Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Got a mystery? Julieta’s on the case!

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, by Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, (June 2020, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790466

Ages 8-12

Winner of the 2018 Lee & Low/Tu Books New Visions Award, Julieta and the Diamond Enigma is a fun whodunit with a smart heroine who has a penchant for finding trouble. Julieta is the nine-year-old daughter whose parents both work at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (BFA). Her mom is due to give birth to her baby brother soon, and her dad, an art handler, needs to fly to Paris to collect pieces for a new BFA exhibit. After some great Paris sightseeing, Julieta and her dad are ready to pack up and head home – until she and her dad walk in on a burglar stealing the prized Regent Diamond! The diamond was going to be a key piece in the BFA exhibit, and all eyes are on Julieta’s father. Julieta starts putting together some clues, desperate to save her father’s job and reputation, all the while hoping they can get home in time to be there when her baby brother is born. With nods to to Greek mythology (especially the goddess Athena) and smartly placed clues that will lead readers to the answers alongside Julieta, this is a fun cozy mystery for burgeoning whodunit fans. Museum fans will love seeing what goes on behind closed museum doors – a realistic Night at the Museum, so to speak. I loved reading about Julieta’s goofing around with her parents in the museum and Back matter has the true story of the Regent Diamond, the goddess Athena, the art mentioned in Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, and a handy glossary of terms. A note at the beginning of the book has a helpful glossary of Spanish and French words, as words and phrases come up during the course of the story. A great book to introduce to readers that are moving from intermediate chapter books to more detailed middle grade fiction.


Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Beetle Boy makes bugs lovable!

beetleboyBeetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard (Feb. 2016, Chicken House), $16.99, ISBN: 9780545853460

Recommended for ages 8-12

Darkus Cuttle is worried about his dad, a Director of Science at the National History Museum, who disappeared over six weeks ago. He vanished from a locked room in the museum, and no one has seen or heard from him. Darkus is living with his uncle for now, but he just knows his dad is out there – he’d never leave him, and he’d certainly never kill himself, like some people are suggesting. One day, he spots the two crazy cousins next door arguing about a beetle infestation and discovers that these beetles are pretty special. Baxter, a rhino beetle that befriends him, can understand him! Soon, Darkus and his friends Virginia and Bertolt find themselves on the trail of Darkus’ dad; Darkus is about to find out some secrets about his dad, fashion icon/villainess Lucretia Cutter, and the beetles next door. Can the kids find Darkus’ dad and keep themselves safe in the meantime?

I’m an avowed bug-phobic, so the fact that I wanted to read this book so badly should be a sign of how good I thought it would be. I’m very happy to tell you I was right: Beetle Boy, the first book in a new series by debut author M.G. Leonard, is so much fun. Darkus is a bit of an outcast, but never a wimp. He falls in with two other school misfits who can match him in intelligence and bravery (even if they may need some prodding), and they plan out their rescue mission after careful observation and research. Darkus’ Uncle Max is more than just a plot device to give Darkus a place to live while the story happens around him; he’s an uncle who’s learning how to be a guardian and he’s ready to jump in and get involved when it comes to his brother’s and his nephew’s safety.

There’s adventure, excitement, genetic modification, and a battle involving flying poo that is NOT to be missed. Boys and girls with a sense of adventure are going to LOVE this story and hopefully, like me, be waiting impatiently for the next installment. We’ve got some solid science, with facts about different sorts of bugs that will please any budding entomologist.

Beetle Boy has been designated an Independent Booksellers’ Debut Pick of the Season for Spring 2016.

A great pick for middle grade collections! I love fic that mixes realistic fiction with a touch of science fiction to get kids’ attention.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Seti’s Charm starts off an exciting middle school adventure series!

setis charmSeti’s Charm: A Max Carter Adventure, by Chris Everheart (2014, Yellow Rocket Media) $12.99, ISBN: 9780985912581

Recommended for ages 9-12

Fourteen year-old Max Carter has lived with his grandfather since being orphaned at a young age. He adores his grandfather, and works alongside him in the family Egyptology museum, with plans to be an archaeologist himself one day. When smugglers attack the museum, putting his grandfather in the hospital and burning the museum to the ground, Max knows he has to recover the funeral charm of Pharaoh Seti I from the thieves and see it safely back to Egypt. Max seemingly has all the odds against him – his grandfather’s younger wife wants to see him sent to military school and the museum sold off for good, and the thieves – whom Max traces to a tropical island – certainly aren’t going to make it easy for him.

This is a great middle grade adventure. We’ve got a young hero who will appeal to Alex Rider fans, with a touch of Indiana Jones to spark some interest. There’s intrigue, action, and enough Egyptian history in here to give readers a beginning foundation of Ancient Egyptian funeral rites, which will make the next family trip to the museum a lot of fun. (Possible spoiler alert: I found myself wondering if a character was going to get his or her brains pulled out through his or her nose at one point, so I may spend a little too much time on that sort of thing.) English teachers and school librarians, this would be a good book to talk up during a history class unit on Ancient Egypt.

Chris Everheart’s author page has information about his books, plus links to his bio, blog, and events.