Inspired by Louis L’Amour and targeting fans of the western genre, Paul K. Brown writes The Llano Kid series in which he traces the journey of his title character. In the third book of the series: Cactus Valley Lawman, readers learn the origin of the protagonist’s name, as well as additional pieces to the story of this young man who was orphaned as a boy. Now, Llano has taken on a job as security and scout for a wagon train heading west to California. When the wagon train is ambushed, Billy Nevil’s Ma is killed, leaving her son Billy an orphan at age twelve. Seeing himself inRead More →

Set in the fictional country of Mariposa, The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran tells the story of several twelve-year-old middle schoolers who attend Marble Hill Preparatory (MHP) Academy.  When Muki Krishnan spots Dragonflies—a type of spy drone—monitoring the neighborhood of Oceanview and suddenly hears people talking about moths versus butterflies, he knows strange things are afoot, so he is glad to have his best friend Fabi Calderón by his side. Fabi is smart, funny, genuine, great at soccer, and immune to what the world thinks. Unlike Tinley Schaedler and others whose families have ancestors from Mariposa, the two friends are on scholarship to attend MHP,Read More →

Fifth grader Anthony Joplin, aka Ant, is afraid of confrontation but confident in his card playing skills and kind to his friends. He is also trying to discover where and how he fits into the “tough guy” image and whether he can “be a lion,” as Jamal’s brother Taj says. Ant is further confused by girls, in particular, Shirley Heyward. How she smiles, talks, and laughs makes Ant’s skin tingle. “Ant doesn’t know what was prettier—Shirley’s smile, her brown fingers as they worked the deck, or the sound of the cards as she made a perfect shuffle” (193). Now that Ant’s older brother Aaron isRead More →

Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters is a collection of 32 chilling American Indian stories assembled into five chapters: Ghosts, Spirits, Witches, Monsters, and The Supernatural. Written and selected by Dan Sasuweh Jones from the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, the book is artfully illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre from the Tongva tribe of Southern California. From these stories, readers will learn that the spirit world, according to Indian culture, communicates with us by signs. Reading these signs may encourage us to carefully consider our future actions. Readers will also come to understand that languages, ceremonies, and governments can differ greatly from tribe to tribe and region toRead More →

Newbery Honor-winning author Kathryn Lasky has written her fourth book about World War II: Faceless. In this historical fiction account set in 1944, thirteen-year-old Alice Winfield is a member of the most-skilled intelligence service on earth. Working for MI6, Alice and her family belong to a small clan of spies called the Tabula Rasa.  Because they can pass unseen through enemy lines and “become” other people without being recognized, they are, essentially, faceless. Alice’s older sister Louise has determined that blending in and being anonymous is not for her, so she decides to have plastic surgery so that her face is memorable. Her choice toRead More →

Reckless, easily distracted, and afraid of heights, Abel loves comics, games, books, and dragons. As a collector of DrakoTek cards, he and his best friend Roa enact dragon battles using the cards. The two seventh graders live in Drakopolis, a world where dragons serve as pets, vehicles, and in gang battles. Lessons in school include dragon biology, dragon lore, and exercises with Educational Resource Dragons that provide problem-solving practice using the acronym OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Even though Abel failed his Dragon Rider Academy Entrance Exam, he still dreams of being a dragon rider like his brother Silas—a cadet at the Academy andRead More →

Just in time for Halloween 2021, Lucy Strange’s new middle grade novel, The Ghost of Midnight Lake, tells the story of twelve-year-old Agatha Rose Walters who thought she was an Asquith. The mystery of Agatha’s parentage, the presence of a Ghost Girl, and the lost Queen’s Stone—a legendary white opal—add intrigue to Strange’s story. Set in England’s Lake District in 1899, Lady Agatha loses her father. With his death, everything changes at once. Her cousin Clarence, the new Earl of Gosswater evicts her from the only home she has ever known and tells her that she is a nobody since her father is really ThomasRead More →

With the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 having recently been commemorated, we all might wonder whether we have progressed as a nation in the last two decades. We might ask ourselves if we treat others better today than we did in the days and months after the attacks. Because today’s school age youth were not yet alive in 2001, they may wonder why September 11 carries the motto, Never Forget. They may wonder why history is so important.  Saadia Faruqi’s novel Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero will guide middle grade readers to understand these complicated questions with their layered answers. Readers will learn that historyRead More →

Although not the historical fiction giant that is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis uses Death as one of its narrators. Through her twelve-year-old protagonist Gauge, the Carpenter’s grandson, Vitalis explores the social custom of rites of passage and life after death. After his grandpapá dies, Gauge no longer has the protection he needs from Lord Mayor Vulpine who is terrorizing the village of Bouge and who blames Gauge for the death of his wife. To protect him from the Guards, who wish to arrest Gauge and set him out to sea to die because he is a VoyantRead More →