Category Archives: Middle Grade
Last month was Roald Dahl month, and to celebrate Penguin Audio released a slew of Dahl audio titles! Now you can revisit an old favorite, listen for the first time or share them with your kids.
The lovely folks at Penguin Audio were kind enough to send me two sets of Roald Dahl audiobooks, so I have one set to giveaway to one of you!
Included in the prize are the following audiobooks:
Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts – Read by Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig, Miriam Margolyes
The Twits, The Minpins & The Magic Finger – Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, Kate Winslet
George’s Marvelous Medicine – Read by Derek Jacobi
Going Solo – Read by Dan Stevens
Boy – Read by Dan Stevens
The Witches – Read by Miranda Richardson
Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Animal Stories – Read by Quentin Blake, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Chris O’Dowd
Danny the Champion of the World – Read by Peter Serafinowicz
Congrats to Stephanie who won the audiobook collection!
Book: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Terry Fan. Simon & Schuster Audio, September 24, 2013
Book Info: MG Audiobook received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio. Running time: 5 hrs, 50mins. Read by: Nicola Barber. Also available in hardcover, 288 pages from Simon & Schuster.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Rooftoppers is a charming middle grade book about Sophie, a plucky, determined girl in search of her mother. Rooftoppers shows readers a bird’s eye view of Paris, as Sophie travels the city of light from rooftop to rooftop on her quest.
Sophie washed up in a cello case in the English Channel after a shipwreck when she was a baby. A fellow passenger on the Queen Mary, scholar Charles Maxim, picked her up and decided to be her guardian. Together they live a life full of books, music, and delicious treats. Charles raises Sophie to be bold, brave, and inquisitive, encouraging her to forge her own path and that “you should never ignore a possible.”
The National Child Care Agency have kept a close eye on Sophie and Charles, and disapprove of her unconventional upbringing, habit of wearing trousers, writing on walls, and eating peculiarly. And now that Sophie is a young lady of 12, they feel a more “appropriate” guardian should take over. Sophie thinks her only way out is to find her long-lost mother.
Once the action shifts from London to Paris and the mother hunt kicks into high gear, Sophie comes into her own. She goes out on the rooftop and meets Matteo, who only travels by rooftop. Matteo shows Sophie how he gets by eating cooked rat and keeps warm with bird feathers. Matteo is Sophie’s secret weapon to find her mother, and he grudgingly shows her the ropes as they travel all hours of the night. And oh yes, they travel on tight ropes, and my fear of heights reached epic proportions listening to the audiobook.
Sophie is an irresistible and tenacious heroine. She’s used to being under-estimated by those around her, but now in Paris she gets to show what she’s really made of. She has no fear and is steadfast in her goal. Charles and Sophie’s relationship was just perfect, and though I loved getting to know the Rooftoppers, a little more time spent with Sophie and her guardian would have been nice too.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Nicola Barber. Barber gives the voice of Sophie a lot of spunk and personality, and Charles sounds dignified and pleasantly peculiar. With a lot of the book set in Paris, Barber reads Matteo and the Rooftopper gang with a French accent. Her voice for Matteo was spot-on and humorous- he’s kind of a know-it-all type but shows some vulnerability too. The only thing missing from the audiobook experience is that you don’t get to look at Terry Fan’s lovely illustrations.
Katherine Rundell writes a captivating and imaginative story that should appeal to middle grade readers, and their parents as well. And Rundell’s descriptions of food will make your mouth water. I think kids will love the rooftop adventures, and the message to hold on to your dreams, think outside the box, and believe.
September is Roald Dahl month, and to celebrate this splendiforous occasion I’m giving away some brand new Roald Dahl audiobooks!
Roald Dahl is one of my favorite childhood authors, and books like the Charlie Bucket series helped kick off my love of reading. We’ve enjoyed introducing our daughter to his books and the movies based on the books. We liked listening to books on tape in the car when she was younger so I think it’s great that this new audiobook series is out for a new generation to discover Dahl’s work. I’m eager to listen to them myself!
The lovely folks at Penguin Audio were kind enough to send me two sets of Roald Dahl audiobooks, so I have one set to giveaway to one of you!
Included in the prize are the following audiobooks:
The BFG – Read by David Walliams
Matilda – Read by Kate Winslet
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Read by Andrew Scott
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Read by Douglas Hodge
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – Read by Douglas Hodge
Happy Roald Dahl Day! And congrats to Jenna who won the audiobook giveaway! Hurray!
Book: The Wells Bequest (Companion to The Grimm Legacy) by Polly Shulman, Penguin Audio, on sale now. Also available in hardcover from Nancy Paulsen.
Audiobook Info: Middle Grade, Received for review, Audio length: 6 hours 46 minutes, read by Johnny Heller.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
I listened to The Grimm Legacy audiobook last year (review) and thought it was so fun and enchanting, and now a companion book is out. There are some familiar characters from The Grimm Legacy as well as new adventures in the creative world of The Wells Bequest. I wish there really was a cool magical library like the New-York Circulating Material Repository! I would love to visit.
In this middle grade series, the kids always save the day. The Repository’s teen pages are super smart and creative problem solvers. One of the newest employees is Leo, a bright student who finds the Repository when he’s doing research for a science project. He’s also investigating time machines, since he saw a miniaturized version of himself and a girl appear to him. There’s no better place than this library to solve that mystery!
I was happy to read more about the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a library where patrons can check out cool magical objects. There are special collection rooms devoted to different types of items. For example, in the Grimm Collection, you can check out famous artifacts from Grimm’s fairy tales like the Queen’s mirror from Snow White. In this book, the focus is science fiction with The Wells Bequest room that has H.G. Wells-type toys like time machines and shrink rays. Anything is possible in this magical library. Looking forward to discovering the other special collections in future books.
The head page Jaya is a girl who also had a part in The Grimm Legacy, as the younger sister of one of the teen pages, Anjali. Now Jaya is the focus and she’s quite the heroine herself. Leo has a big crush on Jaya, motivated by seeing his future self and her together. They work well at the library- Leo is more cautious and Jaya is bold and brave so they balance each other out.
Since the items available for loan are so special and rare, you can’t check them out with only a library card. You have to offer up something unique to you like your sense of direction, patience, or sense of humor. And if you lose the item, you won’t get your “deposit” back. It would really make me think before I borrowed an object!
I think readers that love adventure and the feeling that anything can happen will eat up this series. The time travel is fascinating stuff and the characters discuss the ramifications and ethics of altering the past. Some of that hurt my brain to think about but it helped if I just went along for the ride. There are some familiar names that pop up in the past that also serves as a fun and educational history lesson.
I listened to the audiobook read by Johnny Heller. Heller is a veteran narrator but I think this is my first experience listening to any of his books. Heller is a great storyteller and makes the story come alive. There are many different characters in the book and Heller gives them all different voices and personalities. He especially gets Leo’s inquisitive voice right. This is a fun audiobook to listen with the family, and the nature of the story lends itself well to audio.
It’s not necessary to read The Grimm Legacy to understand The Wells Bequest; they are standalone books, though some characters do overlap. I read that the author is working on the next Repository book called The Hawthorne Annex, which is the ghostly collection. Looking forward to it!
- Have Time Machine – Will Travel (goodreadswithronna.com)
- ” The Wells Bequest: A Companion To The Grimm Legacy “, Has Been A Must Own Book (kidbooksreview.wordpress.com)
Professor Gargoyle: Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #1 By Charles Gilman: Book Review and Giveaway
Book: Professor Gargoyle: Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #1 by Charles Gilman, Illustrations by Eugene Smith, Quirk Books, Middle Grade series, provided for review from Quirk, Hardcover 175 pages, On Sale Now
Professor Gargoyle is the first book in Quirk’s (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) new middle grade series by Charles Gilman. The lenticular cover of the book is eye-catching, isn’t it? I think it should grab the attention of reluctant readers. Professor Gargoyle provides spine-tingling chills for the middle grade set, and is perfect for fans of R.L. Stine. I think this is a fast, fun read that all ages can enjoy this spooky time of year.
The book begins with 7th grader Robert Arthur starting his first day at Lovecraft Middle School. He’s really uneasy because due to redistricting he’s the only one of his friends attending this school. To make matters worse, he spots his old elementary school nemesis Glenn at Lovecraft. Glenn has no intentions to stop bullying Robert so his first day is off to a bad start. And, even though Lovecraft is a brand-new state-of-the-art school, why do things feel a little off there? Finding a rat in your locker certainly seems like a bad omen. Hey, was this school built on top of the Hellmouth? The school does get its name from H.P. Lovecraft, after all.
Robert loves to read so he is in for a treat with the massive and modern school library. But Robert finds a secret, dusty attic above the library that doesn’t fit in at all with the school’s contemporary aesthetic. He comes away with a two-headed rat hitch-hiking in his backpack that becomes his constant companion.
There are strange happenings going on at Lovecraft. Besides finding rats in the lockers, students are going missing. And Robert’s Science teacher Professor Goyle is acting quite bizarre and mysterious. He keeps all manner of strange animals in his classroom and has eccentric teaching methods. Robert just wants to fly under the radar at his new school but is getting pulled into these mysteries whether he likes it or not.
The book has a lot of creepy goings on and Gilman’s descriptive language of all the spiders and goo should appeal to the target audience. There are also illustrations of all the key moments to give you the full scary effect.
Even though I’m not the intended audience for this book I had a lot of fun reading it and it got me into the Halloween mood. The book should appeal to kids starting a new school or middle school, and addresses relevant topics to the age group such as bullying, gaining confidence and making friends. I’m interested in checking out the next book in the series, The Slither Sisters, in January.
The Giveaway has ended: Congrats to Mary who has won a copy of Professor Gargoyle!
Book Info: Middle Grade, Received from NetGalley, Available in HC 313 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I started reading Wonder on a whim over the weekend and couldn’t put it down. I’d heard good things about the book for months, and liked the book trailer, but for some reason I kept finding other books to read instead. Even though I do like middle grade books, the subject matter of this one gave me pause. Anyway, the story is so engaging and uplifting, much more so than I had expected. Totally a worthwhile read and I’m so glad I finally read it.
10-year-old August Pullman was born with a severe facial abnormality. His parents home schooled him all of his life due to his frequent surgeries and medical appointments. Now, when others August’s age are starting middle school, his parents think the time may be right for August to attend school as well. Auggie is a normal kid inside, smart and funny, and loves Star Wars and videogames. But will his new classmates be able to see past his outward appearance?
Auggie is so endearing- he won me over from the very first pages. I was so scared for him to start middle school. Middle school is terrifying under the best of circumstances! And even though Auggie has seen reactions of strangers around him all his life, it’s hard to prepare yourself for this age group. I, like Auggie, hoped for the best but steeled myself for the worst. His experience has highs and lows and focuses in on a handful of students and teachers and the different ways they interact with Auggie.
There are a few kids assigned to keep an eye out for Auggie at school to show him around. Auggie is very perceptive about others and is a good judge of character- he really is a brave little guy. It’s interesting to see the world through Auggie’s eyes and then later revisit the same scenes through the eyes of his friends when the book shifts to multiple POV. I hadn’t expected the book to shift POV actually, but it does satisfy some curiosity by hearing other characters perspective. Two of Auggie’s classmates, as well as his sister, her friend, and boyfriend all take a turn at the narration. Auggie’s sister Via is a standout character, as she shares the effect her brother has had on her life.
Hearing the different reactions to Auggie made me think about who I would be in the scenario, and I’d react in middle school if I had a classmate like him. My daughter and I had a dialogue about it, and you always hope you’d be compassionate, but it’s hard to know what is the right way to respond in the moment. The book does a great job of making you think about how to treat people fairly and with compassion. The writing is accessible and has a light touch, even though there are some heavy and distressing scenes. It is just perfect for a middle grade audience, and to read aloud for class discussion or at home. But really I think this uplifting story is appealing for all ages.
Check out the book trailer:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio (kid-lit-reviews.com)
- Review : Wonder by R. J. Palacio (tararualibrary.wordpress.com)
- Wonder by RJ Palacio – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Valentine’s Day Kids’ Exclusive: R.J. Palacio on “Wonder” (omnivoracious.com)
- Interview with RJ Palacio, author of Wonder (telegraph.co.uk)
Audiobook Info: Middle Grade, Received for review, Audio length: 9 hours 40 minutes, read by Julia Whelan.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Grimm Legacy is a modern day fairy tale, where a little magic can help transform a Cinderella-like girl’s life. I enjoy fairy tale retellings so I was immediately intrigued with just the title of this one. Wouldn’t it be amazing to check out authentic fairy tale objects from the library? In this magical story you can, and Elizabeth’s job as a page comes with borrowing privileges. You can’t check out Snow White’s stepmother’s magic mirror with a library card however. Prepare to part with something much more valuable like your sense of humor, or the promise of your first-born. And, since someone is stealing from the priceless collection, Elizabeth must find the thief to clear her name and save herself from being the next victim.
Elizabeth is having a tough time of it – her best friend moved away and she doesn’t fit in at school. She lives with her stepmother at home and is tasked with all the chores. Elizabeth’s history teacher takes an interest in her and recommends her for the job of page at the New York Circulating Material Repository, a very unique place. There, she bonds with the other pages that show her the ropes: Anjali, pretty, sweet and smart, Marc, the star athlete from school, and Andrew the distrustful and serious one. Items keep disappearing from the Grimm Collection, and it is starting to look like an inside job. It will take borrowing more magical objects to solve the mystery. Anjali’s clever sister Jaya is also ready to help.
In The Grimm Legacy, the magic takes center stage. The Grimm objects bring the characters together and take over the plot of the book. I really liked the idea of the Grimm collection and all of the storytelling possibilities. From the sassy Magic Mirror to the Mermaid’s comb to the Table-Be-Set, I was enchanted by all of the Grimm items. The characters all show promise as well – I just wanted to learn a little more about them, especially about Elizabeth’s home life. In addition to the mystery of the Grimm thief, there is a little romance found in the story as Elizabeth falls for one of the pages.
The Grimm Legacy originally was released in 2010, but is just now available as an audiobook. Veteran narrator Julia Whelan reads the book, and she’s most recently narrated Die for Me and Partials. Whelan is good with both the female and male voices from the young siblings to the older teachers and librarians. She speaks clearly and reads with a good pace. Whelan captures the spirit of the characters and by using a distinct voice helped me to keep track of them all. I think listeners of all ages would enjoy listening to this audiobook.
The Grimm Legacy feels like the beginning of a series, and it certainly seems that there is more story to tell. But if it’s a standalone, it’s still a fun read. And with the popularity of fairy tale retellings and Once Upon a Time it’s the perfect time to rediscover this book. Looking forward to reading more from Polly Shulman.
Audiobook Info: Middle Grade, Library audiobook, Audio length: 7 hours 20 minutes, read by Emma Galvin.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Armchair Audies Category: Children’s Titles Ages 8-12
Countdown takes place in 1962 and is the story of 11-year-old Franny Chapman. Franny is a middle child living near Andrews Air Force base, and she often feels overlooked. She loves to read aloud, but her teacher never seems to pick her to read for the class. She’s fighting with her friend Margie, her uncle is losing his grip on reality, and her sister is mysteriously absent for long periods of time. And as if it’s not hard enough being 11 already, the Cuban Missile Crisis has everyone in a panic, and Franny fears for her life.
The book Countdown is a documentary novel, and the printed book is scrapbook-like and includes important visual references from 1962 to enhance the reading experience. The audiobook experience is just as rich, however, and includes snippets of speeches, “duck and cover” instructions, presidential biographies, the sound of a typewriter, radio dial, bomb explosions and more. It really feels like you are there in 1962, with all the cultural references of the time. It is one of the more unique and entertaining audiobook experiences I’ve had.
It’s easy to identify with Franny and understand her worries about the world. Even though the book takes place 50 years ago and times have changed a lot, some things are still the same. Friendship conflicts still exist, and fears about the future. Franny is a sweet, sensitive girl who loves Nancy Drew mysteries, and playing her sister Jo Ellen’s 45’s, and is excited to attend her first boy-girl party. The author captures the feeling of that age very well, and made me remember my own time in fifth grade, and I was a worrier like Franny so could definitely relate to that.
One of my favorite YA audiobook narrators, Emma Galvin, reads the audiobook. Her voice works well for a variety of different stories, and again she shines with her performance here. She is believable as the voice of Franny, and gets to the heart of the character. Galvin conveys Franny’s kind and earnest nature and her voice is suited for the time frame. The character differentiations are subtle yet distinct, from Franny’s mother to her Uncle Otts, to her crush Chris. Even without the added bells and whistles found in the audiobook, her performance stands out.
Countdown is the first book in the Sixties trilogy, but it is a complete and satisfying story on it’s own. This book is a lot of fun, educational, and entertaining for both kids and adults. Though it’s meant for a middle grade audience, I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction or contemporary YA would enjoy this book. I recommend listening to the audio format to hear the sound effects and bonus historical material to get a feel for the era.
I listened to this audiobook as a participant in the Armchair Audies. My goal is to listen to all 5 of the middle grade audiobooks nominated for the Audie award, and you can see all the nominees here.
The Audies, sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association, are like the Oscar’s for audiobooks, and recognize distinction in several categories. Jennifer at Literate Housewife is hosting The Armchair Audies, and the idea is to divide up the listening responsibilities so that all of the APA nominees are covered between all interested bloggers. It would be near impossible for any one person to listen to all of the 28 categories, but 1 category per blogger is much more manageable. The Audies award gala is held in New York City on June 5, and we will see how our predictions line up with the winners chosen.
My chosen category is Middle Grade, aka Children’s Titles Ages 8-12. I was tempted by the Teen, Multi-Voiced, and Narrated by the Author categories but realistically can only pick one and Middle Grade won out. This is a great opportunity to expand my horizons in this area and I’ve had my eye on a few of the titles.
The five nominees for Children’s Titles Ages 8-12 are:
Countdown by Deborah Wiles. Narrated by Emma Galvin. Published by Listening Library.
The Hidden Gallery: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Published by Harper Audio.
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. Narrated by Johnny Heller. Published by Recorded Books.
The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson, John Paterson. Narrated by Ralph Lister. Published by Brilliance Audio.
Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson. Narrated by Debbie Allen. Published by Harper Audio.
If you’d like to participate in The Armchair Audies head over to Literate Housewife to select a category and get listening. I’m off to see if the library has these titles so I can get started!
- Announcing the Armchair Audies (literatehousewife.com)
Genre: Middle Grade / Young Adult Science Fiction Manga
Format/pages/source: Trade paperback 192 pages, received for review
Series: Book 1 of a trilogy
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Buy the book: Amazon
More Reviews: Goodreads
I haven’t read too much Manga, or even read Ender’s Game, but this space adventure sounded like something new and entertaining to try. Laddertop is a collaborative book by Orson Scott Card and his daughter Emily Janice Card, and they conceived of the kids-in-space idea during San Diego Comic-Con one year. It’s quick, entertaining and different, and made me interested to read more science fiction books like this, and Ender’s Game.
The story took me a little while to get into at first as I was trying to get my bearings with the artistic style. There are a lot of details to notice in the artwork and you have to pay close attention to get the most out of the story. The story is about two eleven year old middle school girls, Robbi and Azure, who are interested in attending the exclusive Laddertop Academy, a school located in space.
Azure and Robbi are best friends and total opposites. Azure has an over the top personality and is excited about every aspect of Laddertop Academy, while Robbi can take it or leave it, though she does seem to be well suited for it. The story moves at a breakneck pace while the situation is being established and all the characters are introduced. I suspect we will learn more in depth info about the characters in future books. Azure really cracked me up with her bold personality.
The background on Laddertop Academy is that aliens known as Givers came to Earth and created four giant towers that are the ladders leading to space stations that bring power to Earth. They aliens took off and now children are charged with the task of tower maintenance and it has become a very desirable job. There are all kinds of tests that the kids must pass in order to go into space, and this process is shrouded in mystery.
The space training includes many details you may be wondering about space travel, including transport and the cool space chairs you ride in, and even bathroom logistics. I did get a little dizzy reading about the weightlessness portion of the journey.
I read Laddertop in one sitting and thought it did a pretty good job of setting up the series. I’m interested in learning more about the candidate selection process and the Scan test symbols, and about the alien Givers in future installments. This should be a fun series for middle grade readers.
- Laddertop (Excerpt) (tor.com)
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Format: Audiobook received for review: 4 hours, 17 minutes, read by Dwayne Clark. Also available in hardcover, 272 pages.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
More Reviews: Goodreads
Buy the Audiobook: Audible
Read an Excerpt: EW’s Shelf Life
Playground is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s debut young adult novel about teen bullying. He explores this topical issue by sharing some of his own experiences in this fictionalized story. He hopes to reach out to kids to show how bullies are created and that there is hope to overcome it. As a parent, I’m very interested in this topic and was curious to read a story written from the bully’s perspective as a fresh change of pace.
The story is narrated by thirteen-year-old Butterball, nicknamed because of his weight, who lives with his over-worked mother post-split in a Long Island suburb. His father remains in the city where he seems to have more time for his girlfriends than for him. Butterball gets in trouble at school for hitting a kid, his only friend, with D batteries wrapped inside a sock. After that incident, he must attend weekly sessions with a psychologist to get to the bottom of his behavioral issues. The details of what set Butterball off are revealed through the weekly sessions with Liz.
Butterball is a sympathetic character that I think many teens will relate to. After his parent’s split he has to start again in a new neighborhood and school where he is the outsider. The only time he does get respect and positive attention from his peers is when he attacks a fellow student. Even his father seems to like the new bullying ways of his son. The dialogue is realistic and edgy with an uncondescending tone that gets the message across. The language is explicit at times but appropriate to the story and since it is not toned down it is more relatable to the intended audience.
There are many issues presented in the book that go hand in hand with the bullying behavior such as divorce, consumerism, diet and more. I thought these issues were handled with sensitivity and not in a preachy way. It’s interesting to see the circumstances that lead to Butterball’s acting out and it made me more sympathetic to those who exhibit the same behavior. The therapy session storytelling device works well and gives a healing quality to the story.
Dwayne Clark effectively handles the narration and kept the audiobook entertaining throughout. The reading is very lively and the character voices are distinct and believable. At only four hours long, the audiobook is the perfect length for the story and the time flies by.
With bullying now such an epidemic, I appreciate what 50 Cent set out to do with this story. With understanding and respect for the target audience, the thoughtful story has a hopeful tone that may inspire others like Butterball. Recommended for middle schooler’s, parents and educators looking for insight into the mind of a bully.
- WATCH: 50 Cent On Today Show, ‘I Was Actually Bullying’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- 50 Cent to release young adult book about bullying (csmonitor.com)
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format/pages: eGalley provided by NetGalley, available in Hardcover (307 pages)
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
More Reviews: Goodreads
Liesl & Po is Lauren Oliver’s charming middle-grade debut. I have greatly loved this author’s YA books, and though each book is vastly different, her wonderful storytelling is consistent. Ms. Oliver always manages to surprise and impress me with the emotional depth of her characters. Liesl & Po is no different and I enjoyed the dark, magical ghost story feel to it and all the whimsical characters. This deeply personal story is inspired by the death of the author’s best friend, and is something that haunted the pages as I read the book. I think many will be able to relate to the subject matter, and will enjoy the fantasy elements involved as well. To use Liesl’s favorite word, I enjoyed the story ineffably much.
Like a fairy tale, the story begins with Liesl, a young girl who has been locked in an attic by her evil stepmother. Her father has recently died, and now she’s on her own, drawing pictures in the attic. One night a ghost named Po and his ghostly pet Bundle pop in and she asks for Po’s help to find her father on the Other Side. Meanwhile, a young alchemist’s apprentice named Will is sent on an errand to deliver a powerful box of magic, but mistakenly delivers the wrong box. This mix up sets off a sequence of events that brings the story full circle for this eccentric group of characters, and they must go on a journey to make things right.
The story takes place in a bleak, undetermined place where food and money are scarce. The mood is dark, and the setting is literally dark, as the sun hasn’t shone for years. But there is a ray of hope in the characters as they work together to help each other along the way. Liesl is courageous, determined and hopeful, even though she has suffered so much in her young life. Po is a ghost of few words, and is someone who needs Liesl as much as she needs him. The ghostly cat/dog Bundle is adorable too and always there to chime in with a “Mwark”. And young Will is sweet in his obvious affection for Liesl. There are many lighthearted moments between the characters that keep the story from ever being too heavy.
The story is magical and endearing, and the fantasy elements make it easy to imagine it as a movie. Though the subject matter is dark, the touching alliance of the characters brings a ray of hope. The illustrations by Kei Acedara are gorgeous and complement the story perfectly. Recommended for fans of Lauren Oliver’s writing and those that enjoy middle grade and fantasy books. An enchanting read.
Genre: Young Adult / Middle Grade Fantasy
Format/pages: eGalley provided by NetGalley, available in Hardcover (215 pages)
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
More Reviews: Goodreads
Description From Amazon:
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting— he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd— whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself— Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
I’ve never read a book by Patrick Ness, but was intrigued to pick this one up by the title and the cover illustration. I thought maybe it was a horror type book, and it is in a way, but not in the way I had expected. It’s an emotional story that is an uncomfortably realistic portrayal of the emotions felt when dealing the terminal illness of a loved one. I was warned that this book is a tearjerker, but I didn’t anticipate that it would get to me the way that it did. A very powerful read.
A Monster Calls tells the story of Conor, whose mother faces terminal cancer. Conor’s world has been turned upside down as he is hit with the one-two punch of his parents divorce and his mother’s illness. His schoolmates know about his mother’s diagnosis and now they either ignore him entirely or bully him. Now, his grandmother is playing a bigger role in his life, much to his dismay. When the monster, in the form of an old yew tree, starts to appear, Conor thinks it’s another one of his nightmares, though there is physical evidence to the contrary. The monster appears at precisely 12:07 every night to tell three stories to Conor, and then Conor needs to share his own truth with the monster. He has been bottling everything up inside, and telling the truth seems like an impossible task.
Conor’s faced with huge life challenges at such a young age, and it’s impossible not to feel compassion towards him. His internalized pain is eating him alive and made me ache for him. I also found the scenes with his grandmother to be the most surprising and touching. The Monster’s relationship with Conor is also interesting, as he becomes a support system in a way for Conor.
In addition to the compelling and beautifully written story, I found this book to be therapeutic with regards to understanding the grieving process. It really resonated with me and left me with a deeper understanding and comfort with the issues that Conor faced. Though this is a middle grade book for younger readers I think many adults will appreciate this book and may find it healing as well.
The illustrations by Jim Kay are powerful and suit the book perfectly. The hardcover book would showcase the illustrations better than the e-book in this case.
I’m eager to read more of Patrick Ness’s past and future books and I highly recommend A Monster Calls. A beautiful read.
Author: Kathi Appelt
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover 416 pages
Published: April 26 2010
Date Read: July 19 2010
Book Source: ARC
Description from the publisher:
“To ten-year-old Keeper, this moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong…and so much has gone wrong. But she knows who can make things right again: Meggie Marie, her mermaid mother who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that’s exactly where she is headed — in a small boat, in the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and a seagull named Captain.
When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of Mexico, panic sets in, and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon isn’t magic and maybe the sandbar won’t sparkle with mermaids and maybe — Oh, no…”Maybe” is just too difficult to bear. Kathi Appelt follows up to her New York Times bestseller, The Underneath, with a tale that will pull right at your very core — stronger than moon currents — capturing the crash and echo of the waves and the dark magic of the ocean.”
I read a borrowed ARC of this book over the summer.
A sweet and heartwarming fantasy tale for middle grade readers. Beautifully written, KEEPER tells the story of a 10 year old girl who has grown up believing in mermaids and magic. After a terrible day, she embarks on an adventure to try to make things right again.
KEEPER is a story of family, friendship, heartbreak, hope, magic and love. The story is told in a non-linear and poetic style. The author fills in the background of the characters throughout the book. The side characters are fully fleshed and charming and add to the magical tone of the story.
KEEPER has a great balance of adventure, fantasy, quirkiness, and heart. The beautiful illustrations by August Hall add to the enjoyment of the story.
My heart ached for Keeper after the horrible day when everything went wrong, and she went in search for her mother. I hoped she would realize she had her all along.
An enjoyable read for a summer day- I would have loved to read this as a kid!
Recommended for ages 9-12
Partial Description from the Publisher (Macmillan/Square Fish):
Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure.
Book: Paperback 192 pages
Published: August 2010
Date Read: September 4 2010
Book Source: Audiobook
Recommended for: Ages 9-12, and readers of the Immortals series by Alyson Noel
Radiance is a new stand-alone series centered on 12 year old Riley, a character we are introduced to in Evermore in the Immortals series. While the Immortals series is based around Riley’s older sister Ever, Riley takes center stage in the Radiance series.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. This was a sweet, thoughtful, and refreshing story of Riley adjusting to the Afterlife. Riley is a typical tween (dead) girl who now has to prove herself in the afterlife with a job as a Soul Catcher. She has her dog Buttercup to keep her company as well as her mentor Bodhi to help her learn the ropes.
Alyson Noel did a great job writing Riley and capturing her voice in a realistic way. Tweens should enjoy reading about Riley’s adventures, the supernatural mysteries, and the potential romance with Bodhi. In addition to the intended audience of middle grade readers, I think fans of the Immortals series will enjoy getting a peek into Riley’s world.
I listened to the audiobook of Radiance and the voice actress nailed the voice of Riley. The audiobook was very entertaining. Overall this was a fast-paced and quick read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book Shimmer, due out March 15 2011.