The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney

I happen to have a daughter starting middle school in two days, and she had loved Mahoney’s book Annie’s Life in Lists, so she was pretty excited to read this. When she finished it (and liked it) I read it too. I thought this was terrific, with only a couple of quibbles (the school is really not noticing/ignoring the chronic butt pincher?! and also believing the vandalism was done by clearly the victims of the vandalism?!)

Set up like letters written to her younger sister, Augusta is telling all about the different people she meets starting from day 1. Fortunately it flows together into a chronological narrative and lovely story about Augusta finding new friends she fits in with and navigating some mean girls and other situations.
A good story any time, but especially for those on the brink of middle school. And maybe it was good for me to read, too, to remind me of what that might be like and act accordingly.

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Herbert’s Wormhole by Peter Nelsen

This was a weird and funny book we listened to on audio (only 3 discs, which was about right.) Two boys go through a wormhole and wind up in their same town in the future. A future where humans and aliens co-exist in town. The aliens all have Australian accents, which is hilarious.  I enjoyed this but didn’t feel super invested in it.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

I wanted to start this post by saying “it’s been well established that Bronson Pinchot is my favorite audiobook reader” but I see it’s not well established at all here. I don’t have any entries for the books we’ve listened to, but I did find this 2014 end of year sentence: “We discovered The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle. Bronson Pinchot (yes, Cousin Balkie!) is my new favorite audiobook reader. These books are looooong on audio (10 hours!) but so worth it. He is an amazing reader and the book is hilarious.” So, yes. He is an amazing reader and I was delighted that Paul found us another one of his books to listen to on our way home from Maine last week.  This was a wonderful story and I’m so glad we found it. I would never have picked it up off the shelf based on this cover:  Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley - Used (Acceptable) - 0525428437 by Penguin Young Readers Group | Thriftbooks.com or this one  Circus Mirandus; Paperback; Author - Cassie Beasley  I think it just looks like circus hijinks.  I think this drawing is much more evocative of the magical mysterious lovely story within.Image result for circus mirandus

(By the way, that art is by Diana Sudyka, but I can’t identify where that art originally appears.) [Goodreads says fans of Big Fish, Peter Pan, and Roald Dahl will like this story and I agree with that.]
While I think that Cousin Balki could make any book sound great, I do think this was a great story. There is some back and forth in time so that we understand how the old man in present day, was once a little boy who found the magical and life changing Circus Mirandus, and how he extracted the promise of a future miracle from the Light Bender. In the present day that old man’s grandson is desperate to find the circus and have the promised miracle save his grandpa. Obviously everyone thinks that his grandfather’s stories of Circus Mirandus were just fairy tales, but Micah believes them and is determined to find it and meet the Light Bender.
Heartwarming, sweet, magical, this was a terrific story.

 

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

This book is one of the choices on Tabby’s summer reading list for entering 6th grade. I checked it out and read it and loved it, but I don’t know if she’ll actually read it. It’s so different from all the books she likes, but it felt very familiar to me, very reminiscent of a lot of this type of YA novel I’ve read (Princess Academy, Alanna (Song of the Lioness), Crown of Blood and Thorns, etc.)
This was a very fast read and I enjoyed it enormously.

Sage is one of 4 orphan boys plucked from around the city by a mysterious wealthy aristocrat. It turns out that he has a massively secret daring plan to present one of them as the long lost prince of the kingdom, to help avoid what he believes is imminent civil war (as soon as the kingdom finds out that the king and queen and their son are all dead.) It’s treasonous and terrifying and difficult, but these are boys without any choice.
There is a perpetual threat of violence, lies, and treachery throughout the story–everyone knows that the boys not chosen to the false prince will be killed. They all depend on each other to make this plan be a success, but also they cannot trust each other.

I enjoyed how everything tied together and worked out, and while it was a little bit predictable it did not diminish my enjoyment.

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This was SO WONDERFUL. A nice heavy (really-I think it was printed on heavy paper) good long graphic novel. This is a super charming tale, that reminded me in many ways of the show Over the Garden Wall.  This was terrific blend of completely realistic and magical. And one of the charming things is how the magical stuff is accepted, even though it seems to be established at the start that the boys live in a regular world like we do.

The two boys, Ben and Nathaniel, really aren’t friends, but once were. And as so often happens one remains quirky and “weird” and the other now has a new group of friends who make fun of the first kid.

Ben and Nathaniel and other boys have made a pact to follow lanterns that their town puts in the river every year and see where they go. As the other boys drop off it ends up being just Ben and Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s persistently cheerful, “wow isn’t this exciting!” “Oh hey, a talking bear!” attitude is absolutely delightful. Ben, of course, finds it quite annoying.

This bike ride turns into a quest with all kinds of adventures and magical moments. I loved their bear friend. I loved the dialogue, too.

A total winner.

*I’m seeing a lot of comparison on Goodreads to Miyazaki films and I’d definitely agree with that. As a fan of those films, it makes sense that I liked this so much. Also thought it was interesting that I saw someone list as a negative the length of the book, but I thought it was a plus. I loved that there was a fair amount of text to read and the story was pretty long. I was immersed in it and sorry to see the journey end.

Time Museum, vol. 2 by Matthew Loux

I’ve been eagerly waiting for this sequel for about a year now and I have to admit….I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first one and it ended up feeling like a bit of a letdown. It felt as if time had passed since establishing everything in the first book and like we were just expected to know what the deal was now. There was no recapping, which was difficult reading these in real time publication. And somehow the adventures just felt convoluted? scattered? I don’t know, it just didn’t capture me in the same way the first book did.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

I’ve read this before but this time listened to the audiobook. We started it as a family but ended with just me and Tabby listening as the boys didn’t like it that much. I enjoyed that this was read by Jack Gantos himself. I think that overall it’s a terrific story, but does take a bit of time to get into. The ending is certainly more exciting than the beginning, but a lot of that might have been the downside of listening to an audiobook–you only go as fast as the person reads. No skimming or racing to get to a good part!

I still think the bizarre history of the town is fascinating and loved the details about the old woman’s hands and “cooking” them and all the people dying.