Middle Grade New Release, Week of February 11, 2020

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY to this middle grade book making its rounds through our reviewers! We have only one book to welcome this week, so we’re treating you to three reviews. 

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


BEGINNERS WELCOME – by Cindy Baldwinimg_9695
February 11th 2020 ~ Quill Tree Books

Photo and Review by Alicia ~ originally on Instagram @engagingelementary

Cindy Baldwin has done it again! Fans of Where the Watermelons Grow will LOVE this book! Cindy Baldwin has such a gift for writing in a way that is both emotional and realistic.

Annie Lee has a lot on her shoulders. Eighty-three days ago, her father suddenly dropped dead while playing a game of basketball at church. The grief alone feels like it may crush her, and the sudden life changes are not helping. Annie Lee and her mom had to move to a tiny, cramped apartment across town. Annie Lee is also starting a new school, and her best friends from her old school have drifted away from her. To make matters worse, Annie Lee’s mother had to make her part-time job cleaning houses into a full time job, leaving Annie Lee alone for several hours after school.

With the struggles of life overwhelming her, Annie Lee has decided her new goal is to try and be invisible. She avoids talking to others or making connections to them, because she’s learned that letting others in makes it hurt so much more when they leave. Despite her best efforts to remain invisible, Annie Lee befriends a skater girl at school named Mitch and an elderly pianist named Ray. However, when Ray goes missing, Annie Lee may have to risk losing her new friendship with Mitch to find him.

I absolutely loved this book for its beauty and raw emotion. Cindy Baldwin has such a gift for getting to the real and often ugly thoughts that accompany strong grief. At one point, Annie Lee wishes that it had been her mother that died instead of her father. This part felt so raw to me, and I could see a kid having this thought, and feeling so much guilt over it, just as Annie Lee does. I think some children may be able to find comfort in these raw and emotional parts of the book, because it can show them that they are not alone. This book is a MUST read for anybody in grade 4 and up.


img_9694BEGINNERS WELCOME – by Cindy Baldwin
February 11th 2020 ~ Quill Tree Books

Photo and Review by Allison ~ originally on Instagram @howifeelaboutbooks

This book publishes on February 11, 2020, so go ahead and add it to your wishlist! You won’t want to miss out on this touching, inspiring story.

Annie Lee’s home life hasn’t been the same since her daddy died, and that’s not just because it seems like his spirit is still lingering in the apartment. Annie Lee’s mom works long hours, and since Annie Lee’s friends didn’t know how to relate after her dad’s death, Annie Lee finds herself alone, wrapped in her invisibility cloak. While she searches for things to keep her busy after school, she meets someone who might help her rekindle the love of music that faded after her dad died. Add into the mix a girl who reaches out to her at school, and Annie Lee finds herself wondering if she should let people in, even if she’s worried about getting hurt again.

The magical realism aspects of this book are faint, so I wouldn’t push it into the fantasy genre, but I do think they added an interesting layer to this story.


BEGINNERS WELCOME – by Cindy Baldwinimg_9681
February 11th 2020 ~ Quill Tree Books

Photo and Review by Susan ~ originally on Instagram @redcanoereader

Eighty three days ago, Annie Lee’s daddy dropped dead on the church basketball court. And every morning since then, Annie Lee had awakened to her mama crying in the bathroom. The bathroom is in a cramped apartment in a new neighborhood they had to move to because no one had planned for her daddy to be gone. Her best friends are still in her old neighborhood and have pretty much forgotten about her, because what do you say to someone who suddenly loses her daddy? All of this means a new school, no friends, becoming a latchkey kid and feeling completely alone. The only protection from her heartbreak and loneliness is her magic cloak which makes her invisible to the world.

Part of Annie’s new life means coming straight home after school with the promise to never leave the apartment. However, Annie feels so alone and haunted by her daddy’s ghost (his prized record player begins playing his favorite song even when it’s not plugged in, his whiskers fill the bathroom sink every morning and the air is rich with the scent of his aftershave), she is compelled to take her skateboard out and explore the neighborhood. In her travels she discovers an intriguing urban mall built into two old red brick buildings connected by a fancy courtyard. And what she discovers in the courtyard changes her life. When she allows her cloak to slip a bit, she makes some new friends, finds the support she so badly needs and maybe even discovers a way to heal her broken heart.

I loved everything about this book. I finished it in a day (although after anxiously anticipating Cindy Baldwin’s latest book, I wanted to slow down and savor every word, but oops it didn’t work😉) In fact it was so good, I read it again, even though my TBR pile was staring at me!

First of all, I loved Annie Lee’s name. Somehow, it seemed so perfect for this story set in Durham NC. Then I discovered the lovely language, especially when describing the sparking lights of every color that appear above Ray’s head as Annie Lee listens to him play; and don’t miss the description of Queenie’s smile. It couldn’t be more beautiful (I can only hope someone feels that way about my smile one day). And then there are the memorable relationships, the gentle magic, the warm feelings of love among the characters, the friendships and finally the healing. The healing that only occurs because Annie Lee allowed her cloak to slip and ran the risk of being hurt, but instead found the much needed support and love she needed from her new friends.


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You can also follow our tags on Instagram and Twitter to see all of our reviews:

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