Happy release week to these middle grade books making their rounds through our reviewers!
Elephant Secrets by Eric Walters
(August 28th 2018 ~ Clarion Books)
Photo and Review by Jo-ann ~ originally on Instagram @mrsjwalshreads
Samantha and her father run an elephant sanctuary. Ever since she was born, the herd has been her family. Samantha’s mom passed away right after her birth. A lot of new things are happening at the sanctuary. A new elephant, Burma, has come to the sanctuary. He has been abused and is considered dangerous, and must be isolated from the other elephants. One of the elephants, Daisy Mae is getting ready to give birth. Samantha is finishing up 8th grade and is also getting used to the fact that her dad is dating Joyce, a lawyer and volunteer at the sanctuary.
Once the baby, Woolly, is born, and the mystery sanctuary partner and financial backer is revealed, we also learn a big secret about the baby elephant. This secret will lead to dramatic changes at the elephant sanctuary. Will Samantha and her father be able to stay at the sanctuary, keep its integrity, and care for the elephants?
I loved this story. It was evident that the author, Eric Walters, did a great deal of research on elephants and I enjoyed learning so much about them. It was wonderful to see the relationship between the elephants in the herd, and between the elephants and humans (especially Samantha). I really like how Samantha’s feelings and attitude change toward Joyce, her dad’s girlfriend. I also love the relationship between Sam and her dad, and we see how her dad learns that he needs to be more in tune to her feelings. It was very emotional when he finally talked to her about her mother. The events of the story really cause Samantha to be mature at a very young age, and I was amazed at how much she did to help her dad run the sanctuary and care for the elephants. The only thing I wished was to find out more about what happened to Burma, the elephant in isolation.
This is a wonderful novel for middle grade students. I think children will love learning about the elephants, while also reading about the strength and bravery of Samantha. I highly recommend it!
Photo and Review by Laura ~ originally on Instagram @petriespicks
Unpunished Murder is a nonfiction book by Lawrence Goldstone that informs about the massacre of about 100 black citizens at Colfax. Surprisingly, even though 9 culprits were identified, all of the white men accused of these crimes were allowed free. This book will be published on August 28, but halfway through reading it I knew I had to save it to my Amazon wishlist. What is most impressive about this nonfiction account is just how organized and clear it is. Goldstone starts off by telling the reader about this shocking event that not many American citizens know about, and then he seamlessly rewinds and takes you back to the moment where such an event can be traced back to in history: the creation of the United States Constitution, particularly the 14th and 15th amendments. All of the details, dates, and facts from this period of history have the potential to make this a very confusing book, but Goldstone lays everything out and outlines it in such a way that you can see how such a crime could go unpunished in the United States at this time well before the author delivers the explanation himself. The book includes several photos and quotes that are incorporated throughout each section. I personally feel that this book and a study of this moment in history should be included in more history curriculums. This book would make an excellent companion or recommended reading in any United States History or Civics course. Because some background knowledge of the Constitution and the events of the Civil War are helpful, as well as some of the more graphic violence that is included, I think this book would be most appropriate for middle school readers (or high schoolers/adults looking to understand more about the history of institutional racism in our country). I could definitely see the 7th/8th graders at my school being able to engage in some interesting discussions about this book using their knowledge from their Civics course.
Lucky Luna by Diana Lopez
(August 28th 2018 ~ Scholastic)
Photo and Review by Liz ~ originally on Instagram @authorelizabethdoylecarey
This young MG novel by Diana López tackles meddling cousins, birthmarks, school troubles, and stress management head-on, but in a sweet, age-appropriate way.
Luna Ramos has tons of primas, which are girl cousins, if you don’t already know. The primas can be sweet and fun—painting Luna’s nails and quizzing her for school—but they can also be tattletales who steal a girl’s breakfast every day! When Luna’s most annoying cousin Claudia transfers into Luna’s class at school (and appears in Luna’s kitchen every morning before hopping on the school bus with her), Luna is ready to lose it. Claudia is a know-it-all and the other kids make fun of her, just like they do Luna, and Luna has no interest in being associated with Claudia. The story that follows packs a whopping surprise and a sweet ending, and readers will share Luna’s frustrations as much as they feel bad for Claudia at times. The overriding message of “Blood is thicker than water” is heart-warming and age-appropriate, and the cultural and Spanish lingual references peppered throughout enrich the story without weighing it down. I am looking forward to a sequel! (PS- did I mention Luna loves hats?!)
Time Jumpers #1, Stealing the Sword: A Branches Book by Wendy Mass; illustrations by Oriol Vidal
(August 28th 2018 by Scholastic Inc.)
Photo and Review by Michelle ~ originally on Instagram @michellegoetzl
Finding good books for grades 1-3 can be challenging. That’s why I have enjoyed the books being published under the #branches umbrella at @scholasticinc. One of the newest additions is an action filled adventure series by Wendy Mass called The Time Jumpers.
Time Jumpers focuses on brother and sister Chase and Ava. One afternoon they purchase a used suitcase at the flea market. The suitcase turns out to be a time traveling device full of stolen objects.
The first book, Stealing the Sword, takes Chase and Ava to King Arthur’s court. With a little help from Merlin, the pair helps save King Arthur from a treacherous plan that didn’t really happen in history. At the same time, they get to see what medieval England was really like.
This is a fun series for kids not quite ready for the Magic Treehouse series. They get a little lesson in history and a whole lot of adventure. Three additional books are already slated over the next year and I think this is one that is going to be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.
The Collector by K.R. Alexander
(August 28th 2018 ~ Scholastic Press)
Photo and Review by Stacie ~ originally on Instagram @borenbooks
There aren’t enough stars in the scoring system to do this one justice!!!!!!!! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 This middle school read was the creepiest, edge of your seat page turner I have read in years! Not scary, CREEPY. This book releases August 28, 2018 and my advice is preorder it NOW! Josie leaves her home in Chicago after her mom loses her job and her Grandma is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so the only sensible thing is to live together. Josie and her sister Anna had three rules 1. Never leave the windows open after dark. 2. Never, Ever go by the house in the woods and 3. No dolls in the house. Seems simple enough. But in the country with no internet, no cable, and no neighbors, life gets boring and rules are made to be broken. Children begin to go missing, Josie’s grandma is acting stranger than before and now her nightmares involve more than just herself and those woods.
A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah Wiles
(August 28th 2018 ~ Scholastic Press)
Good Reads Summary: Emma Lane Cake has five brothers, four dogs, and a family that can’t stay put. The Cake family travels from place to place, setting up bakeries in communities that need them. Then, just when Emma feels settled in with new friends . . . they move again.
Now the Cakes have come to Aurora County, and Emma has vowed that this time she is NOT going to get attached to ANYONE or ANYTHING. Why bother, if her father’s only going to uproot her again?
But fate has different plans. And so does Ruby Lavender, who is going to show Emma Lane Cake a thing or two about making friendship last.
Look for a review soon on #kidlitexchange!
Field Tripped by Allen Woodrow
(August 28th 2018 ~ Scholastic Press)
Photo and Review by Evelyn ~ originally on Instagram @all_about_eve_reading
A fun, silly read with plenty of puns, this is an easy one for mystery fans among the young reader set. A field trip for a class of 5th graders starts off like any other – riding a bus 🚌 to a famous (but long-dead) inventor’s mansion. All the different personalities – new kid Aaron, obnoxious but secretive Eddie, cat-obsessed Jessie, shy Anna and best friends Sophie and Chloe – all seem too different and caught up in their own personal dramas to take much notice of each other. But mysterious happenings at the Minks mansion, show them what teamwork – and true friendship – is all about. Young readers who enjoy puns, jokes and slapstick silliness (think Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone), will enjoy the physical humor of this lighthearted mystery novel. Quick chapters, told from varying points of view (with cute and helpful chapter header illustrations for easier character connections) will entice reluctant readers. They might never think of a field trip the same way ever again!
You can also follow our tags on Instagram and Twitter to see all of our reviews: