Justina Ireland explores the notion of unfairness in her novel for middle grade readers, Ophie’s Ghosts.  Readers will accompany Ireland on this justice-seeking journey as she asks important questions: How do we live, survive, and thrive in a system that is unjust? How do we remain strong and unbent, willing to do the right thing, even when it puts our own comfort and lives at risk? What are we willing to put on the line in the name of justice that is denied to us? How do we grieve when the ghosts of our loss appear in the everyday suffering of those around us? AsRead More →

With Cinders & Sparrows, Stefan Bachmann has written a gothic novel for middle grade readers. Given the genre, his book incorporates ghosts, spirits, hauntings, misty woods, gloomy environs, enchanted chambers and staircases, talking trees and a marble bust who claims to be a prince. The novel’s plot revolves around twelve-year-old Zita Brydgeborn and her discovery that she is not an orphan after all but a member of the Brydgeborn family of witches and the heiress to Blackbird Castle. With Mrs. Cantanker as her teacher, Zita receives all sorts of training—some of it oddly questionable. Still, according to Mrs. Cantanker, “A true Blackbird is graced withRead More →

Author of the Stonewall Book Award for Hurricane Child, Kacen Callender has written a new book, King and the Dragonflies targeted for readers in grades three through seven. Set in Richardson, Louisiana, King and the Dragonflies relates the challenge that twelve-year-old Kingston Reginald James has in coping with the sudden and unexpected death of his sixteen-year-old brother Khalid.  While enduring the waves of grief, King must also navigate a series of identity issues on his own since his parents are immersed in their own grief, and his older brother is no longer around to confide in. Shy and prone to reticence, King loves anime, enjoysRead More →

Four Three Two One by Courtney Stevens recounts the story of four young adults, all unique in their idiosyncrasies as they board Charter Bus 21 in New York City on June 15 bound for Ellis Island: Chandler Clayton is allergic to sudden changes but artistic with a sketch pad or a chain saw and logs; Golden Jennings is eager to explore the world beyond the towering oaks and billowing blue grass of Kentucky with her vintage No. 3 Kodak; Rudy Guthrie is a talented soccer athlete and a writer who has just won a scholarship to Emerson College in Boston; and Caroline Ascott from a wealthyRead More →

Written in much the same style as Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1998), The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (2006), and My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith (2015), A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen joins the ranks of historical fiction about war and its lasting impact on youth.  Although the first three titles tell stories of the youth experience during World War II, Nielsen tells one tale about the effects of the Cold War. To set the tone, each chapter opens with an inspirational or historical quote or other words of wisdom.   These quotes help to tell Nielson’s story of twelve-year-old GertaRead More →

The quiet calm of the wait and the comfort of savory smells make cooking a favorite activity for Maddy, the protagonist in Jewell Parker Rhodes’ recent release, Bayou Magic.  Although she was born Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson, Maddy is often called Bird Bones because she is small and thin.  At ten years old, Maddy is not yet comfortable in her own skin, and she wonders why she sees the world differently than her four sisters do. Maddy prefers listening, watching, and dreaming.  Now it’s her turn to have a bayou summer, and her sisters, who each took their turn, warn her of all the drawbacksRead More →

I guess it’s a universal truth: human beings are fascinated by imagining our own destruction.  Who hasn’t seen movie after movie, tv show upon tv show of the end of the world as we know it: life during and after the apocalypse, the alien invasion, the viral plague, or the crushed citizenry living under a ruthless, post-Armageddon regime?  Not to mention the avalanche of distopian fiction, populated by heroic characters whose grit and determination helps them rise up against the horrors that have pulverized the rest of humanity into pitiful shadows of their former selves.  And I’m not saying that the best of all ofRead More →

As if middle school is not frightening enough, Bethany Darling has just upped the rigor for her younger sister Jessica. Jessica Darling is about to start the seventh grade. Jessica thought she had a handle on it… until her older sister reveals to her “The Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection.” Bethany has paved the road for Jessica to succeed in middle school; Bethany herself has been declared the most popular, pretty, and perfect girl. Jessica has it easy then, right? Wrong!  As Jessica begins reading her Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection, she realizes that the guide is a lot more detailedRead More →

Sarah Nelson is not your typical twelve year old. While most kids her age enjoy watching action movies and playing sports, Sarah prefers to read books and write letters to Atticus Finch, a fictional character from her favorite novel. Her best friend happens to be a plant and she has never known her mother. While Sarah wants to know her mom and see her, she is unable to because Sarah’s mom is living in a mental institution. Sarah and her father have moved around Texas so many times, Sarah has never felt as if she has had a home. Once a neighbor, classmate, or co-workerRead More →