Furthermore – Review by Marcella

Marcella is enthusiastic about everything, whether it’s books, history, connecting books and history, or just chatting with her friends in the hall. Her joy is contagious and her energy boosts my sleepy morning class. Here’s what she has to say about a great book called Furthermore.

Furthermore, the first book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, is a twist on the classic Alice in Wonderland. Alice Queensmeadow, the main character, is albino, but lives in Fenwood, a world full of color and magic. With her bland, pale hair and milk-white skin, she is an outcast, even more so because her father, a respected member of the society and the only one who listened to what she had to say, is missing. 

The Surrender, a competition where 12-year-olds compete with their magic talents and the winner takes it all, is coming up, but Alice doesn’t know what her magical talent is. She feels that the only one who can help her is her father, and she knows in her gut that he’s still alive. Along with her frenemy neighbor, Oliver Newbanks, who won the Surrender last year with his ability to control minds, Alice goes on a journey to find her father and herself in the twisted world of Furthermore. She and Oliver must survive using their wits, courage, and determination, testing their friendship, all while keeping a dark secret from each other.

This book is very well written, filled with action, drama, and humor. Tahereh Mafi opens up the new world of Furthermore full of differences and similarities to Alice as she travels through space and time, but also to the reader, who understands that this society is not all that different from our own. As Alice and Oliver explore this new world with the readers, meeting new characters who confuse and excite. Recommended to anyone who likes fantasy books filled with color, both literally and figuratively, this book is a great read.

The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After – Review by Rebecca

Rebecca smiles so much, which is magnificent for a middle schooler (tough years!). She is positive, smart, funny, and kind. If Rebecca enrolled in a school for good and evil, she would be on the good side! Enjoy her review.

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In The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After, Sophie and Agatha are in their own respective happily ever afters. But the Storian hasn’t stopped their story. Then are they really happy? And which side will prevail? Good or Evil? Those are the thoughts the book left me with after reading only a few chapters. This book was able to make me love a character one page, and hate them the next. 

While reading this book there are some safety precautions I would like to tell you, dearest Reader. This book will make you go through a roller coaster of emotions that you didn’t know you signed up for, make you fall in love with a character with just TWO WORDS, and wonder what went wrong with your favorite character.  All of this happened within one book. Although this book may be categorized under fantasy, I believe it created a genre of its own. Terms like Good and Evil are used but their meanings disappear. Is Evil always bad? Will Good always win? I believe this book, no not this book, but the whole series will leave you with loving for both Evil and Good. 

Fish in a Tree – Review by Valerie

 Valerie bursts with enthusiasm, especially when it’s about books. When we are reading in class or discussing a story or chapters read at home the night before, Valerie thrills at the chance to share her ideas and insights. She notices aspects of stories that most kids miss, and shares beautifully during conversation and in writing. She’s reviewing a book that really connects with thoughtful middle schoolers, and one which my own kids loved very much.

Ally is different. She has known this her whole life. What she doesn’t know is why she is different. Why she says things different from what she thinks. Why her handwriting is so bad. Why she struggles to read and write while the rest of her sixth grade class does it with ease. Ally feels alone, with no friends in a world that just won’t understand her, but then she meets her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, and new friends Keisha and Albert. Ally has lived her whole life thinking she was stupid, until Mr. Daniels tells her something that will change her life, and the way she sees herself.

I think this is a great book because it teaches kids that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or weird. It also has a large set of characters, each of whom face their own struggles and have a unique personality. This book will make you laugh and cry, and it shows how great minds don’t always think alike. If you like books like Rules, Wonder, and One For The Murphys, then you will love this realistic fiction book by Linda Mullay Hunt. My favorite character is Albert, and one of my favorite parts is when all the kids bring a bag to school with something that represents them, because it always makes me laugh, and we learn about the characters. I give this book two thumbs up!

Among the Hidden – Review by Emily

Emily is the first up for a student book review this year. She is in my biggest class with 31 kids packed into a sunny classroom full of excited students, but her smile lights up the space even more. She is smart, a great reader, and willing to engage with interesting books, like the one she has chose to read and write about on her own!

One day, Luke’s family decides to sell the farm to the Government. Luke is forbidden to see the outside world forever.

He then discovers a secret that he must tell no one–he has finally met another one of his kind, a special girl named Jen. This flips his entire world upside down. The special girl is more than ever determined to find a way around the Law, more than Luke could ever imagine.

In this suspense filled, heart warming story, Luke realizes the true power of friendship and determination. 

This book is a must-read because it is filled with suspense and heart-melting details. When I read it, it pulled me right in and I curled up into a ball with the cliff hanging moments. Loved it!

A Wrinkle in Time – Review by Moriah

Moriah is thoughtful, mature, and really smart. It makes sense that she would enjoy this complex, thought-provoking novel that speaks to imaginative readers. She is not only in my class but also part of our school’s creative writing club. Glad the group was encouraged to write reviews for the blog!

 

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, is a story about a girl in middle school named 9781250003430_p0_v5_s550x406Meg Murry, whose father has mysteriously gone missing for years. This has huge negative effects on her; she drops to the lowest class in her grade, she becomes closed off to others, gets into fights, and everyone just makes fun of her and shrugs her off. Things luckily take a slightly positive turn when she meets the three celestial entities, the wacky Ms. Whatsit, the intellectual Ms.Who, and the wise Ms. Which. They then lead her on an intergalactic journey through a the tesseract.

 

On this journey they travel through many different worlds and dimensions, until finally reaching Camazotz and coming face-to-face with IT-the manifestation of pure evil.

 

In this moment and throughout the whole of the journey, we see a little girl growing up and becoming stronger in the midst of the battle between dark and light. IT corrupts everything, and IT’s power is inevitable; which is why someone must stop it. But the darkness is beckoning, and light can only do so much unless someone finds the power to fight back. This is a great story that I would recommend for everyone (there is one kiss near the end but that’s about it).

 

A Wrinkle in Time is a beautiful story about the universe and the power inside each and every one of us. It brings literal tears to my eyes when I think about the theme of this dazzling story, and it’s my favorite book. What’s more, it’s deals with so many complex concepts, like good and evil, the universe, the extent of the mind and soul’s power, and so many other spiritual concepts.

 

In the face of darkness you see death and misery, and it never stops coming, never stops trying to destroy all light in the universe. There’s no stopping it no matter what, and one day, it will claim everything. Yet, in each of us, light and love can grow, and that’s all it takes to destroy evil.
While this story might seem like a great work of fiction, IT really exists; and it can take away everything. Just know all of us can do something to help stop it.

The Toymaker’s Apprentice – Review by Noelle

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Noelle loves to share ideas, and not just about favorite books. We do a daily biography in class as an opportunity to feature scientists, artists, politicians, and more – any person someone thinks is worth knowing about. Students are invited to share their favorite people, and Noelle has shared plenty. I’m so glad this sweet, smart young lady has decided to a review to bring her book knowledge to you!

0The Toymaker’s Apprentice is about a boy named Stefan Drosselmeyer, who’s cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer (the godfather in the Nutcracker), intertwines him in a family fight against the Queen of Mice and the King of Boldavia, who are fighting each other and have both sworn to get revenge on Christian. Because of Christian, the mice of Boldavia have started a war with Boldavia, biting the princess and turning her into an ugly manikin. The Toymaker’s Apprentice focuses on Stefan’s journey to undo what his cousin did and to stop the fighting, for once and for all, as well as turning Princess Pirlipat back into a human. This sends him on a quest for the krakatook, a mystical nut which is supposed to be able to heal anything. However… is this nut real, or is it just a figment of Christian’s imagination, leading them on a wild goose chase? Read the book to find out!

This book appeals to me because of the wide variety of stuff it includes and the fact that some of it is narrated from a rat’s point of view! Heartrending and addictive, I couldn’t put it down, even after reading it for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, I-don’t-know-what time! Highly highly recommended!!!

*Note: Includes some romance and a little bit of violence, but nothing graphic.* Recommended for 5th graders and up.

Keeper of the Lost Cities – Review by Lily Scheckner

pasted image 0Lily is the first reviewer from my new crew of 6th graders. She is sharp, funny, and seems fascinated by everything, which makes introducing new ideas and topics to her extra fun. Her enthusiasm is abundant, as you might be able to tell from her review. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Lily!

 

Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks… But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known. The truth could mean life or death—and time is running out.     http://simonandschusterpublishing.com/keeper-of-the-lost-cities

 

WARNING: This book series is severely addictive!91feMZ4LegL

This series is not only a beautiful blend of fantasy, magic, and mystery, it includes funny little bits of regular teenage life: crushes, awkwardness, school and even overprotective parents. This makes the characters all the more relatable, and really helps bring the books to life.

Sophie Foster, the amazing protagonist, is the only elf (and no, they don’t work for Santa) with brown eyes and incredible powers. She is ripped away from the world as she knows it and must live in society where everything is perfect… At least that’s how it seems. Even as she begins to settle into life as an elf, making friends and even getting some adoptive parents, a nefarious plot stirs under the surface. Glittering jewels and dazzling riches conceal a secret, so deep and horrible that the elves have kept it hidden for generations. And when Sophie discovers it, her enemies are not happy.

Not only is Sophie an intricate and beautiful character, so are her friends and family. One of the things that makes this story so amazing is the complexity of every single character. All of them have their own unique quirks and their own unique faults, and that’s what makes them perfect.

I strongly recommend this series to people of every age. I have introduced it to 4 or so people, and now they are all diehard fans! However, I think it would be best for kids ages 9 – 14, because there is some violence in the later books. It is still, however, very sweet series that would be good for anyone! Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoy Keeper of the Lost Cities!

Wonder – Review by Samantha Wu

-2What one notices first about Samantha is her smile. She always smiles! Having her in my final class of the day is truly energizing. Whether talking about books or serious moments in history, she is insightful and thrives on sharing her words on paper and aloud. A terrific kid recommending a terrific book – a book I resisted reading for no good reason but loved once I did.
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August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.  – Amazon

 

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio is a deep, funny, and sometimes sad story that really makes you think.Wonder_Cover_Art It is a story about trying to fit in when people try to single you out, self acceptance, bullying, friendship, and forgiving. The protagonist, August, was born with what he calls “mandibulofacial dysostosis”- a facial deformity. He has been kept out of school for his entire life- until 5th grade when his parents decide it is time to put him out into the real world. He is bullied and followed everywhere by stares, and when he thinks that he is finally making friends, he overhears a conversation that he is not supposed to hear, and is crushed. School turns his life upside down, and flips it inside out. Over ups and downs, this is a story full of resilience and friendship- told by August, his friends, and his family, as they realize that “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”. It is wonderfully written, and deserves 5 stars.

“I think that there should be a rule that everybody in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives… since we all overcometh the world”. – R.J. Palacio

Wonder definitely deserves a standing ovation.

 

Greenglass House – Reviewed by Megan

Megan and SheepMegan is a delightful young lady who came to hear me speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival when Falling for Hamlet was new to the world. Megan stood out in the crowd because she was, I believe, the only actual teen in the audience. Anyhow, we’ve stayed in touch, and she even arranged for me to speak to at her high school. In the middle of getting ready to graduate from high school and beginning a new chapter of her life, she agreed to review a book for the blog.

Megan, you’re wonderful! Happy graduation.

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Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

A18fcrxLO2L._SL1500_“It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.”

A perfect read for a quiet day, this book blends mystery with fantasy in Milford’s well-imagined world. The characters are eccentric and unique—much in the tradition of a turn-of-the-century mystery: it’s easy to imagine Professor Plum stepping into the mix with Clem Candler, Mr. Vinge, Dr. Gowervine, Mrs. Hereward, and blue-haired Georgie Moselle. These five guests seem to be suspects—after all, they have come to a smugglers’ inn—but it’s unclear what the crime is, or even if there is a crime at all. While the guests are easily defined by their eccentricities, they defy flat characterization, instead possessing aspects beyond their initial introduction. The hotel staff, too, is full of well-developed characters, including Milo’s parents, who are kind and generous without being boring. Milo, the protagonist, very much has the potential to be an average middle-grade hero, but differs from his literary peers by having depth to his quirkiness. He’s adopted, but Milford stresses that this is not even remotely the most important part of his character. Instead, he’s curious, polite, and geeky. Milo listens to his parents and (largely) obeys their wishes, but without seeming too much like a goody-two-shoes. He is a likeable character, but also believable—he isn’t always sure of what to do, and often uses easy-to-follow logic.

The Greenglass House is a lot of fun to read because often the reader can guess what’s going to happen next just a little bit before Milo does, but the ending is genuinely surprising (not something I can say for a lot of books). Especially for younger readers, this book gives the satisfaction of piecing together the mystery yourself, without being predictable. The details are vivid and tactile: Milford’s descriptions of the stained-glass windows that distinguish the inn are beautiful. Her world is truly well crafted, and the reader gets the sense that it is built up far beyond the town where Milo lives (indeed, the book is connected to some of Milford’s other books by characters mentioned but not present in Greenglass House). Nonetheless, even portraying only a tiny corner of it, Milford gives a clear and lucid depiction of the world.

Well-defined and eccentric characters with dynamic relationships, set in an interesting and vibrant world; a clever yet easy-to-follow mystery; a Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque role-playing game; a mysterious map: The Greenglass House is perfect for middle-grade readers who like mystery or fantasy, or older readers who like a good adventure. Highly recommended.