Category Archives: middle grade

My (Sort of) Fairy Tale Ending by Anna Staniszewski

Today Biblio Links welcomes back author Anna Staniszewski!

My-Sort-Of-Fairy-Tale-Ending-CoverAnna’s third book in her My Very Unfairy Tale Life series was released earlier this month. Just like the first two books, I adored Jenny in My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending. She’s flawed, magical, earnest, and sincere.

Here’s the plot summary from the publisher’s website:

You think a trip to Fairy Land sounds fun? Clearly you’ve never been turned into a mouse by an Evil Queen.

This. Is. It. My most important mission as a magical adventurer ever. And probably my last. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure if I defy the council and travel to Fairy Land to rescue my parents, I’m so fired. They say it’s too dangerous. That the Queen Fairy is crazy, and she’s hoarding all the magic to do unspeakable things (like steal the leprechauns’ gold and make all of her subjects attend mandatory parades).

But none of that matters. I finally have a chance at happily ever after with my family. And crazy fairy or no crazy fairy, I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them home.

~

In my library, I get fairy book requests daily  from little girls (K-2). But older readers like fairies, too, and I have a hard time keeping this series on the shelves. 

I asked Anna how her book fits into the classroom.

Anna Staniszewski-1Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of MY VERY (SORT OF) FAIRY TALE ENDING.” Who is this kid?
Anna Staniszewski: That kid is someone who likes to laugh and who enjoys adventures that turn traditional fairy tales upside-down. And if that kid is a fan of puns, even better!
Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Anna Staniszewski: We’d see a lively discussion about fractured fairy tales–why we like retelling fairy tales, and why they’re so fun to “break.” I suspect there might also be a round of Fairy Tale Mad Libs (which is a big hit during my school visits).
Biblio Links: What writing advice do you have for kids?
Anna Staniszewski:Never stop writing! I’ve loved writing since I was young, but for a while I let other things in life distract me from it. If you enjoy writing then make sure to always make it a top priority.

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
Anna Staniszewski: They can visit my website (www.annastan.com) where I have information about my books, upcoming events, school visits, etc.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

Here’s a bit more about the wonderful Anna:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma.

When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author ofMy Very UnFairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, all published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.

Click here  to read the sparkling reviews and first chapter of My  (Sort of) Fairy Tale Ending and check out the trailer:

…and the first two books in the series!

 

MyVeryUnFairyTaleLife_CVR.inddMy Epic Fairy Tale Fail Final Cover RGB

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: November 5, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402279331 (paperback)

Interest Level: Ages 9-12

Reading Level: 4.5

Number of Pages: 224

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!
Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

 

 

The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman

The Art of Flying

I was charmed by this sweet adventure story about a girl named Fortuna who finds a friend in Martin, a shy boy who has been transformed from bird to human. The fantasy elements–witchcraft, talking animals, and flying children–all felt believable.

Publisher’s description:                Fortuna Dalliance is practical. Rational. Clever. But when she finds herself at the doorstep of an adventure, she discovers something that has been inside her all along: the courage to step through. 

The old Baldwin sisters are in trouble, and they’ve asked Fortuna to help them out of a fix. The sisters have accidentally turned a swallow into a boy, and he refuses to be turned back. But if Martin doesn’t return to his original form within five days, he’ll remain a boy forever . . . and the Baldwin sisters will have a lot to answer for. Fortuna’s not sure she believes in magic, and once she’s gotten to know Martin, she’s not sure she wants him to be changed back. As Fortuna figures out what it truly means to be a friend, she must decide whose side she’s on-before it’s too late.

Judy Hoffman’s debut, with delightful illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, weaves an enchanting tale of loyalty, freedom, and feathers.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* wants to read about witches and bad guys but isn’t ready for anything super scary yet,

* has a  best friend who drifts away–not because of an argument, but just with the passage of time,

* loves being outside, or

* anyone who has ever dreamed of flying.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is told from Fortuna’s point of view, her challenge is to realize that what she wants isn’t necessarily best for her new friend, Martin. She has to make some tough choices for the benefit of her friend, which would make a good discussion starter on empathy and what it means to be a good friend.

* Anti-Bullying Strategies--The antagonist in the story is a bully–both in his human and owl form. The Baldwin sisters get into trouble because they change Martin and his brother from swallows into boys when they are being bullied by the owl. Use this opportunity to discuss the role of bystanders in bullying and what kids can do when they witness another person being bullied.

*Types of Conflict–There’re a lot examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, and…magic.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: October 29, 2013

ISBN-10: 1423158156

ISBN-13: 978-1423158158

Number of Pages: 310

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Rose by Holly Webb

517zbG28mQL._SY300_I was charmed by Rose right from the start. She’s likable and believable–someone you’d want as a friend.

Publisher’s description: Rose isn’t like the other orphans at St Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls. Instead of dreaming of getting adopted by loving, wealthy parents, Rose wants to get a job and be independent. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. She finds her escape working as a maid for Mr. Fountain, an alchemist. Unable to ignore the magic that flows throughout the grand residence, Rose realizes that just maybe; she might have a little bit of magic in her too. This new series featuring magicians, witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, and friendships will have young readers in a trance!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys reading about magic and alchemy and mystery,

* is ready for some scariness, but not too too much, and

* gobbles up historical fiction or stories set back in time.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is from Rose’s point of view, we soon meet Freddie, the alchemist’s haughty apprentice. Freddie has no redeeming qualities at the start, but will grow on you as you (and Rose) get to know him better. Ask students to retell (in writing or orally) Rose’s first meeting with Freddie from Freddie’s point of view.

* Chemistry--Although the potions and magic mixtures are straight fiction, it would be fun to pair this title with a science unit on mixtures, solutions, and chemical properties.

*Genre blending–More and more books today are difficult to fit into one genre, and this is one of them. Fantasy? Check. Historical fiction? Yup. Is it more one than the other? Let you students decide.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky

Publication Date: September 3, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402285813

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

The Accidental Time Traveler by Janis Mackay

cover27782-medium

This story grew on me with each passing chapter. Saul is a likable, flawed kid who ultimately wants to do the right thing–send Agatha back to her life in 1813. Agatha is gutsy and kind and an inspiration to Saul and his scaredy-cat friends.

Publisher’s description:                

Saul is on his way to the corner shop on a seemingly ordinary day, when a girl appears suddenly in the middle of the road. She does not understand traffic or the things she sees in shops, and she’s wearing a long dress with ruffled sleeves. Her name is Agatha Black.

Agatha Black is from 1813, and Saul needs to find a way to get her back to her time. With help from his buddies Will and Robbie, he tries to figure out how to make time travel happen.

This face-paced, time-traveling adventure from Janis Mackay (author of the Magnus Fin books) is full of funny misunderstandings and gripping action.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* likes reading about time travel–you might pair this with Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me

* enjoys historical fiction–this tale is history brought forward in time to present-day

* appreciates a strong female lead. Although this story is from Saul’s point of view, we get a good take on Agatha, who does things that Saul wouldn’t dream of doing, like spending the night alone in the abandoned lot that houses Saul’s and his friends’ clubhouse–the site that used to belong to Agatha’s grandfather back in the day.

Use this to teach:

Essay writing–Saul enters an essay-writing contest about life in his hometown back in the “olden days.” He gets his material first-hand from Agatha, of course, but the final interpretation is all his. It might be fun to have students interview someone from an older generation–a grandparent or another senior citizen–and then compose an essay that compares and contrasts life now with life in the past.

* Anti-Bullying--There’s an obvious bully in this story–a boy who torments Saul and every other kid who dare cross into his territory. But Saul and his friends are bystanders who completely shut out another classmate–a girl who, as it turns out, has a future family tie to Agatha. Not only does Saul gain the courage to stand up to the bully who has threatened him since always, but he also learns to reach out to a loner girl in his class–someone who has always existed on the fringes, of society, both socially and economically.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Floris Books (UK)

Publication Date: July 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0863159541

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Middle Grade (ages 9-12)

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

After IrisThere is so much that I love about this book that I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start with the publisher‘s description:  

An unforgettable middle-grade debut that will steal your heart…

Blue Gadsby’s twin sister, Iris, died three years ago and her family has never been the same. Her histrionic older sister, Flora, changes her hair color daily; her younger siblings, Jasmine and Twig, are completely obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home–and each other. Enter Zoran the Bosnian male au pair and Joss the troublemaking boy next door, and life for the Gadsby family takes a turn for the even more chaotic. Blue poignantly captures her family’s trials and tribulations from fragmented to fully dysfunctional to ultimately reunited, in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and give thanks for the gift of families.

With the charm of The Penderwicks and the poignancy of When You Reach Me, Natasha Farrant’s After Iris is a story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

My impression: Considering that this story is, in part, about Blue dealing with the death of her twin sister, Iris, this is not a maudlin tale. I laughed out loud more than once and was charmed countless times by Blue’s honest observations about her crazy (albeit lovable) family and life in general. The story is set in England, yet still feels accessible to American readers.

As a school librarian, I take advantage of the summer months to catch up on reading; I usually go straight from the last page of one book to first page of the next in the same day. But after I reached the last page of After Iris, I didn’t want to jump into the next book quite yet; I wanted time to linger in Blue’s world and reflect on her story before moving on to another.

After Iris is one of my favorite reads of 2013.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has a twin or a close sibling

* enjoys books with a diary or journal format

* is interested in the art of film or making videos

* has been separated from a parent due to the parent’s job, a divorce, etc.

Use this to teach:

Format–Told in diary entries and Blue’s home-movie film transcripts, the story unfolds in an unconventional way. The story’s format will spark good discussion about why the author may have chose to tell Blue’s story in this way. Of particular note is the metaphoric  last scene when the camera is turned on Blue  for the very first time.

* Coping Strategies--Blue not only has to deal with missing her twin sister, Iris, but also with her first broken heart in love and fear of her parents’ divorce. The various ways in which Blue’s family members each deal with Iris’ death also merit discussion and analysis.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click  here for reviews.

Author’s website here.

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: July 2013

ISBN-10: 0803739826

ISBN-13: 978-0803739826

Number of Pages: 272

Interest Level: Ages 10 and up

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

And the Winner Is…Amazing Animal Athletes by Etta Kaner, illustrated by David Anderson

amazing animalThere’s a lot packed into these 31 pages–a comic-style layout, sidebars with quick facts about the featured animals, running jokes from the peanut-gallery sports fans and event participants–yet it doesn’t feel too crowded or overwhelming. Even the page set-up is well planned, with a double page spread introducing four animals and their attributes, then asking the reader to guess which of the four would take the gold medal in a particular skill–speed, high jumping, etc. Turn the page to find out the winner and how a human’s performance in the same event would compare. Each animal’s size is taken into consideration, so the winner isn’t always the animal you’d think. For example, the best long-jumper is the Rocket Striped Frog–in proportion to its size, the length of its jump would compare to a human jumping the length of a football field.

Although the publisher says that this is for readers from ages 4 to 8, I would definitely hand this to older kids who are struggling and/or reluctant readers.

Publisher’s description:  In this unique facts book, animals compete in sporting events such as high jump, swimming and weight lifting. Readers are encouraged to guess which animal will win before turning the page, while walrus and cockatoo “announcers” provide funny commentary and interesting statistics about the athletes’ amazing abilities. This is a winning format for kids who want to know which animals can be faster, stronger and more powerful, and how humans compare.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* is interested in animal facts

* reads joke books, riddles, and plays on words

* enjoys comics and graphic novels

* loves numbers, stats, and math challenges

Use this to teach:

Animal Units–All students in the U.S. study animals and habitats at some point during their elementary school years. In addition to the animal facts, there’s also a quick review of habitats around the globe at the start of the book.

* Research--This would make a nice springboard for kids’ own animal research projects. Using the same format, students could come up with their own events and animal participants.

*Predicting–Children can use their own background knowledge to make predictions at first. Once they’ve caught on that the winners aren’t always the obvious choices, they’ll likely make more thoughtful predictions as they read further.

*Proportion–Challenge older  kids to calculate how other animals would fare in similar competitions.

* Olympics–Display this alongside traditional sports books for a winning Olympic display.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Publication Date: April 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1-55453-904-8

Number of Pages: 31

Reading Level: Fountas & Pinnell: N (3rd grade)

Interest Level: Ages 4 to 8 (Although I’d give this to older struggling readers in a heartbeat…)

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to Prose and Kahn for hosting today!

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to Prose and Kahn for hosting today!

stemfriday.tiny

Click here for more children’s book recommendations that highlight science, technology, engineering and math!

Parched by Melanie Crowder

parched Melanie Crowder’s debut novel Parched is stunning, haunting and, in the end, hopeful. The prose is just as spare as the setting–an unnamed swath of Africa that has been struck by extreme drought. The story opens and ends with brief chapters that are narrated by main character Sarel’s dog, Nandi. In between, this story is told at times by Sarel, at times by Nandi, and at times by Musa, a boy with a gift for finding water who has escaped from an abusive gang who try to profit from Musa’s special gift.

Publisher’s description:   In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land.

Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.

~

Melanie Crowder Author PhotoMelanie Crowder, author and teacher, stopped by Biblio Links to talk about how her novel Parched can be used in the classroom.

Biblio Links: Welcome, Melanie!

A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of PARCHED. Who is this kid?

Melanie: He or she is probably a pensive kid, a thinking reader with a big heart.  PARCHED is a slim volume, so it may appeal to reluctant readers and English Language Learners as well.

Biblio Links: As a former ESL teacher I agree with that last suggestion! It’s often hard to find stories that have themes that older readers want to explore, yet have text that is accessible to a wide range of readers. Parched will definitely spark some interesting discussion for a wide range of readers.

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see or hear?

Melanie: You might see kids experimenting with the narrative voices of different animals, or describing their classroom through Nandi’s eyes. You might see them consulting encyclopedias or online resources to complete the PARCHED field guide (coming soon–check my website this fall). Perhaps a small group is preparing a report for the class on water as a resource and how its scarcity or quality affects people in different parts of the world. And the teacher is probably consulting the discussion guide found here.

Biblio LinksWhere can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Melanie: The best place to look is my website: www.melaniecrowder.net. I hope to see you all there!
Biblio Links: Thanks for stopping by, Melanie!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys survival stories,

* has lost a loved one,

* is concerned about/interested in environmental issues, or

* loves dog stories.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–This story is told from three points of view: Sarel, a girl who has just lost her parents and must keep her dogs (and herself) alive; Musa, the boy with the gift of finding buried water sources, and Nandi, Sarel’s trusted canine friend. How might certain scenes in the story be told from other points of view–not just one of the other three main characters, but what about the band of thugs who kidnapped Musa? How about Musa’s brother?

* Earth Day--Parched would pair beautifully with Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water and Mindy McGinnis’ Not A Drop to Drink (a young adult novel coming in September 2013). Display these books in the months of March and April and launch a book talk/discussion on Earth Day, April 22.

*Types of Conflict— Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character (human and canine), self, society, and nature.

Curriculum Guide here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for glowing reviews from the likes of Kathi Appelt, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Franny Billingsly.

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN-10: 0547976518

ISBN-13: 978-0547976518

Number of Pages: 160

Reading Level: 5.4

Interest Level: Ages 10 and up

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!