If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I do a lot of reading and a lot of book-buying (probably more of the latter than I really should . . . ). Here, on my blog, I’ve decided to do a semi-regular roundup of the books I’ve recently read and the ones I recently went out and bought — and, therefore, am now eagerly looking forward to reading soon.
Any book you see here, below, or on any other such similar future post, is one that I wholeheartedly recommend YOU also get your hands on and read. Those I’ve already read I’ve included my reviews of, some bite-sized and some more extensive, and those I haven’t yet gotten a chance to read have been so strongly endorsed by trusted friends that I feel confident including them here and pushing them on YOU.
. . .
MICE SKATING, written by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Teagan White
A charming ode to wintertime and friendship, replete with cheesy puns and warm, beautifully textured illustrations. A perfect package of a picture book.
I HAVE A BALLOON, written by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Scott Magoon
A silly, fun, and ultimately very sly picture book, charmingly illustrated and cleverly designed, that will get young readers giggling and most likely — despite the book’s protestations that it’s NOT being about sharing — thinking about and discussing exactly that.
SVEN CARTER & THE TRASHMOUTH EFFECT, by Rob Vlock
Rob Vlock is a madman. Fortunately for us all, he’s decided to channel his madness into writing novels. SVEN CARTER & THE TRASHMOUTH EFFECT is a 365 page thrill ride, and the action only ever stops for moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity. As if that weren’t good enough, the narrative voice is spot-on, the characters pop off the page, the dialogue is smart and snappy, and the plot is endlessly inventive. Readers — young or old, reluctant or eager — will be beyond entertained by Sven and the zany chaos that surrounds him, and by the book’s end, will most likely find themselves desperate for the next installment.
LOU LOU & PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY, by Jill Diamond, pictures by Lesley Vamos
This book is simply marvelous, and one of the most exciting and promising series’ openers I’ve read in a long, long while. The story is set in the El Corazon neighborhood of San Francisco’s Mission district, and Diamond describes the place so lushly and lovingly that you will more than once put the book down and seriously consider packing your bags and moving there IMMEDIATELY. Better yet, the neighborhood is populated by a tremendous cast of delightfully unique characters, many of them eccentric but all of them multi-dimensional and complex. The story’s two stars, Lou Lou and Pea, are the best of all. They are two of the more vivid protagonists you’ll meet in books aimed at readers of this age, and the love they feel for each other, the warmth they feel toward their neighborhood and its inhabitants, and the creativity with which they approach every day is absolutely infectious. If Diamond doesn’t get you packing up and moving to San Francisco, she’ll at least get you itching to get your hands dirty, do some gardening or some arts and crafts.
All of this is enough to make this book a treasure, and I could’ve happily read a plot-less story following Lou Lou and Pea. But LOU LOU & PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY is far from plotless. There is a twisty-turny, clever mystery sitting at the center of it, and Diamond masterfully drops clues and ratchets up the tension until you’re torn between wanting to linger with the lovely characters and relish the lively prose and wanting to hurry through the pages to get to the big reveal.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the book features the gorgeous, animated illustrations of Lesley Vamos, each of which provides exactly the right amount of visual information to bring you more fully into El Corazon without getting in the way of your own imagination.
The series’ second installment — LOU LOU & PEA AND THE BICENTENNIAL BONANZA — comes out April, 2018. That’s more than six months away, but I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. Here’s hoping it arrives first thing in the morning so I don’t have to wait a second longer than I have to in order to spend more time with Lou Lou and Pea.
Every one of the books below I’ve bought thanks to the MGBooktober hashtag. Don’t know about it? #MGBooktober is a month-long Twitter-based celebration of Middle Grade literature, created, organized, and launched by the brilliant Annaliese Avery. Every day there is a book-related question, and readers are encouraged to tweet out their answers (using the hashtag, of course) and then interact with one another to discuss their choices. It has been a huge success, and Annaliese has kindly asked me to serve as her assistant for the rest of the month, and to help in future MG-themed fun — including #MGBookBattle, which will take place throughout November, and will be a chance for readers to vote from among the 64 most-loved #MGBooktober books and, in the end, celebrate their MOST beloved one.
Beneath each one of my recent purchases, I’ve posted the jacket-flap write-up so you can learn what it’s about. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my blog in order to read the reviews I’ll eventually write for every one of them. And if you ARE on Twitter and happen to be a fan of Middle Grade literature — and if you’re reading this post, I have to assume that you are — come join in on the #MGBooktober and #MGBookBattle fun!
BEETLE BOY, by M.G. Leonard
Darkus Cuttle’s dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They’re an amazing, intelligent, super species and they’re in danger of being exterminated. It’s up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they’re up against an even more terrifying villain — mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won’t let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus’s dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.
MOLD AND THE POISON PLOT, by Lorraine Gregory
He’s got a big heart . . . and a nose to match!
Mold’s a bit of a freak. His nose is as big as his body is puny and his mother abandoned him in a bin when he was a mere baby. Who else but the old healer, Aggy, would have taken him in and raised him as her own? But when Aggy is accused of poisoning the King, Mold sets out to clear her name.
In a thrilling race against time to save Aggy from the hangman’s noose, Mold faces hideous, deadly monsters like the Yurg and the Purple Narlo Frog. He finds true friendship in the most unusual – and smelly – of places and must pit his wits and his clever nose against the evil witch Hexaba.
This is an exciting fantasy story with an array of wonderful characters, including the inimitable Mold, told in a fresh and distinctive voice by a promising new writer.
ALEX SPARROW AND THE REALLY BIG STINK, by Jennifer Killick
Alex Sparrow is a super-agent in training. He is also a human lie-detector. Working with Jess – who can communicate with animals – they must find out why their friends, and enemies, are all changing into polite and well-behaved pupils. And exactly who is behind it all. ALEX SPARROW is a funny, mid-grade novel full of farts, jokes and superhero references. Oh, and a rather clever goldfish called Bob. In a world where kids’ flaws and peculiarities are being erased out of existence, Alex and Jess must rely on what makes them different to save the day.
THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, Nikki Loftin
Lorelei is bowled over by Splendid Academy—Principal Trapp encourages the students to run in the hallways, the classrooms are stocked with candy dishes, and the cafeteria serves lavish meals featuring all Lorelei’s favorite foods. But the more time she spends at school, the more suspicious she becomes. Why are her classmates growing so chubby? And why do the teachers seem so sinister?
It’s up to Lorelei and her new friend Andrew to figure out what secret this supposedly splendid school is hiding. What they discover chills their bones—and might even pick them clean!
Mix one part magic, one part mystery, and just a dash of Grimm, and you’ve got the recipe for a cozy-creepy read that kids will gobble up like candy.
THE GIGGLER TREATMENT, by Roddy Doyle, illustrations by Brian Ajhar
A talking dog, the Mack children, and the small elf-like Gigglers themselves must try to stop the prank that the Gigglers have mistakenly set in motion to punish Mr. Mack for being mean to his children.