Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Blog Tour for The Night Raven by Johan Rundberg , translation by A.A. Prime

Today I'm super excited to be hosting a spot on the blog tour for The Night Raven by Johan Rundberg, translated by A.A. Prime.  This would make for a perfect Halloween read!!

The Night Raven: The Moonwind Mysteries by  Johan Rundberg , translation by A.A. Prime
Publisher:  Amazon Crossing Kids
Format:  E-book
Number of pages:  192 pages
Publishing:   November 1st, 2023
Source:  Blue Slip Media via Edelweiss + 
Find it:  Goodreads

Opening Line:  "No More!"  "The cry comes from one of the beds in the back rows." 

Mika is twelve-years old and lives at the Public Childrens Home in Stockholm and works at a local bar.  The story takes place during the frigid winter of 1880 where times at the orphanage have been exceedingly tough.  Food has been scarce and without an adequate supply of firewood it has even been difficult to keep the rooms warm at night.  It's on one of these blistering cold nights that a scared boy shows up at the orphanage doors and hands Mika a small bundle containing a baby.  While rushing off the boy exclaims "The Dark Angel knows I'm the one who took her."  Things become further complicated when Valdemar Hoff a detective from the department of police shows up and begins to question Mika and then suddenly decides that she must come with him to Kungsholm Church's graveyard to investigate.  Soon Mika becomes embroiled in a mystery surrounding the notorious serial killer the Night Raven, someone who drains all the blood from his victims but was thought to have been caught and beheaded by the executioner over four years ago.  Can it be that he somehow has returned?  With Mika's keen eye for details and Detective Valdemar's encouragement can they come to a pack to catch the Night Raven before he can strike again?  


★“This gripping, fast-paced mystery comes together well, with Mika’s deductions based firmly in logic and connections based in her own clear observations…A thrilling and thoughtful period murder mystery.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

★“This English translation of Rundberg’s lively historical mystery…is something to celebrate…Joyous, funny, suspenseful, and serious—an unusual and winning combination for middle-grade readers. Let’s hope its three sequels appear in [A. A.] Prime’s English translation, too.” —The Horn Book (starred review)

“It’s a testament to the authors that none of the solutions comes easily — in any good mystery story, truth is a messy and painful business.”  —The New York Times Book Review

The Night Raven is an interesting historical fiction giving glimpses of Stockholm during the 1880's.  It's a time of dock workers, brick layers, tanneries, tobacco factories and cops on the hunt for a notorious criminal.  Mika has been raised at the orphanage for some time, being the eldest, she is often put in charge of the other kid's needs.   She has a very dry sense of humor and will resort to scaring the orphans by telling them that the police like to eat up children in order to get them to do what she wants.  She's also one of the few orphans who holds down a job at a local bar, although she is mistreated by the customers quite often.  Mika is also a very smart girl and picks up on very small details that others miss.  She appears to be a valuable partner to Detective Valdemar.  

Overall, I really enjoyed The Night Raven.  It's an exciting story, filled with mystery and moves along at a fast pace. It sort of reminded me of Enola Holmes with all the action and Sherlock Holmes vibes, meets Oliver Twist.  Being set in Stockholm and the orphanage really highlighted how challenging this time period was to survive, and then add in the increasing struggles of dealing with the harshest months of winter, yeah it felt very bleak.  But I must say that I really liked Mika, she is quite the force.  She's never down about her circumstance, she just strives to move forward.  I'd probably place this somewhere around upper middle grade as there are references to corpses, murder, beheading, pubs and some references to cruelty to children but at the same time, it really speaks to the social conditions of the 1880's.  The Night Raven is the first book in this four-part series that was originally published in 2021 in Sweden and won the August Prize, Sweden's most prestigious literary honor.  I hope that the rest of the series will be translated as I would enjoy reading more about Mika.  

Johan Rundberg is an award-winning author of children's books who lives in Stockholm. He has written picture books, early readers, and middle grade, including Kärlekspizzan, Knockad Romeo, and the series Häxknuten. In 2021, he was awarded Sweden's most prestigious literary prize, the August Prize, in the children's and YA category for Nattkorpen, the original edition of The Night Raven, which was first written in Swedish. Nattkorpen was also the winner of a Swedish Crimetime Award in the children's and YA category. There are now four books in this series published in Sweden.    

A. A. Prime (Annie Prime) is an award-winning translator of Swedish literature. She was born in London and traveled the world studying a number of languages before settling in the English coastal town of Hastings. She now works full-time as a translator, specializing in the weird, witty, and wonderful world of children's and young adult fiction. She holds an MA in translation from University College London and has published more than twenty books in the UK and US. In her free time, she can be found belly dancing, folk singing, horse riding, and sea swimming.

Monday, October 30, 2023

It's MMGM with a review of New Girl (Ella at Eden #1) by Laura Sieveking, illustrations by Danielle McDonald

New Girl (Ella at Eden #1) by Laura Sieveking, illustrations by Danielle McDonald
Publisher:  Kane Miller Publishing
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  192 pages
Published:   First published February 1st, 2020 by Scholastic Australia
Source:  Kane Miller Publishing

12-year-old Ella is following in her best friend Zoe's footsteps by attending the prestigious boarding school, Eden College.  This is her first time being away from home, but having Zoe as a roommate makes her feel like she can finally settle in.  Yet, things don't quite go as she had initially anticipated.  Not only does she make a comment and laugh at a painting of fellow Year 7 student, Saskia's great-grandmother, but she also gets on the bad side of Year 7's housemistress and Vice Headmistress, Ms. Montgomery.  How will she ever make amends?  When items begin to go missing, and noises are heard in the hallway late at night, Ella puts her sleuthing skills to the test to catch the thief red-handed and hopefully show that she belongs at the school.  

The main character in New Girl, Ella appears to be the same character across a few early readers/chapter books, namely the Meet Ella series, which continues with Ella and Olivia, the Ella Diaries series and now the Ella at Eden series.  The first three early readers were written by different authors, with the Ella at Eden being written by Laura Sieveking.  Danielle McDonald is the illustrator for all of book series.  In all there are over 30 books.  The reader can begin with the shorter easy readers and progress to the more advanced chapter books, following Ella as she grows up and begins her next chapter at boarding school.

New Girl makes for a fun boarding school story.  Ella is confident and determined.  She really misses her younger sister, Olivia and Ella often sends her an email, which the reader can read.  Ella has a wide vocabulary and Sieveking ensures that the reader understands the more sophisticated words that Ella uses by providing the definition.  For example, a word like antithesis, Ella would say "that's a fancy word for opposite."  Ella really wants to get the best marks at school to maintain her scholarship and puts in the hard work to accomplish her goals.  There's the day-to-day challenges of fitting in, attending classes, mixed in with the mystery of who's stealing items from the Year 7 students.  There's even some late-night sneaking around the dormitory and sleuthing to find the culprit.  The story reinforces the idea of not judging people too quickly and not making rash accusations until you understand the full picture.   Overall, a fun adventure and I can see it appealing to fans who've read the earlier chapter books or who enjoy boarding book stories.  The next book in the series is called The Secret Journal.  

**A huge thank you to Kane Miller Publishing for the paperback in exchange for an honest review. **

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Gather by Kenneth M. Cadow

Gather by Kenneth M. Cadow
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Format:  Hardcover
Number of pages: 337 pages
Published:   October 3rd, 2023
Source:  Publisher 

Opening Lines:  "You see people doing things they shouldn't.  Sometimes you mind your own business.  Other times you might say something, but it's hard to do that if you've just been caught red-handed yourself."

 Ian's mom has just returned home from the hospital, with visible tape and gauze on her arm from an I.V. Ian suspects she had an accidental overdose, but the initial excuse is that she had work done on her back.   No one is discussing the needle that's still in the living room, or even where she's been, but both his mom and Aunt Terry are curious about the big dog hanging out around the house.  

While Ian's mom was away, the dog showed up on the porch eager for Ian to give him some food.  Ever since, they've become inseparable, so Ian sort of adopted him.  Now that his mom is back, he's sure that she'll want him to get rid of the dog, but somehow the conversation never comes up.  Now that mom's home, Ian feels a few changes are in order.  For one, he decides to quit the basketball team so he can get a job.  If he ever wants to get his families car, barn and farm back up and running he really needs an income.  Plus, this gives him the chance to be around and take care of his mom so she can hopefully beat her opioid addiction this time.  The story takes place before Thanksgiving and runs through the holidays, chronicling all of Ian's struggles to find work, in school and with fixing up the house.  Everything culminates in a personal tragedy that sends Ian and his dog on the run, with Ian vowing that no one will ever separate him from his dog.   

I don't know what I initially thought when I saw the cover.  I imagine that I thought this was a story about a boy and his beloved dog.  Which it surely is, but it's also so much more.  For me, it's about the title, which also happens to be Ian's adopted dogs name, Gather.  Websters says that Gather means " to bring together or collect."   Throughout the story, Ian intentionally or not gather's people around him.  People who become a support system to him.  There's his teacher, The Sharpe who takes care of her students by buying them snacks and offering her room as a refuge.  A place where Ian can warm his pants after the rain, and a place where he can be "seen."  Then there is the school nurse, who also keeps snacks for kids, and who keeps deodorant and extra clothing just in case they are needed.  Then there are people in Ian's community who gather around him.  Or as I like to think, all the special people that he attracts. The connections that he makes which each and every one of them is just beautiful.  Be it his elderly neighbor who he does handy work for or even the owner of the coffee shop his mom works at, they all play a part in the story. 

I found the initial pages of Gather to be very powerful in setting the scene of Ian and his mom's relationship.  Neither of them knows how to discuss the important things going on at home, not the needle that shows up in the living room, or even where his moms been and why?  It leaves Ian walking on eggshells, trying not to upset his mom by bringing up anything that might be stress inducing (like why she really lost her job) or anything that might cause her to have a relapse.  Ian and his mom's relationship is also filled with misunderstandings, moments when Ian misinterprets certain events because he doesn't have the whole picture.  Despite all the chaos at home, Ian is a resilient kid who strives for a better life for himself and his mother.   

This is a story of homelessness, rural life, addiction and the importance of community.  It is written in first person narrative with such an authentic voice, curses and all.  The story meanders between the past and present, with Ian switching topics frequently to draw on past events, even veering from one idea to the next.  I'm not usually a fan of a character "back tracking" or "getting ahead of themselves", but somehow it really worked in the story.   Ian was forced into growing up so fast and took on so much responsibility.   Sometimes, the story even felt like Ian's memoir or that you're reading his adult reflections on his youth.  But always you feel Ian's hopes, dreams and desires for his future. This is an excellent book, thought provoking, builds empathy and I can certainly see why it's a National Book Award finalist for Young People's Literature.  This story made a huge impact on me and it's a story that will stick with me for quite some time. 

**A huge thank you to Candlewick Press for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.** 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Spotlight on Hangabout: Far from Home by Ree Augustine

Hangabout Far From Home by Ree Augustine
Publisher:  Orange Blossom Publishing
Format: Paperback 
Number of pages: 206 pages
Published:   August 29th, 2023
Find It:  GoodreadsAmazon

                             About the Book:

Hangabout, a puppy who has just grown into his long teardrop ears, believes.

​He believes everything is good.
He believes what people tell him.
He believes his keeper loves him.

But when he is thrown into the outside world, Hangabout collides with a gang of hungry rats, a wily fox, a farmer with a BB gun, a kidnapper, and a lie. Everything he knows crumbles. Then, when Hangabout learns the truth about his keeper, he stops believing in anything.

If Hangabout does not renew his belief that there is good in the world, he will lose the two things he loves most: the keeper he longs for and his only friend—a fact-citing, street-wise cat—named Bean.

A story of homelessness, a friendship tried, and growing into oneself unfolds in this timeless journey.

                    About the Author

At the end of a good book,
A reader is left with a gift.
A story wrapped in a bow,
That lives in the reader's heart forever.

Some of Ree's earliest memories are with a book in her hand, and today, she still loves to read stories of all kinds, from children’s poetry to adult suspense novels. Before her love of reading turned into a love of writing, she took many turns in her life, some of which were an accountant, a retail clerk, and a volunteer worker for abused women. When she and her husband started their family, she became a stay-at-home mom to two boys. It was then, in a few solitary moments, she put a pencil in her hand and discovered a love of writing. Now, she spends her mornings in Eastern PA creating stories of her own with her writing partner by her side, a sleepy greyhound. Quiet things inspire her: a word, a child’s desire, a tug in her heart. Afternoons and evenings are for family, friends, and lots of daydreaming.

Visit her online at www.reeaugustine.com
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  272 pages
Publishing:   October 31st, 2023
Source:  Wunderkind PR

Opening Lines:  "I didn't know today would matter.  I didn't know it would change everything.  I thought what mattered had already happened.  I was wrong."

Best friends since second grade, Dani and Eric share almost everything.  A love for donuts, comic books, and their annual trip to the Cape for camping.  Over the summer, Eric has been working on a comic book and trying to muster his courage to finally talk to his crush while Dani was away at baseball camp.  Dani loves everything about baseball, from her worn out glove, to standing on the mound and pitching a fast ball.  She's always dreamed of pitching for the Mapleville all boy's baseball team and this year, after a lot of hard work, that dream has finally come true.

The best friends have eagerly been anticipating this year's camping trip, especially after last years was suddenly cancelled when Dani's grandmother passed away.  Then the moment that changes everything happens.  There is a huge explosion in the camper and Dani is trapped inside.  Risking everything, Eric rushes back inside and pulls Dani out before the flames can engulf her in the camper.  Unfortunately, Dani's leg is injured, and she sustains serious damage to her shoulder.  Worst of all, her hopes for a year of playing baseball are quickly fleeting.  

While Dani is undergoing treatment for the aftermath of her injury, Eric begins to second guess as to how the fire even got started.  Then realization hits, could he have been the cause of the fire?  Eric then begins to spiral with guilt and remorse.  Meanwhile, Dani runs into Meadow, one of the popular girls from school who has been visiting her own sister in the hospital.  The two hit it off and Meadow is a good distraction from Dani's injuries.  The two further bond over making TikTok videos.  Eric eventually visits Dani in the hospital and tries to come clean on his mistake, which ends up further pushing Dani away toward Meadow and angers Dani's mom.  It isn't long before the whole school finds out about Eric's mistake and their friendship begins to fracture further.  Meadow becomes a wedge between the two friends, even getting Dani to admit a few things on camera that puts Eric in a worse light, even though she really didn't mean them.  

Soon Eric begins to spend time with his crush but is still focused on investigating the cause of the fire and in ensuring that this never happens again.  When the fire report finally comes out stating that the explosion was due to a lithium battery in a remote-control car that they'd brought along on the trip, it isn't the relief that Eric had hoped for because it doesn't appear to be enough to mend their relationship.  Can the two friends figure out a way to fix things between themselves and find a way to move forward?  

Hidden Truths switches between the perspectives of our two main characters, Dani and Eric.  Having this dual point of view makes the story so relatable and it realistically illustrates how each of them struggles internally about their feelings following the accident.  I really emphasized with Eric's struggles and feelings of guilt as well as how difficult it was for Dani to lose the joy of something that she is so passionate about because of her injury.  How her initial hope of returning to the team is changed as she undergoes therapy.  I experienced this firsthand while working with individuals who sustained traumatic brain injuries.  It's often very difficult to come to terms with finding a new norm after an injury.  Our brains can be so resilient in developing new pathways following an injury but some physical changes result in permanent changes.  It can be very difficult to come to terms with.  Dani's treatment and recovery process through her real-life challenges will certainly allow the reader to feel empathy.  I really liked Dani's strength and tenacity.  Therapy is tough, and I felt the author really portrayed just how difficult it can be for the individual.  Everything isn't perfectly resolved with Dani's injury at the end of the story, which gives this an authenticity that I appreciated.             

Having this also in first-person narrative worked really well.  I enjoyed Eric having a strong Jewish faith and his speaking to God to not only ask for forgiveness but to try and make deals with God to look after Dani. We learn how Eric's ADHD affects him and I especially appreciated his description of falling down rabbit holes i.e. where he can easily get distracted and then ends up being sidetracked by other things.  In Eric's case, he explains that these rabbit holes are advantageous to him because he can look at things from more than one direction to find an answer.   Eric also displayed a lot of strength in confessing to Dani that he might've caused the accident.  There's a lot of hurt feelings between the two and they each make mistakes as they try and process things.  I believe that these are feelings and emotions that children can easily relate too.  

Overall, I really enjoyed Hidden Truths.  I really appreciated all the research the author stated that she did in her acknowledgements and the input she received in order to ensure an accurate portrayal of recovery from an injury.  Everything from consultations with professional in ADHD, fire inspectors, former baseball players, product safety commissions and even rehabilitation specialist.   This story is also a testament to the bonds of friendship.  That one can overcome difficult times and mend the mistakes made.  

**A huge thank you to Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to read and review Hidden Truths.  A beautiful story that you should instantly put on your must read list, you won't regret it!**        

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Great Pencil Quest: Another Wallace the Brave Adventure by Will Henry

The Great Pencil Quest by Will Henry
Publisher:  Andrews Mc Meel Publishing
Format:  Ebook 
Number of pages: 176 pages
Publishing:   October 24th, 2023
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Great Pencil Quest is the fifth book in the Wallace Brave comics collection and my first introduction to this series.  The setting is Snug Harbor and includes Wallace's parents, teachers and friends.  It takes place during the winter to the next fall, including such antics as trying to get a pizza delivered to school, to sharpening the giant pencil, "Big Betty," and even building a fort in a cornfield.  Some panels are only one page and then others continue across several pages.  There are plenty of humorous lines and scenarios with my favorites being the ones of Wallace changing out the family photographs to include scary monsters and the insect zoo.  Although, on my computer this panel was vertical instead of horizontal.  The illustrations are very colorful and liked the circular thought bubbles above some of the characters heads.  Like the panel with a seagull and a trashcan, mom with an image of an owl, and Wallace looking into a hole with a thought bubble of a monster.  Slightly reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes with lots of adventure and entertainment.  Included at the end of the novel is a special section of fun activities for building a Seed Bomb, instructions to make Rock Candy and a Lava Lamp. 

Favorite line:  "And so, Spud left the Shire."    

Monday, October 9, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Meems & Feefs: Ferrets from Planet Ferretonia! by Liza N. Cooper

Meems & Feefs:  Ferrets from Planet Ferretonia by Liza N. Cooper
Publisher:  Andrews Mc Meel Publishing
Format:  Paperback 
Number of pages: 192 pages
Published:   September 26th, 2023
Source:  Publisher 

Brothers Meems and Feefs live on Dook Dook Island in the Planet of Ferretonia.  Their little island is surrounded by water, and they've always been discouraged from venturing off the island.  But lately, Meems has been kind of bored with life on their small island.  He kind of feels like their mentors and the council have been hiding things from them.  What he'd really like to do is to go out and explore.  So, tech savvy Meems enlists the help of his fun-loving brother Feefs to build a travel opal to teleport off the island, using the ferret's ancient tech's.   

Their plan partially works, having teleported themselves to Earth, but there is one slight problem.  They're now stuck as their opal broke during the transport.  Hoping to find humans who might help, Meems and Feefs try to cross a busy road, and are picked up and brought to an animal shelter where they meet Liza.  To communicate with her, the brothers use a communication opal and Liza learns about their problems, she offers to help them to build a new travel device.  Can they find the materials they need, and will the brothers be able to teleport back to Planet Ferretonia?  Or will they be stuck on Earth for good?

Meems and Feefs are such adorable ferrets.  Polar opposites for sure.  Meems is heavy into building and technology.  He wears a tool belt and would be most happy fixing things.  He's also kind of the wild, ill tempered, judgmental and opinionated.  Now Feefs, he's a big softie, so sweet, fun loving, with a laisse 'faire attitude.  He's trusting, accepting and eager to learn about Earth.  The two together are quite cute, as they banter back and forth, well as siblings normally do.  Liza is also a very sweet, kind and sensitive girl.  She's experienced a lot of changes lately at home having lost a pet herself and some troubles academically.  Her older brother though is a huge support and tries to bring her out of her shell.  

This is a very cute and fun graphic novel.  I can certainly see this appealing to kids who like ferrets.   I just loved Meems and Feefs, they're just so adorable and really adventurous.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and really capture Meems and Feefs energy, it's a delightful book.   I also really enjoyed seeing the authors photographs at the back of the book of the real-life models (her own ferrets) as well as a few raw sketches of the two main characters.  And I don't know how I missed this, but the author, Liza even incorporated herself into the book.  How cool!  The ending leaves room for the story to go in many different directions which will be fun to explore once the next book is released.  As a side note, the author was an art director on the animated series, Simon's Cat. 

**A huge thank you to Andrews Mc Meel Publishing for the paperback in exchange for an honest review.**

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Blog Tour with Guest Post and Giveaway for FOOTSTEPS ON THE MAP by Barbara Kerley


Welcome to the blog tour for

Footsteps on the Map from National Geographic Kids.  Be sure and enter the giveaway at the end of the post.  

                                                                                 About the Book:

In this enchanting picture book, two children set out on separate adventures to blaze their very own trail, mapping it as they go.

Set out, pen in hand. Yours are the first footsteps on the map! You never know where the path to adventure might lead! This imaginative picture book combines brief, lyrical text with a stunning combination of photographs and artist’s illustrations as it spins a charming story that introduces the art of mapmaking from a child’s perspective.

Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary kids just learning about maps, the book also includes basic information needed to read maps, such as symbols and a map key. Filled with beautifully illustrated, child-centered maps, Footsteps on the Map will inspire budding cartographers to map their own world and tell their own stories.  Available at Amazon

Guest Post

    Several years ago, I wrote a draft of a picture book in which a kid makes a map of their world, from home to playground to whole neighborhood. He’s so happy with it that at the end of the book, he decides to make a bigger map.

    I sent the manuscript to my wonderful Nat Geo editor at the time, Erica Green. She loved the idea and wondered if there was a way to marry it to an idea she’d been thinking about: a book where two kids start at opposite ends and meet in the middle.

    That was the inspiration for FOOTSTEPS ON THE MAP—a story of two kids each making a map of their journey, who meet at the end, join their maps together, and create something bigger and better than either could have imagined.

    It was my husband, Scott, who helped me figure out how to show that on the page. Brainstorming at dinner one night, he suggested that the pages of the book could be split, with illustrations showing the kids walking and a banner along the bottom, showing their maps as they get bigger and bigger and slowly come to meet in the middle.

    Erica was the editor who helped conceptualize the book, but when it was time to create it, Erica had a new job and so the task fell to my wonderful new editor, Marfé Ferguson Delano. She took the manuscript and guided it through all the stages to turn it into a beautiful book. It’s dedicated to both Erica and Marfé because it wouldn’t exist without them.

                                                                                                About the Author

BARBARA KERLEY is the award-winning author of numerous nonfiction picture books, including The Extraordinary Mark Twain, Those Rebels, John and Tom, and A Home for Mr. Emerson. Her titles for National Geographic include The World Is Waiting For You; You and Me Together; A Little Peace; Brave Like Me; One World, One Day; With a Friend by Your Side; and A Cool Drink of Water.

OKSANA DRACHKOVSKA is an illustrator from Ukraine. A finalist in the Bologna Book Fair illustration competition in 2021 and 2022, Oksana finds inspiration in nature, landscapes, and travels. She likes to experiment with different ways of creating books, stories, and her own invented worlds.

Monday, October 2, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Coyote Queen by Jessica Vitalis

Coyote Queen by Jessica Vitalis
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
Format:  E-ARC 
Number of pages: 272 pages
Publishing:   October 10th, 2023
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley

Opening Lines:  "Before the coyote stuff happened, I would have told you that magic didn't exist."

Twelve-year-old Fud (Felicity Ulysses Dahlers) lives with her mom and her alcoholic ex-boxer boyfriend Larry in a small trailer in Wyoming.  Prior to meeting Larry, they were homeless, as Fud's dad left shortly after finding out her mom was pregnant.  Fud's clothes come from yard sales or a thrift store and every t-shirt she owns has mostly faded.  She gets teased at school because of what she wears.  Larry has lots of anger issues, which for now means mostly holes in the wall, but he can be verbally demeaning, volatile and tries to control Fud and her mom's every move.  Which is made even more difficult because to get around they rely on his beat-up truck, which is always having problems.  Larry has grand plans of getting back into the ring once his back problems stop acting up.  Fud tries to stay out of his way as much as possible, but what she really wishes is for him to treat her mom better.

Then a new girl, Leigh moves into the empty trailer next door.  This girl reminds Fud too much of Ava, who bullies her at school, and initially she is very hesitant when she approaches her about being friends.  Leigh has all the things that Fud wants, a stable home, she even has nice clothes to wear and a full pantry of food to eat.  But Leigh is so friendly and talkative, and Fud starts to overcome some of her initial hesitation in getting to know her better.  Soon Leigh is convincing Fud to enter the Miss Tween Black Gold beauty pageant.  The grand prize is two thousand dollars and would surely be enough for Fud and her mom to escape from Larry's control.  When the pageant starts to come with some unforeseen costs, tensions increase in the trailer, and Larry begins to start physically taking it out on her mom.  When Fud learns that her mom is also pregnant and that Larry wants them to move into a houseboat as soon as he's fixed it up, Fud triples her effort into winning the pageant at all costs, even hiding the fact from Leigh that she might be moving away.  Soon things spiral out of control when Larry accelerates his plans for moving on to the boat on the eve of the pageant, leading Fud to courageously ask for help from Leigh's mom.  Part of the story that I haven't touched on too much is how Fud morphed into a coyote, which occurred when her mom and Larry were arguing.  The moments that Fud experiences these coyote thoughts and actions sort of take on a dream or imaginative quality, fantastical for sure.  Yet, I'm not sure whether they just provided her a means of escape to howl at the world or whether there was an actual transformation.  Either way, I think it does speak to how frustrating the situation was for her and provided a much-needed means of escape.  

Fud and her mom are in a bad situation.  Fud knows it's bad, but her mom makes lots of excuses for Larry's behavior and ultimately chooses to leave with him.  Partially to protect Fud but also to avoid financial instability.  I'd say Fud is very defensive, leery of Leigh but also really wanting her friendship.  Given how the rest of the kids at school treated her, it's understandable that would be her first reaction.  She doesn't want to be too optimistic and be hurt.  Even though Leigh and Fud argued a few times, I'm happy that each time they were able to resolve things too.  Fud really needs her in her life.  Coyote Queen really sheds light on poverty, domestic abusive relationships and gives children hope that by sharing their story with a trusted adult than things can get better.  I was personally touched by the authors note which describes how the story was inspired by her own childhood.  It makes this story so powerful to have this first-person account and to show children that although they may be facing struggles now, that there is hope in relying on a trusted adult.  I also especially appreciated all the resources that were provided for getting help.  Other books that I've read and enjoyed from the author include The Wolf's Curse and The Rabbit's Gift.  

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