Showing posts with label Middle Grade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle Grade. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Book Review: The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson

Pages: 400
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub Date: May 2, 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Source: Library
Other Books By Author: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour,
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Penderwicks meets The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in a story about a young girl who gets to know her mom’s side of the family and hunts for hidden treasure over the course of one chaotic summer. For as long as Ryanna Stuart can remember, her summers have been spent with her father and his new wife. Just the three of them, structured, planned, and quiet. But this summer is different. This summer, she’s received a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to since her mom’s death—inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos. Ryanna accepts. She wants to learn about her mom. She wants to uncover the mystery of why her father hasn’t spoken to her grandparents all these years. She’s even looking forward to a quiet summer by the lake. But what she finds are relatives… so many relatives! Aunts and uncles and cousins upon cousins—a motley, rambunctious crew of kids and eccentric, unconventional adults. People who have memories of her mom from when she was Ryanna’s age, clues to her past like a treasure map. Ryanna even finds an actual, real-life treasure map! Over the course of one unforgettable summer—filled with s’mores and swimming, adventure and fun, and even a decades-old mystery to solve—Ryanna discovers a whole new side of herself and that, sometimes, the last place you expected to be is the place where you really belong."

Ryanna's mother died when she was just three years old, so the maternal side of her family has always been a mystery as they are estranged. But one day she gets an invitation from her maternal grandparents to come spend the summer at their house in the Poconos. Ryanna agrees as she is curious about her extended family and also she hopes to learn more about her mother. What she thought was going to be a quiet lakeside summer with her grandparents turned out to be so much more. It's not just her grandparents who are there; there are aunts, uncles, and cousins staying at what was once a bustling summer camp that her grandparents operated. Camp Van Camp, an idyllic getaway in the Poconos, is no longer in operation, but is in crisis. Nonetheless, Ryanna's days are filled with all the summer fun you would expect lakeside, hanging out with her cousins, treasure maps, her mom's old books, and more. One old treasure map might hold the key to keeping Camp Van Camp. Morgan Matson's middle-grade debut, The Firefly Summer, is an absolute delight of a summer novel.

Ryanna is the type of character you instantly feel for in
The Firefly Summer. She is just getting to know her grandparents and extended family, so it's a bit awkward in the beginning, especially with how she met her cousins. Slowly, she folds into the family nicely and acclimates to summer life at the lake. I loved how she got to know her mom's side of the family and the adventures with her crew of cousins. She also tries to piece together what happened between her grandparents and her dad as that is the reason why they were estranged.

One of the main problems in
The Firefly Summer is the fact that her grandfather can't find the handwritten document from his neighbor, who has since passed away, which indicates the land of Camp Van Camp goes to him. Without this document, the fate of the camp is up in the air, so clearly this is a focus for Ryanna this summer as well. It turns into a bit of an adventure involving her mom's old book, notes in the margins, and a treasure map---pure summer fun!
Matson captures summer life at the Poconos so well in
The Firefly Summer; it made me want to plan another trip back. Readers can easily tell that Matson writes from the heart about the Poconos, because all the descriptions are completely vivid and accurate. Fans of the Poconos will love this aspect of the novel; I certainly did.

Fans of the Vanderbeekers series will especially enjoy this novel as it has some similarities. In sum, Matson can do no wrong. She is such a fantastic writer and I am so glad she wrote her first middle-grade novel. I hope she continues to write more; The Firefly Summer is a novel I would have loved to pick up when I was in middle school. So, are you a fan of Morgan Matson? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry


Middle grade fiction is one of my most favorite genres and one of the reasons I first started blogging years ago as a middle school English teacher. I am always looking out for good YA or middle grade books, especially since my oldest son is approaching the age. 

Today I am excited to share with you a new middle grade novel, The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry. It would be the perfect addition to your tween's summer reading list. Thanks to Rebecca Laxton, I'll be hosting a giveaway to celebrate The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry which just came out this spring, but begs to be read during the summer, especially since the story takes place over summer vacation. Kirkus Reviews called it a "diverting, environment-friendly mystery." I always appreciate a focus on the environment!

Learn More About the Book:



The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry 

Written by Rebecca Laxton

Illustrated by Gracie Laxton

Ages 10+ | 252 Pages

Publisher: Warren Publishing, Inc | ISBN-13: 9781960146236

Publisher’s Book Summary: Thirteen-year-old Emma Murry has three goals for summer vacation: finish her art terms project, land an ollie, and help the environmental club save the monarchs. 
But then her Instagram crush Jeb Scott and his celebrity dad Chester make a surprise visit to Black Mountain. At first, Emma is thrilled, but then she overhears their plans to destroy the monarch butterfly garden to build a ski resort. She and her best friend Sophie add a new summer goal: STOP. THE. SCOTTS.
Emma ignores Sophie’s warnings and makes friends with Jeb, convinced she can change his mind. Then when Chester receives a mysterious death threat, Emma teams up with Jeb to investigate. She slowly discovers people are not what they seem as she attempts to untangle friendships, organize a protest, and uncover supernatural secrets hiding on the mountain.
Emma will have to go through her own metamorphosis by overcoming her fears and facing what she dreads. If she fails, she could jeopardize everything—butterflies, friendships, and her family. 


You can purchase your own copy of The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. You can learn more about Rebecca Laxton by visiting her website.   



The Giveaway: 


I've partnered with Rebecca Laxton to host a giveaway to celebrate the recent publication of The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry. One lucky winner will receive a swag bag that includes: a signed hardcover copy of The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry, a tote, a puzzle, word search, small skateboard sticker, small butterfly sticker, and a large vinyl butterfly sticker made with the illustrator's graphics. Five more winners will receive a signed paperback copy of The Metamorphosis of Emma Murry. Good luck! 


Thursday, February 16, 2023

Mini Reviews: Middle Grade Edition

I love a good young adult and middle grade fiction novel; in fact, that's what first brought me to blogging. As a middle school English teacher, I mostly read young adult and middle grade fiction. Obviously that has evolved over the years, but I still find myself coming back to this genre. This has been happening a lot lately since my oldest son turned ten. There's so many great novels to share with him! Today I'm reviewing two books that we have read recently and enjoyed.


The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: Middle Grade 
Pub. Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 


Goodreads says, "The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It's practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home."






The Vanderbeekers live in Harlem, NY, a diverse and bustling neighborhood. The Vanderbeekers are a big, biracial family filled with adventurous children. They find out around Christmas that their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, doesn't want to renew their lease and they have to find somewhere else to live by the end of the month. This is heartbreaking for the Vanderbeekers, so the children decide it's their mission to change Mr. Beiderman's mind.  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a moving middle grade novel that I instantly loved. It reminded me of the books of my childhood.

There are five Vanderbeeker siblings and tweens can relate to at least one of them. There's twins Jessie and Isa, who are twelve and have a lot of responsibilities. Then there's Oliver, Hyacinth and the youngest, Laney. Surely one of these characters tweens will identify and connect with as they all deal with age appropriate struggles. At the heart of the novel is a heartwarming story about community, family, and friendship. I adored it! 



Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain. Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known. Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for. In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first."



Sophie Foster always knew she was different than everyone else. After an accident at five, she was able to read people's thoughts and had a photographic memory. She obviously stood out at school and was never really able to form meaningful relationships with people her own age. One day she meets Fitz, a mysterious (and good looking) teen who convinces her that she isn't human. She is an elf and she needs to leave the human world and go with him to the magical realm where she will learn how to harness her powers. Once this sinks in and she realizes that her family is in danger if she stays, she goes with Fitz to the magical realm and restarts her life. She attends a magical school, has an elf family that takes her in, and learns about their vastly different world filled with magic, unusual creatures, and worlds, like Atlantis, that she thought were only myths. Sophie makes friends at her new school, some enemies, and finds out that she has memories suppressed within her that might explain who she really is and why she was hiding in the human world. Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities is an entertaining series for fans of high fantasy and Harry Potter

I really enjoyed Sophie from the start of Keeper of the Lost Cities. She has so much going on, you can't help but feel for her. Plus, there's the mystery of who she really is and what she was doing in the human world always hovering in her mind. Then there's the problem of dangerous wildfires in the human realm that point to elf magic and Sophie can't help but wonder who is putting secret messages in her locker? Even though this is "elf" school, tweens can relate to the many challenges that Sophie faces socially and the struggles of navigating a new school. While this novel lacked the magic of the Harry Potter series, it was still a fun read and the fantasy elements as well as a magical school filled a void left by Harry. We will definitely be continuing with this series! 


Have you read these two middle grade novels? Are they on your radar? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm

I am always on the hunt for quality middle grade fiction and I especially love when I see strong female protagonists portrayed in a middle grade fantasy novel.  I also love a good adventure story and who doesn't love pirates? So, immediately Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm caught my eye! 

I am excited to share with you guys a new middle grade fantasy, Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm by Lori Adams. The novel just came out last month and is the first in a new series. It involves magic, pirates, the ocean, and of course a lot of adventure. 


Learn More About the Book:

Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm
Written by Lori Adams

Ages 9-12 | 336 Pages

Publisher: Spyhop Publishing | ISBN-13: 9781737131205

Publisher’s Synopsis: When a young girl learns she is the Last Heir of the legendary pirate Davy Jones, she is whisked away to begin life aboard an enchanted schoolship for Pirate Heirs where danger and excitement awaits.  Contemporary kids who happen to be Heirs of the most villainous and celebrated pirates in history. Superstitions, mysteries, curses, secrets, strange ocean creatures, undead pirates, and seafaring legends will thrill middle-grade readers in this rollicking, globe-trotting adventure. Avalina Jones, the Last Heir of the infamous pirate Davy Jones, has never heard of Sea Magic, flying dinghies, Pirate Heir schoolships, phantom islands, undead pirates, or creatures called Half Ones. And she has never understood her strange connection to water. But when a beautiful woman arrives in a swirling waterspout, Avalina’s life explodes with more adventures than she can possibly imagine. She takes her rightful place aboard a giant Pirate Heir schoolship teeming with Heirs of the world’s most nefarious pirates. Raised as a Landlubber, Avalina quickly realizes bizarre and danger are normal aboard Pirate Heir schoolships-food fights back, school supplies giggle or explode in your face. And not everyone can be trusted. When Avalina is accused of a terrible crime, she must prove her innocence or risk being banished from the schoolship forever-and this in the middle of a crucial Treasure Hunt! Avalina races to unlock the secrets of the ship, and makes a dangerous discovery that threatens everyone aboard. With the help of her new friends Charlie, Pippa, and Bummy, Avalina draws closer to the truth, unaware that a deeper, darker fate awaits. Author Lori Adams expertly delivers a story that is timeless, bringing together elements of sea lore, magic, and adventure. The first book in a seven-book series, Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm, is a romping tale for middle graders who are searching for the next enduring fantasy classic.


You can purchase your own copy of Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm at Amazon or Bookshop. You can also learn more about Lori Adams by visiting her website.  



The Giveaway:


I've teamed up with The Children's Book Review and Lori Adams to host this great giveaway today. One grand prize winner will win an Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm prize pack that includes an autographed copy of Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm, an Avalina Jones quote tote, a Hands-Off Me Gigglin' Grog mug, an Avalina Jones fridge magnet, and an Avalina Jones bookmark.  Two lucky winners will receive an autographed copy of Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm and an Avalina Jones bookmark.   
Good luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Book Review: Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman

Pages: 288
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books by Author: If I Stay,
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It’s the summer of 1987, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals on the boardwalk. But Danny wants to be with his own friends, and Bug’s mom is too busy, so Bug is stuck with their neighbor Philip’s nephew, Frankie.  Bug’s not too excited about hanging out with a kid she’s never met, but they soon find some common ground. And as the summer unfolds, they find themselves learning some important lessons about each other, and the world.  Like what it means to be your true self and how to be a good ally for others. That family can be the people you’re related to, but also the people you choose to have around you. And that even though life isn’t always fair, we can all do our part to make it more just.




Bug is a tween growing up in the late 1980s. It's the summer and for Bug, the summer has always been about the beach that is until plans change this year. Normally her brother, Danny, watches her and they go to Venice Beach together, but this summer is different.  Danny is now a teenager and doesn't want to hangout with his little sister day in and day out.  Naturally, he would rather hangout with his friends. This obviously crushes Bug, because not only does she look forward to summer days at the beach, she is also disappointed that her brother has pushed her aside.  Bug's mother has good news though.  Her best friend who lives upstairs has his nephew, Frankie, visiting for the summer and he is the same age as Bug.  At first, things are awkward between Bug and Frankie, but eventually they hit it off.  Together they hope to solve the crime of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been targeting their area.  However, things quickly go from a more relaxed "investigation" to a more serious once when Phillip, Frankie's uncle, is attacked.  Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman is a brilliant coming-of-age story about two friends with the whole summer ahead of them, but it is actually a lot more than your usual summer reader. Readers will appreciate the subtle messages throughout and Forman's expert way of dealing with difficult, yet timely issues.  Frankie & Bug is such a memorable read.

I really enjoyed Bug from the beginning in Frankie & Bug. Forman has a way of developing characters that readers can connect with and root for. I truly cared for her and was so thankful when she met Frankie as Bug really needs a good friend.  I really loved their friendship and how it evolved.  At first, they are both into discovering who the Midnight Marauder is, but then that all changes when Phillip is attacked. As they look into what exactly happened to Phillip, they learn the truth surrounding many family secrets and just how unfair life can be at times.

Forman keeps things light enough throughout Frankie & Bug that the story never feels too heavy, but she somehow still addresses such important issues, such as racism, LGTBQ issues, skinheads, and common prejudices.  Without giving too much away, Frankie is a trans youth and Forman dives into this topic expertly and carefully.  I think Frankie's story can be appreciated by so many middle grade readers and some may relate to it.  Bug is also a female of mixed race and Forman highlights how physical appearances can sometimes play into prejudices as her brother Daniel looks more like their father from El Savador and Bug looks more like her white mother.  There are many heavy topics explored, but Forman covers it all in such a way that it's part of the story and not preachy. 

Simply put, Forman is an expert writer and one of my favorites. Her writing is so accessible and I think this middle grade debut is an important one and I'd love to see in every middle grade school library.  

So, are you a fan of Gayle Forman? Is Frankie & Bug on your TBR list? Do you enjoy middle grade fiction? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Bradley's Dragons

I love sharing a good fantasy with my eldest son and there's nothing better than seeing him get lost in a great book.  That's why I am excited to share with you guys today a fantastic new middle grade fantasy, Bradley's Dragons by Patrick Matthews, and host a giveaway for it, too! I know I love curling up with a good fantasy, especially with fall approaching and families staying home more often than usual. 

Learn More About Bradley's Dragons:

Publisher’s Synopsis: "The Hunters are Coming. The first time a hunter came for him, Bradley Nash was only nine years old. That was three years ago. Now, he lives with his family in a Florida trailer park. He doesn’t remember the attack, doesn’t know anything about hunters, or dragons, or even magic. As his twelfth birthday approaches, however, his peaceful life starts falling apart. The hunters are coming, and if Bradley doesn’t figure out exactly who and what he is, everything he’s ever known will be destroyed. “The novel teems with drama from the first page, and readers will be swept up by intrigue and action.” —The Children’s Book Review
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Second Story Up | July 7, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1733077743  
You can purchase Bradley's Dragons at Amazon or   To learn more about Patrick Matthews, you can visit his website and also visit the website for Bradley's Dragons

The Giveaway:

I've partnered with The Children's Book Review and Second Story Up to share with you guys a giveaway for your own hardcover copy of Bradley's Dragons signed by Patrick Matthews and a dragon sun catcher by the Glassy Geek.  Eight other winners will receive hardcover copies of Bradley's Dragons signed by Patrick Matthews.  The giveaway begins September 1, 2020 at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends September 30, 2020 at 11:59 P.M. MT.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry

Pages: 336
Genre: Children's/Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Greenwillow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "In the stand-alone companion to the New York Times–bestselling A Wolf Called Wander, a young orca whale must lead her brother on a tumultuous journey to be reunited with their pod. This gorgeously illustrated animal adventure novel explores family bonds, survival, global warming, and a changing seascape. Includes information about orcas and their habitats.  For Vega and her family, salmon is life. And Vega is learning to be a salmon finder, preparing for the day when she will be her family’s matriarch. But then she and her brother Deneb are separated from their pod when a devastating earthquake and tsunami render the seascape unrecognizable. Vega must use every skill she has to lead her brother back to their family. The young orcas face a shark attack, hunger, the deep ocean, and polluted waters on their journey. Will Vega become the leader she’s destined to be?  A Whale of the Wild weaves a heart-stopping tale of survival with impeccable research on a delicate ecosystem and threats to marine life."

Vega is an orca and lives with her family in the beautiful, and sometimes dangerous, Salish Sea.  Vega hopes to become a wayfinder, or salmon hunter, for her family and she is encouraged to find the gathering place that her family needs to locate in order to hunt for salmon. Things don't go smoothly for Vega and this leaves her questioning many things.  To top it off, her mother is pregnant and Vega hopes that this will be the little sister she has always dreamed of--a friend, a companion, and so much more.  Again, things don't go well for Vega's mother and the baby whale, so this leaves Vega even more distressed than before as she leaves her pod behind.  Deneb, her younger brother, finds her just before more tragedy strikes and now they find they are both separated from their pod and out in the open ocean.  Vega knows that now more than ever, it's up to her to lead not only her brother safely home, but get herself home too as her family is counting on her in A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry.

Even though Vega is an orca whale, I think many kids can relate to her struggles in A Whale of the Wild. Vega must find out where she fits in, she must have confidence, she must deal with life's disappointments, and ultimately, the sadness of grief. These are all aspects of Vega that I found myself relating to as well.  Parry does a great job making Vega relatable despite the fact that she is an orca whale.  When Vega loses her little sister during birth, it just about broke my heart.  I kept remembering the news report about the orca whale who lost her calf at birth and carried her around for quite some time.  If that doesn't tug on your heart strings, I don't know what will.

What I especially appreciated about A Whale of the Wild was the environmental themes throughout. Teaching children to respect animals, to not pollute the ocean, and take care of our environment is crucial. I think younger children can appreciate these important lessons especially after reading stories like this. Children learn so much about the marine ecosystem when they read A Whale of the Wild; plus, it may inspire young children to help the orcas, learn about global warming, and what we can do to preserve the enviornemnt for future generations. 

A Whale of the Wild includes some beautiful illustrations that I know children will appreciate.  As an educator and an ocean life fanatic, I also appreciated the maps, wildlife facts, and resources for children to learn even more.  I think this book would be a great addition to an ocean/sea life unit for upper elementary to lower middle grade students.  Fans of animal stories, as well as ocean life, will love going on this adventure with Vega and her family.

Are you a fan of animal fiction? I love any and all stories that deal with the ocean and its creatures. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  You can purchase your own copy of A Whale of the Wild at AmazonAudible, or at  Also, you can also visit HarperCollins Children's Books on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  

The Giveaway:

I am very excited to share with you guys today a giveaway for A Whale of the Wild. I have partnered with The Children's Book Review and HarperCollins Children's Books to host a giveaway for a copy of your own and there will be five winners!  The giveaway begins September 1, 2020 at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends September 15, 2020 at 11:59 P.M. MT.  Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 21, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Monster Catchers by George Brewington

Pages: 288
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction/Fantasy
Pub. Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "A father-son monster hunter duo must save the Bay Area from an evil villain in The Monster Catchers, a madcap middle-grade fantasy debut from George Brewington.  If there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?Buckleby and Son!  Whether it's a goblin in the garden or a fairy in the attic, Bailey Buckleby and his dad can rid your home of whatever monster is troubling you—for the right price. But when Bailey discovers that his dad has been lying—their pet troll Henry is actually a kidnapped baby sea giant—he begins to question the family business. Enter Axel Pazuzu, criminal mastermind, who will stop at nothing to make a buck. With everyone and everything he loves in peril, it's up to Bailey to save his family and set things right in this funny, fantastical adventure."

Bailey Buckleby lives an interesting life in San Francisco, California with his father.  They run a monster catching business and a souvenir store that features some of San Francisco's most strange things.  Bailey, and a few others, know the secret that is in the back room of their store: monsters! Monsters are everywhere; in fact, one of Bailey's pets is a Swiss Troll, so his dad says, that he often dresses up like a human and takes for a walk to the beach.  Also, Bailey accompanies his monster hunting father on trips to rid monsters from people's homes.  He isn't able to share this secret with anyone until he meets Savannah, a fellow seventh grade student, who knows about the presence of monsters.  As the story progresses, Bailey meets Axel, part human/part dog, and he wants to take down Buckleby and Sons and also keep Henry, the supposed Swiss Troll, for himself.  Axel starts making Bailey question things his father has told him in the past, especially about Henry and the untimely death of his mother.  His interaction with Axel really highlights the differences between Bailey and his father.  Can the father and son duo defeat Axel and his clan? Is Henry truly a Swiss troll or are there are more secrets Bailey's father is keeping from him and what exactly happened to Bailey's mother?  George Brewington's debut, The Monster Catchers, is an adventurous tale for children who love imaginative stories filled with monsters, action, and heroic children.

Bailey Buckleby is such a fun character and his interest in monsters is heartwarming in The Monster Catchers. Bailey doesn't necessarily agree with his father that they should catch monsters, put them in cages and sell them for profit. This doesn't sit well with Bailey and he starts to realize that monsters have feelings just like he does and perhaps not all are bad.  This is a good message to the story that can lend itself to discussion.  I really enjoyed Bailey and the fact that he was caring, brave, and very smart....not to mention his awesome frisbee skills!

I also really enjoyed the fact that the father and son duo in The Monster Catchers worked together and that Bailey was such an integral part of the team.  What fun! My son loves all things monsters, so he couldn't want to find out what the Bucklebys were up to next.  His father, Dougie, was the polar opposite of Bailey, but I liked that the characters were foils for each other.  While I usually didn't agree with Dougie, I was still rooting for the Buckleby family in the end.

If you have an upper elementary child or a middle grade child at home that loves high fantasy as well as monsters, give The Monster Catchers a try this summer. My son was glued to the pages when I read this book aloud to him and he kept asking me to read more.  The unusual monsters, the interesting characters, and the world that Bailey lives in kept my son excited.  What more could you want from a summer read?

Thanks to Henry Holt, I am hosting a giveaway for an ebook of The Monster Catchers by George Brewington. This would be the perfect ebook to load onto your child's e-reader this summer or to share as an engaging read-aloud.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Book Review: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Pages: 351
Genre: MG Fantasy
Pub. Date: June 7, 2006
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.  Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken -- Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good -- powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most."

Seth and Kendra are visiting their grandparents for three weeks during the summer while their parents go on an adults-only vacation.  Except their grandparents aren't your usual sort of grandparents. They live in a large house surrounded by a gate in rural Connecticut and own a lot of land. As time goes on, Seth and Kendra come to find that their grandparents are the caregivers of Fablehaven, a secret refuge for magical creatures.  Looks like their summer just got a little more interesting!  With a ton of mythical creatures like fairies, witches, imps and more surrounding their gates what could go wrong? Brandon Mull's middle grade debut, Fablehaven, is a fun romp through a fantastical world filled with lots of mythical creatures. Fans of Harry Potter as well as The Hobbit will enjoy this book the most.

Seth and Kendra are foils of each other in Fablehaven.  Kendra, the older sister, is cautious and thinks things through whereas Seth is rebellious and pushes boundaries.  Seth makes some seriously bad decisions in this book, but I realize that it was necessary to get the plot going.  He wanders off in the woods (which is forbidden!) and that's when he encounters his first magical creature. He also tries to catch a fairy, which ends up being a disaster, so needless to say, it was one thing after another for poor Seth.  Kendra is the older sister that often tries to help him get out of his messes, but I was happy to see her grow up a bit this summer, gain some confidence, and some courage on her own.

I loved that Mull made Seth and Kendra's grandparents very important characters in Fablehaven. It's not often we see strong relationship with grandparents in MG or YA literature, so this was a nice touch.  I loved how Seth and Kendra got to know them, the secrets surrounding Fablehaven, and so much more.

Mull created such a cool little world in Fablehaven. I loved the grandparent's old house, the large attic room, the surrounding estate, and the mysterious woods by their house.  Mull did a great job with world building. He also did an excellent job bringing all these mythical creatures to life. The Midsummer Eve scene, where the various ghouls, fairies, and other unmentionables are out for the night was downright spooky. When I was reading it aloud to my son, even I got a little freaked out!

There were some overly wordy parts as Mull's writing style does take a while to get used to.  To be honest, it read like a YA novel more times than not and it was a little darker than I expected; nonetheless, my son and I thoroughly enjoyed the start to the Fablehaven series. We are both hooked and can't wait to pick up book two. I love that I have found a series that I can read-aloud to my son and enjoy just as much as he can!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Blog Tour: The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

Pages: 384
Genre: Middle Grade
Pub. Date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Random House 
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It's about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It's about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music and magic. It's about discovering your heart's true desire, and learning that the impossible might just be possible."

William Trundle is a ten year old dinosaur fanatic.  He absolutely loves them; in fact, it's the one thing that truly brings him joy and it's the one thing he really wants for Christmas even though he knows dinosaurs are extinct.  William leads a normal life with his dad, who loves all things Christmas, but William is a little bit different than the other kids. He is confined to a wheelchair due to an accident when he was a young child.  So oftentimes at school, he gets bullied by Brenda Payne, the meanest girl in school.  Meanwhile at the North Pole, Santa's elves find an egg from long ago that just so happens to be a dinosaur egg and it hatches! Santa knows about William's dinosaur wishes and creates an amazing dinosaur toy that looks just like the dinosaur that hatched at the North Pole.  While packing up the sleigh, the real dinosaur jumps aboard and the rest that ensues is a grand adventure for William and the dinosaur.  The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher is an adorable Christmas story, especially for children that love all things dinosaurs as well as feel-good holiday tales.  

William is the type of character that you root for from the beginning in The Christmasaurus.  Williams back story is a sad one, but his relationship with his dad is great and definitely makes up for some of the heartache he endured.  He and his dad make a great team and it was heartwarming to see as oftentimes relationship with parents, at least in many middle grade novels, are not so great.  Also, I hated how Brenda Payne was mean to William; it broke my heart, but as the story unfolds, the readers find out why Brenda acts the way she does. 

The Christmasaurus is such a fun Christmas adventure! I read this story aloud to my son (another dinosaur fanatic) and he absolutely loved it.  Between all the fun Christmas aspects of the story and the focus on dinosaurs, he was in heaven.  Plus, there is an antagonist that my son loved to hate.  

The author, Tom Fletcher, is a song-writer and that really shows through in The Christmasaurus Santa's elves spoke with a lot of rhyming and singing. The "songs" that were included in the story were delightful and a lot of fun.  Some of the elves' jokes made my son laugh-out-loud. 

If you are looking for a heartwarming tale to share with your child this holiday season, check out The Christmasaurus.  It is filled with dinosaurs, friendship, forgiveness, and a major does of holiday magic.  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Pages: 220
Genre: Children's/Middle Grade
Pub. Date: October 16, 1950
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, completed in the winter of 1949 & published in 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Prof. Digory Kirke's house that leads to the magical land of Narnia, which is currently under the spell of a witch. The four children fulfill an ancient, mysterious prophecy while in Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan (the Turkish word for lion) & his army save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who's reigned over the Narnia in winter for 100 years."

To avoid the air-raids during the war, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy leave London for the English countryside. They stay at a professor's large home and while exploring it they come across a large wardrobe. During a game of hide and seek, Lucy, the youngest child, hides in the wardrobe and accidentally stumbles upon a hidden land within the wardrobe. This land is Narnia and it's under the White Witch's spell, which makes it perpetually winter, but never Christmas! While there Lucy meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus, and they become friends. He takes her back to the wardrobe and she can't wait to tell her siblings about Narnia, but there's one major problem. They don't believe her.  Edmund follows Lucy into Narnia without her knowing, but of course upon his arrival back home Edmund doesn't back up Lucy's story of its existence.  Eventually all four siblings do go back to Narnia, unexpectedly and while there they find out Mr. Tumnus has been taken by the White Witch.  And from here the adventure ensues.  The classic story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an exciting tale of good versus evil and includes a lot of action that children will appreciate.

I really enjoyed the characters of Peter, Susan, and Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Edmund drove me nuts with his betrayal, but obviously Lewis did that on purpose.  I was so disappointed that he wouldn't back up Lucy's story about Narnia. But in the end, this story does examine the importance of forgiveness.  Since this was written in 1950, it had the girls casted in traditional gender roles, but other than that I enjoyed the Pevensie children.

I loved all the adventure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was so much fun! My son and I read it together and we were on the edge of our seats, especially when it came to the fight scenes or anything with Aslan, the lion king.  

The writing style is easy for kids to follow; in fact there are some parts where C.S. Lewis speaks directly to the reader, so that was definitely unique.   However, I didn't appreciate a lot of the Christian symbolism in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe though.  I thought it was a little too much at times, but only older readers will really pick up the bulk of it.

There are other books in this series and I am not sure if we will continue with it at this time, but it was definitely an exciting adventure and a fantastic read-aloud.  So, if you are looking for a fun read-aloud or book to share with your young one, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a classic that shouldn't be missed. It's on sale for $1.99 as an ebook; that's a steal!

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