Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: 2015 Middle Grade Preview

One of the best perks of joining a debut authors' group is reading everyone's ARCs. I've enjoyed so many great MG and YA books that are coming out next year, and since I couldn't decide on one specific book for my MG review today, I thought I'd highlight four excellent middle grade ARCs I've read recently.

Blackbird FlyBlackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.

I love a good, realistic, no-holds-barred MG, and this is definitely one. The main character, Apple, struggles to fit in with her "friends" at school, and some of these scenes are so very real that they're almost hard to read. Such a great, diverse book! Highly recommended.

My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!)My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many things that 11-year-old Stanley Slater would like to have in life, most of all, a father. But what if Stan's missing dad isn't "dearly departed" after all? Who better to find this absent hero/cowboy/outlaw than manly Stan himself? Unfortunately, Stan's fending off his impossible cousin Geri, evil Granny, and Mama's suitors like Cold-Blooded Killer Stinky Pete. If only he could join the River Drive, the most perilous adventure of all, where even a fellow's peavey is at risk. It's a wild ride for Stan as he finds out about true manliness. But at least Stan has his scrapbook, full of 200 black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, "augmented" with his commentary and doodles.
So. Much. Fun. I loved this! It is a -- get this -- humorous historical. I can honestly say I've never read anything like it. Stan is a hilarious narrator, and his story is peppered with old-timey photos and ads that he's drawn on and captioned for his scrapbook. This book is so original, and just a delight to read.

Villain Keeper (The Last Dragon Charmer, #1)Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of being sent on a quest to slay a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Winterlands of Razzon and finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina—a land with no magic and no dragons. But a prince must always complete his quest. And the longer Caden is in Asheville, the more he realizes there is magic in this strange land after all. More important, there may just be dragons here, too. But what if Caden’s destiny isn’t to slay a dragon, like he's always believed?

Loved this book! It starts out as a fish-out-of-water story, with Prince Caden finding himself and his friend mysteriously landed in Asheville, North Carolina. But it quickly turns out that everything is not as it seems in Asheville, and in fact, they're not the only people from their realm to be living there. The book is full of humor and adventure, and the characters are all really well-drawn. Can't wait to read book two!

Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions: Book 1Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions: Book 1 by Sheila Grau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions is the premier supplier of minions to Evil Overlords throughout the Greater Porvian Continent. Twelve-year-old Runt Higgins has grown up as Dr. Critchlore’s ward, a werewolf who couldn’t keep up with the other pups. Now Runt’s determined to make it into the elite Junior Henchman Training Program so the pack who abandoned him will be so proud, they’ll take him back. But that won’t happen if the school closes down, a fate that grows likelier as disasters keep striking with alarming regularity. Runt decides to find the saboteur himself, since nobody knows the school better than he does—and hasn’t he got the keen senses, strength, and speed that werewolves are known for?

This book is full of some crazy-amazing world-building. Every single character stands out, and I especially loved that Runt, the main character, wasn't the most gifted guy around. It's funny, exciting, and just a good read.

And, check out these other upcoming 2015 middle grade books featured on Kidliterati earlier this year:

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Raising Rufus by David Fulk
I Am Drums by Mike Grosso
Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb
Omega City by Diana Peterfreund
Ruby Reinvented by Ronni Arno
Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall
You're Invited by Jen Malone and Gail Nall


  1. Great list! So happy you loved Blackbird Fly. :-)

  2. Really looking forward to "Breaking the Ice" and "My Near Death Adventures"! And to shamelessly toot my own horn--thanks again, Kid Literati, for the cover reveal of my MG "Moonpenny Island, coming this February.

    1. Ack, Tricia! I'm going to edit this to include your book. So sorry I left it out!!

  3. Thanks for the review, Gail.

    I've read My Near-Death Adventures and it is HILARIOUS! There's a great story too.

    So much to read, so little time.


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