Kingston and the Magician’s Lost & Found

Authors: Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fun, magical adventure for young readers that I can highly recommend to my ten-year-old and enjoy watching him continue to discover the magic of reading.

Kingston Preston has moved back home after being away from Echo City, Brooklyn for the past four years. When he was eight and his magician father disappeared during one of his tricks, his mother took them both away. Being in a place so full of magic and reminders was too much for her to take. Now that they are back home, Kingston is ready to find out what happened to his father. When King disappeared, magic in Echo City went with him. Magic is frowned upon now in the city and Kingston finds a magic box left behind that gives him clues as to what happened to his father. He can’t tell his mother about his find and so he works with his cousin, Veronica, and old childhood friend, Too Tall Eddie, to find out the mystery of what happened to his father.

Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found was a breath of fresh air. I read this so I would know if it would be a good fit for my ten-year-old to read. I have to say that not only will I let my son read it, but I really enjoyed reading it! The story was good, fast-paced, and entertaining. The characters were engaging and kept me interested in the story and what they were going through. There is magic, code breaking, a family torn apart and a battle against good and evil. Kingston and his mom have had a good relationship but they both have missed his dad since he disappeared and being back where it happened is hard on them both. I love the secondary characters and how they brought a little extra humor to the tense situations. Too Tall Eddie was probably one of my favorite characters.

The story wrapped up nicely but has been left open solidly for more to come. I’m not sure if this is planned as a series and if so, how many, but there is definitely more story to be told here. One of the best things about this book was that it was fast paced, suspenseful but also clean. I don’t have to worry about harsh language or mature themes that would not be appropriate when my son reads it. I recommend this to middle grade readers and even parents for a fun family read with good family values, good vs. evil and to just enjoy the magic of reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Way to Rio Luna

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fantastic, fun adventure for middle grade readers that will let them travel across the world as they fly through the pages.

Danny Monteverde has always believed in magic and even as he ages, he still believes. The books and stories he read with his sister, Pili, helped show him how amazing pixie dust and rabbit holes can be. Pili disappeared two years ago, and Danny has searched for her. He now believes she is waiting for him in Rio Luna, the enchanted land from their favorite fairy tales. Danny has spent most of his life in foster homes and knows there must be someone that wants him, his sister. Years pass and Danny starts to doubt she will come for him and he’s been silly to believe in fairy tales all these years. When he finds his favorite book in a library, he also finds a map to Rio Luna and hopefully his sister. The map takes him all around the world and he will stop at nothing to find his sister.

The Way to Rio Luna is a fun magical adventure for middle grade readers. Danny is a great main character that you can’t help but want to root for and see succeed in his quest to find his sister. Each day he must stay with the foster family, and you see how harsh they treat him, which makes it even more important that he finds his sister, the one person that actually cares for him. Even when he is at his lowest, he knows that Pili is out there and he will find a way to get to her. The story moved quickly and was full of adventure, action, suspense and all written at the appropriate level for its intended readers. My only complaint would be a few mature themes, toward the end with one character I felt could have been left out. Most likely younger readers won’t realize what is being said but as a mother I felt it didn’t need to be included. Other than that, I highly recommend this to middle grade readers for a fun adventure they will breeze through and enjoy from beginning to end.

Ali Cross

ali crossAuthor: James Patterson

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Publishing

Release Date: November 25, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun way for fans of the Alex Cross series to introduce their kids to the detective and his family, including his son Ali, who wants to be just like his dad and solve mysteries.

Ali cross has a lot to live up to as the son of famed detective and FBI agent Alex Cross. Ali has watched as his father worked to solve some of the most difficult crimes that left everyone else stumped. When Ali’s best friend, Gabe, goes missing, he decides to see if he has what it takes to be in the family business and find out what happened to his best friend. At the same time Gabe goes missing, a string of burglaries in the neighborhood start up including Ali’s house. Everyone warns Ali not to get involved but he can’t keep from following his instincts to find out how the events are connected and what it means for his friend. He is on his own investigating while his father is dealing with his own problems at work. Ali must decide if his detective work is worth it or if following his instincts will put his family in more danger.

If you have ever read have ever read any James Patterson book, you know the way his stories usually play out. Each contains scenes of action and adventure but yet the story is somewhat predictable. Taking his writing style and putting it towards a children’s mystery has worked out well in this case. For most of my experiences with James Patterson books, I have felt he writes down to readers, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to identify the villain is or what is happening. For that reason, I haven’t read much of his writing in a long time but thought this was worth giving a try. I bought this book for my son to read since I have read and enjoyed some of the earlier Alex Cross books. Like most books for young adult books he chooses, I read this one before him and enjoyed it.

Ali is the perfect spin off for Alex Cross to get kids interested in a fun, interesting new series. Readers will notice that Ali doesn’t act or talk like a normal kid, but then again, he doesn’t have normal parents which can be attributed to his being more mature in his actions and the way he speaks to others. He does still fly off the handle as a kid would sometimes do and his interest in video games keeps him grounded as a kid. To me this is written just the way it should be for its intended audience. Young readers will have no trouble flying through the story and have fun figuring out the mystery within. I recommend this book to young readers that are ready for something a little harder than the shorter chapter books but not something that will be too difficult and intimidating for them to finish and enjoy.

Shine

ShineAuthor: Dagny Griffin

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A interesting, unique little book that opens lots of conversations with kids!

One person has the power to change the world and no one shows that better than eight-year-old Mia. As she makes her way through a cold, grey city, she shines a little joy on people and places, giving them color along the way. As those affected by her joy begin to take on color, they continue the pattern by coloring more of the world around them.

This is an interesting concept as it is a picture book without any words. As Mia begins her day, she is happy, excited, and full of love. As she goes out each day, she spreads her love and brings color to an otherwise grey world. I really enjoyed the concept of this book and getting to explain it to my four-year-old as we flipped the pages along. There is one person in the book who refuses to accept any of Mia’s joy and stays grey. She also works against Mia by taking away other people’s joy. I’m not fully sure what she is supposed to represent. Maybe it is showing that even though you have found happiness, not everyone will accept it from you as it has to be a personal choice? Or maybe she represents someone specific? Even so, it is a book that my son loves to pick up and he even took it as his favorite book for preschool show and tell!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

I Am Awesome

I am awesomeAuthor: Ryan K. Maule

Publisher: Westbow Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A cute book to help explain that each person in the world has been created to be awesome.

Goodland is a place where everybody is good. The inventor created Goodland and all the things in it. His favorite inventions are the followers and if you ever ask them how they are doing, they will always respond “Good”. Grace and Zeal are two of the followers that love to play together. One day that meet another follow named Hope. When they ask Hope how she is doing, she responds “I Am Awesome!” Grace and Zeal don’t understand how Hope can be awesome. After all, this is Goodland where everybody is good. In a quest for answers, they seek out the inventor to find out if someone really can be awesome.

This is a cute book that helps kids understand the purpose for which they were created. I read this book with my four-year-old and now it has become a nightly read for us. We have talked about how the Inventor represents God and the followers represent people throughout the Earth. Each person was specifically created to do awesome things. He understands what is being taught and likes to read about Grace and Zeal’s adventures. And maybe most importantly, he likes to say, “I Am Awesome!” at each point in the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Louisiana’s Way Home

LouisianaAuthor: Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale will love this continuation of Louisiana’s story!

Louisiana’s granny has always been eccentric, if not a little crazy. So, when she wakes her up in the middle of the night to leave home immediately, Louisiana is not all that worried.  That is, until they cross the state line from Florida into Georgia and granny keeps driving.  Realizing that granny actually intends never to return home, Louisiana starts to sulk as she realizes that she may never see her friends again.  This apparently has something to do with the curse that granny always said was on their head, which also inflicts a massive toothache in granny that causes them to stop in a small Georgia town.  As they stay in the town, Louisiana’s life becomes entangles with several of the townsfolk including a young boy, a pastor, organ player, and surly hotel owner.  Louisiana begins to learn the truth about her life and it may shake her entire foundation.

DiCamillo’s writing never disappoints and this book is no exception. She has a way of making the reader relate to her characters and yearn to walk alongside them.  Louisiana first appeared in the 2016 release of Raymie Nightingale and readers immediately fell in love with the three main characters.  They will be happy to find some of them returning in this spin off that focuses on Louisiana Elefante.  I love to find YA and children’s books that have a good clean story that always focuses on tough times for today’s kids.  Louisiana is definitely a wayward soul that is looking for guidance from multiple people and finally realizes that she can’t do it all by herself.  With wit, wisdom, laughter, and tears, this book is destined to become a classic that people will love for years to come.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons

Fighting DragonsAuthor: Dan Elish

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a sprinkle of humor and a double dose of action, The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons is sure to be a hit with kids and even their parents. 

When Ike Rupert Hollingsberry starts getting strange messages about how his father died on the set of The Fighting Dragons, he starts to question what really happened all those years ago. Things get even more interesting when a giant locust attacks outside of his school.  That was exactly how his father was killed on the show.  Ike works together with Elmira Hand, who is in his class and keeps a blog about the show.  After Ike kills the locusts, he is taken to a secret location to become the next in line to lead the Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons.  What everyone thought was just a TV show turns out to be real, the locusts, the dragons and those fighting to keep the world safe.

With a diverse group of characters and a magical story, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, the storyline flowed and there were just enough twists and turns to keep things very interesting.  Ike is unsure of himself just enough to make him the right lead character, he’s not cocky or whiny because of the blows life has dealt him.  He is able to rise to the occasion and see the potential in his team and use that to carry on and not be set back.  Having Elmira find the bylaws and use that as a way to bring his friends into the story when they weren’t part of the order was a great way to move the story along and keep it believable.  The ending and how a few of the characters played out didn’t fit just right for me, thought they could have used a little more fleshing out before doing a one eighty on attitudes.  I feel that this is just the first in a series and am looking forward to where the next will go.  This was written very appropriately for the age group it is intended for with no language and the violence kept to a minimum.  I really appreciate when an author stays true to whom they are writing to and keeps it age appropriate.  It has become so common to see harsh language and themes suggested that are not appropriate for little eyes to read.  I recommend this for kids who enjoy a good magical action story with a little bit of history and humor sprinkled in for good measure.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Hope in the Holler

Hope in the HollerAuthor: Lisa Lewis Tyre

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica  Higgins

A young girl who is stronger than she knows must now face the scheming family she has never known to survive living in the Holler. Another outstanding book by Lisa Lewis Tyre that is perfect for young readers!

It has always been Wavie and her mom; they didn’t need anybody else and they both liked it that way. When Wavie’s mom gets sick and knows she is about to die, she gives Wavie a list of instructions for her life. The one she is trying the hardest to live by is Be Brave.  It’s hard, especially now that she is having to go and live with an aunt she has never known that seems intent on taking anything she can get from Wavie.  Now that Wavie is back in the town her mother tried so hard to leave and never return, she starts to learn more about her mother than she thought possible.  With the help of a few new friends, Wavie works to improve her situation and solve one of the oldest mysteries in town.

I absolutely loved this book. Lisa Lewis Tyre has figured out the perfect formula for writing a book that middle grade children will love.  There is mystery, friendships, life lessons and strength throughout every page.  Wavie and her friends have so much spunk and perseverance that it will be difficult for any reader to not relate to them and want to root for them to succeed.  Even though it is a serious subject matter, it never gets more than the intended audience will be able to handle.  Wavie may have had a lot of harsh blows handed to her in her short life, but the strength and grace in which she handles them can be a lesson to all of us.  The wit Tyre brings to the story helps counter the heavy subject matter bringing the reader right into the story with no desire to leave.  The short chapters are great to keep young readers turning the page and engaged in the story.  I really can’t find anything negative to say about this book and sincerely hope Lisa Lewis Tyre continues to write books for young readers with a message. I recommend this book to all young readers, parents and teachers for a starting point of conversations that will help all involved.

New Andi Adventures

Andi Lassos TroubleTitle: Andi Lassos Trouble

Series: Circle C Stepping Stones #3

Author: Susan K. Marlow

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A substitute teacher, a kidnapping, and mysterious men make the newest Circle C an adventure not to be missed.

Andi thinks her worst nightmare has come true when her teacher, Miss Hall, gets hurt and can’t teach for a while. It is worse than she could have imagined when Andi’s mother becomes the substitute teacher. Andi is afraid the other kids will tease her, but her worries disappear when she and her mother are kidnapped and taken far away to a man who was looking for Miss Hall to teach him how to read. Her mother is adamant they not tell of the mistaken identity and risk angering their kidnappers.  While Andi tries to be good and stay out of trouble, her mother teachers their captor to read and  she finds interesting facts about his past and why it is so important he learn to read. As time runs out for them to be rescued, Andi must summon her courage and escape to try and save her mother before it is too late.

The newest adventure in the Circle C series takes the reader on an entirely new path from what we are used to seeing with Andi. In the previous Circle C books, Andi has fun being a kid; here things are much more serious and there is no time for fun and games. Andi has to show how brave she can be when faced with her most frightening situation yet. This story is very much about being brave, trusting those who we love and also staying true to your faith in God. Young readers that are looking for an adventure that is a little more of a challenge will enjoy Andi to the Rescue without having to worry about being scared from the content.  I recommend this book to those readers and even parents looking for a good book to read together with their kids.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Andi to the RescueTitle: Andi to the Rescue

Series: Circle C Stepping Stones #4

Author: Susan K. Marlow

Publisher: Kregel

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A substitute teacher, a kidnapping, and mysterious men make the newest Circle C an adventure not to be missed.

Andi thinks her worst nightmare has come true when her teacher, Miss Hall, gets hurt and can’t teach for a while. It is worse than she could have imagined when Andi’s mother becomes the substitute teacher. Andi is afraid the other kids will tease her, but her worries disappear when she and her mother are kidnapped and taken far away to a man who was looking for Miss Hall to teach him how to read. Her mother is adamant they not tell of the mistaken identity and risk angering their kidnappers.  While Andi tries to be good and stay out of trouble, her mother teachers their captor to read and  she finds interesting facts about his past and why it is so important he learn to read. As time runs out for them to be rescued, Andi must summon her courage and escape to try and save her mother before it is too late.

The newest adventure in the Circle C series takes the reader on an entirely new path from what we are used to seeing with Andi. In the previous Circle C books, Andi has fun being a kid; here things are much more serious and there is no time for fun and games. Andi has to show how brave she can be when faced with her most frightening situation yet. This story is very much about being brave, trusting those who we love and also staying true to your faith in God. Young readers that are looking for an adventure that is a little more of a challenge will enjoy Andi to the Rescue without having to worry about being scared from the content.  I recommend this book to those readers and even parents looking for a good book to read together with their kids.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Jorie and the Magic Stone

JorieAuthor: A. H. Richardson

Publisher: Serano Press

Release Date: December 26, 2014

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A magical tale with dragons, hidden stones, treasures, and, of course, evil forces trying to stop Jorie at every turn.

Marjorie, who prefers to be called Jorie, has gone to live with her aunt. She has a vivid imagination and lets it run wild at her new country home.  With her fire-red hair flowing behind her, she runs around the estate and quickly meets a new friend, Rufus, who lives next door.  Together they find a mysterious land beneath the Tarn that is full of enchantment, danger and adventure.  They meet a good dragon, the Great Grootmonya who sends them on a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog and return them.  Jorie is in possession of the first stone, which will lead them to the next.  Along the way, they have to deal with evil dragons and even worse creatures to accomplish their mission.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a fun story that will be a good edition for young readers.  This isn’t one that everyone will love, but for those that enjoy fantasy novels, this is going to be one to add to their list.  I liked the characters, especially the kids, they had spunk.  I had a few points that I got confused on, but it was probably because I was reading The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia), at the same time and there are several similarities between the two books.  The target audience of young readers will enjoy the short chapters and fun characters.  The travel between worlds made me feel like I was in the story and couldn’t wait to see what they would find.  I recommend this book to young readers looking for adventure in an entertaining story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.