‘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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‘Sawkill Girls’ by Claire Legrand: A YA Horror Story with Female Heroes

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With “Sawkill Girls,” author Claire Legrand creates a positively Stephen King-ish horror story that takes place on an exclusive island for the extremely wealthy where girls have mysteriously disappeared for decades. In addition to the three female main characters, the island, with its woods and cliffs and mysterious hidden areas, becomes almost another character.

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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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‘Leo’s Gift’: A Touching, Truthful, and Wise Picture Book

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“Leo’s Gift,” ostensibly a children’s book but in fact a gift to all who read it — of any age — tells the story of a very young but very gifted boy who learns, quite by accident, of the amazing talent he possesses.

Leo hears his sister practicing piano as her recital day rapidly approaches. She dutifully practices her Mozart piece, but she makes it clear that she would much rather be outside practicing basketball, a sport which she loves and at which she excels. Leo, meanwhile, is entranced by the music; he begs his sister to show him how to make such beautiful sounds. She does so. He takes his turn at the piano and almost immediately is able to perform the Mozart piece impeccably. He is a “natural.”

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‘We Don’t Eat Our Classmates’ by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Hilarious Picture Book for Pre-School-Age Readers

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In “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” talented author Ryan T. Higgins explores what it would be like if a dinosaur, specifically a very carnivorous T. Rex, attended school. Penelope the T. Rex was ready to start. Her dad had made her lunch, three hundred tuna fish sandwiches. What she was not ready for, though, was the fact that her classmates were human children.

As any self-respecting T. Rex knows, children are delicious. So Penelope ate them. Her teacher grew angry and insisted that she spit them out immediately. She did. The children were not happy. Penelope was not happy. Going to school with delicious snacks available was just more than the precocious dinosaur could stand.

But one day, in a hilarious turn-around, Penelope found out what it feels like to be the one on the dinner plate, and she didn’t care for it at all. Higgins entertains readers — young and old — with his trademark clever twist that will keep his fans loving each and every picture book he writes. Kids will love this one, and their parents will, too.

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

‘In Your Shoes’ by Donna Gephart Is a Story About Finding Friends and Learning There Aren’t Always Happy Endings

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With “In Your Shoes,” author Donna Gephart teaches middle grade readers that while things may be going wonderfully at one moment, life is a series of ups and downs. And sometimes, in fiction just as in real life, you don’t get second chances.

There are two main characters in this story about children who aren’t necessarily perfect on the outside, but are perfectly wonderful on the inside.

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‘The Law of Finders Keepers’ by Sheila Turnage Is the Last of the Mo & Dale Mystery Series

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“The Case of Finders Keepers” by Sheila Turnage will keep fans of Mo LoBeau thrilled at the details that are unveiled about Mo’s Upstream Mother and Blackbeard’s treasure that they seek in this fourth book.

Moses, so named because she was found after a hurricane swept her into the arms of her rescuer on a huge wave of water and a large sign, has been writing to and searching for her Upstream Mother for a while. She writes to her, but luckily, Mo has the love of Miss Lana and the Colonel which whom she lives. They run a café where Mo serves and impudently garners big tips.

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‘Blue’: A Picture Book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger About All the Shades of Blue, Happy and Sad

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“Blue” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger follows her fabulous picture book “Green.” Unlike the previous color-themed book, “Blue” tells a story about a boy and his dog. The story begins with the color baby blue, a puppy and an infant boy whose blue rattle is cut out in the center; and that blue circle becomes the blue center of a wheel on the little red wagon the young boy is using to take his young dog for a ride.

And as the two grow up together, always in shades of blue, always with cutouts on one page that lead to the next, the scenes vary from ocean blue to sky blue to midnight blue. Always with boy and dog, inseparable.

But blue is at heart a sad color. And the sad truth about loving a dog is that its lifespan is so very short when compared to ours. And a when a young boy and a young dog grow up together, when the boy becomes a teenager, his constant companion, his shadow, his loving confidante, is at the end of his life.

But having loved a dog, truly loved a dog, few choose to remain dog-less for long, and “Blue” is a story not just of love and loss, but of the renewal of love and the rebirth of that loving connection that we feel with our dogs. All in blue. All beautiful.

Each page has a cut-out shape in an object that leads to a different object on the following page. Kids love seeing what happens when the circle cutout depicting a beach ball and a boy in a red shirt becomes a red balloon when the circle opening is now on the red of the boy’s shirt from the previous page. The cutouts and how they are created are brilliant, but so are the many and varied shades and emotions of blue.

Pick this book as a gift for anyone in your life who loves dogs, who loves color, who loves life. Buy it for yourself.

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

‘The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case’ by Elizabeth Eulberg: Can Watson and Holmes Solve the Mystery on Ice?

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“The Great Shelby Holmes and the Coldest Case” is the third book in the clever series by Elizabeth Eulberg about a pint-sized detective named Shelby Holmes and her sidekick, John Watson. Both of the characters’ names, of course, are cute references to the famous duo of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

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