Tag: middle grades

The Dollmaker of Krakow

Author: R.M. Romero
Published: September 12, 2017
336 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

Kim’s Review:

This book is so beautiful! The cover and illustrations throughout are so gorgeous and really enhanced my reading. This book is perfect for middle school kids learning about the Holocaust. The metaphor of the Land of the Dolls was imaginative and easy to understand. There’s a simplicity to the story that still conveys the evil of the Nazis and the terror of the time without giving too much detail that would be inappropriate for kids. Karolina’s simple view of the world brings good clarity that works for younger readers.

The Dollmaker is such a sweet and gentle soul. Jozef and Rena are the perfect representation of Jews living in Poland during the Nazi invasion and occupation. Even the Nazi soldier that the Dollmaker “befriends” is written so well. I’ll admit that I didn’t engage as perfectly as I wanted to, but it’s really because I’m not a part of the age group that Romero was writing for; I’m not an elementary or middle school student, nor am I just starting out learning about the Holocaust. But I did love the story, the characters, and the setting. This is a book that I would put on the shelf of every elementary and middle school history teacher. It should be required reading in those history classes. I absolutely recommend this book to everyone, especially kids!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Worst Class Trip Ever

Author: Dave Barry
Narrator: Todd Haberkorn
Published: May 5, 2015

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened To: December 20-21, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:
In this hilarious novel, written in the voice of eighth-grader Wyatt Palmer, Dave Barry takes us on a class trip to Washington, DC. Wyatt, his best friend, Matt, and a few kids from Culver Middle School find themselves in a heap of trouble-not just with their teachers, who have long lost patience with them-but from several mysterious men they first meet on their flight to the nation’s capital. In a fast-paced adventure with the monuments as a backdrop, the kids try to stay out of danger and out of the doghouse while trying to save the president from attack-or maybe not.

Jessica’s Review:
The Worst Class Trip Ever was 100% an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me. I chose this one due to its short length (my longer commute and there were just two days until the long four day Christmas weekend) and it really delivered! This one would be a fun read for both adults and the kids!

The Worst Class Trip Ever is about an eighth grade class trip to Washington DC. Our narrator is Wyatt and he tells us all about the adventure he and a few others from his class go on. The kids convince themselves that there are some terrorists that are going to attack the White House. You don’t know what’s going to happen next in this fun read that takes you all over DC.

I was really drawn into the story and had no clue how it was going to end. You think the adventure can’t get any crazier than it already has then Barry has something else happen! This is a great short read and I highly recommend the audio version. The narrator Todd Haberkorn performed very well.

I really liked that the narrator was a boy. It seems like there are not many books written for boys or feature boys, but there is no way a girl could have been the narrator: boys just seem to get themselves into trouble easier.

There was only one negative for me and it is not the book: I hate that we live in a world where children’s books have the subject of terrorists and bombings in them. But this is the world we live in and terrorists and TSA rules is our life now.

I would say this book would be fine for middle schoolers.

The Worst Class Trip Ever is very highly recommended!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

Author: Jaco Jacobs
Illustrator: Jim Tierney
Kindle: October 11, 2018
Paperback to be Published: March 12, 2019
160 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 9-11, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Martin’s life changes the day his dad is killed in a car accident. No one talks about it, his mum refuses to leave the house, and his only consolation through the sleepless nights is solving difficult maths problems. Until he forms an unlikely friendship with his neighbour Vusi who dreams of making a zombie movie. The two are plunged head first into a wild adventure, pulling everyone they know along with them. Shortlisted for the Found in Translation award, it has also since been made into a popular film in Afrikaans.

Jessica’s Review:

This is a short novel aimed for children ages 9-12 that they will enjoy, especially if they like stories with zombies. (Though these zombies are not real.)  This story was just recently translated into English from Afrikaans and there is also a movie I would like to see.

The story takes place in South Africa and features Martin (aka Clucky)  who lost his dad a couple of years ago and since then, his mother has not left the house.  Martin reminded me of Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:  they both have a love for numbers.  There is an incident in A Good Night that deals with a chicken and through this moment Clucky meets Vusi and they become friends.  Vusi is determined to make a zombie movie which the boys work secretly at along with a girl, Chris.  They have many adventures and make mistakes as they film their movie.

This is a story that deals with tough topics very well: death, grief, and cancer. These issues are handled well where children will not be overcome with emotion, but understand these realities in life. I enjoyed this short novel. I wanted the kids to succeed with their movie and became attached to all our main characters: Clucky, Vusi, and Chris.  I liked how everything came together at the end of the novel.

This is a well done novel and I would recommend it.  There are also illustrations throughout the novel that help enhance the story. I wish I could have seen the illustrations in color, but my kindle is a paperwhite.

**Thank you to Oneworld Publications for granting me a copy via NetGalley.**

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK (available in Kindle and Paperback now)