tween

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

mystery, tween

Museum Mysteries: The Case of the Stolen Sculpture

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

tween

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

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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

tween

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

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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

fantasy, tween

Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions: Gorilla Tactics

Gorilla Tactics
Author: Sheila Grau
Illustrator: Joe Sutphin
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Fantasy / Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1371-2
Pages: 304
Price: $14.95

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Runt Higgins needs to know where he came from when he was dropped at Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions. He’s been cursed to die on his sixteenth birthday and needs to find out how to break the curse. One of his professors has been searching for the Great Library, and now Runt knows where he may find some answers. But Runt isn’t the only one who wants access to this mysterious place.

Dr. Critchlore is being threatened with a minion school takeover, so he devises a scheme to foil this dastardly plan. He decides to hold a fashion show, throwing the school into chaos for two weeks. At every attempt to do the right thing, Runt finds himself in trouble in his classes, with his classmates, and with his headmaster, as the clock continues to tick on the curse. Will Runt save the school and himself before time runs out?

Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions is similar to Hogwarts, but with monsters training to serve Evil Overlords instead of wizards learning to manage their powers. Ogres, giants, imps, and zombies, as well as other living and undead beings populate this unique university, where being evil is not only good – it’s expected. Runt and his friends are really cool characters with lots of personality, and kids will relate well to them. I absolutely loved this book, and I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

girls, tween

Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker

Cici Reno
Author: Kristina Springer
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Middle grade / Girls
ISBN: 978-1-4549-1751-9
Pages: 192
Price: $14.95

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Cici Reno is everyone’s go-to girl for advice. So when her best friend, Aggie, wants her crush, Drew, to notice her, Cici is right there to help. Since Aggie is shy in person, Cici suggests they attempt to chat with Drew, and Cici sets up an account.

Drew likes the girl he meets online, and soon Cici and Drew are chatting away. The plan is a huge success when Cici scores a date for Aggie. Only trouble is, Cici is starting to fall for Drew. Two best friends can’t go after the same guy, and besides, Drew doesn’t know he’s chatting with Cici. Is there any way this complicated triangle can sort itself out without someone getting hurt?

Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker is a humorous middle-grade retelling of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac, minus the big nose. Modern girls will love the chat sessions between Cici and Drew, and how Cici remains true to Aggie even when her feelings get too involved. I highly recommend this unique and enjoyable story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way

Mrs. Ravenbach's Way
Author: William M. Akers
Publisher: Regan Arts
Genre: Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-194139358-1
Pages: 240
Price: $18.99

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Mrs. Ravenbach teaches 4th grade at the KcKegway School for Clever and Gifted Children and she’s keen on receiving her fifth Golden Apple Award this year. But her newest pupil, Tobias Wilcox, is making this extremely difficult. In fact, his rebellious nature has her convinced that he will follow the path of one of her former students, Fast Eddie LeJeune, who she believes has been spending time in the penitentiary.

As the school year progresses, Mrs. Ravenbach is determined to fully control Tobias, eliminating any of the independent thinking he so fiercely clings to. Reading his private journal and bribing his best friend for information are considered necessary evils in order to accomplish her mission. But Tobias is onto her, and he has a plan to expose her evil teaching methods.

While Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way appears to be a subversive middle-grade novel, it reads more like an adult novel. Tobias plays only a small part in this classroom drama, and what little we do see of his thoughts is confined to his journal entries. We have only a few subtle hints that he is planning his revenge. Especially clever and gifted kids will find this story amusing, but I don’t know if the average middle-grade reader will be able to see past the adult main character to follow the plot to its satisfying conclusion.

Reviewer: Alice Berger