The Cloud Castle


Title: The Cloud Castle
Author: Thea Stilton
Genre: Children, Middle Grade
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Will Mystery calls the Thea Sisters for their help. There is a crack in the ceiling of the Hall of Seven Roses, which indicates trouble with the fairies. The girls and Will take a helicopter to Mount Everest to access the fairies in the clouds. Once they get there, they find Ariette, a weaver fairy, who is locked away in a tower. She has been sent there because the Queen thinks she caused their problems by telling the fairies about the real world below the clouds. The problem is that the weaver fairies, who create silver thread with their dreams, are no longer producing it. They need the silver thread to weave clouds everyday. The Thea Sisters and Will embark on a mission to clear Ariette’s name and discover the truth behind the missing silver thread. 

There were many aspects from World mythology in this story. For example, the elephant, Airavata, reminded me of Krishna from Indian mythology and the hundred handed giant is like the ones from Greek mythology. 

Multiple words on each page stand out by being illustrated. For example, words related to snow would have snow covering the tops of the letters and the word “rainbow” had a different colour for each letter. This makes these words stand out and would teach young readers what they mean. 

The mouse theme was present throughout the story. They would exclaim “Holey Cheese,” and at first I thought they spelled “holy” wrong. The same thing happened when they described something as “enormouse.” This was a clever way to incorporate the mouse theme into the story. 

This book was recommended to me by a ten-year-old because it’s her favourite book. I was surprised at how many times I laughed while reading it. I haven’t read any other books in the series but I still really enjoyed it. 

Two Times A Traitor

Title: Two Times a Traitor
Author: Karen Bass
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Lazare Berenger is very unhappy on his family vacation in Halifax. He still hasn’t forgiven his parents for moving from Ottawa to Boston while he was staying with his grandmother. He has big fights with his father too. After one of their big arguments, he runs into the ruins of a citadel, and falls into a tunnel, being knocked out. When he wakes up, he is taken as prisoner by sailors. At first he assumes it’s a camp his father has sent him to as punishment. But he soon learns that he has travelled back in time to 1745. The British assume he is a spy because he has a French name and a French accent. However, his French background also makes him a perfect spy for the British, so he can infiltrate their town without suspicion. Laz has to endure a lot on his time in the past until he can figure out how to return to 2017.

This is a great story. The historical aspects are really good for middle-grade students. Canadian history isn’t taught as much as it should be in school, so this story would be a great supplement for kids.

Though Canada’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year, this story demonstrates how Canada’s history goes far beyond 150 years.

The character of Laz is relateable to kids today because he sees things through modern eyes. For example, whenever something happens to him, he thinks of what he would text his best friend back home in 2017. This drifts off a little after he becomes more comfortable in 1745.

I wish we had seen the reunion of Laz and his parents at the end of the story. It would be interesting to see how Laz has changed in relation to his family. Also, I would have liked to see how his dad treats him after their many months apart.

This is a great story for middle grade readers!

The Ice Maiden’s Tale

Title: The Ice Maiden’s Tale
Author: Lisa Presoisi
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Casper and Johanna have to go stay with their neighbour, Mrs. Kinder, while their mother visits their father in the hospital. They are a little scared of her because she reminds them of the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Mrs. Kinder reads them a story from a mysterious book. She tells the stories of two men: Gabriel and Sebastian. Gabriel is a sculptor who sculpts a woman out of ice. Then he leaves her but he wishes she was alive. He embarks on a quest to bring her to life. Sebastian is a magician who uses his powers to kill people in his way. When he finds Gabriel’s ice maiden sculpture he also wants to bring it to life. Sebastian then goes on a quest to bring life to the ice maiden too.

This story reminds me of a fairytale. Casper and Johanna are similar to Hansel and Gretel since they go to the old woman’s house. They even have German names like in the tale. It also reminds me of the story of Pygmalion, who made a sculpture of a woman. When the Greek goddess Aphrodite saw how much he loved the sculpture, she brings her to life. This is like Gabriel’s story, since he sculpted the ice maiden and then wanted to bring her to life.

The dueling stories between Gabriel and Sebastian were a little confusing at times because they were so similar. They both involve magic and going on quests to bring the ice maiden to life so they could get mixed up.

I like the way this story brought a fairytale/folk tale into the modern world. Casper and Johanna were told the story, but the reader also gets to experience the stories of Gabriel and Sebastian.

I also like that the two main characters are a boy and a girl, so the book isn’t specifically aimed at one gender. However, they did follow gender stereotypes with Casper wanting to hear about dragons and Johanna wanting to hear a love story.

This is a good story with a unique premise.

Speed of Life

Title: Speed of Life
Author: Carol Weston
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Sofia Wolfe lives in New York with her father. Her mother died from a brain aneurysm a year ago. She goes to an all-girls private school. One day, Dear Kate goes to her school to do a presentation. Dear Kate is an advice columnist for Fifteen magazine, and Sofia’s best friend Kiki is obsessed with her. They sneak into the presentation for parents at night, which both girls convinced their parents to attend. Kiki hopes that her mother and Sofia’s father will start dating. As Sofia deals with confusing issues about growing up, and without a mother figure to speak to, she starts emailing Dear Kate her questions. When Sofia’s dad starts dating someone, she doesn’t want to hear about it, but she emails Dear Kate asking for advice. This all derails when she meets her father’s new girlfriend. Then Sofia not only has to think about the loss of her mother, but also her dad’s new girlfriend, his girlfriend’s teenage daughter, having her first boyfriend, and the possibility of moving and starting at a new school.

I couldn’t put down this book! I liked that the age level for it is between middle-grade and young adult. I don’t think there are enough books for this in between age, which is important to have. Sofia’s perspective is more middle-grade since she is just graduating from middle school and starting high school. However, she has to face many teenage issues when it comes with her dad’s girlfriend’s daughter.

This book also talked about many issues that teens face but may be afraid to ask. This comes out in the questions that Dear Kate is asked in her column. Girls, such as Sofia, feel more comfortable asking her questions through email, rather than speaking to someone in person about these awkward topics.

Sofia also mourns her mother and faces the possibility of her father remarrying, which is a real issue for many young girls. I like the way this story deals with these difficult parts of life in a positive way.

This is a great book for both young readers and parents alike!

Abracadabra

Title: Abracadabra
Author: Bevin Rolfs Spencer
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Mozart, Lucy, Estaban, and PJ are the Backyard Players. They put on plays in Mozart’s backyard for their neighbours. When they are looking for the props for their latest play, they find a magic wand with a note. They have five chances to use the wand, but they have to use the magic word. They guess that the magic word is “Abracadabra,” but when Esteban waves the wand, it turns PJ into a pig! They go to the magic shop where the wand is from to try to figure out how to turn PJ back into a boy before they have to perform their play that evening.

This is a really cute story. It’s great for middle grade readers! It’s funny because every time they think of a new magic word to use to try and change PJ back, they make it worse by giving him wings or a tail.

One thing that bothered me in the story is that the pictures didn’t always match up with what was happening in the story. For example, the words say that Esteban waves the wand, but in the picture that accompanies that chapter Mozart waves it. There were a few instances where this happened so it was confusing. This could also have been fixed in the final copy because I was reading a ARC.

This is a funny story, and I hope there are more to come!

Jelly Bean Summer

Title: Jelly Bean Summer
Author: Joyce Magnin
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Jabberwocky
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Joyce Anne is an eleven-year-old girl who shares a bedroom with her older sister Elaine and Elaine’s pet guinea pig, Jelly Bean. Her older brother is missing in the Vietnam War. Her missing brother causes a lot of tension in her house. Elaine constantly claims to see UFOs in the sky. One day, Joyce gets sick of hearing about her sister’s UFO sightings and she decides to move to the roof. She brings a tent up along with some books and binoculars to keep an eye on the neighbours. As she watches the other houses, she sees a teenage boy standing on another roof, also looking through binoculars. They write on papers and hold them up to each other to communicate. When Joyce goes over to meet the boy, Brian, she learns that his brother died in the war. His mother also died long ago so he just lives with his father. But his father doesn’t want to take care of him anymore. He thinks Brian would be better off living with his aunt in Arizona. Brian is currently working on a car so that he can drive it to Arizona, but he needs money to finish the job. Joyce has the idea to create a miniature UFO and sell tickets for people to see it. The problem is that Joyce will need her sister’s help to build it. Can they put aside their differences to help the cute boy from down the street?

I liked the way this story demonstrated the effects of the Vietnam war on the families of the soldiers. It changed the way that Brian’s family and Joyce’s family lived. It also gave Joyce and Brian something in common (both having brothers who fought in the war), despite their age difference.

I didn’t feel a strong connection with the characters. They all seemed a little one-dimensional, including Joyce who is the main character and the narrator. She has a one-track mind, and only focuses on helping Brian get his car working.

I also struggled with the title of the book. I don’t think it is descriptive of what actually happens. Jelly Bean, the guinea pig, is only a small part of the story. I think the title could have told more about the plot of the novel.

New Release: Lemons

Title: Lemons
Author: Melissa Savage
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Crown Books
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Lemonade Liberty Witt moves to Willow Creek, California to live with her grandfather after her mother dies. Willow Creek is known for one thing: Bigfoot sightings. As soon as she arrives, she meets Tobin Sky, a ten-year-old boy who created the company Bigfoot Detectives Inc. Tobin spends a lot of time with Lemonade’s grandfather, Charlie, and he runs his business out of Charlie’s garage. Various people who live in the town call Tobin to report Bigfoot sightings on their property. Mrs. Dickerson phones regularly with new evidence, and freshly baked cookies for the two kids. While Lemonade has to learn to cope with the loss of her mother, Tobin feels the space left by his father. His father was drafted into the Vietnam War five years earlier, but he still hasn’t returned. Lemonade and Tobin go on expeditions into the forest to try and get the coveted photo of Bigfoot.

I really enjoyed this story. It was quite funny when Tobin and Lemonade were searching for Bigfoot. Especially when Mrs. Dickerson kept calling them over for her suspected sightings, but she really just wanted to share her baking with them.

At first, I thought Lemonade was going to be in foster care in the story. It seems like that when her social worker drove her to live with Charlie. But it eventually became apparent that she was moving in with her grandfather because her mother passed away. I was glad it deviated from the cliche of the main character being in foster care. I have read so many books with that premise lately so I’m glad this one was different.

I wasn’t sure when the story was happening until quite a few pages into it. It was set in 1975, but it could have been happening now. I usually like this timeless quality, but it’s not good when there isn’t any indication of when the story is actually happening.

This is a cute and funny story, great for middle grade readers!