Middle Grade New Releases, Week of September 4, 2018 – Part 1

Happy release week to these middle grade books making their rounds through our reviewers!


Thank you to @kidlitexchange for providing the review copies of these books. All opinions are our own.


img_6694-1The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson
(September 4th 2018 ~ Bloomsbury)

Photo and Review by Katie ~ originally on Instagram @texasreadergirl

“There was much about the world that Ishmael did not understand, but he felt the beauty of it all.”
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Ever since his father’s death – for which he blames himself – and his brother Luc’s disappearance, Ishmael has led a sad, dull life on his family’s farm, helping his mother with the monotonous and strenuous chores of daily farm life. He lives in a world of muted grays, until one day he sees a rainbow of color come through the glass in the barn window. He has never seen these colors before, and cannot stop thinking about the amazing sight, even if no one else around him can see them. Ishmael, ever dutiful, sets out to bring Luc home, both for his mother’s sake and in an effort to understand the new sight he beheld.
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Ishmael finds Luc in a strange place called The Commons, and soon discovers that he (Ishmael) has a rare and special gift when it comes to color and creation. While constantly pulled between his desire to explore this newfound gift and his duty to his family, Ishmael learns more about himself and the world he lives in, and must decide where his heart will take him.
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Ginger Johnson weaves an incredibly imaginative tale in this middle grade book. This is not my usual genre but the cover was so compelling (I know, I know) that I had to check it out. And I’m glad I did – expanding your literary boundaries is always a good thing! Johnson’s descriptions are rich and vivid, and it was interesting to imagine a world like the one she created. (This book has been compared to The Giver, which I have not read, but may be a helpful comparison.) While it didn’t capture my heart the way I wish it had, I do think those who love a good fantasy/alternate world story will enjoy it, and I did appreciate Johnson’s language and storytelling skills. THE SPLINTERED LIGHT is on shelves this September and would be a worthwhile addition to a middle grade library.


24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling
(September 4th 2018 ~ Sterling Children’s Books)img_6695-1

Photo and Review by Susan ~ originally on Instagram @redcanoereader

Oh, my, when you read this book be ready to be transplanted into the middle of a southwestern desert. You will not only be surrounded by dust and wind and swirling tumbleweed, you will be sweltering in the sun and desperately craving cold water and air conditioned air. You will sense the feeling of hopelessness of 90 percent of the residents of Nowhere who would rather be anyplace else, but have little hope of ever getting out. Because after all, Nowhere, Arizona, has the lowest graduation rate in the country, as well as extreme poverty, and has been declared the least liveable town in the U.S.
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I really like the window this story provides the readers into life in an example of one of the poorest towns in the Arizona desert. Even though Nowhere is a fictional town, middle graders need to understand that towns such as this exist.
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Nowhere also has some families who are striving to make a difference in the community, even if it is at the cost of their own children. Luckily, two of Gus’s friends come from these hard working families, and their loyalty and perseverance save Gus and each other during their adventure in a terrifying, abandoned mine in the desert.
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This adventure story, which takes place in 24 short hours in the Arizona desert, will have you on the edge of your seat, and you definitely won’t want to stop reading. You’ll admire the strong families who fiercely support each other, even in the midst of poverty, the friendships and the strength Gus and his friends find they have (much to their surprise) as they use teamwork and ingenuity to save themselves during their adventure to find a treasure.
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I highly recommend this be added to all libraries. It’s the perfect book for readers looking for adventure, as well as for those looking for a book about loyalty and friendship. Library friends, you’ll want to add this to your fall order NOW and definitely order multiple copies!


img_6697The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
(September 4th 2018 ~ Sky Pony Press)

Photo and Review by Evelyn ~ originally on Instagram @all_about_eve_reading

Wow. THIS book. Unputdownable. Covers so many themes and issues from rural poverty, gun control (with a deft and nuanced look at the varying perspectives), and single parenthood.
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I loved that it was set in Vermont, with a protagonist whose tough shell is hardened by difficult circumstances. Her situation might not be immediately recognizable, but her capacity for empathy and growth, her growing sense of justice, her strength through her varying friendships, whether it is with a quiet boy who loves hunting, rebel best friend bouncing between foster homes, or her strict but fair teacher in debate club, will provide an eye-opening and compelling insight into the lives of kids not often depicted. ~~ This book is so important as both a window for those of us from more privileged and urban settings, and a much-needed mirror for the kids who may not see their own lives reflected in the pages of books. Thank you to @annbradenbooks for writing this wonderful and powerful novel!


After Zero by Christina Collins
(September 4th 2018 ~ Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)img_6696-1

Photo and Review by Laura ~ originally on Instagram @librarianmsg

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5 for this engaging, heartbreaking book about a girl with selective mutism by @stinacoll.   I wonder how many students who are dismissed as shy really suffer from selective mutism, which the author explains is very different from traumatic mutism.  Here’s the Good Reads summary to tell you more.

Good Reads Summary: Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can’t be taken back. Five tally marks isn’t so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.

But now months have passed, and Elise isn’t sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher’s stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she’s ever hoped for…


girlThe Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn
(September 4th 2018 ~ Clarion Books)

Good Reads Summary: Ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present.

A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules’s parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can’t stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor—in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier?

Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.

Look for a review soon on #kidlitexchange!


Pigeon Problems: An Urban Bird Researchers Journal by J. A. Watson
(September 1st 2018 ~ Jolly Fish Press)pigeon

Good Reads Summary: Anthony Briggs hates pigeons, and for good reason. Thanks to his funny way of walking and his leg braces, his classmate TJ started calling him “Pidge,” a nickname he’d love to dump. So when the Science Squad recruits students for a project to solve why pigeons come in so many different colors, Anthony is anything but interested . . . until he learns that the reward is spending a night at the Natural History Museum. He signs up in a flash, and ends up paired with TJ. Anthony is stuck listening to TJ’s insults and doing two people’s work. Can he stick it out to win the museum overnight? Or will the birds get the best of him again? Welcome to the Science Squad, a citizen science organization for curious kids who love nature and science! Follow along as Squad members journal their efforts to make a difference in the world around them. 

Look for a review soon on #kidlitexchange!


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