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review 2018-07-19 23:01
Epic Summer Fun
The Cardboard Kingdom - chad sell

The Cardboard Kingdom
Illustrated by Chad Sell
Written by  Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, and Barbara Perez Marquez.


 
The Summer after fourth grade, my parents bought a refrigerator. It came in a giant cardboard box. That was the best summer ever. We had kids from all over the neighborhood come to play in our giant cardboard box. It was anything we wanted it to be and it was always fun. In today’s world of electronic instant gratification, the concept seems absurd. Why go pretend a box is a fortress when, inside a video game, you can just build a fortress that actually looks just like a fortress. I am sad for the adventures of summer that seem long gone and just thrilled that there are still kid’s books out there that capture it.

 

The Card Board Kingdom is a graphic novel about a neighborhood of 16 kids who with their imaginations and the help of some throwaway cardboard have the best adventures ever. Written by a number of authors and masterfully illustrated by artist Chad Sell, the book captures the essence of summer in a rather unique way. Mixed into the stories of epic quests of knights, mages, robots and the occasional innkeeper, are stories of real kids dealing with real issues.

 

This novel is geared toward the middle grades, but the stories within are safe for and will appeal to readers of all ages. Younger grades will enjoy the fun adventures and costumes. Middle graders will relate to some of the darker undertones their younger cohorts might miss. Themes such as being the new kids in the neighborhood, difficulty making friends, bullying, parental separation, gender conformity, and domestic violence are woven into the story at a kid’s perception level. The stories show that life throws some curve balls, but kids do have a voice and the ability to have some control over their rapidly changing world. Older kids and adults will simply enjoy the nostalgia of days gone by when summer was all about having fun together with a bunch of friends or a bunch of soon to be friends.

 

My particularly favorite stories are The Gargoyle, The Bully, and Professor Everything with his buddy The Scribe (who together remind me just a bit of my son). I giggled at the single-minded determination of The Alchemist and her solution to her troubles was simply epic in a way most adults could learn from. My heart broke for The Sorceress, who just wants to believe he can be magical, powerful and amazing. As a parent, I can guarantee that he, like all children, is that in spades. The whole book was a colorful adventure.

 

For those who would like to follow up on the adventure, coloring book pages and costume designs from the book are available on Chad Sell’s website

https://chadsellcomics.com/thecardboardkingdom/

Source: ireadkidsbooksjournal.wordpress.com/2018/07/18/the-cardboard-kingdom-by-chad-sell
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review 2018-07-19 10:53
Ghost Boy
Ghost Boy - Stafford Betty

by Stafford Betty

 

Sometimes a book starts a little awkwardly, like the author was trying too hard to make a start and to get too many things in too soon or to make a special effort to mention some 'agenda'. I had to make a few allowances for this one because the story I was expecting to read, about a protagonist who sees ghosts, was worked into that crucial first chapter smoothly enough to hope for some good flow to the rest of the story.

 

It did flow well after, though I felt the narrative was 'young' for my taste, but it's targeted at YA and middle grade and I would say appropriate for the middle grade age group, apart from the diversions into conversations about 'God' that don't quite fit in and come across as if the author is laying ground to push young readers towards religious beliefs.

 

Ben Conover is a boy from a religious family, but he sees ghosts, especially a girl ghost who he calls Abby. His parents don't believe what he sees is real of course and try to get him to stop making comments about it. The story covers interactions with other kids, both friends and foes, as well as family members. There are a few lessons about following the lead of older kids, especially relatives, who do things you know aren't smart and about dealing with life in general from a 12-13 year old's perspective.

 

Overall I did enjoy the story, but it didn't really progress in a central theme and I thought the ending left some inconclusive loose ends. I liked Ben as a character, but I did think some of the situations could have been better developed or followed up.

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review 2018-07-10 19:16
Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller
Graveyard Shakes - Benchmark Publishing Group;Stephen Jay Jackson;Rina Alvarez;Lisa Crane;Scott-Laura Schoeggl;Jessica Friedman;Sara Lynn;Sarah Alston;Emily Ku;Paula Maxheim;Michelle Posey;Melissa Madden;Jorge Gonzalez;Terry B Bruno;Samuel Guss;Erin Johnson;G.E. Masana

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

 

An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

 

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-07-09 00:45
Loyalty and Brotherhood
The Black Star of Kingston - S. D. Smith,Zach Franzen

This novella was my first introduction to the world of Green Ember (simply because I was able to get this book from the library hold list first), and it has set the stage for what promises to be a compelling series. With strong themes of loyalty and brotherhood, "The Black Star of Kingston" is both simple enough for adolescents and intriguing enough for older readers. Despite some violence due to a battle, this is a clean read, and one I recommend for anyone looking for adventure and camaraderie. 

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review 2018-07-07 03:47
On a roll but not the good kind
Escape from the Lizzarks (Nnewts) - Doug TenNapel

Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel is another summer reading selection for middle grade readers. This is the first in a series of graphic novels which follow the adventures of Herc, a Nnewt, who is on both a literal and figurative journey of self-discovery. From the beginning, the reader is launched into this fictional world of creatures called Nnewts and their enemies the Lizzarks. There was a sense that one should already be familiar with characters and backstory. The narrative seemed to be all over the place which compounded the issue. I feel like the author was trying to put a spin on the classic 'underdog who surprises everyone to come out on top' but it was all a bit rushed in my opinion. Also, if this is a series I see no reason why the pacing had to be so hurried.  I went into this one with fairly high hopes as the first couple of pages seemed quite interesting but this is one of those books that just didn't work for me. However, I'm betting it will appeal to a younger audience. (It is after all not marketed for me so this makes perfect sense.) It will probably come as no surprise to any of you that I have no plans to continue this series but I have recommended it to some of my younger readers who like a lot of blood, guts, and gore. No complaints thus far. :-) The best thing I can say about this particular book is that the color illustrations were very imaginative but the rest of it left quite a bit to desire. 2/10

 

Spoiler: Straight out of the gate most of the characters are killed off and I feel like this was a lazy way to move the hero's journey ahead. Also, because it happened so early on there was really no emotional attachment or buildup so it served very little purpose (at least from a reader's perspective).

(spoiler show)

 

An example from the first couple of pages. [Source: Scholastic Canada]

 

 

What's Up Next: Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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