Rare is the day when you can find a new children’s book that manages to capture the true courage, raw spirit, and intense fear of WWII. Still, Jennifer A. Nielsen astounds and moves with her newest book, a novel titled Resistance. Set in Nazi-occupied Poland, this is a tale that your kids deserve to read.

The Story: Chaya Lindner may seem like the perfect Aryan girl to the Germans she passes through to get into the German ghetto, but in reality, she is anything but. Being the Jewish girl that she is, Chaya’s determined to get people like her out of the worst zones, even if it means endangering herself every day. Times only get tougher as Chaya is drawn into more perilous work with a group of spies and revolutionaries whose goal is to save as many people as possible, even if it is at the expense of her own safety. As the work grows more and more dangerous, Chaya realizes that it’s not just her freedom that may be in jeopardy this time – but her life.

My Thoughts: From the very first sentence, I knew I was hooked. Jennifer A. Nielsen is an amazing authoress, crafting an amazing read that I could not put down. This is a truly wonderful book that deserves recognition for how well-put together it it. This is a thoughtful and generous look at the heroes who managed to do what they could for the people in even more danger than they were. Seriously, I cannot recommend Resistance enough. It is an amazing book that really gets one’s attention and is so diverting.

Parental Advisories: Some “mild” swearing, though the book is otherwise pretty clean, especially given the fact that this is a WWII novel. Of course, this is given a little bit of violence, though most of this is kept pretty safe for middle-grade readers.

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Gordan Korman is a well-known author for his books that cover a range of genres and subjects and one of his latest, Whatshisface is yet another example of his talent and dexterity.

The Story: Cooper Vega knows what it’s like to be get tossed from place to place. This is not the first time he’s moved and this is likely not the last time either. So he’s not exactly expecting much from Stratford, especially when he’s nicknamed “whatshisface” by the really popular and equally jerk-faced Brock. Even the girl he likes can barely remember his name the first couple of times he talks to her, so it’s not like he’s expecting much. But when his new GX-4000 starts acting super bizarre, Cooper knows something even more weird is up. When a sixteenth-century ghost named Roderick pops out of his phone, Cooper knows life at Stratford is going to become a whole lot more awkward; that is until Roderick actually starts helping him become a little bit more than the new kid. Maybe, just maybe he can become something great, something more than…oh…what’s his face?

My Thoughts: I am a pretty big fan of Gordan Korman, as his is a pretty great success story, as far as writers go. His work is relatable and entertaining and Whatshisface is no exception. With wit and humor, Korman writes characters that are great to read about. For light contemporary enjoyment with a bit of a historical twist, check this book out!

Parental Advisory: You may have a problem with mild middle school bullying, violence, and derogatory commentary, but otherwise, this is a clean read.

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Knights vs Dinosaurs

This week, we’re flipping through Knights vs Dinosaurs, a fun book that puts history into perspective in a fun way. Besides being factually correct and a great way to introduce your kids to certain concepts, it’s also just plain entertaining!

The Story: Life in Camelot is great, when it’s not so, well, boring. Sir Eric doesn’t think he can take another minute of listening to his fellow knights’ yarns, so when there is a moment of silence, he decides to make a boast and not just any boast: he says he’s slain forty dragons. It would be rather impressive, if not for the fact that Merlin has just dared Sir Eric to dispel the Terrible Lizard. It seems this is the start of another adventure, and with the companionship of Sir Bors, Sir Hector, Squire Mel, and the mysterious Black Knight, Eric might just be able to survive – if he doesn’t run into anymore dinosaurs that is.

My Thoughts: Packed with humor, loose sketches, and plenty of dinosaurs, Matt Phelan manages to tell a fun story that is as informative as it is exciting. Middle-grade readers will power through this quick-paced read with ease as the heroes battle dinos of all shapes and sizes.

Parental Advisories: Aside from some mild violence, this is a clean, straightforward read. I might say that this is also a great way to teach your kids what “dragons” really were back in the old days.

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Mad Wolf’s Daughter

If you’re looking for high stakes, medieval thrills, and a sword-wielding heroine, I’ve got just the thing for you. Penguin Books just sent me the first and second volumes by authoress Diane Magras and I cannot get enough of it.

The Story: In book 1, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, we meet Drest. The only daughter of the warrior Grimbol, Drest knows she isn’t the toughest out of her father’s children. With several older brothers ahead of her, she’s the tiniest of the lot, no matter how hard she trains. One night though, a mysterious ship arrives filled with knights prepared to take Grimbol and his men. Though she is hidden safely away by her family, Drest must suffer to watch her own family be taken away, where she knows that they will not receive a kind fate. In order to save them, Drest will have to join forces with a wounded knight who despises her father and his band. She may be small, but Drest has more power than anyone else has bartered for. Armed with the wise voices of her family, the weapon she’s won, her wits, and the code of virtues her family so ardently believes in, Drest must fight her way to Faintree Castle – before it’s too late.

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter picks up shortly after the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor. With her father and brothers safely rescued from the clutches of those at Faintree, Drest and her new friends are on the run. The traitorous turn of recent events has led her to be extra cautious as they flee from the forces that would capture them and end their lives once and for all. When Drest learns from her wounded friend Emerick that there is an ally close at hand, she is determined to go and meet this Lady de Moys, even if it means putting her own life in danger. In order to win back the freedom of her and her people, Drest will have to put her life on the line once again. She may be young, but her legend is just beginning.

My Thoughts: First off, I cannot give enough thanks to Penguin Books for sending me this one. It was incredibly generous of them; I will definitely be rereading these over and over. I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from this read. I’ve read a lot of medieval fantasy before, but it’s often harder to find straight medieval historical fiction that I enjoy. This could be due to the fact that a lot of these stories end up being “journey” stories, which, admittedly, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter was. That having been said, I really enjoyed this book! The pace never lagged and I found myself eagerly awaiting the climax. The plot twists were pretty good, if a bit predictable for an experienced or older reader. Like the first, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a wild ride, with lots of thrills. If I’m being honest, I enjoyed this book only slightly less because it had fewer mystery points. We knew who the bad guys were, who the good guys were, etc. Nevertheless, I’ve found myself to be rather fond of Drest, Emerick, Tig, Drest’s family, and the numerous other characters that fill these books. This is a rich world that is grounded in reality and historical research.

Parental Advisories: Because this book is set in a historical setting, the violence depicted is fairly straightforward. There are blood wounds, people are stabbed, and killing does occur. If you’re worried about this, I’d advise waiting to hand your book over until your child has reached middle grades. Other than that, these books are rather clean and very enjoyable. I highly recommend them.

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Other Wood

Pete Hautman weaves a story that will cause you to question the world around you with Other Wood, a middle-grade read that is almost chilling in context. Adults will definitely get a kick out of reading this; perhaps even more so than their kids.

The Story: Stuey lives by the Woods, isolated from most kids his age until a new family moves into the neighborhood. Enter Elly Rose, his new best friend or sort of. Stuey has barely any time to get to know Elly before they venture out into the woods one day to ride on her “secret” vine. Everything changes after the vine snaps and Stuey hits his head. Only  a short time after Stuey wakes up, Elly disappears. No one knows where she’s gone, but Stuey is determined to find her. The only thing is, Elly’s not really gone. For Elly, she never left. The only one gone is Stuey, the one who actually disappeared. Separated by mysery, time, and space, Stuey and Elly must discover the truth. Are they ghosts? Are they in a different dimension? It will take some sleuthing, a decades old mystery, and the journal from Stuey’s grandfather Zach before they can finally discover the truth – and return home.

My Thoughts: This book was…surreal. I don’t know how to describe it without simply saying that this book totally was one weird trip. It was written well, don’t get me wrong, but I found myself constantly caught off guard, questioning what was really happening in the novel, something I think was intentional by the author. For fans of sci-fi or just trippy reads in general, I recommend this. It doesn’t matter your age, it will throw you a little just the same.

Parental Advisories: There is a little bit in the book from a diary entry about murder and said diary-writer killing and burying the body, so you may want to be more careful with little readers.

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Trilogy Book 1: Chapter 6

Every Friday I will be posting a chapter of my never-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. Please comment and tell me what you think (keeping in mind that this was written several years back).

Chapter six is ready to read HERE.

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Earth to Dad

I’m sure all of us love those novels that pack a real punch, landing in the gut with real impact. Not many children’s novels can really make me feel, really feel, but Krista Van Dolzer’s contemporary novel Earth to Dad certainly did the trick. This contemporary story of a father and son separated by millions of miles of space is poignant and moving.

The Story: Jameson can’t wait to hear back from his father. True, it’s been well, years, since he’s heard his dad’s voice or seen his face, but Jameson knows that it’s just because his dad’s busy. After all, the first successful mission to Mars is an important job that keeps Mr. O’Malley pretty busy, at least according to Jameson’s Mom. However, Jameson starts getting suspicious after several odd incidents involving his mom. With the help of the new girl on the JICC base, Astra Primm, Jameson decides to start investigating the truth of his dad’s job and what happened to him. But does Jameson really want to know the truth? It will require a lot of pain, not just on his part, but also on the part of his new friend, his mom, and the base. Maybe it’d just be easier if his father would ever return his transmissions to Mars – earth to Dad, Jameson’s still here!

My thoughts: This is a story that was bittersweet and cleverly thought out. Van Dolzer does an amazing job of plotting out a novel that is touching and thoughtful, while also delivering a fair amount of scientific knowledge to those so keen on space travel. I really recommend it to both parents and children. Seriously, adults, if you don’t find yourselves feeling just a little sad at the end of this story, I’d be amazed. Earth to Dad is an excellently pieced together story that shows just how important the bonds between us are, no matter the distance between us.

Parental Advisories: None! Be warned, though. Your kids may learn something from this book.

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Trilogy Book 1: Chapter 5

Every Friday I will be posting a chapter of my never-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. Please comment and tell me what you think (keeping in mind that this was written several years back).

Read chapter five NOW.

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The Story Collector

With New York flair and all the literary love that Kristin O’Donnell Tubb has in her, The Story Collector arrives with all of its mystery and fun!

The Story: Viviani Fedeler could not live in a more wonderful home. At the New York Public Library, she and her brothers can go anywhere they want and have all kinds of marvelous adventures thanks to her father’s wonderful job as the library’s do-all superintendent. Together with her best friend Eva, Viv’s home contains every kind of story that can make them captains of a pirate ship, fly to the moon, and millionaires every day. It’s a child’s dream come true, if only the new girl at school would believe her stories. Merit Mubarak doesn’t believe in fabulous flights of fantasy, which is too bad for Viv, because it appears that despite all she does imagine, there seems to be a very real ghost in the library. If Eva, Merit, the boys, and Viviani don’t learn to work together, the hauntings may get worse. But not to worry; the New York Public Library always has Viv’s back!

My Thoughts: I am a library buff. Considering I work at one, I guess it’s no surprise. As such, I really enjoyed The Story Collector! It had plenty of whimsy and mystery; middle-graders will no doubt enjoy this fun book. In addition, I really liked the fact that the story was actually based off of real people. The fact that Viviani and her brothers really did get to roam the halls of the public library is particularly enticing for anyone who’s ever dreamed of hiding in the library for a night. Filled with all sorts of historical fact and literary know-how, O’Donnell Tubb has crafted a read that is sure to please!

Parental Advisory: None! This is a wonderfully educational book though, so be sure to take all the time to milk that. Look at photos to see where Viviani and her friends played and be sure to read the back of the book where the author lays out the true story of Viviani Fedeler.

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Trilogy Book 1: Chapter 4

Every Friday I will be posting a chapter of my never-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. Please comment and tell me what you think (keeping in mind that this was written several years back).

Check out chapter four HERE!

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