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

2 roads

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.

Continue reading

‘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

 

santa bruce.jpg

“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.

1 grumpy

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

storm runner

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.

Continue reading

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

martians

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?

Continue reading

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

squirm

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.

Continue reading

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

eat classmates.jpg

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

in-your-shoes-and-donna-gephart-header-image

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.

Continue reading

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

finders

“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.

Continue reading