Friday, February 27, 2015

Le Grand Codex Reviews 'Alistair Grim's Odditorium'

Magic, Mystery, Humor and loads and loads of adventure. Presenting Gregory Funaro's enchanting oddity called the 'Odditorium' with the first volume of the series titled Alistair Grim's Odditorium. Just your old fashioned frolick-y adventure but not your garden variety one mind you and it shows its vigor in spades. This is a book of great substance, it has character, it is carefree yet curious, it is mysterious, yet enchanting. Coupled with those magnificent illustrations this is a story that manages to stand onto its own.

This is the story of Grubb (spelled like the worm but with a double b, in case you plan on writing it down someday"), "12 years old or thereabout". An orphan chimney sweep learning under his less than reckoning foster father Mr. Smears but it is not long before he leaves that less than gracious life to join in the adventures of a Mr. Alistair Grim and his equally odd associates, at that equally odd construct called the Odditorium. Housing every and any Odditoria known and unknown to man, the Odditorium is what Mr. grim and his compatriots call home.

To read the entire review on 'Le Grand Codex,' click HERE.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bookworm for Kids Reviews 'The Phony Farkleberry'

The mystery gang in this series is a colorful bunch, including everything from the brainy girl, computer genius guy and wheel-chaired inventor. Despite their differences (and diversity), the five kids are friends and work together well.

The story starts out with a bullying scene, immediately drawing sympathy for the characters as well as showing how nicely they stick together, and how level headed they are. Even the teasing doesn't really throw them off beat. I found the quick intro a bit too quick (as if one were getting a run-down of characters and traits), but once the story gets going, their personalities come across, and the reader has no problem feeling as if they could be one of the gang.

To read the entire review on 'Bookworm for Kids,' click HERE.

2014 Cybils Winners Announced!

As another Cybils winds to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a part  in it this year, from the round 1 panelist who spent countless hours reading to the round 2 judges who spent time debating and discussing to choose the winners below to the organizers who spent hours making sure that everything ran as smoothly as possible. It’s been another great year!

And now…. the 2014 Cybils winners!!

Read the complete list of winners HERE.

http://www.cybils.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg.png

Monday, February 23, 2015

MORE UPDATES - BLOGS REMOVED

The following blogs (G-R) have been removed from Middle Grade Mania due to inactivity or not posting about middle grade books for the past three months.

If your blog is among these and you would like it reinstated, please send an email to lwredits at gmail dot com with a link to a recent post featuring a middle grade book (not picture books or young adult books.)

I'm sorry if these removals offend anyone, but this is a directory of current blogs that post regularly about books for middle grade readers. If your blog starts with G-Z, I will be weeding those out shortly, so now is the time to post!

Also, if you know of any blog that should be in the directory but isn't, please shoot me an email.

Thank you for understanding.




Imagine! Create! Write! 
Innovative Librarianship
Into the Wardrobe
Kid Lit Reviews 
Last Word, The 
Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews 
Love. Pray. Read.
Middle Grade Munch 
More Than True
Not Acting My Age 
Oh, For the Hook of a Book  
Once Upon A Story 
Oz and Ends
Page In Training  
Rachel Reviews All 
Read for Your Future
Read Now Sleep Later 
Read. Write. Tell.
 
  
 Rebecca Behrens' blog was moved to the Author Blogs page.
 
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Blog Tour: 'Emmanuel's Dream' on Teach Mentor Texts

This book is an inspiration. Laurie put together beautiful words and Sean created wonderful artwork that bring this story to life so masterfully. Being able to share this story has goosebumps up and down my arms. I just finished reading Brown Girl Dreaming which I'll be sharing this week and now reading Emmanuel's Dream has me just marinating in powerful stories of people who overcome. I'm glad we continue to tell stories like this, I don't think we can ever have enough of them.

To read the complete review on Teach Mentor Texts, click HERE.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

GIFT an AUTHOR to your SCHOOL!!!




Wade Bradford, author of Why Do I Have to Make My Bed? (Random House) has just announced his debut middle grade novel CAMP OMIGOSH!



CAMP OMIGOSH will be published this May by Skyrocket Press, a new small publisher of innovative and creative books for kids and adults!

To make this book become reality, Skyrocket Press has just launched a KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN to raise much-needed funds for the project.

How You Can Help

Wade wants to visit YOUR SCHOOL!

For a donation of $250, Wade will SKYPE any classroom anywhere and spend a full hour interacting with your students about books, writing, and what it takes to become an author.

For a $500 donation, Wade will visit your school IN PERSON! (Southern California)

For $800, Wade will visit ANY SCHOOL IN THE US!!!

In addition, Skyrocket Press will donate 5 signed copies of his book to your school library.

Just imagine how excited your students will be to meet a published author. Give them a gift that really makes a difference. GIVE THEM WADE BRADFORD!



For as little as $5, you can also get one of the many other CAMP OMIGOSH REWARDS!

$     5 - CAMP OMIGOSH Ebook
$   25 - Print copy signed by Wade Bradford!
$   50 - 2 Signed print copies & a POSTER!
$100 -  A CAMP OMIGOSH BACKPACK, poster & 2 signed copies!


CAMP OMIGOSH is already well underway! The book is in the final stages of revision as we speak, and the cover will be revealed the first week of April! All we need to get the book into kids' hands is your support.

Please consider backing CAMP OMIGOSH, and please share! In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt from the book...

EXCERPT

Blat! Thup, thup, thup, thup!
            The flat tire slapped against the asphalt. The bus lurched from one lane to the next. Mr. Warren's cheesy welcome letter flew out of my hand -- and I hadn't even gotten past Tip #1. Sleeping bags and backpacks rained down from the overhead storage racks. A canoe paddle slapped me in the face, knocking me out of my seat. I tumbled down the aisle on my hands and knees, crumpling into a ball each time the bus veered out of control. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. Just a few moments ago we were all bouncing along on our way to camp and now we were about to die. What a miserable way to begin my summer vacation.
            I scrambled to a different seat, bumping into a blond girl who seemed eerily calm. While everyone else was screaming their lungs out, she was staring out the window. How can she be sightseeing at a time like this? I peered over her shoulder to see a jagged ravine and a raging river far below. We were going to plummet over the edge.
            "Everything is under control!" the bus driver screamed at the top of her lungs. The brakes screeched, just a few notches below dog whistle range. Camping supplies slid down the aisle as the bus tilted on two wheels, sending sparks flying as the big yellow vehicle scraped against a metal barrier, the only thing preventing us from a one-way trip to the bottom of a cliff. The bus Ka-Chuncked back down on all four wheels and then spun like a drunken ballerina. Three times around. Then we stopped. Amazingly, no one died. Nobody was even hurt. Some of the younger kids whimpered and sobbed. A few older ones shouted “that was awesome!” but you could tell deep down we were all scared. Me included.
            "You can let go now," said the blond girl. I was holding her hand without even realizing. "Sorry," I mumbled. I couldn't tell if she was annoyed or amused, but I quickly let go. She looked about thirteen, my age. Her eyes were a deep green with flecks of amber, and I probably would have kept staring into her eyes for a long, long time but she stood up and said, "Let's get off this bus before it explodes."

                                                                        * * *

            "Everything is perfectly fine!" screamed the bus driver. She was the first one off the bus. The rest of us quickly followed. The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the bus was the crisp fresh air. It smelled wonderful. I used to live in Orange County, in a town called none other than the City of Orange. And during the summer, the California smog sets in, and every night the sky turns the color of the town's name. The air pollution can get pretty nasty. But here at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, everything looked and felt different. The puffy white clouds floating in the insanely blue sky looked like a painting from one of those museums my mom would sometimes drag me through. Even that deadly ravine next to the bus seemed beautiful now.
            We really were in the middle of nowhere. This was the loneliest road I had ever seen. There were two other buses about a mile ahead of us. They parked along the side of the road, and must have been wondering what happened to us. About two minutes passed before we heard a vehicle approach. It sounded like a lawn mower. But it turned out to be a rusty, frog-green Ford Pinto. I had heard about that type of old car before, but I had never seen one in real life. I thought they had gone extinct.
            The car puttered down the road, cruising at jogging speed, and stopped in front of the bus. A tall man with short brown hair stepped out and put his hands on his hips like a general surveying his mistakes after a battle.
            "Your cheap tires nearly got us killed!" shouted the bus driver.
            "Do we have a spare?" asked the tall man. I recognized his voice. He was the guy from last week, the so-called “Camp Leader” who spoke to some of the kids and the parents during the orientation meeting. At the time, he seemed kind of boring so I didn't pay much attention. He covered the standard introduction stuff: safety, respect, life challenges, blah, blah, blah. The meeting ran long so I zoned out. It didn't help that lots parents asked a bunch of dumb questions like, "Does your campground have indoor plumbing?" and "Why do we have to sign this waiver?" My mom didn't ask anything. She was happy with the price. This was the least expensive summer camp she could find. And she was happy I was going to be away for the summer.   
            "Look underneath, and you'll find another tire,” replied the bus driver. “But it's just as shoddy as the rest of the rubber bands you got wrapped around these axles." She lit up a cigarette. She had curly gray hair and a wizened, wrinkly face that told me she had been bus driving for the last forty years.
            The man smiled politely at the bus driver. He looked like the kind of guy who was very patient. I'm good at spotting the patient people.  I'm also good at finding their breaking point. At least that's what my mom tells me.
            He looked at us. "Hello campers," he said cheerfully. "Sorry for the delay. I am Mr. Warren." Some of the kids murmured hello. Most of us kept our mouths shut.
            "Don't worry," he added. "You'll be back on the road and arriving at Camp Omigosh in...” he checked his watch “...approximately eighteen minutes.” He looked at our driver. “And please, Ms. Finkle, don't smoke in front of our campers."
            She took one last drag and then crushed the cigarette butt under her boot.
            Mr. Warren pulled out a walkie-talkie. "We're all okay. Just be a moment," he said. I assumed he was talking to the drivers of the two other buses at the bottom of the hill. "Maintain your position."
             Mr. Warren investigated the damaged tire. "Now, I just need a jack and a, um, one of those what-do-you-call-it…"
            Ms. Finkle laughed. "A tire iron? Son, you don't know a thing about cars, do you?"
            "I'll take care of the repairs, Ms. Finkle. Please keep an eye on the children. Make sure they don't fall into the ravine," He went back to his ancient Pinto to get a tool box. Ms. Finkle sat on a stump.
            Since we had time to kill, I took out my lucky deck of cards and scoped out the other kids to see if I could spot a “mark.” Most of the kids didn't know each other, so they sulked alone, playing video games or kicking gravel onto the road. Some of them were complaining into their phones, telling their parents everything that had happened so far. One girl yelled into her phone, "I don't want to be here!"
            I noticed two kids that looked like twins. They wore matching baseball caps. They argued over a pair of baseball cards. Good, I thought. Baseball fans collect stuff. And people who collect stuff have money. I found my first mark.
            I shuffled my deck and set out three cards: two aces and the queen of hearts. I flipped them around, studying them intently as though I was an artist working out his next masterpiece.
            Pretty soon, the Baseball Hat brothers walked over to watch me at work. "What are you playing?" asked the twin on the left.
            For a moment I didn't say anything, I was so lost in the cards. Then I finally replied, "It's a game called Find the Queen."
            "Looks easy," said the other twin. He was already bored. They were about to leave when I said, "Yeah, you probably shouldn't be playing this. It's not a game for kids."
            "What do you mean?" one of them asked.
            "It's a gambling game. You know, like in Vegas. People win a lot of money if they are good at it."
            "Are you any good?" they asked at the same time.
            "I wish," I replied. "I've been getting better, but I still need a lot of practice. Yesterday I lost three bucks."
            "Will you teach us how?" asked the one on the right.
            I asked, "Do you got any quarters?"
            The twins fished for loose change in their pockets while I shuffled the cards.

                                                                        * * *

            Ten minutes later, a crowd of marks surrounded me. Thanks to my sleight of hand and a Queen of Hearts no one could find, I had won a Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card from the 1990s, eight crumpled dollar bills, a handful of loose change, two candy bars, a golf ball, a Spiderman comic book, and a half-eaten peanut butter and banana sandwich. At first, I let the twins win the first few times. It built their confidence, and gathered a crowd. Pretty soon every kid was itching to play, and willing to bet something of value. But then I was on a winning streak, and the more they lost the more they wanted to play.       Right after I won the golf ball, it looked like the Camp Leader was done changing the tire. I was about to pack up the game when the blond girl with those mean emerald eyes weaved her way to the front of the crowd.
            "I'll play." She slapped down a twenty dollar bill. "Unless that's too much for you."
            Everyone gasped. The crowd looked at me, anticipating my next move. "All right," I announced, "last game. Find the queen." I showed her the queen of hearts and flipped the card face down. Then I tossed around all three cards at lightning speed.
            Normally the “Mark” would be following the cards very closely, but this girl just locked eyes with me. When I stopped and asked "Where's the queen?" she didn't hesitate. You aren't supposed to let the players touch the cards; they should just point. But she was too quick for me. She grabbed the middle card and showed it to the other kids.
            I couldn't help but laugh. "Sorry, Ace of Spades. You lose." Then, she pealed away the trick card to reveal the queen hiding underneath.
            "Cheater," she announced, unsurprised. Everyone groaned and started snatching back all of their stolen treasures. Some kids kicked gravel at me. Others called me a four letter word. The Baseball Hat Twins punched me in the arm, one right after the other.
            Mr. Warren must have sensed that a mob was forming. "I know you're anxious, campers,” he called from the other side of the bus, “so let's get moving."
            Everyone scrambled back on board, but the blond girl just took her time, placing her twenty dollar bill back into her novel, like some extravagant bookmark. She smiled at me, happy to have ruined my day.
            "I was going to give it all back," I said. I must have sounded pathetic.
            "Why?" she asked, but she didn't wait around for an answer.
            "It's how... " I was about to explain that it was how I made friends. Interest them with some card tricks. Disappoint them when they lose their stuff. Impress them with my generosity when I give back the winnings. That's how I became instantly popular in the fifth grade. It even worked in military school. But it didn't work on the bus ride to Camp Omigosh. As the rest of the kids filed onto the bus, I gazed into the woods. Everything seemed peaceful in the forest. A cool wind made the trees look like they were waving to me. Calling to me. Part of me, wanted to wander off and never get back on that stupid bus.
            "Hurry up and get on," hollered Ms. Finkle, anxious to leave. “The last thing we need around here is another dead kid haunting these woods.”
            I had no idea what she was talking about, but I suddenly realized I was now the only kid standing outside. When I hopped back on the bus, all the kids booed me. Some of them threw things. I barely dodged the half-eaten peanut butter and banana sandwich. As I made my walk of shame, I realized there was only one seat available and guess who was sitting there? That's right. The blond girl.
            "Hello, loser," she said without looking up from her book, but I couldn't help but notice that she was smiling. "You owe me twenty dollars."
            Broke again, I thought. I handed her my worn-out twenty dollar bill. She seemed surprised that I actually paid up.
            For a while, I just stared at the floor as the bus drove down the hill. I could hear Mr. Warren's Pinto sputtering behind us. A few minutes later, our bus joined up with the other two, and we continued down the road as if nothing had ever happened.
            "Whoa!" shouted a kid in front of me. "There it is."
            "Are we already at the camp?"
            "No," he replied excitedly without looking back at me. "Straight ahead, into the cliff. Plummer's Tunnel. It's the fourth longest mountain tunnel in North America. It's an engineering miracle, and someday I'm gonna--" Then he noticed he was talking to me -- the kid who swindled him -- and he clammed up. He glared at me through his thick glasses and angrily placed his prize golf ball into his shirt pocket.
            "Sorry about--" but before he could let me finish, the kid sat back down.
            The tunnel zoomed toward us. I held my breath, just out of habit. When I was a little kid, Mom and Dad and I would go on these long road trips from one big city to the next. Every time we would go through a tunnel we would hold our breath and lift up our arms to hold up the tunnel ceiling to keep it from falling on us. The memory made me realize we hadn't been on a family trip in a long time.
            We drove through the tunnel and darkness swallowed the bus. It was pitch black. This didn't seem like a fourth place tunnel. This felt like the world's record breaker of long tunnels. In the darkness, I wondered what the bus driver had meant about some dead kid haunting the forest. Suddenly I noticed something that made me breathe again. The blond girl grabbed my hand and held on tight.




 




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Flashlight Reader Reviews 'The Iron Trial' by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

Move over Harry and Percy, Callum is in the house! 

This series is going to be the next big thing. I guarantee it. How could it not with Holly Block and Cassandra Clare as the authors? 

I'm almost scared to admit that I almost gave up on this one. Eek. I know. I came so close to putting it aside, but I'm glad I did not. If you feel like this one starts slow, you're not alone. But don't give up. The ending is worth it all. 

To read the complete review on The Flashlight Reader, click HERE.