3 Middle Grade Recent New Releases: REVIEWED

Hey Everyone! It has been a long and hectic school year and I definitely let the ball drop on my blog (AGAIN…I KNOW!). However, it is now June and I’m hoping to get back into the groove of posting blogs, as well as the BookTube videos. So today, in an attempt to make do just that, I am bringing to you a quick review of THREE recent Middle Grade Releases. Each of these is now a couple of months old and definitely deserving of all the love…so let’s get in to them.

First up I want to talk to you about Sticky Notes by Dianne Touchell. This book debuted on February 20th and was published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
sticky notes

This book follows 10 year old Foster as he and his family deal with his father’s decent into Alzheimer’s. Fossie is used to his dad being a vibrant, story telling, suit wearer who loves his son and his dog. But then Dad starts forgetting the numbers that make up his job, and the supper that he’s got burning on the stove, and the dog.

This book takes a close look at the effect of the disease on those around the sufferer, namely the child who is confused and left to figure things out on his own (for the most part). I thought that Dianne Touchell did a wonderful job of handling this topic in a way that would appeal to readers of varying ages, from the early Middle Grade target age group to those of us who have had a smidgen more life experience. I give Sticky Notes a 3.5 out of 4 Dragons and you can find your own copy here.

The second book I want to bring to your attention is The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller.
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Published on March 6th by Random House Books for Young Readers this extraordinary debut novel takes a look at Hope and Love (and depression) through the eyes of a 7th grade girl writing in her science notebook. When Natalie’s teacher Mr. Neely tells the class that they must answer an important question using the scientific method, Natalie comes up with the question
How do you grow a miracle? and is determined to solve her mother’s depression with the answer. This book is poignant, humorous, and beautiful…and will make you experience a rainbow of emotions. I read this at the very beginning of March and still find myself idly thinking of the characters and story. This book gets 5 out of 4 dragons and you can go grab your own tear jerking copy here.

Finally, I want to talk to you about an entirely different type of novel. Emma Carrol’s Strange Star was published on March 20th by Delacorte Books for Young Readers and is a spine tingling middle grade thriller.

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This book begins at Lord Byron’s summer home where he and his guests, the Shelleys, are challenging each other to a ghost story tell-off…but as Mary Shelley is stuck for an idea, a knock on the door reveals that sometimes the truth is more frightening than any ghost story could be. Told as a tale of family, friendship, woe, redemption…and inspiration this was a quick moving and interesting read. While there were a few spots that pulled me out of the atmosphere of the story, I felt that it was over all well done and this thrilling, seat-of-your-pants book was one I read in one sitting. Ultimately, I gave 3.5 out of 4 dragons. If you’re looking for a little summer chill, grab your copy here.

I would love to hear about your favorite new releases, what you’ve been reading lately, and if you’ve read any of these three marvelous books! Until next time, may your days be blessed with books and love!

*I received these books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and rating are my own!*

Review: Elemental Island

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Summary: Astie has always been different. Her 12th birthday is looming and she still has not decided on her thesis. All the Learners at the Hub picked theirs years ago. If it wasn’t for her cousin, Jakob, life would be unbearable on Elemental Island. On the verge of being diagnosed with Social Syndrome, she stumbles upon Danny who has landed in a forbidden flight machine….(continued here)

Age Level: Middle Grade (ages 8-13)

Genre: Adventure (with low level Sci-Fi feels)

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Published: December 2015 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is a celebration of differences. In a world where everyone loves logic, order, and alone time, main character Astie is on the verge of turning 12 with no scientific thesis to obsess over and an enjoyment of spending time with people, and hugs, that is going to get her shunned as having what is known as Social Syndrome. Of course, Astie winds up saving the day. But I will leave it to you to discover just how she does it.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, coming in at only a few hours in one of my days to read it, but the storyline has stuck with me. The world Ms. Hoopmann created is a logical, scientific narrative of what an island full of fully functioning autistic humans might be like. They are secluded. They are safe. They have no contact with an outside world, because there isn’t one (as far as they know). They like it that way, and if anyone starts being too social, or illogical, or touchy feely. Well they might have to be retrained. This flip-flop of what we normally see in books made me happy and excited to read on. I really liked the interactions between our main character and her family and friends. They were written true to how someone with non-neurotypical tendencies might speak and react, which I really appreciated.

This book earned 3.5 dragons from me. Go check it out.

 

3 Reasons to read MG as an Adult

There is a debate happening across BookTube and book blogs right now, one that happens every few years, about reading YA (young adult) fiction as *gasp* adults. I won’t get into it because I am, in fact, an ‘adult’ and I do, indeed, continue to enjoy YA books. It happens. What I do want to discuss today is something I think deserves just as much discussion: Children’s and Middle Grade books. Specifically, the benefits of reading children’s and middle grade fiction long after you’ve passed the top end of that particular age bracket. Don’t worry, I’ve narrowed this down to a top 3 list!

1)      If you are a parent, teacher, caregiver, aunt, uncle, cousin, or person who lives near children (a.k.a. pretty much anyone on the planet) reading children’s and middle grade literature allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the younger generations. You can not only monitor what they’re being exposed to through their reading, you can also find common ground to strike up conversations. Start a book club with them and discuss the important things, both in the books and in their lives.

Similarly, if you’ve been reading children’s and middle grade books in a wide variety you will be more readily equipped to suggest the book that might change a child’s life. For example, you hate reading but love skateboarding and now you’re grounded until you choose a book and write a review for class? Try out Tony Hawk’s autobiography.  You might just help with an assignment, but this might be the way they get into reading…or pass the fifth grade.

2)      Books meant for a younger audience deal with hard hitting issues such as death, race, orientation, and even terrorism in a more direct and seemingly sensitive manner which can help ease you into dealing with these issues in a much swifter and easier fashion than many adult books, which either swerve around the problem or tackle it with bloody force. Articles on dealing with grief might help eventually, but a good cry while reading through L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables might help you get up and try a lot faster than a ‘professional’ giving step by step instructions.

3)      Finally, sometimes you just want to relax, de-stress, and read something that allows you to revisit the home and innocence of your youth. You miss the times of braces, first crushes, and bff’s for-like-ever. These can all be revisited smoothly and swiftly with an old favorite (I like to curl up with one of Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter’s Club Books or some Winnie the Pooh myself) or even through a new modern ‘classic’ like Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Maybe the feel of a Nancy Drew book can transport you back to the summer of awkward growth spurts and braids, or the flow of Harry Potter remind you of acne and beginning football.  Whatever it is, read to remember the wonder and awe of your childhood. Let the stresses of your ‘adulting’ melt away. Believe again.

It’s ok, no one will judge you for enjoying a good book.  If they try to, just ignore them and retreat to a well-made couch fort. No one has time for that sort of negativity!

Saturday Stories 7/9/16

This past week was a doozy in the world of words I like to surround myself with and snuggle down in to.

First of all, I joined a Buddy Read/Group Read of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which began for most of us on Monday, June 27th and is continuing on as people read and discuss at their own rates (One of the readers set up a thread on an existing Goodreads group) and so we are all still delving into the book even if we’ve finished as more of our compatriots comment on the different sections. I, myself, completed this book around Wednesday and absolutely adored it (rating around 4.5 stars, but I bumped it up to a full 5 or Goodreads). I own the beautiful floppy paperback version and also borrowed the audio book from Overdrive. It was fabulous, though the physical copy makes it a bit easier to follow the fluid and jumping time frames.

In the middle of reading The Night Circus, a read-a-thon started up…one that I have been anticipating and refining my TBR list for over the past 2 months. The #SmoresandMayhem Middle Grade Read-a-thon ran from July 1st – July 8th and had only one ‘rule’: each book must focus on a story that takes place during/in/around summertime.

For #SmoresandMayhem I managed to read 5 1/2 books (and DNF 1 more).

I re-read The Babysitter’s Club Super Special 1: Babysitters on Board (By Ann M. Martin) and High Wizardry (By Diane Duane). I haven’t read either of these books in so long that it was almost as though I read them for the first time. I remember loving the BSC book and feeling a bit MEH about the wizarding book and..my feelings haven’t really changed, except that I’m more outspoken about them now.

Along with those two I also completed Deep and Dark and Dangerous (By Mary Downing Hahn), The Wish in the Bottle (By Morna McLeod), and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (By Chris Grabenstein) (this was read on audio book and it was AMAZING. Listen to it!). I quit on The Girl who Circumnavigate Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (By Catherynne M. Valente) within the first two chapters. I have handed it over to my mother in order to determine if this is a book that I really do need to try to read again later, when I’m not still on a high from reading a couple of 5 star books prior to picking it up. I’m having the same issue with my 1/2 read book, The Westing Game (By Ellen Raskin)

The cool thing though, is that all the only physical library book I checked out for all of this was High Wizardry…meaning that I knocked out 6 books from my little TBR bookshelves. I’m down to about 45 now!

With all of that reading going on, I did kind of neglect my #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge work. I’m still a bit ahead of the game, but not by much with three days of 0 word count so far this month. Today’s (Friday, July 8th) ending target total word count 19,032 and my total current word count is 22,169. I definitely need to get my booty in gear again!

Unfortunately, I’ve lost over half of the original Sylvester outlines and have changed the story so much I’m now stalled in it trying to remember what I wanted so I know what to change (I hate it when I get all switch happy and forget what happens!). So I switched to writing the new children’s chapter book, a sequel to the recently finished Paulonious Punk (which hasn’t even been properly edited yet!) but the past couple of days has just felt like trying to pull cold taffy so all the myriad of picture book ideas, the children’s book, the 5th in the dragon series, the 2 NA/A fantasy stories, and the 2 rewrites are all just being left to their own devices. Normally one will speak to me and the rest get put aside for a bit but right now, right now I’m woefully falling behind. I better get over this soon, though, because I get CRANKY when I don’t write. It’s worse than PMS…it’s SWS (stalled writing syndrome)..and Midol does NOT help! (Coffee, Coke, Dark Chocolate, Chips and Salsa, 90s alternative music, and Netflix binges…these help. Please send some and save my poor family).

All that being said, here is a clip from the children’s chapter book. I’ve only just begun but I really enjoyed this scene, I hope you do too!

That afternoon Pauly called an emergency meeting of the adventuring club. With Fredrick and Mark Finkle still out of town at their lake house for the summer, Pauly, John, and Grandpa were the only official members available, but a quick vote allowed Sarah to tag to along too. If she got too annoying they could stick Grandma with her and ask them to bake cookies or something.

“This is gonna be SO GREAT,” Pauly exclaimed before remembering his role and sheepishly banging his small gavel on the president’s podium (a miniature dinosaur with flat top hair do and a mouth that would open and burp bubbles when you tickled its left ear). “I officially call this meeting to order! Is there any new business to attend to?”

“Yes,” Grandpa Punk solemnly raised his hand and waited to be called on. “Thank you, President Pauly,” he cleared his throat. “THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME!!!!!!!”

This caused the entire group to dissolve into a laughing it that was so loud and long it disturbed Grandmother Punk, who was in the process of baking and became afraid that her desserts would fall apart if the laughter continued.

When they had sobered up and managed to settle down a little, Pauly posed a serious question.

Fetching the club’s brand new “adventure notebook” (a pleather bound journal with the picture of a mountain on the cover) from its place of honor on top of the cluttered old desk in the corner, he began, “I think that we should each write down what’s going on and our thoughts and stuff about it from now until the end of the trip. That way we have a…a….a.”

“A reckoning of events for posterity,” Grandpa suggested with a smile.

“Exactly, a whatever it is that Granpa just said,” Pauly straightened his spine and schooled his facial expression into one of solemn thoughtfulness, “All in favor?”

Two ‘ayes’ and a ‘yupyup’ rang out among the many inventions and tools of the fort/shop.

“It has been decided,” Pauly intoned seriously, “So it shall be done.“   He passed the notebook and feathered pen to his second in command. “Johnny, will you start us out please?”

The Dirty Word Society – Lit Journal Review

I don’t know if you’ve seen any of my videos over on BookTube, but there has been a pretty big trend there lately and that is #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge. This writing challenge is being headed up by the insane and amazing guys over at Stripped Cover Lit and is basically a much less crazed version of NaNoWriMo. For each day during the next 4 months (June 1st – October 1st technically) we are to write 488 words…culminating in having over 61,000 words at the end of this deal (I’m managing to stay both ahead and behind all at once). BUT they weren’t content with reading, reviewing, and writing…they weren’t even content with challenging us all to that as well…NO! They have also now started something called The Dirty Word Society (psa – not nearly as fun as you’re thinking right now…).

I’ll link the announcement video here- Dirty Word Society – but BASICALLY they are creating bi-monthly videos that include a call to action and HOPEFULLY have us all participating in the task. This will hopefully have us all changing into better writers, readers, literary people, etc.

So…this first task (as they say in the video) is to read in a literary journal and then review either the entire journal, a piece taken from the journal, etc. So…I’m changing it up a bit, of course, because what fun is there in every single one of us playing by the implied rules??

Most of the people who are participating in this Dirty Word Society Challenge will be doing so with the tried and true, popular, well known, adult literary journals. The ones run and written by ‘grownups’, by people who have already made the decision to write, by adult types…And yes, those are incredibly vital pieces of the world. However, they are not the only ones. So what else is there? I am so glad you asked…because on top of the literary journals you might already know about, like Thorn, Georgia Literary, Southern Review, Tin House, The Atlanta Review, and The New Yorker, there are some amazing and fun literary journals begging for you to pick them up…like The Thorne a literary magazine written, compiled, and published by the junior high students of Hawthorne Scholastic Academy.

Take a moment or two, bask in the amazing idea that 6th, 7th, and 8th graders not only chose to turn in work, but chose to submit to an editor and work together to compile their own literary magazine. I am impressed with their drive. It takes a lot of work and determination to do something like that, especially when you’re still in school and dealing with everything middle schoolers have to handle!

Ok, now that the moment has passed, let’s talk about what they included in this work of literary phenomena. There are poems, short stories, and personal essays from 12-14(ish) year old students that are raw, well written, and creative in ways that I don’t even know if adults can tap in to. While many, including Adrian and Dalton of Stripped Cover Lit, maintain that literary magazines hold the future of literature between their covers, I hadn’t really paid much attention to that belief until now. This collection of words written by students holds the key to the future of literature. I don’t even know them and I’m beyond proud.

I don’t like to pick favorites BUT – there is an essay about determination in learning to ride a bike written by a 6th grader named Atticus that is incredible, a poem by Isabella (another 6th grader) that is amazingly creative and fun, and a poem by Alana, an 8th grader, that uses a poem by Countee Cullen as a starting off point and jumps in full throttle and all three of those made me stop and marvel at the talent of such young authors (though those were by no means the only ones that had me pausing!). Even if you don’t enjoy reading Literary Magazines or Journals, I would definitely suggest looking at this one. I picked up the kindle e-book version for around $3 and it was worth every penny and more.

5 out of 5 dragons go to The Thorne literary magazine and to those who put it together!

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

By: Mary Downing Hahn

  • Age Range:10 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:5 – 7
  • Paperback:160 pages
  • Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (September 6, 2011)

 
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Amazon Book Summary:

When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents’ death.
But Florence doesn’t expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it’s too late?

Character Believability:

The characters in this book are for the most part, fiercely one dimensional. While some of their traits come across smoothly and with incredible believability, the flat stubbornness of the characters brought the believability down to a 3 out of 5 for me.

Flow and Pace:

The flow was choppy in several places, but the pace was well set. While it could have been smoothed out a little more, I felt this book had a good set up and movement for its intended middle grade audience. I gave this category a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Reader Engagement:

The storyline and plot twists kept me engaged, despite the predictable events and flat character personas.

I enjoyed the glimmers of a great story that shone through and even had a couple of moments in which my spine was tingled. I gave this category a 4 out of 5 possible stars.

Reader Enrichment:

I walked away without feeling enriched at all. I honestly have nothing that I felt boosted my mind in any way and give this category 2 out of the possible 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

This was a quick, decent, and fairly enjoyment read for me. I believe that the intended audience of middle grade students will have a great enjoyment in this book. I am giving this category 3.5 out of possible 5 stars.

Back Copy:

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The back cover copy, which is almost identical to the summary listed above, feels choppy and not very intriguing. 3 out of 5 stars for the Back Copy.

Front Cover:

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The picture on the front cover works well. It goes with the story, is intriguing and a little creepy, and would work even better as the first thing to pull in a reader if there wasn’t a large red splotch over the female character’s head. I understand that this story is about a ghost and the way she died would lend itself to this macabre addition to the image. However, the red blot actually takes away from the creep factor of the book. 3 out of 5 stars for this image as well.

Overall Rating: 3.14 Stars.

Magic Under Review

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Magic Under Glass

By: Jaclyn Dolamore

  • Age Range:12 and up
  • Grade Level:7 and up
  • Paperback:256 pages
  • Publisher:Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 24, 2011)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1599905876
  • ISBN-13:978-1599905877

Summary (From Amazon.com)

When a wealthy sorcerer hires Nimira to sing with a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. But at the sorcerer’s estate, rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman, and fairies that are tortured for sport. When Nimira discovers-and falls for-the spirit of a fairy gentleman trapped in the automaton, she will also find the fate of the magical world in her hands

 

Character Believability:

The three main characters that populate this book are well written, multi-dimensional, and manage to still exhibit ‘normal’ emotions and reactions to the proceeding of the plot. Typically, that’s all you can really ask for in a quick read novel like this: fantasy, steampunk, pseudo-historical…these elements tend to combine to bring us 1 or 2 dimensional characters that would fall flat if brought away from their specific world and work.

Jaclyn Dolamore, however, skipped over that particular ‘norm’ and gleefully provided us with secondary and tertiary characters, twists, and exciting discoveries that all obviously believed her when she pretended the story was about them. These many facets come together to bring us a world that makes perfect sense and characters who, mostly, feel as though they might live down the street from their readers.

I’ve given this category a 4 out of 5 possible stars because a few of the characters, though well written, seems as though they were a) written in a rush and added in and/or b) were incredibly predictable.

Flow and Pace:

I have given the flow and pace of Magic Under Glass a rating of 4 out of 5 possible stars. While the majority of the book is, in my opinion, excellently maneuvered for both the flow of the story, and the pace of the plot, there are a few places in which I felt the pace slowed a bit too much and that the flow seemed to stutter and confuse itself.

For example, Nimira (our main female character) and Erris (our automaton) first meet in a scene that really slows the feel of the story for me. Conversely, the final two chapters stutter and feel rushed, in my opinion, so that the ending winds up with an information dump. However, I did enjoy the overall flow and pace of this book and think it will work wonderfully as a decently quick read for middle and high school students.

Reader Engagement:

This book did a wonderful job of capturing my attention. The first inkling of what was inside came when I spotted this book on the shelf at the Scholastic Book Fair on one of my substituting days…the phenomenal cover art, followed by the back blurb, lured me in. By the time I got around to cracking open the front cover I was already hooked.

I remained interested, engaged, and intrigued through the story. I am giving this category 4.5 out of 5 possible stars and have already placed the follow up novel, Magic Under Stone on my wishlist/TBR/somebody please buy it for me lists.

Reader Enrichment:

While I truly enjoyed the world and wonders of Magic Under Glass, I have only given this category a 3.5 out of the possible 5 stars. The fact is that, while I was excited for the addition of trouser girls and an automaton, this seems to be mainly a mixed-up Beauty and the Beast re-telling (My FAVORITE fairy tale, fyi). As a retelling or on its own, the story is beautiful. However, while my imagination sparked a bit in a few places, I walked away feeling as though I had spent a delightful afternoon reading a well done story…but didn’t take anything away from the experience with me. So, with a sad and slightly pouty face, I am giving this category a 3 out of possible 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I cannot begin to describe in enough detail how much I truly enjoyed this book. I adore fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast being my all-time favorite, and this book has several subtle takes from that beloved story. I have also been getting very interested in the steampunk movement lately, so this fairy tale magic automaton mixture was absolutely perfect for me to wade into those worlds with.

If it had not been for a couple (literally, TWO) places that made me think that I had perhaps skipped a line or fallen into a plot hole, this category would have jumped the half point for 4.5 to 5 stars. However, 4.5 out 5 possible stars just ain’t too shabby anyway!

Front Cover:

The front cover photograph, copy written in 2010 by the talented Ali Smith, was what originally drew me to the book. When I saw it sitting there on the book fair table I just needed to know more about that character.

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The only reason this category is being given a 4.5 out of 5, instead of a perfect score, is that I felt the text font should have been more consistent with both of the As being the same for the title, instead of the ‘A’ in Magic being specialized while the ‘A’ in glass was plain.

Back Copy:

I agree whole heartedly with the back copy assertion that fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Bronte will probably enjoy reading this book. The author has created a wonderful world to sink into and discover.

However, I am giving the back copy a 3.5 out of 5 possible stars because, after reading the book, I realized that the summary is actually incorrect in three separate places. THREE PLACES! Now whether that was an intentionally misleading copy to make sure the readers were not expecting certain aspects of the story (and the things that led me astray from the back copy are actually not that important to the story) or just some odd oversight from the editors, publisher, and author, I still do not ever appreciate being maneuvered in that way.

The back copy is still intriguing, however, which is why I didn’t drop the score down even lower.

 

Overall Rating:

4.0 out of 5 possible Stars and Dragons.

This book is well written and worth a read, whatever age level you currently claim (or actually are)

I very much look forward to the next one!

The Seer Of Shadows – Book Review

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Seer of Shadows

Written By: Avi

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Summary:

Horace Carpetine does not believe in ghosts.

Raised to believe in science and reason, Horace Carpetine passes off spirits as superstition. Then he becomes an apprentice photographer and discovers an eerie—and even dangerous—supernatural power in his very own photographs.

When a wealthy lady orders a portrait to place by her daughter’s gravesite, Horace’s employer, Enoch Middleditch, schemes to sell her more pictures—by convincing her that her daughter’s ghost has appeared in the ones he’s already taken.

It’s Horace’s job to create images of the girl. Yet Horace somehow captures the girl’s spirit along with her likeness. And when the spirit escapes the photographs, Horace discovers he’s released a ghost bent on a deadly revenge. . . .

 

  • Age Range:8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:4 – 7
  • Paperback:202 pages
  • Publisher:HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0060000171
  • ISBN-13:978-0060000172

 

Character Believability:

The main character, Horace Carpentine, is a 14 year old scientifically minded boy. His boss, Enoch Middleditch, is a ‘society’ photographer and a flighty money grubber. They live in New York during the year 1872, when spirit photography is becoming popular.

Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Von Macht are upper class society members who attempt to seem soft, sweet, and full of grief. However, they are eventually unable to hide their true personalities…which are not very nice.

Pegg, the Von Macht’s black servant girl, helps Horace with several things, including the main problem of the story, and they become great friends and allies.

Eleanor, the Von Macht’s dearly departed daughter, is starting to crop up in more than just the hushed conversation and covered paintings. She isn’t pleased with her ‘family’ at all.

As much as I wish I could tell you these characters are fully developed, multi-dimensional characters…I cannot. However, I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars because, even as only one or two dimensional characters, they are well developed and definitely believable. This was written as a Middle Grade novel, however, and I do so wish the characters had been fleshed out just a smidgen more.

Flow and Pace:

Once I got into the story, I felt the pacing went at a very nice clip for the feel of the story. The first two pages did move a little slowly for me, but overall I felt that the pacing was very well done.

The flow is slightly choppy in place or two, as though they got into a situation or segment and then weren’t too certain how to get out of it. However, this is also mostly well done. I have given the pacing and flow 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Reader Engagement:

I think I would have found the story a bit more engaging earlier on if the characters had been made to be more in depth. However, the storyline was woven well enough, and the pace moved quickly enough, that I almost gave this category a rating of 4 instead of the 3.5 out of 5 that it wound up with.

Reader Enrichment:

The author includes some interesting information about the art of early photography. There are also a few historically accurate and very cool facts about the old practice of so-called spirit photography. I found these snippets and odd facts to be incredibly fun and mentally stimulating. I always love finding fiction that includes awesome information like this for the audience.

The book also included Literature Circle Questions and Activity ideas, which are wonderful enrichment resources. With the added bonus of these questions and activities, The Seer of Shadows can easily be used with small book clubs, literature circles, or larger classes without having to change much, if anything, about the enrichment. I have given this category 4 out of 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I found this book to be a quick and fairly enjoyable read. Though I did have a few small issues, as I pointed out previously, I felt that on the whole it was very well written and a great read for the intended audience of middle grade students.

In fact, there may possibly have been a place or two in the story that sent shivers scurrying up and down my own spine. I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Cover Art:

 I absolutely love the cover art, taken and copy written in 2009 by Mark Tucker, MergeLeft Reps, Inc. I felt like the photograph was absolutely the perfect touch for the book. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the cover art.

Back Copy:

I feel that the back copy is interesting, well written, and pulls at the potential reader to know more. Any back copy that makes you want to pick up the book and read is a good thing! 4 out of 5 stars for the back copy.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars overall for The Seer of Shadows by Avi.