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Middle Grades

Book Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

Buy it through Barnes and Noble or Amazon

The summary (adapted from Goodreads):

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

The review:

The Thing About Jellyfish is exceptionally well-written. Informative without being preachy and realistic but also timeless, Jellyfish covers quite a bit of ground in what it means to journey from childhood to adolescence. That aching realism, and the interesting facts, were my favorite parts of the novel. It’s the kind of book with a cross-over appeal that adults will love. The question I kept asking, though, was how will the target audience feel? Even with the first person narration, I felt a distance from Suzy, as if the reader is seeing an adult tell the story instead of a twelve-year-old. Even with that distance, I still appreciate the layered nuance of Benjamin’s writing.

4 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Take It All Back by Judah & the Lion

Book Review: Until I Find Julian

The Summary: I received an Advance Review Copy of Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff this summer, and it released on September 8, 2015.



Twelve-year-old Mateo lives in Mexico with his mother and grandmother, and his older brother Julian works across the border in the United States to support their family. When a raid on Julian's work site leaves him out of contact and possibly arrested, Mateo journeys across the border himself to find out what really happened.  



The Review:

I enjoyed this contemporary middle grades story on several levels. The vivid descriptions of life in Mexico transported me into Mateo's world. Both his voice and his heart kept me turning the pages; I read the entire book in one day. And yet, the story as a whole left me a bit unsettled.

As an adult who reads mostly YA and MG novels, I rarely find myself reading through the lens of a parent. I've never been troubled by twelve-year-olds slaying monsters or going away to magical boarding schools, maybe because the fantasy element always reminds me that I'm reading a story. But in Until I Find Julian, I couldn't shed my "mother" glasses. Mateo travels alone through Mexico on foot. He pays a coyote to smuggle him across the border, then makes his way to Arkansas relying on the kindness of strangers. With no money, no food, and without speaking English, Mateo manages to find his brother's abandoned home. Until I Find Julian does ultimately end happily, but all along I felt more worried about Mateo than a desire to journey with him.

I plan to have my own eleven-year-old read this book to see how his reaction differs from mine; this may be a time when I'm too far out of the target audience to be objective.

3 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: First by Cold War Kids

Pre-order of the Week – My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights

Last year, my friend Angelica R. Jackson wrote great post on what pre-orders mean for authors. (You can read the full post here.) Today I wanted to share some of that information, along an awesome middle grades book available for pre-order now!

 

Ordering ahead rocks for readers. You get the book delivered to your door on or sometimes even before release day, and you don’t have to worry about a brick-and-mortar not having the title you’ve anxiously awaited. Pre-orders can also be a great boost for the author. These numbers can increase the size of the initial print run and/or the promotional budget.

 

For all of those reasons, I was thrilled to pre-order My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin last week! Check out the gorgeous cover and all the info:

 

 

Football hero. Ninja freestyler. It’s seventh grade. Anything is possible.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.



At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?  
Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor in this kid-friendly humorous debut by Brooks Benjamin. 

 

I can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, Brooks!

 

Music for today: Mercy by Muse

Book Review: A Tale Dark & Grimm

I have Son 1 to thank again for today’s review. We went to the bookstore together, and this is the first time he’s chosen a book to read completely on his own. (Meaning not influenced by me, a teacher, or a friend.) The cover and the title attracted him, and it turned out to be a great read.
 

A Tale Dark & Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #1)

The summary, adapted from Goodreads:
Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. On their journey through a forest brimming with menacing foes, the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches is revealed. Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.
The review:
In a book with many classic elements, my favorite in Grimm is the narrator. The narrator opens by warning the reader in a quirky, engaging voice, and he continues with a colorful commentary throughout. The warnings are warranted; like the original tales, these stories are violent. Again and again, Hansel and Gretel are let down in the worst ways by the adults in their lives. But my son and I both learned from the siblings’ journey to understand independence, sacrifice, and forgiveness. With a well-woven plot and a cast of characters more often grey than simply good or evil, A Tale Dark & Grimm is likely to become a classic on its own merits.
4 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: If So by Atlas Genius