Chirp by Kate Messner, a review

Chirp by Kate Messner, published in 2020, tells the tale of Mia, a twelve year old former gymnast who’s just moved from Boston to Vermont. Her family moved there to support her grandmother, whose unpredictability makes everyone wonder what’s going to happen next. Gram’s business, raising crickets for people food, is languishing.

Soon it looks like someone is trying to sabotage the cricket farm by releasing gulls inside, then fruit flies. As Mia and her new friend Clover try to figure out if there really is sabotage, and who’s doing it, Mia’s fears resurface. It’s all related to her previous gymnastics career, and a creepy guy who worked there.

Can Mia and her new friends get Gram’s business to succeed? Can Mia learn resilience? This book does a great job of carrying the reader along as Mia begins to seek and find healing. A book for the “me too” era, it shows acceptance of a friend’s family of two moms.

Ranger in Time: Night of Soldiers and Spies, by Kate Messner

Kate Messner's Ranger in Time series features a rescue dog, Ranger, who who magically is called to other times and places to help save people. In this tale, Soldiers and Spies, Ranger helps a young black soldier in the Continental Army of George … [Continue reading]

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan, a review

Authors Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan team up to tell a middle-grade tale with two points of view: one a Muslim Pakistani-American girl who just wants to fit in at her big new school, and the other a Jewish girl whose best friend has dumped her. … [Continue reading]

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, a review

Georges, that's with a silent s, moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, another twelve-year-old who starts a spy club for the two of them. They're spying on a bird nest, on people in the building lobby (through the videocam), on … [Continue reading]

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis, a review

Bryan Davis, author of thirty successful young adult books, wrote this middle-grade tale and published it last year. It's a delightful comic book story of heroes and villains told as a novel, with plenty of gadget references that remind me of … [Continue reading]

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 … [Continue reading]

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]