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

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale – An Unconventional Kid, An Unconventional Friendship

DEADBOYDead Boy, by Laurel Gale (Sept. 2015, Random House Children’s), $16.99, ISBN: 9780553510089

Recommended for ages 9-13

Crow is a boy who should be in 6th grade by now. He’s lonely and wants a friend, but he’s stuck indoors by his overprotective mom, who worries that the outside world will take Crow away from her once they discover her secret: Crow died two years ago.

Crow doesn’t remember much about how he died; he just sort of died. But he remembers waking up to his mother’s tears. Since then, he’s been a bit stinky, has a bit of a maggot problem, and tends to lose body parts. All Crow wants is a friend, and maybe not to stink so much. When an eccentric girl named Melody moves in next door, she’s fascinated by Crow. She’s undeterred by his mother’s efforts to keep her away – keep everyone and everything away – from Crow, and at last, Crow finally has a friend. When they go wandering one night, they discover a creature, the Meera, that has deep ties to Crow and his family – and another family in the neighborhood. Can Crow learn the Meera’s secrets, save one of his former classmates, and maybe – just maybe – be a real boy again?

This was a great read for middle graders who like a touch of the macabre in their fiction. If your kids have read and enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Graveyard Book, or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, consider introducing them to this one. I’d like to pair this book with A.F. Harrold’s The Imaginary for a heck of a book discussion. (Hmm… I see a really interesting book display forming in my brain.) Laurel Gale gives us such an empathy toward poor Crow, at the same time letting us cringe and chuckle at his… well, deadness. I felt his yearning for a friend and his loneliness, his frustration with his mother, who keeps too many secrets “for his own good”, and the desperation to know what happened to him. Melody is a great sidekick, a friend with some wild theories that aren’t too off the mark. We get some great comeuppance for mean girls and bullies, too.

At the same time, we see the toll that the loss of a child takes on a marriage, and the lengths that parents will go to in order to keep their children safe and happy. It’s a bit disturbing at times, but it’s an honest look into a parent’s psyche that will make for some great family book group discussions. Read this book with your kids, with your classes, and let the dialogue flow.

Laurel Gale ‘s author page features Dead Boy and some basic contact info for the moment; hopefully, as the book gets closer to publishing date, we’ll get some more resources.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Remember The Time Warp Trio? Now, meet the Left Behinds!

left behindsThe Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington, by David Potter (Jan. 2015, Random House) $16.99, ISBN: 9780385390569

Recommended for ages 10-14

Mel and his schoolmates, Brandon and Bev, are the Left-Behinds: children of wealthy and/or famous parents who make little time for them, they’re shipped off to boarding school and spend the holidays there. On a holiday school trip, the three find themselves transported through time, ending up in Colonial America – just in time to save the life of one General George Washington right before the historic crossing of the Delaware. Armed with just his iPhone, Mel must figure out how to save his friends, save George Washington, and save America! Oh, and he’s on, like, 8 percent battery.

The story is the next step for fans of Jon Sciezska’s Time Warp Trio series, who are on a higher reading level and ready for a more challenging novel. The book looks like it’s the first in a promising new series, with likable characters, a rogue iPhone app, Benjamin Franklin (who makes anything in which he appears even better) and a mysterious nemesis. There’s solid history here: the author did his research and his love for American history is clear here. This would be a great book to have students read alongside a unit on American history.

The author’s website offers information about the book, a bio on the author, and transcripts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, along with a section on where to catch historical re-enactments. For now, there’s only the Washington Historic Crossing available; I hope we’ll get some more as the author writes more!

The Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington releases next week, on January 5th.