The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie


Description

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling story about a twelve-year old girl who must face down the most notorious ghost in her haunted East coast town to stop a centuries-old curse that threatens to destroy everything.

Mallory hasn’t quite adapted to life in her new town of Eastport yet. Maybe it’s because everyone is obsessed with keeping the town’s reputation as the most cursed town in the US. And thanks to the nightmares she’s had since arriving, Mallory hardly sleeps. Combined with the unsettling sensation of being watched, she’s quickly becoming convinced there’s more to her town. Something darker.

When Mallory has a terrifying encounter with the same old woman from her dreams, she knows she has to do something—but what? With Eastport gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of their first recorded legend Mallory is forced to investigate the one legend she’s always secretly been afraid of . . . Sweet Molly.

My Thoughts

There’s always one spooky middle grade book published every autumn that completely blows me away. The Girl in White is that book for Fall 2022. Currie spins a riveting and eerie story that will make even the bravest reader shiver and check their closet.

The ghost of Sweet Molly is at once scary and sad. Her connection to Mallory and Joshua is visceral and very frightening at times. Currie does an excellent job of developing her characters, building tension with floor creaks, lost time spent digging holes, and lots of unexplained and disturbing incidents that all come together in a wild, apocalyptic ending.

In addition to the terrifying elements of the story, Currie also builds some nice relationships between Mallory and her new friends, and also between Mallory and her parents. It’s the power of friendship, though, that really shines here

Those readers who revel in the crisp air and strange stories of autumn will surely enjoy this one. Recommended!

Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Published By: Sourcebooks KIDS
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Amari & the Great Game by B.B. Alston


Description

Sequel to the New York Times bestseller Amari and the Night Brothers!

After finding her brother and saving the entire supernatural world, Amari Peters is convinced her first full summer as a Junior Agent will be a breeze.

But between the fearsome new Head Minister’s strict anti-magician agenda, fierce Junior Agent rivalries, and her brother Quinton’s curse steadily worsening, Amari’s plate is full. So when the secretive League of Magicians offers her a chance to stand up for magiciankind as its new leader, she declines. She’s got enough to worry about!

But her refusal allows someone else to step forward, a magician with dangerous plans for the League. This challenge sparks the start of the Great Game, a competition to decide who will become the Night Brothers’ successor and determine the future of magiciankind.

The Great Game is both mysterious and deadly, but among the winner’s magical rewards is Quinton’s last hope—so how can Amari refuse?

Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this magical second book in the New York Times and Indie bestselling Supernatural Investigations trilogy—perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.

My Thoughts

B.B. Alston’s sophomore Amari story is FIRE, my friends!

Amari and the Night Brothers was one of my favorite middle grade books last year, and the Great Game is a worthy successor to that romp of a book.

Here, we find Amari in some trouble. She’s still trying to bring her brother Quentin out of the cursed coma he’s been in, and she’s trying to navigate a summer without her best friend, plus anticipating a new school year without her as well. Then the world turns upside down and it appears Amari may lose everything unless she can figure out how to stop a war.

There’s excitement beyond measure here, and a cliffhanger ending that will have fans eagerly waiting for the next installment. Alston’s writing is some of the best I’ve read in middle grade fiction and I find myself hoping he’s got an adult fantasy-adventure or two waiting in the wings.

The kids are gonna love this one!

Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Published By: Harper Collins Children’s Books, Balzer & Bray
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Gravebooks by J.A. White


Description

Return to the world of Nightbooks . . . if you dare. Dead stories—and dead witches—are back to haunt Alex and Yasmin. To find a happy ending, Alex will have to write it, in this sequel to Nightbooks from acclaimed author J. A. White.

Alex thought he was done with witches. But when Natacha, the witch who held him captive for scary stories, appears again one night, Alex realizes he’s trapped in a nightmare—literally. She’s found a way to enter his dreams with a new, terrifying familiar named Simeon. And they once again want Alex to write. Transported to a story graveyard with best friend Yasmin, Alex will have to complete an original scary story each night.

But what does Natacha plan to do with his finished stories? And what makes a story good enough? While Natacha might have control of the beginnings, only Alex has the power to write the ending.

Readers can delight in a spooky story while also exploring the craft of writing alongside Alex. As he writes his own scary tales, he learns about plot twists, active characters, identifying originality, and accepting feedback, as well as dealing with writer’s block—making this an ideal book to read for fun or use in classrooms.

My Thoughts

J.A. White’s sophomore effort finds aspiring writer Alex back in a nightmare world where his life once again depends on his ability to tell a tale. This 21st century version of Scheherazade has a decidedly macabre twist as Alex struggles with writers block and lack of confidence while trying to figure out how to best the bad folks.

An old enemy appears and plunges Alex and friend Yasmin right back to where they were at the end of Book 1. But, is everything as it seems? Of course not! There are plenty of twists and scary situations here to satisfy the budding horror fan.

Recommended for confident middle grade readers.

Publication Date: August 16, 2022
Published By: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Clackity by Lora Senf


Description

Reminiscent of Doll Bones, this deliciously eerie middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who must enter a world of ghosts, witches, and monsters to play a game with deadly consequences and rescue her aunt.

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor—the seventh-most haunted town in America—with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie must embark on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls.

My Thoughts

A new nightmare has arrived and it’s name is Clackity. This wholly original story blends elements of horror with a solid dose of folktales. The main element of a folk/fairy tale is here – a hero takes on a seemingly impossible quest to save a loved one and must prevail over a multitude of horrifying challenges. Readers of folktales will recognize some familiar motifs – 3’s and 7’s abound, the hero is gifted with an animal familiar, and salt saves the day. All of that folded into a beautifully scary story.

Senf’s writing is vivid and evocative, with the reader feeling every tendril of fog or greasy bit of iron. The bad folk here are B.A.D. and the good folk are flawed but awesome. With nods to Coraline and even The Frighteners, this one is a solid read for upper middle grades, teens, and adults who enjoy Neil Gaiman and early Stephen King.

Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Published By: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Wretched Waterpark by Kiersten White


Description

A brand-new middle-grade mystery series that’s spooky, creepy, and filled with gothic twists! Meet the Sinister-Winterbottom twins, who solve mysteries at increasingly bizarre summer vacation destinations in the hopes of being reunited with their parents—or at the very least finally finding a good churro.
Brave Theo, her timid twin Alexander, and their older sister, Wil are the Sinister-Winterbottoms. They’re stuck for the summer with their Aunt Saffronia, who doesn’t know how often children need to eat and can’t use a smartphone, and whose feet never quite seem to touch the floor when she glides—er—walks. When Aunt Saffronia suggests a week pass to the Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, they hastily agree. But the park is even stranger than Aunt Saffronia. The waterslides look like gray gargoyle tongues. The employees wear creepy black dresses and deliver ominous messages. An impossible figure is at the top of the slide tower, people are disappearing, and suspicious goo is seeping into the wave pool. Something mysterious is happening at Fathoms of Fun, and it’s up to the twins to get to the bottom of it. The mystery, that is. NOT the wave pool. Definitely NOT the wave pool. But are Theo and Alexander out of their depth?

My Thoughts

Kids who enjoy a little snark with their scary stories will appreciate this ridiculous romp through the most imaginative water park ever created. Everything about this book works – the well-matched and very capable group of 3 siblings, the kooky and mysterious aunt, the even more mysterious week at the water park and the deliciously odd but appealing mystery to be solved.

I was reminded a little of Lemony Snicket but the tone, plot, and characterizations are unique enough to keep you reading.

Recommended.

Praise from the Field

“Like a big waterslide that you scream all the way down, only to laugh in relief and get right back on, this book is gothically hilarious and an absolute delight. If I have to die in a waterpark, I want to die in this one.”—Holly Black, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Folk of the Air series

“Packed with wordplay and mock-gothic mystery, this first title in the Sinister Summer series is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket, Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl.”—Shelf Awareness

Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Published By: Random House Children’s: Delacorte Press
Thanks t NetGalley for the review copy

It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by justin a. reynolds – GUEST POST


Guest Reviewer Heather Maniero

I am a reader, teacher, techno-wizard, and librarian originally from North Dakota. I finally ventured out of the Midwest in my early thirties to get my library degree at Syracuse University and fell in love with the area. I am currently a students with disabilities aide at Spencerport High School, a substitute librarian in the Children’s Center at the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, and the music director at Spencerport United Methodist Church.

Description

Gordon Holloway’s entire summer has been strategically planned to culminate on THE summer event: Beach Bash. In his twelfth year, Gordon has been given more flexibility for the summer. Gordon can do as he sees during the day as long as he keeps his nose clean and gets his chores done. With careful planning and organization (and by wearing an ugly Christmas sweater in June), Gordon has calculated that he can go all the way until Beach Bash without doing a single load of laundry. He has his bathing suit ready to show the knees Ava B. has already commented on. The Bronster (Brother/Monster for those not in the know) is headed out of town to visit with his girlfriend. This will be WBD (Wanna Be Dad’s) first big outing out with the family, but even that can be managed. What could go possibly go wrong?

My Thoughts

The story started out with that pre-pubescent boy humor that is so endearing, creating a quick bond with the reader. I was even starting to draw parallels to the Wimpy Kid. Wasn’t it genius for the narrator to start with chapter 100, for those meddling teachers and parents who are checking our reading process?

Unfortunately, the stellar start dragged a bit after it took more than half the book to even get to the set-up. If this is a planned series, I can, in a way, understand the long set-up. Students and young readers may be a bit more forgiving on this point than myself. It will be interesting to see.

Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Published By: Scholastic Press
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo


Description

A 2021 People Magazine Best Books of Fall Winner!

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all—for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories—powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves—ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her—a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone—will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

My Thoughts

Kate DiCamillo just keeps on writing perfect books. The Beatryce Prophecy is storytelling at it finest, with endearing characters and a compelling, folktale-like story led by a remarkable and memorable trio of characters. However, if you count the goat, it’s really a group of four!

All the elements of a story are here – characters that leap off the page; a well-constructed plot that keeps the reader turning pages; a setting defined by vivid description; and a tension that grips you by the hands and pulls you along to the very satisfying conclusion.

This would make a lovely classroom read-aloud that could be used to spark discussion on a number of topics, including equity in education.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Edelweiss+ for the review copy

Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani


Description

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong. 

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that free hearts long kept tame, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again. 

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

My Thoughts

I’ve read a lot of fairy tales retold and reimagined, but nothing – nothing! – like this. Chainani completely disrupts the old tales and rewrites them ferociously for all those readers who never once saw themselves in those stories.

There is power here – power of women and girls, power of color, power of sex – all woven together into a dark and delicious fist raised to the traditional, exclusionary tales.

Little girls with onyx skin and springy curls will see themselves here, as will beautiful boys who prefer red-haired thieves to brittle wives.

There is anger here, but there’s also righteousness. These are tales for our time.

Highly Recommended.

Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Published By: Harper Collins Childrens Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan


Description*

Third in a darkly enchanting trilogy after Begone the Raggedy Witches and The Little Grey Girl, The Promise Witch opens in a time of heat and thirst. The deposed old tyrant of a queen sent a cursed winter to bury Witches Borough in snow. Months later, the clouds have vanished, but an equally cursed drought has settled over the castle and its river, now bone-dry. Witches Borough is dying, and though Mup is the pathfinder, the stitcher of worlds, is she strong enough to mend a scorched landscape and bring the water home? Enter a raggedy witch trailing a storm of ashes: Magda, Crow’s mother. She wants Mup to fulfill a promise. She wants Mup to help her. And woe betide any who stand in her way. Irish storyteller Celine Kiernan’s breathtaking tale of family, loyalty, and risk caps a timeless trilogy brimming with drama and danger—and heartbreaking resonance to the struggles of today.

I discovered Celine Kiernan’s series quite by accident while browsing online. I was thoroughly captivated by Begone the Raggedy Witches and eagerly read the follow-up Little Grey Girl. In The Promise Witch, Kiernan brings the family through the hardest of times, guiding Mup and Mam and the people through terrible thirst and vengeance from a power in decline.

As in the two previous stories, Mup is the center, the “stitcher of worlds” who provides the path for the new through the terrible landscape of the old.

Kiernan’s characterization is outstanding. Mup, wise beyond her years and powerful beyond belief, is still a little girl who needs her Mam. And Mam is a little girl all grown up finally understanding her role in this magical world.

This can be read as a straightforward fantasy for middle graders, but also as an allegory for climate change. Kiernan layers magic, friendship, and loyalty over top of environmental changes similar to what’s happening in our world. Her story implies that good change can happen when people come together, trust one another, and make decisions that may involve sacrifice for the benefit of others.

This is storytelling at its best. Highly recommended.

Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Thanks to *Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston


New York Times bestseller! Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy, the first in a trilogy filled with #blackgirlmagic. Perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

I haven’t been this excited about a debut fantasy book for kids since I read the Sorcerer’s Stone ARC way back in 1997. Amari & the Night Brothers is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series featuring a young Black girl and her brother, who are magical investigators. While Quinton, the brother, is a super-talented investigator, it’s Amari who is the magician and has the most power. What a powerful message to send to girls.

When we first meet Amari, she’s confused, worried, angry, and sad for many reasons. She is targeted and bullied at school, her mother works too hard, and her brother has mysteriously disappeared. Like the boy living in the cupboard under the stairs, Amari discovers a whole new, magical world where she suddenly finds power, acceptance, and friendship – qualities that appear again and again in this story.

The author imbues Amari with integrity and loyalty, two traits that help her adjust to life at “camp” and help her through the trials she experiences there. B.B. Alston has captured the magic of a young girl starting to grow up and grow into herself.

Amari is set to become a new and improved Harry Potter for girls and boys who found a hero on the screen in Black Panther. I’ll be buying copies of this and handing them out liberally.