Middle Grade Review: New Kid

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Series: New Kid
Genres: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade

Maturity Level: 2
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Rating:
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Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? 


I loved this graphic novel! The art, the story, the characterization, the subtltly, everything was so spot-on! I would put this up there as an all-time favorite with El Deafo and Pashmina. A must-read for middle-graders!

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Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent
Genre: Fantasy

Maturity Level: 3
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Rating:
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After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet–after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure–scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies–and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.


Reviewing book five in a series seems so pointless, because there’s not much to say about this book that I didn’t say about the previous four. It’s in the same vein, no major changes, and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

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Where Does the Harry Potter Fandom Go from Here?

Yes, there will still be a Harry Potter fandom.

The largest chunk of the Harry Potter fandom will, I predict, continue to be fans with no knowledge of J.K. Rowling’s tweets, blog posts, or political agenda. These are casual fans or fans who just aren’t on social media and reading the news. While they don’t make up the majority of fans online or showing up at fan events, they do represent a large portion of the population continuing to buy books and movie tickets.

Another portion of the fandom (I hope the smallest portion) will read what J.K. Rowling wrote and either agree with her or be persuaded by her. They will (I think) continue to loudly defend her.

Finally, a good portion of the fandom disagrees passionately with J.K. Rowling, but feels they can successfully separate the art from the artist. These fans feel they can continue to read the books and watch the films, perhaps even continue to go to fan events and buy fan merchandise, without supporting Rowling directly. Whether this is something these fans can or should do is not the point of my blog post today, and I will defer to others who have spoken on the subject. I will also say that I consider myself one of these fans, and I will continue to love the books that taught me to be compassionate to those who are different than me.

And it is this last group I am talking to today. We are the voice of the fandom, we tend to determine the direction the fandom goes. What do we do now?

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t want to pretend to. But I do have a few ideas that I would like to share.

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Middle Grade Review: Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows

Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo

Series: Charlie Hernández
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Charlie Hernández has always been proud of his Latin American heritage. He loves the culture, the art, and especially the myths. Thanks to his abuela’s stories, Charlie possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the monsters and ghouls who have spent the last five hundred years haunting the imaginations of children all across the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Central and South America. And even though his grandmother sometimes hinted that the tales might be more than mere myth, Charlie’s always been a pragmatist. Even barely out of diapers, he knew the stories were just make-believe—nothing more than intricately woven fables meant to keep little kids from misbehaving.

But when Charlie begins to experience freaky bodily manifestations—ones all too similar to those described by his grandma in his favorite legend—he is suddenly swept up in a world where the mythical beings he’s spent his entire life hearing about seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Hispanic folklore and into his life. And even stranger, they seem to know more about him than he knows about himself.

Soon, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ancient battle between La Liga, a secret society of legendary mythological beings sworn to protect the Land of the Living, and La Mano Negra (a.k.a. the Black Hand), a cabal of evil spirits determined to rule mankind. With only the help of his lifelong crush, Violet Rey, and his grandmother’s stories to guide him, Charlie must navigate a world where monsters and brujas rule and things he couldn’t possibly imagine go bump in the night. That is, if he has any hope of discovering what’s happening to him and saving his missing parents (oh, and maybe even the world).

No pressure, muchacho.


Perfect for the fans of Percy Jackson and Aru Shah, Charlie Hernández is an action-adventure full of Hispanic and Latinx mythology and a good dose of humor.

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Review: We Set the Dark on Fire

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Key Mejia

Series: We Set the Dark on Fire
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating:
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At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?


If you’re in to YA Dystopias you can’t miss We Set the Dark on Fire. It’s exactly what you might expect it to be and completely lived up to the hype.

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Middle Grade Review: Ghost Boys

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: Middle Grade
Maturity Level: 4- (on the page violence against Black boys)
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Rating:
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Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.


“People change, but not enough at the same time. Or, maybe, people change, then forget they’ve changed and keep hurting.”

If you’re looking for a Black Lives Matter book for upper-elementary or middle school students, this book is a must-have. It tackles the subject head-on with a middle grade main character, but gives the topic the complexity it deserves.

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Lonesome Dove: Expectation vs. Reality

I just read that great American Western novel, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. While I don’t know that writing a review of such a novel is helpful (or even possible), I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts, especially relating to how it held up to my expectations. So, here we go!

Expectation: This book is long.

Reality: It’s even longer than I thought, AND it’s slow!

Seriously, this book clocks in at about 850 pages. And I’ve never read a slower book in my life. I set a pace of 50 pages a day for myself, and some days I was up late just trying to finish my 50 pages. The book is dense and the pace is slow. It takes them a good 150 pages just to get started on the cattle drive, and about 500 pages to get out of the state of Texas. I God! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bored, it’s just LONG.

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Review: Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Genre: Middle-Grade
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.


This is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. Period. It’s so sweet, and lovely, and heartbreaking, and thought-provoking, and kind, and cute, and just … beautiful. It’s a beautiful book.

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Blogging Break for Black Lives Matter

Hi friends. I haven’t been around this week. I haven’t been reading, and I haven’t been posting. Instead, I have been watching documentaries and videos, listening to podcasts, and reading articles about mass incarceration, police brutality, and the Black experience. Today my goal is to start researching how to get involved in my local government and/or political parties.

Blogging is a fun hobby. But right now I think my time is better spent on non-hobby activities. I encourage some of you, especially Americans, to consider the same. I’ll see you in a few weeks.

Middle Grade Review: Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes

Genres: Middle Grade, Mytery
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Paloma Marquez is traveling to Mexico City, birthplace of her deceased father, for the very first time. She’s hoping that spending time in Mexico will help her unlock memories of the too-brief time they spent together.

While in Mexico, Paloma meets Lizzie and Gael, who present her with an irresistible challenge: The siblings want her to help them find a valuable ring that once belonged to beloved Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Finding the ring means a big reward — and the thanks of all Mexico. What better way to honor her father than returning a priceless piece of jewelry that once belonged to his favorite artist!

But the brother and sister have a secret. Do they really want to return the ring, or are they after something else entirely?


Oh. My. Gosh. This book is so fun, and brilliant, and such a wonderful addition to the middle grade mystery genre!

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