Bergers Book Reviews

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

Author’s website
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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

December 27, 2018 Posted by | sports, tween | Leave a comment

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

Author’s website
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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

May 29, 2018 Posted by | mystery, tween | Leave a comment

Notebook Doodles Amazing Me!

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

Buy it at Amazon

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

March 26, 2018 Posted by | art, tween | Leave a comment

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

March 13, 2018 Posted by | tween | Leave a comment

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

February 28, 2018 Posted by | tween | Leave a comment

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

Buy it at Amazon

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

November 18, 2016 Posted by | girls, sports, tween | Leave a comment

Camp Dork (Pack of Dorks)

Camp Dork
Author: Beth Vrabel
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-1-63450-181-1
Pages: 240
Price: $16.99

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Sheldon really wants to go to Camp Paleo for the summer, so he convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him. Lucy is excited to be spending time away at camp with Sam, until his plans suddenly change. Now she’s stuck eating caveman food and digging up fossils without him.

But if she thought Camp Paleo’s strict diet and strange activities hard to deal with, the sudden loss of her friends is even worse. April has changed and decides to hang out with Kira, and Amanda wants nothing to do with Lucy, while Sheldon is obsessed with the fossils. So what does Lucy try to do? Regain her pack, anyway she can. Even if it means creating imaginary romances that cause havoc in camp.

Camp Dork reaches middle grade kids exactly where they are, caught between close friendships and raging hormones. Girls will relate to Lucy’s predicament, while maybe wishing she handled things a wee bit better. This sequel to Pack of Dorks is a fun and engaging read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

October 31, 2016 Posted by | tween | Leave a comment

Museum Mysteries: The Case of the Stolen Sculpture

Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: Middle grade / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-4342-9690-0
Pages: 128
Price: $6.95

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Clementine Wim is devastated when the statue of Gudea turns up missing. Luckily for the Capitol City Art Museum, the insurance policy will reimburse them well for the statue. In fact, the reimbursement is so large it will pay for a new education wing that Dr. Carbony has been wishing for. But Dr. Carbony and the others seem a bit too happy about the insurance money.

Calling on her friends Raining, Wilson, and Amal, Clementine investigates what might have happened to the statue, and who last saw it before it disappeared. When the security camera footage fails to identify the thief, they try to reason out an alternative theory. And if they’re successful, they just might return the statue to its rightful place.

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives is part of the Museum Mysteries series. The story features a diversified cast of characters that bands together to solve mysteries. Children will enjoy hunting for the missing Gudea along with Clementine and her friends.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

September 6, 2016 Posted by | mystery, tween | Leave a comment

The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball

The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball
Author: Elizabeth Atkinson
Publisher: Islandport Press
Genre: Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-1-939017-71-0
Pages: 210
Price: $16.95

Author’s website
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Ruby LaRue and her best friend, Eleanor, find themselves with an unexpected free afternoon together. When they spy an announcement for free dream readings with Madame Magnifique, they jump at the opportunity. Both receive readings they are sure hold great promise for their dreams.

Acting on this newfound energy, they immediately jump into action, meeting as often as possible at a spot they dub Dream Central. They plot and plan and work hard, hoping to achieve what they most hope for. Along the way, they bump up against obstacles, but they keep persevering despite setbacks. Revealing any more details about Ruby and Eleanor’s actions would spoil the delightful unfolding of this magical adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these amazing girls and rooting for their success in reaching their dreams. Middle-grade girls will love The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 15, 2016 Posted by | tween | Leave a comment

Camp Rolling Hills (#1)

Camp Rolling Hills
Author: Stacy Davidowitz
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1885-4
Pages: 240
Price: $8.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

After a traumatic summer the prior year, Stephanie (aka Slimey) is happy to be back at Camp Rolling Hills with her best friends. But Bobby (aka Smelly) wishes he was at baseball camp instead. After his weird cabin mates welcome him with loud singing and bestow such a lousy nickname on him, he just wants to go home. But when he meets Slimey, his outlook changes.

Slimey and Smelly are both grieving something at home, and their shared problems bring them closer together. But it all goes haywire, as their respective cabins turn on each other in an all-out raid. And things get weird when one of Slimey’s cabin mates decides she also likes Smelly, confusing everyone.

Camp Rolling Hills is a zany portrait of sleep-away camp life. Although there are too many kids to keep track of, they’re all nice in their own quirky ways. Middle-graders will enjoy this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

June 30, 2016 Posted by | tween | Leave a comment