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My Favorite Five Middle Grade Books I Reviewed in 2017

Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Erasable and Digby of the Dinosaurs

by Linda Yiannakis

Erasable: The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

Digby: A little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

 

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr.

The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

 

Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

 

 

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

Dust flowers by Lisa Gammon Olson. Illustrated by Kyle Olson. Book review. Tales from American Herstory Series.

This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.

One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.

The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection.

Buy link http://a.co/4ldRov2

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Little Miss History Travels to La Brea Tar Pits and Museum by Barbara Ann Mojica. Book Review.

Barbara Ann Mojica has written a children’s picture book that will be of interest to students and adults interested in either history or science. Once again Little Miss History takes us on a tour of an interesting American site. This time we explore La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. I had no idea that this prehistoric fossil excavation site was right in the middle of Los Angeles,  California.

Mojica explains the history of the tar pits and the key players involved and its discovery and transition into a museum. Once again clever illustrations are combined with real photographs of the site.

A clear, understandable explanation of how the tar pits form and their impact upon the earth will interest budding geologists. Photographs of the amazing prehistoric animals are sure to intrigue young readers.

The Little Miss History series stimulates travellers to examine well known and less well known historica sites across America. Mojica’s books, including this one, would be a wonderful addition to any school library or classroom. The books are suited for ages seven and up.

Purchase link http://a.co/eMmyovQ

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Digby of the Dinosaurs by Linda Yiannakis. Book Review.

I don’t think I can actually do this remarkable book justice.

Summarizing the plot, a little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

Told mostly from the point of view of Digby, a orphan who feels unloved, the book strikes at the core of personal identity and need for family. The author avoids the trap of info dump even though the culture she is portraying is complex and rich. She allows the background to unfold slowly through the eyes of the little boy who wants, so badly, to fit in. The reader becomes deeply attached to this child and wonders how he is going to possibly survive in this world.

The concept of unconditional love is beautifully portrayed by the mother dinosaur who adopts her foster child without giving into any reservations. In many ways, the dinosaur culture is far superior to that of human culture and give us much pause for thought. This would be a discussion stimulating book to share with your child or class.

The story is not all serious message though, as there are many humorous moments. The ending is exactly what it needs to be and we are left with a full heart and a satisfied sense of completion. Linda Yannakis shows herself to be a superior writer and storyteller in this masterpiece.

Strongly recommended for readers aged nine and up.

Buy link http://a.co/0mb8M48

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang. Book Review.

This is an unusual book of thanks. It reminds me of a Buddhist gatha where we thank our body for everything it has given and done for us. In this text, the child thanks his feet, hands, knees and elbows, head, five senses, and other parts of his body. He expresses appreciation and wonder at the gifts given to him through his body. For example:

“I smile and talk and sing with my mouth. My lips kiss Mommy and Daddy. My teeth bite crackers. My tongue licks ice cream. My most tastes all my food before it slides down here, into my tummy.”

There’s one exceptionally beautiful moment where, after expressing thanks for all the things he can hear such as honking, singing, barking, laughing, purring, ticking,and rumbling, he hears between the noises… Silence. This illustration is a double spread of a night sky with a crayon outline of the boys face, eyes closed, calm and serene.

The illustrations are large and bright, done with crayon and cut out pieces of felt and graphics.

This book is a excellent reminder to be thankful for the simple things we receive, to express gratitude for our bodies with which we experience the whole universe.

It ends “And right now I also know that I am part of this whole world – this universe! All this is my home. I am ALIVE. And this whole universe is inside… All of me! What a wonder.
What seems at first to be a simple picture book is actually a profound and wise way of looking at the world and oneself. This would be a beautiful nighttime story for a child, a wonderful book to share on Thanksgiving Day, a Sunday school or Dharma school treasure, or even a reminder to adults not to take their lives for granted.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Eating Green by Molly Aloian. Book Review.

 Buy Link Eating Green (Green Scene)

“Eating green means understanding the impact our food choices have on the environment and trying to lessen that impact. To eat green, we must buy food with little or no packaging. We should eat fresh food and local food that is grown or made nearby. Eating green also need avoiding foods that have been sprayed with harmful pesticides.”

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices. It discusses necessary and unnecessary packaging and its impact on landfills. It explains the difference between processed foods and fresh foods and their impact on the earth and our bodies. Organic foods are preferred and the harmfulness of pesticides is explained. The reader learns why buying local is a good habit. The accumulation of toxic plastic drinking bottles is examined. The book encourages little-free lunches. It ends with the beautiful double page spread on the importance of family mealtime. Bonus: a simple but healthy pizza recipe at the end of the book. There is also a glossary and an index.

The illustrations in this book are full-color photographs which highlight and elucidate the message. You cannot look at that pile of garbage, mostly plastic, and not feel we need to change. This is an excellent book for families to share.

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer. Book Review.

This book features food of five children: Jordan from France, Luis from Mexico, Thembe from South Africa, Yamini from India, and AA from Thailand. Each section gives an overview of the child’s life, family, and food. It features a special day where food is prominent. The book begins with a chocolate cookie recipe from chef Jamie Oliver.

Eight-year-old Thembe has to carry water in a clay pot, walk across the hills to school, work in the vegetable garden, collect firewood, and help with dinner. The special event is a wedding.

Something that will surely encourage discussion, “The groom’s friends have killed two cows for the wedding feast. The best pieces are barbecued for the men, and the rest is put into big pots to stew.”

Six-year-old Luis collects eggs and cares for the sheep. He washes his face with water from the big cement basin in the courtyard. Breakfast is cold rice pudding or cornflakes and chocolate milk. He eats tortillas at nearly every meal. His special day is fiesta just before Christmas.

Eight-year-old AA helps to feed a Buddhist monk every morning. She can cook her own eggs.

The book continues sharing similarities and differences between the lives and diets of these children. It is written in a way children can understand and shares relevant and interesting facts. It ends with a recipe from each child and a glossary. The recipes are a milk tart, tomato salsa, Thai fried eggs, chocolate cake, and coconut sweet.

This book would help children connect with other cultures and also appreciate what they have. I wish the recipes were more substantial and not focused so much on sweets.

All proceeds from this book go to Oxfam.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Harvest Celebrations by Clare Chandler. Book Review.

The topics covered in this nonfiction book for ages 8-11 are:

  1. harvest around the world
  2. a successful harvest
  3. the history of harvest festivals
  4. religious festivals
  5. other harvest festivals
  6. the changing harvest
  7. calendar of harvest festivals

The book is 31 pages long and is half text, half photographs. It includes a glossary.

Some sensational information may be disturbing to children.

  • “It was the custom for ancient people in many parts of the world to sacrifice human beings at harvest. This was supposed to make sure of a good crop the following year. The people of Canar in Ecuador, South America, used to sacrifice one hundred children every year at harvest.”

It does not mention that many religions today still sacrifice living animals on altars. I think this is skewed reporting. It is easy to condemn the behavior of early cultures without honestly examining those of our time.

Another shortcoming is the glossing over of modern farming. Everything is written in a positive fashion with no mention of deforestation, child labor or poor migrant workers. The factory farming of animals, overfishing, and the destruction of the environment due to modern food production aren’t even mentioned.

I borrowed this book from the library. It needs to be updated and made more socially relevant.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Megan’s Munchkin’s by Pamela Foland. Book Review.

Thirteen-year-old Megan finds four abandoned one-day-old kittens and takes them home. She keeps them hidden in her room because her parents believe she isn’t responsible enough to have a pet and there are allergies in the family. Meagan carefully researches how to care for the kittens and follows an exhausting feeding schedule. She obtains a reduction in the vet bill by pretending she is working on a 4H project. She works hard on an astonishing number of large or difficult chores around the house and yard hoping to prove her dependability to her parents.

A great deal of useful information is shared with the reader about the care of kittens. Each cat is given a name and Meagan shares their growth and development with the reader. I would have liked her to demonstrate more emotion. Meagan often spoke and behaved like an adult. I think the tension could have been increased as keeping four kittens hidden from her parents seemed fairly easy, until she was caught. Some of the routine scenes could have been used to create more excitement.

I was surprised Megan’s parents let her keep the four felines. Would she have to keep them in her bedroom to avoid triggering allergic reactions in her family? (Which would be thwarted by air circulation anyway.) How would this work when the cats were older? The deception with the vet is not addressed.

For children who love cats, this is an informative and sweet story although some readers might find it a bit didactic.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages