‘Code Name: Serendipity’ by Amber Smith is a sweet doggy tale of friendship, family, growing up, and most of all, compassion

Code Name: Serendipity by Amber Smith With her new middle grade novel, "Code Name: Serendipity," author Amber Smith presents an eleven-year-old fifth grader named Sadie. Sadie doesn't feel as if she fits in anywhere because now that her best friend, Jude, has moved away, she has no one at school to talk to, ride the … Continue reading ‘Code Name: Serendipity’ by Amber Smith is a sweet doggy tale of friendship, family, growing up, and most of all, compassion

‘Red Thread of Fate’ by Lyn Liao Butler is a beautiful story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and making a family

The Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler The first sentence of "Red Thread of Fate" is as riveting a first sentence as I've ever read. "She was on the phone with her husband when he died." What?! You can't stop reading after that kind of first sentence. At the heart of Lyn Liao … Continue reading ‘Red Thread of Fate’ by Lyn Liao Butler is a beautiful story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and making a family

Children’s books for Black History Month and every other time of year

Moving Forward by Chris Barton If I were going to teach a unit on prejudice, I'd start with a fabulous picture book, "Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates," by Chris Barton and Steffi Walthall. There are many, many wonderful nonfiction books aimed at middle grade readers, books which … Continue reading Children’s books for Black History Month and every other time of year

‘Honor’ by Thrity Umrigar is a heartrending and thoughtful story of love and hatred

Honor by Thrity Umrigar "Honor" is a perfect title for Thrity Umrigar's powerful novel about India and the horrors that are perpetrated in rural areas in the name of religion and honor. For while honor is a noble concept, the foul acts perpetrated in its name are not. Umrigar makes it clear that while India … Continue reading ‘Honor’ by Thrity Umrigar is a heartrending and thoughtful story of love and hatred

‘The Paid Bridesmaid’ by Sariah Wilson: a delightful romance about that strange profession: the paid bridesmaid

The Paid Bridesmaid by Sariah Wilson Reading Sariah Wilson's last two novels, "The Paid Bridesmaid" and "The Seat Filler" has opened my eyes about employment opportunities I never realized existed: seat fillers and paid bridesmaids. Who knew you could actually hire a maid of honor to help you with all those pesky details like organizing … Continue reading ‘The Paid Bridesmaid’ by Sariah Wilson: a delightful romance about that strange profession: the paid bridesmaid

‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett is a fabulous mystery that’s very very British

The Appeal by Janice Hallett "The Appeal" by Janice Hallett is a mystery in epistolary format. I wasn't sure that this book, written with no narrative -- just emails, text messages, transcripts of phone messages and police interviews, would be engaging. My fear that I wouldn't connect with the writing and the story were completely … Continue reading ‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett is a fabulous mystery that’s very very British

‘When Winter Robeson Came’ by Brenda Woods is a beautifully told middle grade historical fiction

When Winter Robeson Came by Brenda Woods I don't think I'd ever read a book about the 1965 riots in Watts, California, until I read Brenda Woods' beautifully written book, "When Winter Robeson Came." There is much that is lovely about the verse in this story: the lyrical language, the way Woods compares feelings to … Continue reading ‘When Winter Robeson Came’ by Brenda Woods is a beautifully told middle grade historical fiction

‘A Flicker in the Dark’ proves Stacy Willingham is a master at sleight of hand

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham All thrillers include twists and deception. But in "A Flicker in the Dark," Stacy Willingham proves that she is a master at creating a narrative that deceives us again and again, and as we keep reading with our suspicions firmly planted on one character and then another, … Continue reading ‘A Flicker in the Dark’ proves Stacy Willingham is a master at sleight of hand

‘The Lock-Eater’ by Zack Loran Clark is an action-filled fantasy with plenty of twists

The Lock-Eater by Zack Loran Clark In his debut novel, "The Lock-Eater," author Zack Loran Clark presents us with a very unusual protagonist. Melanie Gate is an orphan, and she lives with other similarly situated girls at the Merrytrails Orphanage for Girls. Mrs. Harbargain is the kindly woman in charge of the orphanage, and she … Continue reading ‘The Lock-Eater’ by Zack Loran Clark is an action-filled fantasy with plenty of twists

‘City Spies: Forbidden City’ by James Ponti is the third in this thrilling middle grade series about an MI6 group of kid spies

City Spies: Forbidden City by James Ponti Let me begin by saying I love the "City Spies" series by James Ponti, and his newest entry, "Forbidden City," is no different. The story is gripping from the start as we read about Paris, one of the young spies, climbing the side of a mansion to return … Continue reading ‘City Spies: Forbidden City’ by James Ponti is the third in this thrilling middle grade series about an MI6 group of kid spies