Christian, teen, tween

Believe in You: Big Sister Stories and Advice on Living Your Best Life


Authors: Christina Cimorelli , Katherine Cimorelli, Lisa Cimorelli, Amy Cimorelli, Lauren Cimorelli, Dani Cimorelli
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Christian / Teen
ISBN: 978-1-4002-1302-3
Pages: 192
Price: $18.99

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The Cimorelli sisters have received lots of mail from girls looking for advice on how to handle the ups and downs of their growing-up years. Since they can’t respond to each one directly, they decided the best way to reach everyone was to compile their collective wisdom in Believe in You.

The topics they cover are: your relationship with you, spirituality, friendship, dating, family, money, your future, and letters to our younger selves. In each chapter, the six sisters share their own unique perspectives on the subject being discussed. Chatting as big sisters, each encourage girls in how to live their best life.

Believe in You is perfect for any girl who wants a Christian “big sister” to look up to. Fans of Cimorelli will especially enjoy it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

My Life in the Fish Tank


Author: Barbara Dee
Publisher: Aladdin
Genre: Middle grade
ISBN: 978-1534432338
Pages: 320
Price: $17.99

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Zinny Manning couldn’t anticipate how her life would change when her brother, Gabriel, is involved in an automobile accident. Her family had always been normal, or at least as normal as it could be. But now Gabriel has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Her Mom has told her not to tell anyone, which means her best friends can’t know about it. And what about the Lunch Club that she’s recently been invited to? Keeping the secret feels wrong, but it’s the only thing she knows how to do. Thank goodness her favorite teacher allows her to work on the class project while she’s supposed to be at lunch, giving her a safe refuge. But is that really all she needs?

My Life in the Fish Tank is an honest but hopeful look at the family dynamics around a mental health diagnosis. Each of Zinny’s family cope in the only ways they can handle, and the family structure appears to be breaking down around them. But ultimately, Zinny and her family come to accept Gabriel’s condition and work with him to get better. Zinny is a likeable and real character, and I highly recommend this heart-warming middle-grade story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

history, tween

The Summer We Found the Baby


Author: Amy Hest
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Middle-grade / Historical fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6007-9
Pages: 192
Price: $16.99

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Eleven-year-old Julie Sweet and her six-year-old sister, Martha, are on the way to the dedication of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island. They have been spending the summer there along with their dad, and are looking forward to the big event. But when they discover a baby in a basket on the library steps, all thoughts of the celebration are gone.

Bruno Bel-Eli is on his way to catch a train to New York City when he sees Julie carrying the baby away from the library. Convinced she’s kidnapping it, he follows them.

Told from all three perspectives, this unusual summer day unfolds slowly, like peeling the layers of an onion. Each of the three main characters expresses their thoughts on the world around them in the midst of World War II, and what they’re feeling about the baby. There is a mystery surrounding her arrival at the library, and by the end of the story, the secret is revealed.

World War II has drifted from our collective memory, and this book shows us what life was like when our nation was in the midst of this war. Not knowing if loved ones would return – or tragically finding out they definitely wouldn’t – hangs in the background as we learn more about Belle Beach and its inhabitants. My only question is why the mother decided to place the baby in the basket on the library steps in the first place, since she reveals herself before the day is over. But otherwise, The Summer We Found the Baby is an interesting and enjoyable read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

fantasy, teen, tween

The Thorn Queen


Author: Elise Holland
Publisher: SparkPress
Genre: Fantasy / Young adult
ISBN: 978-1-943006-79-3
Pages: 256
Price: $16.95

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Meylyne has done something she’s not allowed to do in her world, and she is going to be punished for it. But before she accepts her fate, she visits the Well for advice. Surprisingly, she is encouraged to do something unexpected, which will force her to leave home. But the Well has provided her with a companion for her travels.

Her journey is not easy, and Meylyne meets some interesting characters along the way. Learning who to trust is a challenge, and she is suspicious of everyone. But as she grows stronger in her knowledge of what must be done to save the world that she knows and loves, her determination grows just as strong. And when she faces the final test, her life changes in more ways than she could ever imagine.

The Thorn Queen draws the reader in quickly, as they hope Meylyne can extricate herself from the difficult situation she finds herself in. And her perilous journey is a quick wild ride to its climax. I really enjoyed this book and I hope to see more from this very talented new author.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

cats, mystery, tween

Ra the Mighty: The Great Tomb Robbery


Author: A.B. Greenfield
Illustrator: Sarah Horne
Publisher: Holiday House
Genre: Middle grade / Mystery / Cats
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4240-9
Pages: 256
Price: $16.99

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Ra the Mighty has just successfully solved his last case, and now he’s settled back into his usual and very enjoyable pampering as Pharaoh’s Cat. When his friends Khepri (a dung beetle) and Miu (a kitchen cat) suggest they need a new mystery to solve, he’s not initially excited. But when Ra sees the damage done during a tomb robbery and suddenly finds himself stranded in a worker village, he realizes he must act quickly.

Working in teams, the friends split up, accompanied by a distant cousin of Miu. They tackle the evidence and determine who is the most likely suspect. But would a daring nighttime visit to the tombs be the most helpful investigation of all? Ra must use all his wits to stay alive and return to Pharaoh’s court.

Ra is quite the character, as he shares his thoughts on personal grooming – both his and Khepri’s. He’s also a reluctant sleuth, preferring to nap when others are searching for clues. But when it really matters, Ra is willing to rise to the occasion and save the day. The Great Tomb Robbery is a light-heated and enjoyable read for all ages.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

adventure, fantasy, tween

Time Tracers: The Stolen Summers


Authors: Annabeth Bondor-Stone & Connor White
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Fantasy / Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-0-06-267142-4
Pages: 256
Price: $16.99

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Taj can hardly wait for the bell to ring, signalling the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. He has a plan to make sure he and his friends have the best summer ever. So he’s in total shock when he wakes up the following morning and it’s the first day of school. How did he lose a whole summer? When he meets his friends that morning, they are in even worse shape than him, as they struggle to get a grip on what’s happened.

Soon, an unexpected encounter with a time tracer explains the problem. Their summers have all been stolen! Now it’s up to Taj, along with his team of Eon and Syd, to track down the summers and restore them before it’s to late. If they’re unsuccessful in their mission, it could mean doom for everyone he holds dear. But the evil person behind the thefts knows Taj is after them, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to stop him.

The Time Tracers is action-packed, and kids will eagerly keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. Gross bug-like creatures are splattered at every encounter, and there is chaos and destruction everywhere. This is a fun read for everyone, but boys will especially love Taj’s great adventure. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

acting, children, tween

Monologues for Kids and Tweens


Author: Mike Kimmel
Publisher: Ben Rose Creative Arts
Genre: Acting / Children / Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-0998151328
Pages: 150
Price: $14.99

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Practice makes perfect in the world of acting, so it’s no surprise that kids are always looking for good pieces to perform. Monologues for Kids and Tweens gives them some great new material to work with.

Kids think and speak differently from adults, and these monologues are written with that concept in mind. But young actors are also encouraged to personalize the monologues if they want, to make them truly their own. Most of the monologues are designed to be around one minute long, although some could run two to three minutes. They contain humor and drama, as well as some really good advice for kids. All contain positive messages, and there is no inappropriate humor or vulgarity.

Monologues for Kids and Tweens would be perfect for young actors looking to improve their skills. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

Maybe He Just Likes You


Author: Barbara Dee
Publisher: Aladdin
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-1534432376
Pages: 304
Price: $17.99

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Mila is surprised when some boys join her and her friends in a birthday hug. But when one of the hugs goes on far too long, she’s embarrassed and uncomfortable. Soon after, different boys touch her or want hugs, making her feel weird. She doesn’t think any of them actually like her, and they don’t seem to be flirting. Why are they doing this to her?

When Mila attempts to tell her friends, they don’t seem concerned. One even accuses her of making up their attention. So she stifles her feelings and hopes the boys will stop. When she’s given the unexpected opportunity to take karate classes, she learns how to speak up for herself. And when one of the boys misbehaves in a public setting, she finally speaks up in a way that everyone has to take notice. Finally, the school recognizes what’s been going on, and Mila is able to have peace, at last.

After all the abuse Mila has been through, the reader might feel that she’s ready for the boys to be strictly punished. But when she’s asked to meet with everyone involved, in a group session, she hesitantly accepts. There, she is able to express to the boys how much their actions hurt her. Healing and understanding follow, as everyone sees how this behavior affected her.

Maybe He Just Likes You sends a powerful message to kids that bullying takes many forms, and no one needs to put up with it. Speaking up might feel awkward or uncomfortable at the time, but they need to do it to protect themselves. This book also reminds girls that their bodies are their own, and no one has a right to touch them unless they’re okay with it. I highly recommend this book for all middle grade kids, and I encourage teachers to include it in their curriculum. This is a message that needs to be heard.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, humor, tween

Squirrel in the Museum


Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Illustrator: Steve Björkman
Publisher: Holiday House
Genre: Middle grade
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4167-9
Pages: 112
Price: $15.99

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Twitch, the squirrel, has heard stories about wolves who eat squirrels. Twitch doesn’t want to be eaten, but he has no idea what a wolf is. So when the students are going to the museum, he decides to tag along and see if he can learn about wolves.

No one expects to see a squirrel in a museum, so the staff are understandably upset, especially when the squirrel becomes a disruption to the exhibits and proves difficult to catch. But when it appears that Twitch might meet a fate worse than wolves, an unexpected hero comes to his defense.

Squirrel in the Museum is a madcap adventure to the museum through the eyes of a squirrel. Fast-paced, zany action will delight young readers who will enjoy reading about Twitch’s escapades.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

history, tween

So You Want to be a Viking?


Author: Georgia Amson-Bradshaw
Inspired by the book Viking by John Haywood
Illustrator: Takayo Akiyama
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Middle Grade / History
ISBN: 978-0-500-65184-1
Pages: 96
Price: 14.95

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If you’ve dreamed of sailing the northern seas of Europe, plundering the local villages, and wearing a cool horned helmet, the Viking life might be for you. But are you sure you really want to be a Viking? This handy illustrated guide shows kids exactly what’s involved in this nomadic warrior life.

Kate, Eddie, and Angus are in the library checking out a book on Viking sagas. Soon they are transported back in time to 991, and are advised by Sigurd the Skald, who explains what they can expect if they really want to be Vikings. First they’ll need to choose a leader, pick out their weapons, and shop for their gear. The various kinds of boats, sailing techniques, and shipwreck survival are important things to know if they want to travel by boat. But if land is more their choice, other options are presented. But the most important (and fun) part of any kind of Viking campaign is plunder, and the proper methods of ensuring the best and most booty are provided.

Viking life comes alive in this tongue-in-cheek look at how to be a Viking. I found it highly entertaining, and it will be a big hit with kids – especially boys – who will enjoy the gruesome humor. (Spoiler alert: yes, there are cartoon flying body parts.)  I highly recommend So You Want to be a Viking?

Reviewer: Alice Berger