June 22, 2017

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix | SLJ Audio Review

NIX, Garth. Frogkisser! 9 CDs. 11:07 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $27.50. ISBN 9781524702021. digital download.

Gr 5 Up –“Frogkisser” isn’t a nickname most 13-year-old princesses aspire to, but when Anya makes a sister-promise to return Prince Denholm to his human state, she goes in search of Transmogrifying Reversal Lip Balm. Nix knows how to stage an enchanting story, as Anya finds herself up against (and equal to!) one adventure after another. Accompanied by palace pup Ardent, prospective good […]

Review of the Day: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea By Lauren Wolk Dutton (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers) $16.99 ISBN: 978-11-101-99485-6 Ages 10-14 On shelves now. No author gets a free pass. Your last book have been a spot-on bit of brilliance, lighting up the literary landscape like a thousand Roman candles. Pfui. A writer is only as good […]

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English | SLJ Review

ENGLISH, Karen. It All Comes Down to This. 368p. Clarion. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544839571.

Gr 5-8 –Sophie is a 12-year-old African American girl living in 1965 Los Angeles. She is intelligent and determined. With two professional parents and a sister on her way to a historically black college, Sophie is living a middle-class life in her mostly white neighborhood and struggling to find acceptance among her peers. Friendship formation and creative ambitions are thwarted by bigotry, but her […]

Daring Middle Grade Debuts | SLJ Spotlight

Five new and forthcoming middle grade debuts to watch out for.

The Losers Club by Andrew Clements | SLJ Review

CLEMENTS, Andrew. The Losers Club. 240p. Random. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399557552.

Gr 3-6 –Sixth grader Alec, a true bibliophile, would rather read for pleasure than listen to his teachers, which often lands him in trouble with his parents, his teachers, and the principal. When Alec joins the after-school program, he is forced to pick a club, and quietly reading is not an option. Alec comes up with a plan to create a club that no kid would […]

Middle Grade Authors on Family, Connection, and Representation | SLJ Day of Dialog 2017

A riveting conversation with Tracey Baptiste, Paul Griffin, Katherine Paterson, Jason Reynolds, and Karina Yan Glaser.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate | SLJ Review

APPLEGATE, Katherine. Wishtree. 224p. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250043221. POP

Gr 4-8 –Newbery Award–winning author Applegate meets high expectations in this tale told by a tree named Red, a red oak who is “two hundred and sixteen rings old.” Touching on religious bigotry and the environment, Applegate keeps the emphasis on her characters, the many animals and birds who find shelter in the tree’s branches all year round. (All the birds and animals have names […]

This Is Just a Test by Madelyn Rosenberg & Wendy Wan-Long Shang | SLJ Review

ROSENBERG, Madelyn & Wendy Wan-Long Shang. This Is Just a Test. 256p. Scholastic. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338037722.

Gr 4-8 –It’s 1983, and David’s got worries: his impending bar mitzvah, his constantly competing Chinese and Jewish grandmothers, the cute girl who makes him nervous, and his popular new friend, who dislikes David’s longtime best friend—plus, it’s the height of the Cold War, and nuclear annihilation could hit at any second. David’s lightly anxious tone; the progressively funny handful […]

Restart by Gordon Korman | SLJ Review

KORMAN, Gordon. Restart. 256p. Scholastic. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338053777. POP

Gr 3-6 –What would it be like to forget your whole life, your family, your friends, and even who you are? After falling off his roof, 13-year-old Chase Ambrose learns the hard way that reinventing himself can be pretty hard, especially when his past is not what he wants for his future. Before his fall, Chase was a jock, captain of the football team, following in his […]

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling | SLJ Review

BOWLING, Dusti. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. 272p. Sterling. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781454923459.

Gr 5-8 –Aven Green has always loved her life in Kansas—hanging out with Emily and Kayla, her best friends since kindergarten; planning pranks; and playing on the school soccer team. Though Aven was born without arms, she has never let her “lack of armage,” as she calls it, deter her from doing anything she sets her mind to. But when her […]

13 Must-Read Titles for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with novels and works of nonfiction that highlight the Asian American experience.

“Letting the Heart Lead the Way”: Ruth Behar on Writing for Middle Graders

Behar’s first novel for middle graders is based on her own childhood experiences as a young Cuban American immigrant, confined to bed for months after a terrible accident.

The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold | SLJ Review

HARROLD, A.F. The Song from Somewhere Else. illus. by Levi Pinfold. 240p. Bloomsbury. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681194011.

Gr 4-6 –Strong characterizations and a good dose of spookiness are standouts in this illustrated novel. After a strange boy named Nick rescues her from bullies, Frank begins a cautious friendship with her unpopular classmate. When she hears mysterious and beautiful music coming from Nick’s cellar, Frank secretly investigates. She discovers a “leechway” that acts as a door to alternate […]

5 Middle Grade Titles Perfect for Reading Aloud

The following middle grade titles feature strong vocabulary, detailed settings, and authentic dialogue, along with themes that will spark discussion.

The Quest to the Uncharted Lands by Jaleigh Johnson | SLJ Review

JOHNSON, Jaleigh. The Quest to the Uncharted Lands. 352p. (World of Solace: Bk. 3). Delacorte. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101933121.

Gr 4-8 –In a third visit to the lands of Solace, Johnson introduces Stella Glass, a brave young alchemist who stows away on the exploration airship Iron Glory on its mission to the Uncharted Lands, accompanying her unwitting scientist parents, who have been drafted on this dangerous voyage by their king. Once on board, Stella is startled by […]

The Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng | SLJ Review

CHENG, Andrea. The Year of the Garden. illus. by Patrice Barton. 128p. HMH. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780544664449.

Gr 2-5 –In this satisfying prequel to The Year of the Book, Anna and her family have moved from an apartment to a house, meaning she will begin third grade at a new school. Before long, she meets Laura, also new to the neighborhood and eager to make new friends. The seeds of their tumultuous friendship are sown as they […]

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia | SLJ Review

WILLIAMS-GARCIA, Rita. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. 176p. HarperCollins/ Amistad. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062215918.

Gr 4-6 –Clayton Byrd has some complicated relationships in his family. His strict, demanding mother refuses to marry his father, but allows him to be a presence in Clayton’s life. Clayton adores his grandfather, “Cool Papa,” though his mother does not. Cool Papa nurtures Clayton in many ways—cooking his favorite foods, reading to him each night, and teaching him the harmonica and the blues. […]

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale | SLJ Audio Review

HALE, Shannon & Dean Hale. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. 7 CDs. 7:53 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781524734077. digital download.

Gr 4-7 –Fans of the Squirrel Girl comics, which feature a college-bound Squirrel Girl, will rejoice to learn of her superhero beginnings at age 14. Abigail Ravasch inhabits Doreen Green and her alter ego, Squirrel Girl, with finesse. Using her higher range, Ravasch creates a convincing teen voice that fills with snark or trembles […]

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk | SLJ Review

WOLK, Lauren. Beyond the Bright Sea. 304p. Dutton. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101994856.

Gr 5-8 –The definition of family and one young girl’s struggle to find out who she really is take center stage in Wolk’s follow-up to her Newbery Honor book, Wolf Hollow. As long as she can remember, Crow has lived her whole life on the sleepy island of Cuttyhunk, part of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. When she was a baby, only […]

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner | SLJ Review

RENNER, Benjamin. The Big Bad Fox. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Benjamin Renner. 192p. First Second. Jun. 2017. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781626723313.

Gr 3-6 –The proverbial fox may be a menace to the henhouse—but not the hero of this work. The titular character lacks gumption, guile, or cunning, and the chickens send him running each time he ventures into the farmyard. Taking pity on the fox, the wolf proposes playing the long game: stealing eggs and […]