Firefly Hollow

Author: Alison McGhee

Publish Date: August 18, 2015

Pages: 291

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Genre: Middle Grade 8-12 years

Firefly. Cricket. Vole. Peter. Can four creatures from four very different Nations help one another find their ways in the world that can feel oh-so-big? Delve into this lush, unforgettable tale in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web and The Rats of NIMH, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Someday.

Firefly doesn’t merely want to fly, she wants to touch the moon. Cricket doesn’t merely want to sing about baseball, he wants to catch. When these two little creatures with big dreams wander out of Firefly Hollow, refusing to listen to their elders, they find themselves face-to-face with the one creature they were always told to stay away from…a giant.

But Peter is a Miniature Giant. They’ve always been told that a Miniature Giant is nothing but a Future Giant, but this one just isn’t quite as big or as scary as the other Giants. Peter has a dream of his own, as well as memories to escape. He is overwhelmed with sadness, and a summer with his new unlikely friends Firefly and Cricket might be just what he needs. Can these friends’ dreams help them overcome the past?

Firefly Hollow is nothing short of enchanting, reminding us all that the very best friend is the one who wants you to achieve your dreams. Full-color tip-in illustrations and dozens of black-and-white drawing provide added glow.

This story is so cute and I think my friends and family are truly tired of hearing me say this! I loved this book so much I sent a copy to my nephews back home. It’s the perfect story for night time reading, I suggested my brother read them a chapter a night.

Why I love it: The cover is what initially drew my attention,  when I opened the book, I saw the illustrations and I knew I had to own it. After reading the inside cover I was running to the cashier to make my purchase. The story itself is just so darn cute. Firefly lives in the Firefly Nation with Elder and the other fireflies. Suddenly her Air Safety classes are just not enough for her and she decided to leave. When she meets Cricket and Vole, they become great friends and they begin to dream big. Cricket wants to play baseball and be the first cricket catcher, Firefly wants to touch the moon and Vole wants to sail in his boat. Peter, the miniature giant, is having a hard time and as it turns out, Firefly and Cricket are just what he needs to make it though.

Who Should Read it? Gosh, I really think every young kid should read this book. But more importantly this is the perfect book for any child going though the loss of someone special. Firefly’s Elder, the firefly who raised her passes away. They don’t really dwell on it, there isn’t a funeral or anything but it is the reason Firefly leaves Firefly Hollow and meets Cricket. The character Peter is also grieving the loss of his friend, again the author doesn’t really talk about what happened, just that he passed away and Peter is sad. Together Peter and Firefly grieve and become great friends. Other that the mentions of death, this story is really for any kid who loves bugs and has a great imagination. The author paints a very vivid picture, so much so I was imagining the bugs in my backyard attending Blinking Class and Temperature Class with Firefly and Cricket!

Overall I loved this book and I can’t stop talking about it, I can’t wait for my nephews to read it so we can talk about the lives of bugs!

Check out these beautiful illustraions!

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina

Author: Robert Beatty 

Publish Date: July 14, 2015

Pages: 293

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Genre: Middle Grade

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

As the resident rat catcher, Serafina tends to wander around the Biltmore manor at night more than during the day. The first scenes of the book start with her witnessing a man in a black cloak dragging a girl down into the depths of the basement. The entire time she pleads for her life, and tries to break free. Then the girl just disappears into the man in the black cloak. Serafina knows she isn’t crazy, but she also knows what she saw.

Soon more children from the Biltmore estate go missing and Serafina knows she has to solve the mystery. Before she knows it, she has become friends (her very first real friend) with Braeden, the estate owners nephew. There is no doubt about it though, the man in the black cloak is coming after Braeden and Serafina must catch him before Braeden gets hurt.

I have to admit, I love the setting so much, probably because it takes place in my neck of the woods. The

Passenger

Passenger

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Published: January 5, 2016

Pages: 486

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Genre: Young Adult

Source: Author

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

Let me start by saying I waited for this book for what seemed like forever! It was on my list of books to grab at BEA last year, and when I didn’t get it I was pretty sad. Then I heard Alexandra Bracken was going to be at Y’ALL Fest (which is a mere 8 hr drive) I knew I had to go in hopes of getting this ARC…and I GOT ONE! I only had to stand in line for four hours but it was totally worth it!

I have to admit, the beginning moved more slowly than I usually like in a book. Etta is lives in current day New York as is preparing for a big concert, as she plays her piece, she is drawn to a noise only she can hear. When she investigates the noise, she is suddenly transported back in time. She finds herself onboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 1776, she’s in strange clothing and dripping wet with no recollection of how she got there.

It is on the ship she meets Nicholas, a teen about her age but from a completely different time. When it comes to Nicholas though, I kept going back and forth: I like him, I hate him…nope I like him, he means well…uh no he doesn’t…back and forth. I’ve decided I like him. (I think).

While on the ship, Etta learns she comes from a magical family that can time travel. Can you imagine? How cool would that be!? She also learns that she’s been kidnapped by a man called Cyrus (who I think of as The Grandfather) an old man who is the head of the family, the leader if you will.

Now that Etta knows who she is and what she has to do, the adventure really begins! Together her and Nicholas must find the only remaining astrolabe, the magical object used to create new portals, if Etta doesn’t find the astrolabe and return it to Cyrus someone Etta loves will die.

I’m telling you…this is the good stuff! Etta travels from Bhutan 1910, New York in 1776, 1940’s London, 1685 Angkor, Paris 1880 and Damascus in 1599. Each place she visits she gets closer and closer to the astrolabe and each place she visits she encounters people who want the astrolabe for themselves.

Now this book is well over 400 pages so it’s not a quick read, and the beginning is slow to get started but don’t discount Passenger just yet. Once you get started and the time traveling really begins, you won’t want to put it down!

 

Really liked it!

Star in the Forest

StarintheForest

Author: Laura Resau

Published Date: March 9, 2010

Pages: 149

Publisher:Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Genre: Middle Grade (7-10)

 

Zitlally’s family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return—they’ve paid a coyote to guide him back across the border—they receive news that he and the coyote’s other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye. As time goes on, Zitlally starts to realize that Star is her father’s “spirit animal,” and that as long as Star is safe, her father will be also. But what will happen to Zitlally’s dad when Star disappears?

I thought some aspects of this book were cute. The growing friendship between Zitlally and her best friend Crystal is one that will last a life time. Even though they’ve lived next door to each other, they’ve never really been friends in the traditional way. When Zitlally finds a stray dog (she names Star) in the ‘forest’ tied to an old car, she feeds him, brings him water and even gives him a bath. Star becomes an outlet for both girls and they begin visiting Star everyday until they discover he is gone. To make matters worse, when Zitlally comes home that night, she finds out her Papa, who was supposed to be on his way back home, has been kidnapped and the only way to get him back is to pay ten-thousand dollars, which of course they don’t have. Zitlally and Crystal begin to think that if they find Star, Zitlallys Papa will be returned back home.

All in all I liked this story, I did have some explaining to do after my daughter read it, some topics in this story are not all that easy to explain to a middle grade reader. I would strongly recommend this book to a middle grade reader above the age of 9, not every parent is up for explaining deportation and broken glass and needles in the public park, though it may be perfect for anyone who might need to explain deportation to a young child.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth

TheTruth

 

 

Author: Jeffery W. Johnston

Publish Date: February 2, 2016

Pages: 240

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Young Adult

Source: Publisher

When Chris wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement, he knows that he’s trapped—and why. He shot and killed Derek’s little brother. He had his reasons, but no matter how far Derek goes to uncover the truth about that night, Chris’s story won’t change. It can’t. There is far too much at stake…

Derek is desperate to prove his brother didn’t deserve to die. And if kidnapping his brother’s killer is the only way to the truth, than he’ll go to extremes. But Chris’s truth is far more dangerous than Derek could have imagined, and knowing could cost both their lives…

I was lucky enough to have obtain this book from the publisher as an Advanced Readers Copy.

When the story starts, Chris finds himself duct taped to a chair in a strange room with Derek, a high school drop out just out of juvie. Chris only knows who Derek is because he killed Derek’s brother in a robbery gone bad. Now Derek wants answers only Chris can give him, if he doesn’t tell the truth, Derek will cut off his fingers with a pair garden shears. After hours of interrogation, Derek finally concludes Chris is leaving something out and he escalates the situation to the next level, putting someone Chris loves in danger.

I liked the format of this book, I found it easy to follow and interesting enough to keep my attention. Told from Chris’s point of view both as the story is happening and as he walks Derek through the events of the past that led up to his brothers death. A fast paced quick read that could totally be an episode of Criminal Minds!

Liked it

Crenshaw

Crenshaw

 

Author: Katherine Applegate

Published: September 22nd, 2015

Pages: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

I really really wanted to love this book. I liked it as an adult but I’m not sure I want my daughter to read it. It’s kind of sad. Let me explain.

I feel like we push our kids too hard these days. We are always pushing them to get good grades, do chores, be a good citizen, don’t do this, and don’t do that nag, nag, nag! When can they just be kids?  As adults we take breaks when we get stressed out, we go out with our friends, curl up with a good book or whatever we need to do to de-stress. What about our kids? When do they get a break, a few hours to really wind down? Books are great for this. I want my daughter to fall in love with a book, to be transfixed by the setting and the characters, take a break from the stresses in real life. What I don’t want is for her to start thinking about the reality of life. I know that sounds crazy and terrible BUT! it’s true. This book is about a family going through a really hard time. They have to sell all their belongings, and at one point live in their van. Crenshaw is a human sized imaginary cat that Jackson created to help him get through everything going on in his life. Even though by the end of the book things are looking up, Crenshaw sticks around. The very last line of the book is Jackson saying he is glad Crenshaw decided to stick around; he wanted to enjoy the magic as long as he could, my sentiments exactly!

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, I did. It’s not something I want my 10 year old to have to think about. Also, please note, this book is something I don’t want MY daughter to read until she’s a little older, I still recommend the book.

Thanks for reading!

 

100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards

Author: N.D. Wilson

Published: December 26, 2007

Pages: 296

Publisher: Bluefire

Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy

Source: Purchased

Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up one night to find bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall above his bed and one of them is slowly turning . . .

Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room — with a man pacing back and forth! Henry soon understands that these are not just cupboards, but portals to other worlds.

Henry moves his with his aunt and uncle after his mom and dad are taken hostage in Columbia while riding their bicycles. Odd right? I kind of thought so too, but I’m thinking there is more to that story to come. Since his cousins are all girls, Henry stays in the attic closet which was converted into a bedroom just for him. Henry and cousin Henrietta work together to try to understand the cupboards and discover there are actually 99 of them, each one different in it’s own way. Oh, did I mention the cupboards work both ways? Henry and Henrietta can travel through some of the cupboards, which means things can travel out of the cupboards into Henry’s room as well. When Henry and Henrietta discover their grandfathers journals and cupboard keys their adventure really begins. One night while trying to uncover how the cupboards work, Henrietta disappears into a cupboard Henry didn’t know existed…the 100th cupboard. He has to go in after her, find her and figure out how to get them both home safely.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a lot to keep a young reader interested, and keep them wondering. My daughter thought the cover looked creepy, and thought it would be scary, there were a few scenes toward the end of the book that might give some readers the creeps-the witch and the chainsaw scenes for sure. I have not gotten to the second or the third book yet but they are on my TBR pile!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horten’s Incredible Illusions

Horten#2

Author: Lissa Evans

Published: January 1, 2012

Pages: 352

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy

Source: Purchased

Stuart Horten (ten, but looks younger) is now the owner of a magician’s workshop – except that without his Great-Uncle’s Last Will and Testament, he can’t actually prove it.Which is a problem, since someone else wants it as well; someone who has a lot of money.

The workshop contains seven magnificent stage illusions, but when Stuart starts to investigate them, he discovers that each is the gateway to a magical adventure, with a puzzle to solve, and a clue to extract.

As the clues mount up, the adventures become riskier. Friendship is strained, and danger looms and Stuart has to decide what sort of prize he really, truly wants.

In this amazing follow up, Stuart Horten has befriended April, one of the triplet next door neighbors and together they work to prove that Stuart really is the rightful owner of Teeny Tiny Tony’s Magical Workshop. In order to prove he is the owner, Stuart needs to find his great uncle Tony’s will.

When the local museum agrees to put the contents of his uncles workshop on display, Stuart finally gets the chance to explore each of the 7 illusions properly. In doing so he makes another discovery; each illusion can send the user to a magical place that gives clues to uncle Tony’s will, but also tests and tricks the user. With names like Pharaoh’s Pyramid, The Well of Wishes and The Cabinet of Blood, Stuart and April are surely in for an adventure, however, these illusions are they are also very dangerous. April and Stuart have to solve the puzzle each illusion holds, safely get back home and do it quickly because they are not the only ones after the will to his great uncle’s workshop of illusions.

I love this book just as much as the first one (see my review here). Another fun, quick magical read appropriate for any middle grade reader!

Thanks for reading!

 

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

Horten#1

 

Author: Lissa Evans

Published: January 1, 2011

Pages: 272

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy

Source: Purchased

 

Enter a wonderful world filled with real magic, mystery … and danger.

As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop. Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures.

As soon as I read the inside front cover of this book I was hooked. I first heard about Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms (I affectionally call it Horten) and his magical journey from a co-worker who thought it was absolutely adorable and fun to read so, of course I had to check it out. This book (and it’s sequel) has so much going for it but there are a few little things to be wary of but I will talk about those in a minute.

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If any middle grade reader found this book on a shelf at a bookstore or library, the description matched with it’s cover would grab them immediately! The magic and adventure are enough to grab the attention of boy or girl alike. The story starts out as Stuart’s parents decide to move back to Beeton, the small town where Stuart’s father grew up so Mrs. Horten can be closer to her new job. Mrs. Horten is a doctor, and as Stuart puts it: “not the sort who stitches up bleeding wounds but the sort who peers down a microscope”.  Mr. Horten is a writer, again in Stuarts words: “not of films or of bestselling books, but of difficult crosswords”.  One day, Stuart and his father go for a walk around Beeton and Stuart discovers his family’s old business, and through this discovery, he find’s a note his uncle Tony left.
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This note the beginning of Stuart’s adventure. With the help (wanted or not) of the triplet neighbor girls, Stuart unlocks the key to his uncles mysterious puzzle and goes on the adventure of a lifetime!

Remember I said there were a few things to be wary of. Here they are…from what I can find this book is only available in hardcover and e-format in the U.S. The hardcover is $14.95, a little pricey for a middle grade book. My local Barnes and Noble did find a new paperback in their system but they were not able to order it for me, and it was still $13.25. The other small thing is there is a second book “Horten’s Incredible Illusions” (stay tuned for my review next week!) which is equally mysterious and amazing but after that, the adventure stops. I’m not going to lie, I was frustrated when I started researching the series only to discover nothing new appeared to be in the works. I love Horten and I recommend it to a lot of readers and their parents but I want MORE! I did stalk Lissa Evan’s website and it has been updated this year (2016) and she did have an adult book come out in 2014 (Crooked Heart)so she is writing, maybe there is hope for new Horten yet!

Even with the steep price, I still recommend this one. It is available for download and it should be available from your library. I couldn’t imagine missing out on this adventure!

I’ll be reviewing the sequel Horten’s Incredible Illusions next week so stay tuned!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Wolf By Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin Publish Date: October 20, 2015 Pages: 388 Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult Source: Purchased The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host […]