Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

I wanted to like this book so much.  In fact, my co-worker, when I told her I didn’t like it said, “What? But it seemed right up your alley!”  Monstrous Devices is a cool concept but the book is a bit of a mess.  There is too much going on and none of it gets fully realized.  The grandfather in the book is constantly doing things that set a bad example for children.  He says “Don’t do what I do” but the characters only survive because of what he does.  A lot of things are brought up but never resolved.  Is the grandfather immortal?  He is a greater being? Is the bad guy Alex’s father?  Is the little girl his sister?  I didn’t believe it for a moment when he said that he didn’t care to know by the end of the book.  It felt like Love didn’t feel like making a decision one way or the other.  And then religion come in out of nowhere.  The characters need to know the true name of god to gain unlimited powers that come in the form of a golem.  It’s way too much stuff for such a short children’s book.  I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one.


The Legend of Greg by Chris Rylander

I ignored people telling me to read this for WAY too long! So don’t make the same mistake I did! Pick this up immediately! In Greg’s Chicago, there is an underground world filled with Dwarfs and Elves! But Greg doesn’t know that. All he knows is that he has one best friend and a dad who is always off looking for weird natural remedies and teas. But all of that changes when his dad is abducted by a… troll?! This book is a crazy fun adventure filled with a fully thought out magical world set under my very own feet. As well as being fun and entertaining, it’s also a great story of acceptance of all people, regardless of race (even if those races are magical in this book). Greg is a powerful underdog and I wish that I had him around as a role model when I was growing up.


Freddie Mole: Lion Tamer by Alexander McCall Smith

Freddie comes from a poor family and never feels like he has a purpose in the world.  That is, until he joins the circus.  He learns all about the circus and even becomes an understudy for some acts.  This was a fun beginning chapter book.  I loved the beginning the end but just felt like middle sagged a bit.  Kate Hindley’s illustrations, though, are so adorable.


Wizardmatch by Lauren Magaziner

This book is SO MUCH FUN!  Magical children, a wizard competition, lots of references to goats.  What more could you ask for?  This is a true underdog story as well as a great girl power tale.  Magaziner’s writing is hilarious and filled with adventure and whimsy.  She has created a fully formed world that I never wanted to read.  A must read for children and adults alike.


The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

David Walliams has delivered yet another charming middle grade book.  Set in a hospital, The Midnight Gang follows the children from the children’s ward as they go on a series of adventures.  Walliams has created a book that is both incredibly entertaining (with fantastic illustrations by Tony Ross) as well as reminding kids that it is important to treat everyone with respect.  Walliams has been compared to the next Roald Dahl and while I think no one will ever replace Dahl, I believe that he has carved out his own voice and place in the kidlit world.  Don’t let the size of this book scare you.  It’s an incredibly fast read.


Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

I was pulled in to this book by the awesome title and the great cover and the inside of the book didn’t disappoint.  Aven is an awesome protagonist.  Not only was she born without arms and knows how to do everything people with arms can do, she is a strong-willed and smart girl that makes a great role model for young girls today.  Bowling did a lot of research about what life for Aven would be like and it shows.  She has created three-dimensional characters and placed them in a fun setting, a run down amusement park.  Part mystery, part realistic story about friendship, this book is a fun ride that you will be thrilled to take with Aven.


Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks

I have to admit, I was nervous going into this book.  I’ve read some middle grade children’s books lately that have had some questionable messages in them and having “payback” in the title made me worried.  But this book was great.  It’s a story about how to be a good person, how to treat other people, as well as teaching kids to use their creativity to their advantage.  Minck’s flips between two different characters, creating unique and silly  voices for each one.  I found myself giggling out loud.


Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager

I was a fan of Lindsay Eager’s Hour of the Bees and so I was really excited when I was shelving one day and found this one on the shelf.  And this one was even better.  For starters, I wish that there had been such an awesome young scientist female protagonist like Fidelia when I was growing up.  She is so cool and makes science and engineering seem to cool and fun!  Add pirates who survive purely on candy and you have a great adventure.  This was a really interesting middle grade novel in that parts of the story were spent only focusing on the adult characters, making them relatable to the children rather than alienating them, which many middle grade/YA books do.  It showed the importance of respectful relationships between all different kinds of people.  Eager completely sucked me in and I needed to know how everything was going to turn out.  Also, love me some evil pirates with a soul.


The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

This book is magical and awesome!  From the magical changing hotel to traveling by umbrella to a giant butler cat, I loved every part of this book and am so glad that it is finally available to recommend to kids.

I have recently discovered (by accident) that I enjoy books with cursed children (I know, I know, dark) and this book was no exception.  There is something incredibly powerful about seeing kids overcome the universe.  And not only does Morrigan have overcome the universe, she has to pass a series of tests in hopes of entering a very special society of people.  Townsend has created a fully rendered world filled that, while magical, is still very relatable.  This book is so much fun.


The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

I was too old (and not cool enough to realize that middle grade books are awesome at any age) to read the How to Train Your Dragon books when they came out but I am glad that I have finally gotten to experience Cressida Cowell’s wonderful writing.

The Wizards of Once is both beautifully written and filled with tons of fun illustrations that take the story to the next level.  Her main characters are royal underdogs (which seems like an oxymoron but actually made for an awesome reading experience) and I was immediately invested in their lives.

This is a perfect book for boys and girls alike, seeing as there is one of each as a main character.  It teaches acceptance of those different from you as well as the need to question authority when it seems to be leading you astray (which I believe to be important in this day and age).  I can’t wait for the next installment in the series.


The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

The Secret of Nightingale Wood is beautiful book that reminded me of classic children’s books.  In a world of extreme fantasy and adventure, this historical fiction was a breath of fresh air.  Strange beautifully discusses many difficult topics while creating an engaging mystery that kept me guessing until the end.  She deals with war and loss with grace and ease and reminds everyone that it is possible to get through horrible events.  I want more books like this one to come out.