Ghost by Jason Reynolds, a Review

Jason Reynolds’ award-winning middle-grade novel Ghost tells the story of a boy who joins a track team. But he’s not just any boy; he’s one who, three years ago,ran for his life from his father. He’s the one whose mother, struggling to work and go to school and be a parent, can’t afford decent clothes or a decent neighborhood for him, exposing him to ridicule. And he’s the one who can’t take ridicule without exploding.

In short, Ghost is a troubled kid in poverty. But he’s also gifted. Maybe because of that night he ran for his life, he is good at running. He crashes a track team practice session and quickly convinces the coach he should be on the team. But can he stay out of trouble and stay on the team? Does he want to?

This is a very good book, strong characters, well plotted. It’s a journey toward healing from trauma, with helpful responses from nearly all the adults in the story. This book is particularly good at opening the eyes of middle-class white people like me to the challenges lived daily by kids of color in poverty. An anti-racism book for sure. Five stars. *****

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt, a review

Sometimes I stray from my core mission of reviewing middle grade novels. This novel is almost a middle-grade novel. After all, its narrator is twelve, perfect for middle grade. But the real protagonist is thirteen or fourteen, a boy who's already … [Continue reading]

I signed a publishing contract!

Elk Lake Publishing will be publishing a book of mine in about a year, I'm happy to announce. The book, a middle-grade novel, features time travel. I'm not going to tell you anything more about it right now. Sign up for my occasional newsletter if … [Continue reading]

Freerunner by Kathy Cassel, a review

In this young-adult book, Kia, a shy biracial kid whose issues usually keep her hiding in the shadows, is just entering high school. When a cool new coach shows up, she decides to join the track team. Turns out she’s good at it, because she’s been … [Continue reading]

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt, illus. by Daniel Minter

Picture book biographies are coming into their own lately, aimed at young kids and also older ones who can look at the notes in the back. Here's a truly notable book, set apart by its amazing illustrations and its jewel-toned prose. Sojourner … [Continue reading]

Iggy and Oz: the Plastic Dinos of Doom by J.J. Johnson, a review

Middle-grade voice involves a (usually) sassy or joking twelve-year-old who's finding himself or herself in a pickle and agonizing about it in a very funny way. It's unique to middle grade books, as far as I can tell. I've talked about it … [Continue reading]

Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel by Rob Currie, a review

Rob Currie's debut middle grade novel, Hunger Winter, tells a suspenseful tale of brave kids in World-War-II Holland. After a neighbor bangs on their door late at night, Dirk must grab his six-year-old sister and flee from the Nazi secret police … [Continue reading]

ROAR like a Dandelion by Ruth Krauss and Sergio Ruzzier, a review

I know I said I'd be reviewing middle grade books on this blog, but this picture book is just too irresistible. Can YOU roar like a dandelion? How is that, exactly, roaring like a dandelion? This is an ABC book by Ruth Krauss, a widely known … [Continue reading]

The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, a review

Andrew Peterson's middle-grade Wingfeather series that started out as an amusing tale full of rollicking names moves to epic scope along the way. In this fourth book, The Warden and the Wolf King (2014), it builds to a mighty conclusion full of … [Continue reading]

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson, a review

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga tells the tale of the widow and three children of the King of Anniera, a blessed island kingdom overwhelmed nine years before by the dreaded fangs of Dang. This book is Book 3 of the four-book saga, The Monster in … [Continue reading]