Middle Grade Review: Lafayette!

Lafayette! by Nathan Hale

Series: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales
Genres: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Gilbert du Motier became the Marquis de Lafayette at a young age, but he was not satisfied with the comforts of French nobility—he wanted adventure!

A captain at eighteen and a major general by nineteen, he was eager to prove himself in battle. When he heard about the Revolution going on in America, he went overseas and fought alongside Alexander Hamilton and George Washington for America’s independence.


YOU GUYS! If you’re a teacher or librarian and haven’t heard of Nathan Hale, I can only assume you’ve been living under a box. He takes historical figures and events and makes them kid-friendly. They are graphic novels told with a sense of humor and historical accuracy.

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Genre: Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating:

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.


What an outstanding book! Truly this is an exercise in seeing the world from the eyes of someone so different from yourself. It’s hard to believe with today’s push for neurodiversity in literature that this book was written over fifteen years ago. It is so ahead of its time, and just absolutely brilliant.

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Middle Grade Review: Jacky Ha-Ha

Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Illustrations by: Kerascoët
Series: Jacky Ha-Ha
Genres: Middle-Grade, Humor
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆

With her irresistible urge to tell a joke in every situation–even when she really, really shouldn’t–twelve-year-old Jacky Ha-Ha loves to make people laugh. And cracking wise helps distract her from thinking about not-so-funny things in her life, like her mom serving in a dangerous, faraway war, and a dad who’s hardly ever home.

But no matter how much fun Jacky has, she can’t seem to escape her worries. So one starlit night, she makes a promise to keep her family together…even if she has to give up the one thing that makes her happy. But can she stop being Jacky Ha-Ha, if that’s who she really is?


For middle-grade readers who are a fan of funny books with heart, Jacky Ha-Ha is sure to be a hit. But it doesn’t have the depth and high-quality writing of the best of the genre.

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Audiobook Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Takes from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Narrated by: Cary Elwes, with guest appearances
Genre: Memoir
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!


I LOVED THIS BOOK! It was like watching a behind-the-scenes or making-of film, but obviously no such thing exists. This is the next best thing. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if Elwes had collaborated with other members of the cast and production team to make it an all-play. Which, honestly, he kind of did, so it could almost not be better.

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Review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Genres: Middle-Grade, Fiction
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test — middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?


This is one of those classic middle-grade books that I think appeals to adults more than kids. Don’t get me wrong, I think sixth and seventh graders would probably enjoy this book if they picked it up, but I don’t know that they would unless a teacher assigned it. It isn’t very universally appealing, it’s definitely going to catch the eyes of the outcasts and odd-balls.

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Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Genre: Non-fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.


Wow. I don’t even know what to say about Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It’s a gorgeously written book. There’s a reason it won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, and a half-dozen other prestigious awards. But I’m not going to lie to you guys, it is an upsetting book.

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Middle Grade Review – Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

Series: Narwhal and Jelly
Genres: Graphic Novel, Children’s
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.


This might be my favorite thing I have ever read. Ever. This book is so funny, and charming, and sweet, and smart, and the drawings are soooooo adorable. I am in love.

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