Monday, December 19, 2022

Cover Reveal for IT FOUND US by Lindsay Currie

Today I'm super excited to reveal the cover for Lindsay Currie's next spooky MG book, IT FOUND US - with special thanks to illustrator @tropicalgloom for this downright haunting cover! Coming 9/23 from @sourcebookskids! @sbkslibrary @editorALB

Title: It Found Us
Author: Lindsay Currie
Author Links: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter
Publication Date: September 23, 2023
Genres: MG, Spooky
ADD it to Goodreads

From the author of Scritch Scratch and The Girl in White comes a new spooky mystery about a girl detective who must decode a series of ominous clues tied to a century-old tragedy to find a missing teenager before it’s too late…

Twelve-year-old Hazel Woods has always had an unusual knack for sleuthing. Some may call it snooping, but all she really wants is to solve mysteries around town. So, when she not-so-accidentally overhears her brother Den planning to sneak into the cemetery at night for an epic game of hide-and-seek, she decides to secretly tag along. This seems like the perfect opportunity to investigate the claims that the cemetery is haunted.

But the moment the game ends, Hazel realizes something is very, very wrong. From her hiding spot in the bushes, she overhears that her brother’s best friend, Everett, is missing. Everyone else was found by the seeker but there’s no sign of Everett anywhere. It’s as if he just . . . vanished

Hazel and Den are determined to find Everett before it’s too late. But as they begin to unravel the terrifying clues that started appearing since that night in the graveyard–eerie whispers that sound like someone counting, the intermittent smell of smoke, and the cold, lost presence that follows them everywhere, she’s not sure what they are dealing with. But Everett needs more than search parties and scent-tracking dogs to find him, especially if his disappearance is tied to the history of the cemetery, and the lost, century-old spirits that might still be trapped there.

                                            And here’s the cover!

 What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 12, 2022

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije  
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Number of pages:  304
Published:  October 4th, 2022
Source:  Giveaway sponsored by Literary Rambles and the publisher 

Opening Line: "There was no such thing as magic."

12-year-old Shad Hadid aspires to be a baker, dreaming of making delectable Arabic sweets like baklava and knafeh.  When not at school or making meals for his beloved, Teta, Shad is at his favorite bakery.  Often, he can be found peering into the window, drooling over the smells drifting from the shop, a constant reminder of his Baba and the shop they used to own in Lebanon.

Then one day while Shad is heading home, he has a run in with his nemesis, Sarah.  Once he and Sarah were friends but now, she and her friends find pleasure in bullying him instead.  Trying to outrun the barrage of eggs they're tossing at him; Shad flees into an alley.  It's here that he encounters something even scarier than Sarah, a dark shadow or necromancer.  Just as things look bleak, Shad is saved by a powerful alchemist, none other than the baker Kahem.  Although the necromancer disappears, Sarah continues to be relentless in her attack, it isn't until Shad unleashes his family's secret weapon, a stink bomb that he is finally able escape her.  Impressed by Shad, Kahem explains that he and Shad come from a long line of Alchemists, that are slowly dying out.  Seeing potential in Shad, Kahem begins to train him.

As Shad receives his training under Kahem, he learns that Alchemists use science, special ingredients and the power of their imagination.  In Kahem's workshop, he begins to blend ingredients and follow the traditions that were passed down to him from his Baba.  Just as Shad begins to make progress, Kahem disappears, and Shad receives devasting news that has him shook.  Shad is even attacked by another necromancer and only by sheer luck escapes.  It's then he receives an invitation to attend the prestigious Alexandria Academy a place that can help him to further hone his skills.  Yet, everything at the Academy is not as it seems, no one seems to recall Alchemy and instead it has turned into an Academy solely based on science.  Even worse, Shad finds his bullies, Sarah and his stepbrother have followed him to his new school.  Plus, it seems that the necromancers have infiltrated the school and are after the ingredients to a powerful recipe that Shad may hold the key to.  

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria is an exciting adventure that centers a young Arab boy as our hero.  Shad is a character full of heart, he shows a lot of determination, and I just loved the way that he always tries to stand up to his bullies.  Especially how he is protective over others, even intervening to help someone else being bullied, despite possibly placing himself in danger.  I also loved his enthusiasm for baking and wanting to create Lebanese deserts.  I love how his culture is so important to him and wanting to preserve the traditions that he grew up with.  It's also really sweet the way that he took care of his Teta, cooking her favorite dishes and the respect and love that he showed toward her I found quite admirable.

The story was interesting in the way it explores alchemy and the various components and ingredients that Shad needed to combine for his recipes, even common things like salt and sugar were added to gold and lead with often surprising results.  The alchemy in the story is not based off of magic, rather the combination of certain ingredients in a special way with the alchemist's intent as the final piece of the recipe.  I can't say that Shad is a perfect alchemist, but he is quite imaginative and can pull things together on the fly.

One of the components of the story that I cared for less was the amount of bullying that was happening. I'm not a huge fan of bullying in general, although I do get that in a story like this it does illustrate the good vs evil and how sometimes people can change. Initially there was Sarah to contend with, but then Shad's stepbrother and his gang appeared, sometimes it felt like just too much.  What did work for me however were the necromancers, I found their plans to be quite nefarious.  The way they infiltrated the school, turning more and more of the students and professors to their dark, shadow alchemy.  Another highlight of the story were the positive relationships that Shad forms at his new school.  Donny, Rey, Sarah, and Hayati, who he quickly forms a bond with.  Just like his Teta predicted, Shad finds people he can depend on, and Sarah finally apologizing for the falling out they had in the past was a beautiful way of mending their friendship.  Overall, I enjoyed the Lebanese representation, the lovely descriptions of foods and sweets, the humorous way the author used the word "figs" as an insult, the inclusion of the beautiful Alexandria Library and the emphasis on science and chemistry.  I'm looking forward to seeing what George Jreije has in store for Shad and his friends next.   

** A huge thank you to Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles and Harper Collins for my review copy. **  

I hope you'll check all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.   

Monday, December 5, 2022

MMGM with a review of Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade by Kimberly Behre Kenna

Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade by Kimberly Behre Kenna
Format:  Softcover
Publisher:  Fitzroy Books
Number of pages:  152
Publishing:  February 2nd, 2023
Source:   Books Forward

Opening Line: "Artemis Sparke stood at the tippy-top of Fiddlers Creek trail, scanning the area with her binoculars."  

Twelve-year-old Artemis Sparke lives and works with her mother cleaning rooms at the Horizon Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut.  Her parents are in the mist of getting a divorce, and her father is always busy traveling for the book he is writing or teaching at the local university.  When Artemis is not at the hotel or hanging out with her best friend, Warren, she can be found at the local salt marsh, gathering facts in her field notebook.  For example, chronicling the number of crabs and fish in the marsh or detailing how RT, her favorite wood thrush, has had to move their nest because of noise from the renovations going on at the hotel.  Recently, Artemis has been saddened by the changes she's observed in the marsh.  If only people would pay more attention to the data and number's she's collected.

Then one day, while Artemis and Warren are searching for RT, they find BB pellets scattered around the marsh and are nearly run over by some boys from school riding their bikes, which is defiantly against the rules.  Angered by the way that the marsh and surrounding area are being destroyed by trash, yard clippings and a disregard for the rules designed to protect the marsh, Artemis takes matters into her own hands.  First, she develops the Sound Seekers Brigade, with Warren and a friend from the hotel.  Next, she begins a campaign to increase public awareness concerning the damages caused by the hotel's renovations by writing a letter to the editor and hanging posters around town highlighting the specific problems.  All of publicity angers her mom's boss/boyfriend, Harry Hellander and almost lands her in hot water.  In a supernatural twist, Artemis is aided in her quest to protect the marsh by the ghosts of three deceased ecologists who help her to "dream big."

Artemis is both caring, curious, observant and passionate.  She has this energy about her that is contagious.  Artemis has a slight stutter which causes her to be teased by bullies from school and even Warren's dad.  In these moments I found it easy to relate with how bad she must have felt, wanting to stand up for her and defend her against their bullying.  Warren is a character who also captured my heart.  I was saddened that he lives with an abusive, alcoholic father.  He is such a sweet boy and wonderful friend to Artemis, joining her on her trips to the salt marsh, even though he'd rather finish their summer cycle challenge and go fishing. Despite some conflicts that arise between the two, and a moment when Warren is in grave danger, they have each other's backs when they need it the most.  He reminds me a lot of one of my friends growing up.         

Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade is the first book in the Brave Girls Collection adventure series, with a portion of the sales from the book going toward the Save the Sound, a group combatting climate change and the restoration of the Long Island Sound.  I found the story to be very informative highlighting both the pollution that entered the marsh, for example the community dumping yard clippings or the use of fertilizer too near the water, and the ways to become involved.    It's an especially pleasing read for wildlife and conservationists concerned about the impact humans are having on the environment.  Artemis will inspire readers to look for the changes that are going on in their own communities.

Favorite line:  "...That's the power of observation for you.  When you stay still and attend, then you become a part of the beauty you see."  

**A huge thank you to Books Forward for the print ARC in exchange for an honest review. ** 

I hope you'll check all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.