Review: Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code

Title: Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code
Author: Corinne Purtill, Marina Muun (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Nonfiction
Publisher: Rebel Girls
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the exciting adventures of Ada Lovelace: one of the world’s first computer programmers.

Growing up in nineteenth century London, England, Ada is curious about absolutely everything. She is obsessed with machines and with creatures that fly. She even designs her own flying laboratory!

According to her mother, Ada is a bit too wild, so she encourages Ada to study math. At first Ada thinks: Bleh! Who can get excited about a subject without pictures? But she soon falls in love with it. One day she encounters a mysterious machine, and from that moment forward Ada imagines a future full of possibility—one that will eventually inspire the digital age nearly two hundred years later.

Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code is the story of a pioneer in the computer sciences, and a testament to women’s invaluable contributions to STEM throughout history.

Includes additional text on Ada Lovelace’s lasting legacy, as well as educational activities designed to teach simple coding and mathematical concepts.

Review:

What to read next:

Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest by Rebel Girls

Other books in the series:

Have you read Doctor Who: Origins? What did you think of it?

Review: Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business

Title: Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business
Author: Denene Millner, Salini Perera (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Nonfiction
Publisher: Rebel Girls
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker: America’s first female self-made millionaire.

Sarah is the first person in her family who wasn’t born into slavery in Delta, Louisiana. But being free doesn’t mean that Sarah doesn’t have to work. She cooks, she cleans, she picks cotton, she does laundry, and she babysits. And when she works, she wraps up her hair.

One day, Sarah’s hair starts to fall out! It’s itchy, crunchy, patchy, and won’t grow. Instead of giving up, Sarah searches for the right products. And then she invents something better than any shampoo or hair oil she’s used before. Her hair grows and grows! That’s when she decides to rebrand herself as “Madam C.J. Walker,” and begins her business empire.

Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business is the story of a leader in the hair care industry, but it’s also an inspiring tale about the importance of empowering women to become economically independent.

Includes additional text on Madam C.J. Walker’s lasting legacy, as well as educational activities designed to teach entrepreneurship.

Review:

Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was an entrepreneur in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who created hair care products for Black women. She is considered the first female self-made millionaire. After dealing with hair loss and dandruff, she was introduced to products that could grow her hair. When those products made her hair grow, she developed her own formula to help women across America. Madam C.J. Walker was an inspiring woman. 

I love the Rebel Girls books about women who have accomplished incredible achievements, so I was excited to try their new chapter books about specific inspiring women. Madam C.J. Walker is a huge inspiration considering she created products for Black women during a time when Black people were fighting for civil rights in America. She was turned away from the powerful Black and white men who she approached for help, so she had to achieve it all on her own. 

I can remember learning about Madam C.J. Walker in school, but I didn’t know the extent of all that she achieved throughout her lifetime. It’s quite inspiring so see someone who overcame every obstacle and became a success. I highly recommend this beautifully illustrated book!

Thank you Rebel Girls for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code by Corinne Purtill, Marina Muun (illustrator)

Other books in the series:

  • Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest
  • Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code
  • Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains
  • Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage

Have you read Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business? What did you think of it?

Review: The Dead Man in the Garden (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #3)

Title: The Dead Man in the Garden (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #3)
Author: Marthe Jocelyn, Isabelle Follath (illustrations)
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, a spa stay becomes a lot more thrilling when TWO dead bodies are found in this third book in the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, inspired by the life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot.

Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is ready to enjoy an invigorating trip to a Yorkshire spa, where her widowed mother can take the waters and recover from a long mourning period. Having solved yet another murder and faced extreme peril with her best friend Hector over Christmas, Aggie’s Morbid Preoccupation is on alert when rumors abound about the spa’s recently deceased former patient . . . and then another body appears under mysterious circumstances. Together with Grannie Jane, and often in the company of George, a young patient at the spa, Aggie and Hector take a closer look at the guests and staff of the Wellspring Hotel, and venture into the intriguing world of the local undertaker. Has there been a murder–or even two? As Aggie and Hector ignite their deductive skills, their restful trip takes a sudden, dangerous turn.

Review:

Aggie Morton goes on a trip to a spa in Yorkshire with her recently widowed mother, grandmother, and friend Hector Perot so that her mother can recover from her mourning period. When they arrive, Aggie and Hector learn that a woman who was staying there died the previous week. As they start investigating that death, another client of the spa dies under mysterious circumstances. Aggie and Hector join together with their new friend George to investigate these deaths and figure out what is going on at the spa. 

This was another great Aggie Morton mystery! Aggie Morton is like a young Agatha Christie. Her friend, Hector, is similar to Christie’s character Hercule Poirot, and Aggie’s grandmother is like the Christie character Miss Marple. I love seeing these nods to her classic characters. 

This mystery kept me guessing until the end. The answer was right there the whole time, but it was someone who I didn’t suspect. I’m always pleased when the solution to a mystery surprises me. 

The Dead Man in the Garden is a great middle grade mystery! 

Thank you Tundra Books for providing me with a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Seaside Corpse by Marthe Jocelyn, Isabelle Follath (illustrations)

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Dead Man in the Garden? What did you think of it?

Review: Cold-Blooded Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #3)

Title: Cold-Blooded Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #3)
Author: Elizabeth C. Bunce
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Myrtle Hardcastle—twelve-year-old Young Lady of Quality and Victorian amateur detective—is back on the case, solving a string of bizarre murders in her hometown of Swinburne and picking up right where she left off in Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle

When the proprietor of Leighton’s Mercantile is found dead on the morning his annual Christmas shop display is to be unveiled, it’s clear a killer had revenge in mind. But who would want to kill the local dry-goods merchant? Perhaps someone who remembers the mysterious scandal that destroyed his career as a professor and archaeologist. When the killer strikes again, each time manipulating the figures in the display to foretell the crime, Myrtle finds herself racing to uncover the long-buried facts of a cold case—and the motivations of a modern murderer.

Review:

When the owner of Leighton’s Mercantile is found dead on the morning that their Christmas display is unveiled, Myrtle Hardcastle is on the case. She finds a photo of Professor Leighton with her mother near his body, so she assumes there is some connection between them. Leighton had been a professor when Myrtle’s mother was in school, but after a student went missing, his career was destroyed. Soon after, another person connected with Leighton is murdered, pointing to Myrtle’s mother’s old group of friends. Myrtle must race to find the killer before everyone involved is dead. 

This was a great whodunnit mystery! Though Myrtle is a young girl, almost all of the other characters are adults, so this series would appeal to adults as well as young readers. The mystery in this story was complex and went back generations. There were some great twists at the end, which made it hard for me to guess the killer. The story was quite fast-paced too, so I had to keep reading it.

Cold-Blooded Myrtle is a great middle grade mystery!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son and Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a copy of this book!

What to read next:

In Myrtle Peril by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer

Other books in the series:

Have you read Cold-Blooded Myrtle? What did you think of it?

Review: The Last Hope in Hopetown

Title: The Last Hope in Hopetown
Author: Maria Tureaud
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal, LGBT
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Audiobook
Release Date: October 4, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A debut novel about one girl’s dilemma over the decision to save her vampire parents or do what’s right for the greater good.

Twelve-year-old human Sophie Dawes lives a good life in Hopetown. There, vampires and humans live in harmony and Sophie and her adoptive vampire moms are living (or unliving) proof. There are a lot of rules that vampires must follow to keep the humans they live around feeling safe, but if regular visits from child protective services and abiding by a nightly curfew keeps their family together, Sophie will do anything to stay with her loving vampire parents. But then, normal, law-abiding vampires begin to go rogue.

After Sophie’s own mother— the sweetest person she knows— goes rogue, Sophie decides it’s up to her to find a cure. But taking matters into her own hands might be way more than she bargained for if it means braving a secret council of vampires, executing epic heists, and facing the true bad guys head on. With her best friend by her side, Sophie will fight for hope, freedom and a family bonded by a love that’s thicker than blood.

Review:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Dawes lives in Hopetown with her adoptive vampire moms. Vampires have to follow a lot of rules to keep the humans safe in their town. When one law-abiding vampire goes rogue, the entire community is put on alert. No one knows what’s causing the vampires to turn on humans like that. Then, one of Sophie’s moms goes rogue, almost killing Sophie and her other mom. Sophie is joined by her best friend Delphine, a three-hundred-year-old vampire in a twelve-year-old’s body, and they hunt for the cure before Sophie’s mom goes out of control. 

This was such a fun vampire story. The characters were so original. I loved Sophie’s moms, who were called Mama and The Duke. They were quite original and had fun stories from their long lives. Delphine was also a fun character since she had lived a long life but looked so young. She hated technology, so she wasn’t a typical twelve-year-old. 

I really enjoyed the audiobook version of this story. The story was clear and concise with lots of action. It was also fast paced, so it held my attention the whole time. 

The Last Hope in Hopetown is a great middle grade vampire story!

Thank you Dreamscape Media for providing me with a copy of this book.

What to read next:

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Have you read The Last Hope in Hopetown? What did you think of it?

Review: The Burglar’s Ball (Jane Austen Investigates #2)

Title: The Burglar’s Ball (Jane Austen Investigates #2)
Author: Julia Golding
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 22, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Nancy Drew. Enola Holmes. Sally Lockhart. Move over girls, it’s Jane’s time!

Join young budding detective Jane Austen in her second investigation to uncover a devious diamond thief at the glitziest, most scandalous ball of the year! Inspired by Sense and Sensibility.

*
‘No one who had ever seen Jane Austen in her infancy would suppose her to be born to solve crimes. From her early love of sugar plums, and cleverness in hiding her expeditions into the pantry, her mother declared her far more likely to commit them. However, as Jane would counter, there was no better person to identify the culprit than the thief turned thief-catcher.’

When the headmistress invites her past favourite pupil to attend their end of term ball, Cassandra brings her younger sister, Jane, along too. Cassandra plunges into the feverish excitement of preparing for the biggest event of the year – the dresses, the dances and the boys expected from the neighbouring school.

Feeling rather excluded, sharp-witted Jane unearths the reason for the fuss – the headteacher wants to impress a rich family returned from India as the school is at risk of going bankrupt. Jane also befriends the dancing master’s assistant, a former slave, called Brandon, who is as quick to notice things as she. At the ball, a diamond necklace is stolen from a locked room and they are propelled into a race to uncover the burglar and save Brandon from gaol.

With the ever-present Austen spirit, Jane with notebook in hand, boldly overcomes the obstacles to finding the truth.

Review:

When the headmistress from their former school asks Cassandra Austen to attend their end of term hall, she brings her sister Jane along with her. They are excited to attend a fun event filled with dancing and fancy dresses. Jane befriends Brandon, the dance instructor’s assistant and a former slave. However, when a diamond necklace is stolen, Brandon is the first suspect. Jane is determined to prove Brandon’s innocence before he’s sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. 

The Jane Austen Investigates is a fun series because it reimagines a young Jane Austen as a detective. Jane encounters people who will later inspire her own novels. In this book, she meets Elinor and Marianne, among others, who will inspire her characters in Sense and Sensibility. 

Prejudice was an important part of this story too. Jane noticed right away that Brandon was being accused of the theft because he was Black. I don’t know how historically accurate it was for someone in Jane’s position to be able to defend someone against this kind of prejudice, but I’d like to imagine she would have done that in her real life. 

The Burglar’s Ball is a great Jane Austen Investigates mystery. 

Thank you Lion Hudson for proving a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

The Tigers in the Tower by Julia Golding

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Burglar’s Ball? What did you think of it?

Review: 1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War (Graveyard Girls #1)

Title: 1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War (Graveyard Girls #1)
Author: Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror, Paranormal
Publisher: Union Square Kids
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Whisper, Frannie, Sophie, Gemma, and Zuzu, five friends who tell eerie tales by night and navigate middle school drama by day.
 
MISERY FALLS, OREGON, IS ABUZZ AS the 100th anniversary of the electrocution of the town’s most infamous killer, Silas Hoke, approaches. When a mysterious text message leads the girls to the cemetery—where Silas Hoke is buried!—life can’t get any creepier. Except, yes, it can thanks to the surprise storyteller who meets them at the cemetery, inspires the first-ever meeting of the Graveyard Girls, and sets the stage for a terrifying tale from Whisper that they’ll never forget.
 
This slightly scary, extremely addictive story is the first in a five-book series by New York Timesbestselling authors Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus.

Review:

Whisper, Frankie, Sophie, and Gemma are best friends who have a club where they tell each other scary stories. Their small town of Misery Falls, Oregon is having a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the electrocution of their most infamous serial killer, Silas Hoke. Just as the celebration week is about to begin, all of the girls get a mystery text, inviting them to the cemetery where Silas is buried. This sets them off on a scary adventure to find out of Silas has come back to haunt the town. 

This was a fun introduction to a new middle grade horror series. The friends were distinct and had their own subplots as well as the main plot. Many of them had problems with their families and issues at school. One of the big problems I noticed throughout the book was adults not listening to the children. I think that would be relatable because that’s a common feeling as a preteen or teen. 

The friends in this story made up their own scary stories to share with the group. There was one full short story in this book which was about technology addiction in kids. It was creepy and exaggerated, but definitely relevant with how much everyone is addicted to technology these days. 

1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War is a fun and creepy story!

Thank you Union Square Kids for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Hush-A-Bye by Jody Lee Mott

    Have you read 1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War? What did you think of it?

    Review: The Gingerbread Witch

    Title: The Gingerbread Witch
    Author: Alexandra Overy
    Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
    Publisher: Inkyard Press
    Source: Publisher via NetGalley
    Format: Ebook
    Release Date: September 13, 2022
    Rating: ★★★★★

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    Goodreads Synopsis:

    Maud has grown up in a house made of gingerbread, wanting nothing more than to be a witch like Mother Agatha. But just like all of Agatha’s creations—from the magical house made of sweets to the chocolate mousse squirrel, right down to the little sugar mice—Maud will turn back into gingerbread if anything ever happens to Agatha. After a terrible fight, Maud storms off only to return home to learn that Hansel and Gretel, a pair of witch hunters, have pushed Agatha into the cottage’s oven.

    To save herself and the other gingerbread creations, Maud will have to go into the dangerous forest of the Shadelands to find the First Witch’s spellbook. But with witch hunters on her trail and other people interested in the book for their own means, it’ll be far from easy. Can Maud claim the book and bring back the only mother she’s ever known…or will witch hunters capture her before she can save her gingerbread family?

    Review:

    Maud is a girl who was made out of gingerbread by her witch mother Agatha. If anything ever happens to Agatha, her creations will turn back into gingerbread, including the chocolate mousse squirrel and the sugar mice. After Agatha and Maud have a fight, Maud storms off into the forest. When she returns, she finds witch hunters in their home, standing over Agatha’s ashes. Maud runs away before they can catch her too, and she learns that the First Witch’s spell book has a spell that can bring Agatha back to life. To find the spell book, Maud has avoid the witch hunters and other dangers lurking nearby. 

    I loved the fairytale elements of this story. Maud, her animal friends, and her home were all made of gingerbread or sweets. She encountered witch hunters named Hansel and Gretel. There were also some twists along the way that really surprised me. 

    One of the major themes of this story was good versus evil. Maud believed that all witches were good, because her mom was a witch. She believed that all witch hunters were evil because they killed her mom. Meanwhile, the witch hunters thought they were on the side of good because they hunted witches who killed children. These lines between good and evil became blurred when Maud got to know the witch hunters. Not all witches were good, and not all witch hunters were bad. 

    The Gingerbread Witch is a great middle grade story!

    Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book.

    What to read next:

    The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

    A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

    Have you read The Gingerbread Witch? What did you think of it?

    Sponsored Review: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball

    Title: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball
    Author: S.P. O’Farrell
    Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery
    Publisher: Brandylane Publishers, Inc.
    Source: Author
    Format: Paperback
    Release Date: May 13, 2019
    Rating: ★★★★★

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    Goodreads Synopsis:

    Simone LaFray had never questioned one thing – the character of her father. A fourth generation chocolatier and proprietor of a world famous patisserie, in her eyes he could do no wrong. However, her eyes were trained to see everything that was wrong. A covert agent with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this extraordinary 12-year-old was living a double life, walking in the veiled footprints of her mother, icing eclairs, dusting pastries, and darting between the shadows. What could be sweeter? When a notorious thief returns to Paris seeking revenge against her mother, a series of unforeseen and potentially devastating events ensue, leaving Simone to question everything. Her father can’t be the man they say he is, can he? Her concealed life is evaporating, the store hangs in the balance . . . and did I mention she needs a ball gown? Life in a French patisserie may not be as sweet as you thought. Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier’s Ball pulls the invisible girl out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but is she ready?

    Review:

    Simone LaFray is a twelve-year-old spy from a family of chocolatiers. She works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where her mother also works as an agent, while her father runs a chocolate patisserie. When an art thief returns to Paris to seek revenge on her mother, Simone takes charge of the investigation. The hunt for the thief leads her through art galleries and ultimately to the chocolatiers’ ball, where her father’s reputation is on the line. 

    I was instantly drawn into this story with the evocative descriptions. Paris is a vibrant setting for a novel, and it felt like I was there while reading this book. The descriptions of the chocolate and sweet treats made my mouth water!

    There were many layers to the mystery in this story. Simone had to investigate a notorious art thief, who had a rebellious reputation similar to Banksy. The mystery came close to home when Simone’s family was targeted by a thief. In the final chapters of the novel, I could tell that this was just the beginning of a larger mystery that would be continued in more stories. 

    Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball was a fun middle grade mystery novel!

    Thank you S.P. O’Farrell and Bookstagrammers.com for sending me a copy of this book!

    What to read next:

    Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London by S.P. O’Farrell

    Other books in the series:

    • Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London

    Have you read Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball? What did you think of it?

    Review: The Elephant Girl

    Title: The Elephant Girl
    Author: James Patterson, Ellen Banda-Aaku, Sophia Krevoy
    Genre: Middle Grade
    Publisher: jimmy patterson
    Source: Publisher
    Format: Hardcover
    Release Date: July 25, 2022
    Rating: ★★★★

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    Goodreads Synopsis:

    James Patterson and award-winning author Ellen Banda-Aaku deliver an unforgettable story of a girl, an elephant, and their life-changing friendship. 
     
    Clever, sensitive Jama likes elephants better than people. While her classmates gossip—especially about the new boy, Leku—twelve-year-old Jama takes refuge at the watering hole outside her village. There she befriends a baby elephant she names Mbegu, Swahili for seed. 
     
    When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mgebu are blamed for two deaths—one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline.    
     
    Inspired by true events, The Elephant Girl is a moving exploration of the bonds between creatures and the power of belonging.  

    Review:

    Twelve-year-old Jama likes to spend time with elephants more than her classmates. She escapes to a watering hole after school, where she’s befriended a herd of elephants. She names the baby elephant Mbegu and becomes close friends with her. When Mbegu’s mother is killed for killing a human, Jama feels like she must defend the innocent elephants. Jama blames a ranger who pays off poachers, who angered the elephants by killing one of their own. Jama has to find a way to protect the elephants and save them from the people who are meant to protect them. 

    This was an emotional story. Jama went through so much trauma in her young life. She was a bit of an outsider, which made her bond with the elephants. She witnessed animal abuse and death. It was quite difficult to read these scenes. However, this does happen, so it was an authentic representation of harm that can come to animals. 

    The Elephant Girl was an emotional story with an uplifting ending. 

    Thank you Little Brown Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of this book.

    What to read next:

    Berani by Michelle Kadarusman

      Have you read The Elephant Girl? What did you think of it?