‘The Fort” by Gordon Korman is a thoughtful middle grade novel about secrets and what we hide from even our best friends

The Fort by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman has been writing books for a long time—since he was twelve years old, in fact. As he explains in the Author’s Note, he wrote his first book in 7th grade as a fluke of an assignment. Scholastic published it two years later, and—luckily for middle grade readers and teachers— he’s been writing ever since. His books are always thoughtful, engaging and realistic. When kids read Korman’s books they see kids a lot like them: imperfect kids, kids with insecurity, kids who don’t fit in, and kids who are different.

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‘Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra’ by Stuart Gibbs is the next foray into the brilliant and exciting world of a young genius

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra
by Stuart Gibbs

“Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra” by Stuart Gibbs is exactly the kind of middle grade fiction that teachers adore. And there are so many reasons to adore this clever and well-written adventure. The main character, Charlie, is a wonderful main character. She’s smart, adventurous, has high morals, admits her physical failings, and has a bit of an attitude. In short, she’s like many of the kids who will enjoy this series.

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‘Cinder-Nanny’ by Sariah Wilson is a lovely summer rom-com read

Cinder-Nanny by Sariah Wilson

When the temperatures near 100 degrees, summer has officially arrived; a perfect “beach read” to enjoy and celebrate summer weather is “Cinder-Nanny” by Sariah Wilson. In spite of its title, this delightful, light romance doesn’t contain actual magic; but the romance between two unlikely individuals is clever and touching. And while both main characters are devoted to their families, the families they come from are anything but normal.

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‘The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames’ by Lisa McMann is the first in a new middle grade fantasy series

The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames

In her new series, “The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames,” Lisa McMann creates an action-filled fantasy with children who have supernatural powers but must survive on their own after the last adult in their group dies. The five children have always lived in a secret hideaway far from civilization as their parents were master criminals who barely escaped with their lives after a heist gone bad. But gradually, the parents have disappeared after returning to civilization, the first few to gather supplies, and then others left to search for the first three adults who disappeared. The last adult, Louis, got sick and died, leaving his daughter a secret message.

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‘Reckless Girls’ by Rachel Hawkins: When “paradise” is anything but

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

With her latest twisty thriller, “Reckless Girls,” author Rachel Hawkins presents us with four young women who end up together on what would appear to be a tropical paradise. A deserted island near Hawaii where the beaches are golden, the water is warm, and the sunsets stunning. With plenty of good food, wine, and charming male companionship, what more could anyone ask for?

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‘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 lives with the children and her cat, Abraxas, who is redeemed neither by his looks nor his personality. Melanie has the strange ability of being able to open any door or lock. Other girls in the orphanage have different abilities; one is a talented baker, another is unusually charming, another a gifted storyteller.

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‘Ripped Away’ is historical fantasy as two kids travel back to London at the time of Jack the Ripper

Ripped Away by Shirley Reva Vernick

“Ripped Away” by Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle grade novel, almost a novella, really, at a bit over 100 pages, featuring first person narrator Abe Pearlman. In his very relatable, charming narrative he describes his lonely existence. He’s not in any school clubs nor does he play sports. And when he nods at Mitzi, a classmate he finds interesting, she can’t be bothered to respond with even a nod. As he walks through town on his way home from school, he sees a sign he had never noticed before, “Fortunes and Futures,” in the third story of a building. He decides to investigate.

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‘The Necklace’ by Matt Witten is a fast paced thriller

The Necklace by Matt Witten

“The Necklace” is one of those books that I love reading. Books that are so engaging, you can’t put them down and so you read them in a day. Author Matt Witten does a magnificent job creating a main character, Susan, whom we don’t exactly identify with, but we can certainly empathize with. Thus we really care about her journey—both metaphorical and physical—to seek justice for the daughter who had been brutally raped and murdered twenty years earlier. And while the story seems perhaps a bit far-fetched, reading the Author’s Note at the end shines a light on how something like this could, and maybe actually has, taken place.

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‘A Blizzard of Polar Bears’ by Alice Henderson is a combination of mystery, thrills, and wildlife adventure

A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson

It’s not often that a novel can combine thrilling action with fascinating characters and a setting that is depicted so precisely that we shiver while reading about venturing out onto pack ice in Northern Canada. Alice Henderson accomplishes all that and more in “A Blizzard of Polar Bears,” as she shares another adventure for wildlife biologist Alex Carter, who takes a job researching polar bears for a report for Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Her job in Montana working with wolverines has just ended, so this job offer seems fortuitous.

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‘Daughter of the Deep’ by Rick Riordan is thrilling and hugely entertaining

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

In an exciting leap that is just as thrilling as any twist Percy Jackson might encounter, Rick Riordan brings us a slightly different kind of adventure with “Daughter of the Deep,” his book about a group of students in a maritime academy who end up on the run for their lives and dive straight into an adventure that is based on Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” We first meet Ana Dakkar when she and her brother go for a swim in the ocean on which their special private school sits. We quickly learn that their parents died in an accident two years previously, and Ana and Dev are close. Dev is several years older than Ana, and at the end of their swim he gives her an early birthday present as she is leaving with the freshman class for a final weekend of trials.

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‘Pony’ by R. J. Palacio is a superb new novel about devotion

Pony by R.J. Palacio

While the plot of “Pony” by R. J. Palacio reminded me a bit of another middle grade book about a pony, “Some Kind of Courage” by Dan Gemeinhart, the stories are quite different apart from being historical fiction with both boys having a horse that they love dearly. Each story is beautiful in its own right, and “Pony” is one that will not be quickly forgotten. In “Pony,” Palacio forces us to think about love, loss, and the connections that bind us to each other.

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‘Spy School at Sea’ by Stuart Gibbs is the latest in the middle grade series for lovers of espionage and good writing

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs

I asked a student who was a huge fan of the Spy School series if I could jump into the Stuart Gibbs Spy School series without having read the first few novels. He said that I’d be too confused. I believed him. Shame on me. I jumped into the series with “Spy School at Sea,” and I was not confused. At all. To the contrary, I was charmed and engaged in the fabulous writing, clever plot, and absurdly silly and yet deadly events that befall our main character. Granted, Gibbs does reference past exploits of main character Benjamin Ripley, and we know that he has a past with his nemesis, Murray Hill, but the fast-paced action and the witty dialogue, not to mention the teenage foibles, all make for a story that is funny, clever, and exciting. No preparation necessary.

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