Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

#BookaDay June 1 – Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

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This beautiful immigration story told in prose is one for every middle grade bookshelf, whether at home, in the library or in the classroom. Nurah, the main character, is just trying to blend in and find her place in her new school in Georgia after moving from Pakistan.

The characters weave this story together in ways that everyone reading it can relate to someone along the way, whether or not they have experienced moving across the world. I related to Nurah so much, because I had moved across the US at her age and felt so different in my new school in Texas. I loved reading Nurah’s story as she found her voice, and found a place to fit in , in her new world.

I highly recommend this to readers who love novels in verse, quick, beautiful reads, and realistic fiction. Recommended for grades 4-6 specifically. Nothing stood out to me as content to be aware of, but this is a good book to read about tackling bullying as well.

YA Reviews

YA Review- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: Feb 2017
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The Hate U Give is a timely and necessary novel that follows the story of Starr, a Black teen girl living in a rough neighborhood, but attending a private, and mostly white populated school. She often feels like she is split between two worlds. When her best friend is shot in front of her and killed by a cop, her entire world turns upside down – and the two parts of her collide in a poetic way.

Angie Thomas is a master of emotion. She writes her characters with such depth that you feel as if you know them. You will be immersed in Starr’s world, and gain a deeper understanding about Black Lives Matter is so important, why our culture is so divided, and how frustrating it must be to be Black in America in this day and age. This should be a must read for all high school students.

Recommended ages 14+

Trigger Warnings for violence, police brutality, under age drinking, drug use, gangs, sexual consent


I am Ava, Seeker in the Snow – Review – LSBBT

A Dog’s Day Series, Books 1 and 2
Illustrated by Francesca Rosa
Animals / Adventure / Farm Life / Ranch Life / Chapter Books 
Date of Publication: April 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 96
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Spend a day in the life of a livestock guardian dog! Jax the Great Pyrenees has a big job. After the Texas sun goes down, it’s up to him and two other LGDs to protect their ranch from predators. But when the lead dog gets hurt, Jax and a young pup are the only ones left to protect the flock through the night. Told from the dog’s perspective, this story also includes back matter about the breed and role of the working dog.
Spend a day in the life of an avalanche rescue dog! Ava is a chocolate Labrador retriever with a big job. She and her handler have trained for years to be ready to help people at their ski resort if an unexpected avalanche hits. But Ava quickly finds out there’s much more to being an avy dog than daring rescues. Told from the dog’s perspective, this riveting story also includes back matter about the breed and the role of the working dog.

I Am Ava is a short and sweet beginner Chapter Book that is both entertaining and informative. I spent 2 years of college working with the Aggie Service Dogs program that raises puppies, like Ava, to go and be service animals. Almost all of our service dogs went on to be companions to those with special needs. I knew there were other “jobs” for dogs, including search and rescue, but I didn’t know – and in Texas, never really thought about – that there are dogs specifically trained to help find people in the snow. Learning about Avalanche Search and Rescue dogs through the eyes of Ava was so fun!
Since this small chapter book is less than 100 pages, this will appeal to kids who both love reading, and those that are a little more hesitant. I love that this book is fiction through the eyes of a dog, because this will appeal to all the fiction loving kids, but at the same time this book is heavy on the information as well, which will appeal to the non-fiction loving kids. There is just a little something for everyone.
I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars because I was intrigued enough to finish it in just one sitting! Something that doesn’t happen very often, even with the shortest of books. I would recommend this to my 2nd and 3rd graders who love animals, especially dog lovers, and anyone who loves to know more about dog workers and helpers!

Catherine Stier, a former Midwesterner, now lives deep in the heart of Southwest Texas, on the edge of the beautiful Hill Country. Her children’s books have received honors and awards from the Society of School Librarians International, the International Reading Association, and the Bank Street College of Education. Stier has served as a frequent contributor to Woman’s Day Magazine and as a newspaper columnist. Her work has also appeared in Highlights for Children, My Friend, Child Life, and several newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Antonio Express-News. Stier’s lively and interactive Author’s Visit programs have entertained, educated, and inspired thousands of children. Visit Catherine Stier’s website at for more information, activities, and free curriculum guides.
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ONE WINNER: Hardcover copy of I Am Jax, Protector of the Ranch (Book 1), hardcover copy of I Am Ava, Seeker in the Snow (Book 2), $15 gift card to The Twig Book Shop, stuffed animal – adorable “Ava” Lab dog toy, dog stickers, dog socks.  
September 17-27, 2020 
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Review Jax
Character Interview
Review Ava + BONUS Jax Review
Jax Scrapbook
Ava Scrapbook
Review Jax
Review Ava
Sneak Peek Jax
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Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

Maurice and His Dictionary- Picture Book Review

Title: Maurice and His Dictionary: A True Story
Author: Cary Fagan
Publisher: Owlkid Books
Publishing Date: October 15, 2020
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an E-Arc of this book.

Maurice and His Dictionary is a wonderful true story of a boy who worked around so many roadblocks to get his education. Maurice fled Europe during WWII and ended up in an internment camp where he couldn’t finish high school. He managed to get tutors from all over the camp and studied to get into a local school and take a test to finally get his diploma. He then pursued University in Canada at the age of 16.

I really liked the perseverance of Maurice and his family as well as the fact that this was a true story. I do wish the ending was a little more resolved so that it was just a bit longer and we could find out what happened to Maurice in the later years of his life. The author’s note provides a little of this and the real history behind this story, but it still doesn’t feel totally wrapped up like it should.

Would recommend to lovers of history, fans of graphic novels and students in grades 3-6.

Children's Lit Weekly Reviews

The Lady with the Books by Kathy Stinson – Children’s Book Review

Title: The Lady with the Books
Author: Kathy Stinson
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publishing Date: October 6, 2020
Sensitive Content: Mention of a dead father (killed in WWII)
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The Lady with the Books is the tale of children after World War II in Germany. Their city is destroyed and they are starving. But they find solace in a book display at a nearby museum and leave inspired to perhaps change the world. I loved this little slice of history that hardly anyone talks about. After WWII, German children were the victims of so much hate, a poor economy, and lost parents. This book reminds us that there is hope out there in the world with the next generation and that we can always find hope and solace in books.

I was happy to read in the footnotes of the book who “The Lady with the Books” actually was and how she brought this exhibit to cities around Germany. I was also happy to learn about what happened to the collection and the Book Castle.

I would recommend this book to my early non fiction readers, anyone who adores children’s literature, and to students learning about the aftermath of WWII.

Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

Don’t Check Out This Book by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise

Don’t Check Out This Book is the perfect title for reluctant readers in 2nd through 5th grade. This novel is full of hilarious puns in a wild format of letters, emails, newspapers, post it notes and pictures. I found myself laughing out loud and not able to put this one down until I had finished it.

My favorite character in the novel is the librarian, who doesn’t follow the rules and always manages to get everyone to read more books. She is the perfect example of “librarians are the rebels of schools”.

I gave this book a 5 out of 5 for its clever antics. Go ahead, pick it up, just don’t check it out. Recommended for grades 2-5, for the young rebels, the reluctant readers, the kids who are a little different, and for those who enjoy hilarious stories.

Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads

8 Middle Grade Books You Need to Read

As a school librarian, I probably read more children’s fiction than the average adult reader. I love reading middle grade novels generally geared towards 9 to 14 year olds. This stack of books are some of my favorite Middle Grade Reads that I have read in the last year or two. Hopefully you can check out a couple of these reads and recommend them to your favorite middle grade reader as well.

  1. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
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  2. Z is for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien
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  3. Nightbooks by J.A. White
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  4. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshini Chokshi
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  5. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
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  6. Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
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  7. Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
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  8. Breadcrumbs By Anne Ursu
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Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst – Review

Title: Spark
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publishing Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: MG Fantasy
Star Rating: 5/5 Stars
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Spark is the story of a young girl, Mina, who lives in a world where dragons control the weather to make the weather perfect for their land. There are 5 types of beasts, Sun Beasts, Wind Beasts, Rain Beasts, Snow Beasts, and the most wild of them all, the Lightning Beasts. Mina is the quietest of her siblings. She doesn’t shout or make messes, she isn’t wild or brave. She is just quiet Mina. So when her egg hatches and a lightning beast whose name is Pixit appears, her family is in shock. They think that the egg was swapped and Mina was supposed to get a different egg. But Pixit reassures Mina that he is a reflection of her heart through their telekinetic link. Mina and Pixit are off to Lightning School where they will learn to control the storms and help protect her country. But there she learns that their perfect weather costs their neighboring countries more than they could ever imagine.


Spark is about so much more than a girl and her dragon. Spark is about finding your voice and overcoming fear. Spark is about love, friendship, and family. Spark is a testament to all the quiet girls out there – that their voice matters.

In this book, I so strongly resonate with Mina, the main character, who is known to be very quiet. Although never confirmed or stated, Mina seems to suffer from social anxiety. She has a hard time getting herself into situations where she has to socialize with others or make friends, though once she does, she proves to be a good friend and happy with the chatter of others around her. She doesn’t say a lot, but when she says something, it is with purpose. Mina speaks best through written work which is something I totally relate to. I feel better about stating important things as well written documentation in some sort of way. I like to be able to think about what I want to say before I say it. Mina learns throughout the novel that she doesn’t have to be loud to be heard and that what she says, people listen to.

The world Mina lives in is amazing. At the beginning of the novel you learn about the different types of storm beasts and Mina seems to live in a sort of Utopia. She learns pretty quickly that their Utopia is at the cost of others – something we can all probably relate to in the real world. Those who live in prosperity seem to be living in it at the cost of someone else.

The storm beasts can communicate with their human through their mind which is a neat way for Mina and Pixit to still have a flowing conversation even though he is a dragon. Sarah Beth Durst’s writing also gives us great insight into the thoughts and emotions Mina feels even though there isn’t a tone of dialogue between her and other characters because she doesn’t speak much.

This book is fun, while still being thought provoking. I can only imagine the types of conversations I would have with my students with this book if they read it. I would recommend this book to middle grade readers, readers who love dragons, and fans of fantasy novels. I also found that this book has a really good anxiety representation which is not something that is often done well.

A huge thank you and shout out to the author Sarah Beth Durst who sent me an ARC of Spark to review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Spark Aesthetic Board
YA Reviews

Book Review – I am Number Four

Book Title: I am Number Four
Author: Pittacus Lore
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publishing Date: August 3, 2010
Series: Lorien Legacies #1 
Genre: Teen Sci Fi
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Years ago the remaining Lorien children came to Earth with their mentors. There were nine of them, and the first three have been murdered by the other alien race. Number Four has been on the run his entire life. He looks like a human and he and his mentor blend in as a father and son team while they wait for Four’s legacies to take hole. When they arrive in Paradise, Ohio, Four goes by John to blend in and soon makes a best friend and falls for the girl in his home ec class. He doesn’t want to leave, even when his legacies show up and when his life, and all those he cares about are in danger.


This reads as a classic YA book with some obvious troups and fantasy elements. This is the classic origin story of a hero, with some death, some mistakes, the love of the girl next door, the dorky sidekick best friend. It has the works. Although this did come out in 2010 so this makes sense that all the classic troupes of YA would be there.

I did enjoy this story even if the characters were a little too far fetched. But this is sci-fi so anything can happen. I did really like the background information about the alien planets and their wars as well as all the action in this book. Normally books this length take me forever to read, but I raced through this one to find out what was going to happen next.

The only problems I had with this novel were some of the too neat wrap-ups including with the police and the house fire, the bully all of the sudden being nice and helpful, and the best friend and girlfriend being severely understanding of being lied to as well as finding out Four is really an alien.

I ended up giving this book 3.5 (rounded to 4) out of 5 stars. I am not sure I will follow up with this series even though I enjoyed the book. I do recommend it to fans of science fiction YA and to teens. There is hardly any curse words, and nothing sexually explicit in this book (some making out and kissing scenes but nothing beyond that) so it would be a good one for parents to recommend to their teenagers and young adults as well as a good pick for conservative high school libraries.

Monthly Wrap-Up Uncategorized

April Wrap Up

I read 7 books this month, and with everything going on that feels like a HUGE feat. I was on several book tours this month and have been sent tons of books to review in May. I also attended TLA and brought home a ton of ARCs for this year and finished copies of books I am excited to read.

Here is what I read and some brief thoughts for each book

Arlo Finch

  1. Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire by John August – MG Fantasy
    Read for Lectio Committee, Selected for 2019-2020 school year
    I loved this woodsy fantasy and had so much fun discovering the world that Arlo lives in with him. Would recommend to middle grade boy scouts, fans of camping books, and readers of MG fantasy. 5/5 Stars

    The Secret of Nightingale Wood

  2. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange – MG Historical Fiction
    This story is set in the early 1900s and a girl is trying to rescue her mother from mental illness and a doctor who is clearly taking advantage of the family. This book was dark and I thought it would have been better played out with an older protagonist and as a YA novel instead of MG. 3 out of 5 stars.


  3. Panic Point by Bill Briscoe – Adult Mystery 
    Read for Lone Star Book Blog Tours 
    Read my review here  

    The Rainwater Secret

  4. The Rainwater Secret by Monica Shaw – Adult Historical Fiction
    Read for Lone Star Book Blog Tours 
    Loved this historical fiction. The review will be up for the tour tomorrow so make sure you come back to find out why this was a 5 star read.


  5. Dumplin by Julie Murphy – YA Contemporary
    This adorable body loving book made me remember all over again what it felt like to be a teenager. Julie Murphy does an excellent job writing all her characters. I have known what it has felt like to be each of them at one point or another. 5 out of 5 stars – Bonus! I met Julie Murphy this month and she is wonderful!!

    The Fountains of Silence

  6.  The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – YA Historical Fiction
    FAVORITE READ OF THE MONTH – This will more than likely be in my top 10 of 2019. This book sucked me in and told an amazing story. Read my 5 star review here.


  7. Scythe by Neal Schusterman – YA Dystopian/ Science Fiction
    Another amazing 5 star read. This book showcases what would happen if we actually achieved a Utopia type world and the consequences that it could bring. Absolutely recommend to fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopia fans.


What did you read this month? Have you read any of these books? What would you recommend to me since I enjoyed *almost* all of these!