Middle-Grade Reads for Adults

Maybe you just want a short read for the weekend.  Maybe you’re looking for a read-aloud for your family, something to read alongside a child, or a book for your students that might hold your interest too.  Here are five fiction and five nonfiction middle grade books that can hold the interest of an older reader – whether a teen who needs a less challenging read, adult who wants to finish a book quickly, or a family wanting to read together.  Continue reading “Middle-Grade Reads for Adults”

Review: The Savage Fortress

“The air turned foggy, and Ash’s sweat turned to ice. He sank to the ground, his body wracked with pain.” page 164

The Savage Fortress (Ash Mistry #1) by Sarwat Chadda.
Arthur A. Levine, Scholastic, New York, 2012.
MG fantasy, 292 pages.
Lexile:  660L  .
AR Level:  4.6 (worth 10.0 points)  .

Ash Mistry is the pudgy video-game-loving Indian mythology nerd we never realized we needed to save the world.  Spending the summer with his sister visiting his aunt and uncle, he gets caught up in a strange archaeological dig, which leads to even stranger events.

Ash Mistry The Savage Fortress resized

This past year, two debut MG fantasy series drawing from Indian culture have gotten a lot of buzz – Aru Shah in the Rick Riordan imprint, and Scholastic’s Kiranmala Chronicles.  But those series are only releasing about one per year, so what’s a fantasy lover to do in the meantime?  Binge this already-completed trilogy, of course!

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Review: Whichwood

“Their heavy suspicion made them appear an unwelcoming lot, but this was only partly true. The truth was that they were a lively, cultured sort of people – when you got to know them – who felt they had a great deal to be afraid of; it was this last bit – this certainty of fear – that helped substantiate the paranoia that demanded their isolation.” page 81

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi.
Dutton Children’s, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
MG fantasy, 360 pages.
Lexile:  1080L  .
AR Level:  7.5 (worth 11.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a direct sequel to Furthermore, although it focuses on a new character.

Laylee’s mother has died (but still haunts the house) and in his grief, her father left her alone as the final mordeshoor in the magical land called Whichwood.  At thirteen, she is overburdened by unceasing demands of the living and the dead, struggling to survive with the pittance given her and care for all the dead while desperately ill herself.

Whichwood cover

I definitely enjoyed this book just as much as the first, maybe even more.  Furthermore was a magical romp, a playful but also very serious journey through an ever-changing fantastical landscape.  Whichwood takes place almost entirely in one place, and while highly magical, it’s an orderly magical place similar to Ferenwood, so the reader has some time to get fir bearings and delve into the culture and peculiarities of Whichwood.

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Review: Furthermore

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi.
Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
MG fantasy, 404 pages.
Lexile:  840L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 12.0 points)  .

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow lives in the rather dull (at least by her standards) town of Ferenwood.  She doesn’t quite fit in, partly because she is nearly colorless, and partly because of her quirky, temperamental personality.

Furthermore resized

Mafi has an unusual writing style – you are likely to either love or hate it, and it’s difficult to describe, so I’d highly suggest reading an excerpt from this book to see if her method will be a good fit for you.  Much like her unique setting and eccentric protagonist, she writes with a blend of humor, sarcasm, drama, and pragmatic melancholy.  Even on the chapters that proceed the main adventure and are mostly worldbuilding, really, everything moves at a breakneck pace.

In the hands of another writer, any one of the many places and magics that Mafi describes could be its own story, but much like Alice in Wonderland, this Alice is focused on meeting her goals.  Her beloved Father is missing, former classmate Oliver is a thorn in her side, and her mother is cold and dismissive.

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Graphic Novel Review: Putuguq & Kublu & the Qalupalik!

“Off they headed to the shoreline. Putuguq led the way as the two walked quickly across the melting snow of the tundra to meet up with Kublu’s friend Lisa.” page 9

Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! by Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2018.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
Not leveled.

Annoying little brother Putuguq, his dog, and big sister Kublu are on their way to meet her friend Lisa.  On the way they meet Grandpa who tells them a little about Qalupaliit and before they know it they might even meet one…

Putuguq and Kublu 2 Qalupalik cover resized

This is the second book of a graphic novel series called Putuguq & Kublu.  We hadn’t read the first one since I wasn’t aware it existed until the final page of this book, so I can attest that it’s possible to read these out of order!

I’m always excited to find early readers and early chapter books with diverse characters.  It’s particularly important to me that a variety of indigenous cultures are represented in our family’s library because our kids will have the opportunity to interact with people from every continent and most ethnicities.  They know many people from the LGBT community, differently abled kids and adults, and people with a variety of religious beliefs.

But even though we actively seek out opportunities for our children to learn about our area’s indigenous culture and those of other regions we travel to, realistically there are some areas we may never visit.  I’d prefer that as much as possible, we learn about those areas through #ownvoices representation rather than through white people’s books.

Which is a long winded way of saying books like this, or Shark King, are so important.

Continue reading “Graphic Novel Review: Putuguq & Kublu & the Qalupalik!”

Reivew: Hoodoo

“It felt like the world was spinning and I was hanging on, hoping I wouldn’t get thrown off and fall into darkness.” page 155

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith.
Clarion books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2015.
MG historical fantasy/horror, 214 pages.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 6.0 points)  .

In small-town 1930s Alabama, Hoodoo Hatcher is an unmagical twelve year old born into a folk magic family.  It’s embarrassing enough to not be able to do a simple spell when your name is Hoodoo, but it could be downright dangerous when the Stranger comes to town looking for a boy with that name.

Hoodoo cover

Hoodoo is an incredibly unique book.  Which makes it memorable and interesting, but also a bit challenging to discuss.  How do you classify it?  Hoodoo is decidedly set in the past, and some elements are very evocative of the time and place.  But it’s also definitely a magical book.  The magical elements are not simply magical realism – spells have effects (although not flashy ones) and the existence and efficacy of hoodoo are generally accepted in the town.

There are many creepy aspects.  Astral projection occurs a few times, and messages and items are sent from beyond the grave.  Lives are in danger, people are possessed, cemeteries are dug up.  I find it challenging to classify MG horror since it’s so much less scary, but my sense is that this would mainly fall into horror, with aspects of historical and fantastical fiction that make it a good entry point for readers of those genres.

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Web: Hoodoo (and Voodoo)

Recently I read and reviewed a book called Hoodoo, and the blending of Christianity with folk magic fascinated me.  I’m familiar with blending of Buddhism, Native American religions, and other beliefs, but was not familiar with this form of religion.  Living in the American Midwest, I’m not familiar with any practitioners and information online was all over the place.

Continue reading “Web: Hoodoo (and Voodoo)”