HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY 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.
I loved this graphic novel. Cassandra Cain isn’t a normal teenager. She is a weapon, trained by her Super Villain parents only to fight and kill. One day she realizes that what she’s doing is wrong so she leaves her father. She has to learn to communicate, to read, and to interact with people. She does this by hanging out in the library. (Yay!) There she encounters Barbara, a librarian who is teaching kids about the missing superhero Batgirl. Cassandra makes friends with Barbara and Jackie, a lady who owns the noodle shop she visits. They tell her that she doesn’t have to be evil like her parents, she can choose who she wants to be. Cassandra Cain chooses to be a hero. The art in this graphic novel was really interesting and worked well with the story. I loved watching the flawed, yet likable, Cassandra become a person. This is recommended for ages 13 to 17 and has some language and depictions of violence. I highly recommend Shadow of the Batgirl for middle and high school students, as well as adults who like interesting characters, action, humor, and even a little romance.
I SURVIVED: THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC, 1912 – by Lauren Tarshis, Georgia Ball and Scott Dawson
February 4th 2020 ~ Graphix
Photo and review by Kimberly ~ originally on Instagram @whatkreads
In elementary school, I remember being fascinated by the story of the Titanic. I discovered a nonfiction book in the library that listed facts from that dreadful voyage and showed many pictures from the underwater wreckage. I have a feeling I would have really enjoyed the I Survived series. It’s such a great way to teach a few facts to young readers through historical fiction. My daughter, who is 9, loves the series and was so excited when I showed her this new graphic novel version. She read it immediately the moment we opened the mail.
The text was really light and easy to quickly read through. I liked that it gave some simple facts and introduced kids to some of the layout of the ship as well as the division of the different classes. Even though the story was short, the characters were well developed and you saw the range of emotions they endured during their experience. The graphics were well done and definitely added to the story.
The novel concluded with a a few pages that discussed various facts. It talked about the demographic of the passengers on board that day, the difference between the classes of rooms, some famous passengers and a brief page about the wreckage.
It’s a great introduction into learning about the Titanic and will hopefully spark readers to seek out more info about this historical event.
WE HAD TO BE BRAVE – by Deborah Hopkinson
February 4th 2020 ~ Scholastic Focus
Photo and review by Melissa ~ originally on Instagram @mllittleauthor
FIVE STARS AND THEN SOME for this new nonfiction. This was FANTASTIC. Thoroughly researched, easy to understand, engaging, fascinating, superbly written…I could run out of adjectives. Very much my favorite book of 2020. I’ve only read four, but still.
Deborah Hopkinson, who deserves all the awards, takes us into the lives of many different real-life Jewish children (most from Germany, though the book covers a lot of Europe), describing their families and happy childhoods before everything took a detour to hell. Some of these children documented were orthodox, some were Jewish only by birth, and everything in between, but all of them were saved by the heroes and angels of the kindertransport. I had heard of this rescue operation in the late 1930s, but I didn’t know much about how it worked until this book.
I learned so much from this book. Oftentimes I prefer children’s nonfiction to ones aimed at adults, because I don’t get much out of the adult ones. But this book was SO INTELLIGENT and well-written, it is honestly perfect for all ages. The writing style is at a child’s level, yet it is packed with enough facts and history to fascinate an adult.
It was moving to me to read the words of these actual children and to discover the fulfilling lives they went on to live after they were saved. Many of them are still alive and advocate for Holocaust education. This book is a beautiful tribute to their lives, as well as the lives of the saints who risked their lives to save them.
The book is full of photos and quotes to bring to life the children we read about. This book comes out next month and you really, really, really need to get it.
TRUE TO YOUR SELFIE – by Megan McCafferty
Photo and Review by Allison ~ originally on Instagram @howifeelaboutbooks
This book publishes February 4, 2020, so add it to your “To Read” list now!
I love the Jessica Darling series, so I was excited to read something by McCafferty for younger readers. Ella plays ukelele and sings harmonies with Morgan for their YouTube channel, which has a ton of followers and is on the verge of blowing up. At least, Morgan is determined to make it blow up. She wants to be famous, and she’s grooming Ella to make sure she fits their “brand”. But Ella is tired of always being “on” for fans and selfies and doing multiple takes of drinking a smoothie. She finally finds something she’s good at, but when Morgan won’t let her pursue that passion, Ella has to assess if she wants to be true to herself or be famous.
OWLY: THE WAY HOME – by Andy Runton
February 4th 2020 ~ Graphix
Review and Photo by Emily ~ @redpoppyreading
This is a super sweet comic-style book about Owly, a very kind owl who is always helping his friends. In the first story, Owly meet a lost worm and helps him find his home. They become such good friends that after finding his parents, Wormy decides to live with Owly. In the second story, Owly and Wormy become friends with two hummingbirds. This is just a sweet book about being a good friend. This is a new updated version of Owly with color pictures and some words. There are not a lot of words in this book, but they are not needed because the story is so lovely! For ages 7-10, but my six-year-old also thoroughly enjoyed this book.
SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESS OF POWER: LEGEND OF THE FIRE PRINCESS – by Gigi D.G.
February 4th 2020 ~ Scholastic Inc.
Review and Photo by Emily ~ @redpoppyreading
This book is a She-Ra fan’s dream! My whole family (especially my kindergartner) is a huge fan of the Netflix She-Ra Series and this original graphic novel made us all very happy! Based on the Netflix series, but not a retelling of an plot line in the series, “The Legend of the Fire Princess” includes all our favorite characters in a race to get hold of a rune stone. But is the stone too dangerous to save? The members of Princess Rebellion find that by working together and using everyone’s strengths, they can triumph. We can’t wait for more graphic novels in this series!
For ages 8 and up, but my six-year-old thoroughly enjoyed this book as a read-aloud.
ELEMENTS OF GENIUS: NIKKI TESLA AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING – by Jess Keating
February 4th 2020 ~ Scholastic Press
Photo and Review by Michele ~ originally on Instagram @michelegreen120
This book is coming out in February and is as good as the first! Nikki and her friends are geniuses, actual geniuses. Her father has been missing for 7 years but never mind that – they need to rescue a top secret ring with incredible powers! When the rescue is too easy, you know there’s going to be more to this story…stealing a ship, breaking and entering, bad guys, loyalty tests…
Your middle grade readers are going to love the adventure, the smarts, and the mystery all involved in this book. I’ll definitely be ordering it for my 4th-6th readers!
ARMADILLO AND HARE – by Jeremy Strong
February 4th 2020 ~ David Fickling Books
In the tradition of Cynthia Rylant and Arnold Lobel comes an utterly charming, hilarious, and heartfelt story of unlikely animal friendship and the differences in all of us, told with wit and wisdom.
Armadillo and Hare live with their friends in the Big Forest. Hare loves dancing. Armadillo loves cheese sandwiches. Hare loves playing the tuba. Armadillo loves cheese sandwiches. Hare loves his best friend, Armadillo. Armadillo loves Hare – AND cheese sandwiches! They have quite a mix of friends, including an acrobatic wombat, a know-it-all lobster, a hungry jaguar, and (let’s not forget) the invisible stick insect.
Over the course of these ten stories of friendship, Armadillo and Hare will learn some very important lessons:
– Exercise is important for Armadillos, but so are cheese sandwiches.
– Big animals like jaguars and small insects get lonely too…and might just be the best of friends.
– Elephants can cause more damage than thunderstorms.
– You can still host a forest birthday party even if it’s nobody’s birthday, as long as everyone is invited.
Filled with stunning illustrations by Rebecca Bagley, this is a book to be read over and over again.
Watch for a review soon!
KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES – by Kacen Callender
February 4th 2020 ~ Scholastic Press
Photo and Review by Laura ~ Originally on Instagram @ibrarianmsg
🌟 ALL THE STARS!!! 🌟
KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES made my heart race, ache and sing. I couldn’t put this one down and I bet you won’t be able to either. @kacen.callender has written an intense, gorgeous book about acceptance, love, and grief. I love the way this book explores the difficulty of letting go of prejudice. MUST BUY for grades 4+. Can’t wait to get this one in the hands of kids.
THE EYE OF RA – by Ben Gartner kate teaching
February 1st 2020 ~ Crescent Vista Press
Photo and review by Kate ~ originally on Instagram kateteaching7and8
While on a hike with their parents in the mountains of Colorado, siblings Sarah and John come across a mysterious cave. Inside they find hieroglyphs and when Sarah traces the image, the two are transported back in time…all the way to Ancient Egpyt. There they make friends with Zack whose father is building a pyramind for the King Djoser. They have to work with their friends and be smart in order to survive and hopefully find their way home.
This book is marketed as being for “readers graduating from the Magic Treehouse series and ready for intense action” (from the book’s back cover). I definitely agree that there is a Magic Treehouse-esque element with the two siblings who time travel. I liked that one of the over arching ideas was about dealing with moving somewhere new and making new friends. I think this is something that kids will be able to relate to. This book had some fun and exciting moments in it, but I wouldn’t necessarily define it as action-packed. The characters do face off with spiders, scorpions, a sandstorm, crocodiles, and a thief so there is definitely action; it just wasn’t quite what I was expecting. One of my favorite things about the book is that it seems to be very well researched and I got to learn about various Egyptian gods, games, and customs. It alternates between Sarah and John’s perspectives and uses third person narration. Both characters are young (Sarah going into 7th and John 5th) and their voices reflect this. I would recommend this book for readers in grades four through seven who enjoy time travel, history, and/or Ancient Egypt.
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