Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King: Book Review

April 23rd, 2017 by

Most people know that recycling and reducing waste is important, but for some reason, there’s always that one annoying person who doesn’t do their part. 🙁 Eleven-year-old Obe Devlin, the main character of Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King, is NOT that person. Recycling and reducing the amount of plastic in the world really matters to him, especially on his ancestral land of Devlin, which is now being taken over by housing developments.

New neighbors aren’t the only addition to Obe’s life. While he picks up trash in the local creek, he discovers a new animal: part dog, part pig, very slimy, and most interestingly… it loves to eat plastic. Obe names his new friend Marvin Gardens, after the property in the game Monopoly. Could Marvin Gardens be the solution to the plastic problem on Earth?

In addition to discovering an entirely new species (and keeping it secret), Obe has to deal with math homework, his dad who just doesn’t understand him, and a former best friend who has turned into his bully. Keeping Marvin Gardens a secret turns out to be an excellent idea, especially when Obe discovers that Marvin’s extremely smelly poop could be toxic. But Obe can’t keep Marvin a secret forever, especially with all the construction happening in his neighborhood. What happens when other people find out about him? Could Marvin Gardens be the solution to the plastic problem on our planet? Will ex-best-friend Tommy ever stop being a jerk? Read Me and Marvin Gardens to find out!

I have to admit this book took me by surprise because even though there aren’t any big action scenes, I kept turning every page because I needed to know what would happen to Obe and Marvin. My only concern was that some questions are left open-ended at the end of the book — but that means there could be a sequel! Right, Amy Sarig King? Right?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and any reader who cares about the environment and the fate of our planet should check it out. It’s a great read if you’re ever feeling lonely and want to know if picking up litter will actually make a difference in the world — turns out it could, especially if you end up finding a fantastical animal like Obe does!

— Nancy

Nancy gets annoyed by people who litter, and fervently prays that one day the litter will magically awake and attack the litterbug.

Meet Nancy »

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly: Book Review

April 11th, 2017 by

I’m a big fan of the one and only 🎶 “Tale As Old As Time” 🎶 — meaning the movie Beauty and the Beast. When I discovered YA author Jennifer Donnelly was writing the companion book, Lost in a Book, I couldn’t wait to read it!

Warning: There are some spoilers for the movie Beauty and the Beast (both the animated and live action versions) so if you haven’t seen it yet… get thee to the movie theater (or streaming site, for the animated film)! This book is recommended for 10- to 14-year-olds and is perfect for fans of either version of the movie, fantasy books, and classic mythology — especially the Greek myth of Persephone visiting the Underworld.

Lost in a Book takes place just after Belle runs away from the castle, only to be attacked by wolves and saved by the Beast. Belle and the Beast are slowly becoming friends, and all of the servants in the castle are kind to her, but she still feels lonely and longs for more.

In the prologue of Lost in a Book, we meet Love and Death: two sisters who politely bicker over the fate of all beings. They have waged a bet on who will capture Belle first: Will Belle fall in love first, or will she die? Love is confident that she will win, but Death sneakily decides to stack the odds in her own favor, sending Belle the magical book Nevermore.

Belle has always longed for 🎶 “more than this provincial life” 🎶 and Nevermore transports Belle to a world where she can travel to exotic locales, attend fancy balls, meet interesting people, and eat delicious food. But not all is as it seems in Nevermore

I don’t want to give away too much, so I won’t spoil any more of the book. Okay, just one more tidbit: The book does include a pretty intense chase scene that had me flipping pages very quickly — even though I knew Belle would survive, I was still stressed out for her!

The subtitle of Lost in a Book is “An Enchanting Original Story,” and that is precisely what the book is — just enchanting! It adds to the story of Beauty and the Beast, so if you’re a fan of either version of the movie or even the original fairy tale, you’ll probably enjoy this book. It was lovely to see the charming personalities of Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip on the page. The author captured the cantankerous and pompous personality of Cogsworth perfectly, and it was nice to see the friendship between Belle and the Beast grow. While you can read the book on its own, you’ll probably enjoy it even more if you’ve seen the movie because there are some Easter-egg-like references.

Have you seen the movie or read the companion book? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

— Nancy

Nancy has been listening and singing along to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack longer than most of you have been alive. She’s old(er than you), and she loves loves loves musicals, to the chagrin of any hearing-capable people and animals nearby.

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March 2017 Must-Reads

March 27th, 2017 by

Ack, March ends in just a few days and this book list of new releases is long overdue! Without further ado, check out these March (and a few February) new releases that we’re excited about. Prepare yourself for a MASSIVE book list — my personal top picks are noted with a ❤️… but seriously, everything on this list is bookshelf worthy!

Click on the plus signs next to the book titles to read the full descriptions from the publishers:

Fantastical Reads That’ll Have You Daydreaming

❤️The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.

The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place — and to reuniting Sophie with her family.

But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets — and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land — and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll
When Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother Nell’s house, there’s nothing good about it, except the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of the garden — but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace. She even finds a friend, a girl named Flo. But Flo doesn’t go to the local school, and no one in town has heard of her. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder: What is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith
Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists — until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.
The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman
The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four 13-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four uncommonly brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum’s collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil.

When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. But they begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love… and betrayal. Are they playing out a legend that’s already been lived, over and over, across the ages? Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?

❤️Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her — but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

❤️Saturdays at Sea (Castle Glower #5) by Jessica Day George
After constructing a grand ship built from parts of the Castle, Celie, Lilah and Rolf are ready to set sail! But on its maiden voyage, the Ship steers them far off course into uncharted waters. Celie and her sister, Lilah, hope that the Ship is heading to the ancient island where unicorns once roamed, but as the journey grows longer and supplies run low, they could be in trouble. Can Celie and her family trust the Ship just as they’ve always trusted the Castle?

Note from Nancy: Check out my recent post about the new cover art for this series!

Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School Series #3) by Jen Calonita
Things are changing at Fairy Tale Reform School.

At least, that’s what Gilly’s heard through the Enchantasia rumor mill. Word is, notorious trickster Rumpelstiltskin has taken over management from Headmistress Flora, and he’s locked down the school tighter than the Pied Piper’s pants. Not that this news concerns Gilly. She’s been released from FTRS and is now suffering through attending Jack of All Trades School, where she gets to learn about different kinds of shoe leather and ways to measure feet. Truly riveting stuff.

But when Gilly’s little sister Anna gets whisked off to FTRS thanks to her troublemaking new friends, Hansel and Gretel, Gilly knows she’s got to get Anna out of there. There’s only one thing to do; make some serious trouble and get thrown back into FTRS.

It’s time to out-trick a trickster.

New Series We’re Excited About

Dragonwatch: A Fablehaven Adventure (Dragonwatch Series #1) by Brandon Mull
In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.

How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?

Dragon Captives (The Unwanteds Quests #1) by Lisa McMann
Identical twins Fifer and Thisbe Stowe have amazing yet uncontrollable magical abilities. They’re naturally more gifted than even their brother, Alex, the head mage of Artimé, could hope to be. But when they accidentally use their magic in the jungle of Artimé to strike down a beloved creature, Alex is furious and threatens to lock them away until they can learn to control their power.

The threat is soon forgotten, though, when Hux, the ice blue dragon, comes to Artimé bearing the horrible news that his siblings have been enslaved by the notoriously evil Revinir, ruler of the dragon land.

Seeking a chance to right their wrong and escape their brother’s wrath, Thisbe, Fifer, and their friend Seth sneak away to rescue the dragons from grave peril. Will their untrained abilities be enough to save the dragons — and themselves — when they come face-to-face with the Revinir?

❤️Last Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star #1) by Kevin Emerson
It is Earth year 2213 — but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we prepare for a second trip: a 150-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home.

Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the very last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed.

Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space, and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a desperate struggle for survival.

❤️Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere (Olga Series #1) by Elise Gravel
When Olga crosses paths with a weird creature and becomes the first kid to discover the species olgamus ridiculus, she is ecstatic! What does an olgamus eat? How does it poop? Why does its burp sound like the word rubber? With her trusty observation notebook and the help of a librarian, a shopkeeper, and some friends, Olga sets out to do science — learning the facts about her smelly, almost-furry pal and searching for him when he goes missing. The scientific method is the best way to discover anything!

Contemporary Reads

Baseball Genius by Tim Green and Derek Jeter
Jalen DeLuca loves baseball. Unfortunately, his dad can’t afford to keep him on the travel team. His dad runs a diner and makes enough to cover the bills, but there isn’t enough to cover any extras. So Jalen decides to take matters into his own hands and he sneaks into the home of the New York Yankee’s star second baseman, James Yager, and steals a couple of balls from his personal batting cage. He knows that if he can sell them, he’ll be able to keep himself on the team.

But like the best-laid plans — or in this case the worst! — Jalen’s scheme goes wrong when Yager catches him. But Jalen has a secret: his baseball genius. He can analyze and predict almost exactly what a pitcher is going to do with his next pitch. He can’t quite explain how he knows, he just knows. And after proving to Yager that he really can do this, using a televised game and predicting pitch after pitch with perfect accuracy, the two agree to a deal. Jalen will help Yager out of his batting slump and Yager won’t press charges.

However, when he begins to suspect that the team’s general manager has his own agenda, Jalen’s going to need his friends and his unusual baseball talent to save not only Yager’s career but his own good name.

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
Annabelle Balog’s life is a mess. Literally. Her mother refuses to throw anything away. Life gets even more complicated when Grandma Nora decides to clean house against the wishes of Annabelle’s mother. Now Annabelle, who can usually be found trying to sneak her mother’s collections to the nearest dumpster, must decide if some things are worth saving.
❤️Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past — for only then can they really begin to build their future.
Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
Grandpa is Jack’s favorite person in the world. It doesn’t matter that he wears his slippers to the supermarket, serves Spam a la Custard for dinner, and often doesn’t remember Jack’s name. But then Grandpa starts to believe he’s back in World War II, when he was a Spitfire fighter pilot, and he’s sent to live in an old folk’s home run by the sinister Matron Swine. Now it’s up to Jack to help Grandpa plot a daring escape!
❤️The Goat by Anne Fleming
When Kid accompanies her parents to New York City for a six-month stint of dog-sitting and home-schooling, she sees what looks like a tiny white cloud on top of their apartment building. Rumor says there’s a goat living on the roof, but how can that be?
A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins
Eleven-year-old Derby Christmas Clark is a rambler of the road. She travels year-round in an RV with her father and younger brother, selling Christmas trees during the cold months and burgers and fries during baseball season. Derby always did prefer grease splatters to hauling trees, so she’s excited that summer will take her back to small town Ridge Creek, the Rockskippers, her best friend, and her surrogate mom, June. But this summer, a tragedy has changed Ridge Creek — and as Derby tries to help those she loves, long-held secrets are revealed.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan — named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on Earth, his Earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover — from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
❤️Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything — and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

But it turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously, Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J.’s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It’s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying.

Walk In Another Kid’s Footsteps

❤️Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
Astronomy-loving Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school realize she’s different. Only Calliope’s neighbor, who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is — an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?

As Calliope navigates school, she must also face her mother’s new relationship and the fact that they might be moving — again — just as she starts to make friends and finally accept her differences.

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

❤️Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kind-hearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

Love, Ish by Karen Rivers
My name is Mischa “Ish” Love, and I am 12 years old. I know quite a lot about Mars.

Mars is where I belong. Do you know how sometimes you just know a thing? My mom says that falling in love is like that, that the first time she saw Dad, she just knew. That’s how I feel about Mars: I just know.

I’m smart and interesting and focused, and I’m working on getting along better with people. I’ll learn some jokes. A sense of humor is going to be important. It always is. That’s what my dad always says. Maybe jokes will be the things that will help us all to survive. Not just me, because there’s no “me” in “team,” right? This is about all of us. Together.

What makes me a survivor? Mars is going to make me a survivor.

You’ll see.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
“My name is Liv (Not Olivia)… I’m not technically a girl.

I’m Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day.”

Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy — it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Take Note of These Sequels

The Balance of Power (Zodiac Legacy Series #3) by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore
Steven Lee always thought that having superpowers would make him happy, make life easier, and make everything more fun. He was wrong. Steven, now 16 years old, has spent years living with the power of the Tiger. But now, on the edge of a catastrophe that could destroy not only Steven and his super-powered friends, but every Zodiac in the world, Steven will have to decide just how far he’ll go to protect those closest to him. Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong bring the earth-shaking conclusion to The Zodiac Legacy!
Cavern of Secrets (Wing & Claw #2) by Linda Sue Park
Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Jurassic Carp (My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish Series #6) by Mo O’Hara
When Tom and his best friend rescued Frankie the goldfish from his evil-scientist big brother’s toxic gunge their new pet came back as a BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH.

Frankie is good at saving the day, but can he become a real knight in shining armor during the medieval day reenactment joust?

Then, can the school survive two BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH? Find out when Tom’s evil big brother manages to clone a Jurassic Carp!

The Lost Staff of Wonders (Will Wilder #2) by Raymond Arroyo
Twelve-year-old Will Wilder is back to protect the town of Perilous Falls from another ancient evil — the fearsome demon, Amon.

When the storied Staff of Moses — responsible for summoning the plagues of ancient Egypt — vanishes from the museum in Perilous Falls, Will Wilder is suspect number one. Desperate to prove his innocence and stop the thief from unleashing terrors upon the town of Perilous Falls, Will must use his supernatural gift to locate the beast — but it’s nowhere to be found.

As the river runs with blood, sharp-toothed frogs surround his home, and clouds of swarming gnats choke the streets, Will must rely on his supernatural ability, everything he learned from his training, and help from his friends, siblings, and Great-Aunt Lucille to find the missing staff and unmask the hidden evil before time runs out for all of them.

Middle School: Escape to Australia by James Patterson
Rafe isn’t exactly considered a winner at Hills Village Middle School to say the least, but everything’s about to change: He’s won a school-wide art competition, and the fabulous prize is getting to jet-set off to Australia for a whirlwind adventure! But Rafe soon finds that living in the Land Down Under is harder than he could’ve ever imagined — his host-siblings are anything but welcoming, the burning temperatures are torturous, and poisonous critters are ready to sting or eat him at every step. So with the help of some new misfit friends, Rafe sets out to show everyone what he does best: create utter mayhem!
❤️The Mystery of the Painted Dragon (The Sinclair’s Mysteries #3) by Katherine Woodfine
When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery, and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with — no matter what dangers lie ahead… It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

Payback (Masterminds Series #3) by Gordon Korman
After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world — tantalized by hints of a real family — his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Eli and Tori get sucked into even bigger conspiracies as they hunt down Project Osiris’ most closely guarded secrets — who does Eli’s DNA come from? With a surprising new ally and another cross-country adventure, the four will have to work together to overcome the worst parts of themselves if they are going to end Project Osiris once and for all.

Tornado Terror (I Survived True Stories #3) by Lauren Tarshis
The Tri-State Tornado of 1925 was the deadliest tornado strike in American history, tearing through three states and killing 700 people. Almost a century later, the Joplin Tornado was a mile-wide monster that nearly destroyed the heart of a vibrant city. The author of the New York Times best-selling I Survived series now brings you the vivid and true stories of two young people who survived these terrifying twisters, along with fascinating facts about tornadoes and profiles of the well-respected scientists and storm chasers who study them.

You did it! You made it to the end of the list! 🎉🎈🎆 There must be at least one (or two, or three, or 20) from this booklist that made it onto your must-read book list — let us know which one in the comments below!

— Nancy

Nancy is honestly a little overwhelmed with how many awesome books there are to read. She recommends all authors treat themselves to a little vacation and hold off publishing anything for a month, please. Thank you.

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Castle Glower Series: New Covers!

March 12th, 2017 by

Ever since I reviewed Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George years ago on the Kidsmomo podcast, I knew the Castle Glower series was destined for greatness! It’s been years since Tuesdays at the Castle was released and since then we’ve gotten the books for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and most recently, Saturdays at the Sea!

But wait — something’s different about Saturdays at the Sea: the book cover style! And it turns out the original books are also getting new covers:

Original Covers New Covers

Some thoughts on the new covers:

  • The new illustration style looks more modern and what art historians call a “painterly” style.
  • The series heroine, Princess Celia, is less visible in many of the covers — sometimes we just see the back of her head.
  • I think there is a bigger sense of danger and adventure.
  • The days of the week are now designed with embellishments and much bigger.
  • The griffin appears on different days now.
  • There is more color variation: With the original covers, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday always looked similar to me because they had a lot of green and blue hues.
  • Jessica Day George’s name is much easier to read now in the white text.

All in all, I love the new covers! My only complaint is that Saturdays at the Sea only has a new version — I would love to have seen what the original illustrator would have done!

Do you prefer the original covers or the new covers? Take the poll below and discuss with other readers in the comments!

Do you like the original or new covers more?

— Nancy

If this series were to star Nancy, then the series would end with the titles Sundays with Napping and Mondays with Coffee.

Meet Nancy »

Books to Prep for Your Exoplanet Visit

February 26th, 2017 by

NASA made a big announcement this week: Forty light-years away (a measly 235 trillion miles) from our planet, there are seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star called Trappist-1. Three of those planets are in the habitable-zone, which is the zone around Trappist-1 that could possibly sustain water.

What does this mean? Well, we’re not quite ready to climb into our space ships, take a nice nap in hyper-sleep, and wake up on a new planet — but it’s possible that human beings will eventually visit these exoplanets. In fact, NASA released some (fake) travel posters showing off the far-future vacation destinations, like this one:

Take a planet-hopping excursion through the TRAPPIST-1 system, where you can see other planets in the red sky. Credit NASA-JPL/Caltech

In honor of this scientific breakthrough, here is a booklist featuring kids just like you (well, occasionally with super powers and hefty responsibilities) growing up in space. (Book descriptions from the publishers.)

Stupendous Science Fiction Standalone Novels

   

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh
The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

Pattie and her family are among the last refugees to flee a dying Earth in an old spaceship. And when the group finally lands on the distant planet which is to be their new home, it seems that the four-year journey has been a success. But as they begin to settle this shiny new world, they discover that the colony is in serious jeopardy. Nothing on this planet is edible, and they may not be able to grow food. With supplies dwindling, Pattie and her sister decide to take the one chance that might make life possible on Shine.

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. This means that his older brothers took the really cool jobs before he was born. All Joss gets to do is deliver pies. That’s right: pies. Of course these pies actually hold the secrets of the universe between their buttery crusts, but they’re still pies.

Joss is happy to let his older brothers shine. He has plenty to keep his hands full: trying to improve his bowling score, listening to his best friend Kal try (and fail) to play the drums, and exploring his ever-changing home: The Realms. But when Earth suddenly disappears, Joss is tasked with the seemingly impossible job of bringing it back. With the help of an outspoken girl from Earth named Annika, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime and learns that the universe is an even stranger place than he’d imagined.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liam has always had trouble keeping his feet on the ground. Being 239,000 miles from earth doesn’t make it any easier.

Liam is too big for his boots. And his football strip. And his school blazer. But being super-sized height-wise has its advantages: He’s the only 11-year-old to ever ride the G-force-defying Cosmic rollercoaster — or to be offered the chance to drive a Porsche. Long-legged Liam makes a giant leap for boy-kind by competing with a group of adults for the chance to go into space. Is Liam the best boy for the job? Sometimes being big isn’t all about being a grown-up.

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

For Violet Marlocke, family is the most important thing in the whole galaxy. So when her father goes missing while on a hazardous job, she can’t just sit around and do nothing. To get him back, Violet throws caution to the stars and sets out with a group of misfit friends on a quest to find him. But space is vast and dangerous, and she soon discovers that her dad is in big, BIG trouble. With her father’s life on the line, nothing is going to stop Violet from trying to rescue him and keep her family together.

Splendid Series in Space


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Zita the Spacegirl series

Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye. When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Starbounders by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Starbounders by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Starbounders series

Zachary Night has been waiting his whole life for this moment. Like his family before him, he’s finally headed to Indigo 8, a top secret training center where future Starbounders learn the skills to protect the galaxy. But being a Starbounder is no walk on the moon. No sooner has Zachary mastered the warp glove basics than a mission into space goes wrong and puts him and his new friends right in the line of fire. And when a plot to destroy Indigo 8 comes to light, Zachary will have to get back to Earth on his own and fast — before there’s no Earth left to go back to.

George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy Hawking and Stephen Hawking
George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking
George series

George’s parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos’s help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie, and Eric aren’t about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science.

Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry
Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry
The Jupiter Pirates series

The relationship between Tycho Hashoone, his twin sister, Yana, and their older brother, Carlo, isn’t your average sibling rivalry. They might be crew members together aboard the Shadow Comet, but only one of them can be the next ship captain. So when the Hashoones find themselves in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy — one that will pit them against space pirates, Earth diplomats, and even treachery from within the family — each sibling is desperate to prove his or her worth. The only trouble is, if they don’t work together, none of them may make it out alive.

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
Moon Base Alpha series

Like his fellow lunarnauts — otherwise known as Moonies — living on Moon Base Alpha, 12-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon.

And he’s bored out of his mind. Kids aren’t allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they’re trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time — and the only other kid Dash’s age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games.

Then Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there’s foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, Dash finds out, and it’s a secret that could change everything for the Moonies — a secret someone just might kill to keep…

The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos
The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos
The Planet Thieves series

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short, routine voyage to log their required space time for summer quarter.

Routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last 60 years.

With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. They soon find out exactly why the Tremist chose their ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.

Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
Mars Evacuees series

The fact that someone had decided I would be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.

I’d been worried I was about to be told that my mother’s spacefighter had been shot down, so when I found out that I was being evacuated to Mars, I was pretty calm.

And despite everything that happened to me and my friends afterwards, I’d do it all again. because until you’ve been shot at, pursued by terrifying aliens, taught maths by a laser-shooting robot goldfish and tried to save the galaxy, I don’t think you can say that you’ve really lived.

The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles
The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles
The Lost Planet series

If the same thing happens to you, this is my advice: ALWAYS CARRY DUCT TAPE.

This is what the boy is told:

– He woke up on planet Trucon, inside of a fence line he shouldn’t have been able to cross.
– He has an annirad blaster wound to the back of his head.
– He has no memory.
– He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
– His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

– He has a message: “Guide the star.”
– Time is running out.

MiNRS by Kevin Sylvester
MiNRS by Kevin Sylvester
MiNRS series

In space. Underground. And out of time.

Christopher Nichols and his family live on a new planet, Perses, as colonists of Melming Mining’s Great Mission to save the earth. Dozens of families like Christopher’s have relocated, too, like his best friend Elena Rosales.

A communications blackout with Earth hits, and all of Perses is on its own for three months. It’s okay, though, because the colonists have prepared, stockpiling food and resources to survive. But they never prepared for an attack.

Landers, as the attackers are called, obliterate the colony to steal the metal and raw ore. Now in a race against time, Christopher, along with a small group of survivors, are forced into the maze of mining tunnels. The kids run. They hide. But can they survive?

Do you have a favorite book set in space or on another planet? Leave a comment below or send in a review!

— Nancy

Nancy would much rather travel into space than the deep ocean, but really, she’s perfectly content right where she is now. On her couch.

Meet Nancy »

Book Trailers You May Have Missed

January 15th, 2017 by

Despite my campaign and prayers and crossed fingers, not all books can be made into movies for us to enjoy. But the next best thing? Book trailers!

Book trailers are ingenious because readers find out a little bit about the book, but the trailer never gives away the ending. Sometimes, if a character’s “voice” is in the trailer, readers have a starting point for their imagination.

In my youth, eons ago before book trailers, I used to stare intensely at book covers hoping to find clues about how a character in the book would look, or what the setting would be like. If only they were moving photos, a la Harry Potter Wizarding World photographs — and now book trailers are kind of like that!

Check out some neat-o book trailers for interesting reads you may have missed recently (plus descriptions from the publisher):

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat

Meet Abbie Wu. Abbie is in crisis — and not just because she’s starting middle school or because she’s stuck in a family that doesn’t quite get her or because everyone seems to have a Thing except her. Abbie Wu is always in crisis.

Heavily illustrated and embarrassingly honest, Frazzled dives right into the mind of this hilariously neurotic middle school girl as she tries to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and how to survive the everyday disasters of growing up. With Abbie’s flair for the dramatic and natural tendency to freak out, middle school has never seemed so nerve-racking!

Like Magic by Elaine Vickers

For three 10-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

A Tail of Camelot (Mice of the Round Table, #1) by Julie Leung

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name.

Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger.

With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.

Dolphin Dreams by Catherine Hapka

Avery has just moved to Southern California with her mom after her parents’ divorce. She dreams of swimming with dolphins, but a near-drowning incident years ago has left her fearful of the ocean.

Maria longs for space and quiet among her big, loud family. She dreams of acceptance to a prestigious art program for her drawings of dolphins, but knows her parents think art is impractical.

Then a unique-looking dolphin leads the two girls to meet in a secluded cove. As Avery and Maria observe the dolphin and become friends, they push each other to overcome their fears. But their opposing backgrounds and personalities lead to a disagreement that threatens to tear their friendship apart. When it seems their special dolphin is in trouble, can they overcome their differences and help the dolphin — and each other — before it’s too late?

I hope these book trailers inspired you to read one of these books — me, I’m going to pick up a copy of Frazzled ASAP! Which book trailer was your favorite? Let us know in a comment below!

— Nancy

Nancy used to make lots of book trailers for Kidsmomo, but now she mainly leaves the movie making to the professionals. 🙂

Meet Nancy »

Captain Underpants: First Look Movie News

January 2nd, 2017 by

Tra laa laaaaaa! Are you ready for the Captain Underpants movie? This year, the world was given an amazing belated Christmas present: the first look into what the upcoming Captain Underpants movie looks like!

For those of you who are NOT familiar with Captain Underpants (whhaaaaa how is that possible?!!?!), here is a refresher:

Captain Underpants is a novel series by the amazing writer and illustrator Dav Pilkey  also known for Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series, The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, and many, many other hilarious graphic novels and picture books. In Captain Underpants, fourth graders George Beard and Harold Hutchins are best friends, next-door neighbors, and class clowns. George and Harold also write and illustrate their own comics, which they sell to their classmates.

Check out the actors who are voicing George and Harold:

Kevin Hart

George Beard and Harold Hutchins

Thomas Middleditch

Principal Benjamin “Benny” Krupp is George and Harold’s nemesis. (Boo!! Hiss!!!) He’s the meanest, cruelest, lamest, principal to ever grace the halls of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School and he’s always trying to quash George and Harold’s grand plans.

One day (SPOILER ALERT!), George and Harold hypnotize Principal Krupp to think he is… tra la laaaa, Captain Underpants! Captain Underpants styles himself with white underpants (obviously) and a red cape. Principal Krupp transforms into Captain Underpants unknowingly with a literal *snap* of a finger, but reverts back to Principal Krupp when he’s soaked with water.

Principal Krupp / Captain Underpants will be voiced by Ed Helms:

There are many books in the series and so many interesting side characters too! We have yet to see a video trailer or more movie posters with any other characters, like brown-nosing Melvin Sneedly or Miss Edith Anthrope, the school secretary. It’s so cool to see Dav Pilkey’s hand-drawn, flat 2D-style characters transformed into 3D-style animation. The movie is produced by Dreamworks Animation, which made the wonderful How to Train Your Dragon movies, so I can’t wait to see more than just a photo!

Questions I already have: Will we see Sulu and Crackers, George and Harold’s pets? Will there be any musical numbers? Will the movie be based on the first book, all of the books, or any of the books? Does Captain Underpants put on shoes when he needs to walk across gravel?

(That last question will probably not be answered in the movie.)

Are you as excited about the Captain Underpants movie as I am? Leave a comment below on what you think about the first look, or about your favorite book in the series.

— Nancy

Nancy doesn’t think she could ever pull off the cape look, but hey, she’s no captain.

Book to Screen Adaptations We Need!

December 18th, 2016 by

I am SO excited about book to screen adaptations these days! The Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events releases next month, and I’m still bubbling over with joy from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them last month. But since I might be a book-and-movie-and-TV addict (I just really like stories, okay?), I put together a wish list of amazing books that I, we, the world need* to see acted out:

*additional dramatic flair injected into this blog post for emphasis. 

Adaptations “In Development”

These are books that have already been “picked up” by movie studios — in some cases, with specific directors attached — but we haven’t heard a peep about them in awhile!

graveyard-book-neil-gaiman The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Karen reported on this news in 2012. 2012! Since she and I are way older than Kidsmomo readers, it’s quite possible we will be in our graveyards by the time the movie comes out.

The School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani
The author announced the movie is in the works, but no other news yet… A World Without Princes? How are we to survive in a world without this movie adaptation?!

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
It was announced that Kenneth Branagh, who directed last year’s adaptation of Cinderella, would be directing this movie! But this news is from September 2015, so hopefully he hasn’t called upon his former role of Gilderoy Lockhart and forgotten all about it
false-prince-jennifer-a-nielsen The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen
In August, Jennifer Nielsen announced that the script was in progress, so this adaptation seems to be the furthest along. Hopefully we’ll see it soon! Otherwise, I’ll be upset that I was given false hope about seeing The False Prince on screen!

Books & Series Moviemakers Should Take Note Of

The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 
This series would be better adapted as a television series. With the complicated twists and turns in the plot and deep back stories of interesting characters, how could a 90-minute movie do one book justice, let alone the whole series? If it were a television series, we could watch Reynie, Sticky, and Constance’s adventure unfold over many hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades! Okay, not decades. I went too far.
Gregor the Overlander The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
If there’s one thing the comments on our super-funny-but-turns-out-not-funny-hurt-a-lot-of-people’s-feelings-really-sorry-about-that April Fool’s blog post has taught us, it’s that this series NEEDS to be made into a movie!
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley 
As I expressed vehemently in our review of Circus Mirandus, this magical book would be wonderful on the silver screen! But if I had to choose, I’d rather get a book sequel instead. Please don’t make me choose!
time-fetch The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick
Time travel is tricky, but with the right script adaptation for this action-packed book, a science fiction fantasy movie could be the TIME of your life. Yuk yuk yuk.

The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and The Wild Ones by C. Alexander London
Both of these books are excellent in their own right, but I mostly just can’t get enough of animated animals, especially when they have a lot of personality. I mean, c’mon. If Hollywood can make a gold-stealing Niffler believable, they can definitely make silverback gorilla and wild raccoon tribes come to life. Digitally, of course. Because a gorilla would be quite dangerous to work with, and can you imagine the mess raccoons would make? 

Movie Adaptations That Should be Remade

Ella Enchanted and Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
The 2004 Ella Enchanted movie was very sweet, but this book should be remade for today’s audiences. Fairy tales are all the rage these days, so Hollywood could tackle Fairest, too!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I loved actor Brendan Fraser as Mo — especially since author Cornelia Funke says Mo looks just like him — but the movie could be rebooted to be more true to the book (and the remainder of the series should be adapted, too.)
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan 
The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters were fun, and we can all agree that Logan Lerman is dreamy, but like Inkheart, it would be wonderful to see a more true adaptation of the books (and the rest of the series!). A TV series, perhaps?

Do you have anything you want to add to this list that should be made for the big or small screen? Or do any of these picks rile you up and you’d refuse to watch them even if you were dragged kicking and screaming into the theater? Let us know in the comments below!

— Nancy

Nancy enjoys re-watching a movie adaptation of a book, then midway she’ll stop the movie to re-read the book, then go back to the movie, and vice versa. It’s a process.

Meet Nancy »

November 2016 Reading List

November 7th, 2016 by

november-2016-reading-listHow is it possible that it’s already November? How are we going to eat Thanksgiving dinner when there’s still so much Halloween candy to devour? And speaking of things to devour — check out these new November book releases to get excited about!

Click on the book titles to see the full descriptions from the publishers:

The Must-Read List

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-the-original-screenplay-by-j-k-rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut is captured in this exciting hardcover edition of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.

Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any reader’s bookshelf.

Race the Night by Kirsten Hubbard

race-the-night-by-kirsten-hubbardRace the Night by Kirsten Hubbard

Without you, there’d be no hope for the world. Because you are the whole world.

That’s what Teacher says, and 12-year-old Eider knows she’s right. The world ended long ago, and the desert ranch is the only thing left. Still, Eider’s thoughts keep wandering Beyond the fence. Beyond the pleated earth and scraggly brush and tedious daily lessons. Eider can’t help wishing for something more — like the stories in the fairytale book she hides in the storage room. Like the secret papers she collects from the world Before. Like her little sister who never really existed.

When Teacher announces a new kind of lesson, Eider and the other kids are confused. Teacher says she needs to test their specialness — the reason they were saved from the end of the world. But seeing in the dark? Reading minds? As the kids struggle to complete Teacher’s challenges, they also start to ask questions. Questions about their life on the desert ranch, about Before and Beyond, about everything Teacher has told them. But the thing about questions — they can be dangerous.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

the-bone-sparrow-by-zana-fraillonThe Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Subhi is a refugee. He was born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, and the center is the only world he knows. But every night, the faraway whales sing to him, the birds tell him their stories, and the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts. As Subhi grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of the fences that contain him. Until one night, it seems to do just that.

Subhi sees a scruffy girl on the other side of the wire mesh, a girl named Jimmie, who appears with a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, Jimmie asks Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies that are penned there.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort — and maybe even freedom — as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before and made choices that could change everything.

The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

the-dog-ray-by-linda-cogginThe Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

When my death came it was swift. Swift as a running horse. It wasted no time.

Daisy, age 12, has died in a car accident. She finds herself in the afterworld, which resembles nothing more than a job center. Her soul is being returned to Earth, but not as a human being — she’s returning as a dog. A dog who retains Daisy’s thoughts and pluck and is determined to get back to her parents and to get back home. What she doesn’t expect is that life as a dog named Ray would come with such worries — and moments of jubilation — as she grows to care for others in a whole new way.

Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #11) by Jeff Kinney

double-down-diary-of-a-wimpy-kid-series-11-by-jeff-kinney

Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #11) by Jeff Kinney

The pressure’s really piling up on Greg Heffley. The only thing he’s good at is playing video games, but his mother wants him to broaden his horizons by doing something — anything! — else.

When Greg finds an old video camera in his basement, he thinks he may have discovered just the thing to prove he’s got big-time talent. With the help of his best friend, Rowley, Greg hatches a plan to make a scary movie … and to become rich and famous in the process.

But is doubling down on moviemaking a smart plan? Or is it just a recipe for doubling Greg’s troubles?

Tales from a Not-So-Friendly Frenemy (Dork Diaries Series #11) by Rachel Renée Russell

tales-from-a-not-so-friendly-frenemy-dork-diaries-series-11-by-rachel-renee-russellTales from a Not-So-Friendly Frenemy (Dork Diaries Series #11) by Rachel Renée Russell
It’s a frenemy showdown in the eleventh installment in the blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki Maxwell has the worst luck. Of all the schools she could have been assigned to for the student exchange week program, she’s stuck at North Hampton Hills, her arch nemesis MacKenzie Hollister’s new school. Even worse, there might just be someone at NHH who can out-MacKenzie MacKenzie!

At least Nikki can write about every moment of drama in her diary, so readers won’t miss a moment of it.

Can the queen of dorks survive a week at the head CCP’s new school or will it be a dorky disaster?

Books Featuring Kick-Butt Girls

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies

nothing-but-trouble-by-jacqueline-daviesNothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change.

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar — complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

Into the Lion’s Den by Linda Fairstein

into-the-lions-den-by-linda-fairstein

Into the Lion’s Den by Linda Fairstein

Watch out, Nancy Drew — Devlin Quick is smart, strong, and she will DEFINITELY close the case in this thrilling new mystery series for girls and boys from New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein

Someone has stolen a page from a rare book in the New York Public Library. At least, that’s what Devlin’s friend Liza thinks she’s seen, but she can’t be sure. Any other kid might not see a crime here, but Devlin Quick is courageous and confident, and she knows she has to bring this man to justice — even if it means breathlessly racing around the city to collect evidence. But who is this thief? And what could the page — an old map — possibly lead to? With her wits, persistence, and the help of New York City’s finest (and, okay, a little bit of help from her police commissioner mother, too), Dev and her friends piece the clues together to uncover a mystery that’s bigger than anyone expected — and more fun, too.

Threads by Ami Polonsky

threads-by-ami-polonsky

Threads by Ami Polonsky

To Whom It May Concern: Please, we need help!

The day 12-year-old Clara finds a desperate note in a purse in Bellman’s department store, she is still reeling from the death of her adopted sister, Lola.

By that day, 13-year-old Yuming has lost hope that the note she stashed in the purse will ever be found. She may be stuck sewing in the pale pink factory outside of Beijing forever.

Clara grows more and more convinced that she was meant to find Yuming’s note. Lola would have wanted her to do something about it. But how can Clara talk her parents, who are also in mourning, into going on a trip to China?

Finally the time comes when Yuming weighs the options, measures the risk, and attempts a daring escape.

The lives of two girls — one American, and one Chinese — intersect like two soaring kites in this story about loss, hope, and recovery.

The Cartographer's Daughter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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The Cartographer’s Daughter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Legends say that the island of Joya was once a place where songbirds sang in every tree and the islanders were free to come and go as they pleased. That was before the harsh-ruling Governor arrived, and ravens drove out the native birds. Now there are no songbirds, and the people are forbidden to travel beyond the forest that separates them from the rest of the island.

But for Isabella, the legends of her island home have always seemed like more than just stories. And when a series of mysterious events shakes the community, it’s Isabella — daughter to the island’s only mapmaker — who will lead a party of explorers into the forest in search of answers. As the group ventures deeper and deeper into the island, dark secrets begin to surface, and the legends Isabella has listened to all these years show signs of coming to life.

Under the Ashes by Cindy Rankin

under-the-ashes-by-cindy-rankinUnder the Ashes by Cindy Rankin

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth “Littlebeth” Morgan would rather race the boys, chase skunks, and read about bandits than act like a lady. When she whacks the head off a rattlesnake, her parents decide it’s the last straw. They send her to live with her maiden aunt Sally in San Francisco to be tamed and refined. The city proves to be anything but tame. Littlebeth wakes one morning to the crashing chaos of a massive earthquake and finds herself surrounded by wreckage. Then a fire breaks out and tears across the city. Now she must depend on her instincts and a few unlikely friends to find her way to safety. But does she have the spirit to survive in a city that’s broken and burning?

Snakes and Stones by Lisa Fowler

snakes-and-stones-by-lisa-fowlerSnakes and Stones by Lisa Fowler

Twelve-year-old Chestnut Hill’s daddy stole her and the triplets away from their mama. At least, that’s how Chestnut remembers it.

It’s 1921, and after nearly two years on the road with his traveling elixir show, Daddy’s still making no move to go back to Kentucky and buy Mama that house. So Chestnut is forced to come up with her own plan to get home. At night, when Daddy and the triplets are in bed, she draws up flyers with the name of the next town they’ll be traveling to. Before they leave each town and hoping her mama will see them, she nails up the flyers, leaving Mama an easy trail straight to her children.

When that doesn’t work, Chestnut is forced to try something bigger. But when her newest plan lands Daddy in jail and Mama has to come to the rescue, Chestnut discovers that things are not always as they seem. Written with a wonderful mountain hillbilly voice, Snakes and Stones has a mystery at its heart and lovable, strong, and complicated characters.

Sequels & Conclusions

Atlantis Lost by T.A. Barron

atlantis-lost-by-t-a-barronAtlantis Lost by T.A. Barron
Everyone has heard that the once-great island of Atlantis was destroyed… but who can tell you how it was created? The thrilling conclusion to the Atlantis trilogy by New York Times bestselling author T.A. Barron!

The veil between the Spirit Realm and the mortal world has fallen, and the evil lord Narkazan is primed to claim the magical Starstone for himself once and for all. But when tragedy befalls Promi’s newly reunited family, he knows that he can’t let Narkazan ruin everything his parents held dear. With his friends beside him, Promi battles Narkazan in the Spirit Realm, to ensure that the Starstone remains safe from Narkazan’s mortal followers. But how far will Promi have to go to keep the world and the people he loves safe?

This action-packed conclusion to the Atlantis trilogy will have readers railing against fate as they say goodbye to their beloved magical island.

Lodestar (Keeper of the Lost Cities Series #5) by Shannon Messenger

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Lodestar (Keeper of the Lost Cities Series #5) by Shannon Messenger

Dark schemes unfold — and Sophie’s loyalty is pushed to the limit — in this thrilling fifth book in the bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Sophie Foster is back in the Lost Cities — but the Lost Cities have changed. The threat of war hangs heavy over her glittering world, and the Neverseen are wreaking havoc.

The lines between friend and enemy have blurred, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. But when she’s warned that the people she loves most will be the next victims, she knows she has to act.

A mysterious symbol could be the key — if only she knew how to translate it. Every new clue seems to lead deeper into her world’s underbelly and the Black Swan aren’t the only ones who have plans. The Neverseen have their own Initiative, and if Sophie doesn’t stop it, they might finally have the ultimate means to control her.

The Traitor of Belltroll (Balance Keepers #3) by Lindsay Cummings

balance-keepers-book-3-the-traitor-of-belltroll-by-lindsay-cummings

The Traitor of Belltroll (Balance Keepers #3) by Lindsay Cummings

The explosive conclusion to Lindsay Cummings’s epic fantasy adventure series about a magical world at the center of the earth that New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Wonders series Peter Lerangis says is “filled with imagination and sneaky humor.” In this third book, perfect for fans of Brandon Mull and Lisa McMann, the Balance Keepers must fight a dangerous traitor in an epic battle of magic.

Albert and his Balance Keepers teammates have been called back to the Core for immediate action! There’s a serious Imbalance in the fantastical underground Realm of Belltroll. Without intervention, everything from New York to Yellowstone above could be swallowed by earthquakes. It’s clear the mysterious traitor who caused last term’s chaos is at it again, and with a vengeance.

Albert’s super-magical Master Tile helped fix the Ponderay and Calderon Realms in previous terms, but now it seems the Tile may be more trouble than it’s worth. Because if it’s Albert’s Tile the traitor is after, there will have to be a battle sooner or later, and only one of them can win…

The White Widow’s Revenge (Ferals #3) by Jacob Grey

ferals-3-the-white-widows-revenge-by-jacob-grey

The White Widow’s Revenge (Ferals #3) by Jacob Grey

The thrilling conclusion to Ferals, a fantasy trilogy that’s part Batman, part The Graveyard Book, and all high-stakes adventure.

Caw has defeated the dreaded Spinning Man and vanquished the Mother of Flies. But a new feral has appeared — one who intends to uphold the Spinning Man’s dark legacy. Known as the White Widow, this spider feral is determined to destroy Caw and bring Blackstone back into an era of crime and fear.

Now everyone Caw holds dear is in danger. And this time Caw may not be able to protect them.

 

The Magician’s Key (The Secrets of the Pied Piper #2) by Matthew Cody

the-secrets-of-the-pied-piper-2-the-magicians-key-by-matthew-cody

The Magician’s Key (The Secrets of the Pied Piper #2) by Matthew Cody
The second book in the Secrets of the Pied Piper trilogy finds Max, Carter, and their allies on Summer Isle battling new foes, relying on new friends, and fighting for stakes higher than ever, in a series New York Times bestselling author Adam Gidwitz called “a wild fantasy adventure.”

On the Summer Isle, siblings Max and Carter discovered the magical land where the villainous Pied Piper led the children of Hamelin centuries ago. But only Max made it back.

Now she is determined to rescue her brother. To do so, she will have to find the one and only key to the Summer Isle. That key is controlled by Vodnik, a dastardly magician and soul stealer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Meanwhile, Carter must overcome his own troubles back on the Summer Isle. He’s been separated from his friends and left with a very untrustworthy companion: the Pied Piper himself.

Struggling desperately to find each other, Max and Carter encounter a bashful trollson, a daring elf, a seafaring hobgoblin, and the ever-loyal kobold Bandybulb. As their paths converge, they prepare for the most important quest yet: to send the children of New Hamelin home.

Sugar and Spice (Whatever After #10) by Sarah Mlynowski

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Sugar and Spice (Whatever After #10) by Sarah Mlynowski

That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Yum! Our magic mirror has dropped me and my brother, Jonah, into the story of Hansel and Gretel. If we’re lucky, we may even get to taste the cake-house…

But we didn’t count on accidentally getting trapped. The real Hansel and Gretel are on the run, and Jonah and I have taken their place. And the witch is making a kid casserole for dinner…

Now we have to:
– Avoid being eaten
– Pretend our dog is a cat
– Learn to make kale smoothies
– Befriend a talking duck

Or we may never make it back to our home sweet home!


Will you be rounding out your 2016 reading list with any of these books? Leave a comment below with the book you’re most looking forward to!

— Nancy

icon_nancyNancy can’t wait to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the theaters and then re-read the screenplay immediately after. And then see the movie again. And then read the screenplay again. Repeat.
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Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure: Book Review

October 24th, 2016 by

missy-piggle-wiggle-and-the-whatever-cure_ann-m-martinYou’ve probably heard of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who lives in the town of Little Spring Valley in an upside-down house with her many pets. Well, after many years as a friend to children everywhere, she’s packed up her bags in search of her husband the pirate, and asked her grandniece Missy Piggle-Wiggle to stop in on the upside-down house and look after matters while she’s away…

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s magical adventures began many years ago (1947, in fact!) when Betty MacDonald wrote the first book in the series. Missy’s new stories start now, in Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, written by beloved author Ann M. Martin! There’s no one better than the author of The Baby-sitter’s Club series to put a new twist on fun tales about kids and their curious ailments — like the very contagious I-Never-Said-itis and a case of the Whatevers.

Even though Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is mentioned, you can definitely enjoy this book without reading the original series — but the original series are worth the read, because they’re a hoot. They were illustrated by the wonderful Maurice Sendak, and Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure includes really fun drawings by Ben Hatke, the author and illustrator of the awesome Zita the Spacegirl series. Seriously, I didn’t think a drawing of civilized Lester the Pig sitting cross-legged could make me laugh so much:

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Click the image to see it full-size!

This book is just plain old-fashioned FUN! I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but here are some tidbits: Missy meets many families and shopkeepers of Little Spring Valley, including the quirky bookseller, Harold Spectacle. There may or may not have been a burst of glitter in the air when they met. But best of all, the children of Little Spring Valley are all whimsically absurd and relatable in their own way — the Freeforall children (Honoriah, Petulance, and Frankfort) are a handful, and Melody Flowers is quite shy, and here are just some of the “cures” Missy has to mix up:

  • The Greediness Cure
  • The Tardiness Cure (I might need that one)
  • The Know-it-all-Cure
  • The I-Spy Cure
  • The Gum-Smacking Cure
  • The Whatever Cure
  • The Just-One-More-Minute Cure

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin is a giggle-worthy read, and I hope there are more planned for this reboot of the series. If you’ve picked it up, what did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

— Nancy

icon_nancyNancy would also like Missy to look into the Don’t-Eat-Every-Donut Cure, which is likely tangentially related to the Greediness ailment.

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