Review: Dragonfly Song


Title: Dragonfly Song
Author: Wendy Orr
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Pajama Press
Source: Publisher
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The little girl found under a bush has no name and cannot speak. Is she a miracle child who escaped the raiders, or is she a bad-luck child, the one who called the Bull King’s ship to the island? No one sees the mama-stone around her neck, with the sign of the dragonfly. And only Luki, in training to leap the bulls, knows that she charmed the viper who would have killed him. When the girl turns twelve, she discovers her name – Aissa – and she knows that her one chance to live freely is to become a bull dancer, and be taken away to the island of the Bull King.

Review:

This is a unique middle grade story.

I love Greek mythology so I loved how this story was done in the style of a traditional Greek epic. A lot of the story was told in verse, like the epic poems The Odyssey or The Illiad. This style may be unusual for many young readers, but it will expose them to a traditional style of writing. Orr does a great job of weaving verse in with the prose of the story. Many other aspects of Greek mythology also appear in the story, such as sacrifice and animal imagery. 

Though Aissa’s story is happening centuries ago, she still faces issues that contemporary children have to deal with. Young readers could relate to her problems with bullies. She is bullied by Half-One and Half-Two and is eventually kicked out of the servants circle. 

I really enjoyed this story. However, if I read it when I was in elementary school, I don’t think I would have liked it as much. This story would be a great introduction to the Ancient Greek style for young readers, if they also have some guidance from an adult. 

Review: Unicorn Power! (Lumberjanes #1)


Title: Unicorn Power!
Author: Mariko Tamaki
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. The five scouts of Roanoke cabin—Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley—love their summers at camp. They get to hang out with their best friends, earn Lumberjane scout badges, annoy their no-nonsense counselor Jen . . . and go on supernatural adventures. That last one? A pretty normal occurrence at Miss Qiunzella’s, where the woods contain endless mysteries.

Today is no exception. When challenge-loving April leads the girls on a hike up the TALLEST mountain they’ve ever seen, things don’t go quite as planned. For one, they didn’t expect to trespass into the lands of the ancient Cloud People, and did anyone happen to read those ominous signs some unknown person posted at the bottom of the mountain? Also, unicorns.

Review:

I’ve read a couple of the Lumberjanes graphic novels before. They’re so cute! So I had to get the middle grade novel when I heard it was coming out. 

In this new story, the scouts find unicorns, not too surprising to fans of the series. What is surprising is that unicorns smell really, really bad (who knew!). They also find a mysterious foggy mountain. Let the adventures begin!

Since I haven’t read all of the graphic novels, I liked the way that there was a lot of background given on the characters and the creatures they have met in the woods before, such as Bearwoman. There are also great illustrations too, which are also helpful since I tend to get the characters mixed up sometimes. 

Mariko Tamaki was a great choice to write this book. She’s so talented and she captured the Lumberjanes atmosphere and tone wonderfully in this story. I hope she continues to write the series. 

This is the perfect middle grade novel for fans of the series and new readers!

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX! 

Review: DC Super Hero Girls, Volume 4: Past Times at Super Hero High


Title: DC Super Hero Girls: Past Times at Super Hero High
Author: Shea Fontana
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: DC Entertainment
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome back to DC Super Hero High!
In the newest original graphic novel from the DC Super Hero Girls line, catch up with the students of Super Hero High School as they find out that fun, friendship and hard work are all parts of growing up! DC SUPER HERO GIRLS VOL. 4 continues to develop the relationships forged in DC SUPER HERO GIRLS: FINALS CRISIS and HITS AND MYTHS. Written by Shea Fontana, this story is perfect for girls 6-12.

Review:

This is the first DC Super Hero Girls comic I’ve read. It was super cute!

I loved how all the super heroes are kids in this series! Young readers can fall in love with these classic super heroes. It’s especially important that it focuses on the female super heroes, such as Wonder Woman and Batgirl, since most super hero entertainment is aimed towards a male audience.

These stories also translate the characters into appropriate storylines for kids. I love Harley Quinn but her graphic novels are definitely not appropriate for children. However, the same characters are in this graphic novel without losing any of their personality. For example, Harley is able to charm dogs and she calls the baby dinosaur her “puddin’.”

I really liked this graphic novel and would definitely recommend it for middle grade readers.

Ghosts


Title: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Purchased
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

Review:

I loved the diversity in this graphic novel. It focused a lot on the Mexican traditions of their town. Carlos’s family makes more traditional mexican food and they speak Spanish fluently. Maya and Cat’s mother didn’t like the way her mother was so traditional when she was young so she didnt take the time to learn about her heritage. Cat and Maya get to learn about these celebrations from Carlos.

Another important aspect of the story is Maya’s illness. This is an important subject that isn’t covered enough in chuldren’s stories. I’m glad to see it represented here.

This is a great middle grade story for young readers.

Review: The Artsy Mistake Mystery


Title: The Artsy Mistake Mystery
Author: Sylvia McNicoll
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Dundurn
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

They say he’s been stealing art. But is Attila being framed?

Outdoor art is disappearing all over the neighbourhood! From elaborate Halloween decorations to the Stream of Dreams fish display across the fence at Stephen and Renée’s school, it seems no art is safe. Renée’s brother, Attila, has been cursing those model fish since he first had to make them as part of his community service. So everyone thinks Attila is behind it when they disappear. But, grumpy teen though he is, Attila can do no wrong in Renée’s eyes, so she enlists Stephen’s help to catch the real criminal.

Review:

This was a really cute story. It takes place in Burlington, about an hour south of Toronto. I’ve never read a story set there, so that was really different for me.

I liked how the dog walking was so prominent in the story. It shows Stephen and Renee working and earning money, which will make them well rounded kids. We also see some of the challenges they face, when Stephen is reported to Animal Control.

Mistakes are a big part in this book. The chapters are divided between the mistakes that Stephen notices him and other people making throughout the day. Sometimes he realizes something was a mistake after it’s happened and it’s too late to change it. This story demonstrates that everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay.

This was a clever mystery. Many pieces of art disappear from the neighbourhood. There isn’t one obvious culprit, since there are multiple victims.

This is a great Canadian book for middle grade readers.

Bess’s Magical Garden


Title: Bess’s Magical Garden
Author: M.E. Hembroff
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s
Publisher: Friesen Press
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Release Date: October 21, 2015
Rating: 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bess’s mother moves them to Pineview, away from her best friend Megan, and she terribly misses her. Six months earlier, Bess’s father died in a car crash, and she’s also in the midst of recovering from the final stages of polio. She’s in a sad and lonely place. From the moment she and her mother settle into their new home, Bess hears whispering voices and encounters a ghostly figure in the well-kept garden and in her dreams. She can’t make sense of everything and so shares her observations with Megan by writing her regular letters. During the summer, she makes new friends, including an orange and white tomcat that she names Pumpkin, and her new neighbour Josie. With the help of Mrs. O’Toole, the woman who watches her, Bess continues to recover, both physically and emotionally. She becomes more and more curious about the garden and the unexplained clues that she finds there. In Bess’s Magical Garden, Bess discovers her own true strengths through enduring life’s struggles. She – with Josie and Megan’s help – also finds some hidden items in the garden, including a map, that leave the girls with more questions than answers. Who was the figure that visited Bess? Will Bess and her friends be able to uncover the garden’s secrets? Or will those secrets be mysteries forever?

Review:

This is a cute story. Bess has faced many challenges in her young life, but she takes it all in stride. She has polio, and during her recovery, her father was killed in a car accident. Despite all of this, she is still very innocent and finds simple joys in life.

I really liked the illustrations in this story. They are childlike, but also detailed and precise. They suit the story very well.

There were some inconsistencies in the timeline of the plot which confused me. Marie, who was the daughter of the original owners of Bess’s house, was childhood friends with Rae and Mae. Now, Rae and Mae are elderly women, which would mean that Marie would also be elderly. However, Mr. and Mrs. Snow were adults when Marie was a child, which would make them very old now, but they don’t appear to be because they are still working in their general store. If this timeline were cleared up, it would have made the story much more cohesive.

The story also had a creepy aspect to it, because Bess had dreams about Marie. This made me wonder about her sanity, but she appeared to be fine. Once she solved Marie’s mystery, Bess stopped dreaming about her. These dreams had the potential to make Bess into a creepy little girl, but she retained her innocence.

This is a cute, short book for young readers.

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast


Title: My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast
Author: Jerry Mahoney
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

It’s Halloween and Maddie wants to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Her stepbrother, Holden, decides he will be the Beast. But when his costume is too gruesome, their parents make him change into a suit and call himself a lawyer instead. Once they return from the Halloween party, Holden notices that their Beauty and the Beast story on his iPad has changed. The Beast still looks like a beast at the end, instead of the handsome prince that he is supposed to change into. They both enter the story, Maddie as Belle and Holden as a lawyer, to try to save the fairytale. 

This is a good story. Holden often points out the negative parts of the story, such as Belle having Stockholm syndrome and the Beast’s vanity. This shows young readers that you have to read everything critically, even beloved fairytales. 

This story is a cute adventure for middle grade readers.