Category: Middle Grade

Review: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck that left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive—but “almost impossible” means “still possible.” And you should never ignore a possible.

So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian, threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has— the address of the cello maker.

Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers—urchins who live in the hidden spaces above the city. Together they scour the city in a search for Sophie’s mother—but can they find her before Sophie is caught and sent back to London? Or, more importantly, before she loses hope?

As soon as I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I didn’t even need to know what it was about, I just knew from the title and cover that it was a thing I was going to like and I needed it. Once I read the summary, I NEEDED IT MORE. Oh, man, was I ever right.

I completely loved this book. I was entranced with the set up story, all the characters and especially the writing style. The writing style is so simple and clean that just it focuses This book reminded me of Claire Legrand’s The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and Ellen Potter’s Kneebone Boy. If you like books, that are a little quirky, a little dark and completely magical in their own way, this is so your book.

In search for her long lost mother, Sophie makes some new friends. Orphans living on the streets (or above them) of Paris. Rooftopper Matteo, Sky-treaders Anastasia and Safi and Notre Dame dweller, Gerard. I picture these four kind of like being the real world version of Neverland’s Lost Boys. I’m talking kids, but I can’t neglect Charles. One of the coolest adults I’ve read in Middle Grade fiction. So easily adults can be either seen as strict, evil overlords or totally clueless parents (yes, it happens before the teen years), but Charles is neither. He is Sophie’s guardian and just plain cool. He only wants the best for her, no matter her method of getting it.

I know there’s another book expected from Katherine Rundell coming this year and I absolutely cannot wait for it.

Review: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel


All aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

I saw that this book was written by Kenneth Oppel and after reading and loving his This Dark Endeavor series (excuse me, Mr. Oppel, when are we getting more books about Victor? I need them.) I knew I needed this book. Not to mention this book is basically like Titanic mixed with The Great Train Robbery. Taking place on a train. But such a huge train that you can’t just stop it easily or get off. Kind of like a ship. But on land. Awesome.

The entire book is simply a journey from the caboose to the engine. It might sound basic, but on a huge train, filled with danger and unknown enemies, all while being pursued by ruffians and murders. Utterly perilous. Every car holds new challenges as Will has to get to the front of car to save his father and the train. And blend this with the fantastic magic and steampunk themes and it just keeps getting better and better.

But Will isn’t alone. He makes allies with circus performers he’s not always sure he can trust, Maren, a contortionist with many other talent and Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster. Both of which seem helpful, but might just have their own motives. Dun dun dun. I love me a little dubious characters. Make them steampunk-y and performers. Oh man. SO INTRIGUED.

I have to mention how much I love Oppel’s writing style, it’s a little different in this book, but still has the same absorbing quality that his Young Adult novels have. I started this book and I just didn’t want to stop. Didn’t want the subway to have reached my stop, didn’t want my break at work to end or you know, have to sleep. I just wanted to be kept in this rich, beautiful world of the Canadian wilderness.

Cover Reveal: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

One of the biggest series that I’ve been keeping my eye out for this year is Holly Black, co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Cassandra Clare’s, author of The Mortal Instruments trilogy, co-written middle grade series, Magisterium. It seems like everything the two of these authors touch turns immediately to gold. Here’s a little bit about book one, The Iron Trial.

From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

And finally after months of waiting, there is finally a cover for book one.


Thanks to USA Today for the reveal!

The five-book series, aimed at readers 8-12, features students at the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. Clare says she had “a certain trepidation that I wouldn’t be able to capture a middle-grade voice, since I’ve only written for older teens. Working with Holly helped iron that out because she’s a middle-grade expert.”

Although it doesn’t come out until September 9th from Scholastic, you can head over to USA Today to read an exclusive excerpt The Iron Trial: Book One of the Magisterium.

What are your thoughts on the cover? I love it!


Review: Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

jeremy4The once highly in-demand detective Alan Knightley has just woken up after an unexplained incident kept him asleep for four years. While he was out cold, his son, Darkus, took it upon himself to read of all his dad’s old cases, and he’s learned a lot about the art of detection. It’s a good thing too—because suddenly the duo find themselves caught up in a crazy conspiracy that involves a group of villainous masterminds (who keep appearing and then vanishing), some high-speed car chases (that will have everyone fastening their seat belts), and a national, bestselling book with the power to make people do terrible, terrible things. But because Alan is still suffering the effects of his coma, he tends to, well, fall asleep at the worst possible moments, Meaning that young Darkus might just have to solve this mystery . . . by himself.

So, I admit it. I’ve joined the Sherlock fandom. I’ve always loved mystery and the original Sherlock Holmes, but BBC’s version has be suckered. So when this was pitched as Sherlock Holmes-type book, boom. Sold. However, this isn’t a straight up retelling like the BBC is doing. There are many Sherlockian references, but with a title like Knightley & Son, you know it’s not gonna be exact.

My favorite aspect of this book was the main mystery. Honestly, the idea of a book making people commit crime? Okay, color me interested. Understanding the main mystery was the sole reason that I didn’t want to put the book down for any great length of time. And I felt that the mystery behind it was in true Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fashion — seemingly paranormal circumstances with a total reality-based explanation in the end. I don’t really think that spoils much.

I also liked Darkus (our Sherlock – more or less) and his no-nonsense approach to everything. I know this is a Middle Grade novel and parents are generally) seen, but I kind of wish we’d seen less of Knightley and Uncle Bill and more of Tilly and her Watson-like partnering. If there is a sequel and there’s more Darkus and Tilly partnering, I would be totally game for that!

At my lovely children’s bookselling job, I get asked a million times a day for mystery and have always lamented about the lack of straight-up Agatha Christie-like mystery for the Middle Grade reader and am so excited that Bloomsbury has finally given the genre something I can recommend!

Picture Book Reviews: Dragons, Fishes, and Tigers, Oh My!

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You’re in red-hot trouble.

The award-winning team behind Those Darn Squirrels! has created an unforgettable, laugh-until-salsa-comes-out-of-your-nose tale of new friends and the perfect snack.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single dragon in possession of a large appetite, must be in want of hundreds of tacos. And this humorous book has more than one dragon in it, meaning many, many tacos. This light-hearted, slightly absurd dragon story makes you want to read it aloud to a bunch of children making up all sorts of weird voices for each character. If you love tacos too, this book is most definitely for you.

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb
Paul is a fish who used to go around in circles. He made big circles and little circles. He circled from left to right and from right to left. He circled from top to bottom and from bottom to top. What else was there to do? Until one day Bernadette drops in and shows Paul that there is a whole world out there, right outside his bowl, with so many things to see. A banana-shaped boat! A blue elephant with a spoutlike trunk (be quiet when she’s feeding her babies)! A lovely lunetta butterfly, with tortoise-shell rims! Simple saturated paintings play off this charming ode to an active imagination — and the way that life changes when a bewitching creature opens your eyes.

Paul is a lonely goldfish living his life in a bubble. Literally. He’s so entranced in his daily routine of swimming around, up, and down, that he never looks outside his bowl. That is until the day Bernadette arrives. She opens his eyes to the world around him in a hilarious way that only goldfish can understand the outside world. To her, a teapot is an elephant, a newspaper is a lady’s dress, and more that will make you laugh out loud. After noticing everything around them, Paul truly notices Bernadette and sees her in a different light. This story, beautifully illustrated on oil canvas, will resonate with families and children keeping them engaged as they read and teaching the power of seeing another’s perspective.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Are you bored with being so proper?
Do you want to have more fun?
Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild.
But does he go too far?
There is a time and place for everything…even going wild.

Written by Caldecott Honor illustrator Jeff Brown, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild shows that even if you don’t fit in where you are, you have the ability to fix it! Mr. Tiger hates being a proper gentleman all the time…he just wants to be wild. It’s not until he runs away that he realizes everything he left behind. But by the time her returns, everything has changed.

Peter Brown’s writing and illustration stands out on its own as completely unique and perfect for kids of all ages.


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