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Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another fantastic feature on a middle grade book. Be sure to check out today’s post and all her reviews the past week including DRAGON HOOPS.
Summer officially begins on June 20th, but I always feel like the season starts on June 1st. What better way to start this fun time of the year with a book about a summer road trip.
WRONG WAY SUMMER takes some pleasing turns as #vanlife takes a father and his two children on circuitous route from Michigan eastward then west all the way to California.
A rarity in MG books—it’s the Mom who years before ditched the family and hasn’t been heard from since. Twelve-year-old Claire knows there was a divorce but nothing else. Eight year old Patrick adores Dad and his made-up stories. He’s sure this road trip is all about reconnecting with Mom. Claire has about had it with her Father’s stories and wants answers.
The pace is just right and you gain a real bond with the characters by book’s end. WRONG WAY SUMMER pokes at your emotions and you’ll be glad you rode along on this road trip.
Here’s the official blurb:
Claire used to love her dad’s fantastical stories, especially tales about her absent mom—who could be off with the circus or stolen by the troll king, depending on the day. But now that she’s 12, Claire thinks she’s old enough to know the truth. When her dad sells the house and moves her and her brother into a converted van, she’s tired of the tall tales and refuses to pretend it’s all some grand adventure, despite how enthusiastically her little brother embraces this newest fantasy. Claire is faced with a choice: Will she play along with the stories her dad is spinning for her little brother, or will she force her family to face reality once and for all? Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, Wrong Way Summer is a road-trip journey and coming-of-age story about one girl’s struggle to understand when a lie is really a lie and when it’s something more: hope.
BOOK BIRTHDAY: April 21, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 288
Heidi Lang believes that the next Grand Adventure is always just around the corner. She has chased her love of judo from the east to the west coast, run ultra marathons, started her own dog walking business, and converted a Sprinter van into a tiny home so she could experience #vanlife. Currently she lives in eastern Washington with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. She is the co-author of THE MYSTIC COOKING CHRONICLES series (A DASH OF DRAGON, A HINT OF HYDRA, and A PINCH OF PHOENIX), and the WHISPERING PINES series (forthcoming September 2020) as well as the author of RULES OF THE RUFF and WRONG WAY SUMMER.
Comments are welcome below. Are you planning a road trip this summer?
I featured the first book in the series 18 months ago (Skulduggery Pleasant). It’s a wildly imaginative big world adventure featuring a girl and her skeleton companion—perfect for upper middle grade with great characters and plot. Book one was released in 2008 but didn’t reach America until 2018, quickly followed by books 2-12. Now the series has progressed into book 13, and the characters have of course gotten older. I see this as more of a YA choice. Middle school, grades 6-8.
Regardless, you can start your 11-year-old on the series and soon enough they’ll be older, wiser and ready for the rest of the books. These aren’t exactly short. This current tale comes in at 592 pages. Even my fast reading skills spread the story out to nine days of frequent reading sessions.
Here the official blurb (from Amazon)
War is coming. To avert catastrophe, Skulduggery and Valkyrie are sent on a secret mission that takes them away from everything they know, to a forsaken land of magic and grim, unrelenting terror. It is here that Valkyrie will have to fight the hardest ― not only against the enemies who want her dead, but also against her own self-destructive impulses. It’s only by crawling through darkness that she’ll be able to once again stand in the light…
WHAT I LIKED
1. The bond between Skulduggery and Valkyrie (her original name was Stephanie) has progressed to a father/daughter type relationship. They are both great characters and the banter between them is always a highlight.
2. The final 10% of the book felt like a rush to get all the plot points wrapped up, but there will be a book 14 and 15. Demonstrates the international popularity of the series.
3. There are a lot of subplots here with new characters and old. Another reason to start with book one.
4. Humor is tossed in at just the right time. There is often a line that makes you laugh out loud right in the middle of the chaos.
5. The world building is spot on and will have your visual imagination running on high.
You can connect with author, Derek Landy on Twitter
Also… take a look at the the Skulduggery web site
Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration:
Earlier this month I published my 1,000th post! It’s been 8 years, over 600 reviews and I’ve made connections to the most wonderful group of bloggers, authors, and middle graders. I am truly blessed to have such a platform.
A celebration is in order and thanks to the pandemic it’s bigger than ever. Each May I always donate 20-30 books to the local library to use in their Middle Grade Summer Reading Program. Kids sign up and receive a free book. Well, things are still closed around here and the library does not want any donations.
So… I gently wiped each cover and set them in three ten-book piles, soon to be boxed up for three lucky winners in my biggest giveaway ever. Each stack has a selection of hardbacks, paperbacks, and ARC’s. You can share them with friends and family or keep the ten books yourself for a full summer of reading!
If you’ve made a comment this year on any post, you’re already entered. Add to your entries with one more comment below (U.S. Addresses only). Winners will be announced on June 7th.
Thank you to all. May the next 8 years begin!
Growing up in our present day world is full of challenges. The non-stop “Breaking News” cycle leaves tweens and teens with only one conclusion: The world is a violent place. Conflicts escalate to a point where people are physically hurt or killed.
But is there another way?
This new title covers six individuals who chose nonviolent activism to challenge the wrongs in their time. It’s a compelling look into the lives of these brave heroes:
Accompanied by black and white pictures, the narrative digs deep. I came away with many new insights. You may know these stories on the surface, but the richly researched text places readers in the middle of each effort with depth and compassion. The chapters on Martin Luther King Jr. and Alice Paul brought me to a new appreciation for what they did with their unique brand of non-violent activism.
There is also a constant thread tying all the efforts together, how they were different and alike. Each person learned from the past to bring forth change in their time.
WE ARE POWER would be perfect for sixth grade on up in a social studies class or for personal reading. Most important, exposure to this book will surely develop our next group of leaders to a better way to handle conflict.
Here more about Todd Hasak-Lowy
I started writing fiction for adults, but now I write for younger readers, too. I’ve published two books for adults: a short story collection, THE TASK OF THIS TRANSLATOR (2005), and the novel CAPTIVES (2008). My first book for your younger readers, a middle grade novel called 33 MINUTES, was published in 2013. In 2015 I published a young adult novel, ME BEING ME IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS YOU BEING YOU. That same year, a narrative memoir for ages 10 and up that I co-wrote with and about Holocaust survivor Michael Gruenbaum called SOMEWHERE THERE IS STILL A SUN came out. In early 2018 a young person’s history of the women’s suffrage movement, ROSES & RADICALS, which I co-wrote with Susan Zimet, was published. My latest book, WE ARE POWER: HOW NONVIOLENT ACTIVISM CHANGES THE WORLD, is coming out in April, 2020. In addition to writing, I teach literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and translate Hebrew literature into English. I live in Evanston, Illinois (just outside Chicago), with my wife, two daughters, a dog, and two cats.
The excitement is building…only three days until the biggest giveaway in the 8 year history of ALWAYS in the MIDDLE takes off. Come back Monday for all the details!
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SCHOLASTIC brings this interesting UK title to the states on June 2nd and it’s one young readers will enjoy.
The main character, Maxwell Beckett, is not the most likeable person to be around. Case in point: Teachers spend a lot of their time correcting his constant misbehavior. He talks behind the back of his only best friend with not very kind comments. Worst of all, Maxwell ruins the big school fundraiser and the whole town is mad at him.
But our young protagonist (antagonist?) does have a good side. He saved his dog, Monster, from getting run over and he regularly visits the old next door neighbor whose memory is not what it used to be. He also helps his bullied sibling. The problem for Maxwell is everyone only sees the bad side of him. He wishes he’d never been born and his wish comes true.
Maxwell still exists but no one knows him. He’s a new face to his parents, older sister, and former best friend Charlie. There’s also no beloved dog as the rescue took place in his erased life. Is this the existence Maxwell really wanted?
The first person narration takes you through all the emotions of being the bad kid. The heart of the story comes from the realities of why Maxwell is the way he is and what he does to make things better. Perfect for all contemporary MG readers who enjoy a little magical realism on the side.
US EDITION PUBLISHING DATE: JUNE 2. 2020 PAGE COUNT: 256
1. “It’s a Wonderful Life” when you finally realize it.
2. Reg, the elderly next door neighbor, plays a pivotal role in the plot and goes beyond the stereotypical senior with a failed memory. He’s a man you’d want to be friends with.
3. The satisfying ending put a smile on my face.
4. The scene in the principal’s office with parents, teacher, and student happens often in our educational system. Maxwell made it worthwhile as the outcome is unexpected.
5. A great read-aloud with plenty of opportunities for discussion. Divorce, the meaning of friendship, and seeing the other side of people would easily kick off the conversation
ONE OF FIVE FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT AUTHOR LISA THOMPSON by Lisa Thompson
I wrote my first book when I was nine. When I was little I really wanted to have horse riding lessons but my parents couldn’t afford them so I wrote a (very) short book about a girl who started a rescue home for horses. I could then immerse myself in the horsey world I was so keen to join. I even did my own illustrations! I found the book when I was about thirteen and was so embarrassed about it I ripped it up and threw it away. Big mistake. I’d love to see that book now. (Oh and I did get to go on a horse when I was in my 20’s and I was so scared I asked to get off.)
For more facts and a look at Lisa’s other books, take a trip over to her web site.
I received an ARC in return for my honest review. Be sure to make a comment below.
And this little teaser before I go: In seven days I’ll have ALWAYS in the MIDDLE’s BIGGEST GIVEAWAY ever. Hurry back for all the details!
It’s never too early to celebrate World Ocean Day (coming up on June 8th), especially when you have a title like EXTREME OCEAN in your hands. Dr. Sylvia Earle, a scientist with a passion for the sea gives readers an insider’s view of a world more mysterious than space.
Accompanied by beautiful photographs, the information is relayed in five stunning chapters.:
Kids and adults will find everything they need to learn about this treasured resource and the harm we are doing for its continued survival. Ten specific ways for kids to get involved in becoming a champion for saving the oceans is the bonus highlight. There are also ten directives on what we can do to ensure plastic and trash doesn’t reach the ocean. Go even further and visit the kids vs plastic web page for videos and added information
The narration by the author is enjoyable and you also discover she spends her birthday in a submersible! Whether you live near or far from the shoreline, this guide will not only inspires but also motivates young readers to dig deeper for more information in the Resource Section that follows the chapters.
EXTREME OCEAN is another winning title from National Geographic Kids. Take a dive—you won’t be sorry!
Here’s the official background:
Discover the most outrageous aspects of the deep blue — from record-breaking depths to towering tsunamis, underwater giants to tiny sea creatures — along with ocean conservation challenges and what kids can do to help. An action-packed combination of science and adventure, famed National Geographic Explorer Sylvia Earle leads readers on an in-depth tour of life beneath the waves. Come face-to-face with whales and sharks, learn about the newest and most hi-tech ocean gear and gadgets, experiment with hands-on activities, and join Earle as she recounts her most daring dives. Packed with fascinating tidbits, animal profiles, and up-to-date science, each chapter combines stunning photography with fun, accessible text. Perfect for curious kids, ocean lovers, young explorers, and the classroom. Extreme Ocean reveals the mystery, majesty, danger, and — above all –the importance of our ocean.
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It’s hard to believe the fourth book in this appealing adventure series has hit the shelves. It was less than two years ago when I featured The Nebula Secret, an exciting debut for National Geographic into the world of MG fiction. Next came The Falcon’s Feather followed by The Double Helix.
This description from the publisher should bring you up to date:
Follow 12-year-old Cruz Coronado during his time at the prestigious Explorer Academy, where he and 23 kids from around the globe are training to become the next generation of great explorers. In addition to making new friends and attending cool classes, Cruz must also work to unlock clues to his family’s shadowy past if he is to solve the mystery of his mother’s untimely death. In this exciting follow-up toThe Double Helix, a major discovery catapults Cruz and the Explorer Academy team into the limelight and they head off to Africa. Cruz and his fellow recruits tackle challenging missions to dispense life-saving medications to gorillas, thwart pangolin poachers and capture images of the last known cheetahs in Namibia — all the while discovering that protecting the world’s threatened species is dangerous business! After yet another strike from Nebula, someone close to Cruz ends up on the brink of death, leaving the ship in turmoil and Cruz and his team down a major player. The discovery of his mom’s next clue leads Cruz to a vast desert — and just when he thinks he’s run out of leads for solving the mystery of her tragic disappearance, an unlikely ally helps him pursue another piece of the ongoing puzzle. Can Cruz and his team stay one step ahead of Nebula and find the next piece of the hidden cipher?
1. Colored illustrations appear throughout the book and are nicely spaced with the text. I had to go back and look at them again after finishing the story.
2. The mostly real life science presented on the pages always had me learning something new. It’s a sneaky and effective way to get kids excited about a science career.
3. The puzzles, including the mystery of who the bad explorer might be, is a great exercise for any age brain.
4. The back section is called the Truth Behind the Fiction and is look at five real explorers and the work they do. Great reading.
5. This one like the others ends rather abruptly. Most of the plot points are completed except two crucial ones which will most likely will not be solved until the final book. It serves it’s purpose as I can’t wait to see what unfolds.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR
TRUDI TRUEIT has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of writing began in fourth grade, when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play. She went on to be a TV news reporter and weather forecaster, but she knew her calling was in writing. Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences, and her fiction novels include The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular, and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Her expertise in kids nonfiction encompasses books on history, weather, wildlife, and Earth science. She is the author of all the narratives for the Explorer Academy series, beginning with Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret. Trueit was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Everett, Washington.
SCOTT PLUMBE is an award-winning illustrator, designer, and fine artist whose work appears in books and magazines, games, interpretive centers, private collections, and more. His illustrations have been featured in magazines such as Communication Arts (US), Applied Arts (CA), Creative Review (UK), and 3×3 (US).
Be sure to check out the ambitious and fun Explorer Academy website.
I received a copy of the book for my honest review. Comments are welcome below.