by Cindy Baldwin
Where the Watermelons Grow deals with a tough subject that isn’t really out there much for middle grade and upper elementary grade readers mental illness. This book is heavy and can be too much for some readers, so you might want to read it before you hand it to your reader if you think it might a trigger. I really think readers ages middle grade through adult will enjoy this heart breaking book that really touched and has stayed with me. I just wanted to go into the book and give Della a huge hug. She is such a sweet strong girl who is facing so much in her life. I think this is one of those books that could help kids that are dealing with tough situations at home. They could see that they are not the only one’s that are dealing with these issues or similar ones. I know some are saying it could be for as young at 3rd grade but I really think for me at least this is an upper elementary and above. The story is well written, the characters are fully developed and the story is one that will touch every reader. I couldn’t believe this was a debut novel from the author. I can’t wait to see what Cindy Baldwin writes next. Grab this book from your local library or book store and read a wonderful book this summer!
About the book: When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.
With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.
But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.
Thank you HarperCollins and Cindy Baldwin for allowing me to read Where the Watermelons Grow. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.
by Jan Eldredge
illustrations by Joseph Kuefler
I know it says illustrations by, but don’t let that stop you this is a middle grade chapter book with some wonderful illustrations sprinkled throughout. I really gives the book a great feel. I was told that Evangeline of the Bayou was a supernatural hunter book for middle grade with a southern gothic feel. I was sold but was a bit skeptical, I hadn’t really read a book like that for middle grade, YA sure lots but middle grade not so much. Evangeline is a spunky, sassy, girl who also strong, brave and smart. She must have gotten those qualities from her grandma who even is her aging years is still all those things. They are a family of supernatural hunters. You read that right they fight the supernatural from ghost to monsters. She needs to find her animal familiar and fast to prove she has a heart to the council and can be a haunt huntress aka: swamp witch just like her grandma. Evangeline is learning to hunt, she sometimes even goes out on her own while grandma sleeps. That never goes well and the reader gets to experience some pretty humorous mistakes being made. Just when Evangeline thinks she can’t take the swamp anymore her grandma informs her they are packing their bags and heading to New Orleans to take care of a possession. Evangeline couldn’t be happier since the canine omen of death that has her worried that grandma’s days are coming to an end. Once the reader travels to New Orleans with the crew the story takes on a new twist. This book is such a fun, charming, book that I seriously could reread it again and again. I loved all the New Orleans and Louisiana references. From the swampy cypress trees to the beignets at Cafe Du Monde she really transported me back to this rich vibrant city. If your kid is reluctant to read a book this summer grab a copy of Evangeline of the Bayou from your library or bookstore and hand it to them. They will fall for this rich vibrant story about monsters, banshees (which I have to say I’m a bit intrigued by them), southern folklore, and gothic charm. Might want to grab 2 copies so you can read this amazing story that my middle grader reader and I really hope becomes a series!
About the book: Twelve-year-old haunt huntress apprentice Evangeline Clement spends her days and nights studying the ways of folk magic, honing her monster-hunting skills while pursuing local bayou banshees and Johnny revenants.
With her animal familiar sure to make itself known any day now, the only thing left to do is prove to the council she has heart. Then she will finally be declared a true haunt huntress, worthy of following in the footsteps of her long line of female ancestors.
But when Evangeline and her grandmother are called to New Orleans to resolve an unusual case, she uncovers a secret that will shake her to the soles of her silver-tipped alligator-skin boots.
Set in the evocative Louisiana bayou and the vibrant streets of New Orleans, Evangeline’s is a tale of loyalty and determination, the powerful bonds of friendship and family, and the courage to trust your gut no matter how terrifying that might be.
Thank you so much Balzer+Bray for sending me a copy of Evangeline of the Bayou. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.
by Kristen Mahoney
I have never read a middle grade book or any book really done up in this format. As the title says it is all about Annie’s Life in Lists. The whole book is done up as individual list, instead of chapters. Maybe it’s because the idea is such a new one of a kind concept or maybe it’s because I’m a daily list maker but I really enjoyed this book so much. I really felt like I got to know Annie even though I was reading everything in all these different list and some paragraphs thrown in for good measure and further detail. I saw a little bit of myself in Annie as a kid and even now. I was extremely shy (not so much anymore ) , I have a photographic memory (which drives people batty sometimes at the things I remember). She is starting a new school in a new town and she is nervous. I remember that feeling all to well. I think this is one we all feel even if we are still in same town. You have to start new schools eventually when you go to middle and high school. This book is a great book for any 6th grader that is getting ready to start a new chapter in their life and are a bit nervous. Annie, her family and friends will become new friends. The characters and story line are fun, engaging and fully developed. Annie’s Life in List is a must read this summer, I know my soon to be 7th grader really liked it and gifted the copy to her 6th grade center librarian. If you are looking for a book to get your middle grade reader and they loved Judy Moody and Ramona than Kristen Mahoney’s book is perfect for them. Grab Annie’s Life in List and make it a reading day!
About the book: Annie’s a shy fifth grader with an incredible memory and a love of making lists. It helps her keep track of things when they can seem a little out of control, like her family, her friends, and her life in a new place.
1. An incredible memory (really, it’s almost photographic) that can get her in trouble
2. A desire to overcome her shyness
3. A brother who is mad at her because he thinks she is the reason they had to move to Clover Gap, population 8,432.
4. A best friend who she is (almost) certain will always be her best friend.
5. New classmates, some of whom are nicer than others.
6. A rocky start finding her place in her new home.
Annie’s Life in Lists introduces a sweet new voice that finds that even amid the chaos of everyday life, it’s important to put things in order.
Thank you Alfred A Knopf and Penguin Random House for sending us a copy of Annie’s Life in List. All thoughts and opinions are mine and not influenced by the free book.
by Aisha Saeed
First things first I have to say it the cover is so beautiful! I mean look at it. It is display worthy and I know if reader’s are like my middle grader and I they will grab this for the cover alone. Then the reader will be in for a treat because Amal’s story is one that will grab the reader and keep them reading till the very end. Amal’s character is a strong girl who has seen much in her life. She has a best friend that is a boy that she is forbidden to see, but does anyway. He is a her best friend has been since they were little and plus he is a boy so he get’s the best books at school. Her being a girl doesn’t have as many options as boys do. She is getting to where she has had enough and that might get her into trouble and it does. Things go terribly wrong and she is now a servant for the wealthy family lives in the village as well as frightens many of the villagers.
Amal Unbound is good it exposes the reader to the way of life in another part of the world. I had a very strong middle grade girl as the lead character. Middle grade girls will really like Amal and her story I know mine did. This book reminds me alot of one of my favorite children’s classics A Little Princess. I’d maybe display them together in a library in an: if you like this you might like this setting. Maybe that would get kids to pick up the classic if they haven’t already. Overall it was a solid 4 star rating. The only complaint my middle grade reader and I had been one that I can’t really say without spoiling the book but you’ll know it when you read it. It didn’t take away from the book or star rating just didn’t really seem possible in our minds.
About the book: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Thank you Nancy Paulson books for sending us a copy of Amal Unbound for review. All thoughts and opinions are our own and not influenced by the free book.
by Emma Carroll
Strange Star is such an enchanting tale. It is like you’re getting 2 stories in one book. The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 sets the ground work for part 2. In part one you meet most of the cast of characters included in Strange Star. What really intrigued me is the inclusion of the Mary Shelley. She is the writer of Frankenstein, one of the all time horror classics. The author even includes some history of the author and book and why it inspired her to write this book. In the first section of the book (Part 1) the characters are all together for a dinner and ghost story session. The only requirement for the storytelling is to tell a story that will freeze your blood. They are all telling stories, interesting enough Mary Shelley has a problem coming up with one and passes. Then something very strange and mysterious happens and in walks Lizzie. Now you begin the middle section (Part 2), in this you learn all about Peg, Lizzie and the mysterious scientist. This story is very mysterious and fast paced. This section is full of adventure and testing one’s will to not only do what’s right but reunite family. It is also full of all kinds of mad science as they would call it. That scientist lady was mad crazy and definitely the idea behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I think. The last section is thinner and from here the reader will be back at Villa Diodati and the dinner party that Lizzie was able to locate and crash. She is a very strong-willed girl to travel from England to Switzerland not only by herself but also she was blinded by the lightning strike that happened in part 1. Her bond and love for her sister Peg is what gave her the will to never give up. The last little section and the epilogue wraps everything up quick and fast, maybe a little to fast but it was still a great book and ending. This book was really enjoyable and one I’d recommend to upper elementary and middle school readers looking for a good book with a tiny bit of creepy but a great story of sister bonds that can’t be broken, as well as a semi introduction into a classic: Frankenstein. My middle grader (6th grade) read Frankenstein recently and really enjoyed it. Maybe gift your middle grader with Strange Star and Frankenstein this summer for something different for their summer reading.
About the book:
They were coming tonight to tell ghost stories. ‘A tale to freeze the blood,’ was the only rule.
Switzerland, 1816. On a stormy summer night, Lord Byron and his guests are gathered round the fire. Felix, their serving boy, can’t wait to hear their creepy tales. Yet real life is about to take a chilling turn- more chilling than any tale. Frantic pounding at the front door reveals a stranger, a girl covered in the most unusual scars. She claims to be looking for her sister, supposedly snatched from England by a woman called Mary Shelley. Someone else has followed her here too, she says. And the girl is terrified.
Thank you so very much Delacorte Books for Young Readers and Emma Carroll for allowing my middle grade reader and I read this wonderful book. All thoughts and opinions are our own and not influenced by the free book.
by Tae Keller
The science nerd in me loved that each chapter was set up like a middle grade science notebook. STEM and girls is a huge movement right now. This book is more than a book about STEM it tackles a subject that some middle grade books haven’t touched on much: depression. Depression in a parent is one I’m not sure I’ve read about in middle grade lit. So I was interested to see how it was handled in this book. I feel in love with this book, it was heartwarming and touched me.
The main character Natalie’s science teacher has assigned a big school year-long science project. They have to create a scientific question and use all that they learn to research it and present everything they have learned in their science notebooks. Natalie isn’t sure here question really counts as scientific inquiry but she is going to try because she really does want to know: How do you grow a miracle? See she needs a miracle to get back the mom she use to have before the sadness took over. Natalie’s scientist mom is very sad and doesn’t get out of bed. She is suffering from depression and no one is addressing it. Natalie is going to do everything she can to get her family back to the way they were before. Natalie has 2 great friends that will do anything to help their friend. Twig and Dari are just who Natalie needs right now and sometimes just having great friends can help more than you realize. Depression is a hard thing to understand for anyone who doesn’t have it, even harder for kids to understand why does their parent not want to be with them. The author Tae Keller does an amazing job at showing how the depression of a parent can effect a child and family. Yes The Science of Breakable Things was sad but it wasn’t unbelievably sad. It shows sometimes families can’t be happy go lucky and sometimes we need to heal before we can get back to where we were before. She has created a well written book that might show a child who is also experiencing the same thing Natalie is that it is alright and it will be Okay. The Science of Breakable Things tackles family members depression, the challenges of friendship in middle school, not giving up hope when you really feel like there is nothing you can do. I really loved this book and I think and hope it helps a reader who might just need a glimmer of hope in a trying time.
About the book: How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie’s botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that’s important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.
Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She’s going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids–flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it’s up to kids to save them, right?
Thank you so much Random House and Tae Keller for sending me a copy of The Science of Breakable Things. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.
Young Reader’s Edition
by Andrew Maraniss
So many times it’s hard to get non fiction books into the hands of young readers. I know many love non fiction – my middle grade reader really only likes non fiction. So many though don’t, but that is changing thanks to Young Reader’s Edition books. They take a popular adult non fiction and give a detailed but condensed version of the book with younger reader’s in mind. My middle grader reader and I have read many Young Reader’s Editions and have enjoyed them so much we’ve seeked out the adult book as well .
Strong Inside The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line follows Perry Wallace through out his young school days through his college years. This book is a sport biography but also a historical biography as well. He grew up in an era that was full of racism and people who didn’t want to see him succeed. He didn’t let them hold him back. He had a dream, the talent and the strength and character that took all the way! There is some tough language in here. The author has a note in the beginning saying to whitewash the language would be a disservice and I agree. We need to read about this time in history, we can not forget or go back to that era. If generations going up know don’t know about it history repeats itself. Perry Wallace is one I hope many kids will read about and look up to. He would be an excellent role model that I used his good heart, brains and talent and made something of himself. It wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to work 10 times harder than most high school and college players but he didn’t let that stop him. He was not only talent on the basket ball court but he was also very well-known in the courthouse as well. He became a trial attorney and worked with environmental law. He was appointed Environmental Policy Advisory Council by the EPA but also a professor at American University Washington College of Law. I enjoyed this book very much and was quite surprised I’m not a sports gal but he was such an inspiring man! If you have a sports minded boy reader, reluctant reader or a non fiction book-worm hand them a copy of Strong Inside. Don’t be surprised if this one doesn’t stay on your bookshelves much. I have a filling this will be a very popular book choice for upper elementary, middle grade and high school readers.
About the book: The inspirational true story of the first African-American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference–a powerful moment in Black history.
Perry Wallace was born at a historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially integrated state tournament.
The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.
Thank you Puffin books for sending me a copy of Strong Inside. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.