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 →

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 →

Told in three parts, The Leopard Behind the Moon is written like an oral legend. Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev sets her tale in Sesa—a faraway place amid the marula trees where a group of people live in a village with strict laws about not going out at night or opening the magical door that protects them all. However, on the three-year anniversary of his father’s death, ten-year-old Ezomo sees the leopard that killed his father and feels compelled to follow it. His foolhardiness involves two of his friends: Muja and Chimama, and the three have quite an adventure.  Ezomo discovers that although the night is dark andRead More →

Melody Bird’s favorite place is the graveyard.  It’s full of history and beauty, not sadness, and it’s always peaceful and absent of shouting. After her parents split up because of Dad’s deceit, team MC—Melody and her mom Claudia—support one another. One day while walking in the graveyard with her dachshund Frankie, Melody discovers a house overgrown by weeds and vines. After some research, she learns that this is a plague house, a quarantine facility that is hundreds of years old. Melody can’t wait to share her find with her best friend, Matthew Corbin. Matthew has a fear of germs and a tendency towards obsessive compulsiveRead More →

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi is a book about dogs and humans. Eleven-year-old Quinn has lost his dad to a heart attack and his dog Murph to a vehicle accident, and now he’s losing his brother Jessie to a pack of bullies. Craving love and attention, Quinn accepts a job with Miss Lottie, who has created a family of dogs she is giving another chance. Quinn develops into a good belly rubber and an excellent chin scratcher, beloved by the pack of rescue dogs. When the story opens, four dogs comprise the pack. With his strength and courage, Tank is loyal and trusty—a true bulldogRead More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

Just in time for Earth Day 2021, Hannah Gold’s debut novel, The Last Bear calls us all to do one thing in the planet’s best interest. Naturally, the efforts of the novel’s protagonist, eleven-year-old April Wood, are much bigger since she rescues a polar bear! Despite the fanciful aspects of Gold’s novel that targets middle grade readers, this is a book with more than an environmentalist message. It speaks to animal lovers and to lonely children, to those of us who have lost a parent and those who feel neglected and adrift. Set on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle, the story revolves around April,Read More →

A descendent of the Sun god, twelve-year-old Cecelia Rios grew up hearing the legends of the criaturas. Of all the legends, she likes Coyote’s the best. How was she to know that some day their stories would intertwine? Cece has soft eyes and a compassionate heart, but in the desert of Tierra del Sol, criaturas are dangerous and must be destroyed. In order to survive, according to Mamá, weakness invites death, so she tells her daughter: “You cannot let your tears make you more water than fire” (9). But Cece has a soul of water, not of fire—so she rescues Tzizimitl, a criatura the townspeopleRead More →