Keepers of the Labyrinth
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 15, 2016

Author: Erin E. Moulton. Summary: Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.  (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Worse than it sounds – I found it confusing, lacking in character development, and overall boring. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: Hell, ‘God’ as an exclamation, 2 d*** Violence: Near-drowning, rope-swinging over automated arrows, and getting through a number of death-traps for which it was never specified what would have happened. Other issues: The bad side is a cult dedicated to the Greek gods and the good side may or may not think they know the secret to immortality. (It was confusing.)

The Mystery of the Wandering Caveman
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 13, 2016

A Three Investigators Mystery. Author: M. V. Carey. Summary: Three young sleuths investigate the disappearance of a caveman’s bones from a museum and uncover skulduggery at a science foundation. My Thoughts: Like all the Three Investigator books, in both a good and bad way. The books tend to blend together, all following the same pattern; but each is individually interesting. Good for younger readers, while slightly older fans of the detective story would enjoy them too. They are always completely clean, and rather than always a who-dunnit, often experiment with a more nebulous mystery. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some people are put to sleep with anesthetic against their will. There is a short scuffle with a thief, who is picked up by the police and brought to jail.  

Swing Sideways
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 12, 2016

Author: Nanci Turner Steveson. Summary: Annie has always wanted to be a country girl, and now she finally has her chance. The doctor has prescribed a summer of freedom. Out go the spreadsheets, the schedules, the rules that bind Annie’s life – she’s ready for adventure. California lives right down the road, and she seems to be everything Annie has ever wanted to be. More, she wants Annie’s help; she’s hatched a plan to bring her own mother back to the farm, by finding her mother’s old horses and returning the farm to its old state. Annie is delighted by this chance for adventure, but she’ll have to lie to her mother – California’s family is looked down upon in Annie’s family. The truth comes out in unexpected ways and from unexpected places, and this will be a summer Annie’ll never forget. My Thoughts: A well-told, tender story. The friendship between Annie and California, misunderstandings and reconciliations and all, was believable and interesting, the back-and-forth friendship more true to life than many. The relationship between Annie and her parents was also fine-tuned and tender as Annie learns to understand both her mother’s love and need for control and safety. Too…

Magic by the Lake
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 3, 2016

Tales of Magic #3. Author: Edward Eager. Summary: Jane and Mark and Katharine and Martha had stopped to think, they might have ordered magic by the pound, or by the day, but a lakeful of magic causes extraordinary and unexpected events. By the end of vacation, with an unwilling sly old turtle, and Ali Baba’s forty thieves, they help stepfather Mr. Smith save his failing bookstore in a most surprising way. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Edward Eager’s books can never really grow old, with his straight-forward casual narration and the delightfully common-sense problems with magic. Not the best of his stories, but good. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Genii magically beats robbers and “bruised them black and blue”. Cannibals tie four children up and threaten to eat them.  

The View From Saturday
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 22, 2016

Author: E.L. Konigsburg. Summary: Nadia, Noah, Julian and Ethan all have one thing in common; they make up Mrs. Olinkski’s sixth-grade Academic Bowl team, which has beaten the sixth-graders, the seventh-graders, and is now up against the eighth-graders. But they have more than that in common. Each of them has completed a journey to bring them here, each of them know something about themselves they didn’t a year ago, and they all know something Mrs. Olinski doesn’t yet: why she chose them as her team. My Thoughts: One of those slightly confusing books that leave me wondering whether I didn’t quite get the meaning, or whether it wasn’t there in the first place. The children’s four stories weave together in an interesting manner, but… it all seemed vague and not-quite-defined what we’re seeing here. Content Review: Sexual content: A musician on being asked how he can stand to practice the same piece over and over again, replies: “Why don’t you ask me how I can stand making love the same woman over and over again?” Language: None. Violence: None.  

Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Randoms #1. Author: David Liss. Summary: Zeke Reynolds has spent much of his life dreaming of going where no man has gone before, imagining exactly how one might do it and what one might find, and adding to that with the imagination banks of other such people. In other words, he’s a hard core sci-fi nerd. And it all pays off when he finds out aliens are real, and they’ve selected him among a few others to spend a year on another planet and demonstrate Earth’s capabilities. But life in space is just as dangerous as the movies make it look, and Zeke will be pushed to his limit just to survive. My Thoughts: A fun, action-packed read. Lots of sarcasm, humor, and tropes all abound. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 6 bloody. Violence: Kid is “smashed around” by an older bully. One alien ship vaporizes another. Ship is hit by a missile, flung around, and various crew members are hurt by the turbulence. Some sparring matches, one in which a girl is badly hurt. One character strikes and kicks another multiple times, and is finally knocked out by a blow to the face. Character stabs another through the…

When You Reach Me
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Rebecca Stead. Summary: By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: A rather sweet, sad character-driven look at time-travel. It was a quick read, although I was a little confused at certain parts, and honestly…

The Great Gilly Hopkins
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Katherine Patterson. Summary: Watch out world! The Great Gilly Hopkins is looking for a home. She’s a foster kid who’s been angry, lonely, and hurting for so long that’s she’s always ready for a fight. Be on the lookout for her best barracuda smile, the one she saves for well-meaning social workers. Watch out for her most fearful look, a cross between Dracula and Godzilla, used especially to scare shy foster brothers. Don’t be fooled by her “Who me?” expression, guaranteed to trick foster parents, teachers, and anyone who gets in her way. (Goodreads Summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 18 hell, 10 d***, 10 exclamations of ‘God’, 1 bloody. One suggestion of a derogatory term – leaving a blank space in a rhyming lyric. Violence: Character snatches a ball and starts a play-ground scuffle.

Hope Was Here
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Joan Bauer. Summary: When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope’s not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn’t quite ready to give up yet – in fact, he’s decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.’s campaign – particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times… even Hope herself. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: This was a fun, refreshing read. I’ve never read a book before where a character was proud of being a waitress, but it was cool having her professional. Hope Was Here is a straight-forward read about an adolescent girl struggling to hold onto hope through difficult circumstances, and teenagers pulling together to help the community. Content Review: Sexual content: MC’s mother says she doesn’t know who the father was. One kiss. Language: 2 exclamations of ‘God’ Violence: Off-screen, a man is jumped and beaten up – a couple of ribs broken.  

Red Scarf Girl
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 16, 2016

Author: Ji-li Jiang. Summary: On Ji-li’s twelfth birthday, her world changed, although she didn’t realize it at the time. The cultural revolution in China had begun, and the abolishment of the “Four Olds” began to pick up momentum. This non-fiction biography of one child’s experiences from twelve to fourteen in China is a moving personal portrayal of a historical period. My Thoughts: I found this documentary very down-to-earth and moving. The horrors of the revolution are presented simply, through a child’s eyes. In a way, this book shows what true heroism is; it follows a young girl who does not fight in a grand resistance, doesn’t go on secret night missions, doesn’t even understand really what’s going on around her and why it’s happening. Confused and alone, she still tries to support her blacklisted family, refuses to break from them, and remains silent in the face of interrogation. This, I think, is real-life heroism. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 10 d***, 1 derogatory term. Violence: Houses are forcibly searched, certain kinds of goods destroyed. Young men force an old man to kneel in the sun until he faints. Character hears the news that a woman jumped out a window…