GREENHORN (and a Giveaway)

January 27th is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It has now been 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.  I’m featuring a special story by author/literary agent Anna Olswanger.81XPuCHnlML.jpg

The hardback is just 48 pages, but packs a powerful  punch. It’s the true story of Daniel, a Holocaust survivor who arrives at the Brooklyn Jewish school carrying a box. He won’t open it and always keeps the container near.

Another boy, Aaron, is a stutterer and is often teased for his repetitions. The school bully has given him the name, Gravel Mouth. Aaron’s main wish is to become a rabbi. His compassion for others has him reaching out to Daniel. This begins a friendship between the two boys. Together they face the taunts, learning to deal with hurtful words and actions.

Greenhorn would be a great choice for an adult and child to read together. The contents of the box are heartbreaking to comprehend, but also a reality of the time. It’s the perfect story to share in our current world.

Here are five more things I liked about GREENHORN:

  1. Color illustrations appear throughout. They support and extend the words on the page.
  2. The Afterword tells the story when the boys meet again as adults. A satisfying footnote.
  3. Both boys have difficulty expressing themselves for very different reasons. The inclusion of this character trait pushed the story to even greater heights.
  4. Serves as a springboard to a deeper study of the Holocaust. I’d suggest reading more middle grade books about the topic. The Jewish Book Council has a list of HOLOCAUST BOOKS FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS; Brightly presents 13 CHILDREN’S AND YA BOOKS TO HELP REMEMBER THE HOLOCAUST; and Pragmatic Mom has 39 HAUNTING HOLOCAUST BOOKS FOR KIDS.
  5. I kept thinking as I read the story that it would make a fantastic movie. Someone else thought the same thing and made a short film. Check out the 90 second trailer:

The film is available on AMAZON in DVD format.

The hardback edition of GREENHORN is available here.

Visit UNITED NATIONS list of events for today’s remembrance.

Learn more about Anna Olswanger at her website.

My school already has a copy of the book so I’m giving away the one I received for this review. Make a comment to enter and I’ll draw the winning entrant on February 1st.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

FROZEN SECRETS

This Europa Academy series is a welcome addition to the upper middle grade book shelf. The fiction choices for space adventure at this level are rather limited.

This first book reminded me a bit of the Explorer Academy series from National Geographic. The main difference is Frozen Secrets goes the science fiction route and takes place in the often dangerous locale of Europa, Jupiter’s moon. Scenes also occur back on earth in Houston, Texas where main character Max and his family reside when not in  space.

Here’s the official blurb:

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of trouble. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.48126868.jpg

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy… Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?

Frozen Secrets kicks off the thrilling, teen science fiction series, Europa Academy. It’s filled with fearless friends, high-orbit mysteries, and immersive worlds.

I love stories where you can’t tell the good guys from the bad. Here you’ll find a half dozen characters who could go either way. I changed my mind several times as to who was up to no good. Max of course is the one trying to figure all of this out. He’s a do now, ask later, impulsive type of kid. Thank goodness he has a cadre of friends who keep an eye out for him.

Despite Max’s sometimes questionable decision making, he’s an endearing character and perfect as the protagonist. He’s always questioning. The soft romantic side plot with crushes and jealousy is exactly the way it goes for this age.

Most of the plot though centers on the mystery at hand. There is a high amount of action, adventure, and danger at every turn. When Max is teamed up with Mei Li in a sled race, she provides a nice balance of toughness and the ability to speak her own mind.

Both the setting and story are memorable. I’d recommend this one to ages 10-15, especially those who have a fascination with worlds beyond earth.

The ending wrapped up all the dangling plot points which is much appreciated in reading a series. Ah, but another school term will soon begin, and Max will for sure find more trouble to contend with at The Europa Academy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From Myles Christensen’s web site)

Myles writes exciting adventures in a variety of genres. His characters rarely avoid falling in love (or at least crushing on each other).  For each new story, he makes a music playlist to match—and inspire—his writing.

Myles studied mechanical engineering in college. He works full-time as a design engineer and freelance product development consultant. He also teaches a CAD class at BYU twice a week.

Myles enjoys inventing new products. He has licensed three card games (Toss Your Cookies, Order’s Up!, and Skiwampus) to Gamewright.

******************************

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, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

MMGM for 1-20-2020

    

AND MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

As we remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I have CLEAN GETAWAY by Nic Stone. It’s about a boy and the truths his white grandma reveals during an unscheduled road trip.

Sue Heavenrich at Sally’s Bookshlef is back with us again this week and has a review of Warrior Queens: True Stories of Six Ancient Rebels Who Slayed History.

June McCrary Jacobs at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic also returns with a feature on a recent contemporary fiction release by Patricia MacLachlan, My Father’s Words.

COMPLETELY FULL BOOKSHELF recommends Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb.

Alex Baugh at The Children’s War share some thoughts on Anna at War by Helen Peters.

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL has a perfect winter read, Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson, about a girl losing her vision and participating in a northern Ontario dogsled race.

Mark Baker at Carstairs Considers reviews The Downtown Desperadoes by Sigmund Brouwer.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews and has a GIVEAWAY of THE SUMMER WE FOUND THE BABY by Amy Hest. 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 HOME GAMES.

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 , , | 1 Comment

CLEAN GETAWAY

cleangetawayScoob has had a rough go at school recently, causing his dad to cancel their spring break trip and grounding him instead. Then Grandma appears and whisks her grandson away in a new Winnebago for the road trip to who knows where (Well, maybe G’ma has a plan). Scoob is just glad to be far away from his dad. Their relationship isn’t the best.

From Georgia, through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas the trip is both revealing about G’ma’s past and confusing about her future—their future. She changes the license plate on the RV several times, calls Scoob “Jimmy” when that was his grandfather’s name, and it sure looks like she tried to steal from the jewelry store.

But along the way, Scoob learns how African Americans were treated back in the 60s, the civil right’s movement, and the difficulty of a mixed marriage. His Grandpa was locked up and died in prison for a crime G’ma says he didn’t commit.

Told in third person, my personal preference would have to experience the story directly from young Scoob, but that’s just me. It doesn’t get in the way of a tale that will grip you right to the quick ending. Family, a road trip of understanding, and a boy who grows up a lot. A great ride from the the get-go. Highly recommended!

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2020 PAGE COUNT: 240

Here’s the official background:

How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
  Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
  Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
  Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most important, the way home.

What Not to Bring:
  A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.

Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with New York Times bestselling Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.

happy bookFIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUThappy book

CLEAN GETAWAY by Nic Stone

  1. The tender relationship between Scoob and his G’ma is perfect. Their bond is funny at times, heartbreaking, and full of truth.
  2. In the words of G’ma: “We all make mistakes. It’s how you clean them up that matters.” And Grandma cleans up her mistake in the most endearing way.
  3. I often don’t like the results when a YA or adult author decides to write a middle grade novel. Here though, it works on many levels and I’m hoping Ms. Stone continues writing for the MG audience.
  4. The green book that guided people of color back in the day is an eye opener for Scoob and it will do the same for young readers of every ethnicity.
  5. Tough topics aren’t given a light coating here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her adorable little family on most social media platforms. (For more visit her author website)

**********************************

I love comments! Be sure to leave yours below.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE—WASHED UP

Earlier this week I featured  the first book in this series. Right on its heels is the sequel—81Eh7FsqhnL.jpg

Chapter One is preceded by four pages of news/social media posts connecting the two stories. I’d never seen this done and it’s quite effective here.

I was expecting more of the Boy Band emphasis in this story, but Washed Up takes a totally new direction. The tale utilizes a reality show theme where Sam, his sister Lexi, and best friend Milo are participants. The evil band manager, a nemesis from from the first book, also shows up at the show’s mysterious island location in the Bermuda Triangle.

Although you could read this on its own, I’d suggest beginning with book 1 to catch all of the plot point meanings.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Just when Sam thinks life has returned to normal he’s kidnapped by agents of the Apocalypse Intelligence Agency who send him off the remote jungle island of Fin del Mundo to appear on a survival reality TV game show. One of Sam’s rival “celebrity” contestants is none other than the evil music mogul Nigel Cruul, who the AIA suspect is planning to bring back the Horsewomen of the Apocalypse. Luckily his best friend Milo and kick-ass sister Lexi are starring in the show too. But they’ll have to survive everything from crocodile-infested swamps to public vote offs, if they’re to save the world once more.

Washed Up is one of those stories that won’t tax your brain cells too much. Despite the dangers set forth in the competition, you’re 99% sure everything will turn out okay. Even with a few death defying stunts, it’s all rather light-hearted and fun. Sam continues his first person narration and the story flows well from his viewpoint.

WASHED UP would make a great read aloud or an escape from the big topic books loading down the MG bookshelf these days. It also appears that the world will need saving again with the surprising turn of events in the final chapter.

Party on!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MMGM for 1-13-2020

                 

IT’S ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!

‘CHECK OUT’ this week’s MMGM lineup.

Today at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I’m reviewing BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE.

Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles interviews debut author Janae Marks with a GIVEAWAY of her MG From the Desk of Zoe Washington.

COMPLETELY FULL BOOKSHELF features Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends has a review of The Revenge of Magic by James Riley.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel.

Patricia Tilton at CHILDREN’S BOOKS HEAL reviews Just Lucky by Melanie Florence, about a teen caring for her Cree grandmother who has Alzheimer’s.

Faith Hough at Life’s an Art! gives us a review of Village of Scoundrels, by Margi Preus.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review of FEVER YEAR: THE KILLER FLU OF 1918 by Don Brown. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

BOOK SHELF FANTASIES gives four stars to Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.

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 ON SNOWDEN MOUNTAIN.

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

BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE

I’m starting my MMGM reviews in 2020 with something light, funny, and full of twists (the kind in stories—not the kind you’d see a boy band do on stage). This comes from British author Tom Nicoll who also wrote a series of chapter books about a dinosaur and a gaming series called Level Up!

Boy Band of the Apocalypse is narrated by 13-year-old Sam, and he has no interest in either the band or their music, but it’s hard to avoid the popular group. Almost every girl in his neighborhood and school is in love with each of the five members of the epic band, Apocolips.

A series of strange events lead Sam to tryout for a sudden vacancy in the band. Sam’s angst and awkwardness comes through in several humorous scenes. Here’s a sample after his friend, Milo, questions him about his dancing skills.

9781847158314.jpg“I haven’t done a lot,” I said.

What have you done?’

I thought about it. “There was my aunt’s wedding a few months back. I danced at that.”

Milo leaned forward eagerly. “Yeah? And how did it go?”

I looked down at my feet. “Well, we haven’t really spoken to my aunt since,” I said. “But I did hear that my cousin Lucy is due to get the casts off any week now.”

 

Although over 300 pages, the story is a quick read that can be enjoyed by a wide range of middle graders. It will appeal to both boys and girls along with those somewhat reluctant readers. Here’s the official synopsis:

Sam knows it will be bad when he’s stuck taking his sister to boy band Apocalips’ concert, but he doesn’t expect to overhear the band plotting to destroy the world! Even though he’s a disaster at singing and dancing, it’s up to Sam, with help from his best friend, Milo, to infiltrate the band and save the world from Armageddon.

di48R8RLTFIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT di48R8RLT

BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE by Tom Nicoll

  1. Besides a few world leaders who else but a boy band would even think to overtake the world? Sounds crazy, but the plot never suffers and provides even more surprises.
  2. Sam is the perfect foil for this adventure. He’s just a normal kid with boring parents and a younger sister who has some anger issues.
  3. When a character’s past shows them in a whole different light it provides many engaging moments. Here we have a half dozen characters who come across much differently than the way they started. Excellent story telling!
  4. Illustrations like those on the cover appear every few pages. They are a great connection to our visual generation of readers.
  5. Fame can make you see the world in a whole different light. You’ll have to see what I’m talking about by picking up your own copy of the book.

ABOUT the AUTHOR

Tom Nicoll is an award-winning writer of funny books for children, including the There’s a Dragon in my… series and Boyband of the Apocalypse, which won the Stockton Children’s Book of the Year 2019. He is also an avid, though arguably not-very-good, gamer and has written a video-game based series for younger readers called Level Up!

ABOUT the ILLUSTRATOR

David O’Connell is a writer and illustrator living in London, UK. He works mostly in children’s books, particularly humorous picture books and young fiction.

I received a copy of the book from Kane Miller/EDC Publishing for my honest critique. This Friday I will be reviewing the sequel, BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE—WASHED UP.

Comments are welcome below. I read them all and will respond when time allows!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments