Review / Lines of Courage

20220725ma_1302Book: Lines of Courage (2022)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: MG, Historical [WWI]


Opening lines from the book …
June 28, 1914 – Deep inside, Felix knew something was wrong. A pinch had settled in his gut from the first moment he and his father stepped off the train in Sarajevo. It was the same feeling he’d had before his grandfather died last year.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This book tells the story of World War I through the eyes of various characters. I liked that they were NOT connected in any way prior to the war, but as the book progresses, their lives get intertwined with one another. This book divides the war up into various sections, making a new character the POV character for each section. So we get to know an Austrian boy, a German girl, a girl from Britain and another one from France, and a young man from Russia. 

2) The hospital trains! I know a fair bit about World War I, but this is the first I’ve heard about the hospital trains that took the wounded away from the battlefields. Such interesting history here! I love how Kara steps in to take care of a German soldier, even though it means she’s demoted for doing so. And yet, she does it because it’s the right thing to do.

3) The opening tells about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. I already knew the story (or most of it), but it was great to see it come to life. And I liked that it’s told through the eyes of Felix, a young boy. 

4) The carrier pigeons are great. I mean, what’s not to love about sending messages via pigeon?

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good book about the horrors of World War I, and the courageous people who made it through the “War to end all Wars.”  You don’t often get a lot of books about that war, so it was a nice change to reading about the second war that comes in 1939.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Remarkably Ruby

20221016ma_1865Book: Remarkably Ruby (2022)
Author: Terri Libenson
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Opening lines from the book …
I’m not what you would call a people person. It’s not that I don’t try. I do. But most of the time, making friends in middle school is a huge chore. I don’t have the greatest social skills.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Baked Bean Girl! Yes, this is her story. I like that we get to know her as a real person and not just the butt of a joke from the other books. And yes, I think Libenson does a nice explanation of how she’s portrayed in the past books, bringing her to the point of this book.

2) And Ruby’s a poet! This book introduces a poetry club where Ruby and one of her new (shy) friends have to go out to the greater student body to find other poets. It’s not going to be easy, but that gives us some interesting conflict to make up this book.

3) The story also deals with the election of the school’s Student Body President. We get to meet a brand new character: Mia. She’s a real go-getter, almost too much so (as her friends and boyfriend could tell you). And it’s nice to see how her story intersects with Ruby’s. We know they are (were) friends from before middle school, but there’s been a falling out.

4) I enjoyed seeing the parents in this one. They’re dorky and embarrassing, sure, yet it’s nice to witness their relationship with the kids. We mostly get to see Ruby with her mom, and Mia with her dad. (Bonus: The book even ends with a nice little montage.)

5) And finally, I’ll mention that there IS a twist at the end of this book, just as in the other books. It makes you do a quick re-read to see where all the clues are!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Another good book in the series Emmie and Friends! I especially like that these graphic novels are a bit of a hybrid between a graphic novel and a novel itself.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie

20220527ma_0714Book: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie (2021)
Author: Erin Soderberg Downing
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Pixiel+Ink

Opening lines from the book …
Lucy Peach needed a new last name. Peach just wasn’t working for her anymore. The problem with peaches, she’d come to realize, is they were too soft.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Love the setting of the food truck! In this particular one, the family travels around, making pies. How cool is that? (I used to play a make-believe game like this with my lego!) And of course, all the pies sound absolutely delicious. And they have just the last name to pull it off.

2) I like how the connection to the food truck is in honor of Mom, who died of cancer before the story begins. She always dreamed of taking them on a road trip. So, Dad decides to buy a food truck!

3) The kids, particularly our MC Lucy Peach, aren’t too keen on this adventure. So that brings some nice conflict to the story. I liked the connection to Great Aunt Lucy through the letters Lucy sends her from the various stops.

4) The food fairs were fun too. I like the little successes, some of which turn into defeats. (Like how they make money without a food license in one location. Oops! Sorry, officer.)

5) This is definitely a family book, in the vein of the Vanderbeekers and the Penderwicks. Lucy has two brothers, Fred and Herb, and we get their POV from time to time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a fun road trip book. I haven’t read too many in the middle-grade sphere recently. And the food truck is a nice angle!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Last in a Long Line of Rebels

20221002ma_1713Book: Last in a Long Line of Rebels (2015)
Author: Lisa Lewis Tyre
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Historical (Civil War)
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Opening lines from the book …
Being the junkman’s daughter isn’t always as cool as it might sound. Sure, I get first dibs on all kinds of good stuff—I now have three perfectly good ten-speed bikes—but it comes with a price. As soon as I saw Daddy’s dump truck sitting in the car line, shaking and rattling like it was about to throw a rod, I knew Sally Martin would have something snide to say.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) The story in the modern world with Lou as our protagonist. She lives in a rambling old house in a small town in Tennessee. Her father has a junkyard that goes with the house, and Lou often helps him find treasures to resell.

2) This is pretty much a what-I-did-last-summer book. Although, it’s told from the point of view of the beginning of summer vacation. Lou tells one of her mean-girl classmates, Sally, that she has great plans for the summer (because Sally is making fun of the junkyard). So Lou and Benzer are trying their best to find a way to spice up their lazy plans for the summer…

3) What’s really cool about the house are the secret hiding spots! Some of which the family thinks date back to the days of the Civil War! Lou and her friend Benzer are hiding one one such place when she discovers that her parents are worried that the town is trying to get rid of the house! Lou loves this house, so she and Benzer launch a campaign to save it (without letting the grownups know because, well, they didn’t know Lou could hear them.)

4) I loved the connection to the Civil War. Each chapter begins with a portion of the diary of Lou’s great-great-grandmother Louise. Later, Lou and Benzer do find the diary, which isn’t too much of a spoiler, I don’t think. It’s neat how it all connects in the end.

5) There’s some fun shenanigans that Lou and her friends get involved in. Plus, Lou also decides to stand up for her family friend to help him get a scholarship to play football. He’s been overlooked by his particularly racist high coach.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I told you I’ve been on an American Civil War kick of late! This one isn’t set in the 1860s, but there is a very nice connection. I really enjoyed hanging out with Lou and her friends as they work to save her house!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Girl in Blue

20221002ma_1712Book: Girl in Blue (2001)
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Genre: MG, Historical Fiction (Civil War)
Publisher: Scholastic

Opening lines from the book …
The girl, Sarah Louisa, sat by the open window in the back bedroom that belonged to her brother. She sat in the rocker and rested the barrel of the Winchester.44 rifle on the sill. Its wood felt solid in her hands. Every so often she’d run her fingers over the fancy engraving of the girl on the stock, which was near worn now from so much use.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) The story sets the scene immediately with WHY this girl would join the Union Army. Yeah, she’s only 15, but she doesn’t want to marry her old neighbor. (And by “old” I mean he’s probably 30! Which is old when you’re 15.) I definitely was on her side to get out of there…

2) For the first half of the book, we get to see Sarah* (or Neddy as she calls herself) in the army. She’s marching with all the boys in blue. She has her own rifle from back home (on the farm); it isn’t so far-flung that she’s able to keep up with the shooting part since she’s already set up as an excellent marksman from the farm.

3) There’s a mysterious woman that’s set up during her time helping out one of the Union doctors. I really like that the story picks up this thread in the second half of the novel.

4) **Spoiler here! She gets caught as a girl. But that shifts us to the next part of the story. She joins the Pinkerton detectives to figure out how a certain mysterious woman is spying on the Union troops. End Spoiler.**

5) Ann Rinaldi’s books always seem to have a bit of a bittersweet ending. Nothing sugary in her historical fiction! That is something to be prepared for when you read her books.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve been on an American Civil War kick of late. This book has been sitting on my TBR bookpile for ages. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in learning about the Pinkerton detectives and their role in the Civil War.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish

20220905ma_1681Book: The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish (2021)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Vanderbeekers Book 5

Opening lines from the book …
Wild was a word that could describe the weather on 141st Street on the first Monday of August. a hot wind rushed through the checkered streets of Harlem with such ferocity that trees bent in wide arches and pedestrians had to lean into the gusts at steep angled to keep from being blown off course.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) It’s fun to be back with the Vanderbeekers. By this time (five books into the series!) they feel like family. I no longer am confused by who’s who in the family. 🙂

2) It’s Papa’s birthday and the kids want to make his day special. Although, when Papa has to go away, that puts a little damper on things. But they’re still going to make the plans for when he returns!

3) There’s a little bit of a mystery surrounding Papa’s past as the kids work on the perfect birthday gift. I enjoyed figuring out things about Papa that will eventually lead us to the next book!

4) I liked the additional conflict of adding Mama’s parents who come for an extended visit! The grandmother is so critical! Perfect to add tension to the story. And the grandfather is so quiet, you wonder what he’s up to.

5) The bike ride over the Brooklyn Bridge (pictured on the front cover) is certainly a highlight of the story. I’ve never ridden across the bridge, but I have walked over the pedestrian pathway. It’s actually one of my favorite touristy things to do when I’m in Lower Manhattan. And there’s a nice little plot point with one of the bikes! 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ever enjoyable series! It does have a bit of cliffhanger (if you can call it that), which means I’m looking forward to reading the next book. Which should be due out pretty soon!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / No Vacancy

20220924ma_1700Book: No Vacancy (2020)
Author: Tziporah Cohen
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Groundwood Books

Opening lines from the book …
The green road sign goes by so fast I’m not even sure I read it right. “Seriously?” I say. “Did that sign say Population 510?” There are practically more people than that on the block where we live. Where we used to live.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Miriam and her family are the new owners of a small motel. And Miriam is not too happy to be there. She’d rather be back in New York City. So it was nice to see how she grows to learn how to enjoy the place where she’s living.

2) It’s fun to see the family set up a motel, complete with a swimming pool. Although Miriam doesn’t like to swim. Uncle Mordy is great! He comes to help the family as they work. I also like how he works on helping Miriam with her fear of swimming. Because, hello! They have a pool at the motel. 🙂

3) There are so many great characters that the family meets at the motel. Maria (what a great name, right?) helps clean the motel. I love how Miriam connects with her and wants to help her. And then there’s Mrs. Whitley who runs the restaurant next door. (Not to mention her grape pies!)

4) Miriam makes friends with Kate. They create some havoc in the community with their plan to bring guests to the motel. Yeah, it’s not something that’s really wise or good, but I like how the whole thing plays out.

5) There are some interesting discussions about religion. I like how this is not a divisive book, but that the different people are able to talk and work things out. And yet, it’s also realistic. (*Slight Spoiler: There’s a conversation in which Miriam tries to set up her Orthodox Jewish uncle with the Catholic Maria. He gently tells her that, while he’s happy to be Maria’s friend, because of their differing beliefs he doesn’t wish to pursue marriage because “We just believe in different things … It’s a lot harder to be married to, and raise a family with, someone who is different in these big ways. Not everyone feels that way, and that’s okay. But I do.” End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a fun setting with the motel as a new home. And yes, now I want some of the famous grape pie.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Over and Out

20220819ma_1640Book: Over and Out (2022)
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Genre: MG, Historical [1970s]
Publisher: Scholastic

Opening lines from the book …
There are books hidden beneath my floorboards. I was moving my bed because my only fountain pen rolled underneath while Katarina and I were doing our homework. At first, I tried to climb under after it, but my head was too big, no matter which way I turned it.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This story takes place in East Berlin. The two girls, Sophie and Katarina,  like to figure out ways to escape to the west. And suddenly, that becomes a very real reality.

2) It’s nice to see a friendship where the girls remain friends throughout the story. Usually, there’s some sort of drama between the friends in books like this, but I like that this one didn’t do that. (Not that I mind friendship drama.)

3) I liked seeing the process as they work through the escape plan. From Katarina learning some archery!

4) And then there’s the bad guy! He’s “recruited” Sophie to become a spy on Monica, her former babysitter. He’s the guy you love to hate!

5) Love the tension in this book, especially toward the end of the book. As the whole plan comes together. I also like how the title Over and Out comes out in the book. I assumed it meant one thing, but it has a different meaning!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a good Cold War spy book! You know, with kid spies trying to make a daring escape.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh

20220828ma_1675Book: The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh (2018)
Author: Mac Barnett & Jory John
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series: The Terrible Two

Opening lines from the book …
For the last time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley! Or, if you’ve never read a book in this series before, for the first time: Welcome to Yawnee Valley.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Two of our favorite pranksters, Niles and Miles, are entering their final year of middle school. And of course, you can expect a few pranks in this book.

2) I love the change in relationship between the boys and Principal Barkin! In the original books, Principal Barkin is the main baddy. But it’s nice to see how the principal has changed over the course of the books.

3) The humor in these books is delightful, especially the play of words. There’s Principal Barkin and then there’s Former Principal Barkin. And of course, you know the former principal is going to bring trouble, don’t you?

4) This book isn’t just about shenanigans! There are some nice heart moments, especially near the end with regard to Miles.

5) And I like how the final prank plays out. It’s a “quiet” prank.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a fun end to a fun series. I recommend the series for kids who like books about pranks!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Out of Range

20220903ma_1680Book: Out of Range (2022)
Author: Heidi Lang
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: MG, Contemporary


Opening lines from the book …
Emma wasn’t a fan of strong words. So she mentally censored the word she was actually thinking and instead told her older sister, Abby, “I seriously dislike you.”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) There are three sisters in this book, and we get to hear the story from each of their POVs. Abby, Emma, and Ollie all had distinct characteristics. (And guessing from the dedication, these are maybe based on the author and her sisters! I got the sense that Emma was probably the author herself.) And there are a lot of sisterly shenanigans as the sisters are in full-out war amongst themselves for most of the book.

2) This book was kind of like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book, except without the second-person narration and turning the pages to different parts of the book! The plot follows the girls out in the middle of nowhere. We’ve got fires and cougars and bears and rivers! And boy do they make some poor decisions!

3) The plot alternates characters between the past and present. Little by little, we get an understanding of how the girls ended up on this wilderness trail! 

4) I really liked how Mr. Snuffles (Ollie’s stuffed animal) comes into play in the story. Won’t say more about it except that Mr. Snuffles is great, and that I agree with Ollie that he’s a hero.

5) And that author note! Wow. It’s one of those stories that makes you say: “This author has a great imagination” only to find that it’s based on a true story! (Yikes. Glad I wasn’t on that hike.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book is for those who like a good survival wilderness story! And there’s a lot of sister-drama. Involving a boyfriend and the Phantom of the Opera!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday