Middle Grade Book Love: Rules of the Ruff

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (heck, even if this is your first ever visit to my website)  you know I love dogs. I don’t own a dog (YET!), but I adore them, which is why I eagerly snapped up an ARC of Heidi Lang’s latest middle grade novel, RULES OF THE RUFF. It has everything I love in a middle grade book – family drama, friendships, a yearning for something just out of reach, and a bit of a mystery. Plus, it has dogs. Lots and lots of dogs!

MG Book Love | rules-of-the-ruff | www.patriciabaieyauthor.comTwelve-year-old Jessie is in for a long summer at her aunt and uncle’s house. Her cousin Ann has a snotty new best friend, which leaves Jessie all alone. But Jessie is industrious, and—not content with being ignored all summer—she convinces Wes, a grouchy neighborhood dog walker, to take her on as his apprentice.

Sure, dog walking turns out to be harder than she expected, but she has Wes’s dog-walking code, the Rules of the Ruff, to guide her, and soon she’s wrangling her very own pack. But when a charismatic rival dog walker moves to town, she quickly snatches up most of Wes’s business—and Jessie decides she isn’t going to take this defeat with her tail between her legs.

 

Rules of the RuffRules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a fun book! Smart and funny in all the best ways – with a character who doesn’t always do the right thing, but is so easy to root for you can’t help but going along for the ride (or, in this case, the walk). Rules of the Ruff is a realistic look at how sometimes good intentions can lead you astray and how even the worst people may be better than you think.

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For readers

  • A pitch-perfect age-appropriate sort-of romance. Kinda.
  • A easy-to-relate to main character who is far from perfect.
  • Dogs! Lots of dogs!

For teachers

  • Some subtle lessons on growing up taught through dog-walking rules.
  • Complicated family and friend relationships that will prove to be good conversation starters.
  • Good descriptions of what’s required to be a responsible pet owner from the eyes of a kid.

RULES OF THE RUFF  is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

You can learn more about Heidi’s other middle grade books by checking out an interview I did with her and her writing partner here.

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Middle Grade Book Love: The Frame-Up

One very cool thing about having writer friends is that you get to read their new books before they are released into the world – which is how I got a sneak peek at Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s latest middle grade mystery, THE FRAME-UP.

I was lucky enough to befriend Wendy last year, as we navigated the debut author world together. I interviewed her then about her novel, IT’S A MYSTERY PIG-FACE, and got to interview her again last month over at the From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog about her latest novel, THE FRAME-UP, a book that quickly became one of my favorite middle grade reads.

Middle Grade Book Love | The Frame-Up | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comWhen Sargent Singer discovers that the paintings in his father’s gallery are alive, he is pulled into a captivating world behind the frame that he never knew existed.

Filled with shady characters, devious plots, and a grand art heist, this inventive mystery-adventure celebrates art and artists and is perfect for fans of Night at the Museum and Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer.

There’s one important rule at the Beaverbrook Gallery—don’t let anyone know the paintings are alive. Mona Dunn, forever frozen at thirteen when her portrait was painted by William Orpen, has just broken that rule. Luckily twelve-year-old Sargent Singer, an aspiring artist himself, is more interested in learning about the vast and intriguing world behind the frame than he is in sharing her secret.

And when Mona and Sargent suspect shady dealings are happening behind the scenes at the gallery, they set out to find the culprit. They must find a way to save the gallery—and each other—before they are lost forever.  

With an imaginative setting, lots of intrigue, and a thoroughly engaging cast of characters, The Frame-Up will captivate readers of Jacqueline West’s The Books of Elsewhere.

 

The Frame-UpThe Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my favorite reads this year. Wendy McLeod MacKnight blends humor, mystery, heart, and art in this fun and intriguing middle grade novel. Great characters abound – both inside and outside of the paintings. And MacKnight keeps the mystery tight and the plot moving while mixing in just the right amount of relationship/family problems. Clever. Innovative. Great writing. And a fun read. This one is timeless.

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For readers

  • Humor. It’s funny! Smart characters and great, imaginative situations.
  • Pictures that come to life – and have a life.
  • A great mystery.

For teachers

  • Art. Lots of it. Real life masterpieces, art theory, and art history come to life in this book.
  • A fun boy/girl friendship.
  • A good depiction of the difficulties of staying with your non-custodial parent.

THE FRAME-UP is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

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Middle Grade Book Love: The Last Great Adventure of the PB and J Society

I’m celebrating my birthday week by highlighting a great friend and a great book! (Bonus, this friend also shares a birthday month with me. Yay fellow Aries!) I read THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB AND J SOCIETY shortly after meeting Janet, and I knew immediately we were destined to by friends. She’s smart, funny, and thoughtful in all the best ways – and so is her book!

Middle Grade Book Love | the-last-great-adventure-of-the-pb-and-j-society | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comWhen her best friend’s house is threatened with foreclosure, young Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save the home: selling her appendix on eBay, winning the lottery, facing down the bankers . . . anything to keep Jason from moving. But Jason’s out-of-work dad blows up at the smallest things, and he’s not very happy with Annie’s interventions, which always seem to get them into more trouble. But when Annie tracks a lost treasure to Jason’s backyard, she’s sure the booty will be enough to save Jason’s family. Pirate treasure in the Midwest seems far-fetched, even to Annie, but it could be the answer to all their problems. Now all she has to do is convince Jason. As the two hunt for answers and the pressure gets to Jason and his family, Annie discovers that the best-laid plans aren’t always enough and there are worse things than moving away.

For readers

  • Humor. It’s funny with lots of laugh out loud moments.
  • A great friendship.
  • A main character who makes mistakes you can relate to.

For teachers

  • A smart, funny, and realistic handling of tough topics.
  • A fierce boy/girl friendship.
  • A detailed Discussion Guide.

THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB AND J SOCIETY is available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

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Middle Grade Book Love: Midnight Without a Moon

I’ve been wanting to read Linda  Williams Jackson’s historical middle grade novel, MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON since I first heard about it early in 2017. I had the good fortune of interviewing Linda for my Author Spotlight series in January of that year, and the story has stuck with me ever since.

Which may be why I saved it for so long. (Yep, I was the kid who could make a candy bar last for days if I needed to). I had a feeling it would be rich in character and history as well as beautifully written, and I wanted to be able to dive right into it and read without interruption. I was not disappointed.

Book Love | Midnight Without a Moon | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON is a compelling story – told with honesty and grace. Every school should have this book on their shelves.

Midnight Without a Moon (Rose Lee Carter #1)Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful and powerful. A tough, lovely, and real story about a young girl growing up in the Mississippi Delta during the 1950’s and struggling to sort out her place in her family and in the world at large. This is a beautiful book – filled with complex characters, sharp storytelling, and rich history. A must read for kids and adults.

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For readers

  • A brave story well told.
  • A compelling and relate-able heroine.
  • A complicated family structure lots of kids will relate to.

For teachers

  • An accessible and compelling story about Civil Rights in America.
  • A great book to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Some beautiful examples of literary devices such as metaphor, simile, and alliteration.
  • A great Discussion Guide.

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON and the next book in the series, A SKY FULL OF STARS, are both available now. You can pick up a copy online or at your nearest independent bookseller.

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2017 Debut Book Love – The Thing with Feathers

Fellow Class of 2k17 member McCall Hoyle’s debut novel, THE THING WITH FEATHERS, released earlier this month. This is YA at its best – and teachers and librarians are going to want more than one copy of this book on their shelves.

2017 Debut Book Love | The Thing with Feathers | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comEmilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

THE THINGS WITH FEATHERS is a touching story and a compelling read. Teens will love it – but so will adults.

The Thing with FeathersThe Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful book – full of hope. McCall Hoyle’s YA debut captures the fears and excitement of edging past what’s comfortable and safe – and learning to trust the people around you. The writing is lovely and the characters are perfectly drawn – likeable but flawed, and at all times, believable.

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For readers

  • A relate-able hero.
  • A sweet romance.
  • A school environment/community that teens will recognize.

For teachers

  • Emily Dickinson!
  • Beautiful and heartfelt writing.
  • A close look at facing fears and finding your way to acceptance.

THE THING WITH FEATHERS is available now. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online at:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells

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2017 Debut Book Love – One Shadow on the Wall

Fellow Class of 2k17 Books member Leah Henderson’s gorgeous MG debut, ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, released last week. This is a middle grade book you want on your shelves.

2017 Debut Book Love | One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comAn orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined.

With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom in all their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own?


One Shadow on the Wall is about love and loss, family and friendship, and creating your own future—even if it’s hard to do.

ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL is simply gorgeous in every way. I cannot wait to share it with everyone I know.

One Shadow on the WallOne Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I’ve read this year. Leah Henderson’s debut novel is simply captivating. A beautifully written tale of a young boy in Senegal who is determined to keep his family together – despite the very real dangers that come his way. Young Mor is faced with one tough decision after another, but with the help of his neighbors, his friends, and his family, Mor finds the will to not only survive, but to thrive. A gorgeous debut that is a must for every school and library collection.

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For readers

  • A relateable hero.
  • Wonderful sibling and community relationships.
  • An action-packed story.

For teachers

  • A beautifully drawn setting.
  • Vivid details of everyday life that are compelling.
  • Discussion about doing what’s right even in the face of danger.

ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL is available now. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online at:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells

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2017 Debut Book Love: I Am Fartacus

2017 Debut Book Love | I Am Fartacus | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI AM FARTACUS: The title kind of says it all.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book with this many bathroom jokes in it. Maybe never. Still, the ARC of Mark Maciejewski’s middle grade debut, I AM FARTACUS, had me laughing right out loud more than once.

I’m pretty sure classrooms full of kids are going to be cracking up in 2017.

Mark gives us an interesting character in his bald, anti-hero Chub. Bent on revenge against Alanmoore Middle School’s most popular boy, (yep, Alanmoore – and that’s not the only reference to The Watchmen which only adds to the fun) Chub and his cadre of mischief makers plan and prank their way toward justice. But sometimes it’s hard to tell where the good guy ends and the bad guy begins.

I Am FartacusI Am Fartacus by Mark Maciejewski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A funny middle grade debut with a great cast of secondary characters. It’s tough not to like this short, bald anti-hero and his Cadre of Evil.

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A funny middle grade debut with a great cast of secondary characters. It’s tough not to like this short, bald anti-hero and his Cadre of Evil.

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For readers

  • A fun cast of secondary characters. The Colonel may be my favorite adult ever.
  • Pranks, fart jokes, and more pranks.
  • Fun references to comics and movies.

For teachers

  • A anti-hero worth studying.
  • Discussion about the fine line between heroes and villains, bullying and getting even.
  • A main character who happens to be an immigrant.
  • A cast with a diverse set of family situations.

Another April debut, I AM FARTACUS is released April 18, 2017. It is available for order now at Amazon.

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2017 Debut Book Love – The Shadows We Know By Heart

the shadows we know by heartFellow Class of 2k17 Books member Jennifer Park’s incredible YA debut, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, releases today and it is quite simply the book you did not know you have been waiting for all of your life.

Leah Roberts’s life has never been the same since her brother died ten years ago. Her mother won’t stop drinking, her father can’t let go of his bitter anger, and Leah herself has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatch are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years.

Everything changes when Leah discovers that among the Sasquatch lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed.

But when Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

Jennifer handles this Tarzan retelling perfectly. She tells this story about love and loss beautifully – with just the right blend of heart and mystery.

THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART is one of my favorite all-time YA reads. I cannot wait to share it with everyone I know.

The Shadows We Know by HeartThe Shadows We Know by Heart by Jennifer Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved every word of Jennifer Parks’s debut novel. The story is captivating from page one. Park plunges you into the East Texas woods until you feel like you’re part of the story and never want to leave. Great characters, a great setting, gorgeous writing and exactly the right amount of action/tension to keep you turning the pages. A haunting look at love, hope, and the lies we tell, this is a book I can’t wait to read again.

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For readers

  • An original love story.
  • A great, true-to-life sibling relationship.
  • A compelling mystery

For teachers

  • A beautifully drawn setting.
  • A unique retelling of a classic.
  • Flawed and likeable main characters.

THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART is on sale today. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online at:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells

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2017 Debut Book Love: The Ethan I Was Before

Book Review | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comOne of the things that’s been a little bit strange and a lot wonderful about getting to read books before they are published is getting to experience them before all the reviews (both the good and the bad) come out and try to shape your opinion. I got to read Ali Standish’s THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE late last year and I got to read it with the same clean slate I read books like Bridge to Terabithia  and The Summer of the Swans when I was a kid. Which means I read it the same way I read books back then – straight through, sneaking in pages while I folded the laundry, waited in line at the post office, and even while I ate lunch (sometimes being a grown up pays off).

Ethan’s story is a deeply moving one. In THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE Ali Standish perfectly captures the time right after a life has changed irretrievably and just before it’s transformed into whatever is going to come next. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a well-deserved star for how it handles grief, guilt, and forgiveness. I’d say it’s a modern classic.

The Ethan I Was BeforeThe Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful of story of friendship, family, and loss, Ali Standish’s wonderful debut grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let me go until I saw Ethan through to the end. Strong characters, a spot-on setting, and great details bring the story to life. THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is a soon-to-be classic. Readers of all ages will love this book, and teachers and librarians will be sharing it for a long time.

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For readers:

  • A strong, and likeable cast of characters.
  • A great, true-to-life sibling relationship.
  • Friendship and adventure.

For teachers

  • An exploration of the grief, guilt, and forgiveness.
  • A vivid setting.
  • A great example of building suspense by withholding information.

THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is in bookstores now.

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Class of 2k17 Book Love: Allegedly

Class of 2k17 Books | PatriciaBaileyAuthor.comIt’s hard to believe that Class of 2k17 member Tiffany Jackson is a debut author and that ALLEGEDLY is a debut novel.

It’s just so good.

Which is why I was thrilled when Tiffany’s e-ARC ended up in my inbox. Just one of the many perks of being part of the super terrific debut group, Class of 2k17. Have I mentioned how lucky I am?

I read ALLEGEDLY over the course of a week – trying to make it last. It’s simply amazing. Dark and twisty and totally mind-bending. Thriller fans are going to eat this novel up – and people who don’t usually read thrillers are going to love the complex and heartbreaking character of Mary and the girls in her group home.


Allegedly
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning debut. Dark. Heartbreaking. Powerful. Mary is a wonderfully complex character. Her story will catch you by the throat and not let you go until you’ve read the entire novel – and she’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished. The author, Tiffany Jackson, paints a unflinching portrait of our juvenile justice system while telling a compelling story – drawing you into Mary’s world, and making you question right, wrong, and everything in between.

A true thriller from the start.

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For readers:

  • Page turning suspense.
  • A complex and compelling character.
  • A thrilling read that will keep you second guessing what you know.

For teachers

  • A great example of building suspense and maintaining it.
  • An examination of complex narrators.
  • A rich jumping off place for discussion about juvenile justice, good, evil, and all the places in between.

Lucky for all of us, we won’t have to wait long to get this book in our hands. ALLEGEDLY’S launch date is January 24, 2017, and it’s available for pre-order now.

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