Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper

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Pages: 272

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Published: October 8, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I can see this book becoming a popular book club read among the middle-grade readers. When reading you feel like you are Jade and feel her emotions so deeply. What she is going through is so common among our children. A sick parent and the life they know is turned upside down.

The magical realism that is part of the plot is used nicely. It didn’t make me cringe as some do. Middle graders will love it. I think my fourth-grade cousin will love this book.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Charlesbridge, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: One creative middle-schooler discovers that the best friend a girl can have is the one she makes herself in this charming magical realism read.

Jade’s life hasn’t exactly been normal lately, especially since her dad’s cancer diagnosis. Jade wishes her family could leave their no-name town in Colorado already–everybody else does sooner rather than later, including every best friend Jade’s ever had. So she makes one up. In the pages of her notebook, she writes all about Zoe–the most amazing best friend anyone could dream of.

But when pretend Zoe appears in real life thanks to a magical experiment gone right, Jade isn’t so sure if she likes sharing her imaginary friend with the real world. To keep her best friend (and even make some new ones), Jade learns how to cope with jealousy, that friends should let friends be true to themselves, and that may be the perfect best friend doesn’t exist after all.

Roll with It by Jamie Sumner

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Pages: 256

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: In the tradition of Wonder and Out of My Mind, this big-hearted middle-grade debut tells the story of an irrepressible girl with cerebral palsy whose life takes an unexpected turn when she moves to a new town.

Ellie’s a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.

But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!

My Review: A beautiful read. If you like Wonder than you will love Roll with It.

Ellie is an inspiration that will stick with you. I couldn’t put this book down and I was hooked from page one. Yes, at times Ellie could be a tad whiny and smart-mouthed but what pre-teen isn’t and sometimes she had a right to be whiny. It made her character seem believable.

I definitely will be buying a copy or five for some local elementary schools in my area. I want to share Ellie’s story with as many as I can.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

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Pages: 256

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.

Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

My Review:

I had never read Kate DiCamillo until a year and a half ago when several of my students had to read Because of Winn-Dixie for their third-grade class. I have been hooked since.

I’m a huge fan of coming of age literature. DiCamillo does an outstanding job in showing us how sometimes we have to choose our family whether that includes a favorite pet or an elderly woman who is fighting to live on her own. It is ok for family to be those friends you pick up on the way during your life’s journey. Love comes in many different forms and sometimes when we least expect it.

Beverly, Right Here is another perfect read-aloud book to promote discussion with the middle-graders in your life. I enjoy how DiCamillo left the story open-ended as we have the hope to visit the Three Rancheros again.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Candlewick Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee by Beth Vrabel

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Pages: 384

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Published: September 17, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

The first eight years of Penelope McGee’s education have been a curriculum in humiliation. Now she is on a quest for redemption and a little bit of revenge.

From her kindergarten self-portrait as a bacon with boobs to fourth grade when she peed her pants in the library thanks to a stuck zipper to seventh grade where…well, she doesn’t talk about seventh grade. Ever.

After hearing the guidance counselor lecturing them on how high school will be a clean slate for everyone, Pipi–fearing that her eight humiliations will follow her into the halls of Northbrook High School–decides to use her last year in middle school to right the wrongs of her early education and save other innocents from the same picked-on, laughed-at fate. Pipi McGee is seeking redemption, but she’ll take revenge, too.

My Review:

A perfect read for middle schoolers or about to be middle schoolers.

I hated middle school. I felt awkward with who I was and who I wanted to be. Luckily though I did not have the experiences Pipi did kindergarten through 7th grade. I felt embarrassed for her as I was reading.

Lesson one learned: Revenge is never as satisfying as you think it will be. If only adults would learn this as well. Kids need to learn this lesson early on and a lot of unnecessary heartache and drama would be avoided. The author handles this so perfectly with Pipi and Vile Kate.

Lesson two learned: Everyone is fighting something inside themselves you don’t know about. Being kind to even the nastiest person will make you feel better in the long run. My favorite line in the entire book: “hurt people hurt people.” Oh, how true is this statement. Once we understand that it is much easier to overlook the nasty in others.

Parents, aunts, grandmothers buy this book for the tween in your life. Read together and let it open up a world of discussions between you. I think you’ll be happy you did.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Perseus Books, Running Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Red Dove, Listen to the Wind by Sonia Antaki

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Pages: 232

Publisher: One Elm Books

Published: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Abandoned by her white father, thirteen-year-old Red Dove faces another lean winter with her Lakota family on the Great Plains. Willful and proud, she is presented with a stark choice: leave her people to live in the white world, or stay and watch them starve. Red Dove begins a journey to find her place in the world and discovers that her greatest power comes from within herself.

My Review:

A very moving middle-grade book. You will not want to put down once you are near 50% done.

Red Dove is geared to middle-grade readers but I find it may be difficult for them to read and understand on their own. It speaks of the horrible way our ancestors treated the Indians as we populated the country by moving West. Some kids may find the ruthless killing discussed a trigger for harsh emotions.

I would love to see this incorporated in a 5th-grade classroom using many of the subjects. History (Sitting Bull and Custer), Reading, Science (the herbs Indians relied on), Art and Music. There is much to be learned from this book and lessons we can apply today on how to treat others fairly.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, One Elm, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures by Elika Ansari

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Pages: 162

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Published: June 6, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

When the underwater animals of Seacity pond learn that their home is in danger, they decide to investigate further by doing something no one has ever done before – go up to land to seek the answers they need. An unlikely team of two royal turtles, a genius goldfish and a timorous frog are then assembled to embark on a series of adventures. Whether they are racing the fastest tortoise on earth, falling in love with traveling mice theatre, or bringing peace to warring ant colonies, each unique experience is taking the group of friends closer to the heart of what is really going on. But will they make it back in time to save Seacity before the Winter’s Slumber?

My Review:

Honestly, I picked this book for the cover. I LOVE turtles. Turtles have been my favorite animal for as long as I can remember.

Seacity Rising is full of adventure, educational and a very enjoyable read for middle-grade readers. Kids will love the descriptions of the animals and their habitats. Parents will love how the author uses words to make kids think and stretches their brains. If I had a regular classroom I would definitely be using this book with my science lessons to teach about animals, their habitats and how we treat our earth affects so much more than us humans.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, Black Rose Writing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly

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Pages: 272

Publisher: Capstone

Published: August 1, 20149

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels–to be thrown away. Between her mom and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster. But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: Things don’t always go where they’re supposed to, and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems. Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. Written by Rebecca Donnelly, author of How to Stage a Catastrophe (an Indies Introduce and Indie Next List honoree), The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.

My Review:

I found this book enjoyable and enlightening in regards to recycling. In being a substitute teacher, I have learned that fifth grade is a lot harder than I remember and The Friendship Lie shows that very well. More and more kids deal with situations that when I was younger were few and far between like parents splitting and one moving away and I am not talking about just across town. Kids worry more about the environment than ever before. They understand that we are depleting our natural resources and there is no way to recreate. They also start realizing that once what bound them to their best friend may not be something they like or enjoy anymore. They start coming into their own person.

Donnelly has done a good job in showing all the dynamics above between Cora and Sybella. The most important lesson taught in this book is that sometimes all it takes is a conversation to clear the air in a positive light but sometimes that conversation is the hardest thing of all to start.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Capstone, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble

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Pages: 216

Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishing

Published: June 11, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Willow knows the unknown is scary. Especially when your little brother has been sick for a long time and nobody has been able to figure out why. All Willow wants is for her brother to get better and for her life to go back to normal.

But after a bad stroke of luck, Willow and her family find themselves stranded in an unusual town in the middle of nowhere and their life begins to change in the most unexpected way. Willow soon discovers that the town isn’t just unusual—it’s magical—and the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined.

Will Willow find that this could be the secret to saving her family—or discover that the root of magic could lead them to something greater?

My Review:

Would you want to know what each day would bring before it happened? This is the question Willow must answer when a terrifying accident brings her and her family to Kismet, Maine.

The Root of Magic is a story filled with the wonders of magic, love, and acceptance of yourself and others.

Appropriate for children of ages 8 – 12. There is no foul language and no sex (a first kiss only). It would make a great read-aloud for families. Discussions will abound.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Random House Children’s Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

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Pages: 184

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Published: May 21, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: At the end of every summer, Madeline Island hosts its famous pumpkin race. All summer, adults, and kids across the island grow giant, thousand-pound pumpkins, then hollow one out and paddle in it across the lake to the cheers of the entire town.

Twelve-year-old Billie loves to win; she has a bulletin board overflowing with first-prize ribbons. Her best friend Sam doesn’t care much about winning, or at least Billie didn’t think so until last summer’s race when his pumpkin crashed into her as she was about to cross the finish line and he won. This summer, Billie is determined to get revenge by growing the best and biggest pumpkin and beating Sam in the race. It’s a tricky science to grow pumpkins since weather, bugs, and critters can wipe out a crop. Then a surprise visit from a long-lost relative shakes things up, and Billie begins to see her family, and her bond with Sam, in a new way.

My Review: A beautifully written book showing young readers how the world around them isn’t always about them. Billie is very self-absorbed but I don’t think any more so than other children her age. This her summer of growing and learning for the next stage of her life.

I was very impressed with how the author weaved science and math into the story without the reader feeling like they just received a lesson.

I would definitely recommend this book to any on my middle-grade readers with confidence.

I received a complimentary copy from Random House Children’s through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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Pages: 448 (eBook)

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: April 17, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As World War II blazes through Europe and Hitler becomes a menace, Augusta “Gusta” Neubronner is sent to live with her grandma she barely knows in Springdale, Maine. Her father was escorting her but in Providence they became separated so she trudges on until she finds her grandmother’s doorstep. She brings very few possessions but her treasured French horn as made the journey with her. As she learns her way in life and the new town will the French horn be able to save her and her family as family secrets start leaking out at the seams?

What a treasured read. The book is loosely based on the author’s own mother’s life as a child during wartime in Maine. You can see the trueness of the story shine through the words on the page. I was enthralled with this different aspect of a children’s book during World War Two. As a reader you learn about Alienation registration and how children treated other children who seemed un-American based on their name or look. At times it reminded me of what is going on the America today with the immigration disputes among people.

This may be a children’s fiction book but anyone who loves a good story, no matter the age, will find themselves cheering gutsy Gusta as she learns her way in life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Candlewick Press through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are completely my own.