March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Girl and Her Dog, Beyond ‘Peter Pan,’ and Other New Middle-Grade Reads | Fiction Grades 5-8

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


See our complete list of
August 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarBarnhill, Kelly. The Witch’s Boy. 384p. Algonquin. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203511; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781616204334.

Gr 4-6 –When Ned was young, he and his twin brother built a raft and tried to sail to the sea. The raft sank, and one boy survived–the wrong boy, if you ask the villagers in Ned’s tiny town. Alternately whispered about, teased, and outright ignored, Ned survives his brother’s death with a stutter and an air of palpable sadness that seems to weigh down his weak frame. Meanwhile, in the middle of a formidable forest the villagers claim used to be home to nine stone giants, a young girl named Aine lives a fractured life with her father, who leads a horde of bloodthirsty bandits. When the raiders attempt to steal the magic Ned’s mother guards so faithfully, Ned and Aine end up as unlikely allies on a journey to right an ancient wrong. Careful, confident Aine; whose skills, both domestic and wild, make her a formidable ally (and excellent heroine), is a studied contrast to the weaker, shy Ned. The boy’s growing confidence and ability to wield and protect his mother’s magic adds elements of a classic origin-quest tale to a story that’s already brimming with a well-drawn, colorful supporting cast, a strong sense of place, and an enchanted forest with a personality to rival some of the best depictions of magical woods.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

redstarMartin, Ann M. Rain Reign. 240p. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780312643003; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250064233.

Gr 4-6 –Rose is different from the other children in her class in many ways. She struggles to control the obsessions and outbursts that are symptomatic of her high-functioning autism. She is fascinated by homophones, or homonyms, as most people know them, and prime numbers. Rose uses patterns and habits to gain some control over her days. Her mother left when Rose was two, so she lives with her father, and is also cared for by her Uncle Weldon, who lives nearby, and who often shows Rose the most understanding and compassion. When her father brings home a lost dog, Rose names her Rain, since she was found in the rain, and “rain” is a homonym (with “reign”). During a superstorm, her father lets Rain out, and Rose’s beloved companion is lost. Rose and her uncle finally find Rain after a long and difficult search, but they learn that Rain is actually Olivia, the pet of a family who lost everything in the storm. Told through Rose’s voice, the story gives readers the perspective of someone who sees life in black-and-white, and who struggles when rules are broken, or routines are changed. The characters around Rose develop incrementally as readers witness their reactions to her obsessions and her struggles. Though Rose’s story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world. A first purchase.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

redstarSchulz, Heidi. Hook’s Revenge. illus. by John Hendrix. 304p. Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423198673.

Gr 4-7 –Feisty 12-year-old Jocelyn Hook, the estranged daughter of Captain James Hook, longs for a pirate’s life at sea, but instead she’s faced with finishing school, hairbrushes, and corsets. When a letter from her father arrives, foretelling his demise by the crocodile responsible for the loss of his hand, Jocelyn is eager to set out for the Neverland to avenge her father’s death. Once there, she faces pirates, mermaids, cannibals, fairies, the Lost Boys, Peter Pan, and, ultimately, the dreaded crocodile. Through it all, Jocelyn learns to face her fears, believe in herself, and realize that she’s more than just a girl. Schulz’s debut novel is a rollicking page-turner that’s more than just an action-packed adventure. Filled with humor and pathos, Schulz has crafted a warm and humorous tale of a young girl who yearns to know the parents she’s never met. Jocelyn is smart, quick-witted, and stubbornly loyal, and she proves to be a worthy adversary to all her foes, especially the arrogant Peter Pan, who insists she needs rescuing. Richly developed secondary characters, especially the emotional Mr. Smee and Jocelyn’s dearest friend Roger, populate the story, and the evocative language moves beyond simple description and engages the audience’s imagination. Most notable, however, is the wickedly funny narrator who doesn’t hesitate to add his amusing commentary and pointed dislike for the audience to the narrative. Whether a fan of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale or new to Neverland, readers will be clamoring for more from this enchanting world.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Abbott, Tony. Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw. 224p. (The Copernicus Archives: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2014. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062314727.

Andrews, Kell. Deadwood. 220p. ebook available. Spencer Hill. 2014. pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781939392077.

Aretha, David. A Hall Lot of Trouble at Cooperstown. illus. by Ingvard the Terrible. 96p. (Baseball Geeks Adventures). Speeding Star. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781622851188; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781622851195. LC 2012049018.

Campbell, Isaiah. The Troubles of Johnny Cannon. 304p. S. & S. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481400039; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481400053. LC 2013019540.

Cheaney, J. B. Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous. 384p. ebook available. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781402292972.

Coates, Jan L. Rocket Man. 204p. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Oct. 2014. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9780889954946.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Madman of Piney Woods. 384p. Scholastic. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545156646; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545633765. LC 2014003493.

Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Anybody Shining. 240p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442432925. LC 2013032730.

Fry, Michael. The Odd Squad: King Karl. illus. by Michael Fry. 208p. (The Odd Squad: Bk. 3). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781423199588. LC 2014007409.

George, Jessica Day. Thursdays with the Crown. 212p. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619632998.

Gratz, Alan. The League of Seven. illus. by Brett Helquist. 330p. Tor/Forge/Starscape. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780765338228.

Green, Tim. First Team. 336p. HarperCollins. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062208750.

Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Pay it Forward: Young Reader’s Edition. 288p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481409414; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781481409407. LC 2013045637.

John, Antony. Renegade. 304p. Dial. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803736856. LC 2013043847.

Jonsburg, Barry. The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee. 248p. Chronicle. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452133515. LC 2013039294.

Krossing, Karen. Bog. 224p. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Oct. 2014. Tr $11.95. ISBN 9781554553150.

Leavitt, Martine. Blue Mountain. 176p. Farrar. Oct. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374378646.

Lieberman, Leanne. Off Pointe. 136p. (Orca Limelights). ebook available. Orca Book. Sept. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781459802803; ebk. $9.95. ISBN 9781459802827. LC 2014935396.

London, Matt. The 8th Continent. 224p. Penguin/Razorbill. Sept. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781595147547.

Lovejoy, Sharon. Running Out of Night. 304p. Delacorte. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385744096; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375991479; ebk. ISBN 9780385378468. LC 2013026375.

McKay, Sharon E. The End of the Line. 128p. Annick. Sept. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554516599; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554516582.

Mariconda, Barbara. The Emerald Shore. 336p. (The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons: Bk. 3). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062119964.

Martin, Ann M. and Laura Godwin The Doll People Set Sail. illus. by Brett Helquist. 304p. Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423136835. LC 2013041937.

Perry, Michael. The Scavengers. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062026163.

Prineas, Sarah. Home. illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo. 416p. (Magic Thief: Bk. 4). HarperCollins. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062209542.

Rocklin, Joanne. Fleabrain Loves Franny. 288p. bibliog. websites. Abrams/Amulet. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419710681.

Sage, Angie. Pathfinder. illus. by Mark Zug. 480p. (Septimus Heap: TodHunter Moon: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062272454; ebk. ISBN 9780062272478.

Scieszka, John. Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor. 192p. Abrams/Amulet. Aug. 2014. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781419712180.

Tak, Bibi Dumon. Mikis and the Donkey. illus. by Philip Hopman. 89p. Eerdmans. Oct. 2014. Tr $13. ISBN 9780802854308. LC 2013044666.

Theule, Larissa. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories. illus. by Adam S. Doyle. 112p. Carolrhoda. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781467708258; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781467746236. LC 20130303064.

Thompson, Paul B. Lost Republic. 256p. ebook available. Enslow/Scarlet Voyage. Sept. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781623240004. LC 2013048978.

Tougas, Shelley. The Graham Cracker Plot. 288p. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781596439887; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781596439894.

Urey, Gary. Super Schnoz and the Invasion of the Snore Snatchers. illus. by Keith Frawley. 154p. Albert Whitman. Sept. 2014. Tr ISBN 9780807575574.

Van Draanen, Wendelin. Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye. 240p. (Sammy Keyes). Knopf. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375870552; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375970559; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780307974105. LC 2013039890.

Yaccarino, Dan. Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom. illus. by Dan Yaccarino. 352p. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250008442; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250008459.

Graphic Novels

Johnson, Crockett. Barnaby: 1944-1945. Vol. 2. 376p. bibliog. further reading. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2014. lib. ed. $39.99. ISBN 9781606997093.

Orchard, Eric. Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch. illus. by Eric Orchard. 96p. (Maddy Kettle: Bk. 1). Top Shelf Comics. Aug. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781603090728.

Pastis, Stephen. The Croc Ate My Homework. illus. by Stephen Pastis. 224p. (Pearls Before Swine: Vol. 2). AMP! Comics for Kids. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781449436360. LC 2013957201.

Pommaux, Yvan. Theseus and the Minotaur. tr. from French by Richard Kutner. illus. by Yvan Pommaux. 56p. further reading. glossary. index. maps. websites. Candlewick/TOON Graphic. Aug. 2014. RTE $16.95. ISBN 9781935179610. LC 2013047612.

Rusch, Elizabeth. Muddy Max. illus. by Mike Lawrence. 224p. ebook available. AMP! Comics for Kids. Aug. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781449435615. LC 2013955462.

Simpson, Dana. Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. illus. by Dana Simpson. 224p. AMP! Comics for Kids. Sept. 2014. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781449446208. LC 2013957200.

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.