds.

On the left is Tony who is a news editor for the school’s newspaper, the Ridgewood Roar. Liberty takes the opposing spot. She has started her own underground newspaper (The Rebel Yell) with help from her grandpa. Tony and Liberty don’t get along and are critical of each other’s reporting skills.

The third perspective is from Hunter who plays detective for the student council in trying to figure out the case. His view comes in the form of memos where he details what he has learned from potential witnesses and suspects

Most public middle schools these days don’t have newspapers, leaving the journalism path to high school. But this is the prestigious gifted school and it seems a natural fit. The often humorous narrative takes you right back to 8th grade with behind the back gossip and accusations. Yes, middle school is a unique beast we must all experience and it was fun seeing it depicted at Ridgeview Arts and Technical.

The story is mostly about the happenings at the school, with details about each main character’s family and home life in the background. A few scenes of heartfelt support provided by the family members were a welcome inclusion.

BREAKING NEWS is best for middle schoolers, especially those interested in journalism. For us adults, it’s an enjoyable and fast pace read sure to dig up memories of your own teen age years.

PAGE COUNT: 176

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

FRANK MORELLI is the author of the young adult novels ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND (2021) and NO SAD SONGS (2018), a YALSA Quick Picks nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming-of-age novel. His latest middle grade novel, BREAKING NEWS, is set to release on April 28, 2022.

A Philadelphia native, Morelli now lives in High Point, NC with his best friend and muse, their obnoxious alley cats, and two hundred pounds worth of dog. Connect with him on Twitter @frankmoewriter and IG @frankmorelliauthor.

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

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)
Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release | Tagged , | 5 Comments

MMGM for April 11, 2022

TIME TO PUT A FEW MORE TITLES ON THE STACK. CLICK ON A SET OF BOOKS BELOW TO REACH A BLOGGER’S POST!

At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of HONESTLY ELLIOTT by Gillian McDunn.

Author June McCrary Jacobs features a non-fiction book, The U.S. Coast Guard.

Carol Baldwin opens the door again for budding superstar reviewer, Elliott Kurta. Today he has NO CLUES YOU LOSE and it includes a GIVEAWAY.

Max at Completely Full Bookshelf recommends Go with the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Book’s Heal reviews Book Buddies: Marco Polo Explorer by Cynthia Lord.

Maria Antonia has a post about WOLF HOLLOW by Lauren Wolk.

Rosi Hollinbeck features a review of AIR by Monica Roe. Rosi also shares three links of interest for her writing friends.

Karen Yingling at Mrs. Yingling Reads always has a fantastic MMGM book to share. Be sure to check it out along with her other reviews from last week including Saturday’s FOR THE RECORD.

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(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)
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)
Posted in Book Lists, Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

HONESTLY ELLIOTT

I’ve enjoyed several middle grade novels by author Gillian McDunn. Back in 2019 it was CATERPILLAR SUMMER followed by last year’s THESE UNLUCKY STARS. Ms. McDunn’s focus is always on the main character trying to understand themselves in a world that often refuses to understand them. Those two stories focused mostly on a female character, but with her newest we meet HONESTLY ELLIOTT and it’s a memorable ride.

Elliott has been struggling since his closest friend moved away, and he’s not too sure where he fits into his own family, especially since his newly remarried dad and stepmom are expecting a baby. His grades aren’t too great, he’s always forgetting things, and he doesn’t really like sports. All together, the result is someone the complete opposite of his dad–a fact they’re both very aware of. Elliott’s only solace is cooking, where he can control the outcome, testing exciting recipes and watching his favorite cooking shows.

When he’s paired with the super smart and popular Maribel for a school-wide project, Elliott worries they won’t see eye to eye. But Maribel is also looking for a new way to show others her true self and this project could be the chance they’ve both been waiting for. Sometimes the least likely friends help you see a new side to things . . . and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes before you figure out what’s right.

Elliott’s first person narration is often heartbreaking with doses of humor and passion for the cooking he loves. Here’s a sample:

My insides feel heavy, like a hunk of overcooked oatmeal. Meanwhile, my brain starts going in six hundred directions. Six hundred things blocking my way to culinary camp. Six hundred reasons for Dad to be disappointed in me.

I have to think of something.

His feelings are a perfect view of a boy living with ADHD. Elliott’s sixth grade year is off to a rocky start. He goes through what many kids experience living in a two-home existence with Mom during the week and Dad on weekends. She supports him in her own special way, but his father hasn’t connected with the way Elliott acts, especially with his passion of cooking.

The 39 chapters fly by with a hopefulness for growth and change in all the characters. One thing I didn’t like was the use of footnotes—36 of them. They are great in non-fiction but always slow my reading down in contemporary fiction, having to look down for a few seconds at the footnote before finding the spot where I left off. It just doesn’t flow as well, but that’s just me.

Honestly Elliott is an honest and enjoyable trip into a sixth grade boy’s journey to succeed.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: March 1, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 288

FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT HONESTLY ELLIOTT by Gillian McDunn

  1. On the cover Elliott is holding one of his masterpieces, a Desperation Pie, You become very familiar with how to make one, but what a treat to find the recipe for the filling and crust printed in the back pages. I’ll be trying this one out for sure.
  2. Having Elliott team up with Maribel will have you thinking there’s no way this is going to work. Their learning styles are complete opposites as is their popularity. What brings them together is not only the cooking but Maribel’s own health challenges and they see each other beyond how others see them,
  3. The well done look at how a new sibling, a half brother in this case, can bring about many hurtful and worried feelings.
  4. Family and friendship are the focus of middle graders and the story line here wraps them up in a gift to be read by all.
  5. An understanding of ADHD and how it effects the learner is a marvelous outcome of this story. You get a few insights into the treatment used but it never is the focus of the story. Maybe it could be explored more in a sequel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

GILLIAN McDUNN is the author of Caterpillar Summer, The Queen Bee and Me, These Unlucky Stars, Honestly Elliott, and the forthcoming When Sea Becomes Sky. Her books have received various honors and awards including Best Books of the Year by Kirkus and Parents Magazine, chosen as Junior Library Guild gold standard selections, and nominated to eight state reading lists, including the Texas Bluebonnets Master List. Her most recent book, Honestly Elliott, received four starred reviews.

​Gillian loves to do crosswords with very sharp pencils, visit different beaches, bake gluten-free treats, and spend time with her family.  Visit Gillian at www.gillianmcdunn.com or on Instagram/Twitter @gillianmcdunn 

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Comments are welcome below. I received a copy of the book to use for my honest review.

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