Middle Grade Fiction


Clifton Chase and the Arrow of LightClifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Jaimie Engle

When a mysterious arrow turns up in a dusty closet, Clifton Chase thinks he’s uncovered nothing but old worthless junk. The arrow, however, turns out to be so much more. With a flash of light, Clifton finds himself transported back to fifteenth century England, in a time when a ruthless ruler has seized power and locked away two young princes. Allies of these princes believe Clifton is just the hero they’ve been waiting for and they prepare a force to accompany Clifton on a bold rescue mission.

Inspired by true historical events, this middle grade adventure novel weaves history together with mythical creatures and memorable characters to create a highly entertaining story. Though this is Engle’s debut novel, she handles story like a pro, barely giving the reader a moment to catch breath before leaping off into new twists and turns. Readers who enjoy middle grade adventure stories will not be disappointed in this charming tale.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Brief references to a Creator who has a plan for the lives of his creatures.

Violence
A few brief battle scenes. Nothing gory. One character gives his life to save another.

Drug Content
None.

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Once Upon a MarigoldOnce Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
HMH Books for Young Readers

A Review by Anna Heinly, Age 8

A forest troll named Ed finds a young boy named Christian. Christian had run away from home. He did not want to go back. Ed says Christian can stay with him for one night, but Christian ends up staying in the cave with Ed and his two dogs, Bub and Cate until he grows up. One day while he was looking in his telescope, Christian saw a princess named Marigold. Christian wrote her a letter and sent it by pigeon. Marigold read the letter and p-mailed back. They became best friends. Ed was worried. Soon it was time for Christian to get a job. He got a job fixing things at the castle and had lots of adventures.

Marigold’s mom, Queen Olympia, was forcing her to get married. Marigold was upset. She did not want to get married. Christian was sad, too because he wanted to marry her, but she could only marry royalty. Christian would have to find a way to be with Marigold.

I loved everything in the story. Ed always gets idioms mixed up. It is hilarious. Bub and Cate and Marigold’s dogs (the three floor mops) are silly. Queen Mab is the Tooth Fairy. She always gets lost on her way to collect people’s teeth. That is funny, too. Queen Olympia orders everyone around. That was entertaining. It was also funny when Rollo the guard got mad because Meg kissed Christian. There is nothing about this book I do not like. It is the best book in the world!

A Review by Kasey Giard

Christian is a young inventor living in the forest with his foster father, a troll named Ed. Life is pretty sweet until the day Christian discovers the lonely Princess Marigold and decides to send her a message via carrier pidgeon (p-mail). To Christian’s surprise, the princess replies to his message and the two become best friends. If only that were enough for Christian. As he comes of age and sets out to make his way in the world, Christian seeks work at the castle where Marigold lives, even though he knows he’ll never be able to have a relationship with her since he will be no more than a servant. Then Christian uncovers a vicious plot to kill Marigold, and he can’t sit by and do nothing. But how can a commoner do anything to save the princess?

Once Upon a Marigold is a spunky, cute fairytale story about having courage to do what’s right to protect the people important to you and the meaning of true friendship. Ferris cleverly weaves a whimsical world in which a forest troll wants to break the Tooth Fairy’s monopoly on collecting teeth, even though she constantly gets lost. Full of silliness and heart, this is a great story to share with middle readers.

Language
None

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The princess is under a curse of uncertain origin: when someone touches her, she knows their thoughts. She and Christian briefly discuss their astrological signs, and the fact that they share the same sign is viewed as a confirmation of their relationship.

Violent Content
A flying machine crashes, causing some minor injuries. A character is struck with an arrow that must be removed. Nothing graphic.

Drug Content
None

Anna Heinly, Kasey GiardAbout the Bloggers
Anna Heinly is a third grade student. She enjoys reading, riding her cousin’s scooter, playing with her cousins, and having adventures. She also enjoys riding bikes with her cousins. This is her first review.
Read about Kasey Giard here.

Sky JumpersSky Jumpers

Peggy Eddleman

In a small town scratching out survival beyond Word War III, twelve-year-old Hope Toriella vows to make a place for herself among the townspeople as an inventor. Despite the horrible flops her past attempts have been, she is certain that this time, she’s got a winner ready for unveiling. While Hope hasn’t developed a talent for inventing yet, she certainly has a gift for trouble, and that’s just what she gets when she answers the challenge put forth by the mysterious newcomer, Brock, who dares her to jump through a deadly pocket of Bomb’s Breath that surrounds the town in the aftermath of war.

While Hope and her friends have attempted this feat before, most consider it certain death, and Hope has to lie to keep herself and her friends from getting into trouble. Just as she wiggles out of one mess, another drops into her lap. Strange men threaten to hurt the townspeople unless they turn over an irreplaceable antibiotic. With an outbreak of disease already beginning, Hope knows her people cannot turn over the medicine. Instead, she and her friends must escape through ice, snow, and the deadly Bomb’s Breath to a neighboring settlement to bring back help.

Eddleman creates a fascinating post-apocalyptic world in which the earth’s magnetic fields have been disrupted by the use of a Green Bomb during a massive world-wide war. Many of the technological advances of the last several hundred years have been lost, and the surviving settlements in the story are largely agricultural and isolated. What is left unexplored is what happened to the winning nations of the war? Are they as decimated as American cities seem to be? Are other more important areas occupied by soldiers of this other group? Or has the change in the earth’s atmosphere destroyed those in power as well? The reader is left with little time to wonder, however, because the rest of the story moves at a rapid pace, and is filled with other creative elements which are tightly woven into the story.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
A few brief and pretty sterile references to death. Some scenes contain brief instances of violence on the part of bandits attacking townspeople. One man is shot in the leg.

Drug Content
Hope and her classmates are tasked with finding a local plant which is then turned into a valuable antibiotic.

Tuck EverlastingTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

In her tidy little home on the edge of a wood, ten-year-old Winnie Foster lives with her prim and proper family. When the summer heat and the oppressive rules become too much to bear, Winnie escapes to the forest for an adventure. She means to explore and maybe she will run away, but a chance meeting with a beautiful boy changes everything.

Jesse Tuck knows he shouldn’t have let Winnie see him drink from the fountain in that wood. Now nothing will distract the girl from the mysterious flow of water. He and his family have only one choice: kidnap the girl and convince her to forget what she has seen.

But Winnie isn’t the only one who has seen something curious in the wood. A man in a yellow suit has uncovered the Tuck family secret, and he wants to use it to make his fortune. Winnie’s abduction is the perfect opportunity for him to get his hands on the fountain that will make him rich.

As Winnie begins to understand why the Tuck family keeps their secret, she finds she must agree with them. As the man in the yellow suit and the sheriff close in, she knows she must protect the Tucks and their secret at all costs.

Tuck Everlasting is a simple yet beautiful story about a lonely girl and a family who must live with a terrible burden. Winnie’s strong spirit and her love for her friends is truly inspiring.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
A woman strikes a man on the head with the butt of a rifle. He does not survive his injuries.

Drug Content
None.

Rock Harbor Search and RescueRock Harbor Search and Rescue

Robin Carroll and Colleen Coble

When fourteen-year-old Emily is accused of stealing a valuable necklace from a local artist, she is determined to prove her innocence. Her dad and step-mom seem to believe Emily is guilty based on comments from two other teen girls, though no one searches Emily’s things. Despite the lack of support at home, Emily and her best friend Olivia decide to list suspects and investigate the case on their own. Before the necklace went missing, Emily’s parents promised her a new puppy she could train as a search and rescue dog, and now the only way Emily is going to get that puppy is to clear her name.

As the girls search for clues, they learn bits and pieces about people in their small town, but nothing seems to indicate the identity of the thief. More often than not, she learns things she ends up wishing she didn’t know. Like the fact that her mother, who has been in prison for the last six years following harm done to Emily’s brother, is eligible for parole. Her worries mounting, Emily busies herself volunteering to help the surf team before the upcoming championship and helping with search and rescue missions. When one mission inadvertently reveals who has possession of the stolen necklace, Emily is shocked and torn. After having suffered through weeks of gossip and accusation, she doesn’t want to rush into telling the sheriff what she knows, but keeping quiet would be wrong, too. Emily resolves to convince the thief to come forward voluntarily, but accomplishing this task turns out to be much harder than she thought.

Carroll and Coble have partnered in creating a pure, heartwarming tale of a young girl in a small town searching for her place in her family and her community, learning about personal and communal responsibility and how to have faith amidst scary situations. This is a nice, light read.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Emily battles fear of the legendary Windigo, a monster which supposedly prowls the woods near her home. She prays for protection and peace and is quick to instruct others not to believe in the legend or be frightened by it.

Violence
A boy drags Emily into an alley. Some scenes contain references to a past event in which a mother purposely withholds diabetic meds from her child to make him sick. It’s a little intense, but not precisely violent.

Drug Content
None.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Mysterious HowlingFifteen-year-old Penelope Lumley has been summoned to her first interview for her first governess position. As a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and armed with the pithy and wise sayings of the school’s founder, Agathe Swanburne, Penelope is ready for anything.

When she is greeted by the skittish household at Ashton Place, however, and confronted by the strange howling children who are scarcely clad, Penelope realizes it will take all her training, education, and her fond memories of books about wild ponies, to handle this task. She will not be deterred. Not by the children’s wild fervor over chasing squirrels. Not by the unusual names (Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia) bestowed on them by Lord Ashton himself. When Lady Constance plans an extravagant Christmas party that the children must attend, Penelope puts aside her plans for geography and mathematics in favor of table manners and appropriate dinner conversation. If only she can figure out what the Schottische is and prepare the children for it, she might have a chance at keeping her job with the children she has grown to love.

Not every governess is willing to take on three children who were raised by wolves. Literally. Now that they’ve been “rescued” from the forest by Lord Ashton, the children must be civilized and educated. Penelope sets herself to the task and achieves often hilarious and endearing results in this first book in a series which has been described as a mash-up of Lemony Snicket and Jane Eyre. The Mysterious Howling is brilliant and fun.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
None.

Drug Content
When the children become the center of attention at the Christmas party, Lady Constance copes by drinking too much champagne and falling asleep at the table.

 

A Deeper Look: Notes from the Blogger

K L Giard

I read this book hoping to find a great audiobook to listen to on our family vacation. To my delight, I found it to be a wonderful story, one the entire family could enjoy. I found it impossible not to fall in love with Penelope and her three dear charges. The children make it appealing to a younger, more middle-grade audience, but because the tale is told from fifteen-year-old Penelope, it also appeals to teens. Those with challenging babysitting experiences may find it especially amusing.

The Sight by Erin HunterThe Sight by Erin Hunter
HarperCollins Publishers

Jaykit and his siblings can’t wait to be christened as apprentices when they finally reach six moons of age. Until then, though, no one will let them leave the camp, even when a dead fox and its abandoned cubs spell big trouble for the clan. Determined to help, Jaykit and his siblings sneak out of the safety of the camp, hoping to be the first to find the fox cubs and chase them from the ThunderClan territory. When the larger than expected cubs injure Jaykit, all three kittens find themselves in big trouble.

As the apprentice ceremony finally arrives and Jaykit becomes Jaypaw, he seethes under the sympathy of the other clan members. He may be blind, but he can smell much better than any other cat in the clan. He can learn to fight as fiercely as any cat, if only he could have the chance. The clan’s medicine cat, Leafpool, tries to talk Jaypaw into apprenticing as a medicine cat instead of pursuing his dreams as a warrior. With Jaypaw’s knowledge of herbs and his sensitive nose, he would make a great medicine cat. The fact that ThunderClan’s ancestors, members of StarClan, visit Jaypaw in his dreams only seems to further prove Jaypaw’s destiny as a medicine cat.

But Jaypaw’s dream of becoming a warrior does not die easily. When a rival clan invades ThunderClan’s territory, Jaypaw realizes it will be much more difficult than he thought to battle an opponent without the aid of his vision. To make matters more difficult, his litter mate, Hollypaw, has begun training as apprentice to the clan’s medicine cat. As an ancient prophecy about three powerful cats unfolds around them, Jaypaw and his siblings must find the way to harness their gifts and pursue their destinies.

This first book in the Power of Three series draws readers in to the delightful and mysterious world of cats. As the characters interact, cat lovers will recognize various gestures and body language familiar to them from their own furry friends. Jaypaw’s struggle between the glorious life he imagines as a warrior and the disappointment of being left behind to wait for the wounded as a medicine cat is a powerful journey with which readers will easily identify. Hunter’s forest world of cats is fresh and entertaining. One thing this author does not skimp on is in the number of named characters who appear in the story. Keeping track of names and various relationships can be confusing. Thankfully, a glossary of characters is included among the opening pages.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The cats journey to the Moon Pool to commune via dreams with their ancestors, members of the StarClan.

Violence
Some animal violence. Not highly detailed. Two rival clans battle in the woods. A fox chases a kitten and bites its tail. The cats eat small animals like mice, but no eating is described in detail.

Drug Content
Herbs are used as medicine to help cure illnesses and wounds.

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