tween

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

sports, tween

The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher


Author: Sean Jensen
Publisher: Broadstreet Publishing Group
Genre: Middle grade / Sports / Football
ISBN: 978-1-4245-4979-5
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99

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Just because an NFL player has made it to the pros, it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how he got there. In this unique biography, Sean Jensen captures some of the memorable moments of Brian Urlacher’s Middle School career.

This children’s story reads like a novel, as the timeline progresses through Urlacher’s Middle School years. Touching on basketball and football games, along with family and friendships, it shows us a snippet of this great linebacker’s life. Good sportsmanship and fair play is highlighted in a non-preachy manner.

The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher is part of a series of books sharing the Middle School years of sports figures. Chicago Bears fans will enjoy this look at Brian Urlacher’s Middle School career.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery, tween

The Mystery Beneath Midville Museum (Cedar Creek Mystery #3)


Author: Anne Loader McGee
Publisher: Vendera Publishing
Genre: Middle grade / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-936307-40-1
Pages: 156
Price: $9.99

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Mallory Gilmartin is troubled by some unusual events at the Midville Museum. But when she’s hired by one of her classmates to find out why her mother is being laid off from the museum, Mallory knows something fishy is going on. Who is the strange guard that keeps eyeing her suspiciously? What secret activity is happening in the basement? Does the moving ushabti statue have anything to do with it?

Mallory’s extrasensory perception will be called on when an unexpected visitor appears during the night. But how can she solve the mystery while also helping her visitor complete her journey?

The Mystery Beneath Midville Museum is the third book in the Cedar Creek Mystery series featuring Mallory Gilmartin and her friends and family. Mallory is well-known for her ability to pick up things others can’t see or hear. Although it might be nice to read these books in sequence, casual readers will have no trouble following this story without reading the first two books. I highly recommend this fun series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

art, tween

Notebook Doodles Amazing Me!


Author & Illustrator: Jess Volinski
Publisher: Design Originals
Genre: Art
ISBN: 978-1-4972-0339-6
Pages: 80
Price: $7.99

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It’s fun for kids to explore the things they enjoy, and what better way to do this than with art? In Amazing ME!, Jess Volinski guides kids through various activities designed to help them discover more about themselves. Worksheets ask them to fill in things like personality traits, family members, descriptions of their rooms, and things they find funny. Each of these sheets have ample space for doodling and artwork that goes along with the lists.

In addition to these black and white line drawings and spaces to fill in, Volinski includes information on how to create a pleasing palette using the color wheel. Sample colored designs provide inspiration for kids to create their own masterpieces, and several color wheel diagrams help them choose the right colors to create mood or harmony.

Volinski’s designs begin as beautiful artwork and are just waiting for kids to add their personal touch to bring them to life. I highly recommend these coloring books.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

Mustaches for Maddie


Authors: Chad Morris & Shelly Brown
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3
Pages: 256
Price: $16.99

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Maddie is so excited to be participating in the Shakespeare plays at her school. Although Cassie, the most popular girl in her class, wants the role of Juliet, Maddie secretly tries out, anyway. Suddenly Cassie is shunning her, just as Maddie finds out she has a brain tumor.

Mustaches make Maddie laugh, and she wears them whenever she wants to lighten the moment. Using her sense of humor, she tries to make sense of her diagnosis, while also befriending the lonely and trying to heal the hurting kids in her classroom. Rather than turning within, Maddie tries to brighten the lives of others, despite her own fears and concerns.

Mustaches for Maddie is one of the best middle-grade books I’ve ever read. Maddie is a wonderful girl that I couldn’t help but cheer for, and her actions often brought tears to my eyes. Please don’t skip the authors notes – they offer a final conclusion to this novel, which is based on a true story. I highly recommend this wonderfully uplifting book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners


Author: Natalie Rompella
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-1-5107-1771-8
Pages: 272
Price: $15.99

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Ana and Lily have been best friends since second grade. Cooking is their passion, and they’re looking forward to doing their middle school Explorations project together. But they never anticipated they’d be separated and forced to work with other partners.

Lily has always accepted Ana’s obsession with cleanliness, and her OCD hasn’t been a problem. But now Lily is friends with her new partner, and Ana is convinced no one else will accept her, quirks and all. Dasher, her new partner, wants to do their project with sled dogs, which forces Ana to face her compulsions and try to work with them. But what if Dasher finds out the truth about Ana’s OCD?

In Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners, kids will meet a girl who desperately wants to be normal, while dealing with unreasonable fears and the compulsions that go along with them. Ana is a really nice, likeable character that kids will naturally root for, as they watch her grow stronger through the trials she faces in completing her project. I highly recommend this feel-good story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

girls, sports, tween

Trish’s Team

Trish's Team
Author: Dawn Brotherton
Publisher: Blue Dragon Publishing
Genre: Middle-grade / Girls / Sports
ISBN: 978-1-939696-12-0
Pages: 128
Price: $5.99

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Trish loves to play softball, but her parents don’t seem to care about her interests. When an opportunity comes up for Trish to take her game to another level, she’s faced with a choice – play softball or continue with the orchestra. If the decision was left up to her parents, softball wouldn’t even be considered.

Taking matters into her own hands, Trish tries out for the Lady Tigers. But in the process of making her choice, she needs to be dishonest – something that even her new friend sees is wrong. Will Trish’s actions hurt her and the team?

Trish’s Team reinforces the fact that actions have consequences, as Trish discovers when the truth is finally revealed. But it also demonstrates that kids have opinions too, and good parents take time to listen, even if what their kids say makes them uncomfortable. Girls who love sports will relate to Trish’s dilemma and cheer for her to make the right choices.

Reviewer: Alice Berger