‘Two Roads’ by Joseph Bruchac Is a Middle Grade Historical Fiction About Identity and Prejudice

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With “Two Roads,” Joseph Bruchac again demonstrates his brilliance with a novel that inspires as much as it teaches readers about a neglected part of US history, the treatment of veterans after the first World War. The compelling story also shares very much more — including ideas about morality among the hoboes of that time, prejudicial treatment of Native Americans and prejudicial treatment by Native Americans, government wrongdoing, and the importance of family and friends.

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‘Santa Bruce’ (and more) by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Picture Book That’s as Much Fun for Adults to Read as for Kids to Listen to

 

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“Santa Claus Bruce” by the talented Ryan T. Higgins is a picture book that is certainly as much fun (or more) for adults to read as it is for the kids listening to the story. Higgins’ wry humor coupled with the extremely expressive illustrations make for a wonderfully satisfying picture book experience.

It’s winter and Bruce wants to stay in bed, but the mice and geese have other ideas. They want holiday spirit, and they want lots of it. They deck the halls, make eggnog, and put up the Christmas tree. Needless to say, Bruce is not in the holiday mood.

While outside, grumpily shoveling snow dressed in long underwear and a warm hat, Bruce suffers from (another) case of mistaken identity. (Higgins’ fans will remember that the first case of mistaken identity was when the goslings mistook Bruce for their mother in the first book in this wonderfully humorous and touching series.) And so Bruce has now become Santa.

The hilarity and confusion continue as Bruce and the others, the geese and mice, have opposing agendas. Longtime readers know which agenda wins, and so Bruce is Santa and — unwillingly — brings a bunch of holiday cheer to all those around him.

Adults will love the double entendres as the erudite mice discuss bears and weather. “Actually, bears don’t hibernate. They spend the winter in a state of lethargy.” Another mouse responds, “I thought we were spending winter in the state of Maine.” There is one illustration of the bunny home with Mama Bunny, Papa Bunny, the baby bunnies, and the “grown-up bunny who still lives with his parents.” Kids won’t get it, but the adults reading it will.

Kids love the grumpy adult-figure and the clever and determined mice and geese and other forest animals. It’s a heartwarming Christmas tale that will be enjoyed all winter long and well into Spring.

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For younger Bruce fans, get “1 Grumpy Bruce: a counting book” by Higgins. In this sturdy board book are all the adorable forest figures (and elephants) from “1 grumpy bear” to “10 woodchucks chucking wood.” And although it’s “just” a counting board book, there is still a clever twist at the end. Trust Higgins to make a counting board book more than just a book of numbers.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.

Don’t Miss ‘The Storm Runner’ by J. C. Cervantes; the First Book in a New ‘Rick Riordan Presents’ Series

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J. C. Cervantes is the talented author who has written the first book in a trilogy about Mayan gods and the kid who is the child of one of them. It’s Rick Riordan’s “Lightning Thief” taken south to Mexico (and New Mexico). In “The Storm Runner,” Zane Obispo, who limps because one leg is shorter than the other, discovers that he is godborn, the child of one of the Mayan gods. In fact, that explains his leg because as one character tells him, humans and the gods don’t mix perfectly.

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‘The Truth About Martians’ by Melissa Savage Is A Fascinating Glimpse into UFOs from a Middle Grade Perspective

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What really happened in 1947 when a newspaper reported that an alien disk had crashed in the desert near Corona and Roswell? While the US government first reported that they had captured a spacecraft and the news was on the front page of many newspapers, the story quickly changed. It was all a mistake, the government said. The “spacecraft” was really a weather balloon.

But many people don’t believe that, and many people had already seen the strange metal pieces with even stranger purple markings. In “The Truth About Martians,” Melissa Savage decides to write about what might have happened if some children nearby not only saw the spaceship but decided to investigate the crash. What if they raced out there and arrived before the military came and swept up everything and hushed it all up?

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‘The Darkdeep’ by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs Is a True Horror Story for Middle Grade Readers

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Both Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs are seasoned writers, and that shows in their newest release, “The Darkdeep.” The story is Stephen King for kids, and the horror is all too imaginable, thanks to the well-written descriptions by both authors of the horrors that main character Nico and his friends face in a haunted cove in the Pacific northwest.

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‘Squirm’ by Carl Hiaasen Is Yet Another Superb Middle Grade Adventure for Animal Lovers

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Carl Hiaasen’s adult books are crazy-wonderful, and his middle grade novels are just as crazy, but much more child-appropriate. They are crazy fun, crazy fabulous, crazily filled with wonderful animals, and wonderfully filled with crazy characters.

In this novel, which takes place both in Florida and Montana, Billy Dickens is the main character. He narrates the tale of his journey to find his father, and along the way he finds an unexpected extended family, performs some hero-worthy exploits, and develops appreciation for his quirky parents.

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Romance Novels “Duke” It Out This Year

There are always romance novels with imaginative titles, but this year, the word “Duke” graces the covers of many. From an illegitimate duke to a modern Scot sword-maker duke, the choices are astounding. Here are nine of them for your reading enjoyment.

illegitimate duke“The Illegitimate Duke” by Sophie Barnes is the newest in her “Diamonds in the Rough” series. It features a do-gooder, Lady Juliette Matthews, who wants to use her newly acquired fortune to help those less fortunate, and Florian Lowell, a physician, who is suddenly made heir to a duke. There is the mutual attraction, to be sure, but also a compelling reason why they can’t be together…or can they?

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‘Lifel1k3’ (Lifelike) by Jay Kristoff is the First Book in a YA Dystopia Series

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With “Lifel1k3,” author Jay Kristoff takes readers on a wild ride in a bleak (so very bleak!) dystopian future where atomic bombs have destroyed much of the Yousay (USA, get it?) and California has become a barren island because of a huge earthquake. The ocean is filled with plastic and other garbage, and animals and trees are nonexistent.

In fact, robots and humans coexist in a depressing world with gray skies and a desperate struggle for survival. In this world lives Evie, with her grandfather, her best friend Lemon, and her robot best friend Cricket. This family group is wonderful, but Grandpa is dying from cancer, so Evie fights robots in an arena to win money to buy him medicine.

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‘Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire’ by Tess Sharpe: Perfect for Sci-fi and Adventure Fans

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“Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire” by Tess Sharpe is a prequel to the story of the two most recent “Jurassic World” movies. In this book, seasoned author Sharpe creates the story of how Claire Dearing, who becomes the park’s operations manager, first gets involved in the Jurassic world.

Dearing is in college when she applies for an internship with the brilliant Mr. Masrani, who not only is fabulously wealthy, but whose genius is (re)creating dinosaurs and a theme park where people will be able to see dinosaurs. When she is offered the internship, it’s her dream come true.

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‘Not If I Save You First’ by Ally Carter Perfect Light Adventure for YA Reader

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“Not If I Save You First” is a stand-alone novel by seasoned author Ally Carter. This novel is a quick read, due in large part to the engaging main character and the action-filled plot.

Maddie and Logan were best friends when they were ten. His father was President of the United States; her father was his Secret Service protector. They roamed the halls of the White House together, and one night, it was Logan who spotted the Russians trying to kidnap his mother. He alerted the Secret Service, Maddie’s father saved the day, and everything changed.

Now Maddie lives in a remote part of Alaska where she doesn’t attend school, watch television, or talk on the phone. She and her dad don’t have electricity or running water, but Maddie is a pro at cutting logs and heating water for bathing. She can start a fire, shoot a gun, use a knife, but she can’t talk about the latest shows or music. She’s also furious that her one friend from the past, Logan, has never answered even one of the weekly letters she has sent him for years.

So when Logan shows up at their cabin, Maddie is dumbstruck. When they are attacked,  Maddie is left for dead, but she recovers, and she sets out to rescue the captured Logan on her own. The story is filled with twists and turns, bad guys who are all evil and those who may not be. And on top of it all, Maddie and Logan need to learn to trust each other.

Carter creates a sassy, intelligent main character with lots of guts and courage. She’s funny and one step ahead of the bad guys — most of the time. It’s a fun read, and readers will keep the pages turning to find out what trouble Maddie and Logan get into next.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Scholastic Press, the publisher, for review purposes.