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….

The Magic Thief
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 1, 2016

Magic Thief #1. Author: Sarah Prineas. Summary: Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery’s pocket and stole the wizard’s locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Astonished and intrigued, Nevery agrees to take Conn on as his apprentice, on the condition that the boy find a locus stone of his own within a month. But with his wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who – or what – is stealing the city of Wellmet’s magic, time is running out for Conn to find his stone. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 d***, mostly people say “Curse it!” Violence: One schoolboy fight, group gets attacked by minions and wizard turns the minions into rats, boy gets knocked around once by a bodyguard, boy is arrested and chained for breaking and entering. Other Issues: Main character is a thief, pickpocket and lock-pick, and very likeable.  

The Scrivener’s Bones
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 31, 2016

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians #2. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: In his second skirmish against the Evil Librarians who rule the world, Alcatraz and his ragtag crew of freedom fighters track Grandpa Smedry to the ancient and mysterious Library of Alexandria. Hushlanders―people who live in the Librarian-controlled lands of Canada, Europe, and the Americas―believe the Library was destroyed long ago. Free Kingdomers know the truth: the Library of Alexandria is still around, and it’s one of the most dangerous places on the planet. For it is the home of the scariest Librarians of them all: a secret sect of soul-stealing Scriveners. Can Alcatraz and his friends rescue Grandpa Smedry and make it out of there alive? (Published summary.) My Thoughts: If anything, more engrossing than the first. Not only is the narrator in top form, an irrepressible, exasperating, hilarious presence in the story, but the writing-balance is so good I’m actually getting sucked into the ridiculous plot. (Also, Sanderson has finally admitted the truth: It’s a law of nature that all books he writes are awesome.) Content Review: Sexual content: None Language: None Violence: One aerial fight, in which a plane is shot down. All occupants survive, but there is…

The Sword of Summer
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 30, 2016

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1. Author: Rick Riordan. Summary: Magnus Chase is a homeless kid who’s mother is dead. He’s doing pretty well, surviving by his wits and a pair of friends, but everything goes wrong one day. First his uncle is trying to track him down for the first time in years, then a fire-god attacks him, and the next thing he knows he’s dead. Things just get weirder from there when he finds himself in Asgard. Content Review: Sexual content: Once a character wakes up to someone knocking on his door and hastens to open it before realizing he’s in his underthings. Language: 1 d***, a couple of uses of the exclamation “gods”. Violence: High. Too high to go into details; not very detailed or graphic, but there’s a lot of fighting and stabbing, and due to the nature of the story there’s a good bit of ‘killing’ of ghosts who just come back. Other issues: The main character is homeless, admits to having stolen before. The story is about Norse gods being real, and he interacts with them after dying.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 28, 2016

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: A hero with an incredible talent…for breaking things. A life-or-death mission…to rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network…the evil Librarians. Alcatraz Smedry doesn’t seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them!…by infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutzines (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Alcatraz knows his life is ridiculous. But what can he do about it? Since the day his inheritance (a small bag of sand) showed up, things have just gotten weirder, and there’s no backing out now. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is quite a departure from Sanderson’s usual work, and the plot is clearly middle-grade. But the story’s well-written, balancing on the fine line between amusing and just silly (at least I thought so) and the sarcastic, self-aware narrator is wonderful. A little like the narrator of The Name of this Book is…

Darkstalker
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 23, 2016

Wings of Fire: Legends #1. Author: Tui T. Sutherland. Summary: Three dragons. One unavoidable, unpredictable destiny. This is the beginning… of the end. In the SeaWing kingdom, a young prince learns he is an animus — capable of wonderful magic that comes with a terrible price. In the mind of a NightWing dragonet, a thousand futures unfold — and almost all of them, she knows, lead to disaster and destruction. And under three full moons and the watchful eyes of his NightWing mother and IceWing father, the most powerful dragon Pyrhhia will ever know is clawing his way out of his egg. Darkstalker, the dragon who will change the world forever. Long before the SandWing war, lifetimes before the Dragonet Prophecy… darkness is born. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Darkstalker continues the best tradition of the Wings of Fire series, with well-rounded fascinating dragons, intricate connections, and laugh-out-loud moments in the midst of blackness. (And, yes, the apparent tradition of disturbingly violent images. How does “cut your own tongue out” get into a middle grade book? I don’t know.) We’ve got a split view point, with Darkstalker, Fathom, and Clearview. Sutherland finally answers the question of what seeing the future clearly…

Ella Enchanted
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 4, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: Ella is a strong-willed, contrary girl – but if you give her an order, she’ll obey every time. She has to. Her fairy godmother gifted her with obedience at birth, and while Ella has learned to stretch the limits, in the end she must live with it. But this isn’t going to stop her from running away, taming ogres, meeting elves, and chasing down fairies to try and break the spell. And even maybe, just maybe, falling in love. My Thoughts: One of the funnest fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some girls at boarding school are mean to her, ordering her around. Some ogres tie her up and threaten to eat her. Her stepmother makes her work as a servant.  

The War That Saved My Life
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 1, 2016

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Summary: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 bloody, 1 derogatory term Violence: Although it’s not very present in the book, Ada’s mother severely abused her. Ada flinches every time someone raises a hand near her for weeks. She’s afraid to go into an air-raid shelter because it reminds her of the cupboard she was locked in as punishment. World War I is happening, and there are air-raids….