‘The Great Shelby Holmes Meets her Match’ by Elizabeth Eulberg Is the Second in the Clever Middle Grade Series

shelbyholmes

Shelby Holmes was introduced to readers in “The Great Shelby Holmes,” the first book in the series by Elizabeth Eulberg. In the second book, “The Great Shelby Holmes Meets her Match,” narrator John Watson brings to life another mystery that he and Shelby solve, and in the process gives the reader another view at the complicated genius of Shelby Holmes.

She’s a pint-sized fourth grader who has skipped two grades. Watson is a newcomer to New York City, and in the first book, Shelby shows him around the neighborhood. In this book, Holmes and Watson start school.

Continue reading

‘Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan’ by Jonathan W. Stokes is a Humorous and Thrilling Middle Grade Adventure

addison cooke

“Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan” is a superb sequel to “Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas” by Jonathan W. Stokes. The series is aimed at middle grade readers who love action and adventure — especially when the main characters are quirky and clever.

Stokes also includes plenty of diversity in his cast of characters. Addison and his sister Molly are joined on their adventure by friends Eddie Chang and Raj Bhandari. The story begins when Addison invites his friends to accompany him, his sister, and their aunt and uncle to China to explore a Song dynasty fortress in the Gobi desert.

Continue reading

‘Even if It Kills Her’ by Kate White Is Part of the ‘Bailey Weggins’ Mystery Series

evenifitkillsher.jpg

Bailey Weggins, the main character in “Even If It Kills Her” by Kate White, is a likable character. She’s trying to make a go of a career as a writer, and in the process ends up investigating murders and putting herself in danger, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend.

Although this is the seventh book in the series about Bailey Weggins, that fact doesn’t make the book difficult to read as a stand-alone or make the reader feel like there is a huge backstory  missing. There are a few references to past crimes solved and past dangerous situations, but that doesn’t take away from the mystery or the enjoyment of this story.

Continue reading

‘The Exact Location of Home’ by Kate Messner Is a Middle Grade Treasure

location of home

Kate Messner has been writing lots of books with lots of heart, and her newest, “The Exact Location of Home,” is no different. This extremely touching story will cause readers to think about appearances and stereotypes, friendship and family.

In this story, Kirby “Zig” Zigonski is excited to finally get to see his dad after months of delays and excuses. He’s devastated when his dad yet again cancels their weekend together. While garage-sale shopping, he scores a box of electronics and finds a GPS unit. With it, he finds a new hobby — geocaching.

Continue reading

‘I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups’ by Chris Harris and Lane Smith

no good at rhyming

There’s a new poet in town, and he’s going to give Jack Prelutsky a run for his money. Chris Harris’s “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups” is filled with many poems and other miscellaneous nonsense (like a “How-are-these-two-pictures-different?” puzzle where — spoiler alert! — both pictures are the same!).

The poems are all filled with humor and are deftly illustrated by Lane Smith. Two pages are filled with the beginnings of poems and a running commentary by Smith about how the poems are too ridiculous and would Harris please try writing a different poem instead. After four no-gos, Smith suggests that Harris write a poem about a monster under the bed, which Harris writes, and which is fabulous (and illustrated).

Continue reading

‘Terrific’ Is a Heck of a Terrific Picture Book by Jon Agee

terrific

Like most of Jon Agee’s picture books, “Terrific” will be one of those books that kids want to hear again and again. The story is of a cynical man whose response to everything that happens to him — good and bad — is to say “Terrific.”

He’s a cynical man. When, at the start of the book, he wins an all-expense-paid trip to Bermuda, he says, “Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” Well, he ends up marooned on a desert island with only a parrot for company.

“Terrific,” said Eugene. “What good is a parrot?”
“You’d be surprised,” said the parrot.
Eugene was surprised.

Continue reading

‘Bow Wow: A Bowser and Birdie Novel’ by Spencer Quinn is the 3rd in this Dog-Narrated Series for Children

bowwow

Young readers love books about dogs and Spencer Quinn’s series about Bowser and Birdie is no exception. “Bow Wow” is the third book in the series that began with “Woof” and continued with “Arf.” Adults might be familiar with Quinn’s series about Chet and Bernie, which features the fabulous detective dog Chet, whose narrative sounds suspiciously like that of Bowser.

Continue reading

‘The Last Mrs. Parrish’ Should Be the Very Next Book You Read

lastmrsparrish

The raves are in for “The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine, and it’s no wonder. If anything, the glowing blurbs from such literary luminaries as Jane Green, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, and Jenny Milchman don’t go far enough. The story is gripping from the start, yet when the twist occurs, the reader will feel compelled to go back to the beginning to see what was missed.

The story is of a rich and powerful man and the two women in his life. First, the reader meets Jackson Parrish, a paragon of perfection — handsome, athletic, charming, wealthy — through the eyes of Amber Patterson. Amber, the reader quickly finds out, is a schemer whose goal is befriending Jackson Parrish’s wife so that she can ruin their marriage and take her place at his side.

Continue reading

‘Invasion of the Scorp-Lions! A Monstertown Mystery’ by Bruce Hale Is a Fun-Filled Fantasy

invasion

With the third book in the Monstertown Mystery series, “Invasion of the Scorp-Lions,” author Bruce Hale shows that he can write a series in which each book brings something new to the plate.

At first, this episode appears to be like the two previous books with the main characters, narrator Carlos and his friend Benny, learning that something strange is going on in the basement of the school. They think it’s a ghost, and because of the kids and teacher who encountered the creature and are now in comas, they know it’s dangerous.

But here the story gets interesting because Hale brings in an additional character, Esme, whose mother creates monsters, and whose family comes from a long line of monster-creators. Their last name is Ygorre (pronounced Igor).

A character from the previous book, Tina, also known as Karate Girl, joins the boys on their monster-hunting adventure, and Esme gives a hand, too. At the end of the book, there is an event that explains why there will be lots and lots of monstery sequels to these books.

While the subject of the books —  monsters — and the clever, catchy lenticular, 3D-ish cover make the books look like light reading material, Hale includes a quite serious secondary plot in each book. In this book, Carlos is worried about his parents divorcing.

Also, Hale’s use of figurative language and imagery throughout the books should thrill teachers as they use excerpts from the book when teaching narrative or descriptive writing. “The mechanical room was as comfy and inviting as a concrete crypt at midnight. Mr. Boo had thoughtfully stacked five folding chairs and a card table in the middle of the room, for that homey touch.” Imagery and a touch of sarcasm in two very funny sentences.

While many readers (this one included) might take offense at Hale’s characterization of Barry Manilow’s music as “A scorp-lion’s worst nightmare” and “soppy strings and drippy vocals,” he does have Carlos admit to humming along with one of the songs after a while. Hale also gives Benny some humorous lines when he mixes up words. A teacher thinks the monster smell is from feral cats, so Benny asks, “What are Will Ferrell’s pets doing here?”

This series is a perfect choice for reluctant readers and adventure lovers from third grade through middle school. Humor and horror – a great combination. Also an excellent choice for teachers looking for a read aloud that will teach kids about imagery.

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

‘Wild Bird’ by Wendelin Van Draanen Is the Emotional Story of a Young Girl Out of Control

34052659

Wendelin Van Draanen knows how to write a story that packs a punch. She did it in “Running Dream,” a story about a high school runner who tragically loses her leg in a crash, and how she learns not just how to walk with a prosthetic, but how to really see others in spite of physical differences. In “Wild Bird,” Van Drannen offers up the story of Wren, a girl who lost her way and ended up involved in drugs.

The story begins when Wren is awakened in the middle of the night and whisked off to a juvie camp in the Utah desert for wilderness therapy for 60 days. It’s a last-ditch effort to rehab Wren, who has proven resistant to therapists, counselors, and every other kind of help her parents tried to get for her.

Continue reading

‘Suspect Red’ by L. M. Elliott — Fear and Loathing in ‘53 D.C.

suspectred

L.M. Elliott’s riveting Young Adult historical novel “Suspect Red” takes us on a rough ride through one thicket-filled thorny year in the life of early-adolescent Richard Bradley. He is a thirteen-year-old Washington D.C. resident circa 1953-54. And he is faced with the dilemmas and demons that would haunt any teen-ager whose father, whom he idolizes, is an FBI agent suffering from severe PTSD (making him, in those days, a “psycho”), and who, worse yet, works directly under J. Edgar Hoover during those dangerous and desperate months of June, 1953 to June, 1954: The Cold War rages. Continue reading

‘Monster: A Gone Novel’ Is Just as Gritty, Just as Horrifying and Just as Action-Packed as the Original Series

monster

With the release of “Monster,” the first in a trilogy sequel, Michael Grant has brought readers back to the world of “Gone” and some of its characters. It’s four years after the dome came down in the last book in the first series, and those who had been trapped in the #FAYZ were able to leave. In fact, the prologue shares a story about that event from a new character’s point of view.

Readers will learn that some of the kids who suffered under the dome had severe mental problems after leaving; some committed suicide and others had PTSD. Few returned to normal. Dekka, one of the escapees from the FAYZ, is one of the main characters in this novel. The mother of a new character, Shade Darby, was killed at the same time the dome disappeared. Because Shade feels responsible for her mother’s being right where she was when she was killed by Gaia, the monster from the FAYZ, Shade’s life has been irrevocably changed.

Continue reading