Sunday, May 31, 2015


I have a thing for book covers. As the editor in chief Middle Shelf Magazine, I get to see pretty much every book cover of every middle grade book. Some fall a little flat. Some completely WOW! me. Today I am sort of in the middle.

When I first saw PAPER THINGS (Candlewick, 2/15) by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, I was moved by the simplicity of this cover. The white paper cutouts of the crescent moon and the house, the unadorned font for the title and author name. It struck me immediately as having an important and heartfelt story to tell.

Then I spotted WATCH THE SKY (Disney, 4/15) by Kirsten Hubbard, and I thought...huh...

Hubbard's book has essentially the same layout as Jacobson's book, down to the "house" image at center bottom and the stars in the background. The font is a bit more unique, with the diminishing size. I like it. I like them both.

What do you think sets these covers apart? Are they too similar for your tastes? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Watch the SkyPaper Things

Friday, May 29, 2015

ME & MR. BELL - Reviewed on That's Another Story

Even though encounters between Eddie and Mr. Bell were fictional, they seemed very realistic to me. I was rooting for Eddie to start to feel better about himself and recognize his own unique talents. I really liked the way he was determined to overcome his difficulty and tried to find his own solution. 
It was also great that there was no “magic answer” to his reading difficulty (dyslexia) and that he was still struggling and learning from his failures at the end of the story. The details about Alexander Graham Bell's inventions and Helen Keller were intriguing. This is a short book, with a well-paced story that holds the reader’s interest all the way through to the end. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Small Review Doesn't Care for SHADOW SCALE

I wasn't a huge fan of Seraphina, but I liked it enough to want to read the sequel.

Unfortunately, I didn't like the sequel enough to finish it.

I am very much in the minority on this series and I really, really wish I could love it as much as everyone else seems to love it. I think my issues with it are more on the personal side of things and those are usually hard to articulate. But I will try.

Read SMALL REVIEW'S explanation of why this book didn't work for her HERE.

Monday, May 25, 2015


A thrilling and unique middle grade story the presents the reader with delightful inventions and intense magic usage. I really enjoyed learning about the Odditorium and all the creations it contained. In fact, the main draw of the story was trying to figure out what Alistair Grim's secrets were, and how they all fit together. The author deals out the hints slowly, building up tension and presenting the reader with interesting puzzles.

Read the complete review on THE WRITE PATH.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mother Daughter Book Reviews Recommends THE UNDERGROUND PRINCESS

When we last left the inhabitants of the charming underground kingdom, Balderdash, Princess Scarlet had found her true love in the loyal pirate knight Roland, the evil Maleer was defeated, King Hurlock was happily ruling his kingdom alongside the mystical shaman, and Prince Kaylan was welcomed into Balderdash as King Hurlock’s adopted son.  Fast forward three years and we see that Balderdash is burgeoning with “life”.  But despite the prosperity, peace, and happiness spread throughout the kingdom, Kaylan feels like an outsider.
One day, as Kaylan and Scarlet’s pet owl Screech are exploring the caverns surrounding the kingdom, they run across two thugs towering threateningly over a frightened young woman, all human and much too close to Balderdash for comfort. Contemplating rescuing the girl, Kaylan must make an important decision which may place the entire kingdom in danger.  But an even greater danger presents itself when Kaylan goes above ground and encounters a familiar face intent on conquering the underworld.


The Underground Princess by J.W. Zulauf

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Books 4 Your Kids Recommends THE MAINE COON'S HAIKU

I love cats and I love haiku, so it makes sense that I find The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Lee White absolutely charming and fascinating. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers consists of 20 poems, one each for a different breed of cat, divided into four sections that any cat owner will immediately recognize: Inside, Outside, Inside and Outside. If you are a cat owner and know anything about haiku, then you know that felines are the perfect subject for this style of poetry.

Read the entire review on BOOKS 4 YOUR KIDS

Monday, May 18, 2015


Inventions That Could Have Changed the World...But Didn't! is exactly the kind of book that my ten-year-old self would have devoured in a single sitting. It's sort of a curiosity cabinet of commercially unsuccessful inventions and the people who devised them. Each failed invention is described briefly -- usually in less than half a page -- and accompanied by cartoon illustrations, patent drawings, photos, or some combination of these.

Read the entire review on FOR THOSE ABOUT THE MOCK.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Le Grande Codex Likes ARSENIC FOR TEA

Our joyous pair of school girl detectives Daisy Wells & Hazel Wong are back for another spiffing case. Its the holidays and they (Daisy & Hazel) are at Fallingford, Daisy's home for her birthday. Invited are family, friends and few extras for a birthday tea. And one of the lot doesn't see the light of the next day/ With storm raging and floods setting in, home suddenly feels much more dangerous.

Read the complete review at LE GRANDE CODEX.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Welcome to Battle of the Book Covers, a new feature here at Middle Grade Mania. In keeping with last week's theme of silhouettes, here are four more new releases utilizing the same style.

In Judy Young's Promise, a simple image of a crow appears on a yellow background. Having read Promise (I loved it!) I can tell you that it fits the story very well.

The Trap by Steven Arnston has a night sky background, as does Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu. But Arnston's straigtforward unembellished title is surrounded by images mirrored on either side of the book. While neither the title or the images reveal much of what to expect from the story, the layout is effective and attractive. Haydu's cover is accompanied by a gold star and a clever visual for the title.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan places the silhouettes of children almost inconspicuously at the bottom, while the large sweeping title takes center stage.

What do you think of how these covers succeed or fail to take advantage of silhouettes? Which appeals to you the most? Why?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I’ve been blindly pulling books out of my stash from the Scholastic Warehouse Sale (no peeking to see what’s next!), so I was especially delighted when I came out with Kimberley Griffiths Little’s THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES. You see, most of my warehouse sale finds are books that either look interesting to me or that I’ve heard about through the grapevine. This was one of only two books I picked up this year by an author I’d already read. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of Kimberley’s books :). Now that I have read it, I’m wondering why I didn’t make it a priority sooner because it quickly became my favorite middle grade of hers so far. But on to the description …

Read the complete review at MICHELLE I. MASON'S website.

The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Monday, May 11, 2015


Its charming. Its fun. Its refreshingly young. Its Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson in a rather younger female version. Set in a 1930s boarding school for girls, sees Daisy Wells & Hazel Wong, members of the Detective Society, cunningly battle lessons, Masters & Mistresses, peers and fellow dorm mates, relish some well deserved Bunbreaks, all the while on the lookout for a nice new case to solve and crime to detect ...... Or so says Daisy Wells' detective novels.
But real lie comes knocking when Hazel discovers the dead body of their science mistress Ms. Bell but when she raises the alarm the body mysteriously vanishes ..... warranting the services of the Wells & Wong Detective Society as they go on gathering evidences, eliminating alibis and suspects when nobody knows what actually happened to Ms. Bell.

Read the complete review on LE' GRANDE CODEX.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Hiding Spot Interviews AISHA SAEED, author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS

Writing about Naila’s struggles was not easy. There were some chapters that I wrote and then would need to take a break for a few days because it was emotionally draining to detail what Naila went through. I think it was particularly hard for me because while Naila is a fictional character, the situation she is trapped in is all too real for many women around the world. Despite the difficulties of telling the story I knew it was an important story to tell and that, as a writer, I could not shy away from Naila’s difficult realities because these were realities not only for my fictional character but for real women whose story deserved a voice. 

Read the entire interview on THE HIDING SPOT.

Written in the Stars

Thursday, May 7, 2015


I love book covers -- almost as I love the stories inside the books. Middle Grade book covers are some of the most diverse and creative of any book group out there! Some are created via watercolors or oil paints, while other are designed on the computer or by sculpting cut paper.

To shine the spotlight on some of these amazing covers, I thought it would be fun to present some of these covers to you and debate over what works or doesn't work. Please post your responses and comments below!

Thanks for joining in!

To kick off this new feature, I present to you four 2015 covers utilizing the silhouette. Three feature silhouettes of children, in particular girls apparently from historical eras, and the fourth has a castle. Three of the four integrate leaves and or trees.

Each, as you can see, places the black shapes atop a colored background: green, blue, orange.

The cover for Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy effectively sets her girls against the backdrop of a full moon, suggesting to the reader that they are running away late at night. This arouses our curiosity. What are they running away from?

Cat Hellison's Beastkeeper hints at a possible dungeon, capture, and leans clearly toward fantasy.

The Curious World of Capurnia Tate recaptures the elegant "good old days" feel of the first book in the series, and the vines serve as a nice victorian-style frame.

Arsenic for Tea's images actually do not take front and center as the the other books do. They serve to accentuate the title, giving little clues (as a good mystery should) as to what the readers will discover inside.

All four of these books do an amazing job with silhouettes, but in different ways. Which cover(s) do you prefer and why? If you spotted these on a bookstore shelf which one would you most likely pick up and read?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Jean Little Library Visits MS. RAPSCOTT'S GIRLS

The description of this sounded very alluring to me - an eccentric lady takes in daughters of Very Busy Parents and they go on wild adventures. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the book lived up to the hype, although a lot of other people have liked it, so it may just be me.

Five girls are mailed to Ms. Rapscott's school (their parents are far too busy to actually take them there) and arrive in the middle of an exciting storm. Unfortunately, one girl, Dahlia, gets lost along the way so the girls' first lesson is going to be finding Dahlia. Under Ms. Rapscott's tutelage they get Lost on Purpose and while they may not learn conventional lessons, they do find out things about themselves they never knew, as well as important life lessons.

Read the entire review at JEAN LITTLE'S LIBRARY.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Charlotte's Library is SAVING THE PLANET

I am rather pleased with myself for having read a book off my TBR pile that is a perfect Earth Day book, and for remembering to write about it today!  Saving the Planet & Stuff, by Gail Gauthier.  It is the story of a not-high-achieving teenaged boy, Michael, who finds himself accepting an internship at The Earth's Wife, an environmental magazine.  Michael finds it hard to cope with the green lifestyle of the old couple who run the magazine, and he finds it hard to understand the point of what they are doing.  Gradually, he becomes, though not a true die-hard environmentalist, at least more aware of environmentalism, and (pleasingly for those of us who enjoy career type stories) he learns a lot about what goes in to publishing out a magazine.

Read the complete post at CHARLOTTE'S LIBRARY.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Middle Grade Mania is pleased to announce it's first ever MONTHLY MEGA GIVEAWAY!!! Each month, via rafflecopter, one lucky winner will receive not one--not two--but FIVE mystery middle grade books for FREE!

All you gotta do to be eligible to win is fill out the rafflecopter form below. You do have to be 18 or older and a resident of the United States to enter.

The giveaway will run from the 1st of the month to the last, with the winner & the mystery titles announced at the beginning of next month's giveaway.

TO AUTHORS: If you would like to see your link added to next month's rafflecopter, just click on the giveaway tab above for details.