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Middle Grade Mystery

Jug Valley Mysteries, HANDS UP!

Written by Anne Digby

Amy and Tim are students at Jug Valley. Together with their friends and fellow students, Ben, Ludo, and Mini, they have formed a club called Hands and Spouts. They meet regularly to solve mystery cases. One day at school, Ben accidentally kicks a football over the fence into the rector’s garden. It belongs to Charlie, a lower class man, who becomes terribly distraught. The five friends make a promise to retrieve the precious football as soon as the school day ends.

What appears to be a simple task turns thorny, when the members of the club discover the football has vanished into thin air. Howard, the rector’s son, promises to help, but the trail runs cold. These young detectives are mystified as to why a grungy, old football is so important, but when it becomes apparent that football is gone, they intensify their efforts to stop at nothing to get Charlie’s football back into his hands. Why is this football so valuable and why are so many people trying to gain possession of it? There are enough twists and turns to entice middle grade readers to keep turning pages. When the mystery is finally solved, all who have been touched by it learn valuable lessons about themselves and each other.

My only criticism is that the story begins slowly. I had not read any of the other books in the series and therefore was unfamiliar with the characters. After the first couple of chapters, the story evolved and grew more interesting. I like the fact that there is enough challenging vocabulary to stretch the minds of young readers. American readers will need to acclimate to British phrases. Recommended especially for readers in the eight to twelve age bracket.

Unwrap a Yummy Adventure!

Life in the Gumball Machine

Written by Maureen Bartone

An interesting chapter book targeted for readers in the seven to eleven year age range. On her tenth birthday, Daisy goes for a bike ride with her two best fourth grade friends, Patrick and Michael. Daisy is often considered a tomboy, but one thing her two friends have never persuaded her to do is to play football. When the three friends pause to investigate an old shed, they discover an abandoned gumball machine. Daisy decides that she must have one so she deposits a coin. Soon the machine rumbles and sucks all three of them inside. Little do they realize the adventure awaiting them inside.

Bartone uses lots of human and kid-friendly dialogue to describe how the three humans shrink and meet the gumball people and their exciting world. Our three human friends will discover that outside appearance matters little, the real person is wrapped inside. Daisy will experience that football game and face her hidden fears. Lessons learned include how we behave and what we do are a lot more important than how we look.

Daisy is looking forward to her birthday party that afternoon, but things are looking grim that the three friends will free themselves from the gumball world and return to their normal size. The only way to escape is for another person to come along and discover that abandoned candy machine. That does not appear to be a likely possibility. Will the three friends keep their cool and figure out a way to return home? What will happen to their newly found gumball friends? How will Patrick, Michael and Daisy’s lives be changed forever?

The plot of this middle-grade chapter book is simple and the text straightforward with enough excitement, surprises and humor to keep the reader entertained and the advice from becoming preachy. A surprise near the end sets the scene for a new adventure. Recommended for children in grades two through six.

Sixth Grade Superhero

Frogman: The Incredibly True Confessions of a Sixth Grade Superhero

Written by Emily Cosentino

Frogman,pic

Humorous middle grade adventure centering on the life of Alex Addison, who leads a fairly normal life until the day he picks up a frog at the beach. Alex’s family consists of his computer nerd professor, dad, his super nervous mom who is an ex nurse, an annoying eighth grade sister, Libby, and a four year old brother, Sam.

A couple of days after picking up the frog, Alex begins to change. Suddenly he is able to leap great distances, develops webbed feet and the ability to stick to any surface, and grows a super long tongue capable of picking up and flinging objects great distances. Upon returning to school in September, his voice croaks when Alex tries to sing in chorus, and he develops a passion for eating insects. That enables Alex to become a school sensation when he challenges the school bully, Dirk to eating the grossest lunch in the cafeteria on Fear Factor Friday. When Sam discovers Alex’s secret, he promises to keep quiet. Alex’s friend Joel is determined to prove that Big Foot is real, but he soon shifts his attention to studying the strange creature who is hanging out by the pond. Of course that is Alex sneaking off to the pond to keep his skin moist during the drought. Alex will have his ups and downs, becoming a hero when he rescues a cat in trouble, momentarily becoming a football star by punting down the field, and rescuing both friend and foe from a fire. Alex is a sixth grade superhero, whether he likes it or not.

This book is just under two hundred pages and is intended for the middle grade audience ages eight through twelve. Boys especially will appreciate the humor in sibling rivalry relationships. There are lots of laughs as well as a discussion of serious peer issues like bullying, coming of age, and problems at school. Recommended for readers in grades three to six who enjoy tales about characters facing their everyday issues and crises.

Best,

Barbara
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
Website: Little Miss HISTORY.com

Book Review – O.K. is Great!

O.K. IS GREAT

Written and Illustrated by David Tiefenthaler

Cover Design Robin Ludwig, Design, Inc.

O.K., jpg

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.

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