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.

The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer

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Pages: 256

Publisher: Annick Press Ltd.

Published: March 27, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It is 1936 in Krakow, Poland and Hitler is making his move on the Jewish families. Anna has always led an idyllic and mostly happy childhood going to school and listening to her father play his clarinet in the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra. As Hitler starts enforcing his reign outside of Germany her family understands it is time to move. Bronislaw Huberman is taking auditions for his new orchestra in Palestine, a city that is safer for Jewish families. Will Anna’s father get a spot and the family get their travel visas before it is too late?

I am a big reader of World War 2 fiction at it doesn’t matter if it is an adult book or a children book I want to read it. The Sound of Freedom was extremely interesting as it was a story from a different country than Germany. I was also interested as it based loosely on a true story as Bronsilaw Huberman really did start an orchestra in Palestine and go to Poland auditioning people for spots and provided thousands of travel visas for families. I would like to read more about him.

The view point from Anna is very relatable for children in grades 4-7 as she talks about the things that are important to her at that age and those things are important to every child no matter the year or surroundings. She thinks about leaving her friends and how she will feel. She thinks about what to leave and what to take. She thinks about making new friends in a country that she does not know the language. Anna also shows how to gather courage and lets the reader know that each one of us is stronger than we think.

I hope to see this book in school libraries very soon.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Annick Press Ltd. through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

My Turtle Journal by Teresa Westing

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Pages: 93 (eBook)

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Published: November 15, 2017

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I grew up with box turtles as pets. We usually found them on the side of a busy road. My all time favorite one was Junkyard (found in a junkyard) and he was so much like Buttons. He loved for me to pet his head, he ate out of my hand and loved for me to talk to him. He would do a happy turtle dance when he saw me.

Reading My Turtle Journal made me think of him so much. I was disappointed with a scene towards the end. I was very teary eyed. This book would be good for third grade and above but younger than that might be a little disturbing to them towards the end. As a reader you might want to skip that part if you share the story with younger kids.

A great story to teach kids how to care for a turtle and help them understand their hard shell can protect them but they can still get hurt.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dog Ear Publishing for a copy to read in exchange for my honest review in my own words.