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, 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 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.
Book: Kat, Incorrigible (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson #1) by Stephanie Burgis
Published by: Atheneum, April 5 2011
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Format/pages: Hardcover 304 pages
Format read/Source: e-Galley via Simon & Schuster Galleygrab
Date read: April 3 2011
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Summary from the publisher:
Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she’s inherited her mother’s magical talents, and despite Stepmama’s stern objections, she’s determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa’s intended fiancee, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat’s magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat’s reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?
This is such a fun and magical book. I was originally drawn to this book by the whimsical cover and found that the charming story matched the cover perfectly. This book was written for ages 10 and up and I would have loved to read it at that age. It is a great story though that can be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys a great adventure story with a precocious young heroine, lively characters, humor, mystery, magic, historical fiction and family drama.
Twelve-year-old Kat is smart, mischievous and brave. She gets herself involved in hilarious adventures to the dismay of her older sisters and step-mama. Kat is one of those characters that are a few steps ahead of the adults around her. She will do anything to protect her sisters, even if it involves using her newly discovered magical talents. Kat steals the show in this book and is an awesome heroine to root for.
The story is set in England in 1803. Kat’s adventurous spirit is looked down upon, especially when she cuts her hair like a boy in order to run away and save her sister from an arranged marriage. Experimenting with magic is scandalous behavior and something Kat must sneak around to do. The historical aspect adds to the enjoyment of the book and the tone comes off as fresh and new.
The supporting characters also help bring the story to life. Her sisters, Elissa and Angeline, are well-developed characters with their own stories to tell. It is clear that the sisters love and care for each other deeply. Despite their bickering, the sisters have each other’s best interest at heart. Family relationships are explored in one of the central themes of the book. All of the characters are interesting and add to the story. We learn a little about everyone and there is lots of room to explore more about the characters in the sequel.
Kat, Incorrigible is the first book of a trilogy and the follow up titled Renegade Magic will be out in the US in April 2012.
This cute book should appeal to the Middle Grade crowd, as well as to fans of YA. Kat, Incorrigible is a one of a kind book that will leave you smiling.
For more information: