Tag Archives: middle grades

Kid Lit Blog Hop #32

5 Feb

It’s time for one of my favorite times of the week (well, every other week)–The Kid Lit Blog Hop! It’s always such a treat to see what books have gotten other people excited. Will I discover something new and amazing? Will I get to share in a moment of “I love that book, too!”?

As for me, I’ve been busy with family, health, and housekeeping. But I’m still finding plenty of time to read with my 2-year old. We received a present from her great aunt a couple days ago titled Max Makes a Cake, which is a sweet story about a little boy who gets impatient while waiting for his father and decide to make his mother’s (Kosher for Passover) birthday cake all by himself. Daughter memorized the character’s names after a single reading and seems pretty enthused. I like the themes of problem-solving and independence. We’ve also been reading One, by Kathryn Otoshi, which is absolutely charming. I love the minimalist watercolor illustrations, strong anti-bullying message, and incorporation of color and number concepts. My daughter likes it when it’s time to take a stand and she gets to say “NO!” to bullying. We’ve got a pile of 10 library books in our current circulation, as well as selections from her ever-growing personal library.

As for my blog–I’ve got the following reviews coming up in my queue: White Spaces: Book One of the Dark Passages, Secrets Underground, Good Crooks Book One: Missing Monkey, Suitcase of Stars, Starring Me and You, How to Make a Planet, Ava and Pip, and more! Right now I’m in the position of having so many wonderful sounding books to read that I’m never sure where to start. I can think of worse problems to have.

So, that’s where I am this week. How about you? Please, take a moment to link up to the hop and comment on some of the awesome posts I’m sure you’ll discover.


Welcome to the 32nd Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

We are pleased to welcome with us this week a new full-time permanent hostess on the Hop, Maria from the blog Music Teaching and Parenting is joining us. Plus, we are also happy to have Savannah Mae from the book blog Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews. Big welcome to Maria and Savannah Mae!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop
<div align="center"><a href="http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com/category/kid-lit-blog-hops/" title="Kid Lit Blog Hop" target="_blank"><img src="http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Kid-Lit-Blog-Hop-Button-Sep-2012-e1349976901756.jpg" alt="Kid Lit Blog Hop" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

 

Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂

Hostesses:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

Maria@ Music Teaching and Parenting Twitter * Facebook

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom Twitter * Facebook

Co-Hostess:

Savannah Mae @ Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you! 4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links! 5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

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January Round-Up

31 Jan

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time to start a new feature here at Reading and Sharing: End-of-Month Round-Up! At the end of each month, I will highlight some of the best books I’ve read this month. I’ll also link to some great reviews that have been posted by others. Feel free to add some of your own favorites in the comments.

FIVE STAR BOOKS

Eddie and Dog

Netta and Her Plant

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

The Quantum League: Spell Robber

Not My Girl

FROM OTHERS

Look Up! @ Stacking Books

Josephine @ Stanley and Katrina

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy @ Spirit of Children’s Literature

Let There Be Light @ Create With Joy

North of Nowhere @ The Ninja Librarian

What books did you love this month? What reviews impressed you or made you want to pick up a new book? What are you looking forward to reading in February?

The Quantum League: Spell Robbers

28 Jan

Today’s review is for The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers, by Matthew J. Kirby, published by Scholastic. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Ben Warner has always felt a bit of an outsider. It’s probably because his eccentric mother is always moving them around to new places. When he’s invited to participate in an elite science camp, Ben decides to check it out. After all he likes science, and it means he won’t have to hang out at his mother’s office in the afternoon. He discovers that the camp is actually part of Dr. Madeleine Hughes’s research into Actuation–the ability to change reality through imagination. Even more exciting, Ben seems to be a natural. When a mysterious group of men show up to the lab one day to abduct Dr. Hughes and a prototype device, Ben and his friend Peter quickly find themselves in the middle of a war. It turns out that the world of Actuation is much bigger than they ever imagined–but will they be able to rescue Dr. Hughes before it’s too late?

Kirby has crafted a fast-paced science-fantasy adventure for the middle grade set. His plotting and pacing are spot-on. I found myself completely wrapped up in the story, frantically turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Every time I thought I had figured something out, I was thrown an unexpected twist that kept me on my toes. This in particular impressed me, because too often middle grade fiction feels predictable. While some aspects of the story feel grounded in common comic book story-lines, it is still refreshingly original.

I was pleased with the range of characters in the book, as well as their development. Ben, the protagonist, is an intelligent boy who cares deeply for his mother, no matter how much she frustrates him. Initially he is excited to discover that he can Actuate. But when the Quantum League wants to recruit him to their organization, he has little interest in getting involved. Even when he learns that he’s one of the most talented people they’ve seen, Ben would gladly give up his abilities to return to his mother’s side. Peter, while jealous of Ben’s natural talent, remains a loyal and trustworthy friend. Few of the secondary characters are quite who they seem to be at first guess–which is fun.

I can’t wait until the next book in the series is released! I’m hooked. This would be a great choice for middle grade readers who enjoy action, comics, and science-fantasy. It definitely has the potential become a new hit series for the 9-12 set. This volume gets a full 5 stars for being awesome. Sure, it has some great themes and messages for kids, but in this case I’d rather just focus on it being a fun read.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour

25 Jan

Princess Madeline and the Dragon - Tour Button - 3 Kirstin Pulioff

About the Book

Title: Princess Madeline and the Dragon (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #3)

Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Publication Date: November 26, 2013

Publisher: Caliburn Books

Number of pages: 135

Recommended age: 10+

Summary

After a season of battle and rebuilding, the Kingdom of Soron is exhausted. With the return of the exiled wizards, the Spring Faire, and her upcoming wedding, Princess Madeline is looking forward to a peaceful season of celebration. When the mysterious green dragon reappears, threatening the kingdom and the king, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden won’t rest for long. Faced with this incredible new danger, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden must find a way to lead their kingdom and secure their future. Can they find the answers hidden within their mother’s cryptic messages from the past, or will the dragon destroy everything they hold dear? Follow Princess Madeline as she embarks on a dangerous new adventure to save her kingdom and her family.

My Review

To be frank, after I read the second book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the series. I felt like that book would have been more aptly titled “Prince Paulsen’s Epic Temper Tantrum.” The story fell flat for me. Fortunately, Princess Madeline and the Dragon wasn’t just better–it’s the strongest book in the series.

The writing was far tighter than the previous two books–in terms of both plotting and editing. It was nice to see all of these clues that had been dropped through the previous books all finally come together. There was less purple prose, more character development, and wider scope. In short, Pulioff really hit her writing stride.

It was nice to see some character development in some of the secondary characters. Braden finally had a chance to shine–and the audience got to see him grow from an uncertain prince to a strong leader. Elias was given an even more prominent role, which I enjoyed. Princess Madeline is alright, but I was always most intrigued by the wizards. Even Sophia was given more agency; instead of just being Braden’s kissing partner and Madeline’s maidservant, she had the opportunity to make decisions for herself.

Which connects to why this was my favorite book of the series: it wasn’t all about Princess Madeline this time. She was still the protagonist, of course. But there was so much more going on–history, decoding prophecy, transitions, dragons. There was more at stake than who Princess Madeline would have to marry. And that made me feel more invested in the outcome.

I’ve decided to give the final book 4 stars. It has an engaging story, good world-building, and dynamic characters. Even though I’m not personally a big fan of romance, I think that it’s written in a way that will appeal to middle grade girls. I also appreciate that Daniel is never rude or condescending or otherwise engaging in misogynistic behavior–it’s a refreshing change from heroines falling for the arrogant show-off or the “misunderstood bad boy.” If there’s got to be romance in the story, I’m thankful that it’s modeling a healthy relationship to girls.

And Now For a Guest Post from the Author

Princess Perfect

When you think about fairy tales, what stands out most? The charming story-line, the medieval settings, the magical elements and enchantments? For me, the beauty of the fairy tale revolves around the princess. Pretty, perfect, sweet and demure, the princesses of traditional fairy tales have problems that need to be solved. Maybe it’s something with their sweet nature, or the simple desire for good to triumph, but I am easily swept up in the journey to find that happily ever after.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite princesses and what makes them so memorable.

Snow White is considered the perfect princess. She is unassuming in her demeanor, sweet, calm, and naĂŻve. Her dreams of love are inspiring, and her gestures of kindness make everyone love her and protect her in return. This is a story about love conquering all.

Cinderella is another classic tale. This is the perfect rags to riches story, as a normal girl finds her Prince. Growing up neglected and abused, it is amazing that she remained as sweet natured as she was. She’s proof that friendship is everywhere around you, even in the animals, and that dreams can come true.

Ariel is one of my favorites. I loved The Little Mermaid for many reasons, but especially for its turn away from the “perfect princess.” This story is an example of teenage rebellion at its finest. Ariel still stands out as beautiful, talented, and royal… but she is also spoiled, disobedient, and headstrong. She shows you how following your heart comes with risks but also the greatest rewards.

Princess Madeline is a modern take on the traditional fairy tale. While she certainly has some traits similar to the other princesses, beauty, charm, and strength, she also has a bit of rebellion and stubbornness thrown in. Balancing a blend of hard and soft qualities, Princess Madeline finds a way to show both strength and vulnerability as she learns lessons about growing up, the dynamics of relationships (family, friend, and love), and finds her inner strength.

So, if you like Disney princesses (and who doesn’t)*, and are looking for a new book, then Princess Madeline series may be a good choice for you.

(* A comment from Destiny: LOL. *raises hand*)

Purchase

Princess Madeline and the Dragon by Kirstin Pulioff

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

About the Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids and church.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

* $25 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 13th to January 31st, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Kirstin Pulioff and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Click link to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway

Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Jungle of Bones

21 Jan

Today’s book review is for Jungle of Bones, by Ben Mikaelsen, published by Scholastic. It is scheduled for release on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Jungle of Bones book cover

Dylan Barstow has a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Ever since his father died, he keeps getting in trouble. But when he steals a car from the junkyard to spin donuts in a field, his mother gives him an ultimatum: spend the summer before 8th grade in lockup or spend it with ex-Marine Uncle Todd. Reluctantly Dylan chooses Uncle Todd. Soon he discovers that Uncle Todd has bigger plans for the summer than early morning jogs–they’re going to take a trip to Papua New Guinea to join a team of 3 other people in search of the wreckage of WWII bomber Second Ace. When Dylan gets lost in the jungle, he finally has to confront the realization that he is not the center of the universe. If he wants to survive, he’s going to have to abandon his assumptions and anger.

Recently I realized that I’d need to push myself to read outside of my “comfort genres” in order to better serve my audience. The synopsis for this title sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. It turned out that the story was so engaging, I stayed up well past my bedtime to finish the book in one sitting.

It was the descriptions of Papua New Guinea, the jungle and the struggle for survival that really hooked me in. They were skillfully written. I could imagine the smells and the oppressive humidity. I could picture the shanties and villages. Everything felt so vivid, alive and alien. That sort of powerful description can be hard to master. Some writers over-do it, using purple prose and redundant adjectives. Mikaelsen nails it, though.

Sometimes it is hard for me to get into a book when I don’t really like the main character. And I did not like Dylan very much. That said, I knew him (because he was so much like other young men I’ve met in my life) and I cared about him. He was completely self-absorbed, disrespectful, and a real pain in the behind–but I could also recognize the pain underlying his behaviors and wanted for him to heal and move on with his life.

I could have done with a little less of the heavy-handed jingoism, though. The military history in the story was wonderful. In particular, I found the journal entries in the journal of Dylan’s grandfather to be well-done and informative. I also liked when they visited a veteran in a nursing home and got to hear his story. However, there was also a tone of military worship to the book, and a bit too much “The USA is the savior of everyone” attitude (as though Dylan’s uncle forgot that there were other countries fighting alongside the United States in World War II).

In the final assessment, though, I was able to get passes my discomforts and enjoy a well-crafted story. I liked how it encouraged inter-generational relationships, emotional healing, a respect for history, and valuing cultures that are vastly different from one’s own. It’s a great book for young people who enjoy the genres of adventure and survival. It might also be a good selection for young people who are lashing out at the world after dealing with a traumatic life event. I’m giving the book 4 stars.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Dragon Defender

8 Jan

Today’s book review is part of a blog tour. I received a free electronic copy of the book from the publisher, through NetGalley, prior to signing up for the blog tour.

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Publication Date: October 19, 2013

Publisher: Pip & Grey

Number of pages: 242

Recommended age: 10+

 

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . .

Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can’t figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter’s twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined – where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter’s uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it’s Peter’s turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

My Review

Middle grade fiction is best when you start reading and before you know it a couple of hours have gone by and you’re surprised that the book is already over. And that’s basically what happened to me while I was reading this book. It starts off with a pretty cool concept: dragons are real and 12-year old Peter Clark is part of a long line of dragon defenders. This melding of a high fantasy concept with an otherwise realistic present-day world made for fun reading. Rather than spend a lot of time engaged in world building, the author is able to thrust her readers into the action pretty quickly.

The biggest sticking point for me happened pretty early in the book. The issue was that I was a bit skeptical as to how Peter’s non-custodial uncle was able to get him through the border crossing, with seemingly no passport or other documentation. It is mentioned that uncle Dominick has some sort of paperwork–but I don’t see how he could have had anything for Peter. After all, Peter’s legal guardian, his grandmother, didn’t even know he’d left at that point. All of that said, I was able to move past it to enjoy the story.

I would have liked a little more character development in the story. Peter has a fairly well fleshed-out personality, complete with specific talents, interests, and flaws. However, all of the other characters seem pretty one-dimensional. Uncle Dominick is the mysterious, cool grown-up. Xana is the over-enthusiastic girl who acts without thinking. Mario is the poor Mexican orphan who acts as a guide. Even though we spend a lot of time with the latter two as companions to Peter on his adventure, they never get fleshed out much. And they don’t really grow or change during the story.

The dragons living among us hook was a good one, though. I thought that the author did a nice job of building the dragon lore. And I am incredibly interested in the Dragon Defense League–its formation, history, work, other members. These things were only touched on a little–but there were hints that we would learn more in future books. Excellent work, Blackburn. When you’re writing a series, you’ve got to give your readers a reason to come back.

I’m giving this book 3 stars. It was an enjoyable bit of escapism. I think that kids who enjoy fantasy and adventure will like this book quite a lot. Despite my criticisms, I see a lot of potential in this series. First books can be challenging to write–especially if you’ve already started to map out the future for the series. How much is too much to reveal and how much is not enough? This book didn’t hit that perfect balance–but it still hooked me in.

Purchase

Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author

J.A. Blackburn

J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

* $50 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 6th to January 31, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dragon Defender - Blog Tour Button  J.A. Blackburn

Dragon Defender Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Kid Lit Blog Hop #30

8 Jan

I am thrilled to announce that I am the newest addition to the hostess team for the Kid Lit Blog Hop! When I was just getting started with this whole blogging thing last year, I stumbled upon this event and fell in love. Not only has it given me a great opportunity to discover more wonderful children’s books–it’s also introduced me to some lovely fellow bloggers in the Kid Lit sphere. One of my blogging goals for 2014 was to get more involved with the hop. And I decided that instead of waiting around, I might as well jump in and ask. I’ve realized the past few months that being successful at blogging requires a lot more than generating quality content–for example putting yourself out there to network with others. That means I’ve had to get over some of my hang ups about approaching people. Sometimes that means I ask for a review copy and get turned down. Other times it means that I nervously ask to become a hostess on a blog hop and get a warm, enthusiastic welcome to the team. So, on the balance, I’d say it’s worth it.

And, now, I encourage you all to Read more and Share more.


Welcome to the 30th Kid Lit Blog Hop. This is our first hop of 2014! In 2013, we have welcomed so many wonderful people and we are very excited to continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of the new bloggers who have joined the Hop. If you are one of our regulars – thank you so much!

Happy New Year!!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hosts and co-hosts. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂

Hostesses:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

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Odd, Weird & Little

7 Jan

Today’s book review is for Odd, Weird & Little, by Patrick Jennings, published by Egmont USA. It is scheduled to be released on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Odd, Weird & Little book cover

Woodrow has always been the outcast in the class, but when a new kid shows up from Quebec, there’s a new target. Toulouse isn’t just new–he’s strange. He wears funny clothes, he’s small, he barely talks, and he carries a briefcase. But Woodrow recognizes a bit of a kindred spirit, and possibly a new friend. Even though Toulouse is a skilled artist, musician and volleyball player, he continues to be a target for bullying. Woodrow decides that it’s time to finally take a stand for Toulouse and himself. Odd, Weird & Little is a heartwarming story about finding friendship and self-confidence.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was how well developed Woodrow, the protagonist, was. He was a kid with a clear and distinct personality. Even though he had a lot of quirks, those quirks weren’t the sole defining characteristics of his personality. We also discovered that he was shy and creative, had a good relationship with his family, and was empathetic. It was easy to see why he might be the target of bullying, and at the same time why he shouldn’t be.

My biggest complaint with the writing was how a lot of the dialogue was handled. When the students in class were all talking, it switched to the format of a play–a name, a colon, and what that person said. It was a strange choice for a middle grade novel. More than that, though, it stripped out any description of other behavioral cues. It also took away opportunities for secondary character development. Worst of all, it actually made it more difficult for me to follow who was saying what, because it became too easy to gloss over the initial tags.

The development of the friendship between Woodrow and Toulouse was nice, though. While it may have initially been motivated by a feeling of sympathy on Woodrow’s side, it quickly found a foundation of shared interests. The only aspect that felt a bit unrealistic was how quickly it happened. It felt almost like insta-friend. I understand Woodrow being desperate for friendship, but inviting someone to your house within a few hours of meeting them seemed a little surprising.

Overall I give the book 3 stars. It was a good story with a great message for middle graders. Learning how to be comfortable with yourself can be challenging, so reading about someone truly different might be reassuring. I also liked that Toulouse really was odd–much more so than people suspect.

You can find more information on this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

30 Dec

Today’s book review is for Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, published by Random House. It is scheduled for release on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the published, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy book cover

In this beautiful retelling of “The Snow Queen” we meet unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who only believes in things that can be explained by science. She’s a bright, asthmatic girl who has recently lost her mother. When her father is requested to set up a special sword exhibit at a museum, he brings Ophelia and her older sister, Alice, along with him–with the hope that a Christmas vacation to a beautiful city will provide the whole family with a distraction from their loss. While exploring the museum, Ophelia discovers a hidden doorway, behind which a boy is imprisoned. As she works to rescue him, she must reconcile her beliefs with the fanciful stories the boy tells her and the strange things she begins to see in the museum. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a modern day fairy tale that explores themes of friendship, courage, love, and never giving up.

I loved the protagonist, Ophelia. She felt like such a real character, with an authentic personality. She has so much curiosity, but it’s tempered by both skepticism and fear. A lot of young people are still open to the possibilities of things that can’t be explained–but not Ophelia. She’s already joined the Children’s Science Society. Even when presented with things she can’t explain, she tries to convince herself that she’s not witnessing magic. I also liked how the recent loss of her mother impacted her. It added a nice dynamic to the story.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure with its story-within-a-story framework. The shift between the present day of our world and the story of the Marvelous Boy’s journey kept things interesting. In particular, I liked that the Boy’s story wasn’t revealed all at once–but rather unfolded as his friendship with Ophelia developed. At the same time, the pieces are long enough that you can get caught up in it. It creates a pacing that alternates between the pressure of deadline facing Ophelia and the many years of the Boy’s journey.

The museum setting was perfect. Museums already have a feeling of mystery. Some are so vast as to feel like mazes, and it’s easy to imagine getting lost in one, even if it wasn’t magical. It also provided a mirror to the intellectual conflict of Ophelia. A museum is usually a place of science, learning, and rational thought–and yet this one contains things that cannot be explained by logic.

If you’re looking for an engaging fantasy novel that’s perfect for late elementary or middle grade readers, look no further. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is an excellent way to fight off cabin fever this February. I’m giving it an enthusiastic 5 stars for the way that it explores family relationships, friendship, and self-discovery all within the vehicle of a modern fairy tale.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy

26 Dec

Today’s book review is for The Queen and the Nobody Boy, by Barbara Else, published by Gecko Press. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy book cover

Hodie is an unpaid odd-jobs boy working at the royal palace of Fontania. One day, he decides that he’s finally had enough and strikes out to the south to start his new life. The problem is, he has a tag-along: 12-year old Queen Sibilla, who is tired of all the gossip about her magical abilities (or lack thereof). She decides that the two of them must reclaim the sack of junk taken from Hodie by visiting dignitaries from neighboring Um’Binnia, even though Hodie doesn’t really care about recovering it. He’d rather go off on his own. But no matter how hard he tries to go off to his new life in the south, Hodie can’t seem to shake the little Queen. Instead he’ll brave new dangers, discover secrets, eat bizarre food, and aid rebellion to save Fontania–and discover himself.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a lively modern adventure fairy tale for children ages 10 and up. Else’s narrative style reminds me a bit of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. There’s a real playfulness to her language. It’s not just that she’s produced a compelling story, but that she’s also managed to tell it in a style that sucks you in. In many middle grades and young adult novels, the narrative prose is secondary to the story. Typically the only time I really notice it is when it’s not terribly good. In this case, I noticed because it was so refreshingly fun to read.

I also loved the world-building in this book. There’s a lot that you’d expect–palaces and gowns and pouches of gold. But there is a lot that is unexpected and whimsical, as well. There are magical dragon eagles in Fontania, who can talk to a select group of people. Um’Binnia is full amazing inventions, most notably their windtrains–which are innovative and sometimes terrifying. There are strange places with deadly obstacles, such as bridges that can spike you or the caverns where the wind trains travel. There are elaborately moustached men. There’s even a royal swear word (but you’ll have to look in the end notes to discover what exactly it is.) In short, you’ve never visited a literary world quite like this before.

When I was about two thirds of the way through the book, I was looking up something about the author and discovered that this was the second book written about Fontania. If I hadn’t stumbled upon it, I never would have known from reading the book. Which, if you think about it, is pretty impressive. That’s because anything you need to know for the story to make sense is right there, in the book. There’s absolutely no assumption that the audience is familiar with the history of Fontania. So, don’t let that little bit of knowledge stop you from jumping in.

Do you ever get so caught up in a book that you feel compelled to tell your partner or other family members about new plot twists as you’re reading? That’s how I was with this book. I even paraphrased it for my 2-year old when she wanted me to tell her a story. Is it any wonder that I’m giving it 5 stars? I hope that other kids and kids-at-heart will share in my joy of journeying through this strange world with young Hodie and the rest.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.