Thursday, February 19, 2015

2014 Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Winner!!!


The winner of the 2014 Cybils Award in middle grade fiction is... Nickel Bay Nick!!! 

Remember, we really considered if kids will like these books when choosing the finalists, unlike some other book awards. You can find my reviews for all of the finalists by clicking on the titles below:

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern at Sovern's website

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj at Bajaj's website

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson at Johnson's website

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander at Alexander's Facebook page

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman at Dairman's website

Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart at Gephart's website

Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford at Pitchford's website

To see finalists in all categories, click on the following link:
2014 Cyblis Finalists

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney

Code OrangeThink of all those diseases in the past that ravaged countries and killed millions of people. Mitty's science class is doing research on some them, and Mitty's mom offers him an old medical book to use. He finds an envelope inside that says it contains scabs from small pox victims in the early 1900's. Mitty's not normally a reliable student, but something about this disease interests him; there haven't been any cases of it in a couple of generations. He reads about the symptoms and history of small pox, and he discovers there really isn't a treatment for it. As days go by, Mitty realizes he may have been exposed to the virus, and he may be endangering everyone he meets, including his girlfriend. His problems become even worse when he searches for help on the Internet.

The idea of the book touches the fears of many Americans as terrorists threaten the world. Mitty is a likable, realistic character; he could be a teenager in any family. The author provides side comments about the virus in Mitty's body, so you will know what's happening before he does. The chapters contain a great deal of non-fiction reading about small pox, and this may turn off some readers. The twist in the plot after Mitty sent emails for help on the Internet was unexpected.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky (Hattie, #1)Hattie's uncle leaves her his claim for a ranch on the plains of Montana. The little shack isn't much of a house, but she's determined to plant crops and get a fence built in order to keep the property. Her best friend from home is fighting the Germans in World War I, but there's a war brewing in Vida, Montana too. Perilee, Karl, and their kids are Hattie's best friends on the prairie, but a local group is angry about Karl's German heritage. And Hattie finds trouble, because she likes her neighbors. Fences are knocked down, mysterious fires are set, and threats are made. These dangers just add to her farming problems due to drought, heat, and insects. Her efforts will result in failure if she can't find some way to save the farm.

Be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions as you read this book. You'll admire Hattie's courage as she struggles to save the farm. You'll be angry with the meanness of some neighbors and their prejudiced ways. You'll be happy with Hattie's sense of humor and her interactions with the kids. And there will be sadness due to unexpected tragedies. It's unusual to read about the war with Germany from a setting in Montana, but the story works. I recommend it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford

Captain NobodyNewton and his two friends are in the fourth grade, and no one pays any attention to them. They make plans for amazing Halloween costumes, but Newton's plans get disrupted. His older brother, hero of the high school football team, is knocked into a coma while scoring the winning touchdown. His parents are very worried as his brother won't wake up, so Newton puts on his brother's old clothes to cheer them up. His friends make him a cape and mask, and he becomes Captain Nobody. Kids and adults start to notice him, and he becomes the protector of the little man. The costume gives Newton confidence as he helps others, and his actions lead to great deeds. But, how can they save his brother from his endless sleep?

This book was a 2009 finalist for a Cybils book award, and it was much more than I expected. Kids wearing costumes and pretending to be heroes without any special talents or powers? The brother's injury kept things serious, and the heroic deeds were simple enough to be believable. Newton reluctantly helped people, because the costume allowed him to overcome his fears and insecurities. Perhaps all of us have a hero hiding inside.