Posts tagged ‘middle grade fiction’

PENGUIN AND FINN

Diary Of A Penguin Napper: How much trouble can one little penguin cause?

Written by Sally Harris

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Well, we are not exactly talking crime of the century, but for two eleven year olds named Marty Finn and Scot Trudman, the penguin caper was a big deal. This book is a middle grade fiction story that combines all those elements of crucial importance to children of that age. Marty has the usual problems adjusting to school, learning to cope and fit in with peers and adults, and finding a way to understand and deal with his first crush. His good friend, Scott owes him due to the fact that Marty has rescued Scot from embarrassment more then once, including the time Scott lost his trunks while diving into the swimming pool.

The story begins at the end. Marty is sitting in his living room reading his diary explaining the details of the kidnapping to two police offices he calls Fat and Skinny. That crime of snatching a penguin from the Australian zoo has been thwarted because his mother has discovered the penguin in the attic bathroom. Why would he possibly want to steal a penguin? He needed the money to go on an overnight school trip to the nature center so that he could work with his assigned partner, Jessica, who just happens to be the girl he has a crush on. Marty’s mother had informed him that she did not have the money for the trip; after several attempts to raise money by doing chores and securing a loan at the local bank, the boys realize they have run out of options. But an unexpected opportunity springs up when the wealthiest student in the school offers them $500 to bring a wild animal to his little sister’s birthday party. So Marty and Scott hatch their plot and succeed in bagging the penguin. The end results and punishments have both predictable and unforeseen consequences.

This story is written mainly for middle grade students. Fans of Diary of A Wimpy Kid will appreciate the clever entries in Marty’s diaries, the names used for characters, and the offbeat humor. The plot, humor and dialogue are age appropriate and genuine. In addition, the cover is an eye catching design which intrigues the reader. If you are looking for an amusing pleasant read, spend a couple of hours with this one.

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BE A MAGICIAN AND CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING

In The Magician’s House

Written by D M Potter

Cover design by Marcus Thomas Design

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The author begins by stating that you will be told how the book starts but that YOU will be the one to decide how it ends. Setting for the reader is a magician’s house where you live and work. There is always a mystery as you explore its rooms.. The reader might be asked to find things or go to places in the house. Dreams are always lurking, and you might be transported to places outside the house. In short, one never knows what will happen or where you might end up. A scenario is painted for you and you must choose your destiny.

Most days you would start by eating breakfast, but finding the kitchen is not always simple. On the first morning, the reader wakes up in his turret in the tower of the house. When you feel something cold on your face, it turns out to be a frog. You get dressed in the dark and hope the stairway will lead to the kitchen. This morning you have found a corridor that stretches to the left and right. On the left you find a suit of armor, to the right there is a hole in the floor with a ladder sticking up from it. Now you must make your first choice! Depending on your decision, you will continue to stop and investigate or remain on the path that you currently pursuing. Throughout the book the reader has numerous choices and paths to follow. You might find yourself in a classroom, a tenement, or meet a character in history. Will you succeed and find  Mrs. Noogles, the cook, making your breakfast or perhaps find yourself in another part of the house or even some other place? If you don’t like your choice the first time, you can always go back and start again.

This book of nearly one hundred pages provides lots of entertainment and adventure for readers age nine and above. Because of the diversity of outcomes, a child will want to reread and revisit it over and over again. Boys and girls in the middle grades will particularly like the element of being in control over the outcome, but I would venture to say many parents and adults will enjoy reading it as well. Highly recommended book for lovers of magic or adventure.

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CAN DO CREW

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL!

 

Miss Quince and The Can Do Crew

Written by Mark and Katie Whyte

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This book is a must have addition to the shelves of libraries and school classrooms. It provides an excellent springboard for discussion to explore differences among children that are frequently labeled disabilities but can in reality be strengths. Many children, especially those in the middle grades, seeking to belong to the most popular peer group seize being different as an opportunity to tease and bully. Mrs. Quince and her class sitting “behind the yellow door” are a class of superheroes.

The story begins with a boy named Nate who is speaking to his dad who happens to be physically disabled. Nate tells his dad that the children at school have been implying that his dad is feeble and weak in body and mind because he is in a wheelchair. Dad relates the story of a boy named Marcus who became disabled as a child riding his bicycle, his initial fears, and inability to cope. Then he introduces Mrs. Quince, his new teacher, and the class of superheroes. This teacher forces Marcus to focus on what he can do, rather than what he cannot accomplish. Over a period of time, Marcus realizes he has the power to succeed on his own. In fact, he proves to he a hero when the class takes an excursion one day. Then he slowly discovers the unique power each of his classmates possess. Every child whether blind, deaf, physically or genetically disabled contributes to the well being of the class and the community.

The authors and their family have various types of disabilities or professional skills and training to work with this population. As a former special educator, I can appreciate the feelings of those emotionally or physically disabled as well as the dedicated professionals who work with them. The lesson of this book is a message that needs to be shared with those in the community who must learn to understand not bully this valued sector of the community. This book is well written with large, colorful illustrations. Highly recommended for children and adults age eight and older.

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A STUDY IN CONTRASTS

Thiel: One Foot in Front of the Other

Written by Lynne Pearl

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This author has a gift for selecting the right words at the right time. Thiel Clay is a young man who has a crooked face and a cripple’s body, but in the words of the author, “Nature had given Thiel an ugly outer shell and a fine inner core.” He lived with his poor family and spent his days working on Squire Turo’s farm. He dearly loves his grandmother, Narn. One day his life dramatically changes when she passes away and she leaves him a box with a letter and a key inside.

Thiel cannot read or write; he takes the letter to a neighbor, Mr. Bunmet. The young man is astonished to learn that his grandmother left forty pieces of the realm in trust at the home of Justice Thwaite in the city of Goneton. Thiel is afraid; he has never been far from his village. Now to ponder a trip on foot to the city is an unthinkable task, but his kindly neighbor encourages him to be man and claim his fortune.

Thiel does not tell his parents, Sara and Ed, because he instinctively knows that they will claim that he is a simpleton and take it away from him. So Thiel carefully constructs a plan for his journey with his faithful dog, Heap. When they reach the house of Farmer Weeks, they are welcomed with food and warmth. More importantly he supplies Thiel with a warm coat and a map indicating a traveling plan for the journey. He volunteered to take care of Heap, while he was gone.

Thiel soon became homesick and scared as he reached the city outskirts and the terrifying crowds of noisy people. After much travail, Thiel finds the home of the Justice where he gets another surprise, he has also inherited the key to an estate far away in Minark. So begins another difficult journey….

Pearl uses personification effectively to describe nature and the medieval-like surroundings of Thiel and his time. The characters are well developed. Thiel is a character you want to embrace and hug. The contrast between city and country and modern versus traditional is played out well. Looking forward to reading more of this series. Suitable for children in middle grades and young adults. Mature readers will find it quite entertaining as well.

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HAUNTED HOUSE?

Junior Ghost Hunters – Case of the Chadwick Ghost

Written by Sam Grasdin

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The adventure originates as four friends are hanging out in Nate’s room. Nate is twelve years old and an admitted nerd who loves science and comic books. Lanie Talbot, the only female, has recently emigrated from England. Pete, the athlete, rescued Nate from a bully last year. Greg is an electronic genius with the nickname Gadget because he is always inventing things. Greg has just burst into the room with the news that he has seen a ghost in the upstairs window of the abandoned Chadwick house. Initially the group is skeptical, but Nate convinces them that they should investigate. They decide to form a Junior Ghost Hunters Club; their mission to prove or disprove what Gadget claims to have witnessed.

When Nate’s father convinces the real estate agent to allow the group to view the house in question on the next Saturday, their exploration begins. Mrs. Davenport allows them a couple of hours to “do research for a school report.” They are equipped with a digital recorder, flashlight and video camera, the tools of modern ghost hunters. At first, they fail to uncover evidence until Nate picks up a faint voice on the recorder, saying, “Get out of my house.” They are now determined to make a nighttime visit. Coincidentally, the four friends discover that a couple named Barnes are interested in buying the house. Mr. Barnes is undeterred by the childrens’ revelations that the house may be haunted. He invites them to spend the next Saturday night camping out in the living room of his new house.

The courageous group share pizza and then settle down for their adventure. They appear to be at a standstill until Nate remembers something. His computer research will lead him on a trail to uncover the final clues in solving the mystery. Is there a ghost? Who is it? Will the ghost hunters continue their career as sleuths of the paranormal. Tune in for the next book in the series.

The author is targeting his writing toward children nine to twelve. I believe the text is appropriate and readable for that group. Plot and characters are likable and modern detectives who are equipped with the technology expertise twenty-first children expertly employ. As an adult, I was entertained, amused and convinced that the characters are real. They are multicultural and cover both genders. Looks like the beginning of a good middle grade detective series that will possess wide appeal.

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TOWER OF FEAR

The Ivory Tower

Written by Kirstin Pulioff

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This is a well written short story set in a dystopian world where fear and repression are the norms of everyday living. The colorful descriptions and lively verbs guide the reader on an adventure in which she will be eager to proceed on course with the heroine, Simone, and at the same time, be terrified of the outcome.

As the story opens, the reader meets two young friends named Simone and Christine, who are on very different social levels in the camp and bear totally opposite personalities. Simone is number 277 because she is an orphan. Sometimes she does not even receive food rations. Christine is number 35; she and her family are considered productive citizens. The army is present to protect the citizens by keeping them in a restricted area which is free from contaminants of a recent disaster. Young children attend school, but begin laboring in the factory as soon as they are old enough. Everyone is prohibited from going near an old rusted tower that lies at the end of the forest.

Simone and Christine are enjoying their last days of freedom before factory assignments. They are playing hide and seek when Simone gets near the fence and spies the tower. Christine urges her to retreat because she gets in trouble and is beaten by her parents when they find out she has been near the edge of the forest. They warn her of the contaminants and punishment for risking disease by going there. A few days later, Simone urges Christine to play hide and seek one more time. Reluctantly, she agrees. Of course the fearless and curious Simone takes off straight to the tower. While Christine waits outside, Simone gains entrance. She finds duplicate pictures of those in the camp and monitors that are spying on its citizens. Soon she hears footsteps and the approach of one of the soldiers. Desperately, she tries to make her escape. He informs her that they are there to “protect all citizens” whether they realize that or not.

Before the close of the story, Christine and her friend are reunited in the hospital, but Simone is wounded and branded. Will she become another dutiful citizen or do further adventures await this young citizen who does not appear willing and able to conform to camp life? Can their friendship survive?

Children ages eight and up, especially those who love dystopian adventures, will surely enjoy this fast paced and well written short story. This reader is already looking forward to a sequel.

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