The Sun Trail
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 27, 2016

Dawn of the Clans #1. Author: Erin Hunter. Summary: For many moons, a tribe of cats has lived peacefully near the top of a mountain. But prey is scarce and seasons are harsh–and their leader fears they will not survive. When a mysterious vision reveals a land filled with food and water, a group of brave young cats sets off in search of a better home. But great dangers await them. In this unfamiliar world, faced with loners and fierce rogues all vying for territory and power, the traveling cats must find a new way to live side by side–or risk tearing one another apart. My Thoughts: It was interesting to see the arrival of the first cats. Even before they got there, the foreshadowing of the clans was clear to those watching for it, as I was. However, the characters are not as relatable, and the love-trianglie-stuff with Storm/Grey Wing/Clear Sky and Turtle/Grey Wing was weird. Background enough that younger kids wouldn’t notice, but a little weird. Content Review: Sexual content: Over the course of the book, three cats are pregnant. Two give birth, one off-screen and the other very low detail. The cats do not marry or have…

Dragon’s Blood
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / November 21, 2016

Pit Dragon Chronicles #1. Author: Jane Yolen. Summary: Jakkin is a bondboy, a situation similar to indentured servants of old – right now he’s basically a slave, but he’s paying off his debt piece by piece. But the quickest way to make enough gold to do that is by stealing a dragon egg from the nursery where he works and raising it to fight in the rings. If Jakkin wants his freedom he’s going to have to steal a dragon egg, hide and feed it, bond to it, and train it to fight – all without being discovered. My Thoughts: Well, the tone was strange. I believe it’s considered both ya and middle grade, but the constant references to prostitutes seem out-of-place for such an age range. I liked the concept of dragons bred and trained to fight in ring-fights: not one I’ve seen before, but quite logical. But I really hope Jakkin is going to get his come-uppance from Akki, because the attitude towards girls is quite strange – the final scene where Jakkin determines to ‘master Akki’ threw me off more than anything else in the book. Since Akki is determinedly independent, I can see this going different…

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 1, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: The two princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. Her deepest wish is for safety. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. Her deepest wish is to save the kingdom of Bamarre. They are sisters, and they mean the world to each other. Then disaster strikes, and Addie – terrified and unprepared – sets out on a perilous quest. In her path are the monsters of Bamarre: ogres, specters, gryphons, and dragons. Addie must battle them, but time is running out, and the sisters’ lives – and Bamarre’s fate – hang in the balance. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A girl is attacked by an ogre, rams him into a tower to escape, and ends up with a dislocated shoulder. She is subsequently attacked by griffins, who gorge themselves to death, then by a dragon who carries her off. There is a battle scene in which a dragon dies, as well as various and sundry griffins, specters, and ogres. Other issues: A human girl marries a hundred-year old sorcerer, who will live to 500. Due to the heavily fairy-tale feel the contrast is not jolting or problematic…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 31, 2016

Harry Potter #1. Author: J.K. Rowling. Summary: Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 d*** Violence: Fairly low. Love Triangle: No. Other: There has been some controversy over the fact that children learn magic/spells, to guard against the “dark arts”, and there are magical females referred to as witches.

The Hidden Oracle
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 22, 2016

Trials of Apollo #1. Author: Rick Riordan. Summary: How do you punish an immortal? By making him human. After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour. But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Pretty funny for a middle-grade book, even if it does seem awfully familiar after two whole series with much the same kind of adventures. This time we have Apollo for protagonist. He’s a self-absorbed jerk, but at least it’s a distinctive narrator; and honestly I found his narration very amusing. Content Review: Sexual content: Narrator comments that he’s had at least as many boyfriends as girlfriends (this in connection with two male characters dating) and adds that you really…

Escaping Peril
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 16, 2016

Wings of Fire #8. Author: Tui T. Sutherland. Summary: Peril has been loyal to Queen Scarlet, who used her fatal firescales to kill countless dragons in the SkyWing arena. Now, Peril is loyal to Clay, the only dragonet who has ever been her friend. So when Scarlet threatens Jade Mountain Academy, Peril sets off to find her former queen, stop her, and save the day, no matter what it takes. There’s just one problem: a strangely persistent SeaWing, Turtle, insists on coming along, too. Turtle is worried about his friends, who left to search for Scarlet and haven’t returned. Peril is worried that she might accidentally burn Turtle — or burn him on purpose, for being so annoying — and frustrated that she keeps saying and doing the wrong things. She can’t escape her firescales, and she can’t escape her reputation as the deadliest dragon in Pyrrhia. So when she’s offered a chance to trade everything for a second chance, Peril has to decide who she’s really loyal to . . . and whether her own scales might actually be worth saving. My Thoughts: The Wings of Fire series seems to be aiming higher in its age range, and the…

The Chosen Prince
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2016

Author: Diane Stanley. Summary: On the day of his birth, Prince Alexos is revealed to be the long-awaited champion of Athene. He grows up lonely, conscious of all that is expected of him. But Alexos discovers that being a champion isn’t about fame and glory—it’s about sacrifice and courage. Alexos follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria, and faces the greatest challenge of his life. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The Chosen Prince is set in a fairly generic, medieval-type kingdom. There is poverty and starvation for the prince to learn from and try to better; a neighboring kingdom that is always at war on the border; peasants, nobles, and farmers. Although the specific setting that Alexos interacts with is always clear, the world in general felt a little flat and fuzzy to me. Diane Stanley may, of course, have been trying to evoke the medieval stereotype on purpose. I did like the story. Alexos is a sympathetic character, and plot took a couple of twists that I did not see coming. Content Review: Sexual content:…

First to Ride
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 30, 2016

Author: Pers Crowell. Summary: “You shall choose for your king the one who comes riding upon the back of a Fleet One.” This is the strange message left by the leader Manos before he dies. Ride upon the back of a Fleet One, a wild horse? No one has ever done that — not the bravest of the cave dwellers, not the mightiest of the hunters. And among these men of long ago, no one believes it is possible to ride a horse — except the boy Vuldar. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: One mammoth is killed, one man is speared by a mammoth, a wild stallion is tamed, which involves rough, wild, bucking rides and him fighting ropes several times. No gory details for any of this.

Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lenses
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 26, 2016

Alcatraz #4. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: Alcatraz Smedry, the boy with the incredible Talent for breaking things, has a lot to prove and little time in which to do it. In this adventure, Alcatraz faces an army of librarians–and their giant robots–as they battle to win the kingdom of Mokia. If the librarians win the war, everything that Alcatraz has fought so hard for could end in disaster. Alcatraz must face the robots, the evil librarians, and even his own manipulative mother! But will he be able to save the kingdom of Mokia and the Free Kingdoms from the wrath of the librarians before everything comes crashing down? (Goodreads summary) Content Review: Sexual content: One character stripped naked by magical bomb. They don clothes as fast as possible. Language: None Violence: Part of an airplane explodes and it’s forced to land, but except for minor bruising everyone’s fine. Multiple soldiers are struck and knocked out by martial arts/bad dancing (they’re sort of the same thing). There’s hand-to-hand fighting with soldiers, and some are knocked out.

Winter Turning
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 6, 2016

Wings of Fire #7. Author: Tui T. Sutherland. Summary: Winter has been a disappointment to his royal IceWing family his whole life. When his sister, Icicle, runs away from Jade Mountain Academy, fleeing terrible crimes and possibly planning to commit more, Winter knows that they both need a second chance to make things right — if only he can find her. Winter’s new clawmates, Moon, Qibli, and Kinkajou, won’t let him make this dangerous journey alone. They don’t seem to understand that IceWings, the most superior of all dragon tribes, can fix their own problems. When their search leads the dragonets straight into Queen Scarlet’s vicious talons, Winter is grateful to have some help. But even the bravest dragons can’t follow him to the Ice Kingdom, where he’ll have to face the greatest threat of all: his own family. My Thoughts: I had forgotten why I keep reading these middle grade books! While having a high level of violence possibly unsuitable for younger readers, they are never very graphic. The characters are interesting, with back-stories and dilemmas and character growth, the plot is fun, and the pace never slows down. An excellent action-adventure read, like the rest of the series….