Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Wizard’s Dog

wizard'sdogIf you like dogs, humor, and magic (or at least two of the three), then The Wizard’s Dog (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017) by Eric Kahn Gale is the book for you.
The story is told from Nosewise’s viewpoint. (He’s the dog.) His master, the Wizard Merlin, and his pack mate Morgana, keep shutting him out of the study. He knows that Morgana is the favorite pet, but why is she allowed in when he isn’t? One day Nosewise has had enough at being left out and barks and claws at the door. Morgana thinks it should be okay for him to be in the room, so Merlin gives in. Watching Morgana work on a spell, Nosewise wants to learn more tricks than sit! and stay!. When Merlin is kidnapped, it’s a good thing Nosewise is not only interested in magic, but wants to get his master back.
The story made me laugh so often as I read and makes me smile just to think about it again. I also love the front cover and the spot illustrations by Dave Phillips.
You can watch a trailer for the book here.
This is the author’s third book and was inspired by his own dog, Bowser. Read more about Eric and his other books here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Dying to Meet You

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
dying.jpegDying to Meet You (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise is an unusual kid’s story. Part of it is the format: letters and documents exchanged about 43 Old Cemetery Road, Ghastly, Illinois and letters and notes from the occupants. The book has illustrations to accompany the text, including rental property ads, floor plans, sketches by Seymour, pages from The Ghastly Times (ads included), etc.
The other unusual part is that the cast of characters is not your normal cast for a children’s book. First, there is I.B. Grumply, who although a writer of children’s books, doesn’t want “to see or hear the little monsters.” He’s there to overcome his writer’s block in this quiet out of the way house he’s rented. There are some other adult characters introduced next, although they aren’t as important as Olive, who lives–well, since she’s a ghost, I guess hangs out would be more appropriate–in the supposedly empty house. Third, there’s an eleven-year-old boy Seymour who was deliberately left behind in the house by his parents! The other characters have appropriately humorous names that often fit their occupations, such as realtor Anita Sale.
Can you tell the story is funny? Plus it has a happy ending. It makes me smile every time I think of it. And it’s book one of the 43 Old Cemetery Road series. The other titles are: Over My Dead Body; Till Death Do Us Bark; The Phantom of the Post Office; Hollywood, Dead Ahead; Greetings from the Graveyard; and The Loch Ness Punster.
The author and illustrator are sisters, who share a website here. There you can find out about the other series they’ve done, the stand-alones, the picture books, and about the two sisters who collaborate while living in two separate states (California and Missouri).
I hadn’t realized I’d read and recommended another book by Kate Klise until I wrote this blog post. It was for Grounded.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Dead Boy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Dead Boy coverDead Boy (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2015) by Laurel Gale starts right off with humor. The first sentence is “Being dead stank.” The paragraph ends with talking about spray-on deodorant not masking the smell.
Besides the weirdness of his situation, I felt such empathy for the main character. Crow Darlingson is lonely–something we’ve all experienced. His mother won’t let him go outside (the odor, maggots, and falling body parts) and he’s not allowed to have friends (ditto). Then a new girl moves into the neighborhood and waves at him through the window. She even comes to the door to meet him. Of course, his mother won’t let her in. But Crow’s willing to risk a lot to have a friend. He just doesn’t know how much he’ll be risking. Or the truths he’ll discover.
(BTW, I’m not a fan of horror, so if that’s not your “cup of tea” don’t worry that this book goes too far. The horrible elements in this story are balanced well with humor and Crow’s positive traits.)
I love what author Laurel Gale says in a Thanksgiving blog post on her website: “I’m thankful for the magical doors books open.” I agree and am thankful she wrote Dead Boy. Because of it we got to meet. 🙂
Laurel also has helpful writing tips on her website.

Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

All Four Stars

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
allfourstars_final.jpgAll Four Stars (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014) by Tara Dairman is deliciously funny and definitely appropriate for any foodie.
Eleven-year-old Gladys Gatsby secretly cooks gourmet food when her parents aren’t at home, since they think cooking is nuking something in the microwave. They also don’t know Gladys’ dream of being a restaurant critic. But she gets a lot of practice after she catches the kitchen on fire–practice in writing up food disasters, that is. With a ban on cooking and orders to go out and make friends, the school essay contest sounds like a solution to her problems.
This book has an engaging main character and a satisfying ending. I’m not the only one to think so, because the book has received awards, including a 2015 Crystal Kite, and been put on state lists.
According to the author’s website, parts of the book “were written in a mall in Brazil, a guesthouse in Morocco, and coffeehouses in Argentina, Cameroon, Gabon, and Tanzania.” Recipes from the book are on the website here. Tara Dairman also includes recipes in her blog from time to time.
stars-of-summer.jpgTwo more books have followed the first: The Stars of Summer is second in the trilogy, and the third is Stars So Sweet.stars-so-sweet-cover-1.jpg

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

How to Capture an Invisible Cat

InvisibleCatLooking for a hilarious read? Try How to Capture an Invisible Cat (Bloomsbury, 2016) by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Thierry Lafontaine. The hilarity starts on page one with:

Let’s just say the cat was bigger than a horse.
To be honest, the cat was nearly the size of an elephant, but that sounds too scary, so . . . let’s just say the cat was bigger than a horse.

Our narrator, sixth-grader Delphine Cooper, has been sentenced to stay after school. While sweeping, she witnesses Very Serious People “testing” genius and classmate Nate Bannister. She’s never really paid attention to him before. Then she sees Nate and his dog Bosper at the park and some amazing things happen. Are the two going to become friends? He thinks so. And friends help each other right? So that’s how Delphine gets involved helping Nate capture his invisible supersized cat.
Author Paul Tobin is an Eisner-award winning, New York Times-bestselling author of comic books and graphic novels. How to Capture an Invisible Cat is the first of five books in this Genious Factor series. Learn more about the series, his others books and about Paul himself at his website. Currently, Paul is on a Book Blog Tour that started today. Details here.
Read about illustrator Thierry Lafontaine here.