Tag Archives: Middle Grade

14 Hollow Road

14 Hollow Road


By Jenn Bishop

6th through MS, 280 pgs., published by Random House, 2017.

  “a gorgeous summer tale” for those who enjoy books like THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall or DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos.

This book has a great home feel about it.

When a tornado rips through the neighborhood, Maddie not only loses her dog and her house, along with the other devastating losses, but her friends go pear-shaped on her, a newcomer comes between her and her “boyfriend” and on top of that, other complications surface with her new living arrangements.

Things are hopeful if one can circle back to one’s family.  If one can circle back..

The Deavys


The Deavys
By Allen Dean Foster
Age Range: 9 – 15 years
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween (February 16, 2016)

It came to my attention recently that my post about this fantastic new upper middle grade-young adult fantasy fiction book had not been received. To which I apologize! Both the head librarian and I agree that more books using great vocabulary, enchanting stories, and frankly a lack of romance need to be written. This marvelously imaginative tale written by a perennial favorite science fiction / fantasy author of mine showed up about two months ago on Netgalley. I was excited to read it, and I sat in our school chortling at clever turns of phrase, and fun action that managed to capture a fantastical quest but maintain a youthful exuberance I find lacking in a lot of this genre. I mean the kissing frog scene, or the snack cart where you tell the owner what you Wish to eat… Fantastic 🙂

Our heroes are a group of siblings three 12 year old young ladies, N/ice, Rose, and Amber, who are mostly here, and one 16 year old brother Simwan who mostly wishes he wasn’t. They have to use their Magic to recover the Truth that a malevolent Rat stole and took to New York. With them is their guardian/advisor, and overall funny mascot Pithfwid the cat, and assorted other non Ordinary creatures who help or hinder along the way. This is not a terribly deep or epic adventure, but it is a fun romp with a magical family with a backdrop of Ordinary people and Magic (non Ords) set in New England and New York.

I thought this was a wonderful short filled with funny characters with baffling to pronounce names. It isn’t a hard read, but it is one that most of the target age is going to enjoy. The best part is it is not a gender specific tale. The three sisters do tend to run together in my mind (apart from the sometimes here N/Ice) but I loved Simwan’ love hate relationship and fierce protective instinct for his sisters. In short I think our students would love this.

Tortoise and the Soldier

Tortoise and soldier

The Tortoise and the Soldier by Michael Foreman
Age range:7-12
Hardcover, 128 pages
Henry Holt and Co, November 24, 2015

Saw this pop up in my McMillan new book feed and bought it immediately.
This one is going in our school library And my home library. (I am delivering two books to our library today so great day!)
First, full disclosure, I have a tortoise obsessed son who Loves military history so I took a chance based on the description that this would be something he would want to read.
Now this book is a bit young for his reading level (and just like me he read it in one sitting yesterday evening). But it is a wonderful story with beautiful watercolor illustrations and real photographs throughout.

The story starts in the 1950s with our narrator Trevor, going to visit an older gentleman in his small English village who has a tortoise. The Editor wants to know if the tortoise has woken up from his Winter bromation and is walking about yet. So over on his old rickety bike rushes the young teen to see what the big deal about this tortoise is. Trevor asks Mr Friston what’s the tortoises’ story. So while Trevor works around the yard, Mr Friston, recounts his story as a young sailor aboard the HMS Implacable.
Along the way we meet Mr Henry Friston as a young man, Ali Pasha (prince among tortoises), and many exotic locations where Henry was stationed during WWI. I am sure a bit of artistic liscense has been taken, but the book is filled with actual pictures of Henry, the tortoise, and artifacts from Henry’ time in the Royal Navy. The stories about Galipoli are realistic and not pretty, but Mr Foreman tempers the death and tragedy of trench warfare with occasional sometimes dark humor. My favorite is when a truce is called where both sides took “a half time in hell” for first aid and burial to be rendered to both sides. Or later when Henry is carting aboard crates of dates (Ali’ favorite food). This is a middle grade book though, and while some of the story might give sensitive readers pause, it is done in small doses with a huge dollop of compassion and humanity to balance the horror. Besides this is a story about war, and trench ware fare no less.

The author Mr Foreman does explain that he met Mr Friston driving the local bus usually filled with soldiers in WWII, and became friends with Dan, Mr Friston’ son. It was Dan who introduced Michael to Ali Pasha, and he grew up hearing stories about Henry’ time in WWI over many years. So while the story about Henry and his adventures with Ali Pasha are true, the narrative about the newspaper and a young boy learning about it over days is not.

What makes a Monster?

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Serafina and the Black Cloak
Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak
By Robert Beatty
Hardcover: 304 pages
Release date: July 14, 2015 | Age Range: 8 – 12 years | Grade Level: 3 – 7
Disney Hyperion
What an absolute treat. I am so glad I was able to read this as an early eGalley from Disney and Netgalley. I sat down and read it all in under two hours. I rarely devour books like that, but This deservedly has the title of best new work. It is set on the Biltmore Estate during the height of the Vanderbilt’ power and influence. And yet, that scene largely takes a back seat to the goings on of the Biltmore’ quietest and least seen residents: Pa, the estate engineer, an his thirteen year old daughter Serafina. Serafina lives in the basement of the house and knows every nook and cranny. But when she witnesses a terrifying event in the sub basement, she is forced to come out of the shadows to stop a creeping evil from taking anyone else.

This is the best sort of children’ mystery novel. This is a wonderful spooky novel that blends enchanting characters, dark specters, and children running around at night long after the adults have gone to sleep. The Biltmore is a grand backdrop for a classic whodunnit that is sure to please any child with a bent for mystery and mayhem. This will be on our purchase list for the school, and I will be buying a hardback copy for my home library.

Parental note: This is a spooky fairy tale, and the black cloak is classic horror. There are some imagery that might upset younger kids. In fact one scene in particular was enough that it gave me pause thinking “would this be something that gives my ten year old nightmares?” I think the ending resolves that problem, but you have to get that far.