Fitting in or finding a sense of belonging is of critical importance during one’s junior high years.   To be branded a freak or to not be part of the social construct is a curse capable of derailing the course of one’s destiny.  Just as the Greeks voted politically dangerous citizens into exile, ostracism is a genuine fear for Janey Silverman, the protagonist of J.S. Puller’s inaugural novel Captain Superlative.  Given her fears, Jane blends in and doesn’t step beyond her comfort zone.  Content with being Plain Jane, she floats along under the radar of detection, ensuring she is not the target of notice. Then, CaptainRead More →

Middle-grade readers looking for an adventure story with a dash of history and a little mystery will likely enjoy A.M. Morgen’s new book The Inventors at No. 8. Set in 1828 London, Morgen’s historical fiction novel takes the reader on a treasure hunt with George, the Third Lord of Devonshire who is weighted by fear and self-doubt but has a stubborn streak; Ada Byron, a sharp, funny, and rarely humble girl who always has a plan swirling in her scientific mind; Oscar, a gifted artist who knows colors and the minerals that produce them; and Ruthie, an orangutan who has learned semaphore and can readRead More →

Mix adventure, jokes, and a little mystery, and you have a recipe to keep most readers engaged.  Dave Eggers applies this formula to the writing of his recent middle-grade novel, The Lifters, which is actually an extended metaphor for combatting despair. The protagonist of The Lifters, twelve-year-old Granite Flowerpetal wishes for a name that is both easily understood and easily spelled, so he shortens his name to Gran, not realizing at the time how readily that version might be confused with the term some individuals use to refer to their grandmothers. Gran, who shares a bedroom with his five-year-old sister Maisie, hears his parents talkRead More →

In a style similar to that of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl, Nicholas Gannon writes The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, a stand-alone sequel to The Doldrums, and adds illustrations similar to those drawn by Brian Selznick in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  This combination of ingredients makes Gannon’s book a reading treat for middle grade readers. The story’s protagonist, Archer Helmsley is a troubled child who talks to taxidermied animals and sets tigers lose in museums.  He has been waiting for twelve years to meet his grandparents, famous explorers and “practically fictional characters” to Archer, who has read their journals and knows their talesRead More →