‘The Unicorn Quest’ by Kamilla Benko Is a Creative Tale of Magic, Unicorns, and Sisterly Love

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Middle grade fantasy lovers will adore “The Unicorn Quest” by Kamilla Benko. It’s about sisters Sophie and Claire, who move with their parents into their Great-Aunt’s mansion after her mysterious disappearance.

Sophie is the older sister, the one who adores adventures. She calls them Experiences. Claire often follows along, but she’s the quieter sister, preferring to stay home and draw. The dark frightens Claire. Sophie had almost died of a strange illness and then was “magically” (according to the doctors who couldn’t figure it out) cured.

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‘This Fallen Prey’ by Kelley Armstrong Is the Third in the Rockton Series

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“This Fallen Prey” by Kelley Armstrong is the third entry in the novel series about Rockton, a place in the far North Canadian Yukon where the permafrost never melts and a hidden settlement protects people who need to disappear for almost any reason.

Casey (not her real name) arrived at Rockton in the first book to be the detective. She was fleeing her old life and embraced the chance to start over in Rockton. What she didn’t expect was the plethora of killings that she then needed to solve.

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‘The Woman Left Behind’ by Linda Howard, the Romance/Suspense Queen of Writers

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In “The Woman Left Behind,” Linda Howard returns to the scene — in a manner of speaking — of her last book, “Troublemaker,” to the paramilitary group working out of Washington, DC. Jina Modell works in communications and plays video games in the break room with many of the other gamers she works with. They assist teams in counter-terrorist operations without breaking a sweat.

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‘A List of Cages’ by Robin Roe Is a Beautiful Tale of Friendship Overcoming Evil

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“A List of Cages” by Robin Roe is a young adult book that is extremely powerful and heartrending, yet also uplifting. It’s a testament to the power of friendship, and it’s a cautionary tale to those who foster or work with children. It’s the story of two boys, Adam and Julian, and the bond that saves the life of Julian.

Julian’s life was difficult when he was bullied as a young child. His mother told him that those who are mean act that way because they are unhappy. He is dyslexic, and his inability to read well makes him self-conscious. Julian’s parents are killed when he is nine years old, and he goes to live with Adam. Julian and Adam had been partners when Adam was in 5th grade and Julian was in kindergarten, so they knew each other a bit.

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‘Soldier Dog’ by Sam Angus Is a Middle Grade Historical Fiction Novel About a Boy and the Dogs Who Saved Him

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“Soldier Dog” by Sam Angus is the kind of story that lulls the reader along, reading about racing dogs and a boy who loves them and struggles with his bitter father while they live in rural England during the first World War. The boy, Stanley Ryder, joins the army even though he’s only fourteen because of something unforgivable that his father does.

He ends up in the school for War Dogs. He’s ordered to train an angry, aggressive Great Dane named Bones. Stanley accomplishes wonders with Bones, and because of the critical need for messenger dogs, they both are sent to France, and they both see combat.

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‘The Creativity Project: An Awesome Story Collection’ Is Edited by Colby Sharp and Perfect for Short Story Readers and Teachers

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“The Creativity Project: An Awesome Story Collection” is edited by brilliant teacher Colby Sharp, who is also a blogger and important advocate for children’s literature. He started the Nerdy Book Club with other book-loving educators, and the group has become hugely respected in the literary world of children’s books.

This book is Sharp’s debut in publishing, and a fabulous debut it is. The idea is brilliant: Forty-four artists (authors and illustrators) were invited to provide two prompts for writing or illustrating ideas. The prompts could be anything — written or drawn. Each participant was then provided with two other prompts (anonymously) from which they could choose to respond. The unused prompts are collected at the end of the book for readers and teachers to use and play with.

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‘What the Night Sings’ by Vesper Stamper: A Touching Book about Rebuilding Life After Losing Everything and Everyone

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In this touching Holocaust story, “What the Night Sings,” by Vesper Stamper, a young Holocaust survivor must reconcile her life after she is liberated from a concentration camp.

The reader meets Gerta at Bergen-Belsen just before the camp is liberated. Rivkah, an acquaintance of Gerta’s parents from their hometown of Köln, is dying in Gerta’s arms. Just as the liberation soldiers enter, Rivkah dies. Thus is the reader introduced to the fact of death and its importance in Gerta’s life.

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‘Can I Be Your Dog?’ by Troy Cummings Is a Must-Have Picture Book for Dog Lovers

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“Can I Be Your Dog?” by Troy Cummings is a book that should be on the shelf of every family who loves dogs. It’s an extremely touching story of a homeless dog who wants nothing more than a home of his own.

He decides to try to find a home by writing letters to the people who live on his street, Butternut Street. He starts with the nicest house on the street and explains in his missive that he is potty trained and has his own squeaky bone. He even offers to get along with their cat. They respond:

“Dear Arfy,
We’re so sorry, but you cannot be our dog. Our cat is, um, allergic to dogs. Good luck in your search!
The Honeywells”

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‘The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig’ Is a Picture Book that Will Charm Readers Young and Old

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“The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig” by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and Caprice Crane is illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. It’s a lovely picture book about a pig who grew and grew — not only in size, but also in the hearts of those who love her.

Esther’s story is incredible. Adopted as a mini-piglet, she was nothing of the kind. An acquaintance called her adopters, two of the authors of the picture book, and said that she had a five-pound micro-piglet but couldn’t care for it. She explained that the piglet shouldn’t grow to more than 70 pounds. The adopters thought Esther would be like a third dog, but when they took Esther to the vet, he broke the news that Esther wasn’t a micro-piglet, but rather a commercial pig. The woman who gave them Esther wouldn’t answer messages.

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