Set in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon is a horror story. Along with the Fantastic Four, readers will drown in a sea of scary. If you don’t believe monsters are real, wait until you experience the creepy encounters of Hermon’s characters! Since his mother died, Justin Vaughn believes that everybody leaves, nothing stays the same, and nothing fits anymore. One of his best friends, Zee Murphy is back after a long absence, but he has been changed by the trauma of his experience while lost. Now, along with two other friends—Lyric Rivers, who is loyal and believes that friends help and don’tRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

Wrecked by her parents’ divorce and then her brother’s disappearance three years ago, Andrea Murphy’s life has grown awful. The empty seat at the table, her unrelenting guilt that her brother’s disappearance is somehow her fault, and his ghost in the boxes stacked in the garage all haunt her. “I’m fine” is the lie she tells to hide the cracks and holes in her heart. As a reminder of his memory, she carries a missing piece of her brother in her pocket. When the pain grows too intense to bear, she rides her bike far and fast, letting the breeze whip through her hair whileRead More →

Featuring illustrations by Robin Boyden, Get Me Out of Here! by Andy McNab and Phil Earle is a humorous novel written for middle grade readers.  The plot revolves around eleven-year-old Danny Mack’s desire to attend what he believes will be an epic, adventure-filled school field trip with mountaineering, kayaking, and zip-lining.  However, the trip costs more than his mother can afford. So, in order to raise the $150.00 participation fee, Danny undertakes a series of “get rich quick” schemes. His best friend Thomas Jefferson Raffles (aka Giraffles), who is always willing to stick his neck out for a pal, helps Danny to realize he’s notRead More →

Jasbinder Bilan’s debut novel for middle grade readers, Asha and the Spirit Bird, is one rich with cultural detail and adventure. Set in a village in India called Moormandali, Bilan includes many Hindi and Punjabi words to add authenticity to the telling of this coming of age, epic journey. The story features eleven-year-old Asha Kumar and her twelve-year-old best friend, Jeevan Singh Gill.  The two children sneak away from home to travel from their village in the foothills of the Himalayas to find Asha’s papa in Zandapur. The journey calls on the children’s perseverance, courage, hope, and conviction that they will be successful.  Along theRead More →

A story of resilience, Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist addresses the issue of homelessness from a child’s perspective. The Dunn family’s homelessness is brought on by the death of Isaiah’s and Charlie’s father, Gary Dunn, on November 24 due to a heart attack. Gary’s wife, Lisa subsequently falls into a debilitating depression accompanied by a bout with alcoholism. While his mother is incapacitated by grief, Isaiah is expected to watch and entertain his four-year-old sister and to keep up in school at Woodson Elementary.  This ten-year-old young man is forced to accept other responsibilities, as well.  Hoping to get the fundsRead More →

Like nightmares, scary stories are a sort of dress rehearsal for real-life fear, helping children learn to cope with the emotion in a low-stakes setting.  After all, the world can be a scary place where children will encounter frightful situations—such as getting lost, losing friends, being less loved than a sibling, or experiencing abandonment as a result of parental death or divorce.  Therefore, knowing how to confront fear can benefit children and help them cope with difficulty. Scary stories like Dan Poblocki’s Ghost Hunter’s Daughter, targeted for middle grade readers in the eight to twelve year old age group, not only help children forge resilience but give them a senseRead More →

Set in 1848, Starting from Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach joins a multitude of other information-rich, historical fiction books written for young readers.  Schwabach’s novel features eleven-year-old Brigid Gallagher (aka Bridie) who was born in Ireland but orphaned when her last living relative—her mother—is left destitute by a husband who drinks too much.  That is after her father and her brothers die on the coffin ships navigating to America during the potato famine in Ireland. Because Bridie asks question, points out the problems with things, speaks when not spoken to, and has opinions about the way things ought to be, she is considered trouble.  SheRead More →

Readers of Wendy Maas, Wendelin Van Draanen, and Sarah Dessen will also likely enjoy Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence.  The title character, Keiko Carter, is looking forward to seventh grade with her two besties: Jenna Sakai and Audrey Lassiter.  However, their long-standing friendship is rocked by changing interests and complications with dates to the Fall Ball. Boy-obsessed fashionista, Audrey is a fan of online quizzes, yoga, and the spotlight, while Jenna is more interested in journalism, study habits, the honors track, and quiet moments. Caught in the middle, chocolate-loving Keiko is a fixer.  Because she prefers a conflict-free life, she triesRead More →