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A Great Family Read Aloud

Whispers of Trees (Mythic Adventures Collection: Book 2)

Written by Ben Woodard

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I received a copy of this book in return for an honest, non-biased review.

Bridget and Colin are walking through the Irish woods ahead of their parents and ten-year-old brother, Declan. Suddenly Colin disappears; Bridget thinks that he has been eaten by a wolf. A park ranger assures the family Colin will be found. When they go into town to file a report with the town constable, a strange looking lady named Mrs. O’Leary suggests that they must go into the woods so that the trees can guide them to Colin. Colin’s dad angrily puts his foot down, refusing to listen. Declan sneaks out and goes back into the dark woods to find the strange old woman who may be able to lead him to his brother. When Declan finds her in an odd cabin filled with computers and a bubbling cauldron, he is puzzled, but also drawn to follow her. Mrs. O’Leary demands that he go into the woods where the spirits of the trees will speak to him. By taming his fears, not only will he be successful in finding his brother, but he will also bring peace and tranquility to the family.

This mystery set in the mythical woods of Ireland mixes elements of adventure, myth, thriller, and family relationships. Targeted reader audience is age seven through twelve. This is a story with many layers of meaning which are exposed by repeated readings, and one that could definitely be used for guided reading in a classroom discussion on many topics. Perfect as well for a family read aloud and group discussion.

Wasted Wood: Will the Bullies & the Boys Survive?

Wasted Wood

Written by Brock Eastman

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I struggled to decide what rating to give this middle-grade novella; I decided to go with four stars because the writing is appropriate for its intended audience. The dialogue is on point for thirteen-year-old Hudson and his friends. Lots of adjectives and onomatopoeia to keep the story interesting as well as those illustrations of the tree troll.

Hudson is a typical teen; he loves to play video games and test the limits with his parents’ rules. Hudson gets grounded when he comes home late because he took a short cut and trespassed on Mr. Gilbert’s property nearly falling off the bridge in the process. Of course that wasn’t the whole story, Mr. Gilbert had called his parents catching Hudson in a lie. Hudson doesn’t take long to decide to sneak out and join his friends for their camp out.

Orin, the neighborhood bully and his friends, come across Hudson with his friends in the woods. They dare them to trespass on Mr. Gilbert’s property to prove that they are not afraid of the legend that a Tree Troll exists. When they take the dare; the real adventure begins. Soon the Dark Demon appears. Is the legend real? All the teens including the bullies must struggle to survive. What will happen to the boys? Will their parents and Mr. Gilbert find out?

Lots of adventure, danger, paranormal and coming of age issues combine to make the novella appealing to the middle-grade audience. Despite the fact that there is lots of passive voice and the writing style could be sharper, this is a tale well worth reading for the eight to twelve-year-old target audience. The author has developed a set of discussion questions for each chapter, which makes the book a good choice for a classroom read aloud and discussion.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Book Review: Nerds and Ninjas

The Secret Path of Ned the Ninja: Reluctant Hero

Written by Kea Alwang and Melissa Mertz

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Ned is a bright fifth grader who admits to being a nerd and a klutz. He is taunted in school by Jared Beck, appropriately named Beck the Bonebreaker. When his parents can take no longer take the bullying and taunting, they enroll Ned in karate class. Ned paints a pathetic but humorous scene of his first day in class. The only saving grace is finding that he has a crush on one of the students, Adrianna. Ned is thrown into the fray with no leniency for being a new student. At first Ned is tempted to quit, but he changes his mind when the Tora Khan appears in his bedroom to give him a one to one training lesson. Is it a dream?

The next morning, Ned awakes and is still not sure when strange things begin to happen. When Ned gets to school, he discovers that he is no longer the person everyone knows. Ned learns that fears limit our capabilities. If one can take away fear by redirecting thoughts, limitations can be overcome. Our minds can be made to re-channel our fears and weaknesses.

Ned is such a likable character. He is funny, vulnerable, sincere and honest. Middle grade readers will empathize and grow with this character. The details of karate class keep the story line novel and interesting. Both sexes will enjoy the read. Recommended for all ages eight and up. I read the fifty five page book in one sitting.

Barbar Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review – Ghosts, Mystery, and History

Alexandra Fry, Private Eye: The Curse of the Lion’s Heart

Written by Angella Graff

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This is Book One of the Alexandra Fry detective series. Angella is a pretty ordinary twelve-year-old, who is nervous about starting the first day of seventh grade in a new middle school. She shares time with both of her divorced parents. At the beginning of the tale, readers are introduced to Alexandra’s unique talent. She is able to see the ghosts of famous historical persons, who ask her help in solving mysteries. Alexandra has assisted Magellan in finding his lost compass and Abraham Lincoln in finding his stolen top hat. As if the first day in a new school isn’t difficult enough, Alexandra is contacted by Queen Elizabeth I of England, who insists that if the family locket is not located, a curse will be visited upon the current community. Her classmates and teachers think that she is talking to herself.

Fortunately for Elizabeth, her dad works in the City Museum. Her ability to gain easy access has helped her solve many cases in the past. In this mystery, she will be able to enlist the aid of a new friend, Penelope, and an eighth grader named Jack who at first appears to be more of a suspect than a friend. Alexandra must face the same issues most preteens face: bullying, fitting in with the crowd, negotiating their way with adults and asserting their independence. The author narrates a plot that has lots of twists and turns and combines elements of paranormal, history, mystery and adventure. Characters are believable and use authentic dialogue. The text is easy enough for preteens but also sophisticated enough for a young adult or adult reader. I was totally drawn into the mystery and felt empathy for the young characters.

Readers age eight and older who enjoy history, mystery, detective, paranormal and coming of age books will all find something here to their liking. Look forward to the rest of the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review – O.K. is Great!

O.K. IS GREAT

Written and Illustrated by David Tiefenthaler

Cover Design Robin Ludwig, Design, Inc.

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What a great story for children in middle grades covering so many of the issues facing pre-teens and teens in today’s world. Issues covered are fitting in, cyberbullying, sibling rivalry, peer relationships, and moving. Otis Kashwonkee, (yes, that’s his name) goes by the nickname, O.K. That would be fine if it were not for the fact that Otis doesn’t seem to excel at anything and the O.K. initials indicate to Otis that he is just ordinary. When his parents tell him that they are moving to the suburbs, Otis must add a new problem, adjusting to new friends and a new school.

Continue Reading >>

Subways to Scotland

The Camelot Kids: Part One

Written by Ben Zackheim

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First book in a new middle grade series that mixes medieval history, knights, castles, adventure and coming of age with a modern twist. Protagonist Simon Sharp is a fourteen year old who becomes an orphan at the age of twelve when his archaeologist parents die in an airplane crash over Scotland. Simon finds himself in a New York City orphanage and foster care. He is clever, smart and streetwise, though he is bullied by Brad. When strangers ask how his parents died, he replies, “King Arthur killed them.” Their lifelong mission had been to find Camelot.

Simon’s unlucky situation becomes more mysterious, when he gets a letter from an uncle in Scotland who claims that he has just found out about the accident and will assume responsibility for Simon. The boy is soon on a plane to Scotland and a new life in a mysterious castle. Though he now attends a private school, the bullying situation is the same. Simon will discover hidden passages and meet mysterious creatures like gargoyles, trolls, and magicians. Who are they and what is his connection to them?

This book of slightly less than one hundred pages has charming black and white illustrations that add to the depth of the characters and setting of the tale. The writing of the plot is well-executed and the characters are interesting and endearing. Zackheim seems to have found the right combination of modern day grit and medieval fantasy in setting the right tone for the series. I think tweens and teens will want to get involved with this story. I know that many adults like me have fond memories of Camelot.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author

LittleMissHistory.com

Hold On To Your Reins

Keeping Secrets (Timber Ridge Riders Book 1)

Written by Maggie Dana

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First in a series of books featuring young teens and their love of horses. Kate is fourteen and spending her summer with her aunt because her father is a lepidopterist who is busy chasing butterflies in Brazil. Looking for something to keep her occupied, Kate applies for a summer job as a companion for a teen named Holly. Holly is now wheelchair bound as a result of a horseback riding accident.

Kate has a dark secret. She was blamed for the death of a horse in her care. Now she is petrified to go near a horse stall. Holly’s mom gives riding lessons and coaches an equestrian team. Kate hopes to steer clear of the barn, but she is gradually drawn to it. She must overcome the bullying of Angela, a spoiled brat whose wealthy mother accepts nothing less than first place. Quite a few shenanigans involved in the plot. Dana succeeds in making the reader identify with her characters. The love of horses and its power on the main characters are carefully woven into the plot. Just a hint of romance with the introduction of a young teen male character.

This story is just under two hundred pages with vocabulary and plot lines that are suitable for readers age nine and older. The book is well-written with a nice mix of descriptive language and dialogue. Teachers might break the book up into chapters for read aloud and class discussion.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author

www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Literature Link: A Difficult Choice

Lightmasters – Number 13

Written by M.G. Wells

Lightmasters2,picJessica Wyrd is facing her thirteenth birthday. The last year has been extremely difficult for her. Her parents were both killed in an automobile accident down in Georgia. Jessica is now living with her eccentric maternal grandparents in upstate New York. She misses her best friends, Emma and Hank. In school she is the considered the nerdy newbie, the victim of bullying by students and teachers alike.

Shortly before her thirteenth birthday, Jessica encounters a spiral light and a green haze. A voice urges her to follow the others who are waiting. She meets Dragateen, Torc and Bo, along with other spirits who tell her to shift into another dimension and make the journey to Kiron. Jessica hesitantly walks through an oak tree and enters, but the dark forces of Sartan are waiting to do battle with this new recruit.

Jessica’s journey will lead her to Emerald Pond, Poseidon Pit and mysterious caverns below. She will meet snakes, a slimy octopus, and strange demonic creatures with orange eyes. Jessica has difficulty determining what is reality and what she is experiencing in the “other world.” She receives a special jewel and learns that she bears the mark of the mystic. Still, the decision to use her special powers and whether to become one of the Lightmasters must be her own.

Back here on earth, Jessica is homesick for her friends in Georgia. Wells shifts the story to Jessica’s coming of age conflicts and injects lots of humor in describing the trials and tribulations of a feisty thirteen year old who is intelligent far beyond her chronological age and who must deal with the realities of family, school and death. How does she resolve her conflicts and reconcile two very different lives?

This book of less than two hundred pages is a well written middle grade fantasy adventure that will appeal to readers age nine and up. Lots of twists and turns in plot, humor, and nicely developed characters combined with the kinds of problems kids this age face daily. As an adult, I enjoyed looking back on my early teens through Jessica’s eyes.

Barbara Mojica
Author of the Little Miss HISTORY series:
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to FORD’S THEATER
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to INTREPID Sea, Air & Space Museum
WWW.LittleMissHISTORY.com