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


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


A Monster Like Me

Author: Wendy S. Swore
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-1-62972-555-0
Pages: 304
Price: $16.99

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Sophie believes she’s a monster because of the large hemangioma on her face. She’s also convinced there are other monsters all around her, based on the Big Book of Monsters that she carries with her everywhere. So when Harley-riding Kelsi starts dating her mom, she schemes to keep him away from her, knowing his monster secret.

Along with her new friend, Autumn, Sophie starts collecting items that she adds to a magic amulet. If only she can use it to make a wish on the night of a full moon, she’s sure she can turn herself back into a human. But what if the hemangioma goes away, and she hasn’t changed inside?

Just when it seems that Sophie’s behavior has gone completely wild, her world comes crashing down on her, and she needs to determine if she really is a monster after all. And when she makes an unexpected decision to use her amulet for someone else, she finally knows the answer in her heart.

A Monster Like Me is a fast-moving tale that will hold middle-grade readers spellbound. Kids will identify with Sophie’s questions about who she is, and how to make it in a world that can be cruel at times. But they’ll really love how she finds her humanity inside as she comes to accept herself at last. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Middle School Misfits: The Stained Glass Tree

Author: Leona Lugan
Illustrator: Kyle Merriman
Publisher: Boys Town Press
Genre: Middle grade
ISBN: 978-1-944882-35-8
Pages: 128
Price: $8.85

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Jilly is starting at a new school – again – and she’s understandably stressed. Her first moments there don’t go very well, and she has to face up to the consequences of her actions. But what she doesn’t understand is why some of her classmates have taken an immediate dislike to her.

Despite her rough start, Jilly finds a few friends, especially Anton, who feels like he’s also a misfit. She spends a lot of time with him, as she introduces him to her unusual family – a depressed mother, no father, and a little sister. Life at home is rocky, and she’s grateful that he doesn’t judge her or her family. And soon she realizes she can lean on him and his family when things are especially rough.

Middle School Misfits: The Stained Glass Tree gives middle graders the chance to look at Jilly’s actions and ask themselves how she’s handled the situations in her life. At the end of every chapter, questions are provided in thinking critically about what they’ve read, and there is also a space for notes. This is not only a well-written story with an engaging plot and very real characters, but it also provides a wonderful opportunity for classroom discussion. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger