Tag Archives: middle grade

Good book, confusing title

inventors at no 8George might be the unluckiest boy in London.  He’s sure got lists of all the awful things that happen to him.  It’s only after someone tries to steal his last precious item that he connects with the future Ada Lovelace — now acknowledged as the computer programmer extraordinaire of the 19th century—before there even were computers as we know them.

It’s a steampunky kind of world we enter, with automatons, flying mechanical birds, airships, and the like.  You’re never quite sure who George can trust, but Ada is fierce and smart and sneaky, all the things you need in a sidekick that involves traveling to other countries, disguises, orangutans.  It almost makes you wonder why she wasn’t the main character.  Too interesting, maybe.

The only thing I found annoying about the book is the title.  George lives at No. 8 with his “man” Frobisher.  They are not what I would call inventors.  Ada is the inventor, but she lives across the street.  Very little of the book actually takes place at No. 8, since they are out and about trying to get the precious item back.  So I must be missing something.  Maybe it will all be explained in what is sure to involve a sequel?

The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen

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Alcatraz, oh, Alcatraz

If you’ve been longing for a little break from reality and favor prison stories and mysteries, especially if you are already a fan of the Book Scavenger series or Moose & Natalie’s Al Capone adventures,  you’ll want to check out these two.  Both take place at Alcatraz.  Both bring back favorite characters solving new puzzles, while dealing with self-doubt and growing up.  Both are a nice escape from reality and offer some insight into the history of Alcatraz.  Summer reading, anyone?

The Alcatraz Escape (Book Scavenger) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertmann

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve  by Gennifer Choldenko

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A boy on the run, a man struggling with grief, a special bird

boy bird coffin makerThere is an island with flowers made of rubies.

It’s not where Tito, Fia, and Alberto live, but it’s out there, either in someone’s imagination, or maybe just maybe across the horizon – away from an abusive father, far from grief and sadness, just a boat ride away.  But how to get there?

A beautiful, sweet story about love, trust, and the things that make us a family.

The Boy, the Bird, the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

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Wrinkles, time, love, Madeleine

becoming madeleineMy book club is reading A Wrinkle in Time for June, and because my to-be-read stack is so huge, I decided to re-read the Hope Larson graphic novel version for a change of pace.  I love the original, and when I re-read it, I always notice that I remember it differently than it actually is, and that happens with the graphic novel, too. I don’t mind one bit.  It’s wonderful both ways.

And then the other day, Becoming Madeleine landed on my desk at work – a biography of Madeleine L’Engle, written by two of her grandchildren.  The perfect pairing?  Oh yes!   There are journals, grade reports, and pictures. For fans, this is a wonderful look into one writer’s youth and early adult life, and a reminder that even the best writers are rejected and unsure of their talent sometimes.  A good reminder for all.

Becoming Madeleine by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy

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A happy camper she is not…

be preparedVera does not fit in, not at the slumber parties with her school friends, and not – as it turns out – with the other immigrant kids at camp.  This is one of those, “well, it seemed like a good idea…” stories.

For her wealthier friends, going to camp all summer is just a part of what you do.  Maybe you go to horse camp or tennis camp.  Or maybe if you’re Vera, you just hang out on an empty playground all summer.  Until you find out there is a Russian camp your mother just might let you attend.

Somehow your prayers have been answered, and you think you can do all the cool things the other kids are talking about.  Until you get there and find out that it seems pretty much like the rest of your life. Sigh.

A fun read, even if the memories of camp it brings back are not all happy ones.  Perfect for summer.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

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Penderwicks. More Penderwicks.

Penderwicks-At-Last-450wThere is nothing quite like a good Penderwicks story.  Cozy – no murders or anything too awful – and just enough drama and anger to keep things churning.  Dare I say it – meaning only nice things by it – they are comforting?  The characters are relatable.  The settings are safe other than the occasional roof-climbing or pasture-breaching.  The family is supportive and quirky.

In The Penderwicks at Last, the family is returning to Arundel, where they started.  Rosalind is getting married.  Jeffrey’s unhappy mom has turned over Arundel to him, so he’s invited the family to celebrate there.  The youngest, Lydia, is the center of it all – making new friends, appreciating sheep, finding out what Arundel is really about for them all.  The perfect read for a Sunday afternoon.

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall

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Calling Prince Charming… anyone? Anyone?

Boy-Who-Went-MagicPrince Voss is just all kinds of bad decisions and misplaced anger, with a side of evil thrown in.  He’d be happy to join the Dark Side if it meant bringing his royal family (meaning him) back into complete control of, well, everything.

Sadly for him, pesky Young Bert and his extremely calm sidekick, Norton, are going to mess up the best of his evil plans.  Bert lives most of his life in a boarding school, trying to lie low and not be too noticeable, so being the center of any attention is not his happy place.

However, there will be a lot of excitement before this story is through.  Also an airship, a pirate called the Professor, and a smartypants girl named Finch to add to the fun.

There is magic, but this is not a lame trying-to-be-Harry-Potter-and-failing story.  It’s all its own and a wonderful ride.

The Boy Who Went Magic by A.P. Winter

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Final frontiers and beyond. With poison.

waste of spaceOne reason I love pretty much any book by Stuart Gibbs is that he throws in interesting facts, and he’s done all kinds of research, just so he can drop a line or two in the middle of an otherwise action-packed and kind of silly story, and suddenly you’ve learned something about rocket science.  Look through his website (www.stuartgibbs.com) and you’ll see what I mean  In a world of fake news, this is – for book-loving nerds – like strawberry pie on a summer day.  I don’t really know where I was going with that.  I might just have been thinking about strawberry pie.

In any case, right in there with the mystery about who poisoned an entitled rick jerk named Lars is some cool space travel information about what life on the moon might really be like, as well as an explanation of how someone might make cyanide on the moon.  You never know what you’ll come across.

It’s the last of the Moon Base Alpha series, but I know he’ll be on to something else awesome, so it’s ok.  It’s really ok.  Really.

Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs

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When ASL + FROG = EXCELLENT

charlie and frogIf you throw in Charlie, too, it’s probably super excellent.

Charlie is just an afterthought for his globe-trotting, animal-saving parents and the tv-obsessed grandparents he’s been left with until he hops on the gondola – A GONDOLA, people! – and goes across the river to Castle-on-the-Hudson, where the Castle Family runs a school for the deaf.  The village is full of folks who can sign and/or speak, helping Charlie and his new friend, Frog, communicate and start to unravel a mystery.

The Castles — Frog’s family – are getting ready for a big school event and Charlie’s grandparents are more interested in infomercials than him, so Charlie and Frog have the freedom to roam the village, investigate the graveyard, ask questions and observe.

It’s a sweet and fun mystery, both because of the veiled references to Nancy Drew and other kid crime-fighters and because of the opportunity to see hearing and deaf characters interact so realistically in an adventure.  Signing is always an ability here rather than the result of the opposite, and that is great for both the hearing and the deaf kids who might read it.

Charlie and Frog by Karen Kane

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Throw it all in a blender

The-2BParker-2BInheritance-2Bfinal-2Bcover-2B-25281-2529-202x300History, mysteries, love, friendship, sacrifice, mistakes, an homage.

I’m telling you, people, I think I’m out of superlatives for this one.  That’s why I had to start with a list.  There’s so much in it – from today’s bullies all the way back to those from the past, choices we make every day to stand up or shut up, right on down the line to lost love and finding the people who become your family.

This one’s a keeper, and its love for one of my favorites – The Westing Game – is just one more way it reached out and grabbed me.  Books like this are gateways to all kinds of things – learning about the real history that inspires them, reading other books of all kinds, asking questions about our own families and who we are – and it’s all good.  It’s all good.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

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