MMGM: Interview with Abby Cooper & Review of STICKS AND STONES

sticks

Title: STICKS AND STONES

Author: Abby Cooper

Publication Date: July 12, 2016

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publisher’s Description:

A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

I am so happy to have Abby Cooper here today talking to us about her books and her love of middle grade in particular.

I featured STICKS AND STONES in my magical realism round up, HERE, but I knew I wanted something special to highlight how important this book is.

Particularly today, in the world we live in, kindness matters. Middle school is hard enough, without the climate we find ourselves in today. I think more than ever, kids (and adults) need to find out who they are, stand up for what and who they believe in, and use kindness to make a difference.

Abby and her book STICKS AND STONES are here to help us get there.

1. Where did you get the idea for this book?

I’m a pretty curious person, and I’m always wondering about different things. Sometimes I’ll have random thoughts: what if rainbows came out of my glasses? What if cupcakes appeared anytime I wanted them to? What if words showed up on someone’s body? Writing is a great way to explore your questions and curiosities. Sticks & Stones came from that idea, plus various things I saw and heard as a school librarian.

2. What’s your favorite scene in STICKS AND STONES?

I liked writing the scene where Elyse plays the piano in her school talent show. I got to take my character through a broad range of emotions in those few pages: nerves, anxiety, fear, excitement, happiness, relief, etc. I like living out those emotional scenes right along with my characters.

3. What did this story teach you about writing?

That revision is your friend! I’m a messy first-drafter, so I was pretty overwhelmed by all that I needed to go back and fix. (Though I was thrilled to finally have the ideas out of my head!) The more I revised, though, the more I truly came to love it. It was exciting to see things improve and come together in ways I never expected.

4. What is your favorite thing about middle grade?

I love how middle grade explores serious, real-life issues while also maintaining a sense of wonder and fun.
5. Can you please list your top 3 middle grade reads?
I’ll do my best, but it’s so hard to only choose three!! My all-time favorite is Frindle by Andrew Clements. More current favorites are The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britt and Two Naomis by Audrey Vernick and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.
6. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to write middle grade?

Read! I strongly believe that reading middle grade novels improved (and continues to improve) my writing tremendously. Also, test your writing out on actual middle grade people. Kids generally won’t be afraid to give you their honest opinion!

7. What can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

My second book, BUBBLES, will be out July 18th, 2017, from FSG/Macmillan. So excited!
Thank you so much, Abby! We’re excited for BUBBLES as well!
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For more MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE check out Shannon Messenger’s website.

Wonderful YA Wednesday: DEAD GIRLS SOCIETY by Michelle Krys

dgs

Title: DEAD GIRLS SOCIETY

Author: Michelle Krys

Publication Date: November 8, 2016

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publisher’s Description:

You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.

Oh my goodness. It isn’t often that a book seriously has me turning the pages wondering what is going to happen next and who the heck is behind all of this mischief! But this one did.

Krys writes a very likeable MC in Hope. I was right behind her, wanting her to go to that warehouse on the first dare, because she doesn’t ever get to do anything normal. Sure, maybe something normal would’ve been a better idea than something deadly, but then we wouldn’t have a book and who cares, the stakes were there for sure. She wanted to be more than her Cystic Fibrosis and she wanted money for her very poor family.

Another thing I really liked was the mystery was very well-done and the tension was super high, but Krys still kept the graphic horror level low. She hints and minimally describes bad things happening, but it wasn’t gratuitous.

Truthfully, I really liked Ethan better than the developed love interest, but that’s not a critique of the writing at all, just my reader opinion.

Another thing Krys really shines at is writing teenage girls. Their personalities really jumped off the page. At first, I was a little lost when the four girls were introduced and I couldn’t tell who was speaking, and thought Hope actually disappeared in the dialogue for a long while, but it was only a small blip and I was sucked into these girls lives and not wanting any of them (mostly haha) to lose the “competition”.

The dares were extraordinary for teens to complete, but hey, where’s your suspension of disbelief? We read to experience things we would never do in real life. I loved this book because I felt like I was living a daring life and I seriously couldn’t put the book down or stop thinking of it when I was forced to take a break.

The mystery was well done, the tension and thrills were high, the ending was twisty ( even if it was also extremely cliffhangerly) and I recommend this to fans of a quick-paced read and especially fans of Pretty Little Liars.

 

 

MMGM: Interview with Susan Maupin Schmid & Review of IF THE MAGIC FITS

ifmagicfits

Title: IF THE MAGIC FITS

Author: Susan Maupin Schmid

Publication Date: October 25. 2016

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publisher’s Description:

Inside an enchanted castle, there’s a closet—a closet with one hundred dresses that nobody ever wears. Dresses like those need a good trying-on, and Darling Dimple is just the girl to do it. When she tries on Dress Number Eleven, something unbelievable happens. She transforms into the castle’s Head Scrubber! It turns out that each dress can disguise her as someone else. And Darling is about to have an adventure that calls for a disguise or two…or a hundred.

This book is exactly the kind of book I would’ve picked up, devoured, and re-read when I was a young reader … but it’s also the kind of book I picked up, devoured and will re-read as an adult reader, and that is what is so charming about it.

IF THE MAGIC FITS has a classic feel to it, without feeling dated or boring. It is funny, tense, touching, and, of course, magical.

The author, Susan Maupin Schmid was kind enough to answer some questions for all of us and I am so pleased to have her!

—Where did you get the idea for this book?

From Eleanor Estes. Her Newbery Honor book, The Hundred Dresses, irked me as a child.  Poor Wanda is teased about wearing the same dress every day. But she claims she has a hundred at home. Except that she doesn’t!! Years later, my childhood disappointment over Wanda’s empty closet caused me to ask: What if there was a closet with one hundred dresses? At that point, Darling Dimple began to whisper in my ear about a castle built by dragons…

—What is your favorite scene in IF THE MAGIC FITS?

When Darling tries on one of the dresses for the first time. When I wrote it I had no idea who would appear in the mirror. I found myself typing Marci’s name—and I laughed out. That was the moment when the dresses themselves came to life for me.

—What did this story teach you about writing?

Hang on to the kernel! Every story idea has a tiny kernel of deeper meaning beneath it. You can monkey with the plot, but whatever you do, don’t lose sight of that kernel! It’s your story’s soul. Without it, your manuscript is a zombie, an undead version of a book, and not a real story

—What is your favorite thing about middle grade?

The magic of possibilities. Middle grade readers are so willing to ask “what if?” What if my dog could talk? What if my best friend turned into a chimpanzee? What if I owned the chocolate factory? And those are my favorite kinds of questions to answer.

—Can you please list your top 3 middle grade reads?

No. I can’t. I read dozens of middle grade novels every year and always find favorites. My all-time favorites are Edgar Eager’s Half Magic, Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, and Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. Recent favorites: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage (love Mo LeBeau), and The Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler (who should write faster; the idea of making me wait a whole year for another book! Someone should talk to him. Oh wait. I’m writing a series…it’s harder than it looks. Never mind).

—What advice do you have for anyone who wants to write middle grade?

Remember how it felt. Being ten. Being eleven. Turning twelve. In my opinion, that’s the secret to a great middle grade novel: stepping into those middle grade shoes.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk Middle Grade with us Susan! We’re so excited for IF THE MAGIC FITS to come out tomorrow!

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For more Marvelous Middle Grade reads visit Shannon Messenger’s website!

 

 

 

 

 

MMGM: THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL by Megan Shepherd

secrethorses

Title: THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL

Author: Megan Shepherd

Publication Date: October 11, 2016

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Publisher’s Description:

There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

So, I really wanted to read this book anyway. The magical realism premise is right up my alley. But, then I read that Megan Shepherd called it the book of her heart and I wanted to read it a million times more.

I love her other books and was looking forward to an MG book from her, but books of author’s hearts are my favorite.

So I got a copy of this from NetGalley and I read it in a few hours. I was swept up in the story and I couldn’t put it down.

When you start reading you know the setting is a royal family’s country house that isn’t being used anymore except for as a hospital for children who have been evacuated from London and the main bombing zones in WWII. But the way Shepherd transports you into that time and setting is as magical as a winged horse in the mirrors of the halls in Briar Hill.

Emmaline is such a genuine narrator, if even a little unreliable. She’s honest in her thoughts, desires, and reactions. She sees these horses that no one else can see and finds comfort in them during the lonely days of fighting tuberculosis.

Her best friend in the house is an older girl named Anna, who is on bed rest because her case of “the stillwaters” is further advanced than the rest of the kids. Anna is kind and patient, in spite of her hardships, and she’s always coloring with her beautiful colored pencils and telling Emmaline she hopes to see her flying horses someday.

The other kids in the hospital are rather nasty to Emmaline, and are perfect little villain type characters to keep us rooting for Emmaline, who constantly disobeys orders and sneaks around … even steals things at certain points in the book. But it’s all to save an injured horse who has crossed over from the mirror world into her own.

The metaphors for death aren’t subtle but they are magical. This dark winged horse is threatening the injured Foxfire and if Emmaline can’t find some color in her gray world, the dark horse will win and all will be lost.

To say this is a happy book would be wrong, it’s quite dark. But there was hope, like a silver lining of a storm cloud, or a rainbow after a storm. It’s the childlike quality of searching for good in everything and smiling when no one else thinks it’s possible.

The resolution to keep going when everything is against you and to believe in magic is a quality I think is necessary to get by in the world today.

The historical elements of the story ground the reader even though there are fantastical parts. I’ve heard it compared to Chronicles of Narnia, and there are some similarities, but there is less fantasy in this book, and more childlike imagination.

The last chapter was one of my favorites. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say, keep reading after the last chapter. Read Shepherd’s notes at the end. I may have gotten more teary eyed in her notes and acknowledgements than the whole book combined. She gives the reader the freedom to choose how they think the book ends, and I think it’s lovely.

One of my favorite characters was the Horse Lord, even though we never meet him. He writes Emmaline letters and helps her to continue on through hard times. In one letter from him, he talks about how he knows she is angry at “the dark horse” but she needs to know everything has it’s place in life and we can fight or resist bad things, but we can’t blame dark things for fulfilling their purpose.

What an important message to children about death. Sure when we or others we know get sick, we fight it, but there is a season and a time for everything and to everything, a reason. This, is such a grown up message, expressed in a truly childlike way. My heartstrings were pulled.

The illustrations in the book were so sweet and her website for the book has printable coloring pages for readers to print off and she encourages readers to share the finished product with them.

I can see why this book is the book of Shepherd’s heart and why it steals/touches the hearts of so many who read it.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade reads, visit Shannon Messenger’s website.

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MMGM: THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick

themarvels

Title: THE MARVELS

Author: Brian Selznick

Publication Date: September 15, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publisher’s Description:

Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

This is one of those books that I was looking forward to it coming out, and then it came out and my TBR list was so huge, it somehow got lost. But I am so glad I found it again, even if it was a year later.

Being a huge Brian Selznick fan, I wasn’t surprised that I loved this book. The way he made a name for himself doing what he loved and kind of inventing a new format for himself was amazing.

Selznick’s talent for using a picture to say a thousand words is truly enchanting. Even my younger boys with the shortest attention spans in the history of ever, will spend a lot of time examining each page and can tell me exactly what is going on in the story as they turn the pages. But they get to decipher the story in their own words with their unique thought processes and imaginations going into it, and that is what is so special about this.

Yes, the pictures show the history of the Marvels family and their rise to fame and the falls that also happen along the way, but each reader gets to put the words to it on their own and apply their own emotions and turn the page when they are done, not when the words tell them to.

Which isn’t a bad thing, either. I love words on a page, or I wouldn’t read them daily and talk about them almost as often. And Selznick excels at the prose portion of his story as well. The whole book, which is extremely large, but so beautiful (the gilded edges of the pages!), is full of images and words that help the reader to FEEL the story. We only know the brother for a few pages at the beginning but we are crushed when his brother buries him and we see the driftwood angel wings at the sides of his grave.

When we get to the prose section, we are in 1990 following a child, Joseph, as he runs away from boarding school and goes to spend some time with his uncle. Of course, the house his uncle lives in is steeped in history and there’s some sort of mystery begging to be solved. There’s a few mysteries actually, with a missing friend and the Marvels family as well. And Uncle Albert is eccentric and intriguing.

In the end, the thrilling conclusion returns to drawings, but stays in the present time and comes together in a tragic but magical and satisfying way that answers all of the questions Selznick presented.

The fact this story is partially founded on a true story of Dennis Severs is what makes it utterly irresistible. Dennis Severs is an American who moved to London and eventually bought an old home at 18 Folgate Street in London’s East End and turned it into a 3D story/museum filled with the lives of a fictional family he created named the Jervises. Severs passed away and the home is now owned by a preservation trust, but is open to visitors.

Uncle Albert’s character is based on Severs’ real life story, but the story of the Marvels is a fictional story, only inspired by Severs and his life.

This story promotes a love of art, books, and magic and is also LGBT friendly in a way that is not forced or over the top, just fits into the story perfectly.

For more middle grade reading recommendations go to Shannon Messenger’s Blog for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

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MMGM: Spooky Middle Grade Reads

I know, I know. It’s not October yet, but it will be at the end of this week and I just can’t contain myself from posting a list of books for middle grade readers of all ages to get into the spooky mood.

I’ve put together my top 13 books, because 13 just seems like a spooky number, don’t you agree? Here are the books I like to read when October rolls around and the air gets a chill in it, the leaves start falling off the trees, and the ghosts and witches come out to their favorite haunting places.

Once again, I’ll start with a classic Halloween tale. One that I still enjoy today.

halloweentree

Publisher’s Description:

“A fast-moving, eerie…tale set on Halloween night. Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin’s. Enhanced by appropriately haunting black-and-white drawings.”–Booklist

dollbones

Publisher’s Description:

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

elsewhere

Publisher’s Description:

Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there’s something odd about the place–not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own. Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets–and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper. As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It’s up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.

(This whole series is a fun one for kids. I previously reviewed the fourth book in the series as part of round up HERE.)

thegraveyardbook

Publisher’s Description:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…


shadows

(Upper Middle Grade/borderline YA)

Publisher’s Description:

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

(I previously reviewed this book in full HERE.)

curiosity

Publisher’s Description:

What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

(There are two books in this series so far, the third to come out next April.)

lieslandpo

(Lauren Oliver writes magically, spooky middle grade)

Publisher’s Description:

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

thenest

Publisher’s Description:

Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing, The Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?

(I previously reviewed the book in full HERE.)

accidental

Publisher’s Description:

Grave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

penegrine

(By posting the first I am endorsing the whole series)

Publisher’s Description:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

serafina

Publisher’s Description:

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

yearofshadows

Publisher’s Description:

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother’s left, her neglectful father—the maestro of a failing orchestra—has moved her and her grandmother into the city’s dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help—if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living…and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

cabinet

Publisher’s Description:

A collection of thirty-six eerie, mysterious, intriguing, and very short short stories presented by the cabinet’s esteemed curators, otherwise known as acclaimed authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire LeGrand, and Emma Trevayne. Perfect for fans of Alvin Schwartz and anyone who relishes a good creepy read-alone or read-aloud story. Features an introduction and commentary by the curators, and illustrations and decorations throughout.

For more fun Middle Grade Reads visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog for

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MMGM: WISHING DAY by Lauren Myracle

wishingday

Title: WISHING DAY

Author: Lauren Myracle

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

Publisher’s Description:

On the third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes.

The first wish is an impossible wish.
The second is a wish she can make come true herself.
And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart.

Natasha is the oldest child in a family steeped in magic, though she’s not sure she believes in it. She’s full to bursting with wishes, however. She misses her mother, who disappeared nearly eight long years ago. She has a crush on one of the cutest boys in her class, and she thinks maybe it would be nice if her very first kiss came from him. And amid the chaos of a house full of sisters, aunts, and a father lost in grief, she aches to simply be…noticed.

So Natasha goes to the willow tree at the top of the hill on her Wishing Day, and she makes three wishes. What unfolds is beyond anything she could have imagined.

I am a huge Lauren Myracle fan (and her posse of CP’s and co-writers) so I was super interested to see her go in a new direction of sorts with this book WISHING DAY.

I was happy to find that all of the things I love about Myracle’s books like the teenage angst, teenage embarrassment, teenage relationships, teenage laughter, teenage lightness, teenage love … was all there, but was caught up in a swirl of magic that made it even better.

Before I read this book, I had heard some people were confused by this, that there wasn’t enough focus or direction. I disagree. I think it was realistic in the fact that Natasha, the main character, was lost in her life and we, as the reader, follow her through a winded path.

Life isn’t always straight forward and easy, with endings tied up in neat, pretty bows. It is messy and complicated, even if you believe in magic and wishes that come true.

Natasha has a lot going on in her life and is burdened by a mother who left her, a father who is mourning, sister’s who seem to have who they are figured out even though they are younger, a best friend who is bossy and she’s kind of not fitting with her the way she always has, and a crush on a boy who she’s never spoken to.

Add on top of this the pressure of going to a Willow Tree on the third night of the third month after you thirteenth birthday and only getting to choose three wishes that will most certainly affect the rest of your life … that is, if you believe in those things. Which is half the struggle for the characters in this book. Even if you feel that magic, there are life-events which will make you forget or push it away. Even after you make three wishes, the doubts start coming in that maybe you wished for the wrong things, and your hopes get so high, waiting for your wishes to come true, even as those around you are sending mixed messages as to whether or not wishes coming true is even a real thing.

I loved the characters in this book. The sisters were just like me and my sisters were. All at once best friends and each other’s biggest defenders, but the most annoying pests and sometimes furiating competition I’d ever seen. They make this book. The aunts played a big part in the mystery/secrets of it all, and the school drama with best friends and boyfriends is Myracle’s specialty, but the sisters were all that was shiny about this book. Aside from the magical town, that is.

Everyone who reads this blog knows I am a believer in magic and love to see it in books, am drawn to them. I meant to put this book in last week’s post about Magical Realism, but left it out and it’s even better because now I can rave about it in detail.

WISHING DAY has something for everyone, even an ending that begs for a second book, because although I know the character’s can work things out for themselves, and I don’t mind wondering what that is in my head, I am eager to return to the story and see what other magical mysteries Myracle has in store for us.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog.

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