Posts from the ‘middle grades’ Category

GREEN TEAM

Not for me, Please! I choose to act green

Written by Marie Godsey

Illustrated by Christoph J. Kellner

 

What a clever way to explain the concept of recycling to young children. Godsey uses a young boy presented in the guise of a superhero. At first, Luke is like most children who pay no attention to conserving the earth’s resources. When Luke notices trash all around him, he decides that he will become a part of the solution rather than the problem.

Luke shows his readers how to follow the three R’s: reduce, recycle and reuse. He discusses the problems of trash in the ocean, in our homes and in our schools. He talks about energy conservation tactics a child can practice like turning off faucets, being mindful of unnecessary electricity, and avoiding one-use plastics and paper. While the text is written in rhyme in simple language, the author includes teaching and discussion points at the bottom of each page. At the end of the book, a reflections page summarizes the content in the book and facilitates group discussion. This book is particularly targeted at the elementary school age child, but it is a richly illustrated and pleasing choice for a reader of any age.

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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS

The Frights of Fiji: (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Series Book 1

Written by Sunayna Prasad

This is the first in a series of fantasy adventures for middle-grade readers. Alyssa is the twelve-year-old protagonist who lost her parents in an accident five years prior. Although her parents had named her Uncle Alex as her guardian, she is now living with her Uncle Bruce and his daughter, Hailey.

Bruce is a stern taskmaster; Alyssa lives a life of unending rules and drudgery. When magic becomes a part of her life, along with some strange-looking wizards and creatures, she believes there is the hope of escape from her plight. But then she learns that an evil wizard intends to capture her and remove Bruce from the picture.

Alyssa has been whisked away to Fiji where her situation goes from bad to worse. She is enslaved with several other children and forced to do the evil wizard’s bidding. Will Alyssa find a way to escape back to the United States and find refuge with her godfather?

There are many fantastical characters and a series of rather far-fetched incidents. Even though this book is a magical fantasy, some of the plot connections don’t come off as genuine.

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CASE SOLVED?

The MEAN GIRL Who NEVER SPEAKS: (The Maya Dove Case Files Book 1)

Written by Zuni Blue

Maya Dove is a six-year-old detective who has already established her reputation at school. One of Maya’s classmates asks her to determine if a new girl at school, Libby Smith is mean or nice. Instead of chapters, the book is presented as a day of the week chronicle as Maya attempts to solve the case. Readers are brought through the day’s happenings in the classroom. Maya gathers her clues, but when Friday arrives she reveals her opinions in a classroom speech.

I am not sure whether Maya really solves the case. She does not state whether Libby is mean or nice but presents her solution in a way that introduces an important social issue. Certainly, Maya’s opinions are quite sophisticated for a six-year-old.

This book is targeted for 5 to 11-year-old readers. The text and vocabulary are an easy read until readers come to the end and Maya’s conclusion. I am not sure whether younger readers will understand the concept of social anxiety. That part of the book is most appropriate for readers ages nine and older. Younger readers will probably need adult help in understanding this concept. I was left with the feeling that the book ended a bit abruptly and the characters might have been fleshed out with more detail.

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FREE AT LAST

Hey Hilde

Written by Ross Hammond

 

Hilde is an adorable Capuchin monkey who leads a carefree life in the jungles of Bolivia until one day poachers come to capture her. Now Hilde is forced to do tricks while chained to a post by day and sleep in a cage every night. One day a volunteer from the rescue organization, CIWY arrives to rescue Hilde. After a long journey, she arrives at Machia Wildlife Sanctuary where she is free to roam with fellow wildlife creatures once more.

This real-life story teaches children empathy toward creatures who should live in the wild and affords them the opportunity to join the volunteer rescue organization. They raise money by creating awareness through products like this book. The illustrations and photographs are vivid and appealing in this richly illustrated picture book. Bonus activities include a coloring page and related activities. Highly recommended for all ages.

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Gone, but not forgotten

The Yellow Suitcase

Written by Meera Sriram

Illustrated by Meera Sethi

Asha arrives at her grandmother’s house in India from California for her yearly visit, clutching her yellow suitcase. Each year Asha packs her suitcase with gifts for her grandmother and returns with little treasures that her grandmother has created for her. But this year the house is filled with relatives mourning her grandmother’s death. Asha struggles through her grief and becomes inconsolable until it is time to leave. She finds a wonderful gift that her grandmother has made for Asha just before she died.

This multicultural book is a colorful introduction to Indian culture and customs as well as a well-written book to help children understand the death of a close relative and the grieving process. Sethi’s hand-drawn illustrations are vivid and expressive. Perhaps the text could have been a bit larger, but the design of the book is clear and easy to read. Recommended for ages eight and older.

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BILLY AND BOB’S BLUNDERS

Lost in Lithuania and other funny stories

Written by Alex Goodwin

 

This is my first time reading a book in this series. Goodwin is a thirteen-year-old author with a wonderful imagination and a creative mind. Bob and Billy are two obese friends who decide that they must get in shape. They abruptly decide to enter a curling contest, even though they have no knowledge of the game. The friends discover a note that they have been fired from their jobs in San Francisco, so they hurry to board a plant to get back. Alas! Bob and Billy board the wrong plane and wind up in Lithuania. Now broke, they answer an ad for a job in a bakery for which they have no background and cannot speak the language. When the disgruntled patrons attack them, Bob and Billy flee for their lives and stumble across an abandoned castle where they become tour guides. The two tell a lot of lies, but they become quite adept at their profession. Determined to return home, at last, they are foiled when all their money falls through a hole in their baggage. So, they write to their uncle and secure employment, only to find they will be making aglets for shoelaces on an assembly line. And so, the stories go on… Will Billy and Bob ever make it back home to their jobs at the nuclear plant in Death Valley?

Goodwin writes crisp, catchy dialogue that is as hilarious as it is preposterous. He manages to weave a link between the short stories to create a cohesive plot. The tales are clean, good fun. Readers ages ten and older won’t stop laughing till the last line.

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BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON

The Moth and the Moon

Written by David Kelley

 

This is an intriguing tale that is told in the first person by a newly hatched moth and the friends she makes on the windowsill of a garden shed. Upon opening her eyes, the moth is irresistibly drawn to the light from the moon shining through the window,

Readers follow her development as her friends name her Flutter. She learns quickly from her friends, Horsey the Wasp, her two ladybug friends, and Bumble, the bee. Flutter finds herself in trouble with their arch enemy, Sinister, the Spider. Flutter learns to develop trust and courage that she will one day find her moon.

There are many pitfalls along the way, and some of her friends will be lost to Spider. Will Flutter discover a way to achieve her dream and still retain her bonds with the friends who have nurtured and protected her?

This tale is written clearly and the story flows smoothly. Its length of approximately 100 pages is a bit long for a beginning reader even though the plot sustains interest. I would especially recommend it to middle-grade and young teens, but adults might enjoy it as well.

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