#MiddleGradeMonday : The Fresh New Face of Griselda

The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres

Griselda “Geez” Zaragoza’s life has been turned upside down.

A few months ago, if asked, Geez would have said that her life was perfect. She lived in a comfortable house, had a room of her own, and would spend her weekends alongside her dad tending to the rose’s in their garden.

But that was then.  And things are different now. Very different.

Now she lives with her grandma where old toilet bowls have been turned into makeshift planters. Her dad is looking for work hundreds of miles away. Her mom has started working. And older sister Maribel has become a consultant for Alma Cosmetics, a life choice which their mother openly dislikes.

Geez wants to help, but doesn’t know how. Until she suddenly happens upon one of Maribel’s Alma Cosmetics brochures stating that the company is looking for someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen to become the Fresh New Face of Alma Cosmetics. While Geez isn’t necessarily interested in that, she is interested in the five thousand dollar prize.

Geez knows that that prize money could really come in handy. It won’t fix everything, but maybe it could help give a fresh start to both her and her family.

The question is, does Geez have what it takes to, not only meet the contest goals, but to actually win?

The Fresh New Face of Griselda, written by author Jennifer Torres, is a realistic middle grade book that has a lot of heart, great characters, and a story that will resonate with all readers.

Torres writing is strong, and more than that it’s filled with honest emotions. So much so that readers will feel as if they know Griselda on a personal level, and that they are experiencing her trials and triumphs alongside her. Even though this book is well written, and even though it deals with some tough subject matter – family struggles, financial struggles, societal pressure and embarrassment just to name a few – it’s extremely easy to read.

Author Torres does not gloss over all those hard hitting subject, instead she explores them with honesty and a gentle hand. She truly has a way of making readers understand these issues and feel sympathetic to them as well.

What I appreciated most about this book were it’s characters. They were all so unique, yet easily relatable. Griselda is a likable character, one that young readers will easily identify with. But not only will they identify with her, but they will also see their own emotions and feelings reflected in her as well. As a reader, an older one, I truly appreciated the apparent growth seen from the beginning to the end.

The Fresh New Face of Griselda has a lot of heart. And I think that that’s what makes this book such a great book for readers of all ages. Beyond that, it feels as if there’s a little something for each and every one of us.

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Middle Grade Monday: Isadora Moon Goes to School

Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster

Meet Isadora Moon. She’s half-fairy and half-vampire. And her life is perfect! Her best friend is a pink stuffed rabbit that her fairy mother brought to life. She gets to breakfast – her most favorite meal of the day – twice. She can fly. And she loves watching the human kids walking to and from school everyday.

Perfect!

That is, under her fairy mom and vampire dad tell her that it’s time for her to go to school, just like those kids she watches everyday. But she won’t be going to any old school. Instead, they’re giving Isadora a choice: daytime fairy school or nighttime vampire school.

Unsure of both, Isadora tries both schools. And it turns out that she doesn’t like either. School just isn’t for her, or at least fairy school or vampire school isn’t for her.

Isadora has to go to school, but her parents are insisting on it. But which school. She doesn’t fit in either school. Will she ever find a school, a school perfect for a half-fairy, half-vampire?

Isadora Moon Goes to School, written by author Harriet Muncaster, is book one in a series about a lovable half-fairy, half-vampire.

Author Harriet Muncaster’s writing is simple, but strong. What makes it so is the imagination that has been woven into the story. More than that though, Muncaster’s writing is inviting. Readers will easily feel welcomed into Isadora’s half-fairy, half-vampire world.

Still, the descriptions and the illustrated details are fun. Both help readers not only see the story unfold, before their eyes and in their mind’s eye.

Isadora Moon is a true original. She is completely unique, and as a reader I personally loved how that unique-ness is celebrated throughout the entire book.  She is a true leader, and a relatable one at that. Young readers will see their own worries and struggles reflected in Isadora’s. But as great as Isadora is as a character, she isn’t the only stand out character in this book.

There are her parents: her fairy mother and her vampire father. While they fit their stereotypes, they also feel like they break their molds. Best of all is that they’re supportive and loving of Isadora. They are her biggest cheerleaders.

Overall, I thoroughly loved Isadora Moon Goes to School and I honestly feel that readers of all ages will too. Isadora is fiercely strong. Beyond that, I feel this book imparts an important message, and a message not just for the intended audience: be true to yourself, and that it’s okay to be different, and celebrate those differences.

Isadora Moon Goes to School is a super cute, super charming story that will leave readers wanting more.  By the time this book comes to close, they’ll be eager to get their hands on book two.

(And as an aside I absolutely love the black, white, and pink aesthetic!)

*Cover image from Goodreads

Middle Grade Monday: Top Five MG Books of 2019 I Can’t Wait to Read

Happy 2019 Dear Readers!

Today I’m going to be sharing with you the top 5 upcoming middle grade releases that I am looking forward to reading this year.

I know, it should be my top 9 for 2019, but I am being realistic. And I’m trying my hardest not to put a lot of pressure on myself – reading wise.  But more than that later this week.

So, here are my 5 middle grade novels I’m looking forward to reading this year:

Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi

“Aru is just getting the hang of this  whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good. But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden , the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.” – from Goodreads

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

“The world tilted for Elodee this year, and now it’s impossible for her to be the same as she was before. Not when her feelings have such a strong grip on her heart. Not when she and her twin sister, Naomi, seem to be drifting apart. So when Elodee’s mom gets a new job in Eventown, moving seems like it might just fix everything. Indeed, life in Eventown is comforting and exciting all at once. Their kitchen comes with a box of recipes for Elodee to try. Everyone takes the scenic way to school or work – past rows of rosebushes and unexpected waterfalls. On blueberry-picking field trips, every berry is perfectly ripe. Sure, there are a few odd rules, and the houses all look exactly alike, but it’s easy enough to explain – until Elodee realizes that there are only three ice cream flavors in Eventown. Ever. And they play only one song in music class. Everything may be “even” in Eventown, but is there a price to pay for perfection – and pretending?” – from Goodreads

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Ramee

“Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.) But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what? Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of  the Black Lives Matter movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum. Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.” -from Goodreads

Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights by Randall Platt

“The year is 1896 and Fern “Babe” Killingsworth is fourteen years old, six-foot-nine inches, and weighs 342 lbs. When her father sells her for a hundred dollars to Professor Phillipe Renoir, Babe has nothing to lost. She’s hoping she’ll find something worthwhile working alongside the other “freaks” in Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights. When Babe meets Carlotta, the tiny performer seems like nothing more than a spoiled diva. “I’m a dwarf, not a midget!” says the diminutive dancer – but soon the conditions and treatment they experience in carnie life, and especially afraid of Renoir’s threats to kill and stuff their beloved animal companions, an elephant, a chimp, and a bear. When the two girls get good news in a letter, they run away from Renoir and find themselves in a much better situation at the home of Carlotta’s aunt  – but will it be the last stop for Babe?” – from Goodreads.

The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes

“Pitched as Pippi Longstocking meets My Girl and Waitress, the book tells the story of the unlikely friendship between 12-year-old Gideon, who has just moved across the country to Nevada, and Roona, the adventurous girl next door who rollerskates everywhere, isn’t afraid of anything, and can transform herself into Wonder Roo, a superhero version of herself.” – from Goodreads.

 

(All cover images and summaries from Goodreads)

Middle Grade Monday: Graveyard Shakes

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

Victoria and Katia aren’t accustomed to life in a big city. All they’ve known is a home on a goat farm. Their home is a home where they were free to be who they wanted to be and free to do whatever it is they chose to do.

But when they’re accepted into a fancy boarding school, both of their lives suddenly change. Older sister Victoria is worried about fitting in, while younger sister Katia is worried about losing her individuality (she is the lone wolf type).

Faced with the first day jitters, Victoria sets out to make, not only a new life for herself, but new friends. And in doing so, she embarrasses herself in front of … everyone. In the hopes of making things better she decides to sign both her and sister Katia up for some school clubs.

While Victoria finds the possibility of joining the soccer team exciting, Katia isn’t thrilled at the prospect of joining Orchestra. So much so that she storms out of the audition and into an oncoming blizzard.

Within that blizzard Katia finds a group of ghostly friends that she feels let her be who she wants to be. They don’t tell her what to do, nor do they tell her who she should be. They’re happy with Katia just as she is. Or so she thinks they’re happy with her. But their ghostly motives are dark and sinister. Their motives not only put Katia in harm’s way, but also Victoria.

Will the sisters survive? Or will they be the newest residents of the graveyard?

Graveyard Shakes, a middle grade graphic novel written and illustrated by Laura Terry, has all the chills and thrills for all adventurous readers!

What I personally loved about this graphic novel, besides the story itself, is how the story is told mostly through the illustrations. While this book isn’t wordless, it doesn’t necessarily rely on the text. Don’t get me wrong, Terry’s writing is strong, inviting, and imaginative. But more so are her lush illustrations.  The illustrations allow readers to step inside the mind and imagination of creator Terry.

The colors in each panel are vibrant and rich. More than that they lend to the underlying creep factor that is threaded throughout this book.

I feel like I could go one and on about the illustrations, especially since this is a graphic novel.  But I won’t. Instead I want to talk about another facet of this book that resonated with me as a reader. Main characters Victoria and Katia. While I loved how Katia strived to maintain her lone wolf status, and how she celebrated her individuality, I truly appreciated Victoria. At a young age I think we all go through that phase where, as much as we want to be an individual, we also want to fit in. I love how author/illustrator Terry explored that, and explored it in a way that was honest and relatable.

This facet let me, as an adult reader, reflect on that time period in my own life. And it made me think about how those formative years shaped the person I am today. I think younger readers will see a lot of themselves within both main characters. More than that, they will cheer for them.

Graveyard Shakes was a book I picked up at a local comic bookstore. It was a book I picked up because I was drawn to the beautiful cover. And after reading it, I’m so glad that I judge books by their covers, because this is one of the best ones I’ve read lately!

Middle Grade Monday: Magical Creatures – A Booklist

Hello Readers!

Welcome to a new week, and another edition of Middle Grade Monday!

Last week I posted a review of Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter – a middle grade book that I picked up unexpectedly and really liked! A big part of why I liked it so much was because it featured a Sasquatch (or a squidge). It’s not that I’m obsessed with Sasquatchs or I spend my time roaming the wilds in a hope of a rare sighting. I liked it mainly because, besides being a super cute portrait of a tiny Sasquatch, I feel that in books Sasquatchs are underrated (I could totally be wrong about that!).

Because of that I thought it would be fun to explore other middle grade novels that feature creatures from myths, folklore, magical realms, and legends. While this list isn’t very long, all the books featured on it are books that, if you read Big Foot and Little Foot, I think you’d enjoy.

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

The Spiderwick Chronicles (Series) by Toni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Phoebe & Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland

The Creature of the Pines (The Unicorn Rescue Society Book 1) by Adam Gidwitz

Like I said, not a very long list, but a solid one (or at least I think so)! Tell me, dear readers, what books would you have added to this list? Please share in the comments!

(Cover images from Goodreads)

 

Middle Grade Monday: Big Food And Little Foot

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter

Hugo is a sasquatch. Technically, he is only a squidge – a squidge who lives with his family in a beautiful cave, goes to school where he learns to sneak, and yearns to leave the words when he’s fully grown.

Hugo is a sasquatch. Technically, he is only a squidge. He live in a beautiful spacious cave with his family. He goes to school where he learns how to sneak so that no humans can spot him. Hugo’s life is near perfect. There is one thing missing from Hugo’s life ….

Adventure!

Hugo dreams of growing up and leaving the woods behind so that he can see the great wide world. There’s just a one little problem with Hugo’s dream: he’s a Sasquatch. And Sasquatches can’t venture out into the great wide world — there are humans there. Humans that could possibly hurt Hugo and his fellow Sasquatches.

But when Hugo and Boone, a new friend, start exchanging toys and letters, Hugo soon realizes that Boone is a human boy. Is he one of those humans that want to hurt the Sasquatches? Or will Boone be the best friend and fellow adventurer that Hugo so desperately wants?

Big Foot and Little Foot, written by author Ellen Potter, is a story of, not only the trials and tribulations of being a growing Sasquatch, but ultimately a story of friendship.

Author Potter’s writing is sweet, engaging, and above all things descriptive. With a little imagination young readers will get a sense of what it’s like to be Hugo, or any Sasquatch for that matter.  While young readers will enjoy this often funny story, older readers will appreciate how author Potter handled the important message of not judging someone based on who or what they are and what they look like.

Sometimes, I find with messages like this, it could be heavy-handed. This isn’t the case with Potter’s Big Foot and Little Foot. Potter handles this subject with ease and grace. As an older reader I appreciated that.

Maybe it’s because this is the first book in a series (I think?), I feel like I am still getting to know both Hugo and Boone. As main characters readers will want only the best for them. They will also be able to see a bit of themselves in both of these characters. And why is that? Because Potter’s characters are realistic – they have emotions, they have dreams and fears, they love and area loved. More than that, they will genuinely enjoy getting to know Hugo and Boone, and watching the friendship unfolding between them.

I picked Potter’s Big Foot and Little Foot up on a whim. Before reading I knew nothing about it, not even if I would or wouldn’t like it. But now, after reading this book, I have to say I enjoyed it, and am looking forward to future books. And I really think younger kids will enjoy this one too … especially those who are curious about Sasquatches!

(Cover image from GoodReads)

Middle Grade Monday: Real Friends

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

For as long as Shannon could be remember, it’s always been Shannon and Adrienne, Adrienne and Shannon. That is … until middle school.

Shannon doesn’t think that middle school will affect their friendship. And it doesn’t. But a new friend – Jen – will.

It seems that Adrienne is hanging out with Jen more and more. Because of that it seems that she’s ditching Shannon more and more. Shannon has to do something to save their friendship, but what?

Will becoming popular solve all her problems? Or will it become the problem that breaks up all of her friendships?

Real Friends, written by author Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a realistic graphic novel that will surely resonate with, not only the intended audience, but all who pick it up. Whether you are a kid in middle school or you are like me – an adult with a full time job, this book has something for every reader.

There were many (many!) reasons why I enjoyed Real Friends. But the first reason is an obvious one: the writing. This isn’t Hale’s first rodeo – her writing is strong, engaging, and above all, has a “voice” all her own.

The second reason, another obvious reason, as to why I enjoyed this book was because of Pham’s illustrations. I enjoyed how her artwork was so realistic. Readers could look at the many faces within the illustrations and easily see themselves. Besides that, I loved how the illustrations not only enhanced Hale’s story, but they how they also told their own side of the same story.

The third, and maybe not so obvious reasons as to why I really enjoyed Real Friends, was that I found it to be authentic. The dialog felt true to the age the characters were portrayed to be. The situations were real and well realized – many kids more than likely experience exactly what young Shannon experienced. I also enjoyed how Hale didn’t shy away from the scary side of growing up. Hale doesn’t sugarcoat things, and as a reader I appreciated it, and feel that young readers will also appreciate it.