‘The Last Dragon’ by James Riley is the second book in “The Revenge of Magic” middle grade series

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“The Last Dragon” by James Riley begins shortly after the end of the first book in the series “The Revenge of Magic.” In the first book, Fort Fitzgerald watches helplessly as his father is grabbed by a monster and dragged underground during an attack when they were visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Sure that his father is dead, Fort is determined to get revenge on the creatures who killed him.

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‘The Tyrant’s Tomb’ by Rick Riordan is the 4th book in ‘The Trials of Apollo’ series

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In “The Tyrant’s Tomb,” master of middle grade fantasy Rick Riordan continues “The Trials of Apollo” series, the story of Apollo, brought low to earth by his father for a transgression, and made into a very human figure.

As Lester Papadopoulos, acne-ridden and with a waist that is far less than Apollo’s trim figure, Apollo must deal with injury, lack of magic, and insolence. Not to mention mortality. He has come far since the first book in the series on his journey to save the world from a triad of evil Roman emperors, but there’s still a long, dangerous road to travel on this quest.

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‘Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation’ by Stuart Gibbs is a middle grade book that has ageless appeal

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Be forewarned. Once you pick up “Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation” by bestselling author Stuart Gibbs, you won’t be able to put it down until the last page is over, and you’re reading the acknowledgements.  Really.

You’ll be hooked from the very first page, which is the Prologue in which Albert Einstein is dying, leaving behind not only his theory of relativity, but something called Pandora, an equation which could change the world.

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‘All the Flowers in Paris’ by Sarah Jio is a beautiful but heartbreaking combination of historical and current fiction taking readers to Paris now and during WWII

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Paris, ostensibly the most beautiful city in the world, has a checkered past. During the German occupation in WWII, many Parisians collaborated with the Nazis. “All the Flowers in Paris” by Sarah Jio is about a French family with Jewish ancestry that is “outed” by a neighbor, and about a woman in modern Paris who loses her memory and must find out who she is and why she was basically a recluse before the accident that caused her memory loss. What she finds hidden in her lovely apartment gives her a mystery to solve, and by solving that mystery, Caroline not only finds closure for the long-ago Parisian family, but also for herself.

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6 picture books with messages for children

Picture books are not just entertainment; often, they are a way to show young readers how the world works, and how we all must behave to make the world around us a better, more compassionate, happier place. Here are six picture books that do just that, and readers of a wide range of ages will enjoy them. These are books that should be available in every library and school. They have important messages to share. Continue reading

‘Sauerkraut’ by Kelly Jones is a ghostly middle grade story about making connections and helping family

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In “Sauerkraut,” author Kelly Jones continues to show her expertise in writing clever and touching stories that include a bit of ghostly action. In this story, Hans Dieter Schenk, also known as HD. His dad was Hans Peter Schenk, his grandfather Hans Gerhard Schenk, and before him Hans Franz Schenk. Until HD, all the Hans’ looked pretty much the same with pale skin, hair and blue eyes. But HD is different. While his skin is lighter than his mothers, his dark locs (dreadlocks) are longer than hers. And people sometimes confuse his father with his best friend Eli’s father “Just because they’re both white. It’s … awkward.”

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‘Color Me In’ and ‘Slay’ are two young adult novels that help readers understand what it’s like being the only “other” in a room

 

“Slay” by Brittney Morris and “Color Me In” by Natasha Díaz are two books that deal with young women, each of whom is the only person of color, or one of a few people of color, in a school. The situations are different, but both stories are gripping and difficult to put down. They are both movingly written, and should be in every middle school and high school library. Both should be required reading. And what a discussion would ensue.

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‘The Cold Way Home’ by Julia Keller is a marvelous murder mystery that spans generations and features fabulous characters

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“The Cold Way Home” by Julia Keller is the latest in her series of books about Bell Elkins, former prosecutor in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia. Acker’s Gap is one of many impoverished former mining towns that are losing residents and succumbing to the opioid crisis. While this is the eighth book in the series, it also works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. Each of the novels in the series take place a year or so after the previous one, so there is no feeling of missing something. But that being said, reading all of them is a delight.

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Three wonderful new middle grade novels with main characters who exemplify determination in the face of adversity

Reading can often teach empathy. Reading about diverse characters can often serve to show young readers that we all — no matter our skin color or religion or financial status or family makeup — have more in common than not. Three new middle grade novels serve to exemplify exactly that: “More to the Story” by Hena Khan, “Strike Zone” by Mike Lupica, and “The Fresh New Face of Griselda” by Jennifer Torres. Continue reading

‘Things You Save in a Fire’ by Katherine Center begins with a spark and ends in an inferno

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“Things You Save in a Fire” by Katherine Center isn’t literally about things you would save in a fire. The main character, firefighter Cassie Hanwell, was born to be a firefighter. She’s a fascinating and complex character. When there’s an emergency, she gets calm and knows exactly what to do. She’s the one you want to be with when danger threatens. But in her own life, she’s helpless to get things on track.

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‘The Escape Room’ by Megan Goldin: nonstop action from the first page to the last

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Greed and arrogance are qualities that permeate the personalities of the characters in Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room.” The first chapter offers the reader clues that the story will not end well for some of those characters, but just how that comes about is part of the mystery and the thrill. Four hedge fund traders at the competitive firm of Stanhope and Sons are commanded to appear for a team-building exercise. Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam all have better things to be doing, but they are all extremely competitive, and they all want to get the best bonus possible, so they all show up to the not-quite-completed office building and enter the elevator.

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