‘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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Picture books about children and their pets . . . with a twist

Children and adults love picture books that are about animals. In this collection of recently released picture books, readers will love reading about pets, but even more, they will love that these books are not about a traditional pets. Each one is quirky and each one will entertain children read after read.
spencers new pet“Spencer’s New Pet” by Jessie Sima is a fabulous story, and the illustrations tell the whole story. It’s a book without words, and kids love being the ones to tell the story. Even the endpapers are lovely as they countdown the start of the story as if it’s a silent film, because in a way, a story with no words is like a silent film. The reader/watcher has to supply the text. The illustrations are mostly in black and white, with many shades of gray and spots of red — a color that becomes important. The story is even divided into parts like a silent film. The first character we see is the balloon dog, “the pet.” Then we see the boy, who we know from the title is Spencer, leaving a circus tent and walking his new pet on a leash. He is entranced with his new pet and plays with it constantly and sleeps with it at night. But he quickly realizes that life is filled with dangerous sharp objects that could be deadly. Kids (and adults) adore the huge twist at the end that no one saw coming. One reading will not be enough. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

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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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‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter is the book you don’t want to miss reading in 2019

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“The Last Widow” is the newest book in the Will Trent series by Karin Slaughter. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series, don’t let that fact stop you from reading this one because it reads like a stand-alone novel. Be forewarned that after you finish it, you will probably want to start the series at the beginning and read all about Will Trent and Sara Linton.

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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

‘The Murder List’ by Hank Philippa Ryan will keep you wondering

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“The Murder List” by Hank Phillippi Ryan is a mystery that keeps us wondering — almost until the end — who the characters really are behind the narration that we are reading and taking at face value. From the very first page, we know that Rachel North is a law student. Not a fresh-out-of-college law student, but a law student at 36. She’s married to a criminal defense lawyer, Jack Kirkland. Handsome and successful, he’s completely dedicated to winning and making sure that no innocent person gets incarcerated. It’s his passion.

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‘Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks’ by Claire Cook is a funny but tender story of relationships and dogs…and cats

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In “Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks” by Claire Cook, Sarah Hurlihy and John Anderson might be living together in her family’s home, but that doesn’t mean that Valentine’s Day is going to be a simple affair. Between Sarah’s indecisiveness and John’s romantic streak, Sarah’s crazy family and crazier father, and all the dogs and cats ruling their house, life is hectic, to say the least.

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‘House of Salt and Sorrows’ by Erin A. Craig is a shocking retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale by Grimm

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“House of Salt and Sorrows” by Erin A. Craig is a creative and, at times, shocking retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” by the Grimm brothers. Unlike the Grimm fairy tale, in this young adult version, the oldest of the dozen sisters have already died by the time the story begins.

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