Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five Soon-To-Be-Released MGs

I don't have a Top Ten Tuesday list today. I wracked my brain for characters that remind me of myself or people I know, but with little success. I could come up with a few shared traits here or there, but no characters who really reminded me of myself. I know there are such characters--but I couldn't think of them.

I asked my family.They thought for a few minutes. Then they, too, shook their heads. "I can't think of any characters who remind me of me," said my daughter.

"But ... don't you need to identify with the main character?" I asked. "And don't you identify better when they are like you in some way?"

"Here's the thing," said my son. "The most interesting literary characters--the ones we remember--are the ones about whom we know a lot of specific details. But knowing these details individualizes them. It makes it less likely that they'll remind us of us."

"Yes," said my daughter. "And the ones people intensely identify with are sometimes just shells of characters, like Bella in Twilight. Readers can put themselves in her mold, and that's why so many teen girls have such a connection to her. She could be anybody. She doesn't have any specific personality traits that would allow her to be a dynamic character." *

And we were off on a discussion of literature and why it is or is not important to relate to the character you are reading about. I still maintain that it's important for kids to see themselves and their lives reflected in the books they read. But I can't seem to point to specific examples from my own reading.

So that's why I don't have a Top Ten list of characters that remind me of me. Apparently my mind just doesn't work that way. However, you can go here to read other people's lists .

Instead, I'm going to share five soon-to-be-released middle grade books I'm excited about. 

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe

Release date: September 4, 2012

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

Release date: August 21, 2012

Malcolm at Midnight by W. H. Beck

Release date: September 4, 2012

The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau

Release date: August 14, 2012



The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand

Release date: August 28, 2012
* Disclaimer: The thoughts about Bella are those of my daughter. I have no desire to get into a discussion about the literary merits of Twilight.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Sway

June might seem early to start thinking about the 2013 Newbery awards, but Sway, a middle grade novel by AmberMcRee Turner, is already getting some buzz.

In ten-year-old Cass’s eyes, her mother, Toodi Bleu, can do no wrong. After all, she’s a hero--as a member of the Southern Mobile Aid Response Team, she helps people deal with  the aftermath of twisters, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. Cass desperately hopes she’ll be allowed to join her mother on her next rescue mission.

But Mom’s visit home goes horribly wrong. Instead of taking Cass with her, Toodi abandons her family. Unable to accept the situation, Cass decides the desertion must be her father’s fault. She dreams up ways to make contact with Toodi, even as Dad hatches a crazy plan of his own. Disguised as his alter-ego, M. B. McClean, and armed with a suitcase full of soap fragments, he takes the reluctant Cass on a road trip through the South. He’s determined to introduce her to sway, a mystical power that he claims runs in their family, with stops along the way that straddle the line between medicine show, scam, and performance art.

Turner’s well-drawn characters are what makes the book so special. The adults and children in Sway are smart, talented, quirky, outrageous, and imperfect--but they are authentic and believable, even when their actions are over the top.

I highly recommend this book. As Cass’s motor-driven cousin, Syd, would say, it’s awes. As Cass might say, it will leave you utterly flabberwobbled. Since I don’t have Turner’s gift for inventive language, I’ll just say it’s poignant, heartwarming, and laugh-out-loud funny.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten MG Books To Read

It's Top Ten Tuesday! Here are the top ten books on my Middle Grade TBR list, and the reasons I want to read them.

1) Sway by Amber Mcree Turner - I’m intrigued by the idea of a magical force called Sway. And the excerpt I read was absolutely brimming with voice.

2) Beswitched by Kate Saunders - A timeslip novel in which a girl gets sent off to boarding school and winds up in the past. The premise reminds me of the 1969 children's book Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer.

3) The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 2: Spellbound by Jacqueline West - I liked the first one. Also, I want to find out what happens to Morton. And Book 3, The Second Spy, will be out in July.

4) Mistress of the Storm by M. L. Welsh - The blurb intrigues me: Verity Gallant knows she’ll never be as pretty and popular as Poppy, her perfect little sister-- she doesn’t quite fit in. But when a mysterious stranger hands her an ancient red book, everything changes.

5) Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach - It’s a mystery, and it’s by the author of Shakespeare’s Secret.

 6) Cold Cereal by Adam Rex - Something strange is going on in the Goodco Cereal Company! Reviews tell me this is a quirky and funny story about a boy named Scott (short for 'Scottish Play'--yeah, his dad was an actor), and a pair of super-smart twins named Erno and Emily. It's got leprechauns, magic, evil science experiments, and riddles. This is by the author of The True Meaning of Smekday.

7) See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles - I saw Jo’s post about the NYT review of her book on the BlueBoards. The characters sound likeable and authentic, and the excerpt I read on Amazon made me want to read more.

8) Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell In Love by Lauren Tarshis. Because I haven’t read them yet, and they sound delightful.

9)  Juniper Berry by M. P. Kozlowsky - Juniper, the eleven-year-old daughter of a famous actor and actress, teams up with Giles, a neighbor boy, to figure out why neither set of parents have been quite themselves lately. A dark and quirky debut novel with elements of Grimm, according to the reviews I've read. Check out the trailer below:

And, last but not least ...

10) The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart - A prequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society books! Need I say more?

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a delightful weekly meme created by the list-loving bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish.   Each week they post a new Top Ten list on a particular theme. Everyone is welcome to join--click here to find out how.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Camo Girl

I absolutely, positively loved Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon. I was sad when I got to the end; I wanted to spend more time with Ella, Bailey, and Z. Camo Girl is not a light read--it  touches on very serious topics, including bullying, mental illness, homelessness, gambling addiction, poor self image, and loss of loved ones. Somehow, Kekla Magoon has woven these elements into a satisfying, warm, and uplifting story (even if it did make me cry).

Warning: There are spoilers below. But even if you know what's coming, this book is well worth the read.

Camo Girl is narrated in the first person by Ella, a biracial girl with vitiligo, nicknamed Camo Face by school bullies. Ella’s best friend, Z, is a small, white boy who has been slipping into a fantasy world since his father left and his mother lost their home. Z has built an elaborate make-believe in which he is Sir Zachariah, a noble knight, and Ella is the fair and brave Lady Eleanor. Though Ella knows it’s not real, she plays along. Z may be weird, but having a friend better than being alone. And besides, he needs her; he’d never survive middle school on his own. Being teased isn’t easy, but Ella manages to be comfortable with the status quo--until a new boy transfers in. Bailey is the only other black student in their school. He’s cool, popular, athletic, cute … everything Ella is not. And yet he actually seems to like her--or maybe he just wants permission to use the basketball hoop in her driveway. Whatever the reason, the two form a tentative friendship. Z doesn’t respond well to this new development, and Ella feels conflicted. When Z goes missing, she’s determined to track him down--even if it means lying,  borrowing money, and running away to Vegas.

I definitely want to read more by Kekla Magoon.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays is a meme started by the wonderful Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities.  If you want to join the fun, e-mail Shannon Messenger at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com.with a link to your blog and the title of the middle grade book you're featuring. Put MMGM in the subject line. Please email her by Sunday night to be mentioned in her Monday post. Visit Shannon's blog for more details and for a list of participants with links.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Middle Grade Beach Reads

Obviously, the perfect beach read will look different for everyone. Since there are so many awesome lists of novels for YA and adults (click on the links here to see them), I thought I'd give my list a Readatouille slant and focus on books for middle grade children, particularly girls 8 - 12. Here are ten amazing books that will transport young (and older) readers to another place and time.

by Polly Shulman

The Grimm Legacy

A young teen goes to work in a lending library that specializes in artifacts--and there’s a special collection called the Grimm Legacy that consists of objects from fairy tales that have certain strange powers. If you liked When You Reach Me, you'll love this one!

by Shannon Hale

 Princess Academy

The prince will select his future bride from the girls in Miri's village--and that means every girl must attend Princess Academy and learn to be a princess.

by Eleanor Estes

The Witch Family

One of my most beloved childhood favorites, and still a great read. This book is chock-full of memorable characters, including best friends Amy and Clarissa, Malachi the spelling bumblebee, Hannah, the little witch girl, her baby sister, Weenie Witch, and  wonderfully scary Old Witch. There's even a little mermaid and a mermaid baby sister.

by Phoebe Stone

The Romeo and Juliet Code

This is not a teen romance, as the cover suggests. It's actually a quirky family mystery set in World War II. The main character loves the books of Frances Hodgson Burnett, and vows to become an authority on them. Click here for my complete review.

by Elise Broach

Shakespeare's Secret

There might be a diamond hidden in Hero's new house--and it may hold the secret to Shakespeare's true identity. Hero (who was named for a character in Much Ado About Nothing) and her new friend, Danny, are determined to solve the mystery.

by Meg Wolitzer
The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

An insider look at the world of competitive Scrabble. Sort of like the documentary Word Wars--only with preteens, and secret powers, and a far more uplifting and satisfying story. My complete review is here.

by Ingrid Law


Everyone in Mibs' family has a 'savvy'--a supernatural power that arrives when they turn thirteen. If you enjoy Savvy, you'll also want to read its sequel, Scumble.

by Wendy Mass

The Candymakers

Four kids enter the magical world of a candy factory to compete in a high-stakes contest. You won't understand how the characters' interwoven stories connect until the very end, when the loose ends come together in a satisfying and heartwarming conclusion.

by Annie Barrows
The Magic Half

 Miri has a twin--but she's not from the present. This is a charming timeslip novel about a girl who must find a way to help her counterpart in 1935. Barrows is the author of the enchanting Ivy and Bean and coauthor of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (which would definitely be on my list of top ten beach reads for grownups, if I were doing one).

by Elizabeth Kay

 The Divide 

The first in the Divide series. Felix is spending what may be his last summer at the continental divide in Costa Rica. He falls unconscious and slips through the divide into another world, where he is befriended by an elfin girl named Betony and Ironclaw, a mythical animal called a brazzle.

Here are more great middle grade summer reading recommendations.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the list-loving bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they post a new Top Ten list on a particular theme. Everyone is welcome to join--click here to find out how.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Ebenezer's Locker

Ebenezer's Locker by Anne E. Johnson is a fast-paced, humorous, and spooky middle grade mystery. With such delightful elements as ghostly messages written on paper towels in a school restroom, an out-of-body time travel experience, and a secret buried beneath a present-day teacher's lounge, how could it miss? I enjoyed the first-person narration from the POV of spunky sixth grader Rhonda Zymler. The friendship between Rhonda and her two best friends, Ashley and Mica, is believable and adds to the fun. Classmates, school staff, and neighbors (including the class computer whiz, a young lawyer-to-be, an aging psychic, and the school custodian/archivist) round out the cast of human characters. There are a couple of memorable ghostly characters, too. This is a good pick for kids who like "haunted school" stories and can handle a little scariness.

It's possible that not everyone will find this particular passage as funny as I did, but this made me laugh because it reminded me of a conversation I overheard between my daughter and her friends when they were about Rhonda's age:

 Poor Tallulah looked like she'd sent her own spirit into the next world .... 
"Does she need her heart pills, or something?" I whispered. 
"She has heart pills?" Ashley asked.
"How should I know? Don't all old people have heart pills?"

Here's the back cover copy:

A hundred years ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. It seems that a couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.
Ebenezer's Locker follows the adventures of Rhonda, a sassy sixth-grader who's having trouble finding her place and identity. Getting to know these spirits becomes Rhonda's quest. The more she digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose but changes the fortunes of her entire town.
Currently, Ebenezer's Locker is available in all e-book formats from Amazon and MuseItUp Publishing.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays is a meme started by the wonderful Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities.  If you want to join the fun, e-mail Shannon Messenger at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com.with a link to your blog and the title of the middle grade book you're featuring. Put MMGM in the subject line. Please email her by Sunday night to be mentioned in her Monday post. Visit Shannon's blog for more details and for a list of participants with links.