Student Voices: Recommendations by Anna Liz R., Brielle P., Ava G., Chase S., and Silvia S.

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Recommendations

Books to Read for Each Season by Anna Liz R., 7th grade

Sometimes you just want to get in the vibe of each season, so here are some book recommendations you should read during winter, spring, summer, and autumn! 

~Winter~

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – This book is so sweet and nice that it will just bring you a warm smile on a cozy winter afternoon. The fantasy and the use of personification is incredible, and it feels like the author is speaking only to you at times. I would really think that Despereaux would love snow and the winter holidays. 

~Spring~

Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #1)

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson – This book has a lot of forest scenes that will just remind you of the Spring season. Plenty of oranges, kingdom conflicts, and running and chasing. Just as exciting as the season itself!

~Summer~

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – This book literally takes place over summer where Percy goes to the Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp. Not only that, but all those water scenes make you want to go to the beach on a hot summer day. 

Undercurrents

Undercurrents by Willo Davis Roberts – This mysterious book takes place over summer where the family with a new stepmother spends their summer vacation in a beach house where only the truth about the stepmother gets revealed little by little. I love the summer setting in this book!

Framed! (Framed #1)

Framed! by James Ponti – If you have nothing to do on a hot summer day, you should really read Framed. Of course, this book starts with Florian’s and Margaret’s last days of summer. Where they spend most of their time at a museum using TOAST. However, they get involved with FBI cases, and it’s up to them to solve it. Definitely a quick read on a summer day!

~Autumn~

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – This awesome book gives you dark academia vibes with all the mansion and the lifestyle of the Hawthorne family. All the mysteries and strategies are incredible. A dark academia person loves autumn, so this book is perfect for that time of year.

A Danger to Herself and Others

A Danger To Herself And Others by Alyssa Sheinmel – This book gives you more of Halloween vibes that has many cliffhangers. And to see how the main characters turn out to be really gives you villain vibes as well.

Death Note: Another Note - The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases

Death Note Another Note: The BB Murder Cases by Nisio Isin – This book is more for the anime watchers that enjoy the anime Death Note. This is an alternative ending from the anime with some new characters. This book has reminds me of the spookiness of Halloween because of each murder case that they have to solve. And the plot twist at the end is incredibly insane.


Books to Read in the Springtime by Brielle P., 7th grade

Korgi series by Christian Slade & Ann Slade

Books and Original art - Korgi and Joker! - Mixed Age Threads and Misc -  CGC Comic Book Collectors Chat Boards

This series is yes, a wordless graphic novel series about reading the Korgi series and admiring the artwork, the details, and interpreting the book is so relaxing and calm to do. The first book in this series reminds me a lot of the springtime, the feelings, the “Korgipeople” everything in it is so sweet and feels like flowers in the springtime.♡

Lou! by Julien Neel

Journal infime (Lou!, #1)

First off, when I first saw this book I was in awe it definitely caught my eye just by the cover and the title(specifically the heart exclamation point in the title). Not only was the book itself catching my attention but when you read the story you really fall in love with the characters, the artwork, and the storyline, everything is a chef’s kiss. Well, now how does this relate to the springtime? Not only does this book have all these qualities it is in fact mostly in the springtime which means if you like flowers, sun, etc. This book is a perfect read. Plus, if you enjoy this book it is a series so there are more to love! ♡

Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper Series Volume 1-4 Books Set By Alice Oseman : Alice Oseman:  Amazon.com.au: Books

This book series is amazing, it has romance, and adventure everything you would want in a book is in this book. Not only is it a cute book but it has great animation/drawings I thought it was such a cute series.♡

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron

Maybe a Mermaid

This book is so cute! I love the story so much and the mom and daughter relationship reminds me so much of Rory and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls. I love how this story begins as a cute kid story and then transforms into a mystery of the house and the mermaid. This book could also work for the summertime!♡

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Pretend She's Here

This kinda horror book I thought was perfect for the springtime, think about it if you are on spring break and you’re bored your gonna want something interesting. Now let me tell you this book is FILED with an interesting plot. Basically what happened was the girl on the rights friend died and her mom comes out of nowhere and… well nothing good happens so that’s why you should read it!♡


Mystery Book Recommendations by Ava G., 7th grade

Framed! by James Ponti

Framed! (Framed #1)

After moving to Washington, 12 year old  Florian Bates uses his theory of all small things aka T.O.A.S.T, in which he lands himself a job as a FBI agent with his new friend Margaret. They go through a journey from lowkey spying on people on the subway to getting involved in a huge art crime that could be directed to an even bigger art syndicate.

Spy School By Stuart Gibbs

Spy School (Spy School, #1)

Even if he is only in middle school, Ben Rigby is already training to be in the CIA. But except for his insanally good math skills and being incredibly awkward, he really doesn’t have any good “spy” skills. Could the CIA really want him as a junior agent?

One Of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying (One of Us is Lying, #1)

Bayview High’s detention room contains 5 students. A beauty, brain, criminal, athlete, and an outcast. But when one of the students doesn’t make it out alive the other 4 are the top suspects. Which one could have killed him? They all have motives but which one actually killed him? 


Ten Recommended Graphic Novels by Chase S., 8th grade

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This Was Our Pact

This Was Our Pact is an emotional graphic novel about a friend group or “pact” of kids who are Ben’s (the main character’s) classmates. There is a festival where the townspeople gather lanterns and float them down the rivers, the pacts goal was to find out where these lanterns end up, but the pact shatters due to a fallout and leaves Ben with one other unusual kid who isn’t really popular and doesn’t fit in, Nathaniel. The 2 embark on a journey filled with magic and friendship in which the likes of nobody else has ever gone on. This is a very great graphic novel with relationships and fantasy merged into one.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Adapted by P. Craig Russell, Illustrated by Various Illustrators

The Graveyard Book, Volume 1

Bod is a normal boy, but he doesn’t have the most normal life. Bod was and is raised by ghosts, and his solitary guardian is neither living nor dead. There are many easter eggs in Bod’s graveyard home, like a hidden entrance to the city of ghouls, but also a wide variety of peril. In the living world, a man named Jack is still out there and has already killed Bod’s whole family. It is up to Bod to find out answers about his life without putting it at risk. This is a very fantastical and suspenseful graphic novel that really puts you in a beautiful new world in a shade of grim.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Fake Blood

AJ is a regular schoolboy starting a new school year, but as he looks at his surroundings he notices everybody is changing except for him. He hasn’t grown or has had out of the ordinary or fun summers like his friends have. AJ also had a crush on a girl who ended up being obsessed with vampires, and during a school project AJ tries to win her over with vampire attire, but gets different than he expected when he finds out she herself is a slayer. Now, it’s up to AJ to preserve the school and keep all the students in it safe. This is a graphic novel tying real life experiences with drama and fantasy, having a mythical sense of danger into what seems like an ordinary environment.

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

Bloom

Ari has just finished high school and is ready to move to the big city with his band. But Ari needs to convince his father to let him quit his job at their struggling family business. Ari has worked at their business since he can remember and he used to love it, but he can’t believe wasting his whole life over it. While interviewing for possible replacements, he finds someone who loves baking just as much as he wants to escape it, and the two form a close bond. It is up to Ari not to ruin everything and obtain the hopes of his dreams. This book has such a real life experience to it, the occupations, the situations, the romance. All of it has suspense and is an enticing graphic novel to read.

The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

The Iliad

Based on the Greek poem The Odyssey, over three thousand years ago, two armies faced off in what would be known as the famous Trojan War. This graphic novel places readers into the valleys of Troy. The men and women who struggled through the war, and the experiences of those who were caught in the crossfires. This graphic novel is very historical and informative, it gives you a better image and understanding of war and its pains and struggles, rather than romanticizing it and gaslighting the harsh circumstances of war.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond, Illustrated by Dave McKean

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

The world is a relatively safe place, there are mountains, forests, oceans, animals, plants, everything you can imagine. There’s civilization, tea, cakes, and all sorts of imaginative features of the world. But this world provides gaps of features with nothing more but emptiness. Harry, Sue, and Ben are intrigued by this world and want to investigate it. With sticks and stones, twigs and dirt, what are conjured out of these through imagination consist of a mouse, a bird, a snake, and a wolf. But as their conjurations increase, so do their power, and slowly but surely, the question is put into place: how powerful is too powerful, and will it be out of their control? Can they unmake what’s already been made? This graphic novel is suspenseful, especially for such a calm environment to begin with. The problem isn’t pre-set, it slowly builds up over time and that’s what makes this book so enlightening and cautioned.

Last Dance by Hanna Schroy

Last Dance

Miriam has trained her whole life to be on stage with the ballerinas. Her hard work has finally paid off after she became the prima ballerina of the Lulli Dance Company, but she hasn’t been entirely transparent with them. Miriam has sustained a wide variety of bruises, scratches, and injuries that have taken a heavy toll on her. One disastrous ankle injury though means one thing, that she might have to give it all up forever. Miriam discovers a pair of slippers that, according to a spirit, will give her the strength to regenerate and heal her injuries. She just wanted one thing in return: to be on stage and perform with the rest of the ballerinas, just like Miriam. This graphic novel accurately portrays struggle and the urge to follow your dreams, it really is enlightening and puts things in perspective in regards to other fields.

City of Secrets by Victoria Ying

City of Secrets

There is an orphan named Ever Barnes who’s job is to guard a secret in a puzzle-box of a building. Many others who work at the building look away when Evers passes by, except a person named Lisa and the head of the Switchboard, Madame Alexander. It only clicks to Evers after he is beset by a gang of rogues to find out the secret for him to conspire with his friend Hannah to discover the secrets he was so guarding this whole time. This graphic novel escalates from a rough standstill to a coup and betrayal. I think it’s a very exciting change of events and to conclude a good graphic novel.

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski

The Runaway Princess: (A Graphic Novel)

Robin is a princess who starts to rebel against her strict and uptight parents. The princess loves adventure and is willing to go on all sorts of journeys in the outside world. But her parents aren’t too pleased with her sudden departure, and they set out into the world to go find her and bring her home. This graphic novel really is similar to the famous “Rapunzel” story but in a very different sense under very different circumstances. Nonetheless, I do think it has a good plot and it really is a transformation to the word graphic novel.

The Red Maze by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, Illustrated by Various Illustrators

The Red Maze

The Red Maze is a part of a wide multiverse series of different worlds and the whole 5 Worlds series has never disappointed us. The main character is still determined to save the galaxy and in this graphic novel, she is headed towards the red maze, a nonstop maze of pipes in which the final destination leads to the red beacon. They must confront a ruthless businessman and a secret rebellious leader with their friend who returned from another source and light the red beacon. I like graphic novels that are widespread and involve travel, this book emphasizes that by highlighting the series of events to go succeed for the bigger picture. 


》Book series I’d recommend as a Middle Schooler ↴ by Silvia S., 7th grade

A series I highly recommend would be Dork Diaries by Rachel Renée Russell

Dork Diaries 11

You go through a journey with Nikki Maxwell through her new middle school. And someone find out her secret and is ready to use it against her at any moment. Find the truth about Mackenzie Hollister and what true friendship is. But make sure you read them in order or things will get confusing.

Summary: New school. New mean girl. New crush. New diary so I can spill about all of it…I put a lot of really personal stuff in this diary along with my sketches and doodles. But, mostly it’s about how TRAUMATIC it was transferring to my new private middle school, Westchester Country Day. And, how a lot of the CCP (Cool, Cute & Popular) kids were really SNOBBY and made my life TOTALLY miserable. People like, oh, I don’t know, maybe…MACKENZIE HOLLISTER!! And, it just so happened that I got stuck with a locker right next to hers. I could NOT believe I had such CRAPPY luck. I knew right then and there it was going to be a VERY, VERY long school year.

If you like Dork Diaries then I bet you’re gonna love the Misadventures of Max Crumbly by Rachel Renée Russell

Rachel Renee Russell Misadventures Of Max Crumbly 3... — Books2Door

Max crumbly is Nikki Maxwell’s love interest’s best friend that goes to a different school nearby. Max gets stuck in his locker by his bully on a Friday and no one realizes he is away. But he and someone get out after finding out there are bad guys out for them!︴

Summary: There’s a lot that’s great about his new school, but there’s also one big problem—Doug, the school bully whose hobby is stuffing Max in his locker. If only Max could be like the hero in his favorite comics. Unfortunately, Max’s uncanny, almost superhuman ability to smell pizza from a block away won’t exactly save any lives or foil bad guys.

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels by Raina Telgeimier, Gale Galligan, and Gabriela Epstein

Kristy's Great Idea: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #1) (Revised  edition): Full-Color Edition (1) (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix):  Telgemeier, Raina, Martin, Ann M., Telgemeier, Raina: 0000545813875:  Amazon.com: Books

Throughout the books you learn the struggles of each girl like family, friends, and health issues they have. And even more severe matters like the loss of a loved one or divorce. It comes to show true friends don’t think any differently of you because of something you might be ashamed of.

Summary: Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn are The Baby-sitters Club! Whatever comes up — cranky toddlers, huge dogs, scary neighbors, prank calls — you can count on them to save the day.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Buy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Book 8) Book Online at Low Prices in  India | Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Book 8) Reviews & Ratings -  Amazon.in

You’ll get a good laugh out of some pages of this book! Also, if you haven’t watched the movie, I suggest it, too

Summary: Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into a new year and a new school where undersize weaklings share the corridors with kids who are taller, meaner and already shaving. Desperate to prove his new found maturity, which only going up a grade can bring, Greg is happy to have his not-quite-so-cool sidekick, Rowley, along for the ride.


Thank you so much to my student voices today and their list of recommendations!

Guest Review: Magyk by Angie Sage

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Guest Reviewer: Grace, UCF Elementary Education Student

Magyk (Septimus Heap Book One)
Author: Angie Sage
Published March 2nd, 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: The first part of this enthralling new series leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters, clever charms, potions and spells, and a yearning to uncover the mystery at the heart of this story…who is Septimus Heap?

The 7th son of the 7th son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son, Septimus?

Angie Sage writes in the tradition of great British storytellers. Her inventive fantasy is filled with humor and heart: Magyk will have readers laughing and begging for more.

About the Author: Angie Sage began her career illustrating books, and then started writing – first toddler books, later chapter books and then the masterful Septimus Heap. She lives in a fifteenth-century house in Somerset. She has two grown-up daughters.

Review: Magyk is an interesting fantasy adventure that provides children an alternative to the increasingly controversial Harry Potter series. It has themes of wizardry/magic and adventure and focuses on a small group of young characters that age throughout the series.

Magyk and the rest of the Septimus Heap series promotes gender equality as it has several strong female characters and shows women in positions of power without questioning from other characters. In addition, this book and its series promote friendships between characters not only of different genders but of different backgrounds and races.

This book also has strong themes of found-family as well as other complicated family relationships that can be comforting to children without a more traditional nuclear family structure. One of the main characters, Jenna, has been adopted and struggles with her relationships with her non-adopted siblings. This is explored further in later books in the series when she meets her biological father and learns the identity of her birth mother.

The series associated with Magyk grows with its reader as Septimus, the main character, ages throughout the series. The books introduce increasingly mature themes over time, introducing readers to new ideas as they are ready for them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book touches upon the idea of found family. This theme could be implemented in the classroom to help students better understand the importance of relationships between themselves and those around them. Highlighting the importance of the people we surround ourselves with and the aid they can provide is an important lesson to learn as it gives us strength to go about our day.

This book also teaches students to trust themselves and bare more responsibility as time goes by. Throughout the book, the characters discover that true power comes from themselves. It is only by trusting themselves and working hard that can they achieve their goals. This teaches students the importance of a good work ethic and how you have to work in order to achieve your goals. By adding additional responsibilities to characters throughout the book you can see how their wants and needs change over time however, this does not take away from the goals and aspirations they want to achieve.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Although Jenna is not related to the Heaps by blood she is raised as their daughter. How does Jenna’s relationship with her parents differ from that of her “siblings”?
  • Boy 412 and Jenna both have complicated pasts. How does their relationship change throughout the book as they learn more about themselves and each other?
  • How does Boy 412 relationships with others vary compared to how other children in the book make relationships?
  • How do the circumstances in which Jenna and Boy 412 discover their identities vary? How does this affect how they react to the news?
  • Boy 412 was raised in a militaristic environment, how does this shape the person he has become? If he was raised in a different environment do you think his personality would be different?
  • How do Marcia, Sarah, Zelda, and Silas treat the children differently? Why do you believe they have such different approaches?

Flagged Passages: 

“Oh it’s a pebble… But it’s a really nice pebble Dad thanks.”

Read This If You Love: Books about witches/wizards, Books that age with you

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Grace, for your review!!

 

Blog Tour: Drifters by Kevin Emerson

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Drifters
Author: Kevin Emerson
Published May 10th, 2022 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: A mystery about a girl who sets out to find her missing best friend–and discovers her small town is hiding a dark, centuries-old secret.

Jovie is adrift. She’d been feeling alone ever since her best friend, Micah, left her behind for a new group of friends–but when Micah went missing last fall, Jovie felt truly lost.

Now, months later, the search parties have been called off, and the news alerts have dried up. There’s only Jovie, biking around Far Haven, Washington, putting up posters with Micah’s face on them, feeling like she’s the only one who remembers her friend at all.

This feeling may be far closer to the truth than Jovie knows. As strange storms beset Far Haven, she is shocked to discover that Micah isn’t just missing–she’s been forgotten completely by everyone in town. And Micah isn’t the only one: there are others, roaming the beaches, camped in the old bunkers, who have somehow been lost from the world.

When Jovie and her new friend Sylvan dig deeper, they learn that the town’s history is far stranger and more deadly than anyone knows. Something disastrous is heading for Far Haven, and Jovie and Sylvan soon realize that it is up to them to save not only Micah, but everyone else who has been lost to the world and set adrift–now, in the past, and in the future.

Praise: 

“An intricate sci-fi mystery for voracious readers who love an extraordinary adventure.” –Booklist

“A satisfying action plot, complete with a shady government agency and villainous beings, is effectively grounded in the emotional realism of the girls’ shifting friendships.” –Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books

About the Author: Kevin Emerson is the author of Last Day on Mars and The Oceans Between Stars, as well as The Fellowship for Alien Detection, the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos Is Gonna Get It. Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. You can visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net.

Review: This book is definitely an epic sci fi novel! I am so impressed with how Kevin Emerson weaved the plot together to take us, with Jovie and Sylvan, on a mysterious adventure which had twists and turns throughout leading me to never know what is going to happen. Usually with books with flashbacks or flash forwards, it is easy to make predictions, but with this books, it is more complicated and thus took longer for me to determine what was going on. Because of this, I just had to keep reading, so although the book is long, it keeps you turning pages to piece everything together and then find out what Jovie is going to do with the information. (And just wait for the conclusion!)

I also loved the deeper message within the story that one can never know what is going on with someone else and that we must do whatever we can to make sure one another does not feel like they do not matter or we may lose them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What were signs that Jovie missed about Micah that may have saved her from drifting?
  • Why did Max feel like he needed to lie? How about Dr. Wells?
  • Why do you think the author chose to start the book with the letter from 1898?
  • How did the jumping around in time affect the reading of the book?
  • Why do you think the author chose to make the light look like a butterfly?
  • How had all the breaches over time affected Far Haven?
  • Why do you think Sylvan listened and believed Jovie when no one else would?
  • What does Micah and Jovie’s friendship teach us about being good friends?

And there are so many more questions I would ask readers, but they have spoilers, so I cannot share!

Flagged Passages: 

Part I: A Hole in the World

Chapter 1 – The Interview, Part 1
January 18, 2022

Picture a spark of light, like a firework shooting skyward in the moment before it explodes. This spark is traveling through the pure darkness of starless space. The only other lights are a few other distant sparks, headed in roughly the same direction.

As we move closer, we see that this single spark is actually a cluster of lights. And each of these lights is, in fact, an entire galaxy, a hundred billion fire diamonds of dazzling colors, from red to blue to white, spinning around a bright center.

Now picture a single blue dot orbiting a single white star. The dot is moving at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour in its orbit, and the star is moving at nearly five hundred thousand miles per hour around its galactic center. This galaxy is racing at one point three million miles per hour toward a mysterious presence—we call it the great attractor—that draws us, for reasons we cannot know, across the dark sea of space.

And yet.

Despite all that, it is possible, on this little blue dot, inside its blanket of atmosphere, in a tiny town huddled at the edge of a great ocean, in a small, crowded living room—

To feel like you are not moving at all. As if the universe itself has ground to a halt.

This was how fourteen-year-old Sylvan Reynolds felt on a winter night in 2022, in the town of Far Haven, on the coast of Washington State, as Dr. Wells began to speak.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with us again.”

Sylvan sat on one of the couches. Dr. Wells sat directly across from him, in a chair from the dining table, her tablet balanced on her knees. Her assistant stood behind her, tapping his phone.

“Sure.” Sylvan glanced at his parents over on the other couch. His mother, Beverly, smiled supportively, but her eyes darted with worry. His father, Greg, sat with his arms crossed, glowering at the visitors.

“I’d like to revisit the events surrounding the disappearance of Jovie Williams,” Dr. Wells said. “Now, as I’m sure you know, what we’re discussing here is very sensitive. We do need to have your word that—”

Read This If You Love: Sci-fi, Time travel, X-Files, Stranger Things

Recommended For: 

Stop by the other blog tour stops!

5/9/22 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
5/10/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl
5/11/22 Charlotte’s Library @charlotteslibrary
5/13/22 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
5/16/22 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
5/23/22 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius
5/27/22 A Library Mama @alibrarymama
5/31/22 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

Blog Tour!: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

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The Troubled Girls of Dragomire Academy
Author: Anne Ursu
Published October 12, 2021 by Walden Pond Press
Happy book birthday!! 🎉

Summary: If no one notices Marya Lupu, it’s likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in Illyria may possess the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy — a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself — things that threaten the precarious balance upon which their country is built.

Praise:

A wonderful and inspiring feminist fantasy.” – Kirkus, starred review

“An accessible, timely school story with a rather Transylvanian flavor to its fantasy setting. Ursu explores girls’ conditioning in timidity and shame in a male-dominated world and, ultimately, envisions a hopeful, female-determined future of magical ability.” – Horn Book Magazine

“A suspenseful tale woven with secrets and magic, with a gasp-worthy twist at the end, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is everything I love about fantasy. Spell-binding.” – Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Wish in the Dark

“Anne Ursu practices her own brand of sorcery—the ability to craft wondrous, magical stories that are unlike anything you’ve ever read. Another extraordinary tale from a remarkably talented author.” – Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

“A thoughtful and incisive story of lies told to control people and the complicated girls who ask questions, push back, and keep fighting.” – Tui Sutherland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series

“It’s no secret that Anne Ursu is a gifted storyteller. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is intricately plotted and compulsively readable, with characters who will stay with you long after you stop reading. I could not put it down.” – Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy manages the particular magic of being both a true fantasy novel and a clear-eyed reflection of the here-and-now. Bighearted, generous, and outstandingly original, this is a story only Anne Ursu could write.”- Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of The House That Wasn’t There

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Review: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This book is a loud cry for all the times females have been told they were trouble or too loud or had too many opinions or talked too much or asks too many questions or is too bossy or… or… or… Because of the patriarichal nature of our society, many girls will hear these thrown at them over and over again because in society’s eyes, it is our job to comply. Marya lives in a society that her job is to not only comply but to also fade into the background, so many of those who read will automatically connect with Marya’s plight and her personality trait of wanting to push back. Marya doesn’t want to just be in the background.

I do not want to share much more about the book than what the summary includes because it was such a pleasure to read–I am envious of all of you who get to read it for the first time! Anne Ursu’s ability to craft a fantastical world that is easy to imagine, write lyrically yet precisely, and create this narrative filled with twists, turns, and a protagonist you will be rooting for lends itself to just a fantastic read. This will definitely be one of my favorite reads of the year!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Walden Pond Press has shared a teacher-created educator guide with discussion questions, classroom activities, and extensions!

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: The Girl in the Coop

There were few women pictured in the great tapestries of Illyria–besides the witches, of course. The tapestries depicted moments of heoism, epic battles of good and evil, of powerful sorcerers and brave noblemen protecting the kingdom from the monsters that had threatened it through its history.

That is not to say that girls and women did not matter to Illyria: behind every great tapestry was a woman who wove it, just as behind every great sorcerer was a wife to tend to his domestic affairs, a governess to teach his children, a cook to warm his gullet, a maid to keep his fires lit.

And behind every boy who dreamed of being a sorcerer was a mother who raised him to be brave, noble, and kind. And perhaps that boy even had a sister, who right before the Council for the Magical Protection of Illyria finally visited his humble home to test him for magical gift, made sure the chicken coop was clean.

Read This If You Love: Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne MorrellRaybearers by Jordan Ifueko, A Tale of Magic by Chris Colfer, The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

Recommended For: 

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Other Blog Tour Stops:

October 12 A Nerdy Bibliophile in Wanderlust
October 13 Read Wonder
October 14 Nerdy Book Club
October 15 A Library Mama
October 16 Maria’s Mélange
October 17 By Singing Light
October 18 Bluestocking Thinking
October 20 Insatiable Readers

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

Sleuth & Solve: Spooky: Decode Mind-Twisting Mysteries Inspired by Classic Creepy Characters by Victor Escandell

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Sleuth & Solve: Spooky: Decode Mind-Twisting Mysteries Inspired by Classic Creepy Characters: What Will You Find?
Published: August 24, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: Test your wits in this creepy collection of horror-themed mini-mysteries, a follow-up to Sleuth & Solve!

How does one boy discover the lair of Frankenstein’s monster? What is the identity of the werewolf who torments an isolated village? And how do two sisters escape the vengeful Loch Ness Monster?

Welcome to the world of Sleuth & Solve: Spooky, where creepy clues are hidden in every detail and clever twists put your wits to the test. These mind-bending mini-mysteries inspired by classic creepy characters feature familiar fiends as well as terrifying new tales of ghosts, witches, and more! Solving this suite of spooky puzzles takes keen observation, strong logic, and lots of creative thinking. Play solo or with friends, collecting points as you crack each compelling case, decode the solution using a clever cryptograph, and reveal whose sleuthing skills reign supreme!

SCARY STORIES ARE IRRESISTIBLE: From monster-themed birthday parties to Dungeons & Dragons, Stranger Things, and Monsters, Inc., it’s clear that readers of all ages have a perennial predilection for all things monstrous and scary. These tales are perfect for reading alone or together, under the covers or in the dark, around the crackling of a campfire . . . as long as you can crack the case before it’s too late. BOO!

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD MYSTERY: From Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes to Clue, mysteries transfix, engage, and entertain! Following the previous two books in the Sleuth & Solve series, this latest smart, age-appropriate take on mysteries for kids will quickly become a family favorite.

A-GAME-IN-A-BOOK: This engaging narrative formula incorporates both a game (players earn points for discerning each answer) and an opportunity to decrypt and decode the clever solutions to each puzzle, adding opportunities for interactivity and upping the stakes of the reading experience.

REINFORCES LOGICAL REASONING SKILLS: These clever mysteries are solved by way of deduction, inference, and logical reasoning, all of which are critical thinking skills crucial to young readers’ intellectual development both in and outside of the classroom.

IDEAL FOR RELUCTANT READERS: With a comic-esque style, unique narrative approach, quirky scenarios, and a compelling mystery/”scary stories” theme, this book packs loads of reluctant reader appeal.

ReviewThis is a great book for elementary and middle schoolers (or kids/adults of all ages!). I did it with my sons, and they both had a great time decoding the riddles and figuring out the puzzles. We spread out the reading of this book across many days, and we did a section each day. It made for a delightful, connected experience. This is a book that offers so many things at once. It includes a mystery that begs to be solved and a really neat cryptograph (that kids can write secret messages outside of the reading of the book!). The author offers advice for making the reading even spookier (reading at night with a flashlight!). After reading this one, we want to check out the other Sleuth & Solve stories!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a fantastic book to have at a table in the classroom for fast finishers. Kids will be engrossed in decoding the riddles! They don’t need to read/decode them all at once, so this offers many opportunities for working on these while waiting for peers to finish working.

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite riddle to solve? Who was your favorite character? Which story was your favorite? What creative text features did the author use in this book?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Spooky stories; Activity Books; Brain-teasers; Decoding; Riddles

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review**

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

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Long Distance
Author: Whitney Gardner
Published June 29th 2021 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Summary: From the creator of Fake Blood comes another exceptionally charming middle grade graphic novel about friendships both near and far, far away.

Vega’s summer vacation is not going well.

When her parents decide it’s time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset—she’s downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she’ll never make another friend again.

To help her settle into her new life in Seattle, her parents send Vega off to summer camp to make new friends. Except Vega is determined to get her old life back. But when her cellphone unexpectedly calls it quits and things at camp start getting stranger and stranger, Vega has no choice but to team up with her bunkmates to figure out what’s going on!

Ricki’s Review: I read this book with my 7-year-old (he is not the target audience), and we really enjoyed it. The book has a very drastic twist towards the end of the book that will shock readers. The illustrations are wonderful, and the characters are quirky and fun, and I am glad that I read the book. It teaches about the layers of friendship, and the different ways in which we judge (and don’t judge) humans. Long Distance will offer teachers and students rich opportunities to discuss and consider how we think about others, and how we engage and participate in friendships.

Kellee’s Review: What a fun new graphic novel to add to my library! This book is going to have no trouble finding readers because it has a great mix of realistic (moving, friendship), information (all the science), and sci fi (you’ll see!). Because of these three factors, it is going to have a wide range of readers. The diversity of characters will help with the reach also: Vega is a girl of color, she has two fathers who are both people of color, and the twins at camp are characters of color also. Additionally to the diverse representation of identities, the characters area all quite different personality-wise, so every reader is going to find someone that they are rooting for or connect with. 

You’ll see below in the “Flagged Passages” that the illustrations are super colorful and eye catching, but not so busy that you lose focus. This is a huge benefit, specifically in middle school, because students love a color-filled graphic novel. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As described above, the twist in this book drastically shifts the storyline. Teachers might ask students to rewrite the twist to shift the story’s ending in a different direction.

The book also has a great SEL opportunity to look at how to make friends, using George as a great example of how not to. 

The text could also be used for prediction as the reader is as ignorant about the facts of the camp as Vega is but there are clues to something odd going on. As you read, students can look at the clues and try to make guesses about what the truth about the camp is. 

Also, the book has many cross overs with science! If you look at the “Flagged Passages” below, you’ll see that Vega is gifted a star chart by her friend and the author uses the opportunity to talk about what a star chart is. This happens a handful of times within the book with topics including astronomy, geology, and electrical engineering. In addition to the sidebars with info, there is science strewn throughout the narrative! 

Finally, Simon & Schuster has created “Drawn to Reading: A S&S Guide to Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom” which might assist you in utilizing this book with students. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Vega learn about friendship?
  • Which camper was most interesting for you? What did you find interesting about them?
  • Many of the characters have different hobbies. What are your hobbies, and how do they compare with those of the characters in the book?
  • How did the author tie science into this science fiction graphic novel? 
  • How does Vega’s interest in stars and space help her discover the truth about the camp? 
  • If you had been in Vega’s position, would you have stayed with George? 
  • How did Halley figure out where Vega was? 
  • What scientific information that was shared in the book would you like to learn more about? 
  • Do you think we are alone in this universe? 

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, HiLo series by Judd Winick, Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable, Real Friends series by Shannon Hale, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Recommended For:
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**Thank you, Audrey, at Simon & Schuster, for providing copies for review!**

Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne Morrell

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Kingdom of Secrets
Author: Christyne Morrell
Expected Publication August 3rd, 2021 by Delacorte Press

Summary: Prismena’s father is the hot air balloonist in the peaceful kingdom of Oren. She assists him by mending torn balloons, but she yearns to build and fly the complicated machines herself. One day, a waif named Abi steals Prissy’s only remaining memento of her deceased mother – a silk scarf – and promises to return it only if Prissy smuggles a mysterious box onto one of her father’s flights. Since balloon travel is strictly regulated in Oren, that single act of rebellion results in her father’s arrest and kicks off a spiraling series of events that will yank Prissy out of her predictable life.

Along the way to free her father from jail, she’ll get caught up in a bar fight, nabbed by a sadistic schoolmistress, tossed into a home for unwanted children, schooled in the art of stealing, and thrust into the center of a brewing rebellion. On her journey through Oren – with its glitzy neighborhoods and its seedy underbelly – Prismena will uncover secrets that change the way she views her family, her kingdom, herself, and even her beloved hot air balloons. She’ll have to break a few rules – and even forge metal – to save the people she loves, but she may also get a chance to soar.

About the Author: Christyne Morrell is a children’s book author and attorney. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband, daughter, and hyperactive beagle. Christyne has been writing poems and stories since she could hold a pencil, but KINGDOM OF SECRETS (Delacorte 2021) is her debut middle-grade novel. 

Christyne is also the author of the picture book Abra, Cadabra & Bob (Clear Fork Publishing 2019), and her work has appeared in Highlights, Spider, and The School Magazine. She can be found online at christynewrites.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @ChristyneWrites. Christyne is represented by Danielle Chiotti at Upstart Crow Literary.

Review: When I started reading this book, it caught me right away because Abi comes out of nowhere, blackmails Prissy, then her dad gets arrested, and really I truly had no idea what was going on! Since the book is in Prissy’s point of view it gives the reader the suspense and disbelief that Prismena has as the story begins. This makes you want to just keep reading to figure everything out.

Then, add in a second story about a mysterious young lady named Wren from the past that will crash land into the main story in a very unexpected way–it just sucks the reader in more!

In addition to the plot, I found the characters intriguing and very well crafted. The development of Prismena is definitely the highlight as she learns how to be on her own and have her own thoughts, but even the secondary characters had stories that Morrell found time to tell in the book. I do wish I knew more about Abi’s life, but maybe that will come in another book!

I also think the book is timely as it looks at government corruption and propaganda based in fear of others and loss of power. Because of Prismena’s ignorance, we get to experience the realizations as she does, so this allows for good discussions about these topics without bringing up current events.

I am pretty picky about high fantasy, but this one is one of my recent favorites, and I cannot wait to share it with my students!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The author’s website has a plethora of extra information to bring great discussions about this book to your classroom or book club!

First, there is an interview with balloonists which goes more into the science of the balloons, how Prissy’s valves would work, and other fun balloon anecdotes.

Second, she has Kingdom of Secret themed activities that are engineering, robotics, and science focused! These include making their own Dress Fit for a Queen, Rubber Band Flying Machine, Hot Air Balloon, and Mini-Catapult.

Finally, she has a section on “Fun Facts and Further Research” that looks at balloon history and fashion.

(And side note: I love a good map of a high fantasy setting, and the author gives us a very detailed and beautiful map of Oren.)

Discussion Questions: The Kingdom of Secrets Book Club Discussion Guide is available now and includes discussion questions such as:

  • At the beginning of A Blood Red Smile, a little girl treats Prissy like a celebrity because she’s the “balloonist’s daughter.” Later, Marybeth does the same. Why do you think that is?
  • Mr. Dudley is arrested for having “contraband,” including rubber. It may seem silly to you that something as common as rubber would be considered dangerous. Why do you think King Michael feels that rubber and other simple inventions are threatening?
  • When they first meet, Prissy and Abi don’t get along. Why not? What are some of their differences? What do they have in common? What changes over the course of the book that leads to them becoming friends?

Note: Some of the discussion questions in the complete guide are spoilers!!

Book Trailer:

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1. The Stranger and the Scarf

Abigail Smeade arrived like a black eye: sudden, fierce, and blossoming under my skin. When I met her, I was sitting in the shade of an old oak tree, minding my own business. I’d just removed a burlap sack from a hollow in the tree’s trunk and poured its contents out in the grass–scraps of metal, twisted brackets, and a few strips of a stretchy material called rubber. Most people would’ve described those things as junk fit for the bin, but I knew better. Pieced together just right, that “junk” would become more than the sum of its parts. And figuring out which way was just right happened to be one of my favorite pastimes.

But Father didn’t like me tinkering with the odds and ends I gathered (and sometimes even pinched from his workshop). It wasn’t proper, he said, and making something nobody had ever seen before might get a person looked at twice, which was the last thing we wanted. That’s why I kept my collection stashed inside an oak tree in the middle of Fletcher’s field. Nobody but Mr. Fletcher and me ever wandered into that field anymore, if you didn’t count the sheep.

At the bottom of the bundle, rolled up tight, was a scarf, a single piece of fabric more precious than all the rest of it put together. I unfurled it across my knees, and the silk shone and rippled like running water. It was cool to the touch, but the pattern–in shades of blue and yellow and purple–made me think of places drenched in sun. The kind of faraway places Mother liked to visit when she was flying hot-air balloons. In fact, the scarf had been a souvenir from one of her trips. She’d had a weakness for beautiful, unnecessary things. She’d filled the house with them once.

“Peanut brittle?”

Startled, I crumpled the scarf and crammed it back into the sack. Then I whipped my head left and right, hunting for the owner of that voice. It wasn’t until I looked up that I spotted her, sitting on a branch of the tree and kicking her legs like she was lounging on a swing. She peered down at me with shrewd, glittering brown eyes. Without prompting, she extended a half-eaten shard of candy through the leaves. It glistened with a semicircle of saliva where she’d taken the last bite.

“No, thanks,” I said.

“Your loss.” She wedged the peanut brittle into the far reaches of her mouth and cracked off a piece. It rattled against her teeth as she spoke. “What’s that?” She pointed down at one of my projects, something I was still trying to get just right. A small flying machine I’d made using those strips of rubber Mr. Dudley had given me.

“Excuse me . . . who are you?” I asked. She looked about my age–long-limbed and gangly, with light brown skin. Her hair had been pulled into a ponytail that erupted at the back of her head in a burst of copper corkscrews. She wore several layers of clothes–an apple-green vest, a striped jacket two sizes too small, and two gauzy skirts that looked like petticoats that had been dyed pink and cut short. Her scuffed boots kicked at the air over my head.

“Abigail Smeade, at your service,” she said. “You can call me Abi.” She smiled with a mouth full of crowded, crooked teeth, each one shoving its way to the front. She stretched her arm down to me again, this time offering her long, tapered fingers for a handshake. As though it were completely normal to meet someone while perched in a tree. I unpretzeled my legs and stood on tiptoes to give her hand a single uninspired shake.

“I’m Prismena,” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you,” she said. “Trespassing.”

(Read more of this excerpt at https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/652736/kingdom-of-secrets-by-christyne-morrell/)

Read This If You Love: The Land of Stories books by Chris Colfer, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra, A Tear in the Ocean by H.M. Bouwman, and other middle grade fantasy books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to the author and publisher for providing a copy for review!**