The past couple of months have been crazy busy here at Cracking the Cover — more than 55 reviews written in August and September. The following are just some of the middle-grade books that came out recently that I was unable to review, but are worth checking out. Books are listed in order of publication date. Synopses are provided by the publishers.
AMELIA ERROWAY: CASTAWAY COMMANDER: A GRAPHIC NOVEL, by Betsy Peterschmidt, Graphix, Aug. 3, 2021, Paperback, $14.99 (ages 8-12)
Forbidden to become a pilot by her overprotective father, Amelia Erroway yearns to command her own airship. To prove her worth, she sets off alone on her father’s prized craft. But disaster strikes: A fierce storm crashes her ship in uncharted lands and Amelia, now a castaway, must use her wits to survive. With the help of Rastor and Fynley, brothers who live deep in the Juniper rainforest, Amelia is determined to repair her airship and, with her newly formed crew, fly home.
LIVING GHOSTS AND MISCHIEVOUS MONSTERS: CHILLING AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES, by Dan SaSuWeh Jones and Weshoyot Alvitre, Scholastic Nonfiction, Sept. 7, 2021, Paperback, $12.99 (ages 8-12)
Dark figures in the night. An owl’s cry on the wind. Monsters watching from the edge of the wood.
Some of the creatures in these pages might only have a message for you, but some are the stuff of nightmares. These thirty-two short stories — from tales passed down for generations to accounts that could have happened yesterday — are collected from the thriving tradition of ghost stories from American Indian cultures across North America. Prepare for stories of witches and walking dolls, hungry skeletons, La Llorona and Deer Woman, and other supernatural beings ready to chill you to the bone.
Dan SaSuWeh Jones (Ponca Nation) tells of his own encounters and selects his favorite spooky, eerie, surprising, and spine-tingling stories, all paired with haunting art by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva).
So dim the lights (or maybe turn them all on) and pick up a story…if you dare.
A MERMAID’S TALE: A MERMAID’S TALE, by Stephanie Strohm, Disney-Hyperion, Sept. 14, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Princess Lana is the youngest ambassador ever to represent her underwater kingdom, Clarion, at the Royal Festival on land. And even though it means trading her mermaid tail for a clumsy pair of legs―and worse, spending a week with her mother, who chose life on land over her children seven years ago―Lana can’t wait to prove her political chops.
But once on shore, nothing goes as planned. The children of visiting dignitaries spread nasty rumors about Lana and her brother eavesdropping on humans’ thoughts just because they can communicate telepathically underwater―never mind that their powers don’t work on land. Lana’s mom is wrapped up in the king of a neighboring kingdom, who turns out to be her new boyfriend. And despite her ambassador status, no one will let Lana near a single important negotiation or meeting.
Then an earthquake strikes Clarion, and though Lana’s desperate to rush to the aid of her people, her father insists she stay away indefinitely. As the days on land add up, nothing her parents tell her about the disaster makes sense. Soon Lana uncovers signs that more nefarious forces may be at work―and they could spell war for her people. Can Lana uncover the truth about what happened and protect those she loves before it’s too late?
SET ME FREE, by Ann Clare LeZotte, Scholastic Press, Sept. 21, 2021, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)
Three years after being kidnapped as a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment to determine the cause of her deafness, Mary Lambert has grown weary of domestic life on Martha’s Vineyard, and even of her once beloved writing.
So when an old acquaintance summons her to an isolated manor house outside Boston to teach a young deaf girl to communicate, Mary agrees. But can a child of eight with no prior language be taught? And is Mary up to the task? With newfound purpose, Mary arrives only to discover that there is much more to the girl’s story–and the circumstances of her confinement–than she ever could have imagined. Suddenly, teaching her and freeing her from the prison of her isolation, takes on much greater meaning, and peril.
LOST LEGENDS: THE RISE OF FLYNN RIDER (DISNEY’S LOST LEGENDS), by Jen Calonita, Disney-Hyperion, Sept. 21, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Eugene Fitzherbert needs a plan. He loves Miss Clare and the boys at the orphanage, but he’s not a little kid anymore. He can’t spend his days getting into mischief and acting out his favorite passages from the Flynnigan Rider novels. In his imagination, he is that daring rogue Flynn Rider, and his best friend, Arnie, is famous thief Lance Strongbow, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Even though Eugene knows it’s just a fun game, he can’t help but wish there was more for him out there. Travel. Riches. And maybe, just maybe, his parents.
So when a traveling circus comes to the kingdom promising a life of excitement, brotherhood, and unimaginable treasure, Eugene and Arnie see it as the start of their great adventure. But it soon becomes clear that there’s more to this ragtag crew than meets the eye, and it’ll take new heroes―namely, Flynn Rider and Lance Strongbow―to save the day.
THE CURSED CARNIVAL AND OTHER CALAMITIES: NEW STORIES ABOUT MYTHIC HEROES, by Rick Riordan, Rick Riordan Presents, Sept. 28, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
A cave monster . . . an abandoned demon . . . a ghost who wants to erase history . . . a killer commandant . . . These are just some of the challenges confronting the young heroes in this highly entertaining anthology.
All but one of the heroes previously starred in a popular book from Rick Riordan Presents. You’ll be reunited with Aru Shah, Zane Obispo, Min the fox spirit, Sal and Gabi, Gum Baby, Nizhoni Begay, Paola Santiago, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh. Who is the new hero? Read Rick Riordan’s short story to find out!
Ten bestselling and award-winning middle grade authors contributed to this collection: Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, Graci Kim, and Rick Riordan, who also served as the editor.
The cultures represented by these own-voices stories are: Indian, Mesoamerican, Korean, Cuban, Black American, African, Navajo, Mexican, Mesopotamian, and Celtic.
NOT A UNICORN, by Dana Middleton, Chronicle Books, Sept. 21, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)
Jewel’s your average eighth grader. Awkward relationship with a cute boy, ex-BFFs with a popular girl, mom issues at home. You’ve read it all before. Except for one thing: Jewel has a unicorn horn on her head.
(Okay, and one other thing, but it’s just too weird to mention here!)
Jewel tries to stay invisible at school, looking forward to the day when she can finally leave her small town behind, making art with her fellow weirdos, and obsessively reading graphic novels with her best friends. But when she’s selected to represent her school at the regional French speaking competition, she decides she’s had enough of the shy life. The horn needs to come off.
What happens when you have the ability to become the girl you’ve always wanted to be? When you don’t know your true self, how do you know your true friends? What happens when everything in your life—your biggest struggle, your greatest joy, and your dearest friends—all combine in one calamitous adventure?
With a sparkle of magic, a treasure trove of true determination, and help from all her friends both real and invisible, Jewel just might survive this year with her heart—and her head—intact.
© 2021, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided for free by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.