July 26, 2016

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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | August 2016


A new selection for “Wimpy Kid” fans; adventure on the high seas; and historical fiction set in czarist Russia.

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

The Best Man by Richard Peck | SLJ Review

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Peck, Richard. The Best Man. 240p. Dial. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738393. 

Gr 4-6 –The inimitable Peck frames his latest novel with weddings. Opening with a flashback to a hilariously disastrous wedding when Archer Magill was in first grade, the book closes with a significantly more staid one that occurs when he is in sixth grade. Most of the story, though, takes place between these two events, during Archer’s fifth grade year. A military-based student […]

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes | SLJ Review

Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes

Grimes, Nikki. Garvey’s Choice. 120p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629797403. 

Gr 4-8 –Grimes’s latest is a sensitively written middle grade novel in verse that takes its syllable count from Japanese tanka. Garvey is an overweight boy who is teased at school and whose father constantly prods him to be more like his athletic older sister, Angie. But Garvey has a best friend (Joe), an open heart (which leads him to a new friend, […]

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart | SLJ Review

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Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Secret Keepers. illus. by Diana Sudyka. 512p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316389556; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316389563. 

Gr 5 Up –Parkour practitioner Reuben Pedley has been having a hard time since his mom lost her job and they had to move to a different (and poorer) part of the city. Friendless, he spends his days avoiding the Directions, the enforcement officers of the mysterious Smoke, who runs the city. On […]

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur | SLJ Review

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur

LaFleur, Suzanne. Beautiful Blue World. 224p. ebook available. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385743006; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375990892. 

Gr 5-8 –The country of Sofarende is at war. Mathilde and Megs, both 12, are best friends. When the military begins recruiting children for the war effort, their school holds an examination for students ages 12 to 14. Those who pass the test will be sent somewhere to help with the war effort. In […]

Moo by Sharon Creech | SLJ Review

Moo by Sharon Creech

Creech, Sharon. Moo. 288p. HarperCollins. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062415240. 

Gr 3-6 –Creech offers a memorable family story featuring an especially difficult cow. When Reena, 12, and her brother Luke, seven, move with their parents to Maine from the noisy bustle of New York City, lots of adjustments are required. The siblings appreciate each other and generally get along. The citified family is thrust into small-town life, and things get awkward when Reena’s parents force […]

Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac | SLJ Review

Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac

Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves. 272p. Dial. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803735088. 

Gr 4-7 –Bruchac has crafted a tale of depth and universal humanity in this fictionalized account of Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee syllabary, and his son, Jesse. Struggling with gossip and whispers about his father, Jesse must decide whether to embrace the vision his father has for his people or to distance himself even further from his heritage. With an authentic voice, Bruchac […]

Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home by Claire Eamer | SLJ Review

Inside Your Insides A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home by Claire Eamer

Eamer, Claire. Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home. illus. by Marie-Ève Tremblay. 36p. glossary. index. Kids Can. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771383325. 

Gr 3-6 –For readers who are curious about the trillions of microbes they carry around inside and outside their body, this book provides clear information in a friendly, amusing style that is a blast to read. (“Where will you find your collection of microbes? Everywhere! They’re inside […]

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill | SLJ Review

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Barnhill, Kelly. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. 400p. Algonquin. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616205676. 

Gr 4-6 –Once a year in the Protectorate there is a Day of Sacrifice. The youngest baby is taken by the Elders and left in the forest to die, thus appeasing the witch who threatens to destroy the village if not obeyed. Unbeknownst to the people, Xan, the witch of the forest, is kind and compassionate. When she discovers the […]

Railhead by Philip Reeve | SLJ Review

Railhead by Philip Reeve

Reeve, Philip. Railhead. 352p. ebook available. glossary. Capstone/Switch. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781630790486.  

Gr 5-8 –In this vividly realized interstellar adventure, Reeve grabs hold of readers’ imaginations early on and takes them on an exciting ride through time and space. The novel is set in a dystopian future in which the far reaches of the solar system have been mined and terraformed; artificial intelligence and vast connected internets called dataseas control most movement, research, […]

Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | July 2016


A new offering from Rick Riordan, a truly stellar adventure from Philip Reeve, and a sensitively told coming-of-age story from Beth Vrabel.

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

New Kid Blues | SLJ Spotlight

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Moving to a new town or school is a common, and difficult, life experience for many kids. Several new titles feature characters who experience—and overcome—the new kid blues.

Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition by Jeremy Whitley | SLJ Review


Whitley, Jeremy. Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition. illus. by M. Goodwin. 168p. (Princeless: Bk. 1). Action Lab. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781632291202.

Gr 4-7 –Princess Adrienne is no hero’s fair maiden, and she is not afraid to say so! She’s the seventh daughter whom her father, the king, has stranded in a tower (his goal is to lure a prince worthy to rule the kingdom of Ashland). Prince after prince has tried to rescue Adrienne, […]

Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | June 2016


Jason Reynolds makes his middle grade debut, Wendy Spinale takes on Peter Pan, and Henry Cole tells a “somewhat true” mouse tale.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah | SLJ Review

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Shevah, Emma. Dara Palmer’s Major Drama. illus. by Helen Crawford-White. 288p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492631385. POP 

Gr 3-6 –British fifth grader Dara Palmer is a natural-born actress, destined for Hollywood stardom. At least, that’s what she and her best friend, Lacey, think, until neither of them lands the lead role in their school’s musical production of The Sound of Music. Dara, who is adopted from Cambodia, believes that she may have been passed […]

From Summer Camp to the Far Reaches of the Galaxy | Middle Grade Series Update


Librarian Chris Lassen rounds up the latest middle grade continuations, with titles perfect for fans looking to catch up on their favorite series over the long summer vacation.

This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Mellow Dramas | SLJ Spotlight


Middle Grade novels often have two extremes: ultra fantastical or the issue-driven realistic. However ,these titles are equally satisfying to read stories where the drama is simply of a more mellow nature, where the smaller trials and tribulations of growing up take center stage.

The Robber Hotzenplotz by Otfried Preusseler | SLJ Review

The Robber Hotzenplotz

Preussler, Otfried. The Robber Hotzenplotz. tr. from German by Anthea Bell. illus. by F.J. Tripp. 120p. New York Review. May 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781590179611.

Gr 2-5 –When the infamous robber Hotzenplotz makes off with Grandmother’s coffee mill, clever Kasperl and his best friend Seppel must use all their cunning, along with a little help from the frog-fairy Amaryllis, to retrieve the mill and bring the rapscallion to justice. This new translation of this work, originally […]

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson | SLJ Review

The Secrets of Solace

Johnson, Jaleigh. The Secrets of Solace. 288p. (World of Solace: Bk. 2). ebook available. Delacorte. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385376488. 

Gr 4-8 –Archivist apprentice Lina lives in the future world of Solace, learning to analyze the curious treasures that fall from the sky in the scrap towns on the borders. Under the absentminded guidance of Councilwoman Zara, the lonely orphaned Lina has become isolated from her fellow apprentices, spending her time eavesdropping on secret conversations […]

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty | SLJ Review

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

Moriarty, Jaclyn. A Tangle of Gold. 480p. (The Colors of Madeleine: Bk. 3). ebook available. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545397407.
Gr 6-9–Moriarty ably wraps up the many plot threads woven through this concluding volume. Elliot and his father, reunited at the end of The Cracks in the Kingdom, are brought back to the magical kingdom of Cello, and it seems Madeleine’s involvement with the parallel world has come to an end. But worsening nosebleeds and […]