Posts from the ‘middle grades’ Category

JOY RIDE

n Adventure With Anna the Virus

Written by Emma Gertony

Fun illustrated early chapter book for children to explain how viruses enter the body. Anna has been hiding in waiting while inside young Henry’s nose. Like her fellow adenoviruses, Anna has a round shape with spikes and is less than 200 nanometers in size. She and thousands of others like her wait for the perfect moment to travel through the air at 100 miles per hour and land on a surface like a park railing. Here they lie in wait for an unsuspecting child. Their leader, Captain Roger, calls out instructions. George places his hand on the railing; when he touches an itchy nose, the viruses seize the opportunity to slide down his larynx, hoping to eventually reach his lungs. In the meantime, Ted, who is positioned in George’s Thymus valiantly calls out to his troops, the white blood cells and mucus glands to fight off the viruses. Those viruses seem to be winning the battle until George’s body defenses of high fever and chills initiate a visit to the doctor, who prescribes medication and a regimen of good hygiene to defeat the invaders.

This book is richly and vividly illustrated making it a crossover between a picture and early chapter book. Parents of preschoolers might want to use it to explain what makes a child feel sick. Older children will enjoy the humor and the adventure story. Recommended especially for children ages four through ten. Good choice for libraries, doctor’s waiting rooms, and classrooms.

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SLOW BURN

Sparks: A Fantasy Short Story

Written by T. Daniel Sheppeard

 

Interesting and quirky short story about Sebastian, a young boy who is an apprentice magician. Sebastian is a gifted student, but he suffers from a lack of concentration. His tutor Maltheus endeavors to teach him how to light fire. Sebastian repeats the incantation but nothing happens. Maltheus sends him back to his dorm to study Dallben’s Meditations and Ruell’s Liturgy. When they meet a few days later, Matheus uses a different strategy to teach Sebastian. Sebastian becomes too successful with the Flame Hand trick and it leads to new problems. By the end of the tale, Sebastian realizes that the true goal of wizardry is not to master others but to master oneself.

This book is a really short story, less than twenty pages. Fans of magic, fantasy and humor will probably enjoy it. Appropriate for middle school, young adult and adult audiences.

 

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UNLIKELY ALLIES

Dragon Lightning: Dragon Dreamer Book 2

Written and illustrated by J.S. Burke

If you read Book One in this series, you probably already love the complex communities of dragons, octopi and squid that you have encountered. These beautifully described creatures introduce their readers to unique habitats in a fantasy world explained in real scientific terms. Readers become immersed in adventures, while learning about real scientific phenomena like volcanoes, lightning and glaciers.

Book Two introduces us to Drakor who is experiencing the red lightning from a volcanic eruption. He lands on a thin piece of ice. Arak, Taron and Dorali are traveling up north on a wooden skiff. They come upon the injured Drakor and rescue the ice dragon. He is mystified by these golden dragons as well as the octopi traveling with them. Each species will teach and learn from each other. The dragon communities are aware that their communities may face extinction. Their octopi friends under the sea fear underwater destruction.

Readers learn about the “might makes right” society of the ice dragons and the democratic, healing ways of the golden dragons. The peaceful octopi must use force to defend themselves against the squid. Principles of science are interwoven with fantasy and philosophy.

Smooth flowing prose accompanied by simple but elegant illustrations mark this tale as a winner for fans of science, fantasy and adventure. Widespread appeal for pre- teens, teens and adult audiences. What adventures await the dragons in Book Three?

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PARENTAL WAR:STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Cupcakes vs. Brownies: Zimmah Chronicles Book 1

Written by Scott King

In the prologue readers meet ten year old Karim, who is falling through pink candy cotton clouds trapped in a bubble of bubblegum. He is clutching a small glass bottle to his chest. At first glance, that does not sound like much of a predicament for a child, until you read on to the first chapter.

Karim’s parents, Malek and Christina, are arguing again. Karim overhears them discuss the possibility of divorce. The boy impulsively rushes out of the house into the streets of San Francisco with his dog in a thunderstorm. He bumps into an elderly woman named Madame Loope, who invites him into her pawn shop to escape the storm. Karim picks up a glass bottle. Steam begins hissing from the bottle as a man emerges from it once uncorked. This man is a Zimmah, a djinn. Karim asks that he be granted a wish. His first wish is to turn his Labrador into a Snow Lion. After the djinn grants that wish, Karim wishes the world was a happy place.

Karim is transported to a world filled with edible sweets. What astonished the boy is that he meets his father transformed into the king of the Cupcake World. Malek is preparing to do battle with his enemy, the Queen of the Brownies. Karim cannot believe his eyes when he discovers the Captain of the Brownie army is none other than his mother. When Karim pleads with Zimmah his wish is to fix things between his parents and return to the real world, the djinn informs him that this is the way things are and there is no magic to fix it. Will Karim ever find his way back home to San Francisco? Is Zimmah a friend or an enemy? What will happen to Malek and Christina?

This book is a creative way to approach the problem of divorce and how children may cope with it. It combines fantasy with an interesting plot that deals with an issue many children in families must face. Appropriate for children ages eight and older; this book could be useful for parents, teachers and social workers to open up many avenues of discussion.

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A SWIMMING TALE

Children of Lir: (Ireland’s Best Known Stories in a Nutshell Book 1)

Written by Ann Carroll

Illustrated by Derry Dillon

First in a series of books that explores Irish folklore for children. In the first book readers are introduced to the king of Lir who is happy living in the castle with his wife and four children. They rule over their subjects until one day the queen dies. The family is disconsolate. After a time the king invites his wife’s sister to come and live in the castle to help take care of the children. He eventually marries her. Unknown to the king, Aoife is mean and unloving toward the children. She lets out her frustrations by retreating to a distant spot in the castle where she screams. One day she decides to take the children to the lake where she places a curse on them. She condemns them to spend three centuries as swans. They plead with her to leave them with human voices and the ability to sing. Feeling a bit guilty, she accedes to that wish.

The king is furious with his queen. Meanwhile the king is distraught and searches throughout the kingdom for his children. The king discovers them one day and decides to spend the rest of his life living by their side. He uses his own magic to turn his wife into a shrieking crow. The children spend their lives swimming and wandering the seas until one day they meet St. Patrick.

Charming pencil drawings enhance the story. Most children will not be familiar with the plot. This book is an easy read for middle grade students who enjoy folklore and myth.

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ANALYZING ANTS

Ants: Amazing Facts about Ants with Pictures for Kid

Written by Hathai Ross

The author packs a lot of information into this reference book about ants. Many kids enjoy watching them while exploring outdoors or under glass in an ant farm.

These fascinating creatures live in all parts of the world except Antarctica. More than 12,000 species have been alive for millions of years. Ants live in colonies and are social insects with designated roles. Broadly speaking, there are queens, workers, and male ants. The queen is the largest in the colony whose only job is to lay eggs. Male ants’ only responsibility is to mate with the queen. Worker ants feed the larvae, defend the colony, and remove the waste.

Ross spends a bit of time describing Argentine Ants, Pavement Ants, House Ants, Carpenter Ants, Crazy Ants and Fire Ants. The author describes their appearance, environment, daily life and interesting characteristics. Amazing facts include their exceptional strength, being able to carry twenty times their weight, and the fact that they fight till the death. Ants usually crawl in lines because they are following the pheromones of ants that have crawled before them. There are one million ants for every single human living on earth.

I would have liked to see more photos included in the book. At times the text begins to sound like a list of facts rather than a story about ants, but this book is an excellent reference for children who are interested in these fascinating creatures that are all around us. Recommended especially for young scientists in the eight to twelve age range. Good starting point for a research project.

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THE RIGHT HOME

The Puppy Place # 1 Where Every Puppy Finds a Home

Written by Ellen Miles

This is my first time reading a book in this series. I enjoyed reading this chapter book that is perfect for beginning readers who love dogs. Lizzie and Charles are two siblings who really want a dog, but their mom favors cats and feels that their family is not ready to shoulder the responsibility of caring for a dog. One day, their father, who is a volunteer fireman, rescues a golden retriever puppy from a fire. The children plead with their parents to keep the pup. When their two-year-old brother falls in love with “Goldie,” and follows her everywhere, mom reluctantly agrees to adopt the dog temporarily as a foster pup. Lizzie researchers how to train puppies and Charles helps out with socialization training. Mom insists that they advertise in the community for a permanent placement, and the children reluctantly agree. They come up with a plan to keep the pup nearby. In the end, the family is surprised at how this golden retriever has transformed them.

This chapter book is charming; it tells the story from the viewpoint of the children as well as in the first person from the viewpoint of a puppy. In the process, children learn responsibility and the proper way to care for a puppy. Recommended especially for readers ages seven through ten, but the tale can be enjoyed by all ages.

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