January 20, 2017

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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | January 2017


Michaela MacColl’s historical fiction title takes place at the Carlisle Indian School; Scott Westerfeld pens a series opener sure to please ardent sci-fi fans.

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Unzip the Mysteries | SLJ Spotlight


With red herrings, suspects, and plenty of clues, mysteries hold tons of appeal for readers of all ages. These novels have all the twists and turns that make the genre so captivating, but all are tween-friendly. From the latest “Glimmer Girls” installment to the tale of a mystery prankster to a book about a disappearing toddler, these are intriguing yet age-appropriate stories that are bound to inspire budding gumshoes.

We Are Family | SLJ Spotlight


Is there anything more complicated than family? For the protagonists of these recent novels, families are both the source of strife and foundations of strength.

#33 Gertie’s Leap to Greatness Unravelled (S2 E4)

Colby: I’m excited to share our last episode of Season 2. I have really enjoyed following debut author Kate Beasley’s road to publication. It is pretty wild to think that we first starting working on this season over a year ago. In today’s episode Kate talks about Gertie’s Leap to Greatness. I loved listening to […]

Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | November 2016


A young boy with Dreidels on the Brain, a changeling baby, light fantasy for humor lovers, and more.

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

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan | SLJ Audio Review


SHOVAN, Laura. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. 3 CDs. 3:15 hrs. Recorded Books. Jul. 2016. $51.75. ISBN 9781501925344. digital download.

Gr 3-6 –When the land where their school is located is sold to build a supermarket, 18 fifth graders use poetry to tell the story of their loss. Each student has a unique voice reflecting personality, culture, and individual challenges. Some fight the change. Others embrace new possibilities. Soon they will be scattered to other schools. It […]

Companionable Reads | SLJ Spotlight


Several sequels and companion books are reviewed in this month’s issue—from Bruce Coville’s laugh-out-loud second installment in the “Enchanted Files” series and Eleanor Glewwe’s thoughtful follow-up to Sparkers to Kirsten Hubbard’s unique companion to last year’s unsettling Watch the Sky and Beth Vrabel’s heartfelt sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville.

Race the Night by Kirsten Hubbard | SLJ Review


HUBBARD, Kirsten. Race the Night. 288p. ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484708347.

Gr 4-6 –The world has ended. All that’s left is the remote desert compound where 12-year-old Eider and four other children live under the stern rule of Teacher, whose tales of the cataclysm and dangers of the outside world keep the children isolated and afraid to question what they’ve been told. Eider’s growing sense of “something out there…something more” emboldens her to venture beyond […]

Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | October 2016


A touching novel about two Dominican families’ dealing with tragedy on 9/11; a Quantum Leap–type romp for middle graders. These and more in this month’s crop of online-only reviews.

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

Paranormal Pals | SLJ Spotlight


Most ghost stories are designed to send shivers up readers’ spines, but these three new books buck the trend, tackling a range of relatable themes via interactions with the not-so-scary recently deceased. There’s 13-year-old Andie, whose paranormal investigations help her grapple with loss; Baylor, a young teen who communes with his dead sister; and Ada, a goth girl who befriends a ghostly mouse. Engaging mystery, strong characters, and dashes of humor set these offerings apart from the typical ghoulish fare.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds | SLJ Review


REYNOLDS, Jason. Ghost. 192p. (Track: Bk. 1). S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481450157.

Gr 5-9 –Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw lives with his single mother; his father is serving time in prison after firing a gun at Ghost and his mom three years ago—and Ghost has been running ever since. While running one day, he stops to watch a track practice and decides to crash the race. Impressed, the coach offers him a position on the team. His […]

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson | SLJ Review

ms bixby's last day

ANDERSON, John David. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062338174.

Gr 4-6 –In a school filled with instructors who are either Zombies (old and boring), Caff-Adds (jittery), Dungeon Masters (cruel), or Noobs (overachievers), Ms. Bixby stands out as one of the Good Ones. Topher, Steve, and Brand all have their reasons to treasure their sixth grade teacher. Readers find out early on that their beloved Ms. B. has cancer and has […]

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin | SLJ Review

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

Lin, Grace. When the Sea Turned to Silver. illus. by Grace Lin. 384p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316125925; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316317696. POP  

Gr 3-6 –The Tiger Emperor is conscripting all the men of the mountain villages to build the Vast Wall surrounding the kingdom. But when they reach Pinmei’s village, they also take her grandmother, the Storyteller. In order to save her, Pinmei and her friend Yishan embark on a voyage […]

Unbound by Anne E. Burg | SLJ Review


Burg, Ann E. Unbound. 352p. Scholastic. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545934275.

Gr 4-8 –Grace is a light-skinned, blue-eyed slave who is called to work in “The Big House,” leaving behind her family and friends in the fields. What she sees of the Master and Missus gives Grace even more motivation to escape, including Missus’s decision to sell members of Grace’s family at the auction block. Soon, Grace and her family flee to the Great Dismal […]

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi | SLJ Review

MG-Hashimi-One Half from the East

Hashimi, Nadia. One Half from the East. 272p. HarperCollins. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062421906. 

Gr 4-8 –After Obayda’s policeman father loses a leg in a car bombing in Kabul, her family moves to a rural village to be near their extended relatives. When her father retreats from life because of his injury, an aunt suggests that the girl be allowed to be a bacha posh and live as a boy. Obayda would have a better […]

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann | SLJ Review


Kuhlmann, Torben. Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon. illus. by Torben Kuhlmann. 128p. NorthSouth. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780735842625. 

Gr 2-6 –Uniquely similar in artistic design and writing style to Kuhlmann’s Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse, this title relates the story of another clever mouse’s fascination with the moon, which, his telescope shows him, is actually “a giant ball of stone”—not the big ball of cheese that his friends […]

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner | SLJ Review

Sunker’s Deep by Lian Tanner

Tanner, Lian. Sunker’s Deep. 304p. (The Icebreaker Trilogy: Bk. 2). Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250052179. 

Gr 5-8 –Three crises get the action started quickly in this second installment of Tanner’s “Icebreaker” trilogy. There’s mutiny aboard the Oyster, which strands returning characters Petrel, Fin, Krill, and the captain in hostile territory controlled by a radical sect of Anti-Machinists. The friends’ only chance to get back to their ship lies with Sharkey, young captain […]

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies | SLJ Review

MG-SP-Davies-Nothing but Trouble

Davies, Jacqueline. Nothing but Trouble. 320p. (Nothing but Trouble: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062369888. 

Gr 5-8 –Maggie’s friendship with Allie and Emily is not the only thing coming to an end. This is the last year Odawahoka Middle School will be in existence, and this year’s sixth grade is the final class. Classrooms have been shuttered, programs have been suspended, and labs have been locked up tight. As Maggie’s old […]

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young | SLJ Review

MG-SP-Young-Hundred Percent

Young, Karen Romano. Hundred Percent. 256p. Chronicle. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452138909. 

Gr 5-7 –Sixth grader Christine Gouda’s last year of elementary school is full of transitions as she begins the early stages of puberty and her friendship with her best friend, Jackie, changes. Christine’s mother has often called her Tink (short for Tinker Bell), and her classmates call her Hundred Percent, but Jackie suggests that she adopt a more grown-up nickname, Chris. As her […]

27 Magic Words by Sharelle Byars Moranville | SLJ Review

27 Magic Words by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Moranville, Sharelle Byars. 27 Magic Words. 208p. Holiday House. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823436576; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437061. 

Gr 4-6 –Despite the titular magic, there is no fantasy in this quietly moving, well-paced work—just the reality of a child deep in denial ultimately coming to terms with her parents’ death. Ten-year-old Kobi and her older sister live in Paris with their grandmother, enjoying a seemingly enviable lifestyle: they are homeschooled by a tutor, dine on […]