Max and the Midknights, by Lincoln Peirce, (Jan. 2019, Crown Books for Young Readers), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93109-7
From the creator of Big Nate comes Max and the Midknights, a story about Max, a troubadour in training who really wants to be a knight; a mean king, and a group of kids determined to make things right. Throw in a magic sword and a bumbling magician, and you have Max and the Midknights, a clever blending of graphic novel and middle grade novel. Max and Uncle Budrick visit Budrick’s childhood home in the kingdom of Byjovia, only to discover that the kind King Conrad is missing and presumed dead, and his awful brother, King Gastley, is on the throne. The villagers all seem cruel and distant, and routinely rounded up and thrown in Gastley’s dungeons. Max and new friends Kevyn, Millie, and Simon, hatch a plant to save Budrick and have some exciting adventures on the way, including some interesting background on Max, epic poetry, dragons, and haunted forests.
The book is loaded with humor, very likable characters, and adventure. Big Nate fans will be happy to see Nate show up in the book’s very beginning: Max and the Midknights is his book report. I loved spending time with Max and friends, and I’m hoping to see another installment soon. Put this right up there with Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney (both of whom blurbed Max), and Jeffrey Brown’s books. This could be the book that gets your reluctant reader to embrace fantasy fiction!
Recommended for ages 8-12
Brat is an orphaned girl with no name or family. When the village midwife discovers her sleeping in a dung heap to keep warm, she takes her on as an apprentice. The reader sees Brat grow in confidence and ability.
A 1996 Newbery winner, this historical fiction novel has a strong message: you can make your own way in this life, no matter what cards you are dealt. Alyce remembers no mother and no home; she is the target of village bullies and sleeps in a dung heap to keep warm, but she never believes in giving up. When the midwife is cruel with her words, she shakes it off and continues to learn by observation. She does not wait for someone to provide her with a kinder name than Brat or Beetle, the name given her by Jane the midwife; she decides she likes the name Alyce and tells people to call her by that name. She finds a way to even the score with the cruel villagers and earns the respect of one of the village bullies when she aids him in delivering a calf. This is medieval girl power.
In addition to winning the Newbery medal, The Midwife’s Apprentice has also been designated as one of the American Library Association (ALA)’s Best of the Best Books for Young Adults and the New York Public Library’s “One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing”. Ms. Cushman also received Newbery Honors for her book Catherine , Called Birdy.
The author’s website offers a full bibliography of Ms. Cushman’s books, along with an author biography and “odd facts”. An FAQ is available for popular questions, and there is a link to contact the author for appearances. There are a wealth of resources available online for discussing and teaching this book, including a robust guide at eNotes.