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Archive for the ‘Middle Grade Book Review’ Category

Out of Left Field

In Middle Grade Book Review on June 26, 2018 at 3:40 pm

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by Ellen Klages

Historical Fiction/©2018/Recommended for Middle School

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads)

A story about the fight for equal rights in America’s favorite arena: the baseball field!

Every boy in the neighborhood knows Katy Gordon is their best pitcher, even though she’s a girl. But when she tries out for Little League, it’s a whole different story. Girls are not eligible, period. It is a boy’s game and always has been. It’s not fair, and Katy’s going to fight back. Inspired by what she’s learning about civil rights in school, she sets out to prove that she’s not the only girl who plays baseball. With the help of friendly librarians and some tenacious research skills, Katy discovers the forgotten history of female ball players. Why does no one know about them? Where are they now? And how can one ten-year-old change people’s minds about what girls can do?

Set in 1957–the world of Sputnik and Leave It to Beaver, saddle shoes and “Heartbreak Hotel”–Out of Left Field is both a detailed picture of a fascinating historic period and a timelessly inspiring story about standing up for equality at any age.

My Thoughts:

The characters are well-rounded and completely believable, and the story is one to which readers can connect. This is a highly engaging work of historical fiction that reflects thorough research on the part of the author. She touched on many of the important issues going on during that time period and masterfully interweaved them in an interesting plot. The history embedded in the story will have readers learning without them ever knowing it. The additional information at the end (appended “baseball cards” of 12 notable female baseball players and an author’s note) provide further context that will have readers wanting to find out more about these fascinating characters in history.

 

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Just Like Jackie

In Middle Grade Book Review on June 16, 2018 at 6:01 am

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by Lindsey Stoddard

Realistic Fiction/©2018/Recommended for Middle School

Book Description (courtesy of Goodreads):

For as long as Robinson Hart can remember, it’s just been her and Grandpa. Robbie knows they look like an odd pair, because her blond hair and pale skin don’t match his dark complexion—but those differences don’t mean anything to her. And though she wishes Grandpa would tell her more about the rest of her family, she’s learned over the years that he doesn’t like to talk about the past.

But Grandpa’s memory is starting to get bad, and Robbie’s worried that soon he won’t remember their family—including her—at all. She’s sure that he would get better if she could stay out of trouble, but it’s hard to keep her fists to herself when bullies like Alex Carter make fun of her for not having a mom or for looking so different from Grandpa. It’s up to Robbie to learn how to deal with her anger and to keep her family together—no matter what.

My Thoughts:

I loved everything about this book! It grabbed me from the first line, and I couldn’t put it down. It is a heat-warming coming-of-age story with memorable characters  and incredible writing that evoked both laughter and tears. Its target audience is middle grade, but I think that it will appeal to many beyond those boundaries. This book is a worthy candidate for the next Newbery Award, and I hope it finds the wide audience that it richly deserves.

 

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

In Middle Grade Book Review on February 26, 2018 at 4:48 pm

 

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by Dusti Bowling

Realistic Fiction/©2018/Recommended for Middle Grade

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

My Thoughts:

Aven is absolutely hilarious and immediately pulls you into her story. She may not have arms, but it hasn’t stopped her from pretty much doing everything she wants to do. She has clearly adapted to her disability, but it is put to the test when she has to move and fit in and find friends at a new school. One of the students she connects with has a disability of his own but he has definitely not adapted to it. This mix makes for an engaging story with many laugh out loud moments, but it is also a story that you continue to think about long after you have turned the last page. The author refers to using her writing to give readers “windows and mirrors”. It does, indeed, do that. All in all, a great middle school read that will help build empathy and compassion while thoroughly entertaining the reader.

Resources:

NerdyClub book review which includes an interview with the author

Interview with the author 

Scythe

In Middle Grade Book Review on January 13, 2018 at 6:07 am

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by Neal Shusterman

Dystopian/©2016/Recommended for Ages 12 and Up

Publisher Information (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

My Thoughts:
Neal Shusterman writes the most amazing books, and this may be one of his best. As is the hallmark of a Shusterman novel, it is masterfully written and has an incredibly unique plot with some jaw-dropping twists and turns that make it almost impossible to put down. There are a series of excerpts from journals of different scythes, along with the main story itself, that challenge the reader to ponder the larger issues of life and death and right and wrong. This is definitely one of those books you think about long after you turn the last page. Though there is a second book in the series, this book by itself is a satisfying read.

Orbiting Jupiter

In Middle Grade Book Review, YA Book Reviews on November 14, 2017 at 7:12 pm

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by Gary D. Schmidt

Contemporary Fiction/©2015/Recommended for Grade 7 and Up

Publisher Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

 When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:

Joseph almost killed a teacher.

He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.

He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.

What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.

Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.

But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.

This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best.

My Thoughts:

This is a short, quiet book that draws you in and packs an emotional wallop. The author has a way of effortlessly drawing out emotions in every scene, without ever making you feel like you’re being manipulated.

I love everything he writes, but I think this may be my new favorite. It didn’t take long to read (you can read this in one sitting!), but it will stay with you long after you turn the last page. It pulls at your heart strings and just makes you want to be a better person. It may be directed at middle school students, but this book has something for everyone.

To sum it up, Orbiting Jupiter is beautifully written with truly memorable characters and a compelling plot – Gary Schmidt nailed it once again.

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life #2)

In Middle Grade Book Review on October 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm

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by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Historical Fiction/©2017/Recommended for Middle School

Publisher Information (Courtesy of Goodreads):

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

My Thoughts:

I really didn’t think that The War That Saved My Life needed a sequel. I loved it just the way it was, and I was sure that a sequel couldn’t possibly meet my high expectations. However, I was definitely wrong about that.

The War I Finally Won is equal in every way – beautifully written, engaging plot and memorable characters.  Every bit as good as The War That Saved My Life!   The author took the opportunity of a sequel to add to Ada’s story, to more fully develop the characters, and to include more historical detail. A very satisfying sequel and a great addition to the middle school library.

 

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

In Middle Grade Book Review on October 4, 2017 at 11:34 pm

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written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Non’Fiction Biography/©2017/Recommended for Middle Grade

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Women in Sports highlights notable women’s contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem–but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media. A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.

My Thoughts:

I cannot say enough about this book! It is a great collection of brief bios of a very diverse group of amazing women. It is well researched and beautifully written. The author, though limiting each person to one page, managed to capture the essence and importance of each. The illustrations and graphics for each woman are eye-catching and engaging and add tremendously to each account.

The book goes through a timeline of history as well as including a wide range of sports. It talks of the challenges the women faced and how they dealt with them.

An empowering and inspiring book!

Other Books by This Author:

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

 

Restart

In Middle Grade Book Review on September 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

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by Gordon Korman

Realistic Fiction/©2017/Stand Alone Book/Recommended for Middle School

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return. Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him. One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

My Thoughts:

Gordon Korman is one of my favorite middle grade authors, and this book did not disappoint. First of all, it has an intriguing  plot – having the bully lose his memory and then have to figure out who he is.  The author also provides a wide variety of memorable characters – several of whom shared POV with the main character. Quite a feat for the author to get them all to have separate, unique voices, but they did. And woven throughout, there are powerful messages and life lessons about bullying, kindness, the power of forgiveness, and so many more. I think it will give middle schools students a lot to ponder. There are some epic moments of humor and epic moments that bring you to tears. All in all, an enjoyable read that packs a punch.

 

Wolf by Wolf

In Middle Grade Book Review on July 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm

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by Ryan Graudin

YA Fiction/©

Book Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts:

A great combination of history and fantasy complete with an engaging plot and memorable characters. The motorcycle race was quite the adventure with its intricate web of evolving relationships, back-stabbing, and twists and turns. Definitely a page turner! And that ending!!! I did not see that coming. All in all, a great read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Finding the Worm (Twerp Sequel)

In Middle Grade Book Review on May 22, 2017 at 5:07 pm

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by Mark Goldblatt

Realistic Fiction/@2015/Recommended for Middle School

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Finding the Worm (Sequel to Twerp):

It’s not a test unless you can fail. . . .

Trouble always seems to find thirteen-year-old Julian Twerski. First it was a bullying incident, and now he’s been accused of vandalizing a painting. The principal doesn’t want to suspend him again, so instead, he asks Julian to write a 200-word essay on good citizenship. Julian writes 200 no’s instead, and so begins an epic struggle between Julian and his principal.
 
Being falsely accused is bad enough, but outside of school, Julian’s dealing with even bigger issues. His friend Quentin has been really sick. How can life be fair when the nicest guy in your group has cancer? Julian’s faith and friendships are put to the test . . . and the stakes have never been higher.

My Thoughts:

Though Finding the Worm is the sequel to Twerp, both books can stand alone. However, you won’t want to miss out on either one. Each one gives you great writing, unforgettable characters and engaging plots. Both are powerful stories that give you a realistic view of life in 6th and 7th grade as related through Julian’s (i.e. Twerp) journals, both bring you humor and tears, both bring you thought provoking issues of bullying and its consequences, of integrity, and of empathy. I think both books will give middle grade readers much to think about long after they have finished the last page.