November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stock Your Shelves! | Middle Grade Series Update

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Another year has come and gone, bringing with it another batch of exceptional series for young readers. Whether it’s traveling through space and time, journeying across fabled lands with friends looking for adventure, or experiencing the usual (and sometimes unusual) ups and downs of everyday life, there is a great series for every type of middle grade reader. This round-up of recent (as well as a few upcoming) series releases highlight some of those fictional works that made kids laugh, smile, cry, and exclaim for more!

ANDERS, Lou. Skyborn. (Thrones & Bones: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780385390408.
skybornGr 5-8–Lou Anders’  epic fantasy series comes to a close with this thrilling installment that ties up the loose ends left from the previous two books. Thianna and Karn are still journeying to find the fabled Horns of Osius that are in danger being used for evil. Their quest takes them to Thica, where numerous queens rule tyrannically. It’s up to Thianna and Karn to stop the queens as well as save the kingdom from disarray. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, which helps shine a light on the multi-faceted nature of the plot. Readers who are not familiar with the first two books will find themselves lost as there is no background given on their previous adventures. Young readers who are definitely not ready for the brutal and ever popular “Game of Thrones” books and TV show will enjoy this series, which is similar to it in both structure and name.

ANDERSON, Jeff. Just My Luck. (Zack Delacruz: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781454920670.
just-my-luckGr 4-6–The school year has started at Davy Crockett Middle School and Zack Delacruz can’t wait! His friendships are tighter than ever and he’s excited for what’s to come. At lunch one day, he encounters Abhi, the new girl in school, and realizes he has a huge crush on her. Unfortunately, every opportunity he has to impress her fails miserably. An aggressive game of dodegball, failed advice from his friends, and an unfortunate encounter with cologne makes the situation worse. As the Fall Fiesta-val quickly approaches, Zack must put aside all of his tricks and gimmicks and show Abhi who he really is. Anderson’s cast of characters will be familiar to many young middle schoolers. The situations Zack and his friends find themselves in are true to life and will endear themselves to many.

BARRON, T.A. Atlantis Lost. (Atlantis: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780399168055.
atlantis-lostGr 5-8–T.A. Barron’s fantasy trilogy comes to a satisfying close and will enthrall fans. Lord Narkazan is ready to launch his final attacks on Atlantis and complete his plans for taking over the precious land. Our hero, Promi, and his sister Jalady are on a quest to retrieve the Starstone, a totem required to save the realm and everyone in it. A wide array of characters, both mystical and mythical, combines their respective powers to help Promi stop Lord Narkazan and hopefully save Atlantis from destruction. Barron does not disappoint and packs a lot in such a short novel. The world of Atlantis and beyond is fleshed out beautifully and described in a lushly descriptive way. Young readers who are into high fantasy but might not be ready for more mature examples of the genre will gladly devour this series. Readers may want to start with the first title (Atlantis Rising), as little backstory is given. Maps of the various worlds are included in the beginning for reference.

BECKER, Suzy. Winner Takes All. (Kate The Great: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780385388801.
kate-the-greatGr 4-6–Kate the Great is back with more kid-friendly adventures. Kate deals with friend drama when Nora announces that she will soon be moving to California. This disappoints her since they have just become good friends. On top of that, Kate finds out that her oldest and dearest friend, Brooke, has been hanging out with Nora without either one of them telling Kate. While trying to sort this mess, Kate participates in a food drive sponsored by her Girl Scouts-like “Junior Guides.” She meets and soon bonds wih Mrs. Verlagen, an older woman who lives by herself and doesn’t go out as much. Told in “Wimpy Kid”-style diary entries with spot illustrations throughout, young readers will enjoy Kate’s escapades. Friendship issues, helping out your community, and dealing with a wacky family are things that young people will relate to.

BLACK, Holly & Cassandra Clare. The Bronze Key. (Magisterium: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780545522311.
bronze-keyGr 5-8–Callum, Tamara, and Aaron are third-year mage students at the Magisterium, a school dedicated to teaching kids the art of magic. When we last left them, Callum was taken over by the spirit of Constance Madden, the Enemy of Death. No one at the Magisterium knows that Callum contains this spirit except Tamara and Aaron. However, after a few almost fatal close calls, it becomes obvious that others know and they will stop at nothing to put an end to Callum. Filled with fast-paced action sequences and well-built characters, Black and Clare have delivered another fine addition to their popular fantasy series. Young readers may be startled at the deaths of a few main characters along the way, though it helps propel the plot forward and will have readers wanting more. The first few chapters are filled with summaries of the events of the first two books, making this an easy entry point for new readers. However, many will want to read the first two books to fully grasp the emotional resonance of this title.

trappedBODEEN, S.A. Trapped. (Shipwrecked Island: Bk. 3). ISBN 9781250027818.
Gr 4-7–The saga of the Robinson clan and their adventures on Shipwreck Island continues in this newest installment. Step-siblings Sarah and Marco are trying to get the mysterious figure known as “The Curator” to release their father and younger brother from imprisonment. Along the way, the history of the island and its mysterious inhabitants are revealed.  The Curator’s past and his experiences with the island will delight fans of this series. New readers will not have a problem following along, as basic backgrounds of the previous books are immediately introduced. Bodeen ends her story on a cliffhanger, ensuring more adventures to come.

a-legend-of-starfireBURT, Marissa. A Legend of Starfire. (A Silver of Stardust: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780062291585.
Gr 5-8–After successfully vanquishing the evil magician Boggen at the end of A Sliver of Stardust, Wren and her friends are back with another quest to save the magical world of Nod. Wren is both a Fiddler and a Weather Changer. She is one of the few people on Earth who can see and use magic while on Earth. She uses these powers for good and strives to save the world from the destructive powers of magic. When Boggen tries to escape and destroy Nod in order to return to Earth, Wren, along with her friends Simon and Jack, travels to the darkest and furthest reaches of Nod to help stop Boggen. Burt has crafted a fun world filled with steampunk versions of favorite nursery rhymes in a setting similar to Victorian England. An ambiguous ending leaves room for more adventures. Relevant backstory from the previous book is sprinkled throughout, making this easily accessible to new readers.

vipbattleofthebandsCALONITA, Jen. Battle of the Bands. (VIP: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780316259774.
Gr 4-0037–Mac Lowell gets to live out every tween girl’s dream: being on the road with her favorite boy band. This time, her two best friends, Scarlet and Iris, get to join them during Perfect Storm’s summer tour, ensuring that it will be a summer to remember. Perfect Storm is joined by their rival group, Thunder and Lightning, on the tour and a controversy emerges about a possible copycat song that was written for Mac. Chaos ensues and it’s up to Mac and her friends, along with Jill, the tour manager’s daughter, to stop the fighting and find out who originally wrote the song. Spot art and comic book panels appear throughout the book, emphasizing Mac’s artistic talents and her quest to finish her long-gestating Perfect Storm graphic novel. Fans of the previous book as well as new readers will enjoy Mac and her friends’ antics and will eagerly anticipate the next installment in the series. Tween readers will be able to relate to Mac and her feelings of a first celebrity crush.

simonthornviperspitCARTER, Aimee. Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit. (Simon Thorn: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781619637153.
Gr 5-8–Simon Thorn is a young boy who has recently discovered that he is not like most kids. He is an Animalgam, who can communicate with and turn into many kinds of animals. He attends the Leading Animalgam Institute for the Remarkable, better known as LAIR (conveniently located underneath NYC’s Central Park) where he is learning to harness his powers as well as meet other young people just like him. His mother has recently been kidnapped by his grandfather, the evil Beast King Orion, who is bent on taking over the Five Kingdoms. Simon and his friends (all fellow Animalgams) band together to travel across the Five Kingdoms and save his mother and the world. Carter’s strong second entry builds upon the rich universe created in Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den. Her characters are well developed and deal with relatable human situations and moments while also believably ensconced in the magical realm. Fans of “Harry Potter” will enjoy this series and will be clamoring for the next installment.

diary-of-an-8-bit-warriorCUBE KID. From Seeds to Swords. Illus.  by Saboten. (Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781449480080.
Gr 3-6–Runt is your average, ordinary villager with dreams of becoming a Minecraft warrior. Before he’s able to achieve his dream, he has to survive school and all of its trappings. Runt has to complete a school assignment with an odd new girl in his class. He sees her following him everywhere—even when they’re not in school. Along the way, Runt has to deal with a bully and try to find a way to make it to the top of his warrior class so he can finally realize his calling: to be the best Minecraft warrior ever! Minecraft is still one of the most popular online games for young people and those obsessed with the game will jump at the chance to read this exciting series. Give this to fans of “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” and other heavily illustrated series. They will devour this installment and will be eagerly anticipating the release of the next book.

traitor-of-belltrollCUMMINGS, Lindsay. The Traitor of Belltroll. (Balance Keepers: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780062275240.
The Balance Keepers are back with the final entry in the series. The Balance Keepers are kids who make sure the world above is kept stable from the roiling world at the center of the earth. Hibernating trolls are literally sleeping on the job, failing to the ring the bells of Belltroll that will unleash a series of massive earthquakes that will rip the earth apart. As Albert, Leroy, Birdie, and Holt explore Belltroll, they realize that there’s a traitor in their midst sabotaging their efforts. Cummings closes out her series with a satisfying entry that fans will enjoy. The reveal of the traitor is genuinely effective and will catch some readers by surprise. Even though this is the final book in the series, the story stands on its own and relevant backstory is provided where needed. This is sure to please fans hankering for a satisfying conclusion to a well-written series.

riddle-in-rubyDAVIS, Kent. The Changer’s Key. (A Riddle in Ruby: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780062368379.
Gr 5-8–Ruby Teach is committed in her quest to help her family in this alternate steampunk-lite version of colonial America. After being captured by Wisdom Rool and sent to work in a prison, Ruby sees the dark side of this world while struggling to not reveal the secrets that are hidden in her blood. The longer Ruby is imprisoned, the more she starts to see the ways of Wisdom Rool and is slowly lured to his side. Along the way, her family and her friends from all walks of life race to free her from imprisonment and try to stop the plans of Wisdom and his army of super soldiers. This is a fast paced, story-driven novel that never feels like the second book in a trilogy. Ruby is a complex character rocked back and forth with her differing emotions. Some of the events of A Riddle in Ruby are recapped in the beginning chapters. However, new readers may want to pick up the first book to fully understand the story and the universe. The novel ends on a cliffhanger ensuring fans will return for the final book in Ruby’s journey.

3-of-a-kindGAVIN, Rohan. 3 of a Kind. (Knightley & Son: Bk. 3). ISBN 9781619638303.
Gr 5-8–After the tragic events of K-9, Darkus Knightley has decided to put life as a young international detective in the past and move on. When his beloved housekeeper, Bogna, is mysteriously kidnapped, he jumps back into action with his father, Alan, and his stepsister, Tilly, to rescue her from her nefarious captors. Along the way, Darkus attempts to get his parents back together and Tilly strives to find out what exactly happened to her mother. Full of action and suspense, this series has the feel of Spy Kids or a young James Bond. Fans of the previous books will enjoy this outing and those new to the series will easily be able to start here. The new cover design will make this series more appealing to younger readers.

spy-ski-schoolGIBBS, Stuart. Spy Ski School. (Spy School: Bk. 4). ISBN 9781481445627.
Gr 5-8–The young spies of the Academy of Espionage are finally given the chance to spread their wings and go out on assignment. Ben goes to Vail, CO, to spy on Jessica Shang, the daughter of an obscenely wealthy Chinese businessman with evil ideas to take over the United States. Many of his fellow classmates are involved in the journey and provide much laughter along the way. The potential romance between Ben and Jessica provides much of the narrative tension, with some action scenes along the way. Fans of this popular series will not be disappointed as many of the markers of the previous books are present here. Filled with thrills, action-packed scenes, and loads of laughs, this James Bond-for-kids series is sure to excite and will have readers eager for the next chapter in the exciting lives of Ben and his friends.

return-fireGONZALEZ, Christina Diaz. Return Fire. (Moving Target: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780545773225.
Gr 4-6–What would you do if you had the ability to save your father’s life but, in the process, inexplicably caused a chain of events that would change the course of human history for the worse? Cassie is put in this situation when she uses the Sword of Destiny. In order to save the world, she must get the sword back from the mysterious Hastati, a group bent on using the sword for evil. The concluding volume in this duology is filled with action and emotion. New readers will easily pick up the story, as enough information is given from the previous volume. This series is notable for its strong-willed female Cuban-American protagonist. In all, a pleasant end to this brief yet exciting series.

monster-warGRATZ, Alan. The Monster War. illus. by Brett Helquist. (League of Seven: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780765338242.
Gr 5-8–Archie Dent and the League of Seven face off one final time against the crazed Philomena Moffett and the Septemberist Society in the concluding volume of Gratz’s steampunk saga. After uncovering a devastating secret about his past, Archie is questioning his position in this battle. Yet, after some soul searching and a rapidly deteriorating situation, he is forced to get things together and do what he must in order to save the North Americas. Gratz has crafted a richly detailed yet accessible world that readers will be enthralled by. A brief refresher, along with a map, appears prior to the actual story, ensuring that new readers will have no problem jumping on board. Readers who are not quite ready for Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan” series will thoroughly enjoy this.

troll-overboardHARRELL, Rob. Troll Overboard. illus. by author. (Life of Zarf: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780803741058.
Gr 4-6–It’s Career Day at Cotswin Middle School and Zarf’s grandfather is there to talk about being a “mog driver” (boat driver). After his presentation, the super popular (and super obnoxious) Prince Roquefort becomes very interested in Zarf and his grandfather’s boat. After tricking them into traveling towards the rough waters of the Bernini Triangle, troll Zarf and company find themselves ensconced in events inspired by various fairy tales. Magic beans, giant whales, and pirates are some of the things they encounter along the way. Fans of this series will enjoy following the further adventures of their favorite “average troll.” Spot illustrations appear on every page, making this appealing to both reluctant readers and those who enjoy other highly illustrated series. This book improves on the previous entries with deeper character development and loads of laughs.

ISERLES, Inbali. The Elders. (Foxcraft: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780545690843
theeldersGr 4-6–After her brother fox went missing in The Taken, Isla continues her search. Her journey has taken her to the Wildlands, a huge forest where dangers lurk for foxes at every corner. Isla is just coming into her foxcraft power, the magic infused in foxes that helps them survive and fight the forces of evil. While searching the Wildlands, she encounters a shrewd fox whose powers are great. Unfortunately, he decides to use them for evil and keeps his fellow foxes under physical and mental control. Isla must band together with the rustic Wildland foxes to stop the corruption and eventually find the path to her brother. Beautifully paced with plenty of action, Iserles’ time as an author of the popular “Warrior” series is on full display here. Fans of that series as well as the first “Foxcraft” book will enjoy this outing. Relevant backstory is given throughout so new readers will be able to join Isla on her quest with no problems.

max-helsingJOBLING, Curtis. Max Helsing and the Beast of Bone Creek. (Max Helsing: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780451474803.
Gr 5-8–A school trip goes terribly wrong in this latest entry featuring Max Helsing. Descended from the historic line of Van Helsing monster hunters, Max fights off monsters while also trying to lead the life of a normal boy. His class goes on an overnight camping trip and it’s the first for many of them. Rumors and legends of a Bigfoot-type monster lurking in the woods keep Max and his friends on their best behavior. When some of his classmates go missing, this spurs Max into action, determined to rescue his classmates and vanquish the monster in the woods. Funny and thrilling, this series will draw in readers looking for some light-hearted monster adventure. This entry stands on its own, ensuring this will be enjoyed by fans old and new.

KATZ, Alan. The Day the Mustache Came Back. illus. by Kris Easler. (Mustache: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781619635609.
day-the-mustache-came-backGr 3-5–David and Nathan Wolfhardt are in desperate need of a new babysitter. Their former babysitter, Martin Healey, has disappeared and they are up to their old tricks again. When Myron appears at their door to be their new babysitter, the brothers are suspicious. Myron looks very much like their previous caregiver. They set out to prove their new and previous “manny” are one and the same. Filled with the same humor as the first volume, fans as well as new readers will delight in their adventures. Spot illustrations appear throughout the text add some visual humor. Eagle-eyed readers will most likely solve the mystery of the mustachioed manny before David and Nathan do. The book leaves room for further adventures for interested readers.

KELSEY, Annie. Love and Chicken Nuggets. illus. by Kate Larsen. (Pippa Morgan’s Diary: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781492631415.
love-and-chicken-nuggetsGr 3-6–It’s Valentine’s Day and Pippa is super excited. Her class is given an assignment to write about something that you love. Many things come to mind (among them are her best friend and her absolute favorite food: chicken nuggets.) As she’s deciding on her subject of her paper, she decides to help her mother find love. Her parents have recently divorced and she wants her mother to be happy. Unbeknownst to her, her mother’s love might be closer than she thinks. Pippa has a unique and strong voice that young readers will respond to. Heavily illustrated throughout and told in diary format, fans of “Dork Diaries” will likely enjoy this quirky British import.

KROSOCZKA, Jarrett J. A New Class. illus. by author. (Star Wars: Jedi Academy #4). ISBN 9781338114058.
a-new-classGrades 3-6—Victor Starspeeder is the newest transfer to Jedi Academy after getting kicked out of his former school due to his behavior. In order to keep him focused, Master Yoda decides that the drama department is the place for him. Along the way, he makes friends that attempt to lead him down the path of his former ways as well as those who lift him up and look out for him. Jarrett J. Krosoczka takes over from former series writer Jeffrey Brown with no hiccups along the way. Comic panels appear throughout the book and Krosoczka’s trademark humor shines through. Fans of the previous books in the series will definitely enjoy this outing with many of their favorite characters. This is a highly recommended purchase for fans of the series as well as those Star Wars fans ravenous for something new.

LISS, David. Rebels. (Randoms: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781481417822.
rebelsGr 5-8–After traveling to the deepest reaches of the galaxy and beyond, Zeke is forced to return to Earth and his normal run-of-the-mill life. Unfortunately, the A.I. in his head that talks to him and guides his thoughts is not helping him move on. In fact, it’s actively trying to get Zeke back into space. When the opportunity comes for Zeke to save the planet once more, he jumps at the chance. Zeke must find the fabled “skill tree” as well as fight off the growing threat of Movement for Peace, an organization that does not live up to its name. Fans of the previous book will be thrilled by the constant action and space travel. Backstory from the first novel is sprinkled throughout. However, new readers may be lost at times. Give this to fans of Sophia McDouglass’ “Mars Evacuees” series and lovers of epic space fantasy. The open ending ensures another installment that fans will be clamoring for.

LOMBARDO, Constance. Stunt Cat Across America. illus. by author. (Mr. Puffball: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780062320681.
stunt-cat-across-americaGr 3-5–After coming to Hollywood in Stunt Cat To The Stars, Mr. Puffball has grown tired of the stunt game and wants to expand his horizons. His boss, El Gato, has decided to make a buddy comedy and he wants Mr. Puffball to be his co-star. After a series of mishaps, El Gato and Mr. Puffball have to go across country to make an audition reel after the studio heads want to cast A-List actors instead of them. Spot illustrations appear on almost every page, making this a fun title for reluctant readers. Younger readers may not get some of the puns and references to modern day actors names (ex: “Jude Claw”). However, there is plenty of slapstick to enjoy.

LONDON, C. Alexander. Moonlight Brigade. (The Wild Ones: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780399171000
moonlight-brigadeGr 5-8–Kit and the residents of Ankle Snap Alley are back with another adventure involving rival animal gangs and their struggle to survive. When a villainous wolf, along with the gullible Thunder River Rompers, takes over the alley and steals much of their winter feed, it’s up to Kit to band everyone together to put an end to this and defend their home. As if this wasn’t hard enough, Kit takes on another big challenge: starting a new school. Fans of Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” and “Survivors” series as well as Brian Jacques’ “Redwall” will devour this action-packed yet emotionally driven work. Kit teaches everyone the power of working together to get something accomplished—and London underscores this message without being didactic. Those who haven’t read The Wild Ones may find themselves lost in the beginning as there is little background from that book. Readers will eagerly anticipate more from Kit and company.

LUBAR, David. Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales. (Weenies: Bk. 8). ISBN 9780765377265.
strikeout-bleacher-weeniesGr 4-6–The master of the hilariously creepy short story for kids is back with another scared-filled collection that doesn’t shirk on the weird. Highlights include “Easy Targets,” about a school with no bullies and “Same Bird,” where an average family finds the great outdoors to be more than they bargained for. As with some short story collections, some tales are better than others. However, overall, this eighth collection from Lubar is a strong entry in the series. These stories stand alone and feature no characters from previous collections so new readers will be able to jump right in. Back matter includes a section on the inspiration for his stories and could be used as a writing prompt for students. Give this to fans of R.L. Stine and lovers of funny, creepy tales.

MABBITT, Will. Mabel Jones and the Doomsday Book. illus. by Ross Collins. (Mabel Jones: Bk. 3). ISBN 9781101999622.
mabel-jones-doomsday-bookGr 4-6–After finding herself stuck in the Noo World, Mabel Jones has a lot on her plate. She has caught the attention of Grand Zhool, a rhino with a rage problem and a full length weasel coat, and is trying to avoid him. She sets out to find the Doomsday Book which may hold the key to prevent the destruction of the human race. The third entry in Mabbitt’s gonzo fantasy series will not disappoint fans and will attract new readers. Collins’ spot illustrations, along with various sizes and styles of font, appear throughout the text, making this fun and enjoyable read for a wider range of kids.

MASS, Wendy. The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase. (The Candymakers: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780316089197.
candymakersGr 5-8–Logan, Miles, Philip, and Daisy are back from the Life Is Sweet Candy Factory after competing in their contest to create the newest candy treat. As Philip’s award winning chocolate confection, the Harmonicandy (part musical instrument, part candy), comes off the conveyor belt, the Candymakers realize that it doesn’t taste the same as it did before. After much snooping around, they realize that the particular type of chocolate needed is missing. Upon hearing this, the Candymakers embark on a road trip to find the elusive chocolate. This anticipated sequel will satisfy fans of the previous installment. Even though Mass gives some backstory from The Candymakers, new readers may find themselves lost at certain points. Reluctant readers may find the book’s length (over 500 pages) a hurdle. Yet, fans of this series will devour this tale like the sweetest chocolate treat.

MOWRY, Tia & Tamera Mowry. Double Trouble. (Twintuition: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780062372895.
double-troubleGr 4-6–Twin sisters Cassie and Caitlyn could not be more different. Cassie dresses up in the most recent fashion and is eagerly anticipating becoming a teen. She’s starts to hang out with the popular girls in her school and can’t wait to grow up. Caitlyn has a more traditional fashion sense and enjoys being a tween. They have very different ideas about how to celebrate their upcoming 12th birthday (dance party or miniature golf?). One of the few things they do share is their ability to see flashes of the future when they touch someone. At times, the flashes are of positive events and other times they forewarn of trouble to come. When a mysterious box shows up at their house, Cassie and Caitlyn will have to put their differences aside and work together to figure things out. Many readers will gravitate towards the light humor and the magical wonderment. Fans of Toni Gallagher’s “Twist My Charm” series will gravitate towards this series. An open ending ensures more adventures from these two magical sisters.

ORMSBEE, K.E. The Doorway and the Deep. (The Water and the Wild, Bk. 2). ISBN 9781452136363.
doorway-and-the-deepGr 5-8–Lottie embarks on a quest to save her friend Eliot’s life as well as the human race. In The Water and the Wild, Eliot was grievously injured and Lottie saved him with her magical healing powers. Even though he’s been healed, he is still sick and needs to escape Limn, the magical realm Lottie and Eliot are stuck in. At the same time, the evil King Starkling has decided to expand his powers and only something from the human world that only Lottie can find will help. This quest propels the story forward and leads Lottie closer to finding a cure for Eliot and finding a way to stop the evil plans of the king. Ormsbee has built a fantastical world filled with many types of creatures both lovable and fearsome. Fans of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” will find many things to enjoy in this series. Lottie is a strong female character that will have young readers cheering. No relevant background information is given about the previous title so new readers may find themselves a bit confused and likely need to start with book one. Readers will be clamoring for the next and final book in the trilogy.

PASTIS, Stephan. The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have. illus. by author. (Timmy Failure: Bk. 5). ISBN 9780763690045.
book-youre-not-supposed-to-haveGr 4-6–Everyone’s favorite detective is back to solve another mystery…or is he? After his last adventure went awry, Timmy Failure’s mother has banned him from doing detective work. How can Timmy go on when solving mysteries is his life’s passion? Along the way, he encounters his weird cousins who are forced to spend the summer with him and his family, an eccentric piano teacher, and his mother’s possible upcoming nuptials with Doorman Dave. Pastis’s signature droll spot illustrations appear throughout the book. The short chapters and Timmy’s first person narrative makes this a slam dunk recommendation for those readers obsessed with Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. This series’ trademark quirky humor is on full display and readers won’t be disappointed.

POUNDER, Sibeal. Witch Switch. illus. by Laura Ellen Anderson. (Witch Wars: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781619639843.
witch-switchGr4-6–The witches of Ritzy City are disappearing at an alarming rate in this sequel to Witch Wars. After Tiga discovers that her best friend has suddenly left, leaving only a note saying that she’s “away with the fairies,” at first she thinks nothing of it. Then other witches start vanishing as well. With a nasty witch now at the helm, Tiga and her friends set out to find the missing witches and uncover the reasoning behind their disappearances. Tiga’s voice, as well as those of her friends, are fresh and modern and will appeal to young readers. Anderson’s vibrant spot and full-page illustrations leap off the page and add a layer of vivaciousness to an already appealing story.

ROCHA, K.E. Mission to Moon Farm. illus. by Ross Dearsley. (Secrets of Bearhaven: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780545813044.
mission-to-moon-farmGr 4-6–Spencer is eagerly anticipating the return of his parents to Bearhaven. In the meantime, he is being raised by a family of bears and has integrated himself into their society. When he accidentally learns that no one has heard from his parents, he goes out into the wild to find them along with his best bear friend, Kate. When Spencer and Kate encounter an odd fellow in the woods, Kate goes missing and Spencer knows it has something to do with Moon Farm, a successful toy factory that’s a cover for a nefarious underground bear-trading ring. Spencer must break into Moon Farm and rescue his friend while also trying to unlock the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. Rocha has constructed an action-packed edition of this wild fantasy series. The characters are fully realized and their actions are believable. Dearsley’s spot and full-page illustrations appear throughout. Fans of the previous title as well as new readers will eagerly devour this newest addition to the series.

RODKEY, Geoff. The Tapper Twins Run for President. (The Tapper Twins: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780316297851.
tapper-twins-run-for-presidentGr 4-6–The Tapper Twins are back at war with each other! This time, they’ve taken their sibling sparring to the political arena. Claudia Tapper is running for re-election as class president of Culvert Prep’s sixth grade. She normally runs unopposed and thinks it will be smooth sailing again. When her brother Reese decides to run against her, all hell breaks loose and the fight for the office is on. Told in an oral history style format with plenty of photographs, illustrations, newspaper clippings, text messages, and e-mails, this book will attract reluctant readers as well as fans of their previous adventures. Older readers who were more aware of the events of the recent presidential election may be turned off by the level of snark and the shenanigans of the twins on the campaign trail. However, this is another winning addition to a hilarious and fun-filled series that will leave readers happily awaiting more adventures from these silly siblings.

SAGE, Angie. Starchaser. (Todhunter Moon: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780062272515.
starchaserGr 5-8–The concluding volume in the “TodHunter Moon” trilogy closes out with a bang. Apprentice Wizard Tod and her friends embark on a quest to find a Keystone to replace the Lapis Lazuli, a blue stone that holds most of the magic needed to keep Magyk from disappearing forever. Along the way, they encounter evil queens, devious witches, and other creatures who want the Keystone and will do anything to get it and stop Tod. Fans of this series will be greatly satisfied with this final entry. Characters from Sage’s “Septimus Heap” will delight in seeing characters from that series appear here as well. Minimal background from the previous books is given so new readers may want to start at the beginning to fully enjoy this volume. Readers may be disappointed to bid these characters adieu but they will be content with the resolution.

SANDERSON, Brandon. The Dark Talent. (Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: Bk. 5). ISBN 9780765381408.
the-dark-talentGr 5-8–Alcatraz Smedry has successfully battled many threats in his quest, including the Evil Librarians. He now faces his most challenging menace yet: his dad. Alcatraz’s father launches an evil plan that could eventually destroy the world. In the process, his best friend Bastille gets injured and falls into a coma. In order to wake her up, Alcatraz must do battle in the Highbrary, the place where the evil Hushlanders reside. This book has a decidedly darker tone than the previous titles, which may throw fans for a loop. The ending will certainly come as a shock and will have loyal readers rethinking events from the other four books. Sanderson’s writing is on point and thoroughly engaging. Those who haven’t read the previous books will definitely want to go back and read them in order to fully understand the repercussions. An exciting and unexpected ending to a truly unique series.

SCHUSTERMAN, Michelle. Graveyard Slot. (The Kat Sinclair Files: Bk. 2). ISBN 9780448479811.
graveyard-slotGr 4-6–Kat Sinclair is back with more ghost hunting adventures. After her actions from Dead Air lead to a solved mystery and boffo ratings, the TV network that airs Passport to Paranormal, her father’s ghost hunting reality TV show, wants Kat and her friends to star in their very own show. This is met with much reluctance by her family who don’t want to fully expose Kat to the dangers of the profession (and damage their “brand”). Eventually, Kat, her family, and her friends Jamie and Haley head to South America to uncover more ghost mysteries and eventually come closer as a family. Kat is a sassy, spunky character and the human, family issues she encounters will make her relatable to young readers. Fans of the supernatural and ghost stories have much to savor here. Schusterman provides enough background from the previous book to make this easily accessible to new readers. Here’s hoping for more ghostly adventures from Kat and company.

SEGEL, Jason & Kirsten Miller. The Lost Lullaby. (Nightmares!: Bk. 3). ISBN 9780385744294.
the-lost-lullabyGr 5-8–Charlie’s descent into the world of Nightmares is almost at an end. After defeating his nemeses ICK and INK at the end of The Sleepwalker Tonic, Charlie wonders why they keep coming back and what their ultimate endgame is. After seeing them in both the world of Nightmares and the real world, Charlie is determined to end things once and for all. Fans of the previous two books will be delighted to have another adventure. Readers interested in light horror will devour this series. Charlie has a crush on his friend Paige and fans will be content with the way things turn out. Segel is known for his comedic film and TV work so it will come as no surprise that there are plenty of laughs to balance out the horror. This is a satisfying conclusion to a top-notch series.

SHAUGHNESSY, Adam. Over the Underworld. (The Unbelievable Fib: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781616204990.
over-the-underwoldsGr 5-7–After helping to avoid disaster in The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib, Pru and her friend ABE are back in action to solve a mystery involving Loki, the famed Norse trickster. Odin’s son, Baldur, has been murdered and the Fantasy Investigation Bureau (FIB) led by Mr. Fox is called upon by Odin himself to find the killer. Loki is the main suspect but not everything is quite as it seems. Fans of the action-packed first novel will enjoy another go round with this fun group of characters. Those who haven’t read the first novel (retitled The Trickster’s Tale) will find themselves adrift here as there is very little background provided. Those who enjoy Rick Riordan’s “Magnus Chase” books will eagerly pick this series up.

SYLVESTER, Kevin. MiNRS2. (MiNRS: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781481440424.
minersGr 5-8–After surviving the attacks in MiNRS, Christopher, Elena, and the other child miners of Perses are bracing for more. They are constantly receiving intel from Earth informing them that more attacks are imminent and their dominance over the Landers will be short lived. To make matters worse, the society of Perses is crumbling, with rising conflict between the children and miners and actual child miners. In order to prepare for the attacks to come, the citizens of Perses need to come together and unite as one if they have any chance of survival. Fans of the previous volume will be happy to spend more time with these characters. Sylvester introduces many new characters in this volume (which proves to be confusing at times). New readers will be able to pick up the story as relevant backstory is introduced throughout. This middle installment sets up the final battle for the last book in the trilogy.

WARNER, Penny. The Secret of the Puzzle Box. (The Code Busters Club: Bk. 6). ISBN 9781512403077.
secret-of-the-puzzle-boxGr 3-5–The Code Busters Club’s latest class field trip takes them to Angel Island, “the Ellis Island of the West.” Chinese-American Mika is particularly interested, as her family has history with the island from when they immigrated to America. When visiting, Mika realizes that her great-great-grandfather has left a secret message in the writings left on the walls of the island. It’s up to the Code Busters Club to solve the mystery. This is another phenomenal entry in an excellent series. This would make a great addition for collections with a STEM focus. Throughout the text, there are codes that young readers are encouraged to crack along with the young detectives. Back matter includes a “Key Book & Solutions” to help readers along. This is a great series that deserves a spot in all collections.

YEE, Lisa. Supergirl at Super Hero High. (DC SuperHero Girls: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781101940624.
supergirl-at-super-hero-highGr 4-6–After her home planet of Krypton blows up, Kara Zor-El comes to Earth to live with her cousin and his adoptive family. Kara (better known to comic book readers as Supergirl) enrolls in the elite Super Hero High. There, she is surrounded by her fellow super-powered compatriots. At first, she feels a bit left out and unworthy of attending the same school with the likes of Wonder Woman. However, she starts making new friends (with techie Barbara Gordon, better known as Batgirl) and helps solve a mystery with the school’s main mode of transport, The Boom Tubes. Fans of comic books (and their respective movies) will delight in this exciting adventure featuring many young female members of the DC Universe. This title stands on its own, and new readers won’t have to have read the previous installment (even though they will certainly want to read it afterwards). More adventures are on the horizon for the students of Super Hero High.

ZAPPA, Shana Muldoon & Ahmet Zappa. Good Wish Gone Bad. (Star Darlings). ISBN 9781484753514.
good-wish-gone-badGr 4-7–The Star Darlings graduate from chapter books to middle grade in this continuation of the popular series. After a humiliating defeat in the previous books, the evil Rancora comes back one more time to take over Starland, the world of the Star Darlings. The fairies decide that in order to ultimately defeat Rancora, they have to understand the intentions of her actions and what led to her to her current path. After some investigating, they uncover some startling truths about Rancora’s past and how their leader Lady Stella fits into all of it. Fans of the previous series will delight in the expansion of the Star Darlings universe as well as the history of some of its most fascinating characters. New readers may want to start with the other books as the Zappas provide little to no background about the characters or their world which may prove frustrating. However, those young readers who are ready to graduate from chapter books to somewhat more challenging books will certainly enjoy this title.

ZELTSER, David. Blast from the North. (Lug: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781512406412.
blast-from-the-northGr 3-5–A rogue glacier is heading towards Lug’s village and mayhem ensues. The people in the village have never seen something like this before and Lug, along with his friends and his trusted mammoth, Woolly, decide to investigate. They discover that the glacier is actually the home of Blast, a seemingly innocuous fellow cavemen whose mission is to steal the local livestock of the villages he encounters. It’s now up to Lug and friends to stop Blast from absconding with their animals and save the village from further plunder. This delightful series serves up laughs and action throughout. Fans of the previous tale will enjoy this outing and will eagerly anticipate further adventures from their favorite prehistoric friend.

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Christopher Lassen About Christopher Lassen

Christopher Lassen is the youth material selector for The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library.

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  1. Thanks, Christopher, for including Mr. Puffball in this very cool list!! I’m so happy you enjoyed his cross-country adventure/ Hollywood memoir!!

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