Elza and I love games almost as much as we love reading middle grade books. You’ll find more of these over on Middle Grade Carousel and posting throughout the day on our Twitter account. Follow us and play along! ~CJ
The Coming of the Bear is the sixth mystery in the Zenta & Matsuzo series. The two ronin become castaways, shipwrecked on the Japanese island now known as Hokkaido, which is populated by a native people known as the Ainu. Zenta and Matsuzo struggle with a language barrier and cultural differences while trying to figure out who’s trying to cause trouble between the Ainu and a nearby Japanese settlement. The Soprano’s Last Song is the second mystery for our trio/triangle, this time involving the opera. I find this alternative history to be light and entirely appropriate for lower middle grade readers. Nothing too complex, with hints of a long and tangled future for Irene and the two boys who have become her best friends. In Jinx’s Magic, Jinx has a whole lot of people relying on him, and most of them are trees. This is the second book in the trilogy, which picks up where the first left off and ends with the definite need to grab the final installment.
In Winterhouse, a series starter, Elizabeth the orphan is sent off to spend the Christmas holidays alone at a hotel known as Winterhouse, where she’s able to indulge her love for books, word games, and puzzles. In The Other Boy, Shane pitches for his school’s baseball team. He games with his best friend and has a crush on this really pretty girl in their class. Normal stuff. Until his rival catches wind of a secret from his old school. Something really private. Something that shouldn’t make a difference, but does. (Not really a spoiler: Shane is transgender.) In The Wild Robot, a robot washes up on an island and is accidentally activated by the animals there. Roz must learn to survive in the wild. And to get along with the many animals who also call their island home. To this end, Roz applies herself to learning the language of animals.
Aru lives in a museum dedicated to Indian history and culture. She’s grown up hearing the stories of Hindu gods and heroes. In Aru Shah and the End of Time (Bk1), she releases a demon & learns she’s the reincarnation of a folk hero. A fascinating dip into Indian culture. Fast paced, imaginative, and promising several tangles as the rest of the quartet unfolds. In The Not-So-Jolly Roger, Joe, Sam, and Fred use the book again and are transported to a tropical island, where they meet the infamous Blackbeard. Another fun, mildly educational adventure through time. Illustrated and appropriate for lower middle grade readers. In Death and Douglas, Douglas Mortimer understands death better than most kids his age. And no wonder. He lives in a funeral home, right over the morgue, because his parents are the town’s morticians. To Douglas, death is a natural part of life. But everything he’s always believe is overturned when someone in town is murdered. This is a murder mystery that gives readers a peek into the behind-the-scenes business surrounding death.
Knights of the Kitchen Table is the first book in the Time Warp Trio series. For his birthday, Joe receives a book from his uncle. It transports him and his two best friends into the distant past, to the era of knights and dragons, giants and magicians. Short, funny, and a teensy bit educational. I had mixed feelings about Swing It, Sunny, the second volume in a graphic novel series. Vignettes centered more around fads and pop culture from the 1970s. (Remember this? Remember when?) I wanted to know more about the characters. Hoping for more in Bk3. In Mascot, we meet Noah, who lost his father in the same accident that put him in a wheelchair. A little about family, a little about friendship, a little about neighbors. I liked Noah’s sharp wit (and sympathetic streak) and Dee-Dub’s unassuming genius (and trove of information). My favorite part may have been Noah’s several turn-abouts, when his opinions (and assumptions) about people underwent a radical shift.
Charlie can’t understand why nobody can remember his little brother Liam, not even their parents. But he’s determined to figure out what happened. And to get him back. The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly is a difficult book to pigeonhole. Not too scary, but tension-inducing. Not historical, but Charlie dreams of the past as if he were a different person, so several scenes take place there. Perhaps a psychological thriller for the middle grade set? Next up: Logan probably shouldn’t have been messing around in the library. Regret sets in when he learns he’s been Punished. Every time he opens his mouth, he speaks in puns. The cure proves to be a threefold challenge that will warm the hearts of word nerds everywhere. And Danger! Tiger Crossing is the first in the Fantastic Frame series. It’s an interesting series concept. There’s a magical picture frame, and at a certain time each day, it’s possible to step through it into the painting currently on display. The paintings are always classics, so there’s a solid dose of art history at the end of the adventure.