MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD

PaperbackCoverChoose the statement that best describes Mightier Than the Sword:

A. TOTALLY RIDICULOUS

B. AN IMAGINATIVE ADVENTURE INTO A FANTASY WORLD

C. MARVELOUS WORD PLAY

D. CREATIVE ENDEAVOR. SPOT ON FOR ITS TARGETED AUDIENCE

It doesn’t matter which answer you chose—They’re all correct!

The hardback edition was released last year and in July came this splashy new cover for the paperback version. Here’s the official blurb:

 

Wildly funny and inventive, this interactive book pulls you, the reader, into the action. Yes, YOU!
You wake up in the fictional land of Astorya, where stories from our world come to life. You’re a real human being (we assume), and in this fictional world, that makes you a superhero. Armed with your trusty pencil, you have the power to create: what you write, draw, or scribble in the book becomes part of the story!
Only you can rescue Prince S. from the evil Queen Rulette. Aided by the Couriers–a French stoat with dangerous dance moves, a giant dung beetle, a fire ninja, a Pegasus-centaur-cowgirl and a super-intelligent femalien chameleon–you must write, draw, and puzzle your way through a hilarious adventure and prove that the pencil is mightier than the sword.

 

MY TAKE: There’s nothing quite like this in the middle grade reading world.  The story has you filling in the blanks to create something needed for the plot, but you also get to draw a few things like a map or a car to get you around. Just when you have the flow figured out, Page 50 is upside down and there’s a flip book beginning on page 207.

The last time I read something with over 100 footnotes was in a World History class in college.  The notes were dry references or explanations. Here though, the 113 bottom-of-the-page notes provide their own little spots of humor and insights.

The storytelling technique is not for everyone. It will appeal to kids who would rather do anything else than read. It works. My copy of the book was swooped away by an eleven-year old boy who “Only reads when he has to.”

The second story in the Mightier Than The Sword series., THE EDGE OF THE WORD comes out in November. I’ll be featuring it here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE.

For now, sharpen your pencil and get this first story in the hands of those less than enthusiastic readers. Merci beaucoup!

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHORS

We are alarmed by the rise of smartphones in kids’ lives and the resulting diminishment of mental space kids have for creativity. We wrote Mightier Than the Sword to be stimulating and playful, to provoke young readers’ creative instincts, so they’ll reach for a pencil—instead of a phone—and start drawing, start writing, start creating something of their own, but above all: KEEP READING!

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

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

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

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

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

 

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MMGM for 8/19/2019

          

School is already back in session for many. Click a school bus to reach a blogger’s post!

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have THE HAUNTING OF HENRY DAVIS by Kathryn Siebel.

Joanne Fritz at My Brain on Books has a featured review of MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS.

Susan Uhlig has a fantasy to recommend: SPARK by Sarah Beth Durst. Take a peek at her reasons why.

Completely Full Bookshelf has another graphic novel recommendation with Click by Kayla Miller.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends has a review of  The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

A Garden of Books reviews an adapted Sherlock Holmes detective novel for children: A Study in Scarlet (The Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review and GIVEAWAY of  MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY by Gail D. Villanueva. 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 Curse of the Werepenguin.

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 HAUNTING OF HENRY DAVIS

It’s another MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY. I have an enticing choice with THE HAUNTING OF HENRY DAVIS by Kathryn Siebel.

91vF7oorzoLGhosts only haunt when they’ve left something behind…
When Henry Davis moves into the neighborhood, Barbara Anne and her classmates at Washington Carver Elementary don’t know what to make of him. He’s pale, small, odd. For curious Barbara Anne, Henry’s also a riddle–a boy who sits alone at recess sketching in a mysterious notebook, a boy, she soon learns, who’s being haunted by a ghost named Edgar.With the help of some new friends, this unlikely duo is off on an adventure to discover who Edgar was while alive and why he’s haunting Henry now. Together, they might just help Edgar find what he needs to finally be at peace. (From Penguin Random House)

PUBLISHED: 2019                 PAGE COUNT: 240

My Take: Barbara Anne narrates the story and she’s a spunky, insightful, and often hilarious girl. She has a tendency to take over situations, which doesn’t attract too many followers. But once Henry arrives Barbara Anne seems to have found her forever friend.

Also in the fray is Zack and Renee. Each have their own problems which adds to the theme of friendship building throughout the story. The four pod-mates at school are nothing alike but come together to bring understanding to each other. The characters are what make this tale shine.

Spooky at times, the plot goes just far enough for the middle grade crowd. You’ll be rooting for Henry. He’s the most affected by Edgar the Ghost. Humor balances the tense moments and had me laughing out loud many times.

Imaginative and heartfelt, THE HAUNTING OF HENRY DAVIS is great read for the upcoming months leading up to Halloween. In fact it’s good any time of the year.

ghost-clipart-ghostFIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUTghost-clipart-ghost

THE HAUNTING OF HENRY DAVIS by Kathryn Siebel

  1. Some fascinating history pokes in from the past in the form of World War I and the flu epidemic. This will be new to most young readers.
  2. A thoughtful look at family dynamics and why we sometimes turn out the way we do.
  3. It’s great to have another strong girl protagonist. Barbara Anne was my favorite.
  4. Very truthful depiction of school life. Not surprising given the author’s background as an educator.
  5. Even someone like Henry’s 103-year old neighbor can find new friends. All you have to do is open your heart.

FAVORITE LINES

And Henry, well, poor Henry. He looked pale and exhausted. How else was he supposed to look? I  didn’t know it yet, of course, but that morning Henry Davis had seen his very first ghost.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Kathryn Siebel
These days when I am not writing I work at a middle school and at an after-school program in my neighborhood. That means I get to do a wide variety of things from teaching to supervising field trips to creating artistic masterpieces with sidewalk chalk. (If the rain would quit washing them away, you would be really impressed.) And when I am not working, I’m usually cooking or reading or hanging out with my husband, who is a wonderful person and a talented marshmallow farmer.
(For the full story visit her author website)

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 Please comment below. I’d love to read your thoughts!

 

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AWESOME ACHIEVERS in SCIENCE

scienceBACKGROUND (From Hachette Book Group)

Everyone has heard the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but what about Michael Collins–the third brave Apollo 11 astronaut who didn’t get to walk on the moon? Many of the most relevant figures in scientific history have remained in the shadows, but not any longer! From Alan Katz’s new Awesome Achievers series, Awesome Achievers in Science gives kids a look behind the scenes at 12 lesser-known scientists whose contributions are personally relevant to their lives today. Each figure is given a traditional biography but is also subject to Katz’s unique brand of silliness, with humorous elements such as imagined poems, song lyrics, and diary entries by or about the not-so-famous figure accompanying each bio.

Spot illustrations throughout add to the lighthearted and appreciative humor each figure receives. Reluctant readers and budding scientists alike will delight in this imaginative and engaging continuation of a new series of laugh-out-loud biographies.

MY TAKE: I previously featured AWESOME ACHIEVERS IN TECHNOLOGY, and the series continues with this look at achievers in science. The same fun format begins with 2-3 pages about the person. The astronaut names might be familiar to middle grade readers but not so much for the other scientists.

I found their stories of invention even more compelling. Here’s a lineup of their impressive creations: The Heimlich Maneuver, the Laserphaco Probe (for cataract removal), Velcro, CPR, Anti-Reflective Glass, Polaroid Land Camera (Surprise—they still sell these cameras!), Kevlar, Sticky Notes, and Bionic Robotic Limbs.

Following each write-up is a lighthearted few pages courtesy of author Alan Katz’s trademark humor. Silly poems, reminisces, and cartoon style panels adds a few laughs for the targeted audience (along with some of us older readers).

Put this one on the nightstand or tuck into a child’s backpack. Each person’s section can be read in five minutes or so, making it a perfect companion.

About the Author: Alan Katz is the author of many highly acclaimed children’s books, including Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs, Don’t Say That Word! OOPS!, Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking, and The Day the Mustache Took Over and its sequel, The Day the Mustache Came Back. Alan is also a six-time Emmy-nominated writer for TV series including The Rosie O’Donnell Show, animated series Taz-Mania, Disney’s Raw Toonage and Goof Troop, the Grammy Awards and Tony Awards, and many network specials and game shows. he has also created comic books, trading card sets, web videos, TV commercials and hundreds of other special projects for kids and parents. He lives with his family in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Alan can also be found at www.alankatzbooks.com.

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Coming up this Monday is another edition of…

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

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

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

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

 

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

MIDDLE GRADE in the NEWS 8/14/19

Below are a few articles and features I’ve enjoyed recently with a middle grade theme:INTHE NEWS

  1. Publisher’s Weekly is out with their Most Anticipated Children’s and YA Books of Fall 2019. There are seven  middle grade titles on the list and I can’t wait to read them all.
  2. School begins today in my part of the world. Just in time is a list of Books to ease the transition to Middle School.
  3. This Librarian says we are in the golden age of books for middle grade readers. Find out why here.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Friday with a mini review of a non-fiction title.

 

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MMGM for August 12, 2019

CLICK the HAPPY KID NEXT TO EACH DESCRIPTION and YOU WILL ARRIVE AT THE BLOGGER”S POST!

I’ve always been in the middle as a son, educator, and writer. I’m glad there’s a day to celebrate. Happy Middle Child Day! At ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading features a review of The Boy At the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúl.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends reviews Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin, about a family traveling to China to adopt a baby.

Completely Full Bookshelf recommends Just Jaime by Terri Libenson.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS by Gail Shepherd. 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.

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

SOLVING FOR M

IT”S ANOTHER EDITION OF MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY AND MY FEATURED REVIEW OF SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender.

Math, Mika, Mom, Melanoma.

Those four ‘M’ words wrap themselves around an intriguing and heartfelt plot.

solvingforMWhen Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?

But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones. (from Penguin Random House)

PUBLISHED: 2019 PAGE COUNT: 256

MY THOUGHTS: The idea of having fifth grade a part of middle school hasn’t caught on in my part of the country, but that’s how it’s done in Mika’s school district: K-4; 5-8; 9-12.

Most of the story takes place at home or in her math classroom, although there’s a quick side trip to Orlando to visit her dad. He’s remarried but still tries to connect with Mika. The world gets even more confusing when Mika’s mother finds a spot on the back of her leg and has it removed. It’s cancerous. With treatments and a lack of information, Mika isn’t sure what is going on.

Math comes to the rescue. Mika has never liked Math, but Mr. Vann has the class conceptualizing the subject in some unconventional ways.  The personal journal he has them create help Mika through this difficult time in her life more than anything else.

The first person narration through Mika’s eyes is the spot on way to tell the story.  There aren’t many middle grade books with cancer as a focus so this is a welcome addition to the shelves.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:laugh2

SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender

  1. Mika’s 25 journal entries with illustrations balance the text nicely. They’re often funny, insightful, and heartfelt.
  2. I had a math teacher in High School who taught the class like Mr. Vann. I learn by actively doing and interacting, rather than listening to a long lecture. It’s no surprise the teachers you remember are the ones who stepped out of the box and made you do the same.
  3. Grandma is the grandmother Mika is lucky to have.  She’s there to support her daughter and granddaughter, doing so with no complaints. A great character.
  4. Mika’s new friends are also a treat: Dee Dee, a science geek (I have to find where I can get one of her hilarious science related t-shirts). And Chelsea who loves to cook.
  5. Readers might see Math and cancer treatment in a whole different light.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Jennifer Swender  (from the website she and her author husband share)

Before turning to writing full-time, Jennifer taught elementary school and preschool in Houston and New York City. Her debut middle grade novel Solving For M is available now! She is currently hard at work on her second novel which still needs a better title than… Book #2. Jennifer also develops curriculum materials for students and teachers. Check out her current project Girls4Tech.

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Comments can be made below. I’ll be responding to each one this week!

Last week’s winner of SWEET HOME ALASKA is June McCrary Jacobs, an MMGM regular  with her fun reviews at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic. Congratulations, June!

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments