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She’s Still Here

Kate Sablowsky just moved to Iowa with her famous news anchor mom, Maria Silver. Following the move, Kate starts the seventh grade at Ravendale middle school, where she discovers more than just a cast of kooky teachers. She quickly finds out that she has a gift passed down that allows her to see and speak with the dead. With this skill, she meets Jane, a shy girl who loves chemistry but who died a tragic death in school over 20 years ago. Jane is not fully sure of why and how she died; is there possibly a killer on the loose? You can find out in the first installment of the Kate Sablowsky Paranormal Investigator Series, She’s Still Here by Caitlin Alexander!

This exciting book is a much-welcomed refresh to the middle-grade detective/horror genre. It has all of the simple but entertaining qualities of a classic Nancy Drew mixed with the spookiness of John Bellairs’ works.

Alexander’s writing is simplistic in language but has enough complexities in the plot to make the book appropriate for the targeted audience. As an adult reading this, I was still thoroughly entertained and engaged. Throughout the book, Alexander hints that the killer may still walk amongst the school halls, but all is not what it seems, and I appreciated that final twist to make the book less predictable.

Seeing as She’s Still Here is the first book in a series, I am hoping to see Kate’s character grow and evolve. I feel that Kate comes off as a bit shallow and unwilling to embrace small-town life at the start. The characters encounter typical teenage social situations and struggle to adjust and fit in with peers. Middle-grade readers will be able to relate and sympathize with the characters’ feelings as they navigate middle school. These themes are mixed into the storyline seamlessly next to the paranormal mystery and adventure components.

She’s Still Here by Caitlin Alexander is a gripping paranormal mystery and adventure novel for middle-grade readers that a wide age group can enjoy. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Pages: 184 | ASIN : B0BHFDRYVW

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Jodie’s Adventure on Driftwood Island

Young Jodie and her best friend Sarah look forward to adventures in nature on magical Driftwood Island. With beautiful rainforests, intriguing shipwrecks, and historic sacred places, the possibilities are truly endless on this protected island close to Australia. But as the holiday progresses, Jodie finds more twists and turns than she ever could have imagined. And when disaster strikes, Jodie must act quickly to save the wildlife of Driftwood Island from a sinister plot.

The best books are stories that not only have incredible characters and wonderful plot developments but also something new for the reader to learn. Jodie’s Adventure on Driftwood Island by Diane Fagan ticks all the boxes. I immensely enjoyed spending an afternoon learning all about national parks in Australia alongside Jodie and her friends. Courageous Jodie, who struggles with grief and bullying, is a girl I immediately connected with. I loved seeing the story unfold as Jodie’s path intersects with many others on mysterious Driftwood Island. Reminding me of many happy childhood hours spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries, this third entry in the series is an instant favorite.

The overall story of acceptance, healing, and protecting the environment is a well-written tale of hope. Though there are themes of grief and mortality, these themes are presented gently with the goal of finding peace in a world that can be difficult to understand while making a positive difference in the lives of others in need.

Suitable for ages ten and up and all who love a middle-grade mystery on a wintry afternoon. This engaging children’s book has excellent plot development and a meaningful story. I simply can’t wait to see more from this promising author as Jodie’s adventures continue to unfold. Jodie’s Adventure on Driftwood Island is a perfect addition to any home library, a story of hope and healing, of harmony and love.

Pages: 160 | ASIN : B099MQHZ1D

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Christmas Land

A young girl wakes up to the sweetest of dreams. She is in a forest with talking animals and smells like peppermint sticks. There is a gingerbread woman decorating cupcakes nearby that is waving her over to join them. Davina realizes she is not in a dream and this magical world she is exploring is real. She has arrived in the magical Christmas Land that her mother has told her stories about all her life. What her mother hasn’t told her, though, was Christmas Land is currently ruled by an evil knight. Can Davina remember the things her mom told her and use that information to save Christmas Land?

Authors Amber and Davina Bernardi-Kim have written a magical children’s story. Christmas Land takes children on an adventure to save the kingdom from evil and does so in a surprising way. The settings are well written, and readers can imagine themself in each new scene even without the amazing illustrations of Eleonora Cali. The characters have depth, which was surprising to find in a children’s book. It is not so deep that smaller children will miss the message; rather, it is presented in a way that accentuates their personality traits.

Christmas Land is a magical children’s book that teaches children about honesty, perseverance, and standing up for what is right. This storybook would make a great holiday addition to read with families or classes to prepare for the holiday season.

Pages: 46 | ASIN : B0BLTJ7M9D

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Pentagon Pirate Gang

Eleven-year-old Aime Snave and her little brother, eight-year-old Oro, prepare for summer camp at the School of Fruit Learning. Accompanied by Aime’s best friend Gramon and Oro’s friend shy, little Violer, the foursome enters a mysterious world full of mystery and hidden magic. While at the school run by strict headmistress Mrs. Blackfruit, the children meet a new friend: inquisitive Semia, who is certain that all is not as it seems. Navigating the many teachers of the school, all of whom seem to harbor deep secrets, the five soon discover that they are part of something much larger than they ever could have imagined. History soon begins to repeat itself, with five young children caught in the middle of its deadly wake.

Pentagon Pirate Gang: Secrets of the Orchard by J.W. Nelson is an engaging read which focuses on a tightly knit group of five friends (the Pentagon) as they struggle to uncover the truth about the Hogwarts-style school and its mysterious past. The story is well-written, with substantial world-building and deep characters. There are no easy answers for brave Aime, her perceptive brother Oro, athletic Gramon, intrepid Semia, or sweet little Violer, who all find themselves in the midst of a mystery with far-reaching consequences. Instead, the Pentagon Pirates must work together to discover the truth in a world where uncertainty reigns supreme.

There is so much good to say about this book. Even minor characters and villains have depth, especially the malefic Mrs. Blackfruit and her paramour, Mr. Thornby. However, there are so many characters that it can be difficult at times to keep everyone straight. A bit slow getting started, the book truly finds its stride as the school sporting events begin, and the pace gets more intense as the plot thickens. A quick editorial brush-up to remove a few type errors and naming inconsistencies would make this highly intelligent plot shine even brighter. The complex mystery ends on a serious cliffhanger, leaving the reader dying to know what will happen to the Pentagon Pirates next.

A rich world with a myriad of mysteries at our fingertips, Pentagon Pirate Gang: Secret of the Orchard is suitable for readers 12 and up who love a complex setting. The book contains minor language, and children regularly find themselves in harm’s way. A deep setting with memorable characters, an engaging plotline, and unsolved mysteries that challenge the reader to think outside the box, this intrepid tale of friendship and unraveling dark secrets is an incredible beginning to the adventures of the Pentagon Pirate Gang.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B09M4FPG9L

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Otto: The Not-So-Little Giant

A seven-year-old boy lives in the village of Biggersville. This is a village of giants. The problem is he has stopped growing. Little Otto is much smaller than the rest of his classmates and family. He wants desperately to be bigger like everyone else to fit in. One day his best friend ends up in trouble, and it turns out that his small size is the one thing that can help her out of her predicament. Can being different be a good thing after all?

Otto: The Not-So-Little Giant is a wonderful children’s book exploring a common fear among children. They fear being different and standing out among their friends and peers. It is hard when you are different and not like the other kids in class, and Otto struggles to find where he fits in. However, the message of acceptance and love from his parents is apparent and heartwarming. He has one genuine friend who stands up for him no matter what and doesn’t care that he is much smaller than her. This shows kids that there are good people out there that will like them for who they are.

Author David Mulholland gives Otto a great personality, and, despite his desire to be bigger, he is a great kid with a big heart that wants to be helpful to his parents and friends. I feel this showcases that even if you are smaller or different, you can still make a big difference in the lives of the people around you.

Otto: The Not-So-Little Giant is a well-crafted children’s story that is perfect for early elementary students and their families. I can see this making an excellent story for out load reading to a class or in a library. It will take children on an exciting adventure and teach them the value of self-esteem and friendship.

Pages: 24 | ASIN : B0B75N33TX

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Dream Big…even when you’re small

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A small little sea star from the Atlantic Sea loves his home but wants to see what else is out in the world. He finds an island to visit, but first, he needs a boat. After building a boat from some wood, he finds he travels to the new island and starts his adventure. He makes new friends, tries new things, and has an adventure. After spending the day in the sun, he realizes he wants to try someplace cold, so he goes off to see an iceberg! Quickly realizing that the cold was not for him, he rides a narwhal back home to the Atlantic Sea.

Dream Big…even when you’re small, written and illustrated by Karen Quigley, is an adorable picture book that will entertain and educate children. When the starfish wants to try out something new, he makes a plan and does not let his small size stop him from doing big things. The rhyming story makes it delightful to read, especially out loud. The lines are short and would be perfect for beginning readers to learn as I noticed many site words in these sentences.

While the story is entertaining, the illustrations really bring this children’s book to life. I loved all the different expressions on the sea creatures, especially the grumpy/nurvous-looking crab. I could easily see a companion coloring book to go with this picture book the illustrations are that fun.

Sprinkled into the amusing story of a starfish traveling, there are lessons about using manners, making friends, being respectful, and appreciating the things you have in life. It is an all-around feel-good story that will remind children that traveling is fun and a great adventure, but to be excited and grateful when they return home.

Dream Big…even when you’re small is a whimsical picture book that children and adults can enjoy reading together. The colorful artwork gives readers lots to talk about and point out, making the reading experience active for even toddlers. This is the perfect book for preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

Pages: 32 | ISBN : 1999397320

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The Dragon in The Closet, Dragon’s Journey: Issue #3

The Dragon in The Closet, Dragon’s Journey issue number three sees the Dragon take flight. Dragon is flying north to help Orin face his monsters and defeat his family curse. In route Orin must survive being attacked by a tree and cave imps if he’s ever to reach the Ghostwood Tree. Meanwhile, Lucy and Nana set off to meet up with Dragon and Orrin and face their own dangers. They face a shapeshifting lion in The Candy Cottage where Lucy must gather her courage to face the lion. Will they reach their destination or will they succumb to the horrors of the forest?

This is a wonderfully imaginative children’s comic book that moves quickly. Each page has edge to edge artwork that has a consistent artistic style throughout. Each piece is a delightful sketch art piece that captures the emotion of all the characters in each scene. I liked the artwork that accompanied the opening to ‘How to Kidnap a Dragon’ because I felt that it really captures the adventure inherent in this intrepid story, and it was well drawn as well.

This is issue three in the series and readers are dropped right into the middle of the action, so if you haven’t read issues one and two then I would recommend you do so. This is a very creative story and I never knew where the story would go. Monsters pop up nearly every other page, even a sweet old lady hides something dangerous, and the children are learning something new about the world and their past. The bits of backstory and lore that is slowly revealed in this story is intriguing and I can’t wait to uncover the rest in future issues.

The Dragon in The Closet, Dragon’s Journey: Issue #3 takes readers on a lively adventure through a magical realm where, it seems, anything can happen. Readers will be enthralled with this quick fantasy comic book that captures the imagination with charming artwork and an interesting use of magic. If you’re looking for a fun young adult comic book then I highly recommend Carolyn Watson Dubisch’s entertaining series.

Pages: 72 | ASIN : B0B3897FT7

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Above Us

Above Us by Angela Herrera is a bilingual story with beautiful imagery that explores what’s above us. From our hands in the air giving high fives, to bubbles floating in the air to what clouds look like in the sky and even the universe, we look into the endless possibilities of how children view the world around them. The author invites readers to use their senses when exploring their surroundings, from touching to hearing to seeing, making this a great sensory read for young readers.

Herrera’s words are illustrated by Alvaro Agurto and provide readers with bright, colorful images with different shapes that will immediately captivate children’s attention. I appreciate that this book is in English and Spanish as kids are sponges and will take in what they learn, and a second language will be added to the list. The author encourages children to count the balloons, say the colors of the images in the book, and to even use their imagination when it comes to looking at clouds in the sky.

Above us is a mentally stimulating and interactive read that is perfect to read to little ones as it will get the creative juices flowing and have you look at the world around you from a different perspective. I highly recommend this book to young readers and can see this on bookshelves in libraries and schools.

Pages: 36 | ASIN : B09XRDP4FN

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